Courtney Bott: The State of Mind

We’re excited to welcome Senior Director, Lean Growth, Courtney Bott full time to The Garage Group team in Chicago! She’s done it all, from leading teams at Procter & Gamble and being on the forefront of digital marketing strategy at Scripps to jumping in head first as a college professor and at a startup. Courtney took some time to reflect on her humbling experiences and a poem from her former field hockey coach kept coming to mind.

Read her reflection on the grit and humility it takes to go from Bigco to startup, and lessons she’s learned along the way:

If you think you are beaten, you are.

If you think you dare not, you don’t.

If you think you can’t win and you know you can’t, it’s almost a cinch you won’t.

Heart pounding, these familiar words – words I recited daily with my Morris Knolls Field Hockey teammates – raced through my head.

For out in the world you’ll find, success begins in a fellows will.

It’s all in the State of Mind.

No, I had not returned to the playing field and daily five mile training runs…the runs we completed before practice even started each day. Nevertheless, I was exhausted.

For many a game has been lost, before even a step has been run

And many a coward has fallen, before his work has begun.

I was experiencing the pain of growth. The discomfort of uncertainty. The sinking feeling of doubt that comes with impending failure. Two years ago I left the comfort, security, and familiarity of over a dozen years of Bigco career experience at Procter & Gamble and Scripps and dove head first into what I like to call “trial and error bootcamp”. While in my corporate roles, I’d like to believe I was a fairly forward-looking leader, full of grit and walking the “work like a startup” walk. However, leading marketing for seed stage direct-to-consumer food startup Wise Apple (no longer in operation) and teaching Digital Marketing to undergraduates at Lake Forest College in the department of Entrepreneurship were two humbling experiences that have revealed that talking about working like a startup and actually learning a new way of working are two very different things. 

Think big and your deeds will grow.

Think small and you’ll fall behind.

Think that you will and you will…for its all in the State of Mind.

The decision to join a startup full-time was exciting, but not easy. I knew hard work was in my DNA. The lack of perceived security was not. I’ve always been attracted to the energy of founders and entrepreneurs, however, despite my curiosity, I was aware that my education and corporate training equipped me with a mindset and resources that would no longer be available. Working at P&G, I was accustomed to having access to the experts, reliant on methodically gathered data and a generous dose of perfectionism. Working on a small team at Wise Apple as we launched a new brand and business for back-to-school 2017 was an all-out sprint for eight months. In that time, I worked around the clock; I tapped into every bit of knowledge, used every skill, and leveraged every experience and relationship I had in my arsenal. I wore many hats. Despite the sweat and hustle, it STILL didn’t work out. (BIG shout out to all you founders who are putting your dream to the test!)

The decision to teach on the other hand was easy; I loved school and being in educational environments. The reality of standing in front of a stadium-style room full of 20-year-olds sharing my passion for Empathy Maps and discussing the particulars of ads that follow you around the internet was…well, it was a new experience for me. Translation: BEING a marketer and knowing how to do stuff is different from teaching marketing. Even for an extrovert with no fear of public speaking, it’s daunting to create original content and put yourself to the test of iPhones, mid-afternoon naps and got-ya questions twice a week for 14 weeks straight. Key Learning: Spring break is designed for the adjunct professors who started the semester blissfully ignorant to the learning curve of becoming an educator. (Huge props to all the teachers out there!)

In hindsight I might describe the past two years as a chaotic mashup of awkward teenager meets a polished corporate strategist. As I’ve learned, there is a yin and yang effect to periods of dramatic change and subsequent growth. At times I felt right at home. Other times I was a total fish out of water.

For the game doesn’t always go to the bigger and faster man

The game sometimes goes to the man who thinks he can.

The State of Mind, adapted from Walter D.Wintle

Awkwardness aside, I emerged with a hands-on MBA-worth of learning about how to squeeze the juice (out of yourself and every last minute), creating from scratch, digging deep to figure it out, and rolling up your sleeves to make s**t happen. Throughout my career and life, I’ve been grateful for my Coach Trish Colvin who shared The State of Mind with me back in high school. While the daily five mile runs have fallen by the wayside (for now!), the poem has stuck with me as a reminder to step into challenges with belief in what is possible. While learning a new way was hard, I’m lucky that years of hanging out with entrepreneurs from Newsy, Midroll, and aspiring entrepreneurs from The Brandery inspired me to jump into the new experiences of working for a startup and teaching.

Which leads me to what’s next. As I get started with The Garage Group, I am humbled by my experience outside the walls of corporate America. I’m excited to bring what I’ve learned and experience back to Bigcos serving as a bridge between the corporate world and startup world. I look forward to being around a team full of leaders committed to fostering a growth mindset organization. And for our clients? WARNING: I’ve gotten pretty comfortable (dare I say good?) at hacking together rough systems and processes, balancing gut instinct with just enough data, and seeing what the real priorities are to direct efficiency and energy. I hope to share my experience and learn alongside each of you soon!

Explore More