Women entrepreneurs have been taking over, and we could not be more excited to see it! Entrepreneur, author, and speaker Susan Packard is giving us her inside tips on how she became an entrepreneur and how you can too. Susan began at the bottom ground, working in media for years before deciding to branch out on her own. We are seriously inspired by her motivation and skills and hope that she will help inspire our fellow girlfriends! Here’s what Susan has to say:
Tell us a little about your background?
I have been in media my whole career. I worked at HBO for 8 years, CNBC for 7 years, and then I went over to HGTV and was on the start up team on the ground floor. I was there 16 years when we added Food Network, DIY, and more channels.
Your book, New Rules of the Game, has been such an inspiration for women in the workplace. Can you tell us how you came up with the concept behind this book?
It was a girlfriend of mine who I had worked with in the HGTV environment. She had said to me, “You’re not doing the crazy work you used to, why don’t you consider writing a business book about your career because it’s interesting.” She had written some business books herself. I thought about it, and I thought about the factors that helped me be successful. I ended up interviewing a dozen other CEOs, mostly women, but some men, and from there I put together the book.
When did you first realize you were on track to become an entrepreneur?
I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew what I liked to do. I like to start things from scratch and build them. I was on the ground floor of all the companies previously mentioned, and it just so happened that I was working in an environment where we were owned by a bigger media company. I was helping to start divisions within these companies called cable programming divisions. It was the best of both worlds. I was able to be innovative but didn’t have to go find capital because we had the parent company who helped to support and fund our growth.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
There have been so many, I can’t point to one! I have an aunt who is now 98 and she was the first female Vice President at Revlon. She tells me that when I was small I would sit by her side and ask her questions about her work. I have been close to her my whole life. She was a career woman with no husband or kids. She lived in NYC but was from the Midwest and would go home most weekends. My aunt was very inspirational to me. There were also many people in workplace who have been inspirational including Ken Lowe, my former boss, who runs Scripps Networks Interactive.
What advice can you give to a woman striving to become a leader in the world of business?
It depends on what they want and what type of career they are interested in. Whether it is senior roles, middle management, or entry level. Find that place where you are happy and at peace with what you want with a career. It can change over time, but if you can get to a place with peace and serenity around, this is where you want to be and then from there, you would want to think about what you love. Do you love fashion, the culinary arts, what do you get excited about? If there is a way to find a company that has that offering, or start from scratch and create that. It’s hard to start things from scratch without assistance. You may want to start at a larger company and see how things work then you can branch off, if that’s what you want. Many would rather stay in a corporate environment than go to a start-up, it just depends where your heart lies.
What are some of your goals that you want to achieve within the next 10 years?
One of the areas I’m working on right now is still quite a bit of writing, speaking, and I’m going to be offering a weekend retreat for women in partnership with Michigan State, my alma mater. I’m going to facilitate the weekend which will be around leadership and mindfulness, those two being brought together. That’s new for me and will be very interesting to see how women from all over the country will react. It will be great to see and hear their opinions and responses. Presumably there will be some satisfaction with it and hopefully we will do it again!
What examples of your life experiences in the corporate world helped you write this book?
Really, there are so many stories in that book that include my experiences from work. Everything from how to negotiate deals to how I learned composure on the job. That’s something I laugh about because my background is Italian and Greek, it’s not easy for me to keep calm and composed. There are things you can do to help yourself in those areas and one of the things I learned is the importance of taking care of myself. Sleeping enough, drinking enough water, eating breakfast, exercising. All those things help me to take care of myself so that when I was in the workplace, I didn’t react emotionally to stress because the rest of me was in a good place. You should express emotion at work but if you are over the top it can effect you negatively. Other people can be impacted, and that is not positive for the workplace or for your relationships with them. Composure is important.
What has been your favorite part about speaking to women and giving them such great tips and tricks?
I have loved to see how motivated women are today and I think women love to learn. It’s great to be a part of an environment like that. I love when they ask questions and debate points, and we would go back and forth because there is learning that we all got out of it. You end up as a broader thinker when you are willing to listen to the points of view of others and really digest it. I love hearing different thoughts, questions, and opinions about the subject matter.
What are 3 attributes that you think women need in order to be successful?
In my book, I talk about emotional maturity, which is an ability to have a reasoned approach to things, and it moves you from being a manager to a leader. The attributes I feel women need in the workplace are Resilience, Grit, Good Sportsmanship and Team Play.
One must have resilience to learn how to push through fears and get to the other side of a situation. I’ve never met a person who is fearless, many are apprehensive about trying or learning something new. Maybe the bravest people I’ve met are those who are intimate with fear.
Grit and Good Sportsmanship are needed to work well with others in a losing situation. We all lose every day. In my book, I tell a story of when I lost a job to a gentleman. Afterwards, I called to congratulate him and we have since remained friends. In the workplace, we sometimes deal with things we won’t get, such as a promotion. However, when you act professionally, you will find that you win more than you lose.
The third is the idea of how important the team dynamics are. Women are great team players, excellent listeners, and terrific managers of people. You should use your gifts in the workplace and genuinely connect with those you work with, and then you will have the most satisfying work experience.
What’s next for Susan Packard?
I have a couple of speaking engagements coming up. I will be keynoting an event, and I will be doing something at the University of Tennessee, a women’s diversity forum. As I mentioned before, I will also be facilitating the weekend retreat with Michigan State. In between that, there will be lots of speaking and writing.