When I started my business nearly 21 years ago I didn’t consider that I was blazing a trail or doing something unheard of, I merely saw an opportunity that needed to be addressed, and I decided I would be the one to solve it. Looking back on my career, I see many challenges and some aggravations, but also a lot of hard work and a sense of pride. This pride is something I want other women to feel, and I’m happy to say that I see more and more women identifying opportunities around them that they want to address.
As I reflect on International Women’s Day 2019, I’d like to list a few insights that I have picked up along the way that may help women who are just beginning their own journey to business ownership.
I’m continually surprised by the number of people who tell me that they do not like networking or have a fear of it. No matter what industry you’re in- unless you live in a cave, you need to interact with people from the grocery store to your boss. The best, and arguably only, way you’re going to expand your brand is by having genuine conversations with people in your related field. Try and remember that people are only people just like you. While you may be intimidated by their accomplishments or titles, they were once newbies too, and will likely enjoy sharing a coffee and conversation. Bottom line, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Make the connection, shake the hand and see what doors may or may not open up.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I feel the need to share it. If you’ve scheduled a meeting, a conference call or a coffee connection, always show up both physically and mentally. We have packed lives and busy schedules, and it’s easy to make excuses to cancel or reschedule- but don’t. Take pride in yourself and how you present your business to others. Being courteous and on-time shows that you believe in yourself and your brand. People want to work with, and support others who appreciate their time and understand time is an investment. Make sure you have a reputation of being efficient and courteous of those you connect with.
We tend to overlook or devalue our small success by not recognizing them. This can quickly lead us down a road of frustration or make us feel that the needle is stuck when in reality the fact that there is a needle at all is a big deal. Keep encouraging yourself when you see positive change, take a moment to reflect on what pieces of the puzzle fit into place to make that small magic moment happen. Your actions have led you to where you are, enjoy the ride and remind yourself that you’re progressing even if it feels like you’re not.
Ask those around you, both in your industry and outside of it, how you’re doing. Often times we can’t see the forest through the trees, and we need an outside perspective to help recalibrate ourselves and allow us to see our situation or business through fresh eyes. Understand that you might not agree with what is said, but fight the urge to make “yeah but” statements. Try instead to go into the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to explore the feedback. You might be surprised at what others can offer.
We’ve all heard the adage, it’s better to give than to receive. At the risk of sounding a little too altruistic, hear me out. When we give, we not only build others up, but we also get something in return. It’s good for our own souls to help others. When we put positive energy into the world, that positivity turns around and begins to infiltrate all aspects of our lives. I should also mention that generosity takes many forms. If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest beginning small and with your own circle of influence. Take time to build into and encourage the women you interact with daily. Once you see where your passion lies, grow your giving whether it be monetary, mentorship, volunteering, etc.
While these tips are not gender specific, they are insights that have helped me develop myself professionally and grow my business over the last 21 years. I’d be interested to hear if you agree and what insights you might have made throughout your career. As women, we have the unique opportunity to build each other up, let’s work to continue this dialogue on International Women’s Day and beyond.
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