Last week I attended the SheEO Activation Summit, in Denver. SheEO World is a nonprofit organization that brings together women entrepreneur investors who provide no-interest loans, plus mentoring and coaching to other women who are building their businesses. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be - #RadicalGenerosity.
Between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned businesses in the US increased by 45%, according to a report commissioned by American Express. Compare this to just a 9% increase in all businesses during the same time period. The 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the US employ nearly 9 million people, and generate more than $1.6 trillion in revenues. Since 2007, employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18%. Employment among all businesses, on the other hand, has declined by 1%. We women are pretty amazing!
Not only that, women entrepreneurs are happier. According to a 2013 report on global entrepreneurship, American women entrepreneurs “rank their well-being higher than other women in the US, higher than women entrepreneurs in other countries, and higher than men.”
Yet here’s the startling reality. Despite the fact that over the past 10 years the number of women-owned businesses has grown at 5 times the national average, only 4% of venture capital goes to women. Only 19% of business news content mentions firms led by women.
Most of us who go into business for ourselves do so because we want to pursue our area of expertise without the constraints of corporate ladders and company politics. We want to be more in control of our time and our future. What we discover, though, is that in addition to pursuing our strength, we also need to manage other parts of the business that may not be a strength (or that we just don’t like doing) e.g., the finances, business planning/strategy, marketing, selling, record keeping, HR, etc. Getting to that position where you can afford to hire others to do those things while you focus on your strength is one of the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship.
The good news is, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. This is where women supporting other women comes in. If you are a woman planning to start a business, wanting to grow your business, or feeling you need to make some changes in your business, here are some tips for moving forward.
Start your own personal Board of Directors. Gather a small group of other women entrepreneurs who will commit to meeting on a regular basis to share ideas, discuss strategy, give feedback (and yes, hold each other accountable!) Need help getting started? My personal Board and I have a “how to” book coming out soon: The AdviseHERy Board. We’ll announce publication on Facebook (like PeopleThink to be in the know!)
Find a mentor. Think about someone you know through your personal or professional network who is farther along in their business, and whom you admire. Invite them to coffee to seek their advice on a particular topic and to explore whether a mentoring relationship would be a mutual fit.
Leverage available resources. The Small Business Administration has lots of information and tutorials about starting a business and also offers business loans. Also, SCORE, a nonprofit organization that offers workshops and business advice for entrepreneurs, has chapters all over the country.
Join a women’s entrepreneurial group. Network with other women entrepreneurs, in groups like SheEO World, Watermark, Astra - Women’s Business Alliance, and NAWBO. Also, check your local Chamber of Commerce to see whether they have a women’s networking group.
Stay focused and ignore the naysayers! Yes, there are a variety of challenges in starting and running your own business, and…the rewards are so worth it! Just. Keep. Going.
And remember as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape to turn around and help the women coming behind you. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be.
“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” – Maya Angelou
Till next time,
A few years back, when the first baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began to reach retirement age, there was much written about the impending brain drain as boomers left the workforce. How would we transfer their knowledge? Who would step up to be leaders? Companies were advised to quickly put succession plans in place. And then…the economy tanked and boomers stayed in place and the crisis seemed averted. Now, however, another wave of boomers has hit the mark and concern is bubbling up again.
A cover story last month in the San Francisco Business Times entitled, “From Boomers to Bust?” suggested that “the pace of retirements among baby boomers is about to explode, and it has big consequences for the Bay Area Economy and its workforce.” The impact will be felt more in the Bay Area, the article says, because in addition to the population being older in the region than the rest of California, “the area is in the process of adding more than 1 million jobs by 2040, with talent shortages already a factor across a range of industries.”
Nationwide, an estimated 10,000 boomers a day celebrate their 65th birthday. And according to Gallup, by 2029, 20% of the population will be over 65. Clearly, companies have some serious workforce planning to do, especially those with an older employee base.
That being said, if we look at this situation through the lens of possibilities, I see some real opportunities for both boomers and those who would follow in their footsteps.
While many boomers are anxious to leave the pace and politics of corporate life, not all of them dream of replacing that with more leisurely pursuits. In fact, quite a few plan to keep working in some capacity – either for financial reasons or for a sense of purpose. If this applies to you, then get busy preparing to capture the possibilities. This might be any of the following or none of them (leisure on!). You’re at a place where it’s entirely up to you. Here are some possibilities:
- Work with your current employer to reduce hours or create a more flexible schedule
- Become a mentor to help prepare the next line of leaders
- Turn your hobby into a side business (e.g., become a small space gardener)
- Leverage the skills you’ve built over the years and consult
- Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you
For those who are just starting out or are several years into their career, the exodus of baby boomers can open doors (and windows!) of opportunity, especially in leadership. The key is to have a growth mindset (always be learning) and to leverage some tips from the Year of Possibilities framework:
Pay attention to what’s around you. Where are the opportunities? What do you need to do to get there? Take a personal skill /behavior inventory. Get feedback from others. Use it!
Listen…really listen. Think about a team or department leader you admire. Set up an informational interview to gain knowledge and insight on how to lead successfully in the organization. Listen and take notes. Create an action plan. Implement it.
Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.
And whether you’re a boomer or movin’ on up, don’t stop believin’!
Till next time,
We’re nearing the end of the first month of what I’m calling The Year of Possibilities. I hope you are keeping your eyes, ears and heart open for wonderful possibilities that may be in store for you.
Once you’ve identified a possibility you want to pursue, I encourage you to turn it into a reality by creating a goal and a plan. Make it a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goal and keep your plan simple.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve heard that within the next six months there will be an opening for a team leader in your organization. This is something you’ve been thinking about and hoping for. Now it’s your “possibility.” Your goal setting / planning might look something like this.
Create a SMART Goal: To become a team leader within my organization by June, 2017. It’s Specific (become a team leader); Measurable (you either do or you don’t); Achievable (you are already in the organization); Relevant (it’s an actual position); Timely (by June, 2017).
Create action steps to achieve the goal. Find out what the qualifications are for the role. Which do you have? Which do you need? What do you need to do or learn to close the gap? What will you need to do or provide to apply?
Keep your goal visible. Write the goal and action steps down. With dates. Revisit your goal and progress every day. Share it with someone who will keep you accountable. Better yet, find an accountability partner who will keep you accountable about your goal while you keep them accountable about theirs. Track your progress and add or modify action items as needed.
The main thing is to keep it simple and doable. Too often there’s SO MUCH we want to do or have to do that we end up getting bogged down in our daily “to dos” and miss the opportunity to transform possibilities into reality.
My challenge for you is: before the end of January think of one goal (and create your plan) that you will accomplish by June, 2017 to turn a possibility into a reality.
“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” – Robert A. Heinlein
Till next time,
It occurred to me recently how easy it’s become for many of us to just say “No.” Of course, there are lots of good reasons to say “No” – to drugs, to abuse, to bad behavior, to more work when our plate is already overflowing...But increasingly, it seems, “No” has become an automatic response to ideas, experiences, people, and, yes, risks that might actually result in some personal development or other positive outcomes.
“No. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.”
“No. Thank you for the invite, but I need to…wash my hair…do laundry…” (You fill in the blank)
“No,” says the hiring manager to HR, “while the candidate has a lot of good qualities, she’s not an exact fit.”
“Risk embarrassing myself at the team karaoke event? NO!”
Shonda Rhimes, creator and producer of several hit television series, discovered the power of saying “Yes” when she committed to doing so for a year to everything that scared her. The result, as described by "Year of Yes" publisher Simon & Schuster, was that “she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self.” How cool is that?
Now, I’m not suggesting that you commit to saying “Yes” to everything for a year, a month, or even a week. Well, a week would be good. Let’s start with a week.
What I am suggesting is that you pay attention to how often you’re saying “No” and start turning some of those into “Yes.” Each time you do it, it gets easier. Each time you do it, you open yourself up for new experiences, opportunities and ideas. Fear holds us back from so many wonderful experiences – fear of the unknown, fear of differences, fear of being embarrassed. Say “Yes” to your fears and allow yourself the opportunity to stretch and grow in new directions. That “unknown” you’re worried about may be just what you’ve been waiting for.
What’s holding you back? What are you afraid of? Your assignment is to commit to a week of saying “Yes” to whatever opportunities come your way. Then just keep going…
Till next time,
It’s that Back to School time of year, and as we happily watch our kids embark on a new year of learning it’s a good time to be thinking about our own development. What have you done lately to improve your skills, increase your knowledge, or prepare yourself for what might be next in your career? Nothing? Well, now’s the perfect time to get started. We should always be continually preparing for what’s next. Here’s how.
1. Conduct an inventory. Look at your last performance review. Make a list of both strengths and development areas. Then think about what you want to do next. If you are currently working and want to progress in your career path, what skills and knowledge are needed to get to the next level? Add these to your list. If you are looking for a new opportunity, what are the requirements of your target position? Which ones are you lacking? Add these to your list.
2. Create a personal development plan. Select one or two areas from step one that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources to help you develop in those areas. Remember, learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Don’t forget to include target dates on your plan!
3. Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your refrigerator, your desktop. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. You can work on them in your next plan. Take a melting pot approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc. on your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.
4. Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you have gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”
5. Review, revisit, and revise the plan. Spend some time reviewing your plan and how it worked. Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional/alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and development goals.
Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge is an investment that will keep your market value on an upward trend. And…you never know when that golden opportunity will come along. Be prepared!
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese proverb
Till next time,
When was the last time you allowed yourself to just sit still, let your mind run wild, and dream about the possibilities – for YOU? Dreaming is one of the most underrated pastimes there is. “Sure,” you say, “but who has time?” Let’s Get Real. If you want to carve out the future YOU want, it’s in your best interest to MAKE time! Let’s look at a path to dreaming and focusing on what you want for your future. Here are 5 Tips for Daring to Dream…
Take inventory. Ask yourself: Who am I today? What do I stand for, and how do I show up in the world? Think about your values and really pay attention to where you are with them today. Are your career and your life aligned with your values? Take stock of your natural talents. Those are the innate skills that evoke such comments as “you make that look so easy,” or “you’re a natural.” Once you combine your values with your natural talents and recognize who you are right now, you can begin dreaming about the possibilities for what’s next. It’s no longer about what you “should” do, it’s about what you “want” to do. It’s about having a clear sense of self. Dare to create a life without asking for anyone’s approval.
Create YOU. You are a different person today than you were 5, 10, 20 years ago. Bask in your journey so far, and continue to think about the road ahead. When describing yourself and dreaming about the future, rework how you portray yourself. Start speaking in the future tone of “I want…” Keep the possibilities ahead of you. Don’t allow “no” to creep into your vocabulary. Keep the naysayers away!
Design Your Future. Write down all the possibilities. Keep a Dream Journal and continue to add to it. What are the things you want to do and accomplish? Rank them. Take the Number 1 dream and begin to imagine it coming true. Make a list of ways to attain it. Keep adding to it. Keep imagining it. It’s essential to have clarity and focus, and to stay on target. Don’t lose sight of your dream.
Tell Everyone. Don’t be shy. Share your dream with people who will support you in your quest to attain it. Imagine it…picture it…draw it…feel it. The more you talk about and visualize your dream, the more likely it will become a reality. Start a Dream Club. Meet once a month to share and encourage each other to strive and move toward your respective dreams. There is power and momentum in having a support structure.
Don’t Stop Now. Think about how fantastic it is to be creating the life that is right for who you are today – not yesterday, today. You need to believe that your dream can truly become a reality. Continue to add to your Dream Journal. Be bold, and you will discover your own genius.
Remember…if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Dream about YOUR possibilities and then take action to make them a reality.
Till next time,