For those of us women entrepreneurs still in the fledgling stages of our careers, Michelle Huie is the type of gal who makes us say,
“I want to be like her.”
She’s cool as a cucumber and smart as a whip. And, by the way, she’s generous. By the time we’d drained our drinks at Clyde Coffee in our town of Missoula, Montana, I’d virtually been given a short seminar on how to be a seasoned female CEO.
Michelle had a lengthy career in the healthcare field before she started her hit compression legwear company, VIM & VGR. At VIM & VGR, she and her rockstar team focus on providing style and function for people who work hard just like she does.
Here’s Michelle to tell you more about how she moves the world:
BB: Michelle, you created a fashion compression sock company called VIM & VIGR, which is, by the way, incredibly cool. How did you land upon that particular product?
MH: I moved to Missoula in 2011 and started in a pharmaceutical sales position. My geography was Montana and Idaho and after a few years into the position, I was complaining about my sedentary lifestyle and tired legs to a friend who happens to be a physical therapist. He recommended compression socks, but when I looked at available options, all I could find were medical or athletic products.
I ended up buying a pair and was underwhelmed by the comfort, quality, and style. Plus, they were very expensive. This really motivated me to start VIM & VIGR. I thought, if I had a need for a pair of cute, high-quality compression socks, I’m sure many other people could benefit from the product as well. I officially launched VIM & VIGR in late 2013.
BB: I only recently learned how useful compression socks are (and how cool they can look). Who benefits most from VIM & VIGR’s products?
MH: People who sit or stand for long periods of time, so virtually everyone! We have such a large range of customers from people in the healthcare field who stand for long periods, like nurses and doctors, to millennials who want to be more proactive with their health, to frequent flyers.
BB: Anyone who owns a business knows it’s hard to separate your work from the rest of your life. Your partner teaches and studies American history at the University of Montana. Do you find that your jobs work their way into your home life? And if so, how do you navigate that?
MH: I don’t believe in work-life balance; I believe in work-life integration. When you spend eight to 10 hours a day on something, I think it’s difficult to achieve true balance. I think it’s impossible to really separate the two.
This is why I’m always encouraging people in the early phases of their career to really work on something they love and are passionate about.
BB: You’re the head of a successful company, but I first met you at a workshop for entrepreneurs. Why is it important to you to keep investing in professional development?
MH: I’m constantly working on professional and personal development. I read books, listen to podcasts, and work with a professional coach. I really believe in having a growth mindset and constantly working towards improvement. Practice makes progress and it’s a never-ending journey.
BB: You and I talked about making tough decisions as a boss. What advice can you give other decision-makers about that task?
MH: As a company grows there’s a shift that happens when you not only think about all the employees but you have to think about the business as a whole. This forces you to have to make difficult decisions that may affect individuals within the company. And these types of decisions are what I lose the most sleep over. I have to remind myself that I’m the main person who has to think about what the company needs to do. If I stop doing this many more people will be affected by my lack of action than my actions.
BB: You’re super proud of the team you built at VIM & VIGR. What do you look for when you hire someone?
MH: I look for a few characteristics. The first thing I look for is the coachability of the person. Is this person willing to grow and improve? This could be difficult to tease out in an interview because people like to think that they’re highly coachable and adaptable. I like to frame the question like this:
“Tell me about a time when you received some constructive feedback. How did it make you feel and what did you do with the feedback?”
I love to incorporate follow-up questions to force the interviewee to add more depth to his or her answers.
The next thing I look for is resilience. VIM & VIGR is still a growing startup and there are a lot of ups and downs. Change can be exhausting and debilitating to some and it can be exciting for others. I try to look for people who are nimble and adaptable.
One of the most important thing that I look for is whether they will enjoy the work and make an impact on our business regardless of their level or position within our company. People want to have relevance and make an impact in their professional lives and I try to find out if VIM & VIGR and the position will help them achieve that.
BB: What motivates you?
MH: When I hear how much our product has made an impact on a customer’s life. We receive reviews and testimonials every day from customers and I feel so lucky that I’m able to provide a product that provides everyday wellness to so many people out there.
Get your own VIM & VGR compression socks here.
Author Micah Larsen is a persuasion scientist and consultant. Her job is to teach people how to use subtle persuasion in their emails, conversations, and campaigns to get others to say “yes.”
Watch one of her short persuasion how-to videos of $9.97 value for free here using code: