What Your Mom Forgot to Teach You

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?

Spread the Love


  1. Amen to this Michelle! I will surely look back unto this whenever I can encounter tough situation on my business. Really great lessons to live by. :)


    1. They are great lessons. I’ve found so much value in Ali Brown’s blog (and magazine, and classes…).

  2. Great list, Michelle –

    I often struggle with the 2/7 combination – 2. Don’t be too nice & 7. Do value your time! These go hand in hand for me. I often end up being too nice and NOT valuing my time. As a result, I give to much away.

    I rationalize it as “Building a Relationship,” something I need to watch carefully or else I will be better off working for minimum wage.

    Thanks for the list!

    Paul B. Taubman, II recently posted… 5 Mobile Apps to Boost Your Productivity and Increase Your GratitudeMy Profile

    1. That is a fine line to walk. Offering great value to build relationships, yet valuing our own time and expertise enough to make a living.

  3. One thing that I constantly remind myself is that I’m not here to do things for FREE! I love photography, my passion for it bubbles out of me when the topic comes up – but I have to remind myself that I need to get SOMETHING out of everything I’m doing.

    I wrote an eBook, I removed it from my blog and put a link to it on my Facebook Page – more fans.
    I’m doing a Cutest Pet Photography Contest, the prize is $25 gift card – more fans

    I’ve also had to protect my image, reputation, and learn to say “No”

    A friend asked if she could print my photography to hang in her massage studio / she also wanted to send links to other people to do the same – (1) if they use their neighborhood 1 hr photo mart, my images will look like crap AND (2) I’m here to make money, not give people prints of my work – so I said now and contacted coffee shops who hosts artists instead.

    I think it’s because I’m a woman that when I hear that someone can’t afford something or when someone is as excited as I am about photography, I want to give give give. It’s been a struggle learning to reign that in.
    Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog recently posted… May 2011 Cutest Pet Photography ContestMy Profile

    1. I agree, Kimberly. I think many of us are programmed as women to be sympathetic and give, give, give. Not that men don’t (there are sensitive guys out there, too) but I think it’s the whole “tough guy” vs. “nice girl” mentality many kids grow up with. Add in the layers of being taught to serve and nurture and it’s not easy to stand up for ourselves and what we want.

  4. Those are all good things for entrepreneurial women to learn! I think the one that stands out most for me is valuing your time, both in terms of what to charge and in terms of how I spend it.

    It has been hard to be disciplined about doing the leads that lead to success versus just being busy, in general, but I am working on it.
    Jeanine Byers Hoag recently posted… Dressing Your Truth &amp My Conversation with Goldie HawnMy Profile

  5. Great advice, and useful for those of us who happen to have Y chromosomes, too.
    Shel Horowitz – Green/Ethical Marketing Expert recently posted… New XXX Domain for Porn- Like the IdeaMy Profile

  6. Oh, this is great! I love it! I don’t blame my parents AT ALL but, as a product of two Wharton MBAs, one would think that I would have been taught more about business! I suppose I have more of an understanding of it than my peers do but with their business smarts, I know that I could have been taught so much more! My parents did, however, impress the importance of making statements as statements. They should not sound like questions and they should be assertive. I remember that lesson SO vividly as it was impressed upon me at least weekly (if not daily)!
    Lauren Huston recently posted… What is a Social Media LifestylistMy Profile

  7. […] What Your Mom Forgot to Teach You […]

  8. Way to go Ali! Women empowerment to the highest level it is!

    I believe that everyone’s equal in playing its role in the society. Whether you are a woman or a man, it is your desire, perseverance, faith and courage that puts you to the highest pedestal. You just have to be positive that everything will work out well.

    There is nobody to blame when we fail because it is us who does things for ourselves not our parents. Even though there is a saying that ‘Parents know best,” we are in no position to throw the blame to them if we get lost.

    1. Ali’s blog is great for inspiration to move past failure and stay focused and positive. :)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge