Others can bestow upon you titles and awards that give the perception of power but empowerment comes only from within. True confidence comes from failing and getting back up. The confidence that comes from winning is fleeting and only lasts until the next contest, but the confidence gained from failing, working hard and coming back to win is timeless.
When Lara Hodgson, President and CEO of NOW Corp, closes her eyes and envisions an empowered woman, she sees a woman who has failed yet who has continued to work towards her goal, often in ways others cannot see, because she does so not for others but for herself. She is confident enough to know that being a woman is an asset, not an obstacle to be overcome. She believes that every woman should be aware of her strength. But an empowered woman is not tough on the outside, she is warm and kind and empathetic and realizes that these “soft attributes” may be her greatest strengths.
When Lara entered college and chose to study Aerospace Engineering, widely regarded as the most difficult major, she quickly discovered that empowerment only comes through putting yourself in situations that are uncomfortable and play to your weaknesses more than your strengths.
Lara had never traveled outside the US, yet in her college days, she applied for and was one of 30 students selected to study in Japan with a US Defense Dept Program. As a scholarship member of the Varsity Track, and Field team at GA Tech who also studied Aerospace engineering she was named one of the top 20 students in the US by USA TODAY.
“I never fit in a mold and I used that to my advantage. Early in my career, I used this to help other entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses and then, after becoming a mom, I decided to start my own businesses that would tackle large-scale, world-changing problems such as childrens’ health with my company, Nourish. Now I focus on helping small businesses get paid immediately so they can Grow Fearlessly with NOWaccount”, Lara explained.
About NOW Corp
NOWaccount is the first payment system created to enable businesses to get paid immediately upon delivering their good or service in a way that feels like accepting a credit card for payment even when their business and government customers won’t pay with a card and demand an invoice with terms so they can pay later. NOW Corp was formed in Dec. 2010 because of the challenges Lara and her partner faced growing Nourish, their childrens product company. Today when a consumer pays with a credit card the retailer gets paid their actual revenue immediately – no line of credit, no loan, no factoring – for a one-time service charge. They have no AR. NOWaccount enables B2B businesses to get paid immediately so they can stop being a free bank to their customers and start growing their businesses and creating jobs. The largest lender in the US is not a bank – it is small businesses… Until NOW!
Lara’s Take on the President’s Role
Without question, the most important decision is who to bring on the team. There is not even a close second. A great idea with average people has little chance of success but an average idea with great people will likely succeed. Many people make the mistake of hiring for skillsets when in fact the more important attribute is mindsets. You can teach folks to do anything but you can’t teach them how to think or how to see opportunities.
A Vision of Women in Business
There are 2 qualities that have led to Lara’s success. As a young girl, Lara was told to do what she was passionate about but she did not know what that was – Lara is passionate about a lot of things. Then she realized the problem wasn’t her– it was the advice. “You do not have to be passionate about what you do. The “what” doesn’t matter. You have to be passionate about the “so what” that you do – the impact. You can change anything about NOWaccount and I would not care. BUT you can’t change the fact that clients call us every day to say that they tripled their business and hired 30 new people because of us. If your ego is in the “what” you don’t listen. But if your ego is in the “so what” you are open to suggestions and advice.” So her first quality is being passionate about the “so what”. The second is realizing that women’s favorite debate – can you have work-life balance – is the wrong debate. You can have it but you don’t want it. Balance is like a see-saw on the playground being horizontal. There is no energy – both sides are just dangling and everything is average. I have no desire to be an average mom, average wife or average CEO. So I instead set my goal as optimization. I optimize each minute of the day and focus on the task at hand and I am infinitely more effective and happier.
Inspiration from and for the Tech Industry
Lara is inspired by only one thing – making the world a better place. People often ask her how they can attract more women to STEM – the answer is empathy. Her son recently participated in a 3-D printing, robotics, coding camp and she was shocked to see half the class was middle-school girls. What attracted them? The title of the camp and the focus was not any of the STEM topics, it was “Pets” and the focus was a puppy that had been injured and lost ¾ of its paw. The campers were tasked with using the technologies she mentioned to design and prototype a prosthetic to enable the dog to walk. The girls cared about the dog. The technology was simply a means to an end to their “so what” and as a result, their design worked!
A Bold Vision
NOWaccount will change the way businesses get paid and will change everything about the US economy. NOWaccount is the largest economic stimulus program in the US. The US economy grew 4x in real dollars when the credit card system enabled retailers to stop funding their B2B trade credit is 7-8x the size of consumer credit. So, by removing this burden from small businesses they can generate unprecedented growth in the economy.