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.

#DreamBigBus and Meshell Baker

#DreamBigBus Meshell Baker

Meshell Baker is travelling around the country in a bus (technically it’s an RV…) that says in big bold letters: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s part of her #DreamBigBus Speaking tour.

My first encounter with Meshell was at a National Association of Professional Women meeting in Austin, right before the launch of her tour. As the Congruency Catalyst, (“Congruency is just a fancy word for alignment,” says Meshell). Meshell’s lives, eats and breathes VISION. To quote her website:

“Why vision? Because it is one of the most powerful developers of clarity, confidence, and courage.  Nothing GREAT is ever achieved or accomplished without a minds-eye view what is possible, in the face of what “appears” to be impossible”

I had a chance to talk to Meshell recently and after we overcame some audio issues (on my part) she oozed presence and charisma. Our talk was not long enough by any means. Meshell is not a woman who is at a loss for words. She has a clear vision as to what she was called to do. She explained to me most of society operates on a Do-Have-Be basis. Do something so you’ll have something so you’ll be something. According to Meshell, it should be: Be-Do-Have. Become the person you’re created to be FIRST then anything you do will be more purposeful and enjoyable and then you’ll have experiences and a life that is amazing.

Meshell’s vision is very clear, “I help people become unwaivering, unapologetic and uncompromising about who they’re suppose to be and how they are called to do it.

That’s bold! But you know what, we need more of that kind of boldness. Over 70% of Americans say they are disengaged or hate their job. In Meshell’s former life as a sales rep she had all the trapping of having “made it”, a six-figure salary, three day weekends, a home, etc yet she was miserable. And she looked around and noticed that everyone else was miserable too! We weren’t put on this earth to slave away in a cubicle most of our lives, reserving the weekends for our “real” life.

Meshell’s message is very clear and it’s very important. What are you called to do? Are you doing it? Why not? Are you living your life as a “gift and a blessing” like Meshell? I know my perspective and priorities have shifted since I started pursuing my dream. Maybe it’s because at my age I don’t feel like I have time for the B.S anymore. Your mortality can be a wake up call for you to get real. Continuing down a path of boredom and mediocrity was no longer an option for me, but it shouldn’t be an option for anyone.

Meshell Baker #DreamBigBus

If you’ve always had a dream, now is the time to do something about it. If you don’t have a clue, thinking “purpose” and “vision” aren’t for you -the only thing that’s calling you is the couch and a chance to binge-watch the latest craze on Netflix – it’s time to reconnect with your passion. Maybe it’s buried under years of stress and pressure to conform or make a living, but trust me, you have it. We all do. It’s time to go on a treasure hunt and find it.

 

If not you, who? If not now, when? Time is not guaranteed.

Meshell walks her talk. “My motto is you’ll be better off for having met me.” I know I am and have no doubt the hundreds of people she’s connected with would say the same thing.

To learn more about Meshell, her vision work and the #DreamBigBus tour, visit her at http://meshellrbaker.com/

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Journey – From Passion to Non-Profit

 

Young Journey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to “inspire young people worldwide to be lifelong learners eager to contribute to society through project based workshops and community events.” I had the pleasure of meeting the founder, Jaha Wilder at a recent Texas Business Women’s meeting. When I heard she had been running Young Journey since 2000 I knew I had to talk to her because that is quite an accomplishment.( I learned it was nothing compared to the adversity she faced as a teenager.)

Jaha is Swahili for dignity – how great is that? My parents were lazy in the picking-out-a-name department. A cursory search said Lynn means “ruddy-complected”. That’s inspiring (not!)…but I digress.

Jaha grew up in east Austin, in a large, musically-oriented family(she’s the youngest of 10). Her experience as a young girl, taking free classes at Rosewood Park eventually came full circle. “I lived with what Young Journey is.”

Young Journey is a real world model for the children that participate. It gives them ownership of what they are doing while instilling a work ethic and providing character lessons while letting them know how valuable they are. Here is an example of their work. They are currently working on a short film and the kids are involved in every aspect from writing, production, marketing, etc.

However, she didn’t start out with grand dreams of starting a non-profit. Instead, she took to the road as an entertainer. After deciding the entertainment business wasn’t for her, she saw how the lower income kids lacked support, their needs were not being addressed. Using her passion for music and lyrics, she wrote a CD called “Young Journey Children’s Music”. Her sister told her to take it to the schools and eventually it grew into the performing arts, media and sports program it is today. Young Journey is in three states – New York, Texas and Tennessee.

We talked a lot but there are several key points Jaha brought up that I believe are pertinent to starting any kind of business, whether for- or non-profit.

Follow your passion.

First, follow your passion. While Jaha describes her position as a “quadruple full-time job”, she said it “unfolded” naturally. She just pursued her passion for music and kids. While it wasn’t always an easy road, she admits that her biggest obstacle was getting past herself (preaching to the choir!)

Young Journey had been in operation for four years before she pursued 501(c)3 status. She’d been stubbornly resisting that step. But through the summer it took her to do the paperwork to set up her non-profit and all of the other challenges, what kept her going was the children she was serving. “It’s challenging, that’s why people want to give up.” When you follow your passion you have a powerful “why” to get you through the rough times.

Jaha said, “Whatever you love will help somebody, don’t do if for the money.” We don’t need to have Mother Theresa aspirations. Jaha proves that everything can provide value, like her music, in unsuspecting ways.

Be clear,  specific and commit!

It’s important to form your vision and articulate it. “We need time for it to unfold in ourselves first. We need to be clear about what we are doing” and why we’re doing it. We need to be committed to it – if we aren’t committed, why should anyone else be? “But as you move forward, you begin to attract the people you need” and who need you.

Collaboration not competition

This brings up a good point. When people come into your life that can help you, it’s important to ask how you can help them. Collaborating with people is a win-win and can go far in helping your realize your vision. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Ask, don’t tell.

The program grew because Jaha asked the kids what they were interested in. How many of you ask your clients what they want or need and then develop products/services to meet them? Or do you fall in love with your idea without asking if there’s a market for it, investing a lot of time and energy on something that’s a bust?

There is a difference between buying and selling. Buying is willingly purchasing something you want or need. Selling is attempting to convince someone that they want or need your product. No one wants to be sold.

Talk to your clients or prospective clients, get to know their goals as well as their problems. Put more time into researching their pain points instead of selling your products. When you do they will buy from you. When you show an interest in them, they become invested in you.

Good Advice

I asked Jaha what advice she has for women that want to start their own non-profit:

“Do it! My father said ‘Just do it’ long before Nike. Just start doing something everyday, even if it’s small. Learn something about the industry as often as possible and surround yourself with positive people. ‘Get rid of the dead weight’, my aunt would tell me.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the resources at hand. It will come. Just go and HAVE FUN! Enjoy what your doing and learning. Reflect on what you’ve achieved. Remember to be a model, not just to the youth but to each other. Work together and support each other.”

Learn more about Young Journey at www.youngjourney.org.

 

 

 

 

The Missing Factor in Career Advice

the missing piece of career advice

After a huge transition, an awakening if you will, when I realized I had been letting fear run my life, I decided moving forward that I would live in love.

Love doesn’t seem like a topic for a career blog, but I don’t see my work as separate from my life – my work brings me life and I bring life into my work. Living in love is my personal motto on how I want to live all aspects of my life.

There are some core beliefs to my philosophy of living in love. I chose them because they resonated with me. I keep returning to these when faced with a challenge to help ground me and put things into perspective so I can move forward on a positive note.

Acceptance

I think the first, Acceptance, is the hardest to put into practice. We have strong beliefs and opinions about how life is suppose to be and how people should behave. When things don’t fall in line with what we want, we tend to react negatively – judging, criticizing, or getting angry. But none of that changes the reality of what has happened or who people are, including ourselves. I’ve put myself through so much grief because I was trying to get reality to line up with my expectations. Reality couldn’t care less what I wanted. I was fighting a losing battle, making myself miserable and hurting my relationships.

Acceptance begins with ourselves. It has a trickle down effect because once we accept ourselves, warts and all, we become accepting of others. When we quit judging ourselves, we don’t feel the need to judge others and become open to new perspectives. Acceptance has shown me that I can learn from others when I really listen and try to understand someone instead of trying to impose my beliefs, point of view or prove I’m right. Many of our struggles disappear when we quit fighting reality and accept what is and who people are. Peace comes when we trade expectations for acceptance.

Generosity

Author Jay Woodman said “Just be yourself. You don’t ever have to pretend you are someone else. If you try to do that then you don’t have anything to give the world. Accept and give your gifts with love.”

I love that he used the word “gifts”. I use that word to remind myself to give freely with no expectations. I like to think of generosity as sharing our gifts.

I spent a good portion of my life worried about what others thought of me and twisting myself up like a pretzel to win their approval. I realized that this hyper focus on me (“will they like me?”) was rooted in fear and got in the way of what I wanted to create – meaningful relationships. When I shifted my focus to others, trying to figure out how I could be of service to them, I was able to make the connections I desired with relative ease.

We all have something to give. The media wants us to believe it should be big, splashy, extravagant and EXPENSIVE but the truth is, the most precious gifts we can offer cost nothing – a smile, words of encouragement, a warm embrace, our undivided attention or acceptance because when genuinely offered, they come from our hearts.

I found that sharing my gifts is it’s own reward but it also opened my eyes to the many gifts that present themselves daily – a beautiful sunset, an “I love you” from my son, or a tasty meal. Which brings me to…

Gratitude

Years ago I read a parenting book and the only thing that stuck with me was we get what we focus on. If all we think about is the lack in our life, nothing will ever be enough. If all we ever see is problems, we’ll miss the opportunities. Gratitude opens our eyes to the limitless potential of the universe while dissatisfaction closes our eyes to it.

Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. If we’re thankful for what we have, show our appreciation and return kindnesses then our hearts will open.

Advertisers want us to believe that happiness can be bought, but true happiness comes from cultivating a grateful heart – to be thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t. We are surrounded by riches if we just open our eyes to the beauty around us. Gratitude helps us grow and expand and brings joy and laughter into our lives and into the lives of all of those around us.

My life has changed in ways I could never have imagined since I decided to live in love. I found fulfilling work, richer and deeper connections and a sense of calm and peace. It’s not advice you’ll find in traditional business books but then again, traditional career advice got me nowhere, maybe because it only focused on the brain and didn’t include the heart.

 

Inner Peace according to Dr. Wayne Dyer

person-802075_1280Peace of mind. Isn’t it what we all want it?

I picked up Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.

This book is exactly what I need. As an introvert I am always inside my head and sometimes it can cause me heartache. Let me summarize the 10 secrets:

1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.  In other words, don’t judge and don’t make your happiness or success dependent upon an attachment to any person, place or thing. You don’t let other people’s opinions or your things (or lack of) have any bearing on your worth.

2. Don’t die with your music in you. Follow your passion. Do what energizes and engages you.

3. You can’t give away what you don’t have. According to Dyer, the universe responds with the same energy we send out. It’s the law of attraction. We manifest everything in our life based on our energy levels. Some people mistakenly believe that if we just send out a list of wants out into the universe that they will magically be delivered to us. It doesn’t work that way, action on our part is required. And it goes deeper than just getting “things”, it’s about our attitude, thoughts and beliefs. We need to believe and practice what we want. If we want love, we need to not only love ourselves but be loving toward others.

4. Embrace silence. Find time to still your mind. Commune with nature. Our lives are too hectic and that hectic energy not only affects you but everyone around you.

5. Give up your personal history. You are not your past. You can’t change it, you can only learn from it. Get over it, take responsibility and move on and don’t let it define you.

6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Change your thoughts. You get what you focus on so focus on the positive – being more loving, more empathetic, more peaceful.

7. There are no justified resentments. First, remove blame, own your feelings whether you understand them or not. Second, respond with love, peace, joy, forgiveness and kindness instead of reacting from your ego (who is always getting you in trouble because it’s always a contest about who’s the best, brightest, smartest, etc).

8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be. It’s the “act as if” principle. What do you think a person who is a (insert what you want to be here – i.e. writer) does? For writer you might say that they write daily, they read a variety of things, they subscribe to trade journals, they belong to a writing group, they submit proposals to publishers, they accept rejection as part of the job and don’t take it personally. Then do it.

9.Treasure your divinity. Quit looking on the outside (externally) for your source of strength. It’s in you.

10. Wisdom is avoiding all things that weaken you. Everything you think either strengthens or weakens you. Dyer talks about power vs. force.  “Power urges you to live and perform at your own highest level” Force, explains Dyer is movement and for every action there is a reaction or counter force. Force is a negative energy and is associated with judgment, competition and control. Instead of choosing to “wipe out the competition”, a more peace-inducing thought would be to perform at your highest capacity and give it your best shot.

Got other ideas? Please comment and let me know.