Time Management and Entrepreneurship with Angela Lee
Episode 24: Time Management and Entrepreneurship with Angela Lee
Angela Lee has always had a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship, she is the Assistant Dean at Columbia Business School and she is the founder of 37 Angels, a community of women angel investors with the mission of educating early stage investors. In this episode Angela talks about delegating, time management, prioritizing while being an entrepreneur, and more.
00:00 Rachel Griesinger: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing The Face Of Business. And now your host, Kristy Wallace.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello, everyone. And welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. Before we get started, I wanted to remind you to please tell your friends about the podcast, ask them to rate it and review it. That's what helps to get us noticed and get others listening to the podcast. And it means a lot to me and to all of us that spend so much time working on this podcast to bring you good content, great insights, and in-person interviews with some fantastic women. Today on the podcast we have Angela Lee. Maricella, she has a connection, I know, with you and some of your background.
00:50 Maricella Herrera: Yeah. Angela Lee is actually at Columbia Business School, which is where I went to business school. And I love Columbia.
00:58 KW: And Sally.
01:00 MH: And Sally.
01:00 KW: Many, many important people and successful people have gone there, so it's a great school.
01:05 MH: It's a great school. I'm actually really excited, 'cause I'm going back there to audit a class on the weekends.
01:09 KW: Yay! Yes. That's gonna be so cool.
01:13 MH: #NeverStopLearning.
01:16 KW: Speaking of learning...
01:17 MH: Speaking of learning...
01:19 KW: Ellevate, if you don't know, outside of the podcast, we actually are doing a lot of amazing things. We have a huge community of women, a daily newsletter, The Morning Boost, which is bringing you customized, handpicked articles and events specific to you and where you are in your career. And we have a membership based community that has access to hundreds of webinars, thousands of articles, and events throughout the year. So during the month of September there's something cool happening, Maricella, right?
01:53 MH: Right. So September is a big month for us, Fall is starting, we're all getting out of the whole Summer daze, and we know all of you are ready to step it up. And we wanna help you do that. So at Ellevate, we're offering 20% off your membership during the month of September by using the code 'Invest in yourself' when you apply at ellevatenetwork.com. And really, there are tons of resources, just like Kristy mentioned, the content online which is awesome because it's also from the same community, for the same community. So, all of our members are great, amazing women, experts in their fields, across 50 chapters around the world. And they're all sharing those insights with the rest of the women at Ellevate.
02:38 KW: So now is the time, invest in yourself. And before we get into our podcast, I want to quickly bring in some of our data, which we know you all love, as do we. So Maricella, what is the poll this week?
02:54 MH: So, we didn't mention because we got a little sidetracked there with Columbia. But Angela Lee is also the founder of 37 Angels.
03:00 KW: Oh, yes. That's important. And get ready, during our podcast, Angela and I are talking about so much great stuff, from time management to raising money for your business, being an entrepreneur, having an impact. She's just fantastic, so I'm obviously super excited to get to it.
03:17 MH: Yeah, she's extremely knowledgeable about startups and funding, specifically, for women that own businesses. And so our poll today is, "What should be done to close the gender gap in funding for female entrepreneurs?" What do you think should be done?
03:37 KW: Well, I think we need more female VCs.
03:39 MH: I would agree with that sentiment. Well, what our members say, 27% say, "Training programs for women entrepreneurs on how to find funding" would be the right way to go. 24% said, "More women need to become VCs and investors." So they're in our camp. And this is what Angela is working on.
04:00 KW: Absolutely.
04:00 MH: 21% say, "Women entrepreneurs need access to broader networks," ahem, Ellevate.
04:08 KW: Invest in yourself.
04:09 MH: Invest in yourself. [chuckle] 17% say, "Training programs for male investors on gender bias," which I think is an interesting idea.
04:16 KW: Yeah.
04:17 MH: And 9% said, "Increase of government sponsored programs to provide funding." My favorite is the 2% that say, "Heck, if I know." [chuckle]
04:26 KW: Heck, if I know. Heck, if I know. What did you say... I know I've read tons of articles about how many women are creating products and companies geared towards women, and women wield a lot of buying power, we're driving the economy, we're huge consumers. But if you have male VCs, they often don't understand what that product is, or that offering that the entrepreneur is out there pitching. And so there's a disconnect there. And I think that there's a huge opportunity to change this.
04:57 MH: Absolutely.
05:00 KW: Alright. So onto Angela Lee. Thanks, Maricella.
05:02 MH: Thanks, Kristy.
05:16 KW: We're really excited to have you here, and I have so many questions to ask you. There's so much to talk about. But first tell us a little bit about your story.
05:23 Angela Lee: So professionally, I tend to think about my career in three buckets. One is marketing innovation, that's been a really consistent theme throughout my career. I did product development for business School, and then after business school I worked at two consulting firms. One was McKinsey, where I focused a lot on marketing strategy for really big Fortune 100 companies, and then at a boutique innovation consulting firm, there were four of us. So that's definitely been, kind of my professional career, marketing innovation. I've also been a lifelong educator, I've taught in some capacity ever since I was in high school. That was second grade at that point. And these days, I teach leadership, strategy, and innovation up at Columbia Business School. And then I have a thirst for entrepreneurship. I've just always loved it. I started my first company when I was 19 out of the undergrad, during the crazy dotcom era, and 37 Angels which I run now is my fourth startup.
06:15 KW: Wow! And what I think is great about your path and what you did, is we don't always know. You don't know going to school or going to college exactly what you wanna be when you grow up, and you don't know when you graduate, exactly what you wanna be when you grow up. You don't always have that defining moment, "Yes, I want to be in marketing and I wanna work for a top five firm, and I want to live in this city." There's so many unknowns, and part of the beauty is learning along the way. We have to open ourselves up to what works for me. Is this the right company environment? Is this the right role? Am I happy everyday? My first role out of school was in investment banking and a few months in, I was like, "I don't know, it's too corporate. I have ideas. No one wants to listen to them. I'm not able to impact any change. I don't have much flexibility or creativity in my role." And I started to realize the things that mattered, and then seeking out opportunities that aligned with that.
07:20 AL: I think what nobody tells you is that nobody knows what they wanna be when they grow up. I think, when I was graduating from college, the statistic was that people would have five careers in their life, and now it's, I think, nine to 11. And I think all that happens as you get more senior is you just get more comfortable with the fact that you have no idea what you're doing. Whereas I think when you're 22 and graduated from college, it feels very scary, and you just get kinda less scared as you get more senior.
07:47 KW: Sure. And so today, you have two roles, Columbia Business School, and you're the founder of 37 Angels. How do you manage that and your personal life?
07:58 AL: Yeah, so I would say... We can talk about specific time management tactics up the wazoo, 'cause that's one of my favorite things to talk about. At a broad level, I have really phenomenal teams on both sides, and I think that was actually a pretty tough transition point for me, maybe eight to 10 years ago, into management, which was I wasn't really good at delegating. 'Cause I was used to being the person who did it. And losing control is really, really hard for me, and so I went through a pretty rough patch where I was like, "Nope, just gonna do it all and I'm not gonna let any one on my team do anything." Thankfully I've gotten over that, so delegate, delegate, delegate. Really empower your team, and I say for early managers, a lot of people delegate actions, but they don't delegate accountability and authority. I think it's really important, as an early manager especially, to really delegate accountability and authority, not just the actions and the tasks. So that's one. I've gotten really, really good as saying no, and when I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I actually have two really dear friends. One is Caryn Effron and one is Miriam Bekkouche, and they're my 'no' coaches, which is I'm not allowed to say yes to something new unless they give me permission.
09:10 KW: I need a no coach.
09:11 AL: Yeah, 'cause it's really, really hard, and I have to pitch them and be like, "This is why I'm gonna speak at this conference, or do this thing, or go to this dinner," whatever the case may be, and I can't say yes unless they say that I can [chuckle]
09:26 KW: That is very good advice. So I'm gonna turn this quickly into a gender thing, but the saying yes, do you think that's tied to being a woman and the desire to please, or is it just, everyone goes through that?
09:42 AL: Saying no is incredibly hard. I've had a couple of moments where I realized I needed to. The first one was in Business School. I had so many interviews, and I had completely lost my voice for two weeks. Then I was like, "Okay, I need to say no more," didn't do anything about it, and then two years later, was in my second year at McKinsey and had been working so many hours for so many weeks that I was in a janitor's closet, crying. 'Cause I didn't know what else to do, and I was so tired. Then I was like, "Okay. I really, really need to learn how to say no." And then it took me three more years to really learn how.
10:14 KW: That's something I've actually had to learn is how to take a step back. It's just, it's no, right? And there's no harm in that, and we all need to know our limits or we will end up with no voice for two weeks.
10:27 AL: The guilt associated with it is something that is completely self imposed. We should be able to do this, we should be able to do that, and no, you shouldn't be able to work 100 hours a week for X number of weeks, you shouldn't be. And so, yeah, it really is about letting go of it, 'cause so much of it is self imposed. I'm a big fan of metrics, because I like to measure things, and it really holds me accountable. And so, for example, I really pre-define my no's. So one no that I have is, I don't work weekends. And then I was feeling really overwhelmed, and then my coach, and I have a coach, I think everybody should have one, said to me, "Well, go back and look at your calendar. Just count how many weekends you've worked in the last six months." I was like, "No, I've worked like one or two." And I counted, and I kept counting, and I kept counting, and I realized that that year, I'd worked 19 weekends. For somebody who says they don't work weekends, that's just a lie. But if I didn't have that metric...
11:18 KW: That's a little bit of conflict in there.
11:19 AL: Yeah, it's just not true, and it's crazy how we get to delude ourselves like, "Oh, I'm not working that hard," or, "I'm going to the gym," and you're like, "Oh my God! No, I really haven't gone in three weeks." And so, I always try to force myself to look at my own data. To really say, "Okay, what's really happening here?"
11:36 KW: So you mentioned earlier about, you love project management tools and time management tools. You've found any that work for you?
11:46 AL: So I think, the simpler the tool, the better. And so my time management tool is pretty simple, which is I have, just like I'm sure everybody listening does, 8,000 to-do lists. Right? But every day I pick three that I'm gonna do, and I have my little handwritten notebook, and I have my different sections, but at the very front, every day, I have, it's a very nice post-it note with nice little boxes, to check them off, and I put those three things. And those are the three things that I have to do. And then I put them into my calendar, so if I know it's going to take me an hour and a half to develop a module for a class, or the thing that I hate to do, which is sending out business development e-mails, 'cause I hate doing that type of sales-y stuff, I'm going to do that first thing in the day, and I block off the time. I think that is really it, right? And what happens is when you fill up your calendar, there's no more hours in the day. Because what used to happen is I would have the thousand things in my to-do list, and I would get through either the five things that were easy, or I would get through five things but it didn't make me feel any better, 'cause the list was still 1,000 items long. I think it's time management, but more importantly, it's almost guilt management, which is, "I said I was going to do these three things, I did them, and I get to go home now and that's okay."
13:00 KW: I love that. I think we are time management soulmates, actually. [chuckle] Just pick three things. Three things that you realistically think you can accomplish, and you need to block out the time, 'cause if you don't, at least for me, I end up with calls and meetings and all these other things and it's like, "Well, there's no time left in the day."
13:20 AL: And you really have to protect yourself from yourself and so, in terms of not finishing tasks, I would literally end the day and have 75 tabs open. And so there's a Google Chrome plugin which allows you to limit the number of tabs you have open, and so mine is limited, right now, to 15. If I really want to, I could up it to 20, but that way if I've that many tabs open, it's 'cause I started an e-mail and I started researching something I never finished. That's one technology tool I love is just limiting the number of tabs I can have open. I also automate a lot of things, so I use Calendly to manage my calendar, and you can set in there the number of meetings you can have a day, and so I can't have 16 meetings 'cause Calendly won't let me. And I use Google Canned Responses, which are amazing 'cause there's a lot of emails that I write over and over again, like how to find my office, or how certain things happen, like how do you pitch to 37 Angels." And I have a very nicely written e-mail and I have to hit two buttons, and it goes and populates it, I don't have to go copy, cut, paste or whatever.
14:13 KW: I love that.
14:14 AL: Google Canned Responses has saved me hours.
14:17 KW: I have not used that. I am going to use it. So I want to talk a little bit about, and staying on this thread of time management and business management, but in the context of your own company, you're your own boss, or a startup environment. And I ask because often times as you're starting a company and you've worked with many entrepreneurs and startups, you again, it's like, "Well, I need to do a business model, and I need to do a pitch deck, and I need to do this business development call, plus I need to hire some people, plus... " And that also can become overwhelming. Where do you prioritize? What are the key things that you should focus on?
15:00 AL: So I work with a lot of founders, and what I always have them start up to do is just write down on a piece of paper for 30 minutes, an hour, or maybe even an hour and a half, what are all the questions you want to answer? Who are my customers, what should my pricing be, how long should my business plan be, who are my investors? Literally all these different questions. And then I have them prioritize it on a 2x2, and the two dimensions I ask them is, how much will the answer to this question impact the success of your startup? And then, how uncertain is that question? If a question is highly uncertain, and is gonna really impact the success of your startup, answer those questions first. And what's really amazing is, when you really do that, you all of a sudden realize there's actually not that many questions you have to answer early on, because what happens instead with the founder is they do the things that are easy to do, and people spend hours on logos, what domain name should I get? Business plans, all these things that really aren't going to impact success. That's kind of step number one, and I think that just relieves all the, "Oh, I don't have to do those 18 other things, I need to do these three things."
16:01 AL: And then I work them to say, "How do you answer that question in the laziest way possible?" I use that language, "Be as lazy as you can." There's been lots of books written about lean startup, minimal viable product, but it's all around being really, really lazy, and so if you want to answer a pricing question or a customer question, how do you answer that question by being as lazy and as cheap as possible?
16:22 KW: So I don't know if I know what that means, be lazy. Is that just, do the bare minimum so you don't do the deep dive, which can happen, you go off on a tangent, and you spend a week researching market opportunity and then a month later you're changing the direction of the business.
16:41 AL: Yeah. So I'll give you an example. For 37 Angels, we were thinking about writing a blog, 'cause everyone talks about content marketing, and thought leadership, and all that kinda stuff. As you know, that takes a lot of time. And so we were like, "Should we do it, should we do it?" And so we're like, "Okay, well, how do we test if there's value add?" We can obviously do guest blog articles, we can write on well-known publications, we can start a blog for a month and see what it does to website traffic and conversion rates and all that kind of stuff, but I'm like, "How do I get lazier? How do I get lazier?" Finally what we did is for a month we put, we added a link to our nav bar that said 'Blog', and we said, "How many people clicked on it?" And all we put was 'Coming soon', and nobody clicked on it. Now, it is not a perfect test, it is definitely not a perfect test, but given our 1,000 items on our to-do list, we're like, "You know what? This probably isn't the highest priority."
17:29 AL: And so in a very lazy way, we answered the question, should we be investing in a blog right now? I see a lot of people spending a tremendous amount of time writing that business plan and then trying to get it perfect. Okay, So I'll give you another one. We really wanted to do more educational articles, and so, what did we want to do? We wanted to create an infographic, 'cause everybody loves infographics. They take a lot of time, and a lot of times it involves a designer, and we were doing all this crazy stuff, and then we said, "You know what. What is our goal here? Our goal here is to educate. What are the topics we wanna educate on? We want people to know about valuations, term sheets, whatever the case may be. Guess what? There's a bunch of existing ones that are already great." And we instead curated them, and we put them out there, and it took much less time. And so I think it's really just about saying, "What is the goal that you have, and how do I just achieve that in the laziest way possible?" And I think, I get really excited about building an infographic, and we spent... I literally spent three hours in a hole playing with icons.
18:31 AL: And I'm like, "Well, should the icon be solid? And what color? Should it be shaded? How big should it be?" And, "Oh God, this pixel doesn't look right." And I'm like, "What am I doing? I am not having any impact." [laughter] But it happens all the time, and so I think you just have to keep pulling yourself out of that hole and saying, "Am I having impact? What is my goal here? My goal here is not to have the most beautiful icons, my goal here is to educate my audience on what an average seed-stage valuation is. I don't need the perfect rocketship icon to answer that question."
18:57 KW: And do you find it's always easy to articulate that goal?
19:02 AL: What I tell my team is, if you can't articulate the goal, you shouldn't be doing the project.
19:06 KW: That makes sense.
19:08 AL: Same thing with delegation, right? To delegate, you also have to give people the context and the goal, and if you can't, you're not ready to delegate it yet. And so if you don't have that goal, don't do it.
19:17 KW: So, Angela, I would love to hear more about 37 Angels.
19:21 AL: So 37 Angels is all about closing the gender gap in angel investing, and we do that through education. We, at the moment, have a one-month boot camp where you learn deal sourcing, diligence, valuation, all legal terms, and then how do you think about a portfolio of angel investments. We're really excited that we're launching an online course, and so we're taking our boot camp, which is busting at the seams, and we're allowing people to take that program internationally. And so if you go to 37angels.com/online, you can see that eight-week program. The first one's launching on September 12th, and then the next cohort will kick off January of 2017.
19:57 KW: I love it. That's great. Congratulations.
20:00 AL: Thank you.
20:00 KW: So I know at 37 Angels, you invest in women-led and men-led companies, so it's not specifically just investing in women-led startups. What are your thoughts on the lack of funding for female-led startups? You referenced a stat earlier around women that are represented within VC funds, women that are angel investors. There's been some research about, you tend to invest in things that you know or you can relate to. How do we close that gap?
20:34 AL: So one thing that we know is that people like people who are like themselves. And so that is why, for us, we think a big part of solving the gender gap on the founder side, is by closing the gap on the investor side. One thing that we are very proud of is our deal flow is 2/3 male and 1/3 female, our portfolio is 2/3 male, 1/3 female. It exactly matches the deal flow, which is not true of most venture funds and angel groups. Something else that we know about this ecosystem is that it's incredibly people and network driven. So we have invested in 35 companies, 29 of them were referred in. And so it still is, even in the days and age of crowdfunding and LinkedIn and all this crazy stuff, it still really is about who you know, and so women need to get access to those networks, and that's why we're trying to insert more women into those networks. The one thing I'll say that women can do, female founders can do to be helping themselves, is ask for more money. One thing that we consistently see about female founders is they're asking for less money, and so what happens is they're not giving themself enough juice in the engine to make it to the next round.
21:40 KW: Sure.
21:41 AL: And so that is something that I always say. There's very little other advice that I would give in a generic way to all women, 'cause I hate generalizations, but that is one that the data shows is a huge cause of female founders not being as successful in getting to that next round.
21:54 KW: Yeah, I've seen that too, and if you spend all your time fundraising, you're not spending your time...
22:00 AL: Absolutely.
22:01 KW: Running your business, growing your business. And, 'cause fundraising is hard, and it takes a lot of time. And I love your point about the network. At Ellevate Network, we believe in that too, and it's the power of the network that will, maybe, give you that support to launch your business, give you the funding, gets you that board seat, gets you that next raise or promotion. It's really about creating that community that's there to support you, and has the diversity of insights and knowledge and thoughts that can help you get ahead.
22:32 AL: And what I love about Ellevate is that it really helps people to also leverage that network, 'cause I think women love building networks, but I'm like, "But you have to then leverage it, and you have to ask for help within that network," and it's not just about having 1,000 friends on Facebook, it's about saying, "Okay, I need help. Who can I ask for?" And doing it in a thoughtful way, and I think Ellevate does a really good job of giving people opportunities to do exactly that.
22:54 KW: Thank you.
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