Women in Business Q&A: Susan Tynan, Founder and CEO, Framebridge

Susan Tynan is the founder and CEO of Framebridge, the simple way to custom frame everything you love. Susan launched Framebridge in August 2014 after realizing she avoided buying art - even travel souvenirs - because she couldn't find an affordable or hassle-free way to frame it. Framebridge operates with a mission to get everyone's favorite art & photos displayed on the wall.

Prior to founding Framebridge, Susan held senior product, ops, and business development roles in several consumer technology startups. At LivingSocial, Susan launched and managed three business lines, including the home services business (which featured many framing deals). Other startup experience includes Taxi Magic/Curb, Revolution Health, and Promontory Interfinancial. Susan worked for the White House as a management advisor on technology and customer service issues. She began her career at Accenture. Susan earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in Cleveland and my dad ran a tugboat company on the Great Lakes. He really cared personally for his team and that was always clear to me growing up. He is also incredibly hard-working. I have no doubt this impacts my leadership style today.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Framebridge?
I've worked in a few large, formal organizations -- Accenture and the White House budget office! I understand there are decisions that have to be made thoroughly and formally. But, I've also had the pleasure of working for a number of start-ups, including LivingSocial which was growing so rapidly during my time there. I learned that speed in itself is a competitive advantage. I hate obstructionists and the last thing in the world I want to do is be a blocker on a decision. I can debate the merits of anything - and I love doing so, you can ask my team -- but at the end of the meeting, or the week, we have to decide and move on.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Framebridge?
The biggest highlight is hearing from customers. Framebridge was really a personal dream of mine - that by making custom picture framing easy and affordable, people would frame more. And they would frame things that matter to them. When I see the art and mementos and photos going through our studio, I'm really touched. That is really my dream manifested. When I see someone say "you should @framebridge that" about a baby photo or a sunset on Instagram, I feel really honored that our product is associated with that goodness and that other people share my excitement for this product.

The team we're building is also a huge highlight. The holiday season was really intense for us. The entire team - corporate and production - had to work very long hours to get all of the orders shipped out. But, as soon as the final orders shipped, instead of going home, the team turned music on and a member of our framing team insisted we do the Electric Slide together. By that time, we were all so in sync, a celebratory group dance seemed natural!

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Believe in your ideas. If you are at all shaky, the process of starting and funding a business will weed you out. You have to really, really believe in your ideas and your ability and your desire to do it. I really try to encourage all founders because it is a hard, hilly road. And many people want to be a backseat driver along your journey. Guess what? It's very easy to say why something won't work. That is really, really easy. Believing it will work and making it work no matter what - that's the role of the founder.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Keep people informed of your progress! This was the biggest mistake of my early career. I would work on projects and be so excited for the big "ta da" reveal at the end. But managers need to know you're working toward something - it's not enough to have a great deliverable, you need to keep people up to date on where you are and how you're getting there. This applies to our investors today. My investors have been incredibly supportive during highs and lows, but we all work better when we're dealing with the same information. They don't want to be surprised!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Honestly, I'm a high energy person. And, I have a life right now I'm really enthusiastic about. So, I go home and cannot wait to see my little girls. I get to work and cannot wait to see the team. Who am I kidding? I'm on Slack, chatting with the team at 11 pm. But, before that, I tucked in my kids and had a drink with my husband.

And, of course, I use every delivery app that exists - groceries, dinner, birthday gifts, you name it. It's on my phone and delivered to my door. You have to go easy on yourself when you're juggling a lot. I used to love cooking. That's not the phase I'm in now. It will be again one day, but now, it's Sunday nights only.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Lack of flexibility. I have a lot of talented women on my corporate team. They are complete rockstars. They are devoted to Framebridge. If they need to go pick up a sick kid from school, fine with me. We are an internet company; we are always online. There is simply no reduced output from people who may need a little more nuance in the schedule. I am mindful that we run a production facility too, and there, the schedule must be standard. How could we make it easier on that team? I dream about Framebridge's success for a lot of reasons, but I do dream of the amazing childcare we'll offer when we make it big.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have taken a little bit from everyone I've ever worked for. I've relied on their encouragement and benefited from their wisdom along the way, but I've never really had just one person who is a mentor.

For women, I do think it's helpful to see other women in leadership positions. I'm mindful about my role here. I try to show others that I'm in this world - leading a venture-backed start-up with two small children - and it's all working out okay!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I recently met the founders of SoulCycle, Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, and was really impressed by them. I'm a huge fan of SoulCycle and I'm really inspired by any business in which the sum of all of the details is the differentiator. Of course, loud music and amazing instructors are key, but so are the toiletries in the locker room. They founded a business to create an experience that was missing, an experience they wanted. Me too. Framebridge is better because of a sum of a lot of things - we're easier, and more convenient, and more beautiful - and we include the hardware you need.