Tips from Beth Comstock on Starting Partnerships, Building Mind-Share, & Avoiding Burnout

During Beth’s 30 year career at GE, she led the company’s efforts to accelerate new growth by investing in technology, launching new business models, and helping GE work more closely with Silicon Valley startups. Under her leadership, GE’s brand value grew to more than $44 billion. The leading organizational psychologist Adam Grant, also a Network Leader at Village Global, has said, “Beth Comstock is one of the most effective and admired executives of our time.”

We’re honored to have Beth as an LP at Village Global whose financial capital powers our network of startups. During this virtual Q&A between Beth and Village Global Partner, Ben Casnocha, they discussed frameworks for inspiring innovation on teams, leading in times of chaos, using conflict as a catalyst for creativity, and more. Here were some of the takeaways:

Dos & Don’ts for Startups Seeking to Partner with a Large Enterprise

  • Do try to figure out early whether the process is going to be a distracting time sink. If you need more than three meetings just to come to an agreement that there’s a possibility of partnership, then it’s not going to be a fit because it’s just going to consume too much time, energy, & resources.
  • Do find internal champions. Be sure that whomever you’re talking to at the company can quickly bring together the people who can approve the budget and fast track your project.
  • Don’t get sucked into pilot hell. If you start a pilot without any boundaries, your customer may ask you to do 5 more pilots in different divisions without real monetization.
  • Don’t alienate “junior” people. Just because the CEO is excited about your project doesn’t mean the appropriate business unit leaders are going to run with it. Cultivate relationships throughout the organization, and be wary of going above someone on the org chart without understanding the political ramifications in terms of your project actually being executed and implemented successfully.

How to Build Mind-Share and Tell Your Story

  • Segment your customers to better understand the outcomes they’re trying to achieve so you can deliver a crisp value prop to them.
  • Develop a narrative about why your company exists in the world and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Focus on the why. Constantly refresh your story.
  • Take time to educate your customers, define words, and get away from buzzwords to actually create substance underneath the vocabulary.
  • Develop catchy metaphors.

Lessons Learned on Balance & Preventing Burnout

  • Carve out time in your schedule just for thinking and encourage your team to have time to think alone as well. This will help you to invest in your own creativity.
  • Create a daily practice of morning pages. Beth shared that morning pages “has helped me become a better writer and be more creative.”
  • Beth developed “Field Trip Fridays” for her team to go discover new innovations together and recharge.
  • Get back to the basics with prioritizing sleep, being thoughtful about boundaries, and consider hiring a meditation coach or using an app.

Beth’s Book Recommendations

Check out the full interview here!

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