Last week, I hosted a fireside chat with Mona Bijoor about her new book, Startups & Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur who has struggled with rejection in the past year, I was eager to learn about how Mona practiced resilience and how she thinks about planning for success in her business in her business and personal life.
Mona is an accomplished founder and investor. During her career as a fashion buyer, she saw the opportunity to make transactions between brands and retailers more efficient. Historically, big department stores like Saks found the brands they feature in-store at tradeshows and manually placed paper orders for the items they wanted. Mona saw an opportunity to bring this process into the digital age, and founded JOOR to be a platform for brands and retailers to connect and transact online. Today, it’s the largest B2B platform of it’s kind with $35 Billion in transactions taking place in the network and 8,500 brands participating. Naturally, I had a lot of questions about how she got to this point.
I took away 3 Lessons that apply to anyone trying to do a better job using our time effectively and moving on from setbacks:
Develop mental talk tracks to become more resilient:
Whether you’re a founder or a corporate professional, there are days when work sucks. There are times when you receive negative feedback or need to deal with a difficult coworker. If you’re like me, you struggle through these instances and then go home to watch Netflix, eat ice cream, and complain to your friends about it. Mona recommends reframing challenges productively and proactively. To do this, you must think through your mental response patterns to roadblocks and prepare them BEFORE a challenge hits.
For example, take the feeling of fear. Through mindful practice, Mona has reframed fear as an opportunity to grow. She shares:
“Fear is a beacon that I run towards, rather than run away. Fear is where my growth is coming from”
She thinks about what happens when she emerges from a place of fear--new ideas emerge, and she has a deeper understanding of her capabilities. These are positive outcomes. The key is remembering these outcomes when fear strikes, and using that framing to seek out more scary opportunities in the future.
Similarly, she has learned to view ambiguity as a competitive advantage. She notes that “if the answer were obvious, my competitors would have figured it out.” Therefore, when things are unclear and challenging, she sees it as a gift.
Know Where You’re Going (But How You Get There Can Change):
News Flash: We’re busy. It can be hard to track how all of our daily activities map to our broader goals. To make sure we’re spending time on the right things, Mona suggests a Vision-Strategy-Tactics (VST) exercise.
- Your 1 vision stays constant and is something you want to accomplish in 7-10 years.
- Your 3-5 strategies stay fairly consistent and are manageable chunks to get to your vision. These take a couple of years to accomplish.
- Your tactics are a laundry list of every conceivable action that could help you drive each strategy. You should brainstorm 40+ tactics for each strategy.
Mona’s advice is to be simultaneously REALLY dedicated to your vision while being unemotional about testing and discarding tactics. This dual mindset is critical to success, because it allows you to divorce a bad tactic from a business failure.
Discarding a bad tactic is understanding that, for example, macro-influencers on Instagram are not working for my brand right now. This is not an emotionally charged take-away. It’s a fact that was tested and observed. It does not alter my vision of wanting to be a women’s workwear destination. Knowing this is a gift, because I can move on to another tactic to find something that does work!
Always think in terms of ROI:
In the business world, we evaluate projects based on how much they return in profit for each dollar invested. We want to pick the ones that give the most back. Identifying and optimizing these opportunities is at the core of thousands of corporate jobs. Yet, many of us don’t really approach our personal lives with this lens.
Mona thinks this should change. She believes it’s necessary to test out new tactics in our personal and professional lives, but we should keep an eye on what our time and efforts are returning to us. After all, “we have less time tomorrow than we do today.”
One way to do this is to set an internal hourly rate that represents the value of our time. This doesn’t mean that we should start charging friends to catch up over a cup of coffee, but it can be useful to monitor whether something is worthwhile for you. By thinking about my time as a critical input into a business I was able to prioritize more effectively.
When setting an hourly rate, you’re probably underselling yourself. Mona says take what in your head and “double or triple it.” Know your worth!