Krista Morgan, CEO of lending firm P2Binvestor, spends her days helping business owners fund their ventures and encouraging women as a part-time-host of the “Women Who Startup” podcast. She’s made a career out of giving great advice, though Morgan says she learned one of her most valuable lessons when someone else took the time to help her.
A few years ago, Morgan was meeting with potential investors for P2Binvestor, a financial technology company that provides credit to companies too big for small business loans, but too small for traditional bank lines of credit. She told her mentor she felt out of her element since she was usually the only woman in the room.
“She told me, ‘Be authentic and vulnerable. You don’t have to know everything to be the perfect CEO. It’s okay to say that you don’t know the answer to a question or that you don’t understand something,'” Morgan says.
Morgan took that advice to heart. She started to answer honestly when someone would ask her how she was doing before an investor meeting. She might say, “You know, my flight was terrible,” or “My husband is driving me crazy.” The mood in the room would change almost immediately.
“It immediately breaks the tension, and everyone in the room begins to connect on a personal level. Our natural reaction, when someone is vulnerable, is to be vulnerable as well, so they don’t feel alone,” Morgan says.
And she noticed that investors and supporters were drawn to extend this connection to a business relationship.
“Be authentic and vulnerable. You don’t have to know everything to be the perfect CEO.”
During a business lunch a few months later, a fellow CEO in the finance industry asked how business was going. She started to say “Great,” but then stopped herself.
“I shared how the company was having some challenges, and that I had hit a rough patch,” Morgan says. To her surprise, the lunch companion said that his company had gone through similar challenges, and he offered support and potential solutions.
Their connection continued after the lunch, with regular calls and lunches to support each other. “We now have a relationship where we get real value from each other because we can share with each other honestly,” Morgan says.