Fifteen years ago I started Company of Women. It was supposed to be a sideline to my consulting practice, something I did that was really for me, rather than a whole separate business.
You see I found working at home isolating and I suspected that other women likely felt the same way and to be honest I just wanted to meet some like-minded women and perhaps make a few friends! It wasn’t that altruistic at all.
Little did I know that 165 women would show up to my first event, that two years down the road, I would close the doors on my consulting practice, Community Connections, or that 15 years later, I would still be running Company of Women. Perhaps it is as well, as if I’d known I was in for the long haul, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
Now it hasn’t always been fun and I’ve learned and grown a lot since 2003 when we started out. Here ‘s what I have learned.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you. We all need cheerleaders on our side who are there when we succeed and when we fail.
- Let go of the naysayers, the negative nellies or those who just want to “use” you. They drain your energy and take you away from what you want to achieve.
- You won’t please everyone. As women, we tend to be pleasers, but it is impossible to keep everyone happy. There will always be someone who complains. Don’t take it personally.
- Not everyone is going to like you. This was a tough one to learn but it is a reality. Develop a thick skin and keep believing in yourself.
- Take the high road. Don’t get drawn into battle when someone bad mouths you. You and your “people” know what is true. Look at the source and let it go.
- Be clear on who you are trying to reach. When you can visualize your target audience, who they are, what they do and what they want, it becomes much easier to recruit and attract them to your business.
- Do your homework. (Disclaimer – this was before social media)- but we once we spent thousands advertising in a publication that wasn’t read by our target audience.
- Be nimble and fluid. Don’t get locked into how you want your business to unfold and what you have to offer, as you could miss out on some great opportunities.
- Nothing is carved in stone. If something isn’t working for you, change it. Early on I learned that having membership run for a calendar year was disastrous cash flow wise. So we switched it up year two.
- Stay current. Pay attention to the trends.
- Change things up. Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean that it always will. Be prepared to change your mind.
- Ask your customers/clients what they want or need and deliver. It’s not about what you think they need. After all, you could be wrong.
- Do the math. Be sure you know how much it costs you to deliver a program, product or service. Be ready to change the price if it is not working out for you financially.
- Build a team of people who can help you realize your dream. You don’t have to be the expert or do everything in your business.
- Revisit your vision. On a regular basis, at least annually, check in on your vision for your business. Are you on track? Are your end goals the same or do you need to change them? Involve your team to make sure you are all on the same page.
Last but not least – You
- Learn to celebrate. Too often we focus on what went wrong. Instead, spend time congratulating yourself on what you have achieved.
- Mistakes are lessons you needed to learn. We can all too easily beat ourselves up on our mistakes. Instead, ask yourself what you would do differently next time? And then move on.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Pay attention.
- Be authentic. When you connect with people, be who you are. Don’t try to be who you are not, play a role or be sales driven. Be sincere.
- Take a break. Don’t let your business become all-consuming. There is a life outside of work. Take time to enjoy it.
When I started writing this blog, I was initially aiming for 15 pointers – one for each year, and I wasn’t sure I could come up with fifteen. Guess I could. And more.
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.