I am young. I am female and I am an entrepreneur. Some studies suggest this is a recipe for unremarkable success. I have proven said theorists wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20. This is a true story – the real life confessions of a female entrepreneur.
Disclaimer: These confessions will build confidence in your skills, confidence in your femininity, and confidence in your ability to build a successful business. Read at your own risk.
Sponsored Article. This post is brought to you by Visa Business and I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.
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I have failed… now I fail faster and better.
There I said it. Now, it’s your turn. It’s okay. Take a deep breath … I will not judge you. The reason there’s no judgment is because I’ve learned that failure is good for you. In fact, it will introduce you to your soulmate: success. However, before you meet the one you will have to endure a few bad encounters with failure.
Failure has a bad reputation (for obvious reasons). As 99U writer John Caddell explains, “Companies and individuals go to great lengths to avoid mistakes [and]… when we inevitably do make a mistake, we act like someone tripping on a crack in [the] sidewalk – we move on as fast as we can and hope no one notices.”
Failing is a necessary precursor to eventual success. There is something to be learned from it. When you look back at mistakes, it’s like an old boyfriend who reminds you of how far you’ve come. The act of failing is a wonderful moment because it is just that – a time-bound event.
However, the misstep that many female entrepreneurs make is associating a ‘fail’ moment with their self-identity. It’s true. We learn more from our failures than our successes, but wouldn’t it be nice to learn from someone else’s shortcomings? It’s wishful thinking though because we all have to take one (or two) for the team eventually. But remember: most bad business decisions are not fatal. Entrepreneurship never gets easier; you simply get better.
My startup money relationship was ‘complicated’, but now I’m in love.
Okay, don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s only a P&L statement. It’s a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean, just how scary can a few numbers be?
According to a report by Prudential Research “fewer than 2 in 10 women feel ‘very prepared’ to make wise financial decisions. Half indicate they ‘need some help,’ and one-third feel that they need ‘a lot of help’.” Surprised? You shouldn’t be. When it comes to financial decisions, some women are hesitant, and others are downright terrified. As you can imagine, when these feelings are associated with business it is a deadly combination.
Money fears are par for the course, but learning how to overcome them (and confidently run a cash flow positive business) requires re-education, discipline and work. To develop a healthy bottom-line I had to get a fresh financial start.
As personal finance guru Suze Orman suggests, it starts with no blame, no shame; “Whatever mistakes you feel you have made with money, whatever moves you wish you had, or hadn’t made, are irrelevant.” When you remove money guilt you can get your financial house in order.
Entrepreneurship requires self-education to develop healthy money habits. Next, bring in the big guns (i.e., a bookkeeper, accountant, or CFO) depending on your business size and need. They can do the heavy lifting. However, don’t delegate it and forget it just yet. Remain actively involved in the management and oversight of your money.
Rule of life. If you ask someone’s advice, make sure they are qualified to give it.
When you start a business, you have to make decisions – a lot of them. Many times, as women, we take in too much feedback to aid in decision making. This management style leads nowhere fast. Learn to trust your own judgment and know that it is okay if it doesn’t make everyone happy.
My fool-proof decision-making formula consists of a) studying the fact b) stating the precise dilemma c) consulting with subject matter experts d) and making informed decisions when and where it counts. When I seek third-party advice I ensure the person is qualified to give it (i.e., has direct or indirect experience dealing with similar scenarios).
Your data must be reliable. Bad data yields bad decisions. However, when you support key business decisions with qualified inputs you gain the flexibility and confidence to draw insights quickly.
I once took it personally, now I know better.
“How do you feel about …?” Stop! Not interested. Don’t get me wrong, I care how you feel, but not when it comes to business. In business – feelings are not a strategic plan. Why? Because they are temporal (i.e., they have a tendency to come, go, and change). Sound reliable? I didn’t think so.
I learned this lesson early when pitching to potential distributors. “Well Missy (in a thick southern accent), I don’t know what to tell ya’. I don’t know your product well enough to say this, but it sounds like you’re sellin’ snake oil.” “Snake oil?” I was perplexed. In laymen’s terms, because he was unfamiliar with the product, its results must have been exaggerated, questionable and unverifiable. In other words, quack medicine. Never mind the fact that we had developed a global customer base and sales record that contradicted his estimation.” (Source: Forbes; Great Ideas Are Never Popular So Turn Naysayers Into Believers)
If you are highly sensitive your feelings will get hurt, on a consistent basis, in business. The very nature of entrepreneurship calls for a certain level of discomfort. Feelings, especially negative ones, can spell trouble. You will feel emotional pain. Eventually, a prospective customer won’t like your product. Someone sitting in the peanut gallery (i.e., the cheap seats in the back) will insist your service is flawed. And somebody will dupe you. But in time you learn whom you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take any of it personally.
Business funding is closer than it appears.
You know that safety warning that is engraved on the passenger side mirror of your car — “Objects in (the) mirror are closer than they appear.” This is the case when it comes to raising capital. On your journey to becoming bootstrapped, profitable and proud, instead of looking for magical elves to pour VC money into your pot of gold, consider looking in unexpected places – your bank account.
I know. “But Erica, I just need [insert magical number here].” However, I learned that what I thought I needed was a mere distraction from the possibilities of doing more with what I had. Instead of seeking outside investment, I started investing in myself. This meant I had to cutback temporarily and watch every expense. As business magnate Warren Buffet shares in 10 Ways to Get Rich, “Exercising vigilance over every expense can make your profits — and your paycheck — go much further.”
My freshly minted cash, received from cutting back on personal expenses, was reinvested into business endeavors. Looking back, this strategy kept me from making much larger financial mistakes. In lieu of waiting 12-18 months for investor capital, I had made tiny steps that yielded a much greater return than expected – keeping my equity stake and sanity intact. So, instead of looking for someone to bankroll you: turn off the TV, take fewer cabs, dine out less, and wait until you can actually afford a healthy relationship with Manolo (Blahnik).
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