How Two Alpha-Females Came Together to Create a Thriving Business
When we share that we are co-founders of ForthRight People, we tend to get similar reactions from both males and females alike. This usually includes raised eyebrows, slight jaw drop and the word: “really?”. The reactions get dramatically more amplified if the person happens to know one of us well. What is implied here is that the idea of two females working together in this capacity (especially two alpha females) is the equivalent of having a lighted match next to a gun-powder keg. The thing is…nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we would both profess that this is probably one of THE BEST working relationships we have had regardless of gender. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it is awfully close. So, how did two female co-founders (who are self-professed alpha females) come together to create a thriving business? Here it is.
- We vetted each other as business partners. Many founders come together because of an existing relationship that led to a shared experience that then led to a business opportunity. Whether they were friends, roommates, co-workers, family members…the belief is that the personal relationship can be transformed into a business one without the need for further due diligence. We didn’t have an existing relationship and actually met through friends of friends of friends (like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game). Anne was searching for a partner and April was searching for a new challenge. So, our meeting was one of opportunity, which led to a vetting process versus a foregone conclusion that we were going to partner. (Well…ok…Anne was ready to partner after the first meeting, but April needed more time. A dynamic you will see again at a later point.) We met for 3 hours every week for 3 months to have the hard conversations ranging from our work style, to what we really wanted out of life and a business, to how we would handle conflict, to what type of clients we enjoy, to financially how long we could invest to get the business off the ground…we talked about it ALL. And most importantly, we learned about each other as people. This is what gave us the confidence to pursue being co-founders. Regardless of gender, assuming that a personal relationship will successfully translate to a business relationship without going through due diligence is a potential pitfall.
- We leverage each other’s strengths without ego. We are able to do this because we acknowledge that at the end of the day, it is all about producing work that delivers true impact for our clients. That is what gives us joy, makes us money and gets us more clients. So, when we discovered that Anne was actually pretty good at writing brand stories (even though this was April’s wheelhouse prior), Anne took the lead here. When it became clear that April really liked to lead the projects and created great rapport with the clients (even though Anne was always the leader in her previous life), April took the lead. And what was even more fascinating, now that Anne didn’t have to take the lead, she discovered she really loved to create content…she was a CREATIVE! Who knew? We will admit that deferring isn’t always easy…especially for two alpha females who feel they should be really good at everything AND be able to do everything. But it is a choice. And the choice has to be what is best for the business.
- We trust in each other’s competency. The rest of this statement would read: “even if she doesn’t do it like I would”. This is about trust and letting go. We both acknowledge and celebrate that we are two very smart, accomplished and self-aware women. But we do come from opposite sides of the marketing tracks (Anne from corporate and April from agency). Which means our lenses, styles, approaches, expertise and experiences are different…but not wrong. We learned that holding onto feelings of being “right” hampered our ability to scale our business. Instead, we had to recognize that the other person’s way may not be ours but could be equally as effective if not more so. This can be hard for alpha females as we have made our way by being “right”. Which is why it is so important to vet for a partner in which you value their competency.
- We manage each other’s triggers without judgment. This is generally the biggest tension point of female partnerships. Females in general tend to be more emotionally led and take things very personally. It is no different for us. However, we have a process that allows us to navigate these triggers so that they don’t lead to powder keg blow-ups. The process is:
- Learn what triggers the other person.
- Preemptively address the triggers.
- Don’t judge the triggers.
Many will do #1, but instead of following up with #2 and #3, they choose to avoid any triggers or continually instigate them because they feel justified. This generally results in the dysfunction and resentment many associate with female relationships. Which is why #2 and #3 are key. #2 means you are proactively adjusting your behavior so as not to trigger the other person. For example, Anne likes to make decisions in the moment (see above reference to first meeting). April needs to process. If Anne tries to push decisions through, April gets anxious. So, Anne has to make sure she incorporates time for April to think. #3 means you don’t get to judge someone else’s triggers. The truth is, we all have triggers (aka baggage). Respecting the person includes respecting their triggers.
- Everything is on the table. We aren’t just called ForthRight People, we live it. That means in our partnership as well. When we disagree, we talk it through. When we feel the other needs feedback, we respectfully give it. When our lives are impacting our behaviors and actions, we share it. The theme here is that we do not let resentment build. Resentment is a big killer to partnerships…especially female partnerships where most of us already feel burdened by the fact that we wear so many other hats. And beneath this is a point we alluded to above…resentment usually comes from not feeling respected. We have actually said to each other: “Just so you know, I am not having a good day. So, I am going to give my thoughts here about the work, but they may come out a little rawer than I want. Please don’t take this to be about you because you know how highly I think of your capability.” Now, this isn’t permission to unload. If we do accidentally misplace our “bad day”, we take responsibility for it and clean it up. Respect is also about acknowledging we have lives outside our business and honoring that the way we choose to live our lives may not be the same. April and Anne are in different stages of their lives where April has little kids and Anne has high-schoolers. Our capacity, attention, flexibility, and mom-guilt are different. If we projected our own expectations for our lives onto each other, resentment would build quickly.
So, there you go! But we can understand that this is easier said than done. Would you like to talk through it more? We offer coaching. We can do it individually or together. Contact us through our website: https://www.forthright-people.com/ or contact our Outreach Coordinator, Laura, directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Candido and April Martini are the Co-Founders of Forthright People, an On-Demand Marketing Agency focused on helping businesses quickly capture the hearts of their customers without breaking the bank. They believe in “real-time brand-building”, which delivers strategically-informed execution, creating immediate business impact while also developing equity for systemic growth. And since their team consists of an extended network of talented freelancers and boutique agencies, they do not require hefty retainers and contracts to do it. Contact them via email: Anne@Forthright-People.com and April@Forthright-People.com.
Check out our podcast! Marketing Smarts. From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so that you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so that whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.