Originally posted here.
I recently went one on one with Helen Gu, founder and CEO of InsightFinder.
Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Helen: It was a big change for me to transition from academia and work as a computer scientist in big companies like IBM and Google to being CEO of my own startup. Leading a startup is challenging all the time. The most important thing is to stay focused, adjust yourself and embrace changes.That’s the fun part of the startup journey.
Adam: In your experience, what are the key steps to growing and scaling your business?
Helen: You will experience changes almost every day. You will need to adapt yourself. At InsightFinder, we used to have just two people. Now we have over 20 people. We’ll grow into a big corporation later on. We are assembling a team that can address the challenges at each stage of growth.
Adam: What is your best advice on building, leading and managing teams?
Helen: The most important thing is to be honest with yourself and with your team. Once you have the trust, everything else will become a lot easier. Our culture and philosophy is to be trustworthy to ourselves and to our customers.
Adam: What are the most important trends in technology that leaders should be aware of and understand? What should they understand about them?
Helen: AI will be the next generation of technology revolution. Machine learning is changing many aspects of our lives. We are living in a digital world. We used to have to spend a lot of time on mundane tasks. AI helps automate these mundane tasks. Plus, AI helps accomplish things that people cannot do. For example, with IT operations, people can not spend 24 hours a day staring at a performance dashboard. People need to spend time with their families and have a life! AI helps us do that.
Adam: What do you believe are the defining qualities of an effective leader?
Helen: Adaptability is the most important thing. You need to adapt to changing circumstances and new challenges.
Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Helen: The most important thing is to surround yourself with talented people who give honest opinions. I often ask my executive team what can we do better? We have created a culture of transparency where employees of the company can share their opinions and ideas.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Helen: First, don’t do entrepreneurship just for money. Second, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Third and most importantly, you need support from your family. As a professional entrepreneur and working mother, I receive tremendous support from my husband and my son.
Adam: What are your best tips on the topics of sales, marketing and branding?
Helen: It starts with domain knowledge. You need to understand what you are marketing and selling. You need to develop trust with your audience and your customers. Be sincere. Give evidence and not just say bad things about competitors.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Helen: Just hang in there. Previous successful entrepreneurs have told me that if you know that your direction is correct, don’t worry about how long it will take. You will get there. It’s not about speed. It’s about the right direction.
Adam Mendler is the CEO of The Veloz Group, where he co-founded and oversees ventures across a wide variety of industries. Adam is also the creator and host of the business and leadership podcast Thirty Minute Mentors, where he goes one on one with America’s most successful people – Fortune 500 CEOs, founders of household name companies, Hall of Fame and Olympic gold medal winning athletes, political and military leaders – for intimate half-hour conversations each week. Adam has written extensively on leadership, management, entrepreneurship, marketing and sales, having authored over 70 articles published in major media outlets including Forbes, Inc. and HuffPost, and has conducted more than 500 one on one interviews with America’s top leaders through his collective media projects. A top leadership speaker, Adam draws upon his insights building and leading businesses and interviewing hundreds of America’s top leaders as a top keynote speaker to businesses, universities and non-profit organizations.
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