Diane Hessan, Chairman of Communispace, kicked off a series of inspirational speakers for MassChallenges week of boot camp. She reviewed her road to success and provided the room full of entrepreneurs with tips based on her experiences. Hessan touched on a few defining moments that she kept in the back of her mind as steps leading up to her becoming an entrepreneur.
When Hessan was leaving her job at General Foods she noticed how easily someone else could step into her position and wished she had a job where she was not as disposable. Before she even started, Hessan had her job offer revoked from Gillette because the head of personal care felt that she wasnt passionate about deodorant; she then realized that she wanted a job that had an impact on the world. When she was dissatisfied with the management at her next job, she thought, wouldnt it be cool if we could build a company with no assholes.
Hessan was ultimately the first to figure out how to create an online costumer community platform that companies could use to look for feedback about their business. She described building Communispace as the most exhilarating experience of her life. Hessan eventually got to experience the most unbelievable day of her professional career when she sold the company and got to be the one handing out checks to everyone with stocks in the company. She was extremely fascinated and touched to hear how the money would impact all of their lives. Her desire for the 2014 finalists to have a similar thrilling experience emitted through the room as she gave them advice that could lead to similar accomplishments.
Identifying your Mission and Vision
Hessan discussed the importance of defining a mission and vision during the beginning stages of forming a company to stay focused and motivated. The mission statement proclaims the purpose of the company and should be kept simple so that it is easy for people to understand and remember. A vision is the ultimate goal that that is worked towards everyday. When that goal is achieved, it will prove everyone wrong that ever doubted the idea.
Be Open and Receptive to Change
While Hessan stressed the importance of startups outlining their mission and vision, she also suggested remaining open to change. Entrepreneurs often learn from trial and error, so it is worth refining mission statements if things start heading in a different direction. It is also essential to recognize what kind of entrepreneur you want to be and your role in generating new products or ideas. Serial entrepreneurs will have a different role in their vision than those who want to build and implement their ideas.
The 128 finalists received four concluding pieces of advice to guide them through the four-month accelerator program. First, Hessan encouraged them to utilize the space and resources that MassChallenge provides and to just go for it because the worst that can happen is you get a job. Second, she advised the startups to take advantage of the vast network they can create by becoming friends with everyone else participating in the program. Third, she suggested using multiple mentors for different aspects of business. Hessan said, there are at least fifty, mostly men, that think they are single handedly responsible for my success, and Im okay with that. Finally, she recommended staying in the intimate city of Boston. Hessan described the Boston community as unusual because everyone supports, assists and gets excited about people building new businesses here.