Pretty much every startup entrepreneur dreams about building a large and growing business.
For those who manage to become successful, one of the key challenges is finding a place within a bigger organization, where an entrepreneur’s skills may not be as valuable or needed. In other cases, an entrepreneur may not thrive in an environment that is more structured and less flexible.
The passage from co-founder to corporate executive for Julia Hartz – who co-founded Eventbrite with her husband Kevin, and Renaud Visage, in 2006 – has been marked with unexpected twists. The discovery of a purpose has helped her grow professionally and remain a valuable part of the senior management team at the San Francisco-based company, which helps organizers plan, sell and market tickets online.
Ms. Hartz’s bio on Eventbrite’s website says she “spends her day focusing on the happiness, productivity, and growth of the team at Eventbrite (aka the Britelings).”
From the outside looking in, it sounds like a pretty good gig. Who wouldn’t want a professional mandate to nurture happy, productive employees? The journey to this position, however, was not easy. Ms. Hartz says she struggled for more than a year with her role at Eventbrite, which grew from a handful of employees to 200.
Whether it was luck or a calling, Ms. Hartz “magically” discovered her purpose by deciding she was going to focus all of her time on the company’s people. Her goals were two-fold: maintaining the corporate values and culture, and making sure the best employees were hired, retained and engaged.
“This includes a lot of different things such as recruiting,” she said in a recent interview. “I have no formal training in HR but I have found people who know what they are doing and believe in the vision of what we are trying to create, which is a place where people are doing the best work, they’re led by the best leaders, and having the time of their lives because they understand the vision of why we are here and having an impact on the world.”
Ms. Hartz considers herself fortunate because many founders struggle when a startup is no longer small. One of the keys, she says, is a willingness to learn and evolve. “It is a challenge because there are few founders that are inherent operators,” she explains. “I think that is where the challenge lies. There are a few things Kevin and I have done to mitigate that pain. One of the things we did was surround ourselves with mentors, with people who are great operators.”
Another consideration for entrepreneurs, Ms. Hartz says, is staying in touch with the business as it grows, maintaining good relationships with the board, and looking yourself in the mirror to make sure you are, in fact, the right person for the job.
“It is about asking the tough questions and committing to asking them on a frequent basis,” she says.