I learned how little I knew about being a CEO. I think the biggest realization was that I was ultimately making decisions that could make or break the company where I didn’t have a ton of firsthand knowledge. I needed to rely on and trust the people I worked to provide expert opinions to help guide me. It was eye-opening to realize you can be good at your job, even great at your job, but it doesn’t mean being a CEO will be easy.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Neill, CEO, Carex Consulting Group.
Rachel’s background includes extensive experience in and national recognition for building exceptional teams, facilitating fundraising, and scaling companies. In 2017, determined to reinvent the staffing process and create better alignment between top-tier companies and best-in-class talent, Rachel left her comfortable gig and a regular paycheck to launch Carex Consulting Group, a career matchmaking firm. Prior to founding Carex, she worked as an executive at Nordic Consulting and helped to build it into one of the largest nationwide Epic consulting firms. Talent acquisition and company culture is Rachel’s jam, and she’s proud to be an entrepreneur, a connector, a working mom of five, and a dog lover. She’s also never met a Peloton run she didn’t like.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve spent my career in the health tech and talent acquisition spaces. After being on the executive team of a fast-growing health tech startup, I decided to branch out, raise capital, and startup my own company. Since then, I’ve raised three rounds of funding and built an $8M+ business. Recently, I started a software company that helps save time and reduce bias in the hiring process.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Oh man — I learned how little I knew about being a CEO. I think the biggest realization was that I was ultimately making decisions that could make or break the company where I didn’t have a ton of firsthand knowledge. I needed to rely on and trust the people I worked to provide expert opinions to help guide me. It was eye-opening to realize you can be good at your job, even great at your job, but it doesn’t mean being a CEO will be easy.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I’ve also loved change and taking calculated risks. To be successful, you have to be comfortable getting outside of your comfort zone. It isn’t always easy, and you will make mistakes, but you can’t let that stop you. Learn from them and continue to move forward.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Successful people will tell you how important hard work is, and that’s true, but you also have to make time for self-care. Make sure if your putting in a lot of hours that you schedule some downtime, too. I’ve found having good mentors has helped put things into perspective if I feel like I can’t slow down.
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?
Mark Bakken has been the most influential mentor I’ve had. I met Mark while he started Nordic Consulting, which grew to be the largest Epic consulting firm in the country. Despite being CEO of a fast-growing firm, he always made time to meet with me and often took me to valuable events and meetings that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Having a seat at the table, opened my eyes to many business situations that I wouldn’t have even thought about. When I decided to launch Carex Consulting Group, Mark was one of my first investors. Through his actions, he has always shown me that he believes in me and supports me. It’s essential to have mentors who give you the truth, and I value that Mark will tell me when I need to improve in a particular area or make me aware of a blind spot. This advice helps me to be a better CEO and avoid potential mishaps along the way.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
I would love to have an exit. Building a startup that I could sell would benefit my community by hopefully attracting more investment dollars and companies and would also be a win for women startup founders. I want to build something that people see value in, and an exit would help validate that.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope that young women and girls can look at me and see that you can accomplish anything you want through hard work and persistence.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would love to get more people involved in the entrepreneurial community, especially disadvantaged women. It’s a way out of poverty; it doesn’t require a fancy degree and can build independence.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@startupmama5 on Instagram!