The Enterpriser: Deborah Sweeney, is CEO of MyCorporation. From being Partner at a law firm to now business owner, Deborah essentially turn dreams into reality by helping people form their companies (she’s done hundreds of thousands). These days she champions the entrepreneurial spirit through her passion to support small businesses and startups. This original California girl talks to Vanity +Trade about multi-tasking- which includes managing her business, raising two young boys, and channeling her inner Laker Girl through her aerobics and fitness routine. #WorkLifeBalance
What was the main impetus behind leaving your post as Partner at a law firm to owning a business? What were your fears then and what do those fears mean to you now?
Flexibility. Women are often in a glass-ceiling mindset and for me, I was inspired by seeing the amount of flexibility that my husband had as a business owner and that was appealing to me. What I am seeing from people –partners in my law firm and peers from law school is that women aren’t exactly leaning in but rather forging their own paths.
We, as women, prefer to drive the destination as opposed to fitting in and so when I bought the business, my thought was that I could be the master of my own destiny – both from an opportunity standpoint and also in terms of time management.
As a mother of two young boys, tell us how you balance your work and personal life?
Being present is important. I don’t miss anything. I work around the clock but that has afforded me the ability to be there for my 2 sons. For example, my boys know that when we are driving in the car, they may have to read for a moment while I wind up a meeting, but they also know that it will be me who picks them up from school. I am room mom in their classrooms and I am on the PFA, but I’m the mom who is always jogging in to the meetings. We run our family efficiently and we make sure we have time for each other. We have a family motto: “Work hard. Have fun.” As a family, we take both seriously and being an entrepreneur has really made this a reality.
Having helped form so many businesses, what are some of the mistakes you see women make at work? Do you have an example or story to share?
Women make mistakes at work by remaining comfortable and not stretching. When our company was acquired by Intuit back in 2005, I did not rest on my laurels. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed to be the GM of the business. When I saw Intuit divesting smaller businesses and making changes in the overall corporate structure, I took a risk and offered to buy the business out of Intuit. It went over quite well. Now, 6 years later, we are an independently owned/run company and we continue to grow and thrive.
Women often are unwilling to stretch or they feel comfortable, so they stay put. They often do not take risks and many times this is because they don’t have examples of other women in their lives that have done the same. Slowly but surely, more women are finding their confidence and expanding their mindsets to recognize that they could be successful in roles in business not traditionally held by women.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in being a business owner?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in being a business owner is to not sweat the small stuff. Employees will call in sick on Mondays; customers will want discounts; partners may not follow through. Nevertheless, the pros to entrepreneurship far outweigh the cons. Sometimes one can get caught up in the minutiae, but keeping the focus on the goals, encouraging your team to see the bigger picture and drive toward success is critically important. This is a valuable lesson, which I have learned over time.
Describe your signature style?
I am happy. I am even peppy. I love to be positive and I have an overall positive attitude about life. I enjoy my days, I enjoy people and I enjoy work. I believe people are good and I believe that you get back what you put out. I put out positive and I feel that I get that back. It’s a wonderful self-fulfilling prophecy.
Who are your current favorite designers?
I live in Lululemon. I like Michael Kors and I wear what is comfortable.
Talk about your workout routine?
I spin in the mornings and I take walks with my family each weekend. We are a sports family. We play lots of soccer, we ride bikes, we play catch and we are always on the go. I love to walk and listen to good music. I don’t have a specific routine, but I like to balance a lot of different activities. I stand a lot when I work and I “run” to all my meetings. People tease me at the office, but at least it gets my blood flowing during the work day. We sometimes do walking meetings when we walk around the neighborhood to meet.
Most memorable moment:
One of the funniest things that happened to me was when I was on an acquisition meeting as our company was being acquired by Intuit. They were discussing strategy and I was dialing in (corporate headquarters was in Mountain View and our offices were based in Woodland Hills). I was actually at home with my 1-year old son … not at the office. However, I did not want anyone to know that. The phone was on my ear and I was running around, but then I got the idea to put it on speaker so I would have both hands free. The phone was muted and when I moved it to speaker, the mute came off without me knowing. I said to my son, “Did you go poopy?” really loudly. Everyone heard. They started asking – “Who was that? Was that you, Deborah?” I just muted the phone and laid low and the conversation continued. I was so embarrassed!
Oh the joys of motherhood. Now, my boys know that when they jump in the car when I’m picking them up, I give them a hand signal and they know to keep on the quieter side until the call is done.
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