“Make individual time for each team member and figure out what makes each one of them tick. Find out what drives them to be curious and perceive when the going gets tough, because it will.”
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Tancredi-Baese, CEO of Home Start. Laura Tancredi-Baese, LCSW & CEO of Home Start, began her career in social services over 30 years ago and has been a true asset to the San Diego non-profit community for over 25 years. Laura’s passion is serving San Diego’s children and youth, and she feels fortunate to have found her calling-devoting her career to improving the lives of the underserved in San Diego County. In her 10+ year tenure with Home Start, Laura has strengthened the organization and taken it to the next level. She has increased the numbers of low-income San Diegans served at Home Start from 18,000 to over 28,000. Also, by holding program managers accountable to their budgets and streamlining operational expenses, Laura was able to redirect fundraising efforts to enhance the infrastructure and expand program offerings. Once reliant upon a line of credit, Home-Start now has a cash reserve of over $700,000 and for the first time in its history, Home Start has an endowment fund. Understanding the power of people, Laura utilized her community connections to double the size of the Board of Directors. Strategically identifying areas of expertise that would be beneficial to the organization’s goals, Laura added key people with experience in banking, marketing and event production. Since joining Home Start in May 2007, she continues to be a passionate force to promote the mission and vision that every child in San Diego must live in a safe and nurturing home. Her goal as CEO was to build upon the established foundation to further expand programs and community outreach. She is most proud that through her efforts, Home Start has opened the doors to Home Start’s Maternity Shelter Program providing targeted support to pregnant and parenting young women and their children facing homelessness. This was her solution to the long waiting list for Section 8 housing that puts many 18–23 year-old mothers and their babies in unhealthy and sometimes violent situations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
What brought me to this specific career path began where I was a teenager, some of the friends we had grown up with were starting to have some challenges in their lives. I knew then that being a source for positive change in people’s lives who were struggling seemed the most important thing I could do. My career has always been about making a difference for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the most interesting and impactful stories since leading Home Start involves the largest gift we have ever received in our history. We were incredibly fortunate to receive an estate gift of $1.5M. The individual who provided this phenomenal gift was very low key, dressed simply and lead a non-pretentious life. Even her own sister was surprised by the size of her estate. This goes to prove the old adage that you cannot judge a book by its cover.
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?
When I first became a leader of an organization I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility and that I had to say YES, to every opportunity out there! In short I found myself working extremely long days and weekends and losing my perspective about priorities and how to focus my energy and time.
The lesson I learned is that you cannot do it all. I had to choose what was most important and focus my effort on important issues first.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Home Start is a 47 year old agency that truly puts children at the center of everything we do. There are thousands of stories about lives that are transformed making it difficult to pick just one. I will share one of the success stories that we recently had through our Maternity Housing program in her own words.
Six weeks before the birth of my daughter. I felt miserable. I had no money, no home, I didn’t know where to start or what to do. My self-esteem plummeted and because I was raised in poverty, I thought that was how my life was supposed to be. Homeless and pregnant, I blamed myself.”
“Homeless again and living in a car, I contemplated ending my life.”
“With no blankets for warmth and starvation now affecting the amount of breast milk for my daughter, I was living a dark, hellish life. I knew that I may end up prostituting to survive.”
“Fortunately, one life-changing phone call was received; my case manager called and told me about Home Start’s shelter for homeless mothers. The Maternity Shelter Program, by the grace of God, invited me into their home and offered me a future.”
“I can now offer my daughter a better life than I had.”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on expanding housing services to homeless young women and their children. The trauma of homelessness is especially painful for women and children who often have numerous trauma symptoms. What is exciting is how these efforts are helping families to reach successful independence and change the life path of these women and children.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Make individual time for each team member and figure out what makes each one of them tick. Find out what drives them to be curious and perceive when the going gets tough, because it will.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
A large team can feel overwhelming at times so be aware of the value of short, stand-up meetings. There can be great value in a focused 10 minute conversation to more things forward.
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?
My former supervisor Beverly believed in me and my capacity to lead long before I did. She encouraged me to apply for my first Executive position and coach me along the way. She said that it was okay to toot my own horn and speak about my success because no one else could do that for me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am incredibly fortunate to have spent my entire career bringing goodness to the world.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Trust is earned. I have learned this lesson many times over the past 30 years and it remains true till this day
- Hard work means different things for different people. It is important to define that for every individual that you work with
- Contracts need to be clear and need to be revisited regularly. Contracts are a blueprint and a guiding document that can enhance or detract from our important work
- Don’t chase the money. Follow your mission. Our organization is not about building an empire but about changing lives and our mission is what clearly defines who we are and where we are going
- Get the right people on the bus with you. Our workforce and the people who make up our organization are an essential part to our success. Many people suggest that we should hire slowly and fire quickly but it is much more complicated than that
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire a movement to eliminate hate and believing that we are not one people. If the world would see everyone as worthy and value as part of the human race, hatred could not exist.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Stop negative thinking. Stop thinking it was all your fault. Bad things happen. What are you going to do about it? That is the exciting and most important part.
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 🙂
There are so many unbelievable people in this world and the list is endless. If I have to peek one person to have a private lunch with, it would be Warren Buffet. He is an amazing successful business man with so many accomplishments. But he stands out because of his philanthropic efforts to get some of the wealthiest people in the world to give away their wealth. He knows how to run a company that is both lean and effective and can make an impact. He lives well below the standards he could and he would be a tremendous champion for the work we do with vulnerable families.