Colgate University - B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Educational Studies
Columbia University - M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology
Columbia University - M.A. in Organizational Psychology
As an entrepreneur, it's easy to get caught up in numbers or the "bigger is better" view of success. But today's leading lady, Adelaide Lancaster, suggests another measure: Success is about satisfaction, she says, not size. Instead of compromising things that are important to you just to make your business a little bigger, Adelaide encourages entrepreneurs to start with their needs and build the business to suit. To her, this approach takes advantage of one of the best opportunities of entrepreneurship: doing meaningful work on your terms — not someone else's.
Adelaide should know. After earning two graduate degrees in psychology from Columbia University, she couldn't find the job she wanted. So, she and partner Amy Abrams, launched a consulting practice focused on women business owners and women in career transition. Then, when their clients repeatedly voiced their struggles with isolation, the duo responded with In Good Company, a community for women business owners ripe with learning opportunities and a physical co-working space where women could come to work, meet and learn.
Adelaide is also the co-author of "The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You," writes "The Big Enough Company" column on Forbes.com and is a contributor to The Huffington Post and Daily Muse.
Entrepreneurship is a marathon – not a sprint. We all need to learn to bolster our stamina, pace ourselves, and use our time and energy wisely.
How did you discover your current job?
I went right from undergrad to graduate school, so many of my "first jobs" were various internships. I also taught preschool to help support myself while I was in school (I wasn’t very good at it!). When it came time to graduate from my counseling psychology program (I was also in the organizational psychology program), I couldn’t find the kind of job I was looking for. I wanted to be a career counselor for women who were deciding what direction to take their career. Most of the positions available were in schools and there was very little counseling involved. The other larger organizations either required a lot of ancillary HR work or were working with more at-risk populations.
So, since I couldn’t find the job I wanted, I decided to create it! I started my own career counseling practice and consequently became an entrepreneur. That practice evolved over a number of years and through several iterations to later become the business I have today. The decision to start my own thing was one of the best I’ve ever made. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy, but it has been rewarding.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
Generally my job involves determining the strategic direction for my business. I spend a lot of time cultivating the brand through social media, writing content for our blog and my columnist positions, designing programming and curriculum for each season, managing the operational (finances, billing, bookkeeping) side of the business, networking and making myself available to our members for brainstorming etc.
Every day is different, which I love. Even though my business is in New York, I live in Philadelphia. Generally I work from my Philadelphia office three days per week and my New York office one day per week. Fridays I hang with my daughter and work during her naps and at night. Right now, because we are promoting a book, my job involves a lot of writing, speaking, social media and strategizing about creative marketing campaigns both in social media and for in-person events.
What inspired you to write "The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for You"?
I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for more than eight years. I saw many of the common growth challenges that they were experiencing and wanted to engage people in a broader conversation about business growth and success. In my opinion, success is not about size, it’s about satisfaction. I want entrepreneurs to get the most out of their experience and to never feel stuck with a business that doesn’t totally work for them.
Sometimes as business owners we get caught following the momentum of our business instead of charting a deliberate growth path that keeps our own wants, needs and goals at the forefront. I fundamentally believe that there are an infinite number of ways to be an entrepreneur and that there are an infinite number of ways to grow a company. The creative challenge (and opportunity of entrepreneurship) is identifying the way that honors your definition of success. That was one of the reasons we chose to profile the stories of 100 entrepreneurs in our book -- to show all the creative ways they were achieving success on their terms.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
Hands down hearing the amazing stories of thousands of entrepreneurs. I am inspired by their commitment, perseverance and sense of purpose. They are constantly exploring uncharted territory and working hard to create the work and life that they want.
I share the same challenges as most entrepreneurs -- managing cash flow and deciding where to go next. Oh, and saying no is always a challenge, but it’s also a very important business tool.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
I work really hard not to make personal compromises that feel like big sacrifices. Sure, I make personal compromises all the time (late night or reinvesting money) but since they are informed choices with a specific goal in mind they don’t feel like they are painful sacrifices. I think probably the biggest overall sacrifice I make is my leisure time - what’s that? But at the same time I’d rather spend more time with my daughter and working than hanging out friends or relaxing. In order to be the kind of mom I want to be and entrepreneur I want to be something’s got to give -- and that is usually social time or “me” time.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
You can’t pretend to be something you’re not. It just doesn’t work. There are plenty of tactics and systems that work for other people but would fall totally flat if I tried to do the same thing. You always have to be true to yourself and your interests, otherwise it shows. Always honor yourself and your own definition of success.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
Finding or creating jobs that allow them to be have a full life. Lots of the women that I work with are really passionate about what they do, but they also often put their business’ needs before theirs. They work too much and have trouble setting appropriate boundaries between work and the rest of their life. As a result they experience some element of burnout. Entrepreneurship is a marathon – not a sprint. We all need to learn to bolster our stamina, pace ourselves and use our time and energy wisely.
Who are your role models?
I have dozens. I look to a lot of people and businesses for inspiration and guidance. One of my mentors right now is Terry Gross, the NPR anchor on "Fresh Air." She is such a skilled interviewer and is able to have a meaningful, intelligent and thoughtful conversation with anyone. What an amazing talent to have. I learn a lot listening to how she crafts conversations and from the kinds of questions she asks.
What are some of the rules you live by?
The journey must be as enjoyable as the destination.
Progress, not perfection.
Success is about satisfaction, not size.
What advice do you have for women who want to be in your industry?
I would tell them, and anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur, that success is about satisfaction, not size. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game or buy into the “bigger is better” view of success, but the truth is that being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. Given the investment that you make (time, money, energy) you better enjoy the work that you’re doing. It’s not worth it to compromise on the things that are important to you just to make your business a little bigger. Instead, start with your needs and build your business to suit. In my mind, that’s the opportunity of entrepreneurship – the ability to create meaningful and rewarding work on your terms, not someone else’s.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Doing a lot more of the same! I want more opportunities to write, speak and work with entrepreneurs. For now, this is my life’s work!
What are three things you love aside from your job?
My family; beautiful houses and home décor items; and, opportunities for learning – I am always reading and listening to NPR.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It’s never too late to lead the life and business you want!