Lisa Hendrickson – Founder of FutureLAB Media

[quote style=”boxed”]The biggest mistake, I believe, is hiring a resume instead of a person. Just because someone looks good on paper, doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for you or the company’s culture.[/quote]

Lisa Hendrickson has created award winning entrepreneurial ventures, served as a Director of Business Strategy at Scient, a global professional services firm, created innovation labs for implementing cross functional innovation throughout the organization as well as created brand, product and pricing strategies for companies. She is known for her simple elegant solutions that address complex business problems. Some career highlights include:

  • COO of the 43rd fastest growing inner city company in America in 2009
  • Corporate recipient of grant from The Clinton Foundation
  • CEO Forum Training at Harvard Business School with Michael Porter
  • Judge and Panelist for Goldman Sach’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking
  • Guest lecturer at Fordham University, SUNY’s FIT, The Pratt Institute and CW Post

She is the founder of FutureLAB Media, a company that produces business acceleration workshops that help entrepreneurs build smarter companies faster. Concurrently, she runs The Hendrickson Group, a consultancy focused on effectiveness and profitability for companies.
Some of the companies that she’s successfully consulted with include: Pfizer, J&J, Esoterix, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, GTE Mobilnet, Datamark, Vertex Capital,, Buchbinder & Warren, and The Brown Club of NYC. She has appeared on BBC World Business Report, The New York Times, CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s World News Tonight, Crain’s NY, and many other fine news outlets.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on something called FutureLAB. It’s a learning system for entrepreneurs building small businesses. What is see is missing from the workshop/training world for entrepreneurs is pure training on how to get your own business up and running. Most trainings focus on writing a business plan to present to a bank or to a potential investor–most businesses don’t get funding especially in the first 5 years. I’ve created workshops that focus on helping businesses get up and running. FutureLAB helps entrepreneurs devise business roadmaps to help them launch and make it through the first five years of business.

Where did the idea of FutureLAB come from?

I’ve been involved with different start ups and small businesses throughout my career. I’ve had so many “A-ha!” moments in learning about how to make these businesses effective and profitable. So many times I’ve thought to myself “if someone just told me that I could have saved so much time or so much money.” I created FutureLAB to share what I learned worked for me in creating companies and what I wish I knew before I started building companies.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’d like to change the question up a little–I don’t know if I’ve had a worst job, however, I did work my way through undergrad and grad school as a waitress and a bartender. So I learned how to hustle because if I didn’t make money, save money, budget wisely and pay tuition, I didn’t get to go to school that semester. That taught me how to be an entrepreneur–essentially, I had to manage finances, operations, sales and customer relationships. I think there’s tremendous value for people to work in service oriented jobs because working with the public teaches you amazing things about how to deal with all sorts of people.

What does a typical day look like?

There’s nothing magic about how I start my day as it relates to my work. I do focus on my family to start the day. The biggest tip I have for anyone out there looking to shape their day so that they do something wonderful for their businesses is this…. don’t look at email first thing in the morning. It will change the way you look at the day. I like to think and design the day around what I’m working on and building. If I look at email before I start on the path that I originally had in mind for the day, my day changes because of the emails that I receive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Execution is the most important thing that any entrepreneur can do. Lots of people talk about ideas… blah blah blah… and I’m a strategist and I’m saying this… but what most important to me is looking at the essence of an idea and taking the essence and designing an action plan that takes the essence of the idea and puts it into procedures or best practices. That way, the idea infiltrates the entire company and becomes a means to delivery. Executing on your own without your team looks like a misalignment. Building execution into the delivery system of the company is the connection between strategy and execution.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would fire people faster. I know that sounds weird, however, in my company, if I thought someone wasn’t working in the position that they were hired for, I tried to find them a position somewhere else in the company or mediate the “why” things weren’t working. What I found is that the small percentage of people that I had to spend this sort of time with ended up costing me a lot more time, money and productivity. It took me away from the people who were working, the people executing on the ideas and making the company run–the great hires, the great cultural fits. Now if I’ve made a hire that just doesn’t seem to be working out, I fire them really fast and find someone who is the right fit for the position. I just don’t suffer in spending the time to try to change the people or the circumstances. Now I hire with a 90 day probation–essentially, it gives me the time to determine what type of employee someone actually is and if I’m not feeling like they’re right, I just end it there.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love mobile everything. I love how the ability to do work while you’re anywhere using devices that are not wired to anything allows for a whole new way to work. I like seeing colleagues when there’s a conversation to be had in person and it’s energetic and fun. I’ve never liked the corporate environment where managers and coworkers might have an idea that you should be at your desk at 8am–if you’re not, there’s going to be a negative mark on your review and a gossipy conversation about you at the water cooler. That’s such a waste of time, waste of your life….why on earth would you want to have to actually acknowledge such stupid social pressure? A total waste. So that I can have team members in NYC, San Francisco, and India and I don’t have to manage their time or their water cooler conversations means that we can really really really do exciting work together–no matter where they are.

As an entrepreneur what do you do over and over and recommend everyone else do it?

Don’t overwork an issue. When I get stuck and am thinking that I need something for my company (especially sales) and I might have some sort of anxiety about what I think is missing from keeping my company successful, I reach out to a friend or a business confidant that has a great sense of humor. I’ll talk to them for just a few minutes and my mood perks up and my worries seem to go away. Then I get seriously get down to work to solve the open issue. I’m also a runner and sometimes I find that when I run problems that I haven’t been thinking about actively seem to resolve themselves in my head. Then there’s an “of course….” and I know exactly what to do. Problem solving for me isn’t always a linear process and trusting that things will sort out allows for things to sort themselves out.

What is the one failure you’ve had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

I fail often. It’s painful. It’s the thing many people don’t say when you’re in the midst of failing–like “ouch, that’s an **EPIC FAIL**” Painful. So I’d like to talk about how to get up, not about the **EPIC FAILS** Getting back up is not only required, it’s a necessary step in building grit. It’s necessary to know that no matter what happens that tomorrow is another chance to do your thing. Know that the greater your achievements, the greater potential for feeling foolish or at least that “you should have known better” when you’re in the midst of failing. Well, that sort of talk doesn’t gets you the booby prize. It just makes you feel bad but it doesn’t illuminate the gem inside of the fail–the excellent learning that makes you a better leader and a greater visionary.

There are people out there who will celebrate your failures. It sounds like ‘I told you so.” No matter who they are, they’re not on your team at that moment. You cannot listen to people when they are masquerading their schadenfreude as concern. This is the kind of talk that kills your dreams–listening to the voices of schadenfreude. Acknowledging your failures and understanding how they can help you and make you better builds self reliance and grit–deep belief in your vision is required even when working your way back from failure.

What is the one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create a system using RFI tags or another manner in which we can sort through recycling eliminating the need for people in the process. Automating the recycling process would be a boon to the industry, the over well being of communities and the planet as a whole. I think it’s a great idea, I just don’t have the time to invest in doing this particular adventure. I think it’s an excellent idea though.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would eliminate each person’s blind spots. The blind spots that has us only understand our point of view–the blind spots that have us go to war. The blind spots that have us only understand our short term needs instead of our long term benefits. I believe it’s our blind spots that have us say things like “well, that’s just the way I am….” I don’t believe we “just are a way” I believe we just are experiencing life in that moment in a particular way. If each person could understand that they are putting limitations on themselves by keeping these blind spots in place, I believe that we could solve huge complex global problems with a velocity that would be unimaginable now.

How would I go about this??? Hmmm…. I’d start by challenging each person reading this to identify their personal blind spots and see how this has affected their world view… and then ask 5 people who they love to do the same thing.

Tell us a secret.

I love Hello Kitty and keep secret little happy Hello Kitty items in my handbag at all times.

What is the one book you’d recommend to readers and why?

The book that has had a huge impact on me and my thinking is “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. I believe that “Walden” is the quintessential American tome that is a declaration of self-reliance, independence, naturalism and a foundation of what we imagine as the American Dream. He wrote that “most men live their lives of quiet desperation” and this was something I wanted to make certain that I didn’t do. I wanted to live life with joy and verve and with a sense of adventure and creativity. I got that from “Walden.”

It’s a difficult and at times fussy book written in the style of its day (1854) which makes it a challenge, however, the essential nature of what he talks about makes it the most radical American declaration of freedom and self-determination since the Declaration of Independence.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud everyday. I think life is very funny. People and circumstances are funny. I see fun, irony, humor and hilarity in the human condition. I laughed out loud yesterday at my husband, who is tremendously funny, when he made an off color comment about a holiday card that we received. It had something to do with Christmas sweaters and sounded naughty so I won’t write it here.

Who are your heroes?

My dad and Cliff Young. My dad because he would regale me with tales of the world of work when I was little. I loved his sense of adventure regarding work. In the third grade I started to carry a briefcase to school because I decided that I’d like to go to work. Although my father never carried a briefcase (he was a plumber), I learned that work was a pathway to having an adventurous life.

I love Cliff Young because he became an ultra-marathoner and a national treasure in Australia in his late 50’s. He just started running and never stopped until he died. He lived his life on his own terms. How freeing is that? Don’t know Cliff Young? Wiki him. I talk about cliff young in FutureLAB.

What is the biggest mistake a company can make when hiring senior leaders?

The biggest mistake, I believe, is hiring a resume instead of a person. Just because someone looks good on paper, doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for you or the company’s culture.

The most important hiring move I believe I can make now is finding a real culture fit for senior management. Almost anyone can learn just about anything, however, you cannot teach values or sensibilities to people and I find that these “intangibles” as they are often called are really the “proof in the pudding’ that makes or breaks a beneficial working relationship.

What do you hope to see but doubt you will in your lifetime?

The majority of our energy coming from clean sources. I’d like to see carbon neutral and zero emissions be the way that we did things in the world. I teach coursework on sustainability and my dream is that I wouldn’t have to–people would just do things this way because its smart and makes sense. The elimination of the “green” conversation would be an outcome of the human race taking on creating viable energy solutions on a planet-wide scale.


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