One of the things I cherish about womenonbusiness.com is the diverse group of women sharing information, insights and personal reflections. Many of you are running large companies, leading impactful initiatives, raising enormous amounts of money and creating innovative products and systems for doing business more effectively. Anyone visiting this site will quickly glean that WOB is a powerful community, and more importantly, that the world is full of brilliant, driven women making things happen. But what I like best of all, is that no matter how new, or how small, a business is, the women in this online community continue to demonstrate a desire to share their stories and help those still climbing the ladder, find solutions to getting their faster.
As a small business owner, this is something I appreciate. Equally so, the words of encouragement and willingness to say, “I’ve been there. This is what worked, this is what didn’t.” Valuable snippets to those of us still building businesses and feeling more frustration than pride.
When you’re a little fish swimming in a pond of big fish—aka heavy-hitting women who have made millions of dollars for themselves or a corporation, sold thousands of books, raised much-needed nonprofit funds, or drafted and passed game-changing legislation—it’s easy to feel inadequate. And, to maintain a glass half-empty perspective when it comes to your business achievements.
One of the biggest reasons this happens, of course, is because the challenges—deals that fell through, time taken away from family, clients who never paid, failed bar or other certification exams, awards not received—get left behind in the storytelling, while the big wins get repeated over and over.
Yes, overnight successes (and millions) happen. But, they’re the exception, not the rule. Achieving professional goals, and standing out as a thought leader, energizer, problem solver or deal closer, takes most people, women more so than men, a long time. It also takes an ability to ask questions, make yourself vulnerable enough to seek advice, resilience (just like you tell your kids to “shake it off” after a bad play on the court or field, you’ve got to move on after a misstep or lost opportunity), perseverance and self confidence.
When you’ve done something well, or simply done it at all, take pride in that accomplishment. Don’t immediately jump into analyzing what you could have done better. That’s an important piece of data, but it’s far healthier to learn how to compliment yourself before lapsing into a self-deprecating state.
I believe that this is a discussion well-suited for womenonbusiness.com, and that even some of those aforementioned heavy-hitters share similar sentiments from time to time. After all, there is always room for self-improvement, no matter how much of a hot-shot you are in your field. (Just look at Steve Jobs; he was constantly a work-in-progress.)
It’s OK to revel in the little things, whether it’s getting a small social media management contract with a sought-after client, or a year-long retainer from a smaller client who was willing to bet on your company longterm, with every dollar of his tight budget. Even moments such as when a client says you nailed that ghostblog with the right voice and tone, or when your pro bono nonprofit client does cartwheels over a community affairs radio show interview that doesn’t air on prime time. These are all reasons to feel upbeat about the workday. And since we all know the disparity between feel-good moments and being under appreciated (or being miscommunicated with), savoring the small stuff is critical to staying positive when the entire day feels like a conspiracy against your company.
Businesses compete on two levels: price and quality. Price is a moving target, as the economy and other factors contribute to an industry’s ability to reach beyond the confines of supply and demand. Quality, by contrast, is yours to own. Served up with confidence and pride, it’s your greatest asset.
At your next networking event, if you find yourself sitting at a table with a lot of big fish, keep in mind that pride (when expressed humbly) also comes off as passion. And there’s no woman—or man—out there, no matter how powerful, that is not going to respect you for doing something you are passionate about.
When you’ve got pride AND passion, AND quality, you (and your small business) are going to light up the room.
Jim Nico says
I find your words inspiring, your writing captivating, and your attitude–profound. Thank you for this piece.
And I hope to read more. Your attitude reminds me of something I read from one of my favorite business authors: Youngme Moon. One of the most inspiring and helpful parts of her book: “Different” for me, was her experiment while running and teaching the MBA program at Harvard. Glad lad to share more about parallels or discuss if your are interested.
Dawn Elyse Warden-Reeder says
Jim, you always make me smile. Many of us get so busy in our days, that we don’t make enough time for such support. But, when you get it, and you are able to give it, a whole wave of positive energy starts. THIS is the “good stuff,” the little things, that I refer to. Thank you for leading by example, and reminding us that pride and praise are symbiotic. You’ve got my attention regarding “Different.” Let’s definitely connect on that.
Carrie @ Chockababy says
I struggled with letting people know about my first business (a cake business) and let others share about it if they liked it. It took my a long time to really put myself out there and be confident that I had a good product. But when I did, I felt so much pride in what I had to offer!
Thanks for this post, Dawn. It truly resonated with me today, as I’m wrestling with a lost opportunity and trying to be grateful for the smaller ones. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.
Christine Steffensen says
Thanks for the encouraging words. We all know that running your own business is hard weather it is small or big. But if you are proud of what you do together with positive attitude even on the hardest of days it will pay off emotionally and financially.