For the past decade, I’ve volunteered with Women’s Economic Ventures. Launched by Marsha Bailey in 1991, WEV is a Santa Barbara– and Ventura-based nonprofit that helps small business owners to launch and grow through training, loans, and consulting.
I admire everything about this nonprofit — but most of all, I’m impressed by Bailey herself. She’s incredibly articulate and fierce, a real feminist force of nature. This spring, the announcement came that she was stepping down as CEO after nearly three decades. In September, she was awarded the 2019 Strong, Smart, and Bold Award at the Girls Inc. 18th annual Celebration Luncheon.
With all these milestones to cap a brilliant career, this seemed like the perfect moment to find out more about the secrets behind Bailey’s successes.
What’s your number-one time-saving hack? I find that delegating is the best way to save time. It wasn’t easy to start doing, but it’s the best skill I’ve ever learned.
Beyond that, it’s been letting someone else manage my calendar. It took me a long time to relinquish my schedule to support staff, but once I did, I kicked myself for not doing it sooner.
I like to make sure there are large blocks of time available on my calendar to work on big projects that require focus and concentration. To facilitate those blocks, I cluster meetings on a few days rather than spreading them out throughout the work week.
Name something you do now that you wish you had started earlier in your career. Ask for feedback. Early on, I wrote grants, speeches, and fundraising letters in a vacuum. I made outside commitments without consulting anyone.
But I had to learn to welcome feedback. I learned it resulted in a better end product. Better yet, I didn’t have to be the one solving all the problems and coming up with every idea. That resulted in a stronger organization, more staff investment — and less pressure on me!
If you had more whitespace in your day, how would you spend that time? I’d meet people face to face. I’d much rather meet someone for coffee or lunch than talk to them by phone. This strengthens relationships. Humans are social animals, and to form close bonds and alliances, we need to spend meaningful time together.
If you’re a task-driven person, as I tend to be, this may not seem like the most productive use of your time. But I’ve learned the rewards — both personal and professional — are worth it.
What are you most looking forward to doing in retirement? The first thing I’m going to do is build “a room of my own” — in my case, a studio in the backyard where I can resume my first love, which is art. I want a quiet space to write, read, and just generally make stuff.
I’m also looking forward to more extended travel. I love learning languages but have never had the opportunity to live in another country long enough to become fluent in another language. I’m also going to take our border collie, Mazi, to the beach more often.
Speaking of the beach, how do you go to the beach (metaphorically) in your day? I read! I read the national newspapers, research about my field, or articles from McKinsey, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, or the Harvard Business Review.
Some of my best ideas come at a café with a cup of coffee in one hand and an article in the other. It gives my mind the freedom to wander, to make associations without the distractions of an office.
What’s your greatest career accomplishment? Two things. Starting WEV — and also letting go of it. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past 28 years. But I’m especially proud of the WEV team: the staff, board, volunteers, and donors.
I’m thrilled to be handing over the reins to Kathy Odell, who has the experience, commitment, and drive to keep WEV relevant — if not indispensable — for new generations of women.
Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase productivity. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.