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3 things we learned from Zipcar founder Robin Chase

“It took me a really long time to understand what I was good at and when my intuition was right.”

By Rebecca Linke  |  September 26, 2017

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Robin Chase at MIT in 2015

Why It Matters

Starting a new business is hard. Knowing your own strengths and trusting those around you is key.

Trusting yourself as a new leader is not easy. To get there, first learn what you’re good at and when to put your trust in others, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase told MIT Sloan students.

When Chase, SM ’86, was starting Zipcar in 2000, she was very aware of how little she knew about the auto industry.

“I felt that when I went to meetings I really had to know my stuff,” the company’s former CEO said Sept. 25 at MIT Sloan’s Push for Parity week, put on by Sloan Women in Management.

Chase left Zipcar in 2003, later led GoLoco and founded Buzzcar, and in 2015 published the book “ Peers Inc” about the collaborative economy.

Here is what she told students:

Go with “intellectual honesty”
For budding entrepreneurs, Chase preaches intellectual honesty. For her, that means knowing what your personal skills are and hiring for what you are not good at. It means recognizing things in the organization that are broken and fixing them.

All of that comes down to educating yourself as a leader — or, as Chase put it, “being a learning machine.”

Find out what you’re good at — then trust your intuition
Chase said business leaders also need to trust their intuition. She recalled times, as a new CEO, when she didn’t listen to her own instincts and instead took the advice of others — and that advice turned out to be the wrong move. “It took me a really long time to understand what I was good at and when my intuition was right,” Chase said.

Trusting yourself as a new, young business leader is a tall order, but can be done if you focus on knowing yourself. Chase encouraged students to constantly be on the lookout for things they can improve in themselves, and to know when to trust their team.

Hire a whole person
“When you are a brand-new company, it is just you and your co-founder,” Chase said. “You need to know when you are not standing next to someone their value judgements will be the same.”

This extends to all team members. That is why, when hiring, Chase advises looking at a potential candidates’ entire resume, not just their relevant work. “For my first hires, it was great knowing this person had been a bike messenger. In the beginning, everyone is doing everything. You want to have multipurpose can-do people.”

For more insight from Robin Chase, download Robin Chase, Zipcar and an Inconvenient Discovery.