I started my business kinda sorta by accident (read the story here), meaning I didn’t plan to start a business when I did. And, because I didn’t PLAN to become a woman business owner, it took me a very long time to treat it seriously.
How do you know you’re not taking your business seriously?
- Do you find yourself continually giving away your products or services because you “just love what you do”?
- Do you make yourself available to your clients at any time, taking calls and meetings even on your days off?
- Do you downplay how much you love what you do and your success because you don’t want to brag?
News flash – when you don’t treat your business seriously as a woman business owner, neither does anyone else.
And, if no one else is taking you seriously, they’re not going to give you their business (money). Without that business (money), how the heck are you supposed be grow and be successful?
Sister, get comfy, because unless you start taking your business and yourself seriously, you’re going to be right where you are today for a really, really long time….
BUT, if you’re ready to play BIG in your business, then I have 10 things you can do today to bust out and proclaim to the yourself and the world “I AM A SERIOUS BUSINESS – HEAR ME ROAR!”
WRITE A VISION AND MISSION STATEMENT
Better yet, write two. Of each. One for your business and one for yourself as a business owner. Vision and mission statements clearly define exactly what it is you want to do and what you want your business to be.
Vision and mission statements help convey your purpose to others – and help them take you more seriously – and allows you to be more serious in your business but giving you a tool against which you can measure strategic business decisions, align your policies and procedures, and execute effective marketing, advertising, and networking. Write your statements and share them with the people in your life to show them, and you, that you’re a serious player.
DEFINE YOUR BRAND
Listen, Sister, there’s only one you. And the you-ness you bring to your business is your brand. Whether you’re creating an original product or service, or you’re representing a home-based selling brand, defining what sets you apart from the competition will be key to your success. When someone asks you – why should I choose you? You darn well better have an answer. When you have an opportunity to introduce yourself at a networking event, don’t stumble and bumble and mumble…speak clearly and concisely about what you do, who you are, and what you offer (aka, “your elevator speech”).
MORE ON BRANDING
When you own a business, you’re asking people to give you money based on their perception of your value. The value of your services or product. So, you want to look like you have your shit together. Like you TAKE YOUR BUSINESS SERIOUSLY. Because when you take it seriously, I (as your customer) trust that you’re going to take me and my needs seriously, too.
How do you do that? By splashing your brand everywhere – on your website, on your social media profiles, on your business card, on your brochures, on the slides you present to your networking group. Anything that is created to represent your business should have the same general look and feel. Your profile picture should be the same on all your social media profiles. Your header images should be the same and should tie into that on your website.
When a customer or potential customer engages with your brand on multiple platforms, and the look, feel, and voice are consistent, they know instinctually and intellectually that you have invested time and thought in your image. That you are taking it seriously. That seriousness creates trust. To be successful in business, you must treat it like a business so that other people respect it as a business.
WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
Regardless of whether you ever intend to seek investors or bank loans, you must develop a written business plan that details how you will turn your dreams into a reality. Did you know 50% of new businesses fail in the first five years? True story. According to the Small Business Administration, the biggest reason for those failures is a lack of planning.
A business plan helps you think about challenges and opportunities ahead of time so that you’re not taken by surprise. It helps you take your business more seriously by anticipating what can go wrong and what can go right and allowing you to create contingency plans.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH MONEY
Money management can be a challenge for women. Whether it’s because we’re raised to think that talking about money is “taboo” (like 60% of women in a recent Fidelity Investments survey), or because we’re taught math – not finance – in school, many women are just plain uncomfortable dealing with money. So…they don’t.
But the ability to understand and manage your money is crucial to your business success. Serious businesses track expenses, income, and have funds available to invest in their own growth. Regardless of your revenue – whether you’re making $25,000 or $250,000 a year, know how your money is working for you.
If you lack money confidence, or your money-handling skills are weak, consider taking a money-management course or hiring a skilled bookkeeper or accountant to help you with your business finances. That’s what a serious business owner would do.
Several clients recently have told me that their husbands don’t seem to respect their time. One complained that her spouse consistently scheduled auto service appointments and other errands for her to handle during the work week, and another complained if his wife took time in the evenings to hit the gym. Their reasoning in both scenarios? “Well, you work at home, so you have time during the week to do those things.”
On the flip side, I have other clients who repeatedly schedule clients on their weekends and evenings. I myself found it challenging when I started out to turn off my phone and email. I would answer at any time, day or night, week day or weekend. If I got a call on a Sunday afternoon while I was still in my jammies, I’d be dressed and on a minibus headed downtown within half an hour to meet with a client.
People will take from you what you are willing to give. If you constantly give time away, or let people encroach on your personal or business time, they’ll keep doing it. Set boundaries. Demand that people respect them. Treat your business seriously by defining your work hours and your personal time. Have that hard conversation with your husband about your time and your goals and work together to find a solution to get household and family tasks done. Show that you take your time seriously, and others will follow suit.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS
Nothing makes me feel more like I’m taking my business seriously than when I renew my registration with the Secretary of State each year. Even more so the year I upgraded from a solopreneurship to an LLC. Serious business? Sister, I am recognized by THE STATE!
Determine which business structure is the right one for you and protect yourself by having the papers drawn up and filed with the appropriate entities. If you’re selling products, do you due diligence on sales taxes and ensure that you are collecting and filing on time. Invest in an hour or two with an attorney to review and qualify any waivers or disclaimers you need to offer your clients. Consult your personal insurance provider on how to obtain professional liability insurance and ensure that your home-owner’s insurance covers your home office, or that your commercial property liability insurance is up to date.
As an entrepreneur, it’s recommended that you have six months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank to cover unanticipated emergencies. It’s also a good idea to investigate additional insurances – health, disability, and life insurance – in case disaster strikes.
BUTTON UP YOUR PRICING AND PROPOSALS
The number one indicator that you don’t take your business seriously shows up in your pricing. This, like money, can be a sensitive subject for women. Just like unequal pay in the workplace – women entrepreneurs still tend to charge less than our male counterparts for comparable products and services. Or, worse still, we continue to give away our talents far past the point at which we’ve proven our value and could demand fair, if not premium, fees.
Do your research to determine fair market value for your products and services by checking out the competition. Factor in your time. If you’re just starting out, aim for a mid-range price. As your business and the demand for you grows, raise your prices accordingly. And don’t ignore the “value quotient” – what’s the value to your client? I had one client who did risk management consulting. If a client implemented her plan in a lawsuit, it could save them literally tens of millions of dollars and potentially save their business. She was charging less than $1,500 for the work.
Present professional proposals. This is another time when you might want to consult a contract attorney for guidance. A solid proposal should include pricing along with sections covering deliverables, timeline, liability, shared work, cancellation clauses, ownership of finished products, to name a few. Again, having a branded, well-thought out proposal shows you take your business seriously, and so should your client.
Most of the women entrepreneurs and business owners I work with have been in business 1-3 when they engage with me for coaching. And, some of the first things we do is tackle the list I’ve just laid out for you. I’m telling you that for two reasons, first, so you know you’re not alone, plenty of other women are out there winging it, too. Second, it’s never too late to change how you do business. Because it’s yours. You have the power. You’ve created something amazing for yourself. Now, go show everyone else how SERIOUSLY awesome you and your business are!
Feel like you need help to get your business under control and reach the success you deserve? Call me – let’s work together!