The right management strategy bears fruit. Vision, consistency and the art of enduring are important!
Gabriela Křivánková, graduate of the University of Economics in Prague, successful businesswoman, co-founder and chairwoman of the board of yourchance, implementation leader of the nationwide projects Financial Literacy into Schools and Start on the Right Foot, holder of the title The Woman of the Region in district Prague 2018 and mother of two children in an interview about her mission, personal approach, leadership and work-life balance.
The story of yourchance began in 2009 when Gábina and her friend Jana Merunková decided to work on something in partnership. What was the impulse to start your own company?
More than a decade ago, I stood at an imaginary crossroads, whether to be employed again or start my own business. In most companies, I had heard that I was young, overqualified and that managerial positions are for older people. I knew Jana from my previous work and our cooperation worked very well. One afternoon we had coffee and thought that together we could start making the world better. At the same time, both of us knew very well that entrepreneurial and employee attitudes had its own specifics. That’s why yourchance initially acted as a brand and the two of us were self-employed. We founded the NGO eight months later. During these months, we invented meaning, drew the process structure of functioning, talked about our personal values as well as those of yourchance. And finally, we confirmed that the name yourchance captures the fact that we, ourselves, at a certain stage of life have gotten a chance from someone, and that these people held us when we needed to. And that is the mission of our projects.
What is your company focused on and what is its purpose?
Yourchance teaches people personal prosperity, which we view as a four-leaf clover in the form of health, finances, quality relationships and fulfillment of personal mission. Through the project Start on the Right Foot, we help young people leaving orphanages and foster care to live a “regular life” even though they did not have a bed of roses at the beginning. We teach them the right principles of household economy, work, finance, relationships, and personal development. The other project Financial Literacy into Schools focuses primarily on teachers. We create an environment and conditions in which it will be possible to educate pupils in financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Secondary target groups are primary school pupils, secondary school students and parents.
How do you and your co-founder Jana share your roles?
The entire yourchance team is built on people’s strengths. Jana is great at negotiating cooperation and support from our donors. Thanks to her studies in journalism, she also has the gift of spoken and written words. In yourchance she is responsible for fundraising, coordinating media and PR. I, in turn, can see and develop the potential of our people, devise steps to achieve the set goals. I like facts and charts with numbers. That is why I lead our managers, human resources and marketing.
What is your experience with strategic management outside yourchance?
I met strategic management at the time of my studies, when I was given confidence, could attend management meetings and be part of the creation of a smaller company. Later I worked on transformation projects in international corporations.
What are the specifics of running an NGO and both of its projects, Financial Literacy into Schools and Start on the Right Foot? After all, it is not a corporate environment…
Since Jana and I both originally came from a business, yourchance is in some ways different than most organizations in this field. In the beginning, apart from defining the process structure, we also divided competencies according to our strengths. We have regular strategic meetings, semi-annual tactical meetings, and team meetings. Our people understand the importance for us of internal customer-supplier relationships that we follow in terms of quantity and quality. We do not limit them in terms of working time or free time. If the result is delivered on time and in the required quality, they can work from anywhere. Yourchance is a value-driven company. One of the values is leadership when we use our skills for the benefit of people. We are their support, motivation, role models, counselors, but also those who discover their skills and abilities and develop them. It is important for us that our work is always of the highest possible quality. Each team member has a deepening of their professional skills and self-education in the job description. That’s why we’ve created a library where our people can borrow books written by Maxwell, Carnegie, Kiyosaki, as well as professional titles on financial literacy, psychology, and pedagogy. Magazines such as Forbes, First Class, and others are available for all. We realize how fast the world is moving forward in using modern technologies and applications, we keep our eye on trends. The fundamental value for us is the responsibility for the goodwill of yourchance, to each other and our clients, partners, and donors. Most of the time we use leadership to lead people. But we can also switch to management mode, resolve a situation and then return to leadership. Our company is funded by donations of individuals and companies, so we regularly report our results. At the same time, it is important for us that our donors feel part of social change, because only through cooperation can we implement activities that will affect the entire system.
At what time horizons do you plan? Is there a proven mechanism and frequency in this strategic planning?
We have a strategic plan for five years. Once a year we review and redefine it according to the current situation and expected trends. Every fortnight we have team meetings and once a month we have yourchance meeting with the management team and PR managers. We have also created expert teams from both projects, which meet at least twice a year and deal with the technical issues of the project. At the system level, we consult with advisory board members, which are experts on the subject or successful business owners who have demonstrated their skills in company management.
In particular, what do you think affects the future relationship with potential colleagues, applicants for yourchance projects?
Potential colleagues come to us, especially because they want to do work that has a certain overlap and mission. At the same time, they seek a work-life balance. From a management perspective, they must value our vision and want to be an active part of social change with us. It is important to have defined responsibilities and competences, precise assignments, established methodologies for the functioning of both projects, both professionally and systemically.
You have dozens of volunteers in the get started right project. How do you work with them? In what form is their addressing and subsequent management?
We have volunteers in the Start on the Right Foot project who are mentors for young people from orphanages and foster care. A mentor is usually a more experienced or older person, who is his mentee support and guide. It helps him to know himself better, his potential and his abilities. For a mentor, mentoring is often a way to better selfknowledge, an opportunity to help someone who needs it. We address mentors through jobs.cz and LinkedIn. Potential candidates can also apply via the response form on the project website. We have coordinators for mentors for Bohemia and Moravia region, who are dedicated to them. We are preparing training, supervision and nationwide meetings for them to share their mentoring experience.
If you were to name three of your life values, which would it be?
They are health, family, and self-realization. When a person is healthy, he can do everything. I take care of my mental and physical health and lead my family to it. Family is an important building block for me. That is why I care about friendly and loving relationships and create the warmth of home where everyone wants to return. I need self-realization to be satisfied and complete, I take care of my personal development by regular trainings, seminars, and reading books. At the same time, I lead people and whole teams, work with them on their way to their goals, I am a motivator, mentor and role model for them.
Last year yourchance managed to expand outside the Czech Republic. The newly established company yourchance global is engaged at an international level especially in spreading financial literacy. Would you describe to our readers your activities abroad?
In an international context, we have launched the “Mission Lombok”. Its essence is financial education, entrepreneurial spirit development, and entrepreneurship in Indonesia. We have had two visits. From the first one, we published a book of the same name. The second trip to Indonesia was based on teaching hotel industry basics. Our goals are much higher there. That is the reason why we started cooperation with the Indonesian embassy in Prague. There are also partners interested in our activities in Italy and Great Britain.
How do you combine the work of a business-lady, a key manager and a mother of young children?
Harmonizing the value of family and self-realization is an important base for my personal satisfaction. Both children are and have been part of yourchance since childhood. Last but not least, we have a caring grandmother and, if necessary, other family members will be involved. I think it’s important to get help when there’s it too much on you. It is not easy to harmonize personal and professional life. I always say that a happy mother is important and then the whole family is happy. You can always make it happen, even if you sometimes feel like you can’t handle it … but your brain will surprise you and come up with something for you. You need to have the right focus.
You are leading hundreds of people both internally and externally. What final advice would you give to all leaders?
It is important to realize that you are the first person you lead and influence in your life. Your people will follow you if you have a great vision and leave you because of low leadership. That is why you need to constantly work on your personal development and learn from people who are where you want to be one day.