Build your tribe and get rid of anyone who doesn’t share your vision. When we lift each other up, we are unstoppable. It is your responsibility to protect your energy and kick out the naysayers and cynics from your circle.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Renee Bauer, divorce attorney and founder of the Happy Even After Family Law, podcast host, author and speaker.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid and I’ve always been creative, but then I went to law school. Law school is the place where creativity is left to die. I thought I always wanted to work in politics and in hindsight, it was probably good that I didn’t because I think I would have been chewed up and spit out. After law school, I practiced with a small firm and it was there I learned how to be a lawyer, but there was a part of me that wanted to do more than just apply the law. The creative side was eager to get out. But it was really my son being the first dropped off at daycare and the last picked up, that made me go out on my own and start my own practice. That’s when I realized, that I didn’t have to do things the way most firms do them. I could get creative with marketing. I could focus on the client experience. I could have fun with this. And presto! It was like my entrepreneurial brain burst and all of a sudden I didn’t have to just be a lawyer. I could do so much more!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
This question stumped me a bit because I have so many stories. How do I judge which one is the most interesting or most impactful when the most insignificant of occurrences can be the most meaningful?
For me, the most important aspect of what I do is what happens behind the scenes. It’s the messages from women across the world that the work I’m doing is helping them. The woman who told me she finally had the strength to walk away from an abusive marriage after years of being beat down and broken. Her story is my why. There are so many more stories just like hers.
We often think, as business-owners, success means making certain numbers, but the stories that these women share with me is what drives me. I don’t need to look at a profit and loss statement to determine I had a successful day, week, or even year. I can just open my inbox.
So, is this the sexiest, most interesting story? Probably not, but it’s really their stories that matter the most.
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?
The funniest mistake is one of my first mistakes and it’s so silly, yet has stayed with me for almost two decades. I was so excited to furnish my newly rented space and I took desk shopping very seriously. I finally settled on an executive desk that was big, detailed, and gorgeous. On the day it was getting delivered, I greeted the delivery men at the front door of the office ready to guide them up the stairs. They looked at the desk. They looked at the door. They took a tape measure and measured both and then turned to me and said, “Ma’am this desk is not going to fit through this door.”
I spent the first month working on a folding table.
The lesson is to contemplate all variables before trying a new strategy. Don’t jump into any business decision without measuring outcomes, potential risks, and having a plan B.
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 an aunt who I didn’t see a lot but she would send me cards for holidays or while I was in college. She was always a bit unfiltered and she said what was on her mind. In every card she sent me, she would write, “Hope you are raising hell.” When I would see her, she would hug me and would say the same. I think she was the first woman who ever challenged me to do the opposite of what was expected of me. Rather than follow the rules, she told me to break them. Rather than stay quiet, she told me to “raise hell.” She passed away recently and I don’t think she realized the impact she had on me as a business leader. She wasn’t educated. She didn’t run a business. But she pushed me to be a bit disruptive and that was in the best way possible.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Women tend to feel like we have to do everything perfectly. We feel like we have to balance it all. And, women who are also mothers, have major mom guilt if we aren’t doing all of the things that we think a perfect parent should be doing. I think we are holding ourselves back. We think that if we focus on our business, our children will suffer. We think if we fail once, we will fail forever. None of that is true. Our children are watching us and we have an opportunity to set an incredible example when they see their mother go for their dreams, lead a team, and succeed.
And about failure, it happens. The sooner we get comfortable with this idea that not everything will work out, the sooner we won’t allow that to stop us. We don’t have to do it all well all of the time. Failing is a lesson. It’s part of the process of founding a business. It’s part of our growth as a leader and business owner.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by a community of high achieving women who are all committed to lifting other women up, cheering them on, and helping each other. It always surprises me when I hear that there are still women out there who think one woman’s success means there is not a seat at the table for them. I was speaking with a female executive not too long ago, and she said it’s every woman for herself in her company. You do what you need to do to take care of yourself. I was shocked because that isn’t the experience I’ve had with female leaders, but I’m in a bubble of like-minded women. Helping women overcome obstacles starts with us. We need to stop thinking other woman are competition and her success means your failure. We can do so much when we elevate each other. When we genuinely lift each other up and mentor and help each other. It starts small and the ripple effect from there trickles to society and even to government. For those who say they can’t do anything alone to change the way things are, I say, you have been misguided. Change starts within and then flows externally.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Everyone is looking for connection. It’s the most important element to attracting ideal clients and customers, as well as building a strong team. I think women excel at connection. When you pivot the focus of a business to connection, the business becomes a magnet. When you lead from a place of connection, you can genuinely lead rather than force your employees to follow because you say so. Connection is where it’s at.
Women are capable of changing the world, one business at a time.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
It’s a myth that you have to be good with numbers. Listen, I hated math in school. I was tutored and I still didn’t get it. Initially when the thought of opening my business crossed my mind, I thought I couldn’t do it because it would require me to do math. Yes, you need to get comfortable with numbers but I promise these numbers are not the kind that require protractors.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Not everyone has the mindset to be a founder. Anyone can do it, if they want it but if you don’t have the right mindset and belief system around what it takes, the business won’t succeed. A founder who makes it believes in what they are doing. They believe success is inevitable. They are resilient to bumps along the way and are constantly looking for ways to evolve as a leader and grow the business. If someone wants to leave it all behind them when they walk out the door, they are going to struggle as a business-owner because running a business doesn’t always shut down at 5 pm.
You need to be willing to get your hands dirty to be a founder. If you don’t want a little dirt under your fingernails (both figuratively and sometimes literally), then perhaps founding a business is not for you.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Build your tribe and get rid of anyone who doesn’t share your vision. When we lift each other up, we are unstoppable. It is your responsibility to protect your energy and kick out the naysayers and cynics from your circle.
- Focus on your team. It’s so important to develop your team. When you have loyal employees who are satisfied and happy in their work, everything they do will elevate your business.
- Think outside the box. How is your business just a little different than the competition? Set yourself apart by intentionally being different. Ignore all the people who tell you “shouldn’t” do it that way. Do it your way and be unapologetic about it.
- Set goals. You should be setting goals and frequently checking in to make sure you are proactively taking steps to crush those goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, but going after the big picture vision is where growth happens.
- Take personal development seriously. Dive into education head first. Read ferociously. There are so many people to learn from out there. You don’t know it all. Be a student of learning.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
It has been my mission to educate and empower women to make decisions even if they are hard or uncomfortable or scary. I want every woman to know that getting divorced is not their whole story. It’s just a moment and if I can help even one woman recognize that she is worthy of being happy, then I’ve touched this world.
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.
Co-parent with Kindness. Just because a couple is divorced does not mean they must hate each other. If all of those couples out there could learn to set aside anger and resentment and co-parent with kindness, the trickle down effect to their children would be substantial.
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.
Jamie Kern Lima is the ultimate example of a founder. She didn’t conform or lose sight of her vision. She wanted to help one woman at a time. She hustled and she had faith. I’d love to just to be in her energy.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.