Sheila Marcelo on the importance of thinking long term CEO Sheila Marcelo talks about long-term relationships

Lessons learned from entrepreneur by Faith Merino
December 7, 2012
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At our Vator Splash NY event this week, CEO Sheila Marcelo delivered a riveting keynote address on the particulars of branding.  And with now active in some 18 countries, Marcelo knows a bit about branding.  One of her rules: think long term.

It seems obvious—if you’re building a company, of course you’re thinking long term.  But Marcelo didn’t mean it in the obvious sense.  She was referring specifically to how you build relationships (since her point about branding is that you’re actually building relationships).

“Going around to VCs, I felt like I was dating,” she said, explaining that when she was considering pitching to VCs, she would call them up and schedule a coffee or lunch date months in advance, because her aim was to get to know them as people.  “I didn’t even bring a pitch deck with me,” she said.  “I wanted to see what their personalities were like.”  For example: do they check their phone during meetings?

“You want to surround yourself with advisors who champion you and support you.  You want them to take it above and beyond because they’re looking out for you and always talking about you,” said Marcelo.

“Building a company is about relationship building,” she continued.  “Even when someone leaves the company.  I have people who tell me two years in advance they want to go to business school, and I look at ways I can help them.  People I worked with years ago come back and we end up working together again.  It’s more than just a one-night stand.”

Thinking long-term was a point that folded in with Marcelo’s other points about branding, which all came back to authenticity.  “What authentic story are you telling people that’s resonating in their gut, that’s not trying to trick them in any way?” she asked.  She went on to explain how she started after her own difficult search for a caregiver.  After two unplanned pregnancies and her father’s heart attack, she found herself with few options other than Craigslist.  So she has a very real connection to her customers because she’s been in their shoes.

“After graduating from Harvard, I thought maybe I don’t want to do this kind of business.  Maybe I need to do something that’s sexier, ‘cause I got an offer to be the CEO of a gaming business.  Then my mentor took me aside and said ‘are you in the pain business or in the pleasure business?’” she said.


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