Monday Motivation from Jennifer Shoop, Founder at Fizz
Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
We sat down with Jennifer Shoop, Founder at Fizz, to discuss being a better manager, bringing candor to the business-building process, and how to operate your startup like it will live forever.
What inspired you to start your business?
Being a good manager is tough. Very few companies train managers; like most, I was promoted quickly because I was a good independent contributor. But being functionally good at something and managing people to do the same are two very different skill sets, and I spent many years in trial and error figuring things out. I was always deeply intellectually engaged with how to be a better manager, always testing new strategies and approaches. Then, one day, my husband came home from work and threw a temper tantrum because he had to complete his self-assessment as a part of his annual performance review process at work. He was frustrated at the prospect of having to fill out a long, tedious form full of stilted questions. He wasn’t sure if anyone was going to read it; his job had changed ten times in the past year, so it was impossible to even catalog what he’d done; and it was the first time in a year he’d even heard about the organization’s values. Moreover, he was annoyed that this one paper form was meant to capture his value to the company. When he went into work the next day, the head of his department told everyone they could take the rest of the day off once they’d submitted their self-assessments. You can imagine that every single person stopped work, hastily filled out the form, and rushed home. We were mind-boggled by this: what kind of message are we sending to our teams that getting feedback is so onerous you need a day off at the end of it? And moreover that it’s a tick-the-box activity that should be done once-a-year and forgotten about? And how much time and money is this broken approach to employee feedback costing companies? We saw a huge knot of related pain points.
Between these experiences, we knew there had to be a better, more realtime way to support employee development. So we built Fizz, a tool that facilitates ongoing, on-demand feedback.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
There’s a famous quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I never understood what that meant until I became an entrepreneur, where you’re constantly facing the existential questions of whether you’ll exist in 6 months, but need to operate your business as if you’ll be around forever. Balancing these two realities is a true intellectual and emotional challenge. My co-founder describes it as one of those movie scenes where the hero is driving a vehicle towards two closing doors and you’re not sure if he’ll make it before they close. You need to accept that you may not make it, but you also need to drive like hell as if you will.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Customer happiness. Building something that customers use prolifically, and that solves a true need for them.
What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in the your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
This is agnostic to industry, but in general, in the startup world, I wish there was more honesty. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. I’ve learned a lot—toughened up a lot!—but I don’t necessarily think that it needs to be the way it is. I like to participate in programs like Project Entrepreneur and the WiSTEM incubator in Chicago’s 1871 (an incubator for female tech founders) to bring a bit more candor and openness to the business-building process, especially for women. I also spend time mentoring students and young professionals interested in entrepreneurship. I try to be as open as possible.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
My co-founder and husband, Landon. He is a perennial optimist and has an insanely sharp, strategic mind. We basically built Fizz to solve problems we’d experienced ourselves, so he helps us come back to center by reminding me that we are building something important and useful.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Learn how to sell. It’s a skill, and it takes time and effort to perfect, but it can be learned. If you can’t sell, you’re in the wrong line of work. Even if you’re not in a business with a direct sales model, you’ll need to sell to your first few customers, to your investors, to the family members who think you’re crazy, to the employees you want to recruit. It’s all a big sale. Learn the process—prospecting, customer discovery, demoing, closing.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
Review my calendars and my to-dos (I use Salesforce tasks, Wunderlist, and a good old fashioned notepad), take a deep breath, and get going.
For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Anjni Singh, Founder of Kali Active. We discuss standing out in your industry, how to partner with influencers, and taking the pink out women’s fitness wear.