A startup CEO who splits her time between New York and L.A. explains the four principles that allow her to keep her sanity. By Stephanie Horbaczewski (President, Co-founder & CEO, StyleHaul)
I founded my company StyleHaul in 2011 with the goal of becoming the leading fashion, beauty and entertainment online video multi-channel network.
I knew to achieve that goal StyleHaul would have to essentially operate two flagship offices. StyleHaul needs a presence in Los Angeles for the entertainment and digital media industry. StyleHaul needs a presence in New York for the fashion and beauty industry. What does the need to serve those industries mean for me as the President and CEO? It means that I have to live a bicoastal lifestyle.
I split my time between two coasts. A bicoastal lifestyle is not unique to most CEOs of startups, especially within the first few years. We’re trying to raise funds, expand our portfolio and grow our bench of talent. I’ve been living a somewhat successful bicoastal lifestyle for the past year. StyleHaul has expanded to 3,700 channels with more than 115 million network subscribers and 47 million unique viewers. I’ve put together four tips that help me maintain my sanity while on the road.
You cannot expect everyone in the company to live the same road warrior lifestyle as you. As the CEO I have the most to lose and gain. I am comfortable making the most personal sacrifices to grow the company. It’s important to designate leaders in your key offices and trust those leaders to be present and available to your staff. Especially as our organization is 99% female, I have to be empathetic and sympathetic to the importance of a work-life balance for mothers and the single women forming their lives, relationships and careers during their time at StyleHaul. Everyone can’t be on the road 24/7, and I understand that. I also try and fly only on red eyes so that I do not miss a workday and can be available to my executive team.
You have to understand your industry and determine if there is a strategic need for you to have offices in multiple places. It is crucial that while you’re moving through the startup phase you are able to operate fully in the areas that are most important to your business. This is an important piece to your operations for branding, investors, potential partners and your talent and team. If you determine that there is a direct need then I do recommend a bicoastal lifestyle.
However that need does not always exist and CEOs of smaller companies should not enter into that type of commitment and potential strain on resources if not entirely necessary. I knew that for StyleHaul to be relevant in the fashion, beauty, digital media and entertainment industry there was not an option aside from having flagship offices in New York and Los Angeles. As we expand our business offering and partnership deals with companies such as Macy’s, L’Oreal, Fremantle Media and Maybelline we need a presence in both cities. We are able to successfully navigate the ecosystem and provide the best value to our clients and channels as a result.
As a CEO you have to WANT to live this type of lifestyle. It can be grueling, keeping you away from family and friends, and not being able to have a sustainable life in either city. However, it’s a choice. During this time you have to put the company first. We are a new company that has been experiencing exponential growth since we opened our doors three years ago. My will and drive to maintain StyleHaul’s position is what keeps me sane. My focus is the company and my team; the rest is secondary. I am living my dream. I was born and raised in New York and some of my best friends live in Los Angeles. I have personal ties to both coasts as well as professional. The flight attendants on my flights always remind me "only the pilot has logged more miles," and I am sincerely OK with that.
Traveling back and forth can be a strain on your mental and physical state, as well as on the budget and bottom-line. You have to have the means to do it comfortably and not have it adversely affect your company and revenue. I am able to maintain two apartments and I’ve invested in a good airline. Thankfully the Starbucks in Los Angeles and the Starbucks in New York City both carry my Venti iced-tea. But I do not expect StyleHaul to foot the bill for my travels and comfort. When on the road it’s important to maintain a certain quality of life. I’m not advocating for excess; I am just reminding everyone, if they can, to invest in yourself and the comforts of home; whether it’s a nice hotel, a car service or a gym membership in both cities etc. Keeping your mind, body and spirit in a good place will make you a better CEO not only while on the road, but overall.
Road warriors, what are your top tips for maintaining your sanity?
About the guest blogger: Stephanie (@stylehaulsteph) is the co-founder, President and CEO of StyleHaul. After nearly a decade of experience working with brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, she started StyleHaul with the vision of translating the fashion editorial space to experiences that are at the forefront of digital, social and multi-platform trends.