Transform Spotlight Series: Founder | Kara Hardin of The Practice Lab

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Welcome to Transform’s Founder Spotlight Series, an exciting journey into the minds of innovative leaders who are disrupting the now and next of work.

In each Q&A-style article, we’ll introduce you to founders like Kara Hardin, who are redefining the boundaries of their industries with forward-thinking ideas and transformative approaches.

About Kara

Kara Hardin (she/her), Founder and CEO of The Practice Lab, is a mental health educator, Registered Psychotherapist, and former practicing corporate and securities lawyer who works at the intersection of mental health and high performance. She holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. Kara’s core values are learning and kindness.

About The Practice Lab

The Practice Lab helps the people powering organizations – teaching individuals and teams how they make sense at work. From burnout to working as a team to process and connect amidst world events and the upside of stress to finding meaning at work, we specialize in creating educational workshops for people working in high-achieving, high-pressure cultures and organizations. We offer single workshops as well as develop comprehensive curriculums tailored to the organization, team, and individual needs.

Let’s explore Kara’s founder story and learn firsthand about the inspirations, challenges, and breakthroughs that marked her path to success.

The Startup Journey

Q: What gave you the idea of starting The Practice Lab?

A: Unlike what I perceive to be true of most Founders, I fell backward into creating The Practice Lab. The idea was something everyone (or so it seemed) around me had first, about me and for me.

At the time, I had already practiced as a lawyer and psychotherapist for a number of years. I was looking for a way to bridge my skills in my next professional role and was interviewing for a number of more traditional jobs within high-performing organizations. In the course of these many interviews, I found myself saying again and again, “You hire me now, and in 7 years, I am working as your Chief Mental Health Officer.” 

Unsurprisingly, the organizations who interviewed me accurately perceived that I was uninterested in the role I had applied for and did not hire me. However, all of the shops where I had final interviews told me they would hire me if I opened an external consultancy. So I did, and they did, and the beginnings of the Practice Lab (known then as Kara Hardin Mental Health Consulting) were born.

Product Development

Q: Who benefits from The Practice Lab?

A: The Practice Lab works with “Strivers,” which are people who feel most safe, secure, and connected when they meet or exceed expectations. These are folks who tend to spend their precious resources (their time, energy, and attention) trying to do more, be more, and live into the “best” version of themselves. Strivers and the organizations who hire them engage us to help them understand how to have a healthy relationship with work and achievement.

Marketing & Branding

Q: How do you differentiate your brand from competitors?

A: The space of organizational consulting (and more and more mental health support) is saturated and so differentiating ourselves is something we’ve had to be more intentional about. 

First and foremost, the work we do is rooted in my academic and professional training in psychology and informed by the latest evidence-based research. Second, we pride ourselves on creating genuine connections and relationships with not only our clients but in our lives outside of work. Our business is largely referral-based, and the kindness we extend to others has certainly returned to us tenfold. 

Finally, we think less in terms of scarcity (competition) and more in terms of fit (collaboration). We make an effort to use our network to find and support as many different voices in the mental health consulting space as possible. Competition means there is a fit for anyone, and we see our job as much about finding who is a fit for us as it is about helping another shop find a fit for them.

Challenges & Lessons Learned

Q: Can you share any specific lessons or mistakes you made during the startup journey and how you overcame them?

A: There was a time when we got really caught up in what feels like the latest consulting business model trend of creating social content, getting a newsletter/email list, and building an audience. We lost sight of the fact that ours is a connection-by-connection kind of magic and started to spend more time and energy building an audience. In fairness, we were curious about finding connections at a different scale and certainly learned a lot from it. However, getting caught up in what made sense for another consultant was definitely a lot of work that, in hindsight, could have been spent much more fruitfully.

Q: What advice do you have for other founders?

A: Know your business and your strengths. Be willing to go slow before you go fast. Create a village of support around you for every aspect of development you can imagine, both professionally and personally. Don’t allow the business to become your identity or to take over your life. Live beyond your business—your other interests and experiences will make your work richer.

Industry and Market Insights

Q: What is one significant trend or prediction that you believe will drive the transformation of work?

A: Managers’ role in navigating and protecting mental health will increase significantly. Employees will be looking for employers to engage more forthrightly with what was typically seen as “personal matters”, understanding not only how performance is contextual and impacted by matters outside of work but also how to support development through personal challenges.

Company Vision

Q: What’s next for you and The Practice Lab??

A: While we are fortunate to have worked with many clients in the Legal and Financial Services industries – we believe there lies a significant opportunity in connecting with people and organizations in many other organizations (types, sizes, geographies) who share the same challenges as those that we’ve worked with today. Strivers are found in organizations of all kinds, and our goal for the coming year(s) is to expand our work and offerings to support these organizations and their people.

Q: What would you like to say to People leaders considering using The Practice Lab? 

A: We are always here to listen and be a resource, however, that makes sense. Sometimes that may be work that we do that can help, and often times that may mean connecting you with another person or provider who specializes in an area of work that is outside of our strengths. We believe strongly in accessibility to mental health education.

On a Personal Note

Q: Describe your perfect day when you aren’t working.

A: I love to start the day with movement/weight lifting and then spend some time with coffee and my kids playing at a park and enjoying the company of neighbors and our neighborhood. The afternoon will involve quiet, my dog close by, tea, and a great fantasy/mystery/romance novel. Hopefully, during that time, my husband and kids are making some delicious dinner that we can spend more time together enjoying. I’ll take some time to connect with my family and settle into some reality TV at night.

Q: What is your personal mantra?

A: I have a playlist that I lean on more than a mantra. It includes songs that are all about being brave, about putting love first, and about reaching and striving with faith in yourself and people near and far. Most are R&B and have smooth, strong beats behind them. 

Check out other inspiring Founder Spotlights on the Transform blog.

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