Bestselling author, speaker, and investor Fran Hauser joins Zibby to talk about her latest book, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career, which is a guidebook to help readers feel their most successful. The two discuss some of their favorite sections and Fran shares the real-life experience that inspired her to present them to others. She also walks Zibby through her illustrious career path and reveals why she took the chances she did on herself along the way.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Fran. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Embrace the Work, Love Your Career: A Guided Workbook for Realizing Your Career Goals with Clarity, Intention, and Confidence.

Fran Hauser: Hi, Zibby. Thanks for having me.

Zibby: Thanks for being here. I should have worked on my to-don’t list all last night because I love that concept. I was like, oh, she’s so right. I should go through my calendar and figure out what I could cancel and just say that I shouldn’t do, but it’s so hard to do that. That particular concept really resonated with me because I have trouble saying no. Why don’t you tell listeners a little bit about the workbook and how it came to be? I know you tell the story in the book, but tell all of us. Then come back to the to-don’t list and help all of us busy people figure out what not to do.

Fran: I know. That’s one of my favorite parts too, I have to be honest, the setting boundaries and saying no. The inspiration for the book really came to me during the pandemic. It was the middle of the pandemic. I was reading all of these articles about how many millions of women were leaving the workforce and how many millions more were just questioning their career path and their purpose. I think we’ve all been going through a little bit of an existential crisis. We’re questioning the meaning of everything in our lives. I realized that I was sitting on all of this content from all of the mentoring that I’ve done and all of the talks that I’ve done. I have all these exercises and tools and questions and writing prompts. I thought it’d be really great to just put that all into a book and make it more of a guided workbook as opposed to a sixty-thousand-word narrative, prescriptive book. My stories are in here. My failures are in here. It’s very relatable. There’s also all of the strategies and the techniques. It’s really interactive. It was important for me to make it interactive. I really wanted readers to feel like they’re the authors of their careers. By going through this book, they’re really crafting, whether it’s reconnecting with their work or whether it’s coming up with a whole new path, whatever’s right for them. That was really the inspiration for the book. We actually got it done in a year, which is amazing, from the time that I came up with the idea. I guess it was last February. It came out this March, which is incredible.

Zibby: That is incredible.

Fran: Right? You know. This is your world.

Zibby: That’s fast.

Fran: It makes me so happy. I just wanted to get it out into the world because I really feel like women need this book. It’s the perfect time for it. Coming back to the to-don’t list and saying no, there is a whole section in the book, as you know, on setting boundaries and really creating the time and space so that you can focus on the things that matter, so that you can focus on your goals when it comes to your career, when it comes to your life, when it comes to your world. I know as women, we have so much on our plates. I have always been a people pleaser. It’s always been really hard for me to say no. My knee-jerk reaction is always to say yes. I’ve had to learn over the years, especially when I got back to work after my first maternity leave when I went back to Time Inc. I was the president of digital. I had a really big job. I was feeling really vulnerable. I was feeling like I had to say yes to everything to show that I could still do it all even though I had this baby at home. It wasn’t working. It really wasn’t working. I actually got an executive coach. We spent a lot of time just working through, okay, so what are the things that I really care about? What are the priorities that I should be setting that are going to really help me move the needle at work and in my career? Being really clear about what those things are. What are those things that are going to move the needle? Then really clearing my plate. That’s where the to-don’t list came up. This was twelve years ago now.

The idea of really looking at, what are the things that are just not important right now? It’s just no for now. I could always come back to it. It’s not no for forever. In a few months, it might make sense. While I was writing this book, Zibby, one of the big things that went on my to-don’t list was taking pitch meetings with entrepreneurs. That’s my day job. I invest in startups. Entrepreneurs will reach out to me. They have an idea for a business. They have a pitch deck. They want to get my feedback. I love doing that. That’s my job. Basically, what I said was, look, I’m heads down writing this book, so for the next six weeks, I’m not going to be taking any pitch meetings. Do you know what’s so nice about that? It’s not a personal no. It’s like, I’ve made this decision. It’s not about you. I’ve made this decision that I’m not going to be taking pitch meetings for the next six weeks. Just being really clear about what goes on your to-don’t list and then also not being afraid when you get that inbox request asking you to do something. I literally have to check in with myself. If I’m about to say yes, I have to ask myself, are you saying yes because you feel badly saying no, or are you saying yes because this is something that’s really aligned with your priorities or it’s something that’s going to bring you joy? It’s just really checking in with yourself and being intentional before you say yes.

Zibby: You also give us nice ways to say no as well. It seems obvious, but it’s really not for people who tend to want to say yes to everything. I loved how one thing you said was just saying thank you. Oh, wait, here, how you can’t attend the event. You have a little chart. I can’t do that, but I can do this, where you give the — I love that. “I can’t attend the event, but I’d be happy to promote it on social media.” That was great. “I can’t participate on the committee, but I can introduce you to someone who might be able to.” That was also great. “I can’t take the lead on running a project or event, but I can help brainstorm some ideas. I can’t attend the entire meeting, but I can come for the end.” These are really good. Then how to say no kindly, I also love this page. “Thank you. My plate is full. Say no or offer a lower-lift way to assistant. Best wishes.”

Fran: Two lines. You know how sometimes when you’re saying no, sometimes we feel like we have to write three or four paragraphs justifying why we’re saying no? It’s really, just keep it short and sweet. I always start by saying thank you, not “I’m sorry.” Our default is, “I’m so sorry I can’t make it,” or “I’m so sorry I can’t participate,” versus, “Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for the invitation.” Then, “I’m heads down working on whatever, so I won’t be able to participate, but I’m rooting for you. I wish you the best.” Short and sweet. You know what else too? Most people appreciate a fast no as opposed to being strung along. Don’t you?

Zibby: True. Yeah.

Fran: I do. I would rather know. Okay, you know what? This is not aligned with this person’s priorities right now, so let me just move on.

Zibby: By the way, this isn’t just for work. This is also to the countless people who are recruited to be PA chairman or class mom or all these things. I keep talking to people who are like, I got myself into this because they asked, and I couldn’t say no. I’m like, but maybe, could you have? Maybe you couldn’t have, or they just felt too bad or the guilt of the kids — I don’t know. I just feel like there’s so many areas. It’s not just professional. It’s personal.

Fran: I agree. I go there too. I do so much volunteer work at the schools. I’ve definitely done less over the years. I remember when my oldest when in kindergarten, I was so eager. I just really wanted to become more entrenched in the community. Over the years, I’ve definitely done less and less. I’ve also just been really strategic about, where does it make sense for me to spend my time? For example, I actually loved volunteering for the school store because it actually got me into the school. I was able to see my kids. Or the book fair because I love books.

Zibby: I did that too. I volunteered at the book fair.

Fran: Then you’re in the school. I started doing less of the fundraising stuff, which was more on my own time, not at school. It was more about the committee work. Doing less of that and doing more of the things that got me into the school and that really weren’t as heavy of a lift. I’m always thinking about, how can I turn something that would be ten hours of my time to fifteen minutes of my time? Sometimes it is an introduction. Sometimes I have to say no to a speaking event, but I have so many people in my world who are looking for speaking opportunities. It makes me feel so good to be able to offer those opportunities to others. I love that. I feel like it’s a win-win.

Zibby: This is if you have too much to do, which, sorry, I honed in on because that is the moment in my life right now. There have been other moments in my life where I have not had enough to do or wasn’t sure which path to take. Another whole group of people are currently in that or have been coming off of being at home with the kids or their kids just went to college. They’re like, now what? There’s so many moments. I do feel, like you said originally, there’s this groundswell. You know when a subway’s coming? Not that I’ve been on the subway in a while. You feel the reverberations of the train before it’s right there. I feel like that’s the moment that we’re in. So many women are just in that moment where there’s about to be this explosion of talent back on the scene in all these ways. I don’t know. That’s how I feel about it. Do you feel that same energy?

Fran: I do. I have a lot of women that are reaching out to me. They’re really nervous. They’re worried. They’re not quite sure what to do. I always say to them, I think one of the best things to do when you’re in that moment of uncertainty and transition or maybe you’re feeling stuck is, reach out to people. Grab a coffee. Do a phone call, a Zoom, whatever. Let people know where you are and what you’re thinking, that you’re thinking about your next chapter. I find that when you’re talking to people, especially if you’re curious, you learn a lot. You learn about some opportunities that might be out there that you never would’ve even thought of. Now you’re also on their radar. You’re in their head. If I heard about an opportunity, I’ll remember that, oh, my friend Trish, this could be a great fit for her. I think it’s really important to get out there and talk to people, to not sit in your home and just worry and let it fester. Really state what your intentions are. If you’re not exactly sure what they are, just let people into your world. Just put it out there. You got to put it out into the universe. I think that’s probably one of the most important things that you can do.

Zibby: This workbook, too, is super helpful in helping people even figure out what they want to do, what they’re good at, what they feel good about. I love this minimum viable product, by the way, going back to the to-don’t list.

Fran: Some of us, myself included, get into this place of feeling like everything we do, like it needs to be perfect. That was another big awakening for me after coming back from maternity leave. I realized that I was spending so much time making even internal reports look perfect. It just really didn’t matter at the end of the day. It was really more about the content versus the form that the content was in. Even if I had a new business idea, I remember I would put together a whole PowerPoint to just go talk to my boss about it. I just stopped doing it. I stopped doing that. I would just go in and say, hey, I’m thinking about this. Here’s why I think it’s a good idea. What do you think? If she liked the idea, then I would pull the team together and we would do more work. The minimum viable product is a really important concept, again, at work and in life in general.

Zibby: It’s true. I know I’m jumping all over because you have so many great things in the book. Also, management. This is great. Communication, not just at work, but this is for marriage or friends or whatever, some of these questions where you’re in a disagreement. You’re like, “Can you tell me more? I want to make sure I’m understanding your perspective.” That’s really good. “When you’re at a crossroads and need to make a decision. Have you been in a situation like this before? How did you approach making your decision? When you’re looking for feedback. What else should I be considering? When you’re asking about an experience a person had in the past. What were your biggest insights from going through that experience?” This is great. I’m interviewing a bunch of people anyway. These are also great questions just to ask.

Fran: You know what it is too? I feel like when you have open-ended questions, you’ll get so much more. Even with the founders that I’ve invested in, I always encourage them to not ask, what would you do if you were me? but to really ask more about, have you been in a situation like this before? How did you approach it? What did you learn from it? I think it’s important to keep those questions more open-ended. You’ll just learn more. You’ll get more insights. The whole thing about when you’re disagreeing with someone, I just believe that it’s so important to be respectful. Even as a leader, I’ve always tried to create a psychologically safe space for people. I would always say this to my team. Look, it’s great to disagree. Let’s get into a healthy debate about it because some of the best insights come out of that. When we disagree, we do it respectfully. We always listen. We listen to understand. We listen with the intent to understand. It’s great to ask follow-up questions. I just believe whether we’re leaders in business or whether we’re teachers, it’s all about creating that environment where people are comfortable speaking up, where they’re comfortable sharing their opinions and their points of view, where they feel like they’re not going to be disrespected. I really believe that’s so important for work, for school, for just our society, for culture in general.

Zibby: Wait, so Fran, I know about your amazing career and how you basically created People magazine for Time Inc. and all of these amazing things that you’ve done. When you’re investing now in women-owned businesses — I know we’ve both invested in Copper Books, which is exciting. I’m really so hopeful for everything that Alli is doing and that whole social network for authors. When you are investing in a women-owned business and you are meeting the founders, what are the things you look for in a successful proposal or even in a woman you want to invest in? What are the types of things that you feel like are hallmarks of success or that interest you the most?

Fran: It’s a great question. It comes down to a few things. It comes down to the founder, the market, and the product. Each one of those are really important. The founder, I really want to feel like they’re personally invested in this, that it’s something that they’re really passionate about. Whatever the pain point is that they’re solving or the opportunity that they’re capitalizing on, I really want to feel like they’re the right person. They’re the right person to approach this. I also really pay attention to, how do I feel when I leave a meeting with a founder? Do I feel like I want to spend more time with them? Do I feel energized? When you invest in these startups, it takes seven to ten years for them to exit, if they exit. If there’s a liquidation event where they IPO or they get acquired, that’s how we make money as investors. It’s a long-term relationship with the founder. I really want to feel like our values are aligned. This is somebody who I want to be spending time with in helping them to grow their business.

Obviously, there needs to be a market. I need to feel like, okay, there’s a clear pain point here. They’re solving something big. The product, look, it goes back to MVP, minimum viable product. I know that the product might change. It actually often does change. You come with an MVP. Then you get feedback, and you pivot. I want to feel like the founder’s going to be okay with that, that they’re going to be adaptable. They’re not going to dig their heels in because that’s what happens sometimes. You have this idea. You’re so entrenched in it, but you have to be willing to be flexible and to be able to adapt if you hear something different from your customer. I really pay attention to all that. I do a lot of backchanneling. I look at LinkedIn. I look at, do we have mutual connections? It’s not just about the résumé and what they’ve accomplished. I want to know how. I want to know how they work. I want to understand their character, their integrity, their values. All of that is really important.

Zibby: What are some companies — I know you invested in Moviefone, right? Didn’t you?

Fran: I have to tell you, Zibby — do you remember Moviefone?

Zibby: Of course, I do. That’s why I brought it up. Wasn’t it 777-FILM?

Fran: Yes. This was in the late nineties.

Zibby: The things I remember. Why that useful piece of information stayed in there…

Fran: It’s so funny. When I’m talking to Gen Z or college students, they have no idea what I’m talking about when I bring up Moviefone. I didn’t invest in it, but I was actually their SVP of finance. I left Coca-Cola. I left one of the world’s most admired companies at twenty-seven to go work for 777-FILM when they were just about to launch They were going to put showtimes and ticketing online. I just remember being so interested in it because, first of all, I’m a huge movie buff. I love the movies. The internet was just getting started. I really wanted to be a part of that. That was web 1.0. It was so amazing working there. After working at Coca-Cola — when you work for a big company, it’s very — I was so focused on finance. I was in financial reporting. Then I went to Moviefone. One of the biggest reasons I went was because it was an early-stage company. I really wanted to be able to roll up my sleeves and learn other parts of the business. Eventually, I wanted to be a general manager. I wanted to run the whole business.

That’s what I got to do at Moviefone. I got exposure to everything. It was so amazing. We ended up selling the company to AOL, dot-com bubble. Then the founders retired. They were in their early thirties. They retired. I ended up taking over. I ran Moviefone as a division of AOL. That was my general management job. It was really the beginning of my media career. Then from there, I went to Time Inc. I was there for ten years. I remember the CFO at the Coca-Cola Company, the CFO in Atlanta, calling me when he heard that I was leaving. He thought I was absolutely crazy. He had never heard of Moviefone. He was like, “What are you doing? Where are you going? You could be the CFO of the Coca-Cola Company if you stay here.” It was one of those things that, I think it took so much courage, it really did, to make that move. I’m so glad I did because it changed the trajectory of my career in a big way.

Zibby: Wow. It’s just amazing. By the time you launch — you were in charge of that whole thing?

Fran: was one of the funnest parts of my career. It was me and my assistant. There were a few people on the editorial side. Basically, we had to convince the company and the — People magazine was the most profitable business at Time Inc. by far, the world’s largest magazine. We basically had to convince everybody that we could also create a business out of, that it wasn’t just about pushing print subscriptions, which is what the website was doing at that time. We ended up building this really big — it ended up being the world’s largest media website. It was bigger than It was bigger than CNN. We were doing a billion monthly page views and forty million monthly unique visitors. It ended up being one of the top ten most profitable businesses at the company out of two hundred businesses. For me, it was a really big deal because it was a big win. After that, they gave me InStyle and Entertainment Weekly and Essence and People en Español and Real Simple. My job got so much bigger. I have to tell you, Zibby, I’ll never forget this moment where I was having lunch with our CEO, with Ann Moore.

I was telling her, my job got so much bigger, but it actually got less interesting and less fun because it felt so much more administrative. I felt like I was spending so much more time on budgets and cost containment and creating presentations for the board. I really missed being close to the consumer and close to the brand. That was such a big learning for me. Be careful what you wish for. That’s why I encourage everyone, you might love being an individual contributor. Maybe that’s your thing. Not everybody wants to be a leader or a manager. That could be a great path for you. Sometimes we need to take a couple of steps back before we take a step forward. Your career, it’s not this ladder anymore. My friend Pattie Sellers always says it could be more of a jungle gym. You might go sideways. You might go backwards. Whatever works for you. That’s why I think it’s really important to tune into, what are the parts of your current job that you really love? Is there a way that you can do more of that? Is there a way that you can lean into that more?

Zibby: Interesting. By the way, and maybe we should schedule another time to talk about this, but I’m launching this new content site, Moms Don’t Have Time To, with original essays and all these different categories. I read in your acknowledgments that you worked with Kathleen Harris. I hired her to run the whole thing.

Fran: Are you kidding me?

Zibby: No.

Fran: She’s one of my favorite people in the world.

Zibby: She’s amazing.

Fran: She was the editor at when I was at Time Inc., so we worked together. She’s been working with me on my personal platform, on my newsletter, everything. She worked with me on Embrace the Work, Love Your Career. She’s been working with me for the last five years. Oh, my gosh, Zibby.

Zibby: I know. I love her. She’s freelancing with us for now to get the launch up and then finishing whatever else she has to do. She’s coming on full time in the end of July.

Fran: I could not be happier. I’m so excited for you. I’m so excited to help you. I’m so excited to help you in any way.

Zibby: I would love your advice. You’re such a guru in this whole space.

Fran: Oh, my gosh, I love it. Amazing. I’m so excited for you. Congratulations.

Zibby: Thank you. More soon. We have so much more to talk about. Thank you for this book, which is so useful. I have three people literally in mind who I’m going to give it to right away who are in this transition moment and will find it incredibly useful. Thank you for coming on the podcast.

Fran: Zibby, thank you. You’re the best. Thank you for all that you do.

Zibby: You too.

Fran: Take care. Bye.

Zibby: Bye, Fran.



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