Are you an aggressive female with dreams, and will not take no for an answer? Would you rather speak your mind than go quietly into the night? If so you may be a Scrappy Woman. The other day I had the privilege of connecting with Kimberly Wiefling, President of Wiefling Consulting and Founder of ScrappyWomen.biz . Kimberly is a woman who speaks her mind and would rather hit you with the truth than play it safe. The work she does globally brings organizations and cultures together to achieve common goals with a unified purpose. She started Scrappy Women as a hobby because she is passionate about women succeeding in business. Her no nonsense attitude is refreshing. She does not look to blame anyone for the issues women face today but seeks to empower women to take control of their own destiny.
BW: What is Scrappy Women?
KW: Being willing to be socially unacceptable and politically incorrect when necessary to get the job done. Find a way to achieve your goals or make a path where there is no path.
BW: They say it is all in the name so why Scrappy?
KW: I grew up in the Pennsylvania suburbs and where my brothers would be out in the woods hunting. I learned to drive off road vehicles well before I was 16, climbing trees, shooting guns, and generally being a tom boy. I was strong and powerful and unconventional as a kid. My family is all like that. If someone said something was impossible we found a way to do it. I learned not to believe people when they said something could not be done. Scrappy captures that because it is not about being graceful and polished, it is about being strong and finding a way to get things done even if that means getting dirty and rolling up your sleeves.
BW: Why is it important for business women to have “attitude”?
KW: Because you are up against some incredible odds. More than half of the people working in the corporate world are women, but only 3% are in the CEO position of the Fortune 500, and that is not going to change by sitting on the side lines. The best thing we can do as women is quit the corporate world and start are own business so we can benefit from the work we do. For every $1 a man earns in a position his equally qualified female counterpart earns $0.81. In order to get the same rewards and pay you have to work for yourself. The system is biased. I am not blaming anyone, but since we know that we have to act accordingly.
BW: On your site you say, “Scrappy means being willing to take risks and put yourself out there.” When have you taken a risk, something you were scared to do, that has paid off in your career?
KW: I lost my job in the 2001 dot.com bust and decided to start my own consulting company. I funded my own start up and lived off the equity in my house for the first two years, going $140,000 into debt. Fortunately in the following years I was able to pay it off. I did not give up and get a regular job. I kept going. It could have cost me my home. I thought that one day I would either succeed or sell my house to cover the loan.
I was tempted to give up many times but what I told myself I would keep going for three months more after I wanted to give up. One day I felt like giving up and I put the date in my calendar for 3 months later. When the “give up” date came I still felt like quitting, but one week later I got a call from someone needing my services, and after that things started working. I came so close to giving up! And it’s crazy to see how things work out. I really struggled in the beginning because the first couple years I earned less than $30,000 a year, but I slowly kept getting more work until my business really took off. The first two years were miserable, with moments of jubilation, but it was mostly one long hard slog. My motivation was that I had hated working in the corporate world so the opportunity to work for myself is what kept me going.
BW: Why is it important to have “Steely Resolve”?
KW: There are so many times you will be tempted to give up and other people will try to talk you out of your dreams to protect you from disappointment. When the negative words come into your head, from you or from someone else, you have to be 100% committed to follow your dream. Your commitment will cause you not to give in or give up.
BW: What is your goal for Scrappy Women?
KW: I will not be satisfied until women are participating fully in this world and in the business world, at all levels of the organization and in every industry. Why aren’t half of CEOs women? Why aren’t half of the Board of Directors women? Why doesn’t the business world reflect the distribution of gender in the population? There is no reason women should not be participating, especially when you note the research that companies make more profit and contribute more toward philanthropy when women are in leadership positions. I think shareholders will one day rise up and demand that women participate fully in the workplace because to not do so decreases shareholder value. If you knew that 30% more profit was available in a company where there was gender equity wouldn’t you want that? We are not talking about under-qualified women, we are talking about fully qualified women, fixing the gender bias so qualified women could contribute. Some countries are implementing quotas, and if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes. If you look at women’s participation in executive levels in the US compared to other countries we are pathetic – only 18% of management roles are filled by women. Many Asian countries have over 50% women in these roles, and Russia has 46%. The US thinks it is so far ahead the only countries behind us are countries like Japan.
But I want to avoid beating the drum of gender inequality. I don’t blame men. I don’t care what the reasons are. I just want it fixed. One of the things women can do immediately is stop accepting the first compensation offer they receive when getting a new job. Women typically take it without negotiating, and men typically negotiate, which contributes to the wage disparity.
When women visit the ScrappyWomen website I want them to read the stories and understand that if they are struggling with some of these issues there is nothing wrong with them – it is simply difficult. I did not come from the right family or the right school. I am ordinary. If I can do it anyone can do it. I am the only one who has gone to college in my family. I should not have been successful. I hope people read our stories, see what we did, and know that the only difference between us and people who fail is that we did not stop. We kept going.
BW: Tell us about Scrappy Project Management and other books in the series. How is it different than other project management books?
KW: Scrappy Project Management is not about women, it is about project management. In this book I tell it like it is – what really happens and what you really need to know to get things done where results matter. It is not about theory. It is the straight story. People say “Gosh you are really blunt.” but I simply tell the real truth about what really happens in real projects. It is a short read, and when people read it I sometimes get fan mail. One reader said, “I used to think I was crazy but after reading your book I realized my boss is crazy”. The main reason projects fail is lack of clear goals, poor communication, unclear priorities, and lack of trust within in the team. These are not insurmountable challenges, and it is the project leader’s job to assure clear goals, clear priorities, and clear communication. It’s the job of the project leader to make sure those things happen. Reading my book is totally different than reading the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) because the PMBOK discusses an idealized version of what should happen in projects, where my book is about what actually happens.
The other Scrappy Books are written in the same style as that. You could read a 1000 page book that is written academically, or you could read 200 page Scrappy Book mixed with humor and an unapologetic irreverence – a book about the essentials you need to know to get things done.
BW: Scrappy Women is your passion and hobby. What is your day job?
KW: I conduct transformational workshops – for example 40 people from 12 countries gather in the same room for a week at a time to explore their business challenges and build strong relationships and a shared vision. They leave committed to collaboration and mutual success. The companies we work with are committed to succeeding in the shifting global economy, and our workshops help to facilitate and accelerate this. My favorite work is to facilitate for people around the world in improving their ability to lead an effective business team that can work together enjoyably. For the past 7 years I’ve been doing most of this work internationally for Japanese companies, but would like to do more in the US. It’s been an amazing adventure to be able to bring people together across borders and boundaries of every kind. Even within one country culture there are boundaries. Within a single company you can bring Engineering, Sales, Manufacturing and Marketing Departments, and others, together to create a shared vision, which generates results.
BW: If you could describe yourself in one sentence what would it be?
KW: A force of nature – the good kind.
BW: What pearls of wisdom can you give other women that are looking to reach their potential?
KW: What seems impossible at the beginning you will eventually see as merely difficult. Just because you don’t know how to do something doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start. If you fall down get up and keep going. Ask for help! No one succeeds alone, and there is no shame in reaching out a hand and asking for help.
BW: How can people get in touch with you for Scrappy Women or your consulting services?
KW: [email protected] and I answer all of my email personally…eventually!
Any business woman who worries that there is something wrong with her should talk to Kimberly. It is easy to get discouraged, to give up on your dreams, or worry that you are not doing things the right way. Scrappy Women is a reminder that there is no right way. Things are difficult at times, but the point is to follow your dreams and not to give up along the way.