As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Gore.
Elizabeth Gore serves as co-founder and president of Hello Alice (helloalice.com), which helps businesses launch and grow. Elizabeth previously served as entrepreneur in residence at Dell Technologies. There, she drove initiatives to support Dell’s goals of helping small and medium businesses scale and prosper, fueling the expansion of global entrepreneurship. She is also the emeritus chair of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, and previously served the UN for nearly a decade as the first ever entrepreneur in residence for the foundation, as well as vice president of global partnerships, where she founded strategic grassroots efforts like Nothing But Nets, Girl Up, and [email protected]
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up on a ranch in Texas and was blessed to be the first woman to graduate from college in my family. While I went to college to study cattle and Agricultural Business, experiences led me away from cow poop and towards fundraising and finance to support women and other underdogs. Fast forward to Washington, DC — Peace Corps — Bolivia, and almost ten years with the United Nations Foundation — it was quite a ride around the world. This journey got me very focused on the critical need for small business owners — particularly women. I moved over to Dell Technologies as their Entrepreneur in Residence, digging into technologies that would help individuals start and grow their business. Guess, what? I couldn’t find any scalable solutions… So, we built it — say Hello to Alice. “Hello Alice”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was meeting with the Chairman of Mastercard, hoping to get him to work with Hello Alice. Before I jumped into my pitch, he said that a small business owner was on the plane next him the day prior using Hello Alice. He asked the woman all about how she used the platform. Apparently our best spokesperson! It was an incredible moment. When others are your best advocates — you know something is working.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Out of the literally thousands of mistakes I have made… I think the worst was sending a pitch to Dell on a video with an Apple computer… So stupid. It is important to ensure you are tailoring every pitch to the end audience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My co-founder, Carolyn Rodz, is the most important person in my business life. She is my full partner in every win, loss, and tie. I learn from her every day and she pushes me to constantly do better. I deeply love her and feel blessed to execute on her vision. When we first really bonded, she was pregnant and I was too many beers into an afternoon. We talked about the huge upside of potentially helping women succeed in small business.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Prayers, exercise, and cocktails. Admittedly, not always in that order. It is really important to me to prayerfully think things through. As a very amped person, I need to exercise to clear my head and ensure I stay calm. The cocktail is usually after the meeting as a bonus.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Let’s start with $$$. Every study you read shows that when women and people of color get equal access to capital, they will match or outperform their male counterparts. This is the best economic bet we can make as a country. From a social perspective, it is critical to have all experiences and views on the decision making side of the table. This will ensure we are making decisions based on ground truth for our future.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
As it relates to hiring and customer acquisition of diverse individuals, we should lean into partnerships with organizations that represent the demographics we hope to engage. Think about partnering with the NAACP, the National Hispanic Chamber, or the NGLCC. We also have to be open to the long game. Patient hiring and capital are important as you are investing in new communities.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Everything — everyday… Seriously, the interesting thing about being the boss is having to become a generalist and rely on smart people to help you make decisions across every function of a company — Sales, HR, Marketing, Product, Digital, Budgeting, Finance. Since no one person knows everything, I spend a lot of time ensuring we have top talent that I trust to advise on each of these topics. On a personal level, when you are in this role, the wins and losses can feel a bit isolating. Much like a pitcher in baseball, you have an incredible team around you, but the worry of the whole game sits on your shoulders.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
It is an absolute myth that you can’t be an engaged parent/spouse and be a CEO or executive. I am consistently surprised that this myth still circulates often. I have seen quite the opposite, leaders with families tend to be emotionally consistent, time efficient, and more empathetic to employees.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenge is unfounded perception. Women are overly scrutinized and tend to have lower valuations before they ever get started. Data continues to show that women led companies are high performers. We need to get everyone on board.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Money money money, I spend so much time on finance, cash flow, and equity-based fundraising that it could be a full-time job in and of itself. I am like the Jerry Maguire movie constantly, “Show me the Money!”
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
You know those people at the circus who can spin 20 plates above their head? This is a bit like running a company. You must be able to juggle so many objectives, as well as prioritize your time and focus constantly. Additionally, no matter the industry — you are in the people business. Constant engagement with employees, bankers, investors, customers, and shareholders is a critical part of the job. If these two areas don’t float your boat, you might consider a different path.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
There is a massive difference between being a manager and a leader, both of which are critical. Make sure when you are insanely busy managing agendas and objectives, you take the time to also be a leader. Ensure your employees have sight on where the north star of your vision is.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My co-founder and I set out to build a company, Hello Alice, that does well by doing good. The more successful our small business owners are on the platform, the better off our business will be. This, I hope, is the business model of the future — triple bottom line. “People Planet Profit”
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Learn from the losses. You will learn more from things you missed, deals you didn’t get, and failures than you will from the wins. We have a tracker now, on why we hear “no” and try to see if there are patterns.
- Make sure you carve out time for financial management. I thought I would only raise one round of capital. Ironically, the more successful we are as a company, the more capital I have to secure and time I need to focus towards it. This means I have had to pull other things off my plate.
- Keep it lean until you just have to grow. We have really kept our team as lean as possible, as more people bring more issues. When we didn’t do this, we always had to slow down to go fast again.
- You will be told “no” hundreds of times. I was literally told no over 200 times while raising capital the first time…. I had no idea it was somewhat normal…
- Don’t forget about yourself. You can’t be a good executive if you are exhausted. (Remind me of this when I forget again…)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
For profit companies could be the biggest contributors to humanitarian efforts. If we use our innovation, technology, talent, and speed to market for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, imagine what we could do!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Hold your head up high and give them hell,” Opal Thompason, my grandmother. I tattooed this on my arm when I turned 40 so I would think about it in every move I make. In other words, — not in Texas speak, lead with your values, but be strong in your conviction.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Mike Rowe, he seems to love small business owners as much as I do!