Sari Crevin is a human resources manager with the Xbox division of Microsoft by day, and runs Booginhead, a marketer of baby accessories, by night. People often assume that the two jobs compete for her attention, time and creativity. The opposite is true: her entrepreneurial skills make her a better HR manager, she says, and what she learns at Microsoft has strengthened her general management skills. Here's how she pulls it off, and what you can learn from her balancing act.
Sari, you started your career with (now-defunct) Arthur Anderson, then became an independent recruiter and career coach, then were hired by Microsoft. You've got two young children. That's two jobs right there. Why take on yet another?
Xbox is the sexy place to be in Microsoft. It's very creative. When I was interviewing for this position, and Microsoft asked me questions about my own firm, I was able to give color and specifics. My entrepreneurial experience was in sync with the heart of Microsoft, and with this division.
I'm an entrepreneur. I can't help it. In 2005, my one-year-old was throwing his sippy cup all the time and I invented a leash for it. That's the SippiGrip. We also offer the SplatMat, which is a plastic tablecloth for the floor underneath a high chair. We're on track to sell a million units this year. When I started sippygrip, I didn't know anything about the juvenile industry, and I didn't have friends who know anything. But I knew that I didn't want anybody else to do it.
There are only 24 hours in a day, even for you. How have you streamlined your responsibilities for Booginhead?
Lucky for me, the business day starts in China just when I'm getting off work (in Seattle) so I can talk with my manufacturers in the evening.
As entrepreneurs, we feel that we have to do everything ourselves. Now that I have the resources, I've started to hire specialists to help me do parts of the business...a public relations person, an accounting firm, a supply chain consultant, a patent lawyer. I'm getting people who are smarter than me to do these project so I can concentrate on new product development.
In the beginning, I was packing boxes out of my garage at 11 p.m. I thought, this is the cheaper way but there has to be a better way. The supply chain consultant is setting up a portal for wholesalers so they can automatically enter in their orders without me having to enter them in. I'm trying to get to a place where the business runs, on its own and I can use my brainpower for the new product development stuff.
How does all this roll back to make you better at your day job?
The question I get all the time from people is, your business is doing well, when will you quit Microsoft? I didn't start my business because I'm unhappy with Microsoft. I have no immediate plans to leave. They know what I do outside of Microsoft, and they see that as a positive. They know that I understand what it takes to bring a product to market.
So, running your own company helps you better understand the culture of the Xbox division, where they are acquiring companies and hiring creatives.
I look for the things you can't teach people. It's the creative mind, or someone who is a strategic thinker. A lot of times the people who have have those X factors are those who have had their own businesses. it's exciting to infuse that talent with the structure you have in place.
It could be a negative if they jump from one moneymaking scheme to another..but a genuine business person who has worked through a business plan, those are valuable skills that many people in corporate America don't have. When you're an entrepreneur, you have to deliver results. What I do outside Microsoft really helps me understand how the business is being run.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile user Southernfried.