Carrie Kwan (00:03):
Hello to the Mumbitious. This podcast is for women unapologetically blending motherhood and ambition. I'm Carrie Kwan, the Co-founder of Mums & Co. We are the movement upskilling and connecting business owning mothers, because you can harmonize your ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. Joining me each week will be our Community Manager, Lucy Kippist. With special guests, we'll delve into how you can create a world where women don't have to choose between growing a business while raising a family. Let's get into the practical tips and inspirational stories now.
Lucy Kippist (00:50):
We acknowledge and pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of New South Wales where we record this podcast and all aboriginal elders past, present, and emerging.
Carrie Kwan (01:02):
Today's guest is driven by her ambition, an incredibly worthy goal to help other people develop and fully realize their innate potential. Michelle Duval is the founder of Fingerprint for Success, and in this episode of Mumbition, she shares some of her incredible passion and some searing insights into what it takes to bring these elements out in yourself.
Michelle, it's terrific to see you again, and you know that we'd love educating women on pitching with confidence. We'd love to hear what you've been up to. So please give us your best elevator pitch.
Michelle Duval (01:41):
Well, my best elevator pitch is just first of all, say hello to the two of you. I'm really excited to be here with you. We are very excited about Mums & Co, and we love everything about the idea of Mumbition. My best elevator pitch is if you think about all of the productivity tools that we have in the world today, we've been able to replace files with Dropbox and Google. We've been able to replace email with Slack and other tools and technologies. Yet despite all this incredible productivity tools, poor communication and poor team dynamics make or break teams. So what we do at Fingerprint for Success helps people to collaborate better and to bring out the best in their teams and each other.
Carrie Kwan (02:25):
It's such a simple statement. But you're right, bringing out the best in your teams, it's not an easy thing to do. So can you dive in a little bit more into how do you actually deliver on that promise?
Michelle Duval (02:40):
Yeah. Well, since we last caught up, Carrie, one of the big things we've been focused on with our technology is we've always had the deep insights about how people are motivated at work and their natural communication styles, their preferences for how they like to work. But we've been really leaning into this thesis that it's really cool to have a web app where you can go and find that information about yourself, but it's even better when it's in the flow of your work.
So we've been leaning in to be able to create tooling that allows you, while you're in Zoom, to understand the dynamics of your team while you're in Zoom, while you're in your Google Chrome extension, when you're in Microsoft Teams or when you're in Slack. So really being able to understand those styles of communication so that you can have really efficient communication and you can just make your meetings so on much more efficient.
Carrie Kwan (03:30):
Amazing. Okay. Now let's just take it a little step back. I know that you have so much experience coaching high performance leaders, and that's the work that you've culminated in that work in terms of Fingerprint for Success. But I wanted to bring it back to you and how you actually defined that concept of ambition. What does ambition mean to you?
Michelle Duval (03:55):
I've always had a really love hate relationship with the word ambition, because people always say to me, "Michelle, you're so ambitious." And I'm like, "No, I'm not." And they're like, "Yes, you are." And then as I've unpacked that and really thought about my relationship to the word ambition, I am ambitious for the world. So I have things that I would like to see us involved too in the world. So I'm super passionate.
So I always think about my own ambition is about a sense of having a mission and a purpose, and I'm really clear that my purpose is to help other people to develop and to bring out the best in themselves, and to really realize their innate capacity, their innate potential. So I'm ambitious about everybody in the world being able to have access to be developed.
In the past, people would get access only if they're a senior leader or a senior manager or they had high disposable income and they could get that development to realize their best. So I'm ambitious for that in the world. So I'm deeply passionate about that.
Carrie Kwan (05:01):
Thank you. And that's why we absolutely need you to be exactly that, that ambition. There's no tall poppy syndrome here. We'd love ambition.
Lucy Kippist (05:10):
Michelle, your work at Fingerprint for Success highlights how vital understanding your own motivations and creativity are for being successful in the workplace. Just wondering, how does that change or does it change if you're a business owner rather than an employee. Is it still important?
Michelle Duval (05:29):
Yeah. I think a business owner, we all have the biggest challenge in the world that we have to constantly level up in a much rapid way than if you are an employee of an organization. We just think about our macroeconomic environment and you think about everyone in your community. Everyone's got the incredible financial pressures that are happening just with mortgages and rents and so on. And then when you look at that pressure that is on a business owner, whether it's just your own income in your own business or you've actually got to pay your employees, there's extraordinary pressures and stresses.
So you've got to somehow constantly be growing and evolving to meet those demands. So Lucy, I think that there's no greater person who has those kinds of pressures on them to constantly grow, constantly to evolve and to constantly develop. And those who do, really keep growing their businesses.
Lucy Kippist (06:21):
Yeah, that's interesting. And I was also thinking as you're speaking, the onus is on us to do that ourselves as business owners too, isn't it? Because there's no HR or wonderful learning and development person who comes in and goes, "Hey, it might be time to consider looking at work a different way." So it's completely up to us.
Could you tell us some of the doubts that you've experienced as you began your startup journey? What could have prevented the business from taking off, and what did you do to overcome that?
Michelle Duval (06:52):
One of the things you read about all time is how difficult it is for female founders to raise capital. And it definitely has been a challenge. So early on, I would meet with VCs and they would say, if you just meet this milestone, then we will give you funding. And I would be very industrious and go and meet that milestone, then go back to the same VCs and say, "I met that milestone." And then they'd be like, "Okay, so now you've got to meet this milestone and then we'll invest in you."
So if I had taken just that feedback alone and said, that determines whether this business will happen or not, this business would not have happened. So I had to really dig deep when those situations occurred over and over again, and to deeply really trust the conviction about that ambition for this needs to be in the world. The world really needs this. And really just trusting that I would figure out a path and that we'd find the right people and find the right investors along the way, which we have.
So it's really, when the world doubts you, it can be really challenging. And that's where a founder, and particularly a founder who's doing something that is unconventional, not expected, people don't understand it in the world, you get even more doubt from others. So it really causes you to go do, "I believe," and to really find that conviction. And I really do have a strong conviction. So those things reinforced that over and over, and I'm glad that I found that space in myself.
Carrie Kwan (08:27):
Yeah. I think we can all, as business owners certainly relate to that. And especially if you're creating a product or a service that's in a new category, you're innovating. You're bound to actually have to do more that investment in just explaining or education about what you're trying to do because it hasn't been done before. So I find that I can certainly relate to that. I think a lot of our community can too. And you just have to build that core around you that wants to take you to that point. Because trust me, there's going to be enough moments when you do doubt yourself.
Michelle Duval (09:11):
I remember when we decide to first launch an AI coach, and this was in 2019, we built our prototype. Well, four years before ChatGPT came around. And people said to me, "No one will ever talk to an AI. No one wants to do that. They're really bad. They don't work." And I'm like, "Yeah, but we need to create. We need to figure out how to figure that out."
And then we launched the world's first artificial intelligent coach in, I think it was in 2020, and then we really lent into generative AI in 2021. Again, well before ChatGPT. And then now people are regularly in their beds chatting to an AI. And the whole world's super excited about it. But if I have listened to what investors told me, what other people told me, et cetera, the world just wasn't quite ready. And when someone's a pioneer, like you said, Carrie, investing in space is invading where the world doesn't yet know they need it. The world's never going to be reflective of you in that stage because the world doesn't know yet they needed it. So there's no audience yet for it.
So it really does take a lot of grit in those quieter moments to really trust yourself, and you won't always get it right, but certainly I've not always got it right for sure. But when you know something's aligned, you feel it in your body and it feels very true, and I've learned to listen to that and to trust that and to give myself to that.
Carrie Kwan (10:39):
Great. Thank you for sharing that useful tip because I think that we really do need to listen to it. Now, as a startup founder, you've probably had more experience than others in pitching yourself, listening to pitches as well, but I'd love for you to share perhaps three of your top tips that set people that pitch well apart.
Michelle Duval (10:59):
Yeah. I think the number one thing in pitching is to really know the problem that you solve. Until you're able to really speak about the problem in your audience's language and in the way that they experience the problem to deeply understand it, the pitch will often go over people's heads unless you deeply understand the problem. So I think number one, the problem.
Number two, is to really feel comfortable and confident to spend the time describing your solution that you bring that's inside of your pitch. People and particularly females and particularly women who are coming back into the workforce if that happens to be the stage that you are in your business from your family, you've had time out to look after your family and you're trying to juggle both.
We often don't give ourselves permission to really land our solution. We move too fast over it. It's the biggest challenge with someone's pitch. Whereas somebody who's really confident pitching, they take the stage, they give them themselves that permission. So I think it's tip number two is to give yourself permission to own your solution and to really lean into it.
And number three is to get feedback to calibrate how it landed. So to be able to ask, so what does that mean to you? What do you think about that? How does that resonate with you? And as you calibrate the feedback, it helps you to constantly refine your pitch. And that's how I think a pitch gets really good.
Carrie Kwan (12:21):
Couldn't agree more. I love that idea. And everyone does always hear something that little bit different in every pitch that you give them because they might just be a little bit different of a, sometimes your ideal client, but other times they're actually your ideal pathway into the ideal client, and they're actually listening for things that they need to convey to someone else. So love that concept of constantly optimizing and tweaking your pitch.
And now in terms of how you have, perhaps, I know a lot of people who have come across Fingerprint for Success and the amazing work that you do, how have you actually best used your networks perhaps to support the creation of your business?
Michelle Duval (13:07):
I wouldn't be in my business without my community of people. F4S got launched off the back of some research that I did, and that was really challenging research. We decided that we wanted to study entrepreneurs and founders, and we wanted to study the world's greatest, so unicorn founders, people who had multi-billion dollar exits. And then we wanted to study people who had failed or failed multiple times.
So to ask that cohort of people to participate in research was really hard. So I had to rely on people that I knew who were founders to introduce me to other people, and then they had to sell them on the idea of being part of the research and then in the next phases of developing the technology and then learning how to raise venture capital.
One of the things no one realizes in raising venture capital is that if you're raising in the US for example, you really need to be introduced to a VC by someone that knows you. They don't really pay attention to you unless you are introduced from a trusted person. So that requires you to have a network and to have a community. So I'd be on LinkedIn, scouring LinkedIn to find someone that I know who knows someone there who could introduce me.
So it's, you know what I mean without being able to ask for help and without being able to lean into those communities. There is no way any of these things can get created. It's really not possible to create without the help of others and it's a real learning process. Because I, my previous businesses were, I had lifestyle business, if you think of it structured that way, where it was a consulting service as a professional coach. And we had a team of professional coaches, but I didn't have to raise venture capital. I didn't have to build a big team, and I could manage my time as I wanted to, which was wonderful. But I just had to rely on myself. Everything I could do, I could do it myself.
And with the ambition being as big as it is, we've now got users in 196 countries and that couldn't happen. You know what I mean? That big picture ambition without the support of incredible team members, not without the support of the network of people and all those team members we met them through other people. So very grateful for those relationships.
Carrie Kwan (15:25):
Power of the network. And we know that you paid forward as well too, Michelle, just that introductions of great people to great people.
Lucy Kippist (15:33):
Michelle, you've just described me an incredible research outreach project, and you talked about your previous work history as a coach, which I think makes you the perfect candidate for this question, which I love, because you've obviously spent a lot of your own time asking other people questions.
But what's one question probably in the professional capacity that you'd really wanted someone to ask you that they perhaps never have? And could you also share the answer?
Michelle Duval (16:01):
I think that the question for me is, what do you want to see changed in the future of work? And the biggest thing that I would say is the answer to that is, we really need to have authentic workplaces. When we think about our Gen Zs and the Gen Alpha generation that are coming through, the children that our community has, is that they innately have a desire to be real, and they innately have a desire to want to grow and to want to evolve. And if you look at Generation X, and if you look at the baby boomer generation, those generations which are progressing to the latest stages of their careers, were very much about hiding your emotions at work, not saying what you believe, being fearful of the leadership above you, not believing you could be yourself, having to mask up to come to work.
And the millennial generation has really shaken that up a lot. And I really believe that we don't want to have a separate self. We don't want to be, this is me at home and this is me at work. And we have to dress differently. We have to think differently to be at work. And the more that we can create workspaces and lead and connect with others, where we can invite people to speak just normally and tell us what they really believe, the more creative we're. The more enjoyable work is. The more fulfilled we are. We have less burnout. We have happier people at work. And I couldn't be more happy to see those things emerging. And it's definitely part of our mission to help be one of the very strong voices in the world and creating technology to help that to happen.
Lucy Kippist (17:40):
So wonderful. I mean, even hearing you talk about it makes me feel more energized. That's the ideal. It really is, just to be free to do what you really want to do, but still contributing to the workplace. You've spoken a lot about your ambition, Michelle, which is just awesome and obviously has tentacles for everybody, which is awesome as well. But at Mums & Co, we like to talk about harmony being the triangle between our ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing. With that in mind, how would you describe the shape of a good life for you?
Michelle Duval (18:15):
Yeah. I think a good life for me is definitely wellbeing. And I think when we are living with mission, that allows us to find, and when I say mission, I mean having a sense of my work that I do in the world has meaning, it's meaningful. I'm contributing something. And when we've got that sense of contribution, it gives us wellbeing, but it also helps us to find a commercial way to be able to make life sustainable.
So I care deeply about sustainability, and that means the commercial resources to be sustainable as well as thinking about our planet, thinking about my own health and all of those things. So I think contribution, really, that sense of meaning and contribution is the pillar for me that holds all of that together.
Lucy Kippist (19:02):
Fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. The final question for you is in the spirit of women supporting women, who are the Mumbitious? So the women in your network running a business, perhaps also caring for children or family members that you'd like to say hello to.
Michelle Duval (19:18):
I think that we live in a time where anything is possible, and when we think about anything being possible, who I want to say hello to is those people who are thinking, "Do I have the right to be able to want to be a parent and to be able to also make a difference in business? "And those women, I say to you, that you absolutely deserve and can do that together.
And I think the biggest limitation that we have in the world is we look at social media, we look at examples of people who have it all simultaneously. And I think the biggest thing that I would say is that when we look at how we construct our lives, people used to come to me as a coach and they would ask me, "How do I have balance?" And I asked them, "What does balance mean to you?"
And they would say, "I want to have the seven or eight boxes of my life all half full." And I'd be like, "Okay. What's that mean to you?" And then I postulated this idea that we can have integration, which is about, there'll be sometimes in our lives when we prioritize things that have more importance in that period of time, but it doesn't prevent us from being able to have other things later on. So we might prioritize the birth of our children and being at home with them for a period of time, because we prioritize that, but it still doesn't mean that we can't then later on prioritize work and the different things we prioritize.
So if someone's writing a book, for example, you have to prioritize that time. And I'll never forget someone that I know who wrote a book and she said, I had two children, they were twins. And she's a television presenter of one of Australia's most well-known TV shows, which was on every single night of the week. And she wanted to write a book. So she had literally five minute increments to be able to write the book. And she found those five minute increments to write the book. So where there's a heart, there's a way, and we figure those things out. But you first of all have to give yourself permission. But you can have it all maybe just not at once.
Lucy Kippist (21:23):
Feel like giving you an ovation. That was beautiful. Covered in goosebumps. Thank you so much, Michelle. That was just phenomenal. Thank you for joining us on Mumbition today. And if you'd like to find out more about Michelle Duval and Fingerprint for Success, you'll find her on our Mums & Co membership directory. We hope today's story has inspired you and we'd love to help support your own business journey in 2023.
At Mums & Co we help women in business grow. Our three tiers of membership provide strategic advice, access to deep networks, and opportunities to be more visible. Head over to mumsandco.com.au for more details, or pick a one-to-one call with me, Lucy today.
Plus, if you've enjoyed this podcast, please make sure to like and review. It helps other women in business find us, so we can help support their business journey too.
Little Co (22:25):
What kind of coach would you choose?
Michelle Duval (22:29):
So when I say coaching, I'm usually involved in some different form of coaching all the time. And the things that I most look for in a coach currently is a coach that's coaching the body. So when I've been under a lot of stress and a lot of pressure, I ended up getting COVID last year, and I ended up with what others would call long COVID, and I was unable to work for six weeks, at all, and I ended up being really ill for six months.
So that's really hard when you're running a business and capital raising and all of those things in these times that we're in. So the coaching that I have is a coach that's very holistic and works with the body, as well as conversationally to achieve goals or work through things. So I'm typically always looking for a very holistic approach.
Carrie Kwan (23:26):
We hope you've enjoyed this episode of Mumbition The Podcast by Mums & Co. Head over to the show notes now for anything you might have missed. Mums & Co is Australia's most caring business network for women. To find out more about our Mums & Co membership, visit mumsandco.com.au.
This podcast was produced by Lucy Kippist and edited by the wonderful Morgan Sebastian-Brown of Brown Tree Productions, and co-hosted by Carrie Kwan, Co-founder of Mums & Co, and Lucy Kippist, our Community Manager. We'd love your feedback, so please rate, review, and share Mumbition, so that we can reach more business owning mothers, and their co, just like you.
Lucy Kippist (24:08):
And if you'd like to be considered as a guest for next season of Mumbition The Podcast, you need to become a member of Mums & Co. Drop us an email to hello at mumsandco.com.au, or check out our website for the premium membership details at www.mumsandco.com.au.