Remain curious: The why of your everyday work can lead to surprising results. Be the “go-to” person for your knowledge base.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanne Hopkins, Chief Revenue Officer at SquadLocker, and has 30 years of experience in data-driven metrics, team building, and customer experience across various industries. Previously, she was CMO at travel management software company Lola.com. She has held executive marketing roles at Ipswitch (now Progress), Symmetricom (now Microsemi), SmartBear, MarketingSherpa, Continuum (now ConnectWise), and HubSpot. At HubSpot, Jeanne’s leadership helped the company land on the number two spot on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies by generating 50,000 net new leads per month. She is an accomplished writer, co-authoring “Go Mobile,” a top-selling mobile marketing book on Amazon. She has served as an advisor at numerous companies and is currently advising Acciyo, USEFULL (formerly Coffee Cup Collective), and Sales Lead Management Association. She loves educating the masses as a frequent speaker and is a social media powerhouse with nearly 90,000 @jeannehopkins followers on Twitter and 9,000+ on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My undergraduate degree is in accounting, and I was told by the person reviewing me for my first job out of college that I was too noisy for an accounting department. I honestly cannot think of anything I would rather do than help lead a company to the next level via terrific sales and marketing programs. Marketing, sales, and helping companies to be recognized grow, and thrive is something I love doing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I am simply enjoying the interaction between manufacturing and technology. And, being part of an organization that values the customer experience from marketing to sales to onboarding to success is a huge win.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I once did a survey for 50,000 users of our software. And, as I built the survey, I wanted to have a handful of people review it, so sent an email to a “seed list” with the subject line, “Can you take a peek at this for me?” I mistakenly sent to all 50K people, NOT the seed list. The best thing, however, is that I received an enormous response from thousands of customers with feedback and information that was so valuable.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
I enjoy leading teams, people, organizations, customers, vendors, and partners to greater success. I am a connector of different things, pulling ideas together, and presenting them as a win/win conversation to help grow a product, a service, or revenue. In this time of stress and strain for the entire workforce and their friends and family, it becomes even more needed to project empathy. At SquadLocker, we are a manufacturing environment, something that cannot be done working from home. These are the people I’m most concerned about. We have protocols for wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and being conscious of the shop floor as we do set up for each of our customers. The positive of an executive is never boring, especially in these times.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Executive level team members have to think broadly. While a depth of knowledge in a specific area is important, it is critical to know who to lean on when your expertise is not in that area. I think it can be dangerous to know a little about a lot and consider yourself an expert in all of those areas. That is why we need a team that is better than our specific capabilities to lean on to make a company better. Executives also need to be keen at learning about people and what makes them “tick.” This is what makes a company truly great.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
I’ve learned a lot over my career, and I love sharing my knowledge and educating others. I love mentoring others, teaching, and building teams across departments and the company to promote maximum success. I share via speaking engagements at industry events, podcasts, articles, and social media. Connecting people with new opportunities that they might not have known about is a lot of fun.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
You have to be positive and not unduly influence your team negatively when you are not having a great day. Typically, you cannot tell your team what is going on with the undercurrents, yet you need to be communicating effectively possible changes and impact. You frequently walk a thin line.
More recently, the advent of COVID-19 and how it impacts our organization, our community, and our world cannot be trivialized at all. We entered the community mask phase of our business in mid-April because our customers were asking for masks that could be branded with their school or business logo. Currently, customized masks account for 15% of our daily sales — whether bought individually for direct to player (home) or in bulk for a team. As an executive, we have to constantly respond and adapt to unforeseeable change.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
It’s a myth that it’s “lonely at the top.” It really isn’t. Sometimes it can be challenging to lead an organization through change. However, a manager manages, and a leader leads. Being a CEO means you have to lean on your team’s expertise, hire people smarter and better than you, and by all means, know your weaknesses.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Being direct is oftentimes viewed as aggressive and “not nice” which is a falsehood. And, then some women feel they need to couch their valuable feedback with words such as, “I think” or “I believe” instead of, “this is what it is.”
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
In my current job at SquadLocker — how much I like it. I like the people. I like teamwork. I like being part of something bigger. Specifically, the fact that we have been able to provide a community mask solution for our customers has proven to be an immediate challenge that is bearing fruit. It’s great to know that we are fulfilling the mask requirement for schools and sports teams at this very challenging time. I love being able to support people.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
You need to have confidence in your skillset and experience as an executive to provide value for a company. Plus, the ability to take criticism as feedback and not a personal attack is important.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be strong, be present, and be thoughtful.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful for helping you to get to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have a lot of people to thank for my 30-year career. One person that made me better is Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com. I liked working for him because he did not micro-manage me nor did he make assumptions about my productivity or team. He consistently asked good questions and based his analysis on data concepts, not emotions.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I work hard to make time and to be available to mentor others, to pass along what I’ve learned, and to help others to be successful in their careers. In a small way, this has been my way to help make the world better.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Get sales experience: Being able to successfully sell something helps you in any field you choose.
- Make education a priority: In whatever capacity, constantly learning is a path to success.
- Read every day: Be up-to-date on the news of the world.
- Be funny: Laughing is the best medicine in any situation. Humor can be found everywhere.
- Remain curious: The why of your everyday work can lead to surprising results. Be the “go-to” person for your knowledge base.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Be kind. We are in a place of constant judgment and that is unfair. We need to treat people with kindness and a smile. It goes so much further in the short- and long-term.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t call in sick when you are not sick. When I was 16 years old, I wanted to go to the beach with my friends, and my father told me that it was not something you did. The job depended upon me being there when I was scheduled, and it would be hard on the manager if I was not there. He was right. This is a basic premise of fairness.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would enjoy meeting with someone that needs some words of encouragement where I could help, or someone who I could amplify their messaging to help the world become nicer.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.