Friday, July 5, 2013

Strategies: Women entrepreneurs sizzle

Sometimes women business owners need a spark of confidence.

July is the month for fireworks.
They light up the skies for Independence Day and throughout the month. So it's the perfect time for women entrepreneurs to recognize that, in the words of that notable American, Katy Perry, "Baby you're a firework. Come on, show 'em what you're worth."
COLUMN: Female entrepreneurs can learn from men
COLUMN: Women, it's time to be called 'boss'
Yes, I'm a Katy Perry fan, but I think this song has a message for women entrepreneurs. I've worked with small-business owners for more than two decades, and women tend to discount their achievements or as singer Perry would say, "To let your colors burst."
I often had to remind women entrepreneurs to take the word "just" out of pitches to clients or investors.

They would say, "I've just been in business two years" or "I've just had three similar projects," instead of "I've already completed three similar projects."
On the other hand, men used the word to underline their achievements: "We were profitable in just two years."
Venture capitalist Lauren Flanagan, head of Belle Capital in the greater Chicago area, says she repeatedly sees this self-deflating behavior from women entrepreneurs seeking financing.
"One entrepreneur neglected to say she was an astronaut," Flanagan said. "Women feel they should be modest and not brag."
While it might seem polite to be so self-effacing, it's also costly. It means women small-business owners lose customers to less-capable competitors.

For a number of reasons, women raise far less venture capital than men. And women employees are far worse at negotiating raises and promotions.
Women are so poor at representing themselves and their own interests that the Girl Scouts have created a negotiation badge to help girls learn negotiation skills.
So this July, start working on earning your ownFirework badge by following these six steps:
1. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't. Women frequently concentrate on their shortcomings, rather than their successes.
They feel they have to be able to do everything themselves, to be over  educated and over prepared to be qualified. Instead, develop your business around your strengths and build a team to balance what you lack.
2. Be confident. People are attracted to confident people.
Yes, you can draw a fine line between being confident and being cocky, especially women. So try not to be brash.
But before you enter a room, remind yourself of your past successes and believe in your own abilities, and you'll exude quiet confidence.
3. Stop fretting about your looks. Men don't walk into a room thinking they're not good looking enough to land a client.
You should absolutely take care of yourself and your appearance, but, come on, do you really want to enter a meeting thinking about your hair instead of a customer's or your company's needs?
4. Don't disparage yourself in front of others, especially clients. Self-deprecating humor can be a charming attribute and keep you from seeming boastful.
But do not run yourself down, especially when it can hurt you financially.
5. Be proud. Let yourself feel good about what you have achieved and bring that sense of pride to all your work.
After I had been self-employed for about a year, I realized that I had supported myself not by relying on someone else or even having a job but by selling my own expertise. I never wanted to lose that sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency.
Now that I have employees, every once in a while, I'll remind myself how proud I should feel that I have created good jobs for others.
6. Remind yourself regularly that you don't have to be perfect to be wonderful.
So when you're faced with self-doubt, just turn on Katy Perry's Firework and sing along with the lyrics:
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night like the 4th of July.
'Cause baby, you're a firework. Come on, show 'em what you're worth.
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh as you shoot across the sky.
Baby, you're a firework. Come on, let your colors burst.
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh. You're gonna leave 'em falling down.
Boom, boom, boom.
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon.
It's always been inside of you, you, you.
And now it's time to let it through.


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