Her Campus: What does your current job entail?
Florence Sender: No matter how big or small the issue is, my job as founder is to support clickR’s philosophy, strategy, and its goals and objectives. Purpose, in our point of view, is paramount. At the same time, as CEO I must always consider how to best advance our objectives and to promote revenue, profitability, and growth. I try to be both smart and strategic at the same time and never sacrifice my intentions or purpose in life.
HC: Is there such a thing as a typical day?
FS: A typical day at the office starts with a strong cup of coffee,a short meeting to assess the nearterm issues and then it is “ready, set, go!”to manage what was planned while prioritizing the interruptions. I have a pre-office routine that is equally important. I’m up very early, meditate, take vitamins, and then spend an hour or so thinking about what I need to accomplish on the day ahead and scanning emails. This pre-office time is critical to an effective day and I can never, ever oversleep or get sick.
HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
FS: I started my career at a time when women had few choices:
- Get married and have babies
- Learn to type and get a job as a secretary
- Get certified as a teacher
I was very well educated and totally un-employable, so I started my own company. Now, I’m known as a serial entrepreneur.
HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
FS: When I first started I thought that the most important thing was having a good product (this is broader than something in packaged goods, it could be a service or book or magazine). I now know that you need an insightful understanding of the system and organization of the industry that makes the product available as a currency.
HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
FS: Very early in my career I was brought to the Harvard Business School by Professor Ray Goldberg who was seeking a woman CEO when there were none to be found. He introduced me to the kind of thinking and analysis that is required to build a learning organization that could succeed in a highly competitive environment. He also introduced me to the important activity of building a professional network.
HC: What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
FS: After selling my second company I took my first job, working for Lester Thurow, Dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. I stayed there for seven years and left for my third start-up. Les wrote a book in 2003 titled “Fortune favors the Bold”. In it he says: “No one fully knows yet exactly what works in this new environment, but it is the bold who will explore the new topology, discover the routes to success and build their fortunes in the process. Business leaders must therefore be explorers, women and men who know how to learn, who value knowledge and are comfortable with risk. In a word, they must be bold.”
HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
FS: Building an enterprise requires capital. It’s not unusual to make the mistake in thinking that capital interest understands the alignment between the founder, the company mission, vision and the future success of the company. Women founders and CEO’s are particularly vulnerable here as capital is often sourced from male dominated sources. I have learned that is important to protect the position of the founder with contracts between the founder and the company.
HC: What is the best part of your job?
FS: The best part of my job is that I actually get to make a difference in people’s lives.
HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
FS: I look for honesty, capability, and a willingness to learn.
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
FS: Trust your intuitions, listen carefully — even to the things you don’t want to hear — and welcome criticism. Make sure that what you do includes what everybody wants.