A former C-level executive, I launched my own consulting business 15 years ago. I was ahead of my time in many ways.
Facebook groups, media outlets, and other communities are popping up, extolling the virtues of entrepreneurship and the fab fierce boss babe. She sports high heels and has perfect hair and nails. She is building a million dollar business and raising a perfect family. Ha! Who is this woman?
Let me tell you, ladies. Owning one’s own business can be gratifying and liberating and (if you do it “right”) financially rewarding. Glamorous? Not so much.
Back in the 1980s women were told in a perfume ad they could “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…” Sporting shoulder pads and carrying a baby in one arm and an earnings report in the other, we were encouraged to do it all.
I worry that this new glamorization of entrepreneurship is just a different flavor of the same old Kool-Aid myth. Sweet but not satisfying.
Here’s what I HAVE learned in the past decade and a half of being a woman business owner, starting my company while raising two kids, running a household, and trying to have some type of personal life:
- Make choices. Sometimes your family, friends, and lovers will come before your other baby (your business). Do not feel guilty about making those decisions. Do not “scale shame” women who choose to keep their businesses small and controllable because they have other things going on in their lives.
- Admit to your needs and find the right help. Advisory boards, peer groups, courses, and experienced mentors can help you. Learn to listen to advice. You may not like everything you hear but remain open to change and guidance. Be respectful of all generations. Boomers, Millennials and Gens X and Z all have lots to learn from each other.
- You will fail sometimes. Own it…learn from your mistakes…move on. Ask an entrepreneur (especially we marketing types) how business is doing and the answer is usually “Terrific!” I’m not saying we should walk around sharing every downturn and challenge we face (e.g., the employee who embezzles, the intern who disappoints, the month where your cash flow totally sucked). But learn to ask for help when you need it and use that advisory group (see #2) to help guide you through rough patches.
- Follow your purse and not just your passion. As the publisher of sheBOOM, I sometimes meet women who tell me the stories of how they launched a business because they loved fashion, food, pets, or something else. Yet, they don’t have a business plan or financial projections. Learn to love math as much as you adore your product or service.
- Have a clear plan for growth (or not). As mentioned earlier, as businesses grow, so do your challenges and funding needs. Weigh the upside potential against the impact on your life and your role. As your business grows, you may not be performing the tasks that compelled you to start your business originally. You’ll become a leader and not a doer. Make sure that’s what you want.
- Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. A colleague recently made the decision to return to a “steady job.” The ups and downs of running her own business for years was finally getting to her. The thrill was gone and had been overtaken by constant anxiety. You need to know when something just isn’t right for you.
Of course, creativity, optimism and confidence are qualities that are important in entrepreneurship. Believe in yourself and your ideas and present with confidence.
But business is business. Knowing your market, knowing your numbers, and being honest with yourself and others when you have a challenge are the key factors as you move from the honeymoon phase into growth and sustainability.
If you find that perfectly coifed fab fierce boss babe who never stumbles on her 5” heels as she jets around the world posting pix of herself on Instagram while generating millions and high praise from everyone she meets, let me know. I’d love to learn the secrets of her success. In the meantime, let’s all just be honest about ourselves and our work, enjoy what we do, and admit that nothing (especially owning ones one business) is without bumps, fails and metaphorical lipstick on our teeth.