Julia and Lindsey Coit of capital H: What’s good for Humans is good for business
Lindsey and Julia are sisters and co-founders of capital H., a strategic HR consulting firm in Portland, Maine. But if you had told them they’d be business owners together in their hometown, they wouldn’t have believed it. Their serendipitous origin story started a few years before the pandemic. As Julia explains, the sisters grew up in Maine and were very close: “We grew up under the same roof and had similar childhood experiences; we even played on the same sports teams, went camping, sailing, hanging out together.” However, when they left for college, their paths diverged. Julia studied science, global health equity, data analytics and psychobiology and moved to Boston; Lindsey studied economics, anthropology, and health policy and landed in New York City, climbing the corporate ladder. It was a long shot, but somehow they both ended up back in Portland at the same time with the same passion and drive to start a business.
The Right Ingredients
When, several years later, they separately decided to return to Maine, they realized that they needed to actively reassimilate. Lindsey explains, “We wanted to replant our roots and reestablish connection to place and community.” Their solution was to revive one of their favorite shared childhood hobbies – cooking meals over an open fire – as a lighthearted business. “We were cooking over open fires for groups up and down the coast of Maine in beautiful locations, sharing things like paella, grilled artichokes, even birthday cakes, just as a way to get people together in a really unique way. Our intention was to create experiences with meaning, experiences with impact, where you actually build meaningful relationships.” The sisters discovered that they enjoyed working together as their business gathered momentum over a few years.
Chance Favors the Prepared Mind
However, when the pandemic hit, the Coits’ community-oriented enterprise came to a sudden halt. Lindsey recalls that what initially seemed like disaster became opportunity, “Shortly after the pandemic started, an organization approached us with a problem, which is, ‘Hey, all of my employees are now remote. . . . They can’t connect anymore in the same ways they used to. Can you please help us?” Julia and Lindsey accessed their well of expertise from building community over fire-roasted meals as well as deep backgrounds in the science of human connection and leadership development to create programs designed to engage remote employees. They crystallized the learnings from that program to start their company, capital H. – the H stands for “Human” and their philosophy is simple – what’s good for Humans is good for business. Today, capital H. is a strategic HR consulting firm dedicated to helping healthcare leaders use the science of human connection to build cultures of engagement and long-term retention.
A Whole New World
While the pandemic came to an official end earlier this year, hybrid work has not. Lindsey relates, “Our clients are still remote. They did a lot of hiring that was out-of-state and global, so now they’re grappling with how to create belonging.” Capital H. is positioned at a critical moment in time, when employees are demanding more from work and employers are competing for talent. Julia comments, “The difference between a hybrid culture that will thrive versus one that will stay status quo is how intentional leaders can be in structuring connection. Managers are the gateway to creating the scaffolding for the culture.” In addition to training leaders to connect with employees on a human level, capital H. also helps leaders leverage the power of people analytics to gain insights into their teams’ leadership capabilities, burnout rates, and employee engagement. They then create customized leadership development programs to address those needs.
Julia and Lindsey, each of whom holds a Master’s in Public Health, believe that they are at the start of a paradigm shift. “So much about company culture is actually about health and well-being,” Lindsey explains. “Our professional backgrounds in health are really supporting the work that we do now.”
Putting the “Family” in Business
When they first launched their business together, friends and acquaintances often expressed skepticism that the sisters would be able to work well as business partners. For them, however, working together has been the easy part. The greater challenge was dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. “It was a lot to get used to,” Julia says. “We got a lot of ‘no’s’ in the beginning. One day they would say, ‘We really want this, and we’re really excited to work with you,’ and the next day they completely flipped the script and said, ‘No, sorry’.” The roller coaster of deal-making and surprise rejections was hard to manage. “It was a really hard lesson to learn,” Julia recalls. “It’s brutal – the perpetual requirement to stay in the discomfort of being an entrepreneur.” Lindsey agrees, “You have to make that separation when you get rejected – it’s not ‘if,’ it’s when you get rejected – it’s not you that’s getting rejected, it’s that separate entity, the business.”
Having a Plan is Essential
Like many first-time entrepreneurs, the Coits launched without a formal business plan. Lindsey explains that she recommends to aspiring entrepreneurs that they do make a plan. “It sounds so simple, but I’m telling you, having a plan is essential. Define your mission every day, your ‘MIT,’ your Most Important Thing.” Other insights from their experience include the importance of each small step. “Things that you don’t think are important are very important. They add up to incredible impact over time, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in it.” She explains that writing a newsletter, going to networking events, and developing content all matter.
Get Comfortable with Being Seen
Julia notes that in a social media world, entrepreneurs need to get used to having a public presence: “There’s a lot of visibility work that you need to do. You have to do it as an entrepreneur because you are the megaphone for your own mission and vision. If you don’t say it, who’s going to?” As the written word increasingly falls out of fashion – and may perhaps be replaced by predictive text generated by AI – entrepreneurs need to stay on top of creative ways to remain visible, putting out a regular stream of content for social engagement.
Find a Mentor
Julia and Lindsey express gratitude that they have one another as sounding boards and support. Even so, they recommend finding a coach or mentor. “You need a safe space where you can ask questions,” Lindsey says. “A lot of people are solo entrepreneurs. If you are, then get someone who provides that safe space.” The sisters credit a mentor with helping them work through the other challenges of running a business. Julia shares one key insight: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. When it’s good enough, get it out the door, so you can continue to move forward.” She relates that it is challenging to let go when you feel like every action impacts the brand.
Enjoy the Creative Freedom
Julia and Lindsey acknowledge that running a business can be a grind. “It’s everything all at once,” Lindsey laughs. “One of the biggest challenges is balancing delivery and business development. While you’re delivering a client engagement, you need to make sure that you’re not dropping the ball on selling.” While they are often overwhelmed, their reward is in the freedom to be truly creative at work. Lindsey explains, “I just feel like the shackles have been taken off, and I now have full creative license.” Julia smiles as she agrees, “It’s really nice to have your own ideas come to fruition; we’re really proud of the seeds we’ve planted and the reading we’ve done, the research and our experience and how that’s coming together to make a really positive impact on our clients. We weren’t sure where we were going to land when we first started, and here we are. We’re growing, and it’s really humbling to look back and know where we’ve come from.”