‘Go beyond your insular world and lose your unconscious bias’

5 Jun 2018

Susan McPherson. Image: McPherson Strategies

Entrepreneur, investor and Inspirefest 2018 speaker Susan McPherson has some words of wisdom for those embarking on their start-up journey.

Susan McPherson is founder and CEO at McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good. It offers storytelling, partnership creation and visibility to corporations, NGOs and social enterprises.

A serial connector, angel investor and corporate responsibility expert, McPherson has more than 25 years of experience in marketing, public relations and sustainability communications. She is an accomplished public speaker and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Forbes.

McPherson will be speaking at Inspirefest 2018 later this month as part of the ‘Lessons in Leadership: The Art of Telling Your Story’ talks.

Describe your role and what you do.

I run a consultancy that focuses on helping companies and non-profit organisations develop compelling social impact communications, marketing campaigns and partnerships. This involves making connections, message creation, writing, speaking, problem-solving and solution-building. I lead a team of brilliant strategists and consider myself beyond fortunate.

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

Any science and technology that will lead to lifting people out of poverty, providing people with jobs (and therefore dignity) and helping improve healthcare access worldwide will lead to the greatest opportunities for the future.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

I definitely think they can be made.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

Someone who listens more than they speak and is intellectually curious, energetic and optimistic.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

Thank all those who are helping them both professionally and personally.

What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?

Smart people, a connected network, strategic use of social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn and, most importantly, the ability to listen and respond with kindness and consideration.

How do you assemble a good team?

Go beyond your insular world to find them. Lose your unconscious bias. The more diverse, the better. Also, pay attention more to people’s strengths than their weaknesses; build teams based on those strengths rather than focusing on the skills people don’t have.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

A plan.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Skimping on hiring. It’s important to bring the best people you possibly can on board. Think of your people as the foundation under the home you are building.

Who is your business hero and why?

So many to list. I am extremely impressed with Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of the dating app Bumble. She paved her own path forward and even walked away from a $450m buyout of Match Group to remain independent. That takes immense bravery and guts.

I would also say Ellen Pao, an investor and activist who co-founded the diversity consulting non-profit organisation Project Include. She was previously a partner at Kapor Capital and the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact and now is focusing on getting more inclusion of women and people of colour in the venture capital industry.

Kathryn Finney is another one fighting the good fight for those who need a voice. She is the founder of Digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise that takes an innovative approach to economic empowerment by encouraging women of colour to own their economic security through entrepreneurship.

And one more, Carolyn Everson, who, as the VP of global sales at Facebook, shows that you can be a powerful executive and still treat everyone with the utmost respect, kindness and dignity. She’s also in the midst of travelling around the world non-stop and helped launch a business-leading initiative pushing for common sense gun laws last year following several of the school shooting tragedies.

Whats the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with people who are successful at all the skills you lack, and treat them with the utmost compassion and respect.

Susan McPherson will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Get your tickets now to join us in Dublin on 21 and 22 June 2018.

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