Eve Mayer Orsburn, LinkedIn Queen: The Pie Related Injury & The Icelandic Prime Minister!

Eve Mayer Orsburn has been listed on Forbes.com in the Top 10 Woman Social Media Influencers as well as the Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. 

Known as @linkedinqueen on Twitter, Eve is the CEO of Social Media Delivered, a social media training, consulting, and services company (and The NextWomen partner) based in Dallas, TX with offices in Paris, France and Austin, TX.   

Author of two books, Social Media for the CEO and The Social Media Business Equation, Eve speaks extensively on social media for business. 

We spoke to Eve about why her company lacks the 'cool'factor; the leadership lesson she learned the hard way; and the memorable company Pie Fight of 2011!

TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors? 

Social Media Delivered is different from our competitors because we aren't as cool as them. No, really, that is what I mean. 

We aren't just focused on the "cool" factor of an app or the big numbers on a Facebook page, we are focused on the nerdy business result.

TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?

EMO: When I built my team, I looked for people who had the strengths I lacked. I looked for people who were brilliant, driven, talented and a joy to be with.

TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?

EMO: It was not too hard to attract our first customers because I already had relationships with them, and they knew and trusted me. At first I provided complimentary services so that I could gather testimonials, then I started charging tiny amounts for services. As I became more sure of myself and began hiring staff, I started charging more. Our first real customers were individuals and small companies in Dallas, Texas.

TNW: Who are your customers and partners now?

EMO: Our customers and partners now are mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies in the US, Canada and Europe.

TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?

EMO: Thanks to our strong, consistent, and persistent social media presence, we receive new customers via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and our other sites. Our marketing strategy started with and has continued to be built on social media for two reasons:

1) We started with $0 advertising budget and had no choice but to use social media to create and strengthen our brand and to communicate with our potential customers; and

2) If we were going to provide effective social media services to others, we needed to first prove to ourselves that we could do incredible things with social media.

TNW: What is next for your company?

EMO: We would like to serve more clients in Europe. We hope to provide effective social media strategies especially on LinkedIn to companies who focus on B2B, and on Twitter for B2C businesses.

TNW: What are the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?

EMO: We probably are not the best example of that given we are a Woman Owned Certified Business and HUB Certified and that most of our employees are women. This was not something we set out to do deliberately; it just happened. Lately, we've been bringing on more male interns and employees so as to round out the mix.

We also value diversity of ages, races, and personality types. Our employees range in age from 20 to 72, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, speak in many tongues and boast diverse backgrounds.

 TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?

EMO: I’ve had lots of success and lots of failures, and I anticipate many more of both. The reality of life and of business is that it’s a rollercoaster. Hang on tight, enjoy the ride, celebrate the good stuff, and try to forget the bad times as quickly as possible.

TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?

EMO: Yes.

Have guts, be fearless. Less than 6% of venture capital goes to women-owned business. Women need to ask for what they want in business and in life.

Look into becoming certified through WBENC. We are a certified women-owned business through the WBCS branch, and the relationships we have cultivated there have been instrumental in growing our business.

TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?

EMO: Absolutely. Lois Melbourne is my mentor. She is the CEO of Aquire and a mom with a great sense of humor.

When I went to look for a mentor, I went to look for someone who had everything I wanted: a happy marriage, a family, and a career she loved. The wisdom and lessons I have learned from her are priceless.

My other mentors are my parents, Guy & Gina Mayer. Through hard work even when they were broke, they taught me how important it was to always keep a sense of humor.   

TNW: What does your day look like?

EMO: It’s insane and busy, but I love it. One day I am speaking at a conference in Dublin, Ireland and writing for Forbes, and the next day, I’m giving my 5 year old a piggyback ride and picking up pizza for movie night.

TNW: What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?

EMO: I’m lucky that my husband is a great stay at home Dad who enjoys it. Find a partner that believes in you and supports you and enables you to get your work done so that when it is time to be with your child, you can focus on your child. Also, through my CEO group, Vistage, I have learned to set boundaries for myself that help me focus on my family. These include traveling for business Tuesday through Thursdays only and taking my family with me as often as possible. I also make it a point to take at least 3 weeks of vacation per year with my family and without my phone.

TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?

EMO: I’m a really good sleeper and I love sleep, but in the moments before I go to sleep, I usually do think about the company. I think about what I’m scared of and what I’m excited about, but it does not keep me up at night.

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

EMO: The biggest challenge to my company has been funding. My biggest suggestion is don’t wait until you have enough to start a company, because you probably never will. Bootstrap it, eat beans, accept being poor for a while. If you don’t, you’ll never find out if you can be rich.

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?

EMO: Yes.

It was the company Pie Fight of 2011 where I got a black eye from one of my employees. I had never had a black eye before, and strangely enough, I felt really cool.

Just 2 weeks later, I had the honor of speaking to the president of Iceland and having to explain the black eye to him.  

TNW: Do you have plans to expand internationally? Which countries and when?

EMO: We already have an international presence in Paris, France, with clients in Europe, as well frequent speaking engagements at international conferences and events. One of our main focuses this year is expanding further into Europe; specifically the UK, Ireland, Italy and France.

TNW: Do you envision an exit, how and when?

EMO: Maybe one day. I do hope to begin sitting on corporate boards as early as 2013 because I would love to contribute my business knowledge in social media to other companies, especially companies in Italy, UK, Ireland and France. Plus, what company couldn’t use a woman or two on its board?

It is tough to imagine ever leaving Social Media Delivered, but I’m smart enough to realize sometimes for a company to grow into its full potential, it may require partnerships and reinvention.

I’m committed to growing the company in the way which is best for my employees, clients and family.

TNW: Briefly describe your history in raising investment for your company?

EMO: I started this company with no money. I left my full time job, and my amazing husband worked two jobs while I started the company and took care of our one year old. Once we had to sell my husband’s truck to make payroll. During the first two years, we took out or borrowed money 3 times from our 401k. Eventually, we had enough money where my husband was able to work only one full-time job. But the first two years were brutal, and we were broke, as every penny went to hiring more people to grow the company.   

TNW: What do you believe are the key pros and cons of venture capital vs angel investment?

EMO: The truth is, I don't know enough about the difference between the two to answer this in an intelligent way. Until now, we’ve only been approached by venture capitalists. So far, the offers have not been right for us.

TNW: Do you think that attitudes towards female entrepreneurs are changing?

EMO: Yes. If I think back to my childhood when my Mom served as a role model for me as an entrepreneur, she was the exception rather than the rule.

Now when someone mentions an entrepreneur without mentioning their gender, I envision a woman as often as I envision a man. In my opinion, things are getting better.

TNW: What do you think could be done to increase the number of women entrepreneurs?

EMO: Women who are successful entrepreneurs today need to share their knowledge openly and generously with women who want to be entrepreneurs. Women may seek out certification programs through WBENC and WBCS in order to open doors to new opportunities. Women need to insist that their partners play a more active role in raising the children. That way, women may have the time and the same chances as their partners to make their dream of being an entrepreneur a reality. 

TNW: How would you describe your leadership style today?

EMO: Different. It’s a very collaborative environment, and I have become a master delegator.

If things are going well, I’m as hands off as can be. If something goes wrong, I’m a micro-manager from hell.

As a result, things run pretty smoothly most of the time. My employees know the financial situation of the company. They know how much money is coming in and how much is going out. They know when things are bad, and when things are good. Employees also know what everyone earns. I believe in empowering my employees so we can all create success together. I recognize that Social Media Delivered plays a role in their lives today and will affect their future. That means I’m responsible for helping make their dreams come true, even if one day, Social Media Delivered won’t be a part of their dreams.

TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned from a boss or mentor?

EMO: I have had a few great bosses. Billy Johnson showed me how happy employees work harder and are more fulfilled—I’ll always appreciate that. I’ve also had some really bad bosses. From them, by example, I learned what not to do. I also appreciate that.

TNW: What is one lesson you would like to pass on to other women leaders?

Stop putting everyone else first. Put yourself first. And go for it.

TNW: What is the best career or management decision you have made?

EMO: One of the things I’m most proud of is choosing to provide health care, education benefits, vacation, and other benefits at a very high level when I was not required to do so. If my employees are happy, healthy and are taken care of, they will feel motivated to take care of me and the company.

TNW: What is one leadership lesson you learned the hard way, but wish someone had told you at the beginning?

EMO: Even though I sometimes want to change certain things about myself and I do try, I just can’t change the core of who I am.

I am sometimes too trusting, and I have been burned as a result. But, in many cases I usually end up being pleasantly surprised. 

Watch the Social Media Delivered Pie Fight 2011 here:

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