The F-Word You Need to Succeed

The F-word you need to succeed

Entrepreneurship is simple, not easy by any means, but simple. The more questions I ask, the more women I talk to, the more entrenched I get into my own business, the more I realize that creating a business can be summed up with a few key words. One of those words is focus.

Focus

When creating or running a business, your first focus should be on your mission. What are you trying to accomplish? You should have a clear statement of your intent. For instance, my mission is to educate, empower, inspire and support female entrepreneurs in creating financially, intellectually and emotionally rewarding businesses.

Why is a mission statement important? So you have criteria in which to:

  • define your ideal client
  • evaluate all your opportunities,
  • create your brand
  • coordinate your marketing efforts to reach your ideal client,
  • design all your products and services

Everything that I do in my business falls under one of the four categories: educate, empower, support and inspire.

Defining my mission statement was actually the easy part. Lately it’s been my day-to-day focus I’ve had problems with. It’s easy to get caught up in things like worrying about money or get sidetracked with stuff that doesn’t effect your bottom line (i.e. fancy office space when you could work at home) or taking course after course on various topics. Not that any of these things are bad, per se, but when you are just starting out, your focus should be on making sure you are adding value by solving some sort of problem and finding the people who have that problem and are willing to pay for it.

Let’s look at a couple of these distractions individually.

  • Money – I’m not discounting the fact that money is one of the reasons we create a business. After all, part of my mission is about creating financial success. But part of the planning process of a new business is to have a financial cushion. That means either starting your business part-time while you’re still working full-time or having enough in savings you’re willing to invest in yourself and your idea. Money’s been a top distraction creating my business but I realized that when I am focused on my lack of income, first of all I am focused on scarcity, which creates a desperation mindset. Since I believe that we all emit energy, this negative energy attracts only more negativity. Creativity doesn’t do well in such an environment and closes me off to new possibilities as well as people who could help. Second, thinking about money takes my creative energy away from creating value (i.e. products and services), which is what’s going to make me money!
  • Courses – My inbox is full of people hawking their courses – everything from creating podcasts to using video to create a six figure income in three months. While I’m a big fan of learning, I’ve become more discerning about following my own path and choosing what works and feels best for my business. I still read tons of books and take courses but they need to fit my criteria. Be aware if you are signing up for every course you get an email for. Sometimes it’s an avoidance tactic. The best education is getting out there and doing it. There is no way you are going to know everything you need to know before you start your business. As I’ve said before, not knowing is the path.
  • Fears – Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, so many fears. Often when we are avoiding something it’s because we are focused on our fears. The best thing to do is get them out in the open and address them. Fear of rejection was my biggest fear but I learned to stop focusing on me and focus on how I could be of service. Fear of failure is another one. Failure can be a terrifying word. Quit using it. You didn’t fail, you got feedback. Failure is a dead end while feedback is information you can use to move forward.

I’ve come up with a little trick to get me back on track when I lose focus and start worrying – I have three questions I ask myself:

  1. What did I learn? How will I apply it? Who can I teach it to?
  2. What value did I add?
  3. Who did I connect with?

These questions remind me that learning is a vital part of building a business. Adding value keeps me focused on activities that are the core of my mission: empower, educate, inspire and support. And at the heart of a business is connecting with others – even those that aren’t your ideal client.

What are you focusing on?

 

 

 

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

When you have three meetings in a day and in each of them the same word comes up, you take notice.

That word was authenticity.

I like Miriam Webster’s definition of authentic:

true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

It doesn’t surprise me at all that each of these meetings were with women.

I don’t think being authentic is something men worry about. I could be wrong as I’m not a man, but I know women of my generation were told, subtly or not, that to succeed in the workplace we had to be more like men – dress more like them, don’t be emotional, etc. One of the women I talked to told me she was advised to dye her naturally blonde hair darker to avoid looking like “Barbie”, the implication being no man would take her seriously. Can you imagine? She went darker but now that she owns her own business she proudly displays her beautiful blonde mane.

In her book Leaning In, Sheryl Sandberg, points out that success in the traditional workplace was often contingent upon a woman not speaking out but fitting in. We often compromised our goals for our spouses and children, sometimes willingly to be a stay-at-home mom, other times to avoid conflict because, as Sandberg notes,women are discouraged from advocating for themselves.

The point is many women my age have been socialized to play a role because being ourselves wasn’t good enough. When you get to the mid-century mark though, have raised your kids and accumulated enough life experience and time is closing in on you, you get real. Suddenly, you have no patience for all the bull, the drama or squandering time working towards someone else’s dream while yours withers. I think that is why so many women (of my generation) are  building their own businesses, because we’ve been told (subtly and not-so-subtly) that to succeed we can’t be ourselves. I spent decades thinking something was wrong with me so I tried to “fix” myself. Denying my true nature made for some very difficult, unhappy, unfulfilling years. Once I accepted myself, aligned with my strengths and values, a peaceful calm took over me. As a business owner I get to be who I want to be.

For me, being authentic has been a discovery process. I made certain assumptions about myself. Since I started my entrepreneurial adventure and realized the only person’s expectations I had to live up to were my own, I’ve surprised myself. Having suppressed or tried to change my true nature for so long , I’ve learned that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. This was inevitable but it’s been eye-opening.

For instance, I learned that I’m a lot more social than I thought. And I have a deep desire to take what I’ve learned and help others achieve their dreams. Of course there were hints here and there but I was too worried about getting approval and trying to “fit” in or do things the way the “experts” instructed that these gifts didn’t have the space to shine. Now that I’ve come to accept and, dare I say love and honor, my unique qualities, they’re bubbling up to the surface.

Building a business is tough. There is a lot to learn, challenges to overcome and fears to face but the reward for your perseverance is your own little universe where you write the rules according to your values and get to express your talents.

That, my friend, is living an authentic life.

 

 

What It Takes to be an Entrepreneur

What it takes to be an entrepreneur

I’ve been studying and interviewing female entrepreneurs and I’ve noticed some common themes.

In no particular order, this is what I’ve found:

Passion

Starting your own business is hard. Period. Whatever you are doing, make sure you are passionate about it. Why are you doing this? If it’s just for the money, trust me on this, it’s not enough to keep you going through the tough times. Did I mention there will be tough times? Being passionate about what you are doing will help you overcome the obstacles and give you the motivation you need to carry on.

Clarity

When I started my coaching business my mission was to “help everyone achieve their dreams!” It was a grand idea but the problem is, it’s so vague. You need to know what need you’re filling. Is there a gap in the marketplace? Is it a need to express your talent? And you need to know who has that need and is willing to pay for it. You should be crystal clear on what value you’re providing and who your ideal client is.

This will help you in a couple of ways. First, you can quit wasting your time on people who don’t want what you have to offer. Instead of talking to everyone, you can target the people who see the value of what you have to offer and want it.

Second, it makes it a whole lot easier to talk to others about what you’re doing. I used to hate going to networking events. I either got tongue tied or I could see their eyes glaze over and I knew I lost them. When you are passionate about what you do and you can specifically talk about the value you bring, people are a lot more receptive. You’re enthusiasm is contagious.

Support System

It is so much easier when you have supportive people in your corner. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I got a running partner that I realized how important it was. Many women I’ve interviewed or read about had supportive spouses who not only provided emotional support but were willing to jump in and lend a hand. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it could be another family member, friend, coach or mentor.

Learn as you go

I recently wrote about “Not knowing is the path.” I used to have this belief that I had to know it all before I could begin. I now know that part of the journey, the exciting part if you ask me, is what you learn along the way. Sure, it means having to step outside of our comfort zone and that’s why so many people don’t do it. But as I’ve said, the entrepreneur’s journey isn’t all about building a business, it’s who you become in the process. You don’t have to know how to be an entrepreneur to start. You just have to be willing to learn.

Ask for Help

Along with “learning as you go” is not being afraid to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help because we think we’re suppose to know it all and asking makes us appear weak, but guess what? Most people want to help and won’t look down on you for asking. As I’ve mentioned, there are things you need to learn so start asking questions.

Don’t be afraid to invest in experts such as lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. They can help you shorten your learning curve and prevent costly mistakes.

Know Yourself

Know what you like and don’t like to do. Know what you value. Know what your strengths are. Know what skills you have and what skills you need. Know what usually trips you up (fears, self-limiting beliefs) and strategies you’ve used to push through them in the past. Self-knowledge goes a long way in helping you determine what you want to create such as what business model to use (subscription base, brick and mortar store, online retailer, etc.

Believe in Yourself

I didn’t believe in myself for the longest time. I literally thought there was something wrong with me and was constantly trying to fix myself by trying to be more like other people. This turned me into a cranky bitch because I was constantly at war with myself.

After working with a coach, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me (other than the usual human frailties…) What a huge relief. Once I stopped fighting my true nature and accepted myself as the unique person I am, I was able to see all that I had accomplished. And if I was capable of learning how to walk, read, write, drive a car, knit, cook, etc, then I was capable of doing anything else. And so are you.

Sweat Equity

There’s no way getting around it. It will take action, aka hard work, to create a business, especially if you have a limited budget. You’ll probably be doing most, if not all the work in the beginning but learning your business is a good thing and worth the time. This is why it’s important to be passionate about what you’re doing. It will help keep you motivated and get you over the bumps.

If you look at this list, none of it is insurmountable. Whatever dream business you have, with creativity, clarity, passion and hard work, you can make it happen.

Ditch the Elevator Pitch

Ditch the Elevator PitchI was at an event not too long ago, talking to a woman and asked her what she did. She laid her elevator pitch on me. I pressed her further on what it meant.

“So exactly what is a ….?” To which she repeated her elevator pitch to me.

“Yes, but what does that entail?” Again, she gave me a reiteration of her elevator pitch. It was obvious my questioning, which was really just curiosity, was making her uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to articulate her services beyond her elevator pitch. She was beginning to sound like a parrot and if I was a potential client, she wasn’t instilling a lot of trust in me. She couldn’t even explain to me what her title meant. I was distracted by another person joining our circle and she took that opportunity to get as far away from me as possible.

Everyone tells you to have an elevator pitch but if you really want to have a meaningful conversation, arouse curiosity and interest and not sound like a desperate used car salesperson, you need to quit telling people what you do and show them. Engage them.

Here’s an example of a conversation I had at a recent event:

Fellow attendee (FA): “So what do you do?”

Me (M):”I’m the Entrepreneur’s Midwife.”

Brief pause here. I’ve called myself a career coach, business coach, entrepreneur coach, etc. I can see their eyes glaze over and the conversation stops COLD. Not what you want. I came up with the Entrepreneur’s Midwife because midwife is a good analogy for what I do – help bring your vision to life – and it also arouses curiosity, enough to keep the conversation going.

FA:”I used a midwife for my second child. Do you know so-and-so?”

M: “I’m not that kind of midwife. I’m an Entrepreneur’s midwife.”

FA: “What’s that?”

M: “Let me ask you a question – Do you love your job?”

FA: “Yeah, I like my job.”

M: “So if you won the lottery you’d continue doing what you’re doing?”

FA: “Oh Hell no!” (Laughs)

M: “What would you do then?”

FA:”I’d pay off my bills, get a swimming pool and buy a Porsche.”

M: “Those are things you’d have. What would you do?”

FA: “I’d take a vacation.”

M:” Let’s fast forward a bit. You’ve won the lottery and you’ve taken some time off to decompress, pay off your bills and buy some toys. What would you do with all this free time now that you didn’t have to worry about a paycheck? What are you passionate about?”

FA: (thinks for a bit) “I love dogs. I would start a no-kill shelter, buy a couple of acres they could run around on. There would be an on-site vet. OH! Maybe I’d set up a visiting dog program for nursing homes or children’s hospitals.” (She’s really getting into it, as she starts talking faster, letting the ideas fly).

M: “Now you got the idea!”

FA: “Of course I would take cats too! And maybe retired circus animals? Give them the chance to spend the rest of their days roaming free instead of penned up and performing.”

M:”Why aren’t you doing this now?”

FA: “Because I haven’t won the lottery!”

M: “Well, as an Entrepreneur’s midwife, I help you expose and remove your ingrained and subconscious self-limiting beliefs, thoughts and habits, such as you need to win the lottery, and adopt a mindset that frees you to pursue your no-kill animal shelter.

One of the top five regrets of the dying is they wish they had to courage to live a life true to themselves, not what others wanted. We are all here to expand and grow into our purpose, whatever we decide that is, but most people shrink, settle for less and stagnate.

Do you feel like you’re growing or do you feel stagnate?”

FA: “The only thing that’s been growing on me is my waistline…”

M: “Les Brown said the richest place on earth was the cemetery because it’s full of unfulfilled dreams – books that were never written, songs that were never sung, business ideas that were never realized. I don’t buy into the ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’ philosophy. We are creators and our biggest creation is our life, that’s why I specifically work with women who want to start a business. Entrepreneurship is more than just building a business, it’s about who we become in the process. At its heart, it’s about creating your life on your terms.

Once you accept and truly believe that what you want is valid and doable by clearing out false beliefs, I have a system that takes you through all the steps to make your dream a viable business.”

After she asked me what an Entrepreneur’s Midwife was, I could have simply said “I help female entrepreneurs bring their vision to life and life to their business.”  The conversation would probably have ended there. She could have thought “that’s great, but what does it have to do with me?”

I made it about her, not about me. I asked her to tap into her imagination, connect with and get excited about her dreams. When she came up with her excuse (“I haven’t won the lottery”), I pointed out an alternate reality – her dream was not only possible, but with my system, probable, not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

I didn’t belittle her dream, I encouraged it! As Carrie Green says in her book She Means Business

“…there was a light that had been switched on, the knowing had entered their lives…”

Once you know, you can never un-know. I had sparked her desire. Whether she would pursue it or not was up to her.

That’s the power of showing over telling!

After the event she came up to me and asked for a business card.