Summit’s 2019 Women’s Leadership Forum

We gathered nearly 100 women leaders from across Summit’s global network to share strategies on powering effective advocacy and perspectives on why advocacy, on behalf of yourself and others, is critical to building high performing teams and cultivating high-growth environments. Three key themes emerged.

1. Advocacy Drives Growth

An engaged team is a key factor in the success of any high-growth business. Individuals with strong advocacy skills are more likely to raise their hands to contribute beyond their defined roles, share their ideas and serve as effective ambassadors for your brand and your business. And individuals who are skilled self-advocates are often better-positioned to advocate for others. We see this come to life repeatedly across the Summit Partners portfolio.

“Advocating for your team is crucial when you’re growing at such a rapid pace,” explains Kate Walsh, Vice President of Customer Success at Summit-backed Klaviyo. “In high-growth companies, people are going to have to wear multiple hats and be stretched outside their job description in order to tackle the constant challenges and opportunities that arise in fast-paced, rapidly changing environments.”

In our experience, rapid growth businesses must have a strong human capital strategy that not only addresses the challenge of attracting new talent at scale, but also recognizes the importance of retaining and developing talent within the organization. Advocacy plays a critical role in both.

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Camilla Simonsen, COO of Summit-backed Siteimprove describes the cultural benefit advocacy can create. Empowered employees “support each other. They are great ambassadors for your brand, helping you attract, develop and retain great talent.”

“Advocating for others is an important part of our role as leaders,” notes Lori Sherwood, the Chief Money Maestro (aka CFO) at Summit portfolio company Parts Town, where she oversees talent and culture, and serves as a formal mentor. “It’s important for your team to see that you are going to bat for them, that you want to support them, that you are committed to developing that next generation of leaders.”

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2. Advocacy Unlocks Innovation

In a high-growth business, great ideas often come from unexpected places. Strong advocates share their ideas and have the confidence and the skills to sell them. Creating a culture in which all team members are empowered to contribute is critical to surfacing and vetting the ideas that can make a meaningful impact on your business.

“You often don’t really know the extent of an individual’s potential unless they speak up or someone else is advocating for them,” says Jodi Bricker, CEO of Summit-backed Quay Australia. There is magic in finding untapped potential: “For example, you can take someone in a traditional IT role, and you don’t realize that they’ve got something in them that isn’t ‘traditional IT’ until you’ve involved them in other projects. Advocacy creates those opportunities – and it actually gets you to a better product in the end.”

This idea applies across your organization. An empowered team is an engaged team – and is better equipped to solve the challenges that every growth company faces. When you encourage the sharing of ideas and when you enable movement across teams, you’re promoting the kind of autonomy that unlocks innovation.

3. Effective Advocacy is Powered by Story

So how do you go about building these skills within your organization? At its core, advocacy is about speaking up – for yourself and your ideas, on behalf of your team members or in support of your company. During Summit’s recent leadership forum, Dr. Victoria Medvec, Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a renowned expert in the areas of advocacy and negotiation, highlighted the impactful role that storytelling can play in effective advocacy. Dr. Medvec encourages a thoughtful and deliberate process to identify and prioritize your key differentiators – whether they relate to your brand, your product features or functions, or your ideas for innovation or improvement. She described the importance of framing those differentiators with a compelling set of stories that serve to bring your strengths to life.

“Effective advocacy is a skill,” Dr. Medvec noted. “It requires thoughtful practice and preparation to make sure you’re sending the right message and delivering that message in a compelling way that supports the outcome you desire.” Shaping, practicing and refining these stories and sharing them with an expansive network – both within your organization and beyond – helps to ensure that your differentiators are recognized and remembered and that your brand, your team and the business that they represent are positioned for continued growth.

At Summit, it’s the stories that inspire and motivate us – the founders, the growers, the leaders, the innovators. It’s the problems being solved and the different paths each has taken to build a team and grow a business. To read more about the stories that built our firm, please visit www.summitpartners.com or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Unlocking Innovation

"It's so critical to have advocacy at this phase of growth. There is so much work to be done and too few people to do it. You need people that can do multiple jobs and wear multiple hats. You don't know who can do what until someone is saying it for themselves or advocating for others. Advocacy creates opportunities and leads to a better product in the end."

Jodi Bricker

CEO, Quay

Empowering Employees

"Empowering employees is very important. If employees feel trusted, if they feel appreciated for their hard work, they will be much more loyal to the business and will help to drive the business forward. They will support each other and serve as great ambassadors for the company, ultimately helping to attract top talent moving forward."

Camilla Simonsen

COO, Siteimprove

Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

“Advocating for others is an important part of our role as leaders. It’s important for your team to see that you are going to bat for them, that you want to support them, that you are committed to developing that next generation of leaders.”

Lori Sherwood

CFO, Parts Town

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The content herein reflects the views of Summit Partners and is intended for entrepreneurs considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of Summit Partners portfolio companies, please click here.