Nicole Lipkin, PsyD, MBA is a business and organizational psychologist and the President of Equilibria Leadership Consulting. She is also the founder of Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services, a group psychology practice. In addition to her new book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night (AMACOM), Nicole is the co-author of Y in the Workplace. Nicole has shared her expertise on NPR, NBC, CBS, Fox Business News, and other high-profile media outlets. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Here is an interview we recently had with Nicole:
Tell us about your business:
I have two businesses. The first is Equilibria Leadership Consulting, an international leadership and organizational consulting and coaching firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At Equilibria Leadership Consulting, we work with leaders and their organizations to improve management and leadership skills, strengthen the leadership pipeline and develop behaviors and practices that help increase organizational and staff resilience and sustainability.
The second business is Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services. This is a mid-sized group psychology practice, with 13 psychologists and therapists, working under the umbrella of Equilibria. We provide therapy and assessment services for adults, couples, teens and children. This practice is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?
My folks were elementary school teachers in the South Bronx. In addition, they were jewelers (a family business). So, every weekend when children would casually wake up and watch Saturday and Sunday morning cartoons, my brother and I would be up at 5AM working at flea markets and antique shows. When I was five and my brother was eleven, our parents sat us down and said “enough with complaining that you are working every weekend. What business do you want to be in?” In unison my brother and I said “toys.”
So they gave us 200 bucks each, opened up a bank account, drove us down to the wholesale district in Manhattan and guided us through buying inventory, learning how to keep books and the financials of our new business. The next weekend we opened up shop.
So I would say that from the age of 5, and probably before, I was destined to be an entrepreneur. It wasn’t necessarily a choice, it was a combination of nature and nurture, creating a style of thinking and style of relating that set the stage for an entrepreneurial personality. I have a terrible case of hyper-focus on ideas one minute and then massive idea ADHD the next. It’s how my brain works and my psychology functions. Being an entrepreneur means I get to operate without walls. It means I get to do what I want, when I want, how I want. I guess I’m still a five-year old at the end of the day?
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
Ray Anderson, the late CEO of Interface. He was preparing to speak at a meeting when he found inspiration in Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce. Hawken blamed business and industry for the decline of the biosphere, and suggested that only the destroyers wielded enough power to extricate the human race from its eventual demise. Hawken’s ideas so impressed Anderson that he wove them into his speech the following day, challenging himself and the company to develop a strategic commitment to sustainability that would create a new, post-industrial business model. Anderson then practiced what he had preached. He adopted “a cyclical model mimicking nature” with which Interface would only take from the earth what could be renewed naturally and rapidly. Proclaiming his new motto, “take nothing, do not harm” Anderson began leading as a “recovering plunderer.” Since its founding, Interface has grown into a billion-dollar international corporation and is a major force in sustainability. Anderson died in 2011, leaving behind the lasting legacy of a better company and a better world. Anderson’s leadership, in my opinion, proves that doing the right thing (versus doing things right) wins out in the long run.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I would say I am most proud of this last book, What Keeps Leaders Up At Night. I had so much fun writing it and working closely with my agent, who served as my editor. This book is about how we mess up as leaders and it looks at the psychology and neuroscience behind these derailers. Even though I eat, breath and sleep psychology and brain science, I learned so much about myself writing it. The book forced me to take a hard look at what has sent me off course at times and what goes on in my brain when I’m thinking a certain way or feeling a certain way. There is nothing more satisfying than actually learning from yourself and being able to apply those lessons. It’s a true dose of self-awareness.
What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
Don’t treat your ideas like babies because sometimes they do need to get thrown out with the bathwater.
What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
Although this sounds trite, I’ve found that the old fashioned way of marketing works best, at least for my business, and that’s building good relationships and being down to earth, friendly and fair to everyone you meet. Of course social media, online marketing and all of that jazz can do wonders. But I’ve found that randomly meeting people and getting to know them or developing strong connections with people you work with not only leads to a more satisfying work life, it actually leads to the best and most natural form of promotion.
What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
The biggest lesson that I wish I learned earlier (so I could have prevented some burn out over the years) was to spend money on people and things that will free up time and make my life easier. For example, I should have hired an office manager much earlier than I did. I should have also hired people (e.g., designers, marketing folks, etc) that were top notch versus hiring the cheapest bidder. If you’re going to hire someone to do a job for you, you might as well hire the best you can afford. Also, recognizing that you can’t do it all is a very valuable lesson. So nowadays I spend wisely on the right resources to help me focus on what only I can do.
Do you have any new projects coming up (or have you just completed a big project ~ reached a milestone, etc.)? If so, please tell us about it.
My second book, What Keeps Leaders Up At Night, was just released this month (June 2013) by AMACOM. This is a book about the way we mess up as leaders and the psychology, neuroscience and group dynamics behind those mess-ups. This was such a fun book to write. I got to answer questions like:
Why Does a Good Boss Like Me Sometimes Act Like a Bad Boss?
Why Can’t I Develop My People’s Full Potential?
How Can I Keep Smart Individuals from Making Dumb Team Decisions?
How Do I Remain Cool in Hot Situations?
How Can I Deal with Change More Effectively?
Why don’t people heed my sage advice?
Now that it’s released, I’m working on creating training programs around the concepts.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I’m an avid crossfitter and love adventure races like Tough Mudder. There is no better feeling than realizing what feats of strength your body is capable of! I also love salsa dancing (even though I probably could stand a few lessons), going to the theater, dance performances and art exhibitions. But most of all, I’m pretty simple and just absolutely adore hanging out with people I love and feel really lucky to be surrounded by a lot of them.
What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?
Besides developing this training program around my book and securing speaking engagements, my number one goal this year is to focus on the one incredibly important business skill I have been incredibly weak with…work-life integration. I love what I do and the work I do is very much part of my identity and part of my enjoyment and relaxation, but I could stand some more downtime to recharge my batteries. I find that when I take more time off here and there, the creative part of my brain pumps into gear.
You want to write a book on:
The Psychology of Customer Service. I haven’t fleshed it out yet, but the idea and details are starting to form slowly but surely. However, I would like to take a few more months and bask in the pleasure of not having any writing deadlines for a while.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I know this sounds a bit trite, but this ride is fabulously bumpy and excessively exciting but it’s way too short. So hold on tight and let it shake you up a bit, it’s worth it and you can handle it.
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