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Mobile Mentoring: A Chat with Verve CEO Nada Stirratt

Whether we have our own businesses or work for someone else, we always have something to learn from other professional women.

A couple of weeks ago at the Street Fight Summit I was introduced to Nada Stirratt, CEO of Verve Mobile. I explained the mission of sheBOOM to her — a community where female founders gather for inspiration.  “I don’t do start-ups…I do speed-ups,” Nada stated simply when we sat down to chat this week.  “I wish I had the kind of mind to sit in a garage and invent something from scratch,” she continued. But Nada’s tips are an inspiration to all women leaders.

Verve is shaping the mobile advertising industry, using customer data to serve-up exactly what people want and need when they need in. Their in-house creative team ensures that we get targeted and useful messaging rather than trash when we look at our screens. She has a big vision for the 11-year old company and their new offices and the Verve team exudes innovation and passion for excellence.  I felt the buzz as soon as I stepped off the elevator.

The first sign that Nada is a role model for other professional women is that she responded almost immediately to my request for an interview. None of that “I’m too busy” or “I’ll have my assistant call you” stuff that we sometimes encounter. Her need for speed was evident in our follow-up too. We arranged a time to meet in record time!

Nada has an amazing track record in transforming companies — from Moviefone to Advertising.com to MTV to MySpace to Axciom. I must admit…I was a little intimidated reading her LinkedIn profile. But, as soon as we sat down, I felt at ease. We were just two professional women speaking about leadership, teamwork, and life.

Here are some of her management tips that apply to any woman who is growing or transforming a business:

  1. Surround yourself with a “killer team” (as in effective, not aggressive). Nada has brought her A players with her from company to company and the fact that people ask “Where are we going next?” is a testament to their loyalty and her inclusive management style. She advises female founders to “put aside friendships” when choosing business partners or team members, cautioning that personal relationships can make tough business decisions more complex. Focus on your own skill gaps and hire accordingly.
  2. Be willing to admit what you don’t know. Ask questions to inform your decision-making and be open to listening. She points out that many leaders ask questions even if they already know what they want to do, and that wastes everyone’s time. Her commitment to hiring talent and letting people do their jobs is part of what has led to her success. Her leadership teams are always balanced and diverse.
  3. Allow people to fail and course-correct. Open conversations about mistakes encourage people to learn and succeed the next time.
  4. Communicate and collaborate. In addition to publishing an internal news update called “Nada Yada Yada,” Nada commits to having breakfast every week with three people who don’t normally work together. These conversations lead to honest open feedback and help Nada keep her finger on the pulse of what’s really happening in the company of more than 250 people across ten offices and seven countries.
  5. Set and share goals. Every division has its KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and every individual’s KPIs flow from that. Everyone is aware of her criteria for success and how her role fits into overall company performance.

Nada had a passion for advertising from an early age, studied it in college, and did her homework as she followed her career dream. Her tenacity and clever approach to “auditioning” (by showing the hiring manager how she could earn back her salary in record time) helped her land a job in the magazine industry.

She managed her first work team at the age of 29 and admits that she didn’t get it right at the beginning. Her humility, willing to listen to others, and down-t0-earth style are all qualities we should aspire to emulate — no matter how small or big our business is. (We even “hugged it out” before I left the office!)

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and warmth, Nada! Looking forward to “speeding-up” and defining success with you!