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Krista Morgan: “Staying calm and focused is critical to your success”

Your job is to stay 18 months ahead of the business. Running a business is fun. It’s easy to stay busy and feel like you’re moving things forward. I have learned that if I allow myself to get caught up in the day to day I won’t be able to focus on where we’re going. […]


Your job is to stay 18 months ahead of the business. Running a business is fun. It’s easy to stay busy and feel like you’re moving things forward. I have learned that if I allow myself to get caught up in the day to day I won’t be able to focus on where we’re going. I have to actively force myself to not be busy, to not take on meetings all day every day because I need space to think about what the business will need 12, 18, and 24 months from now. I have to think about how much money we will need, what new products will allow us to keep growing, and what kind of people I need to think about recruiting.
It’s hard on the ego when you don’t feel needed because your team is running the day to day, but it’s been an important lesson for me. The times we ran into trouble it was because I didn’t ensure I was staying ahead of the problems that were coming instead of the problems facing us at the time.


I had the pleasure to interview Krista Morgan. Krista is co founder and CEO of P2Binvestor (p2bi.com), a marketplace lender that helps entrepreneurs and innovators transform their companies from sector newcomers to industry leaders. P2Bi partners with banks and investors, while also offering a robust crowdfunding platform, to provide affordable, flexible capital that evolves with business growth. Krista has quickly grown P2Bi into a multi-million-dollar company and one of the few tech-enabled commercial lenders that can rapidly underwrite and fund million-dollar lines of credit. In addition, she is co-host of the popular podcast, Women Who Startup Radio, a global networking and learning platform for female entrepreneurs and innovators. Krista earned a BA in Economics and Political Science from McGill University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Krista! What is it about the position of executive the most attracted you to it?

I never thought about becoming an executive per se. I became a founder, and then a CEO in my early thirties, and I (incorrectly) assumed that made me an executive. It’s taken me years to figure out that title alone doesn’t make you an executive. I have done a lot of work to train myself, and I still have a long way to go. Luckily, I believe that being a good executive has a lot to do with your mindset, and I enjoy the challenge of working on mine. I’m attracted to becoming a better executive because I know it will make me a better person overall, both professionally and personally.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what an executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other executives?

I thought being a CEO was about being the boss and making decisions. I’ve learned the hard way, that being a good CEO is about empowering your people to make good decisions, supporting them, and then holding them accountable for results. That last part is definitely the most difficult for me, but I think the most important. People are not truly empowered if you don’t hold them accountable for the decisions they make.

What were your biggest struggles throughout your professional life and how did you overcome them?

Good executives (or CEOs) are always improving. We try new things, we make mistakes, we apologize, we make the same mistake again, we apologize again, and eventually we learn. Then we go on to make new mistakes and the cycle repeats. I struggle with the people who only focus on your mistakes, and not on the work you are doing to fix them. I love the “Man in the Arena” quote by Theodore Roosevelt because it reminds me that the opinions of people who aren’t being courageous and therefore vulnerable don’t matter. I struggle with caring too much about the critics. I can’t say I have overcome this, but I have adopted Brené Brown’s strategy of having a list of 5 people whose opinions I care about which helps me filter the noise.

What are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I founded a fintech lender with no prior experience in finance or lending. 5 years later our company has lent over $1 billion to growing businesses, we have strong portfolio performance, and we have grown year over year. And yet, I have no end of anecdotes to suggest I am not yet taken seriously.

I don’t fit in this world. I find it uncomfortable to go to industry events and be in a minority of women. Even armed with all of my knowledge and experience, men regularly talk down to me. “Mansplaining” is a real thing that happens all the time.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

The opportunity to stimulate change in my business and my people is very rewarding. It’s not easy to do, but waking up every morning to that possibility makes me excited to go into work.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

Taking ownership for your mistakes is never fun. Sometimes we miss our targets, or something we tried doesn’t work. Having to stand up and own it, while still maintaining positivity about the future is really hard. For better or worse, those are the times I learn the most and grow as a leader.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A few years back we decided to change our go to market strategy and we had a finite amount of cash that we had to preserve while we executed. We knew our sales would go down while we shifted but decided it was worth it to give us a better way to scale our growth in future years. We went through a layoff and severely reduced costs which was difficult for everyone. I will never forget standing in front of the team that remained and having to take responsibility for the decisions I made that got us to that point. The following months were some of the hardest we’ve been through as a company, but it made us better in the end and taught me a ton about people, culture, and being thoughtful about how we spend our capital.

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?

Given my lack of background in finance, I had to ask a lot of questions early on about lending, credit, risk, and finance in general. It was intimidating. I constantly found myself in the room with (mostly) men who used terms and acronyms I didn’t understand.

I remember sitting in this one meeting where the person kept talking about bips. It was clearly something obvious, but I finally got up the courage to ask what it meant and the guy gave me this annoyed look and said it stood for basis points and then kept talking. I then had to interrupt him again to ask for an explanation of what a basis point was. He was not impressed.

In retrospect it was funny, but in the moment I felt terrible. Being in a new industry taught me to freely admit what I didn’t know and ask for explanations. It’s given me a sense of humility and patience that serves me well especially with our clients who don’t always understand the nuances of financing.

Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I never thought of building a company from scratch would be easy, but I had no idea how hard it would be. I have been doing this for over seven years now. I have been through so many hard times and felt like giving up more than I care to admit. The resiliency it takes to actually do this job is way more intense than I anticipated.

That said, I feel so incredibly proud of myself and my team for what we have accomplished. Those moments when we hit a big milestone bring me an incredible sense of joy that I also didn’t expect.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive, what 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?

Being an executive is about executing through people, and that only works if you put them first. Not everyone wants to put the effort into building a great team. Other than that, I don’t think it’s about your traits, it’s about your mindset. For example, I am not good at giving direct feedback because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I know that being clear is critical to developing my people, and taking care of them is more important than my own discomfort so I work on developing that trait.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Be authentically you and encourage the same in your teams. The problem with the lack of diversity in leaders is we don’t see many different leadership styles. I spent a lot of time early on worrying that I wasn’t leading my teams the way other CEOs were. The more I tried to be something I wasn’t, the worse it was for my team. The point of encouraging diversity is to encourage our differences which, I believe, ultimately leads to better results and outcomes.

Who inspired/inspires you and why?

I am inspired by the founders and CEOs who have come before me and seen success. Building this company has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done and when it gets hard and I question my ability to succeed, I think about the big names in tech who have achieved amazing scale with their businesses and I push myself to keep going.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been very lucky to have support from a ton of people, men and women, who have helped me along this journey. There is one female CEO who runs her own medical device company that has been a friend and mentor to me for many years. She always makes time for me, never hesitates to open up her network to help, and speaks truth in a very kind way.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

As I mentioned above, a lot of wonderful people have helped me without asking for anything in return. I make time to pay forward their kindness and generosity to female entrepreneurs who can benefit from my experience and connections.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Your job is to stay 18 months ahead of the business. Running a business is fun. It’s easy to stay busy and feel like you’re moving things forward. I have learned that if I allow myself to get caught up in the day to day I won’t be able to focus on where we’re going. I have to actively force myself to not be busy, to not take on meetings all day every day because I need space to think about what the business will need 12, 18, and 24 months from now. I have to think about how much money we will need, what new products will allow us to keep growing, and what kind of people I need to think about recruiting.
    It’s hard on the ego when you don’t feel needed because your team is running the day to day, but it’s been an important lesson for me. The times we ran into trouble it was because I didn’t ensure I was staying ahead of the problems that were coming instead of the problems facing us at the time.
  2. Staying calm and focused is critical to your success. Problems happen all the time when you’re running a business. It’s easy to panic, especially when everything feels critical. I am a high energy person and if I’m panicking about something, that panic is going to quickly run through the organization. It’s distracting and it’s not conducive to problem solving. I have learned to manage my public reactions to issues. I listen, ask questions, and let the person know we are going to be able to solve it together.
  3. You have to learn to execute through other people vs doing it all yourself. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a doer. I love to roll up my sleeves and make stuff happen. As we grow as a company and I grow as a leader it is very rare that I’m the best person to actually do the work. My best outcomes come from teaching other people, explaining what I need, and trusting them to get it done. It’s hard though, especially when we’re under pressure and have deadlines. But those are the moments where it matters most because those are the moments I demonstrate the greatest trust in my team.
  4. Letting other people make decisions, even if you don’t agree, is what gives you scale. I live and breathe my business. I have done just about every job at some point and I have strong opinions on just about everything. I have wasted so much time over the years getting people to do things exactly the way I wanted them done versus simply holding them accountable for the outcome and letting them do it their own way. It is impossible to scale yourself and therefore your business if you can’t give up some control.
  5. Give feedback, good and bad, immediately and with kindness. I do not like hurting other people’s feelings. I’m a sensitive person and find it deeply uncomfortable to tell people when I’m unhappy with something they’ve said or done. I also forget to give good feedback because if it’s not broken I’m not focused on it. Time and time again I am faced with examples that people appreciate feedback as long as it’s based on facts and delivered with kindness. I still struggle with this, but am developing the habit of pulling people aside very quickly after the incident and sharing my thoughts so it never gets to a place where it feels like there is something unsaid between us.

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.

We need more female entrepreneurs, and they need better access to capital. I am committed to doing my part to change the fact that only 2% of venture dollars go to female CEO’s.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk.”

I am smart, opinionated, and confident in my ability to solve problems. It’s both a strength and a weakness, because I often jump to conclusions and assume I know the answer. My best results come from listening to the smart people around me who aren’t necessarily as overtly confident and opinionated and thinking about their perspective before I dive in with mine. I constantly remind myself of this quote and ask myself what the result would be if we went in a different direction than mine.

Some of the biggest 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 am a huge fan-girl of Brené Brown. Her work on vulnerability, courage, and how it relates to leadership has had a hugely positive impact on me.

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