I was reminiscing today about that time that I started my own business. You know, that day way back in 1999 (the LAST MILLENNIUM, as my daughter would say) when I quite my corporate job and became an entrepreneur. Huge decision, right? Big day. Momentous, even.
Except, it didn’t feel momentous. It didn’t really feel like anything. Because at the moment I submitted my resignation and became a small business owner, I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT WAS HAPPENING. As a result, it took me years to treat it like a real business. To take it seriously. And, you know what I learned? When you don’t take your business seriously, nobody else does either.
Here’s the story in a nutshell. I was working as the Asia Regional Marketing Director for a multi-national construction management firm in Hong Kong. The two directors had tapped me as their first employee the year before, and since then, we had grown to over 100 employees throughout the region. Because we were a bootstrap start up, I was handling the entire marketing function, acting as PA to the CEO, and managing the office. Then came a day when I dragged my Cantonese speaking secretary to the local hardware store to find a replacement part for a toilet in between interviews for a new receptionist and edits to a major proposal. It was when my boss and I found a $2 million US typo on the proposal – an hour after the courier had picked it up – that everything imploded. I may not remember much, but I do remember tears.
Luckily, my employers didn’t want to lose my marketing talents, but we all knew I couldn’t disengage from all the other roles and expectations without removing myself from the office. So, we agreed an hourly rate, and I relocated to a home office and starting providing services as a consultant instead of an employee.
Hong Kong may be one of the world’s major business centers, but the expat community there is small. Once a few contacts in the industry found out I was a free agent, so to speak, I began to get calls and requests to consult for other companies. The day I signed my first contract was the day I became an entrepreneur.
But, see, I didn’t plan it. Even though I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, I didn’t purposefully set out to be a business owner. It just kind of happened. And, because I “fell into it,” it took me a long time – literally years – to treat it like a real business. Years when I gave too much, undercharged, and downplayed my talents because I DIDN’T TAKE MY BUSINESS SERIOUSLY.
What I’ve learned since is that many women business owners make this same mistake. Whether they, too, “fell into” their business, or they don’t believe they are deserving of success, or their self-limiting beliefs and inner voices are whispering that they’re imposters – whatever the reason, many women entrepreneurs and business owners kind of half-ass it when it comes to their business. And what this does is hold them back from experiencing and enjoying true success – financial, emotional, and reputational. They keep themselves from playing BIG simply because they don’t want to, don’t know how to, or can’t take themselves seriously.
Do you recognize yourself here? If so, the first thing I want you to know is that it’s okay. It’s normal. You’re not alone. And, it’s not too late.
See, I’ve since started other businesses. I had to restart my marketing consulting when we relocated back to the States, and more recently, I started a women’s business organization and my coaching business. I applied what I learned (from my mistakes) and took the time to make plans, set out strategies, define my pricing, proposals, and branding. Basically, I took myself seriously as a business and as a business owner.
Is it perfect? No. But, it is easier. And, it feels better. It gives me a sense of control and direction. Because I took the time to strategize key areas of my business, I have a ready answer to most common questions. I present myself as someone who has their shit together.
And, you know what? I feel like a serious business, and people react to me like a serious business, which makes me feel like a serious business, which makes people react to me…..oh, you get the idea.
Here’s to success!
- Continually offer services for free because you “just love what you do”?
- Field calls from clients during your “off hours”?
- Accept meetings, appointments, or calls on your days off, because you’re afraid to say no?
- Find that clients repeatedly ask you for discounts on your service or product?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, call me and let’s work together to rebuild the foundation of a serious business that will allow you to earn the money and respect you deserve. Because, Sister, you are meant to succeed!