Women in Business: Courtney Hurst, Co-Founder, Metis Communications

04/24/2015 03:36 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2015

Courtney is the co-founder of Metis Communications, a Boston-based communications firm specializing in shaping and sharing stories for B2B technology companies of all types and sizes. Courtney leads by example as a true business partner to her clients, inspiring her team to set aggressive goals and achieve them by crafting the right messages for the right audiences at the right times. Her client experience includes Exabeam, Motorola, SundaySky, The Joyful Heart Foundation, Trustpilot and many others.

A lifelong entrepreneur, Courtney owned her own restaurant on Cape Cod, Massachusetts prior to starting Metis. She is a member of the board of trustees for the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum and is a member of the Boston Business Associates Club. She earned her bachelor's degree in communications from Loyola University New Orleans.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in Provincetown, a small town on the tip of Cape Cod, which is known as a tourist destination, among many other wonderful things. The community and the cash flow of the town depend on the season - both grow in the summer and shrink in the winter.

Given the generally small population, all the schools were small, as well. My high school was actually the smallest on Cape Cod, so there were no tryouts for school sports and the bench wasn't deep. If you wanted to play, you could play, but you were expected to work hard. Our teams were scrappy. We were competitive. We were league champions more often than not. We didn't let our numbers hold us back. Despite the fact that we were always the "David" to the Cape's "Goliath" school systems, we wanted to win. This is part of the reason I have always been a risk taker, a dream chaser and a hard worker.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Metis Communications?
I have been walking the entrepreneurial path for as long as I can remember. The first step on this path was selling shells to tourists at a very young age. My sisters and I decorated shells we found on the beaches in Provincetown and set up a "storefront" on Commercial Street that consisted of an overturned milk crate. We learned how to close a deal and manage our money, which pretty much meant dividing it equally and then running across the street to buy pizza and ice cream from Spiritus.

In my early teen years, I worked at a candy store. It was my first real job. The owner of that store is one of the best bosses I ever had. I wanted as much responsibility as I could get, which he delivered when he could. Granted, the extra responsibilities he gave me weren't major and included things like watching the store when he went for an hour-long evening run, but it was enough to get me hooked on the high of being valued and trusted.

In my later teen years, I was fortunate enough to work at a restaurant where the owner was hyper-focused on customer service. It was our job to give guests the best possible experience, from the greeting we gave them as they walked in the door to the way we wished them a good day as they walked out. As I matured and started businesses of my own, I came to realize that approach and those lessons are invaluable.

In my college years I worked at a restaurant that was all about the team. We were a group of young, work-hard-play-hard individuals, who wanted to make money and have a good time doing it. We were competitive for the best tips and ready to celebrate when the day was done, but most of all we were a family. This taught me about the importance of culture.

After college I pursued my passion for writing and wrote two books. This taught me about pushing myself when no one else is. It also helped me learn how to feed my creativity, but mind my taskmaster. I was certainly a starving artist; the bills were piling up while I was writing page after page. The experience taught me how to be resourceful financially, and it showed me how little I need to get by when times are lean.

As I was preparing to market and sell my books, I decided to open a restaurant with a dear friend of mine. We had always wanted to, and a spot became available in Provincetown, so we went for it and opened a restaurant in less than two months. It was like going to business school in one summer season. There wasn't much that this endeavor didn't teach me, but mostly it taught me to persevere and have fun while working my ass off. It was also how I learned that when you combine work ethic with passion, it can be a blast.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Metis Communications?
There have been hundreds of highlights and just as many challenges. What's fascinating to me is how the scale shifts as the years pass. Early on, the milestones were small compared to the milestones now in our 10th year, but all are equally important.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Don't think of being a woman as you start your own business. Head into a business endeavor aware, but not hyperaware, of what you could potentially face as a female business owner, but don't let it control your decisions or paralyze your instincts. Beyond that, my business advice for any person, male or female, is to get a partner you trust. Choose someone who understands and values how you operate, who complements your approach, and who challenges and celebrates you. Most importantly, choose someone you like spending time with, because any new business requires a lot of late nights.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
It's hard to choose just one, but I can narrow it down to three:
1. To make the best decision I can given the information I have and the feeling in my gut;
2. To stand by the choices I make, unless or until information and gut feelings shift while there is still time to change my decision; and
3. To get back up when a bad decision knocks me down.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Is there any such thing, especially when you're starting out? Don't get me wrong; you will have moments of balance, but life and business are constantly changing, so just when you achieve that balance, you get hit with another influx of one or the other and it's time to adjust and calibrate accordingly all over again. I try to readjust and recalibrate as often as needed to remain in balance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Intense focus on women's issues in the workplace can exacerbate those issues in some cases. Every entrepreneur faces challenges, and no one can anticipate all of them. The best advice I can offer a new business owner of any gender is to just be. Stop spending time believing, thinking, anticipating, talking about and surrendering your power to these obstacles. Instead, charge ahead.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I consider myself blessed that I have had the opportunity to be a mentor and to have had mentors. To have both, the formula is simple: You have to give to get, and often not to the same people.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have enjoyed and learned from many well-known, female business leaders, such as Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey and so on, but one of the women who continues to inspire me every day is my business partner. She is smart, curious, challenging and caring, and she pushes all of us to do our best.

What do you want Metis Communications to accomplish in the next year?
I want to continue to be trusted business partners to our clients by giving them what they need, when they need it, to move their businesses forward. I want the Metis team to continue being trusted colleagues to each other by working hard and playing hard together.