Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why did you start your business?

Did you see a need that wasn't being addressed? Were you following a passion? Or were you just plain disgruntled with life in the fast lane, and decided to get off?

I've just started to read Barbara Moses' new book - DISH - Midlife Women Tell the Truth About Work, Relationships and the Rest of Life. It's a fascinating read. Barbara surveyed hundreds of women and asked her "nosy" questions - her word, not mine, to get the scoop on how women in midlife are feeling about their lives.

You get the sense she's truly captured what is reality for many women working in the corporate world, where they have to wear a mask, play the game and juggle... fast. She describes so many women who are unfulfilled, unhappy at work and at home; and who feel trapped and unable to break this pattern. It's sad.

Being authentic becomes more crucial as we enter our 40s +. Our work and our values must fit. Reading the book reminded me of why I started my business. I was working for government at the time, focusing on women's issues. I'd just received an award and part of the prize was to attend this conference in Denver. One of the speakers, Bonnie St. Jean Dean, spoke eloquently about being authentic and her words hit home. I realized I wasn't a bureaucrat and no matter how I pretzled myself, I could never fit that mold.

However, just as we were leaving the conference, I got a call from my daughter. My mother had had a stroke and they didn't think she would make it. All of a sudden nothing else mattered. I had to get to England as quickly as possible. She lived on a small island, so it was not a quick or easy trip. It was touch and go, but amazingly she pulled through. It was quite the emotional roller coaster, and I returned to Canada drained and changed by the experience.

Suddenly life seemed too fragile, too precious to be spent working where I didn't feel I was contributing in a meaningful way. Between Bonnie's words and my mother's brush with death, I realized life was too short to be working where I didn't belong. So I left and started my own consulting business. And the rest, as they say, is history. I love what I do and I don't think I could ever go back to working for someone else. I am too used to being in charge, and I like it.

When Barbara Moses asked women where they can be most authentic and happy? About 80 per cent of the women said self employment. However, when she dug deeper, it was clear, as many of us know, working for yourself is not for everyone, and for some women who uprooted themselves from the corporate arena, the adjustment was hard. As she points out women "who have had a long corporate career are unaccustomed to the lack of structure, taking risks, hustling to make a buck..."

When I give workshops on surviving the first year in business, I am often asked how do you find balance, and my response has always been - you don't. Certainly not in your first year when you're establishing your business.

But then, when it's your passion, it doesn't feel like work.

So what's your story? What propelled you into the world of entrepreneurism?

We're in training.

Company of Women has its own team for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer Walk. We're calling ourselves "chicks out walking". There are seven of us, and several of the team are breast cancer survivors which probably speaks to the high percentage of women who are impacted by this disease.

We have to walk 60 km in two days, which for someone who maybe at a stretch will do the occasional 5km walk, will be quite a daunting feat (no pun intended).

Friday marked our first official walk, and five of us could make it. I can see this will be one of the challenges when some of us live in the same neighbourhood, and others don't. Most of us own a business, but a couple don't, so they cannot be as flexible as to when they get out walking, but we know we need to practice.

It was a lovely day and we walked down by the lake, enjoying the scenery and the company. I can see as the weeks progress, we're going to get to know each other very well as we chat and walk, walk and chat.

And on Friday we sure covered a range of topics, from children and parents, to husbands, politics and sex, and not necessarily in that order!

While I've known and enjoyed a friendship with two of the women for years, the others are more recent acquaintances and I welcome this opportunity to get to know everyone better and in a more meaningful way.

To me that will be one of the bonuses of this adventure.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Welcome to my blog. This is my first entry. I'd been thinking of starting a blog for some time and wondered how I would fit it in to an already busy schedule. I'm not alone I am sure.

But last night at our Company of Women meeting, I heard an amazing speaker who inspired me and whose wisdom I wanted to share with all who could not hear her.

Carol Denman is someone who has won all sorts of awards - Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Canadian Women Mentor's Award to name but a few. She's grown her business to become one of the PROFIT 100 Top Women Owned Businesses.

Yet she stood before us last night and shared that when she won those awards, there were times when she felt like an imposter, and that soon everyone would discover who she really was.

But much of her talk was focused on her most recent achievement - getting her pilot's license at 50. What does that have to do with running a business you may ask? Plenty. It takes courage, a sense of adventure, and just as when you start a business, an element of risk.

Carol shared that in flying "take off" is optional, but landing is imperative. Just as the women in the audience, mainly business owners, had taken off in their businesses, none of us know for sure just where we will land! But she encouraged us to stay the course. Often she found that when the going got tough and she was about to give up, she turned a corner.

In business as in flying, Carol advised us to face our challenges head on, to work through our problems with integrity. When you're honest and upfront when you've made a mistake, it goes a long way to rectifying the situation and helps you build a reputation as someone who cares and can be counted on.

Since starting Company of Women, I've had the pleasure to hear many successful women share their stories and I have come to realize that the stories that stand out are the ones told with humour and honesty.

These women, like Carol, are real. While many have achieved great success, they have not forgotten their roots, nor have they got a false sense of who they are.

So as I take off with this blog, I hope you will stick around to see where we land. It could be a fun trip.

Anne Day Posted by Picasa