Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Weather watch

For our mentoring program meeting this week, we held it outdoors.  Now I must confess that I was a little nervous, given how temperamental the weather has been of late.  Warm one minute, cold the next.  Sunny in the morning, wet all afternoon. 

So I came armed with a raincoat, a jacket, a shawl, an umbrella and even a towel!

At some point in the meeting, I had all three pieces of clothing on, and minutes later they were off as the sun broke through the dark clouds.  Laurie Hunt, who is leading the mentoring program,  kept us moving, we started in a circle with yoga stretches, broke into pairs and then walked around the property.  As soon as we moved, the sun would shine.

Apart from lunch under the tent, most of the meeting was spent outdoors. The ironic thing was no sooner had we packed up to go home, than the heavens opened. We all joked that perhaps because we were meeting on church property, the meeting was blessed.

However, Laurie said something that started me thinking.  She was comparing our challenges with the weather with the obstacles we can face in our businesses.

For example, I am sure most of us can admit to times when the business seemed to be under a cloud.  Nothing seemed to go well and it became quite stormy.  Now Laurie’s suggestion that day was that we were to keep moving, no matter what. 

And in a way, that’s true for our business too.  We have to walk through the storm to get to the rainbow, maybe not the pot of gold, but at least to the other side.  Because if we stay still, not only do we get very wet, but in our drenched state, it can be hard to find a solution, or to find shelter, and much easier to just give up.  We’re stuck.

By moving we are less likely to get pulled under and may on our travels, like we did, find moments of sun and we would change our direction to embrace it.  Staying with   this weather analogy, most of us came prepared for all eventualities.  When you are planning your business, you need to do the same. It’s important to have a plan B or C, for that matter, in your back pocket.  That way you bounce back quicker and  be nimble in navigating the inclement conditions.

So the moral of this story is come prepared, keep moving and be ready to take cover.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Birds of a feather

There is something energizing and exciting when you bring a group of people together who are not only on the same wave length, but get what you want to achieve in your business and are keen to help you get there.

That’s how I felt after our team meeting this week.  Lots of great ideas – not all will happen at once – but everyone seemed invested in what we wanted to do.

After a group discussion about what direction we were heading in and our goals for the upcoming year, I’d split everyone into small groups, drawing on their expertise and areas of interest, and each group was tasked with some questions to answer that would give us some direction moving forward.

Then we gathered together as the large group again to hear what the others had to say and toss in our own ideas as well.  Having run Company of Women for fourteen years now, there were times, to be honest, when I had to bite my tongue as a suggestion came up that we had already done, or were already doing.

But nothing kills brainstorming quicker than someone saying “we’ve done that and it didn’t work.”  Well maybe not then, but it might now.  I also find there are new approaches out there, and perhaps we (read I) need to get with the program and go with the times.

But to be honest that is easier said than done, but I am getting there. I am a work in progress.

The thing is if you want to move your business forward and take it to the next level, you have to:

  • ·      Build a team, a tribe who will get behind you.
  • ·      Listen.
  • ·      Give opportunities for others to grow personally and professionally.
  • ·      Draw on the expertise of others, especially in areas where you do not excel.
  • ·      Realize that you can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything, nor do you have the knowledge and skill set to do so.
  • ·      Understand that letting go is not easy, and sometimes it seems like a necessary evil.

So I am getting there, comfortable in the knowledge that at the end of the day, it is still my business, still my decision.  But I need to take heed to the input of others, otherwise why bother asking for their opinions or input in the first place.

As someone said at the meeting, we are birds of a feather, and we’re creating a caring nest for us all.  Just watch us soar and take off in the year ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Say yes to yourself

“I’m just a gal who can’t say no… “  

That’s me.

I get a lot of requests to do stuff.  And in the past, I used to say “yes”.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and ever the pleaser, it felt good to agree.

But you know what, there were times when I should have said “no.”   There were times when I just didn’t have the time on my schedule to take on something extra, and there were times when I wasn’t the right fit or I wasn’t that interested… and yet, my response was the same – “sure yes.”

Why do we do this to ourselves? Part of it is ego, I am sure, in that we’re flattered to be asked, but it is also because we don’t want to disappoint anyone and we want people to like us.

None are good enough reasons, especially if we stretch ourselves too thin and we end up too close to the edge.  When we were interviewing women for our Good Enough book, Amy and I found they talked a lot about being pleasers, about wanting to keep everyone happy but they weren’t saying this with pride, more out of resentment, because they felt depleted by all the demands placed on them.

One way to avoid over-committing yourself is to pause.  When someone asks you to take on something else, to do a favour or give a presentation, tell the person that you’ll get back to them.  Give yourself some time to think it through so you don’t leap in with the automatic “of course, yes I will.”

Then if, on reflection you really don’t want to do it, you can get back to the person and say that you’ve checked your schedule, and right now, it is just not feasible. You don’t have to go into lengthy reasons.  Keep it simple.  But say “no.”

When we say “yes” to something we don’t want to do, we are denying ourselves the opportunity and time to say “yes” to an activity we really want to do.  Try not to box yourself in.  Keep yourself open to the opportunities that make you excited.

While you may not want to disappoint anyone, you also don’t want to disappoint the most important person in your life – YOU.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trust in the truth

I usually leave it pretty open as to what I am going to write about in my weekly blog.  I prefer to be current, go with the flow and be open.

As I tossed around what I could write … it became clear that the global focus of this week is one of trust.  Between what is happening down south and who to believe, and the recent election in the UK – it seems to me that much of our challenge today is building trust, keeping it and not betraying it.

Who do you believe is working in the best interests of your country? Who do you think is putting the everyday person first, or does everyone have their own agenda, one that does not include you? How do you know what is true or what is all smoke and mirrors?

As a small business owner, there are some crucial lessons to be learned from the global political arena.  First as you work with your clients and potential customers, it is vital that you build their trust.

Because as is often said, people do business with people that they like and trust. So how do you build that trust?

1.              You are authentic in your dealings with people.
2.              You listen.
3.              You provide what people say they need, not necessarily what you want to provide. In other words, you focus on their agenda, not your own.
4.              You deliver what you say you will deliver. On time. On price.
5.              You are honest about what you can and can’t do.
6.              You care and show your client that you are interested in them as people, not as part of your money train.

Bottom line – you drop your agenda because inevitably it does become a win-win for all.

Another lesson - do not underestimate the power of young people.  As we saw in the UK, when you listen, respect and involve millennials, they will support you.  Ignore them at your own peril.  They are our future. Pay attention.

We live in complicated times. Times when it becomes harder to determine what is truth and what is not.  What we can do as individuals and as business owners is be true to ourselves.  

Because when we do that, we can sleep at night, knowing we have done our best, we’ve stuck to our values and believe that at the end of day, people will trust in what we say and do.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Confidence. Don't leave home without it.

“The only thing standing between greatness and me, is me.”

Woody Allen

Isn’t that the truth.  So often we are the ones getting in our own way, letting our fears and lack of confidence hold us back from becoming who we are meant to be.

Another truth is that starting and running your own business is not for the faint of heart.  

Nothing rarely goes to plan and at the first roadblock it would be all too easy to give up.

But we don’t.  Not if we really, really want to have our own business.  

Sometimes it means taking a step back and looking at what we are doing and want to achieve and asking if you’re on the right track or do you have to tweak something to make it better.

In her book She Means Business, Carrie Green identified that the first step to building a business is to look inward.  “Conditioning yourself for success is far more important than any business strategy, because if you don’t have the right mindset, you’ll get in your own way and won’t be able to create the success you want.”

In order to succeed we have to push past the self-doubt, fear and obstacles. In our Good Enough book, we talk about confidence, and how you don’t want to leave home without it.

But how do you build confidence?  Because it is not something you can put on and leave on.  It is a fair weather friend. In some situations, we can be self-assured and willing to step up to the challenge; in others, we hold back, tentative and fearful of making a mistake.  

And maybe that’s the key.  It’s letting go of that fear of failure and realizing that mistakes are just feedback that we need to listen to and move on.  As we heard from our panel of trailblazers at the conference, just do it.  The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to step out of your comfort zone.

Knowing yourself helps you to better understand what you strengths are and where you may need help.  Ask your friends and family what strengths you bring to your business.  You might be surprised with what they say.

Talking of friends, you want to hang out with people you believe in you, who are supportive and are there to give you honest feedback, and if necessary, the kick you need to get moving. 

Carrie Green is right.  If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we ask other people to do so.  Her book is divided up into three sections. Interestingly only one is dedicated to the actual business planning process, the other two are devoted to helping you understand yourself, your motivation and developing the right mindset to succeed.

It is one of the reasons why at Company of Women we will be introducing a new series of programs to help build women’s self confidence, because without that component, it is hard to succeed – whether you are in start-up mode or more seasoned and want to take your business to the next level.