My mother taught me how to sit like a lady, eat like a lady, and to generally be polite. She also tried her best to teach me to cook (though starting with cornish game hens might not have been the most strategic approach for a getting-married-in-three-weeks 17 year old who’d been vegan for years).
But she didn’t teach me business. Entrepreneurial strategy wasn’t offered as a class at my high school, either. So it’s been an interesting journey over the last ten years.
Here are 7 lessons I wish I’d learned sooner.
“7 ‘Hard Knock’ Business Lessons Our Moms Never Taught Us” by Ali Brown
Our mothers may have taught us to say please and thank you, but when it comes to running a business, some of the other things we learned as a girl could hold us back big time. Read on for 7 business tips that allow you to still be a lady AND take care of business.
1. Don’t think that testosterone rules.
When many women start their own businesses, they fall into the trap of thinking that they need to behave like a man in order to succeed. But truly effective and successful leaders determine their own leadership style. When you are running a company, how you present yourself will change, but it should still be consistent with your own personality. We should celebrate our uniqueness—the very things that distinguish us from men—and let our intuition, emotional intelligence, and true natures shine.
2. Don’t be too nice.
To be effective you must get in the habit of not always worrying about what other people are thinking of you. If you are locked into a dispute with a supplier, don’t take it personally. If you have to bring up a difficult topic such as an employee’s poor performance, be firm and clear about what you want from them and point out how their actions are having a negative effect. When you are finished, allow them the opportunity to have their say. There’s a way to be assertive, not hard-nosed, in a way that maintains your role as the leader.
3. Don’t expect the world to come to you.
Don’t be shy about coming forward—not just to drive sales—but to become a permanent presence in the minds of your customers. There are loads of things you can do to get your business noticed. Blog about your area of expertise, get stories in the media, tell everyone about what you do, reward loyal customers, launch a new product, and promote events. If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will!
4. Don’t give away the store.
Adding value to your services keeps customers coming back for more, but don’t let fear or insecurity drive your decisions. Discounts and extra bonus products are necessary sometimes, but think of ways of adding extra value that won’t cost a cent. Don’t compare yourself to the competition or try to match their giveaways. If you’re strong and confident in what you do, there’s no need to charge less or to continually look over your shoulder.
5. Don’t disguise statements as questions.
Statements are disguised as questions because women fear they will be seen as assertive or they will be seen as assertive, or they’re worried about the risk of sounding foolish. However, questions sound weak—statements are stronger. Get into the habit of making statements and only ask questions when there is a need. Solicit opinions after setting out your proposals. It suggests that you are open to hearing other opinions and gives the impression that you are in control.
6. Do play to WIN.
Are you worried about meeting targets, or whether the business will collapse? If so, you are playing not-to-lose when you should be playing to WIN. The best you can achieve here is not losing. And that mindset will not get you where you want to go. Don’t waste energy devising Plan B if things take a downturn. Ensure that you have the drive and tenacity to pursue your dreams. If you take the attitude of failure not being an option, you’d be surprised how much you’ll achieve.
7. Do value your time.
As a business owner, it’s essential to start thinking of your time as money. Don’t shortchange yourself by giving your time away for free, or wasting time on tedious tasks that don’t generate money for your business. Start thinking of ways you can delegate tasks, from grocery shopping to researching leads, so you can focus on the BIG fish, like landing that top-dollar client, planning your next big product, etc. The good news is you do NOT have to do it all!
© 2011 Ali International, LLC
Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at www.AliBrown.com
Do you struggle with any of these? I’ve struggled with all 7 during different times in my own business (and life). They’re tough lessons to learn and stay firm on. Got any tips for how you make sure you’re sticking up for yourself and playing to win?