#Thrive Thursday: Meet Michelle Tinsley: Co-Founder & COO of Yellowbird

thrive thursday Jan 02, 2020

What is your story? Or in other words, what made you your awesome self you are today?  

I’ve always been someone fueled by challenges.  After my undergrad at University of Oregon (Honors college, dual degree in Marketing and Finance) I started working at Intel Corporation in Oregon as a financial analyst.  My desire to continuously learn and add more to my plate was a great fit with the company culture. In 1996 I decided to pursue an evening MBA so transferred to the Phoenix facility that was ramping at the time.  I completed the MBA in 1999 and decided I wanted to continue to broaden my experience outside the company. I joined the Tempe YMCA BOD and eventually served as Chair. I also in 2001 took an assignment in Copenhagen, Denmark as Controller proxy for an acquisition.  I loved the opportunity to live and work in an international setting- and learned the most in an intensive eight month assignment.  

By 2011 I was ready to move beyond the finance functional role.  I was serving as the mini “CFO” for the Internet of Things business and wanted to stay with that business and grow it- instead of rotating to another finance role.  SO- I took a role as General Manager of one of the IOT business units. It was a stretch assignment for me, and I thrived. I really enjoyed meeting with customers, setting global strategy and speaking to press/industry analysts about our growth prospects.  In 2012 I shifted to a role running the global point of sale product line in Retail- an industry that was near my heart as I worked in Retail my first six years of my career. I ran this product line for six years- adding an entirely new mobile (tablet based) set of products to increase the growth, and also created and ran a company level strategy on engaging the Payments industry with all the products Intel had to offer.  My last year at the company I shifted to sales- as I figured this was the last discipline I needed to be able to run my own business. I thoroughly enjoyed being focused on customers as well as being their voice internal at the company.  

In 2018 I started my own consulting firm in addition to serving on the board of QuikTrip and investing as an angel with AZ Tech Investors.  I enjoyed that role but was asked to join a FinTech startup in December of ‘18 as CEO- so I put my consulting practice on the “back burner”.  In July of 2019 I left that firm.  In the following months I decided I wanted to pursue another leadership role in a startup as that was my passion.  In September I joined Michael Zalle, CEO of YellowBird as a founder.  We are solving the challenges of workplace safety by matching highly qualified professionals with businesses who need fractional work completed. We formed YellowBird- an on demand platform that matches small and medium sized businesses with top quality certified Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professionals.  We already have our platform MVP live and are ramping customers quickly. Who knows what the future will bring- but I’m anticipating a lot of challenging work where I continue to learn and build my skills.

What message does Yellowbird like to promote?  

We have two customer bases- the Companies looking to hire a professional for an immediate EHS need, and the Professionals that meet those needs.  By matching these two parties together we are both improving workplace safety, but also enabling career flexibility at above average wages for the professional.  We say “YellowBird is Safety that Soars” - you can take your company’s level of safety up while paying only for what is needed.  

In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community? 

When I join organizations I typically end up playing a leadership role.  I have served on multiple for profit and non-profit boards in the past, and now serve on the BOD of QuikTrip.  I bring a tech mindset to them and I’m learning a lot from them about running a servant driven leadership culture.  I’m currently also on the BOD of AZ Tech Investors as Treaurer and serve on my church council as President.  

In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to? 

My toughest challenge in the last five years was having a manager that did not support my vision of where I was taking my team.  As our team made forward progress new barriers would be put in place. I learned a few things from this experience:


  • Strive to stay aligned:  I had to take the onus to drive alignment on what my team was working in advance with the manager.  I proactively communicated what we were up to- what worked and what didn’t work. “No surprises” became my mantra. 
  • Build up Advocates: these were other leaders at the company that were peers or above my manager in seniority.  They would see what my team was doing and give us coaching, but also proactively share our wins and ensure my manager was seeing our good work.
  • Know your “exit”: I knew that these first few steps meant extra effort and work and in the long run would not serve me well.  I then defined what this role would do for me in terms of developing new skills, contacts and experience. When I had that achieved I then moved on.  

A coach once told me - be like water and just move gracefully around the obstacles. 

Did you have a Mentor, Coach or Sponsor along the way that was essential to your growth and success? If so, who was it and why?

I’ve had too many mentors, coaches and sponsors over the years to even count.  There is no way anyone has a meaningful career without them. I enjoy getting their counsel but then also pay it forward by coaching and mentoring others.  The great thing is I get a lot out of mentee relationships too. 

In particular I have worked with Diane Bolden for nine years running.  What I love about working with Diane is she asks very tough, thoughtful questions and then has you think about this for a few weeks- before coming back to her with an answer.  It is that guided introspection that is so key to self discovery. Diane has helped me see strengths in myself, she has helped me “de-risk” career moves and learn how to get my best effort out of me by being who I am.

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do at  Yellowbird?

What is most rewarding about YellowBird is that we are starting from scratch and building a company.  There is no shortage of work to do- but the variety is a lot of fun and the pace is addictive. I get more done in one week now than what got done by my team over a month in the corporate setting.  My role as COO enables me to work on legal issues, marketing, HR, Finance, accounting, Product development, and Sales. I think our team that we are building is a “Dream Team” in that we work well together and compliment each others skill sets.  I genuinely find myself excited to go to work in the morning and tell our story.  

If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?

My mantra has been to be your own best coach!  You are worth investing in and coaching yourself to get your career best work done.  By being your own coach it turns your self talk positive. For example reflecting - “What was my top learning today?  What would I want to repeat? What would make that type of presentation/activity/pitch even better next time?” Knowing that you are never done learning opens you up to define a very personal career path that is naturally motivating as well.  Define what you want to do in the future- if not an exact position at least the types of roles or experiences you want to have. That will guide you on what skills you need to add/pick up over time. 

Twitter: @TinsleyRetail  

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-tinsley/

Facebook (business): https://www.facebook.com/tinsleyretailinsights/


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