Lani and I attended the annual Women President’s Organization National Conference last week and the speakers were outstanding. (See list below). Their life stories and business success demonstrated the positive “can do” attitude of great entrepreneurs. They pursued opportunities and went beyond their wildest expectations.
That got Lani and I thinking about our topic for this year’s Annual Forum—Pursuing Opportunities. So many of you have seen an opportunity and gone for it. But, we know that isn’t always easy. Fear, self-doubt, and limited resources can get you down. As Dr. Applegate said, the data gathering is only one aspect of turning an opportunity into a gem. It’s those with a positive attitude that make it. Those who feel good about themselves and their abilities see possibilities. They are the ones who are open to building the relationships and willing to step into the uncertain. Those with negative attitudes about life give up before they start. They don’t trust themselves or others and fret about what could go wrong. While there are many theories about how our attitudes are formed, especially for women, I believe positive attitudes come from the energy we give and receive from others. It’s contagious and transformative.
The power of attitude hit home recently when I attended a funeral for a distant cousin named Bea. Surprisingly it was a nice tribute to a woman who really was a simple person but was extremely negative–always wringing her hands complaining. Her children, moved away from home early to avoid the negativity, however, in their eulogy they did her proud with tales that moved me.
Bea’s son told about how all of his mother’s life she was sad, depressed, and mostly miserable, while at the same time trying to be a devoted wife and mother. After her husband died she was lost. Her two sons sent her a ticket to visit them in California. While there she broke her hip and required surgery. She ended up in a senior citizen home, called Bright Acres, in California, where she resided for six years before her death. At first Bea fought staying in “Bright Acres”, but her son’s told her that her option was to return to “Dark Shadows” in St. Paul.
The amazing thing was that these were the happiest six years of her life. People reached out to her and suddenly she had many friends. They complimented her on her wardrobe of purple clothing. In fact, she became the most popular kid on the block, sitting at table #1, which was the table where the “in” crowd sat. Bea was elected to head the entertainment committee, played Mahjong or poker several times a week, and was even a model at a fashion show. She also had a boy friend, Sid, who adored her. Apparently he was a funny guy and had a joke for everyone. Bea was laughing for the first time. Her daughter said that these are the only photos they have of Bea smiling. Bea went with Sid to movies, traveled for the first time, going on bus trips to surrounding areas, even Disneyland. Her son said “thankfully” she didn’t call him for weeks at a time because she was “too busy”. He also said that Sid was blind and couldn’t hear, which is probably why he liked her. A few months ago, Sid’s family decided to move him back to Georgia and he left Bright Acres. Beatrice’s heart was broken and she died six weeks later at 92.
I love this story. It’s lesson is so simple.
I think each of you can transform the lives of your peers in our BWC circles. We can provide the positive energy that keeps each other going. We can provide the laughs at our mistakes and the encouragement when someone is down or is listening to that little negative voice on their shoulder. Our circles have shown that positive energy is contagious. Let’s start an epidemic.
Speakers from WPO 2014 Conference
All have books, and several have TED or YouTube talks.
Ping Fu, Vice President & Chief Entrepreneur Officer, 3D Systems
Pioneer software programmer and innovator Ping Fu chronicled her path from a child in Maoist China to becoming the head of Geomagic, a company that has reshaped the world from personalizing prosthetic limbs to repairing NASA spaceships through 3D printing.
Pavithra Mehta, Award-Winning Filmmaker & Author, Board of Directors, Aravind Eye Foundation
Pavithra K. Mehta shared how the Aravind Eye Hospital defied conventional business logic with an innovative business model as a self-sustaining non-profit, from its beginning as a tiny clinic founded in India to becoming the largest provider of eye care on the planet.
Simon Sinek, Leadership Expert & Author
Renowned business expert Simon Sinek talked about how leaders willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their leader’s vision and their interests.
Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO & Founder, FEEDFEED Founder and CEO
Lauren Bush Lauren explained the undeniable power of conscious consumerism and how brands must change their ways of doing business to satisfy consumer demand.
Mark you calendars for the July 14 BWC Annual Forum
Theme: Pursuing Opportunities.
Location: The Marsh
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fee: $30 members $40 guests Limit 50. Members get first registration.
Registration information and more details will be out soon. MARK YOUR CALENDARS.
Being an entrepreneur is–The relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled. (Harvard definition of entrepreneur, Dr. Lynda Applegate)
Company: Station 19 Architects, Inc.
Years in Business: 35 year old business
What is your core focus? Strategic Planning, Architecture and Interiors Firm that specializes in serving “Growing Quality Ministries”. Our resume includes over 600+ ministries located nationwide.
What is a Milestone in your business that you are proud of? We have been profitable in the last three years during a difficult economy for most Architectural firms. AND we are working on some very exciting projects collaboratively and with joy.
Where are you taking your business? We are looking to grow the business back to pre-recession size.
What is your 5-year target? 5 Year target is increase our total billings by 2 times.
What are you doing to reach your goal? Provide quality service to our clients with their long term satisfaction in mind – referrals. We are “refreshing” our marketing strategies and identity. Increase our exposure through strategic networking groups, web, email and social media.
What’s an obstacle are you trying to get over? Enough time in a day!
How do you define success? At the end of a day doing “great work” – Is my family life healthy?
What advice do you have for our readers? Love what you do each day while prioritizing family, they are the ones you get to come home to everyday.
Why are you a member of BWC? I joined BWC for the peer support. I know that I can go to a meeting and these women “GET IT.” They are facing the same issues I am face on a day to day basis. The added bonus has been the Traction Business, Personal and Family Planning that has come with it. Priceless. It has been just essential for me in business planning for the company last year and for 2014. It has helped our company stay focused on our core values and goals. Wonderful tools and support to guide a profitable business.
Remember the old adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” In the scheme of things that seems to makes good sense to business owners who are encumbered by “big stuff” all the time. Bills, employees, customers, family issues consume most of our time and energy. Here’s a switch, take a new look at the “small stuff”–actions that can make a huge difference in three critical areas of Finance, Operations, and Relationships. And that’s just the beginning. I’m not talking about time wasters or procrastinators. We all know about these and practice them often. It’s the small pivotal behaviors that, if intentionally practiced, can change your company for the better. The best part is that they generally take under 15 minutes to accomplish. When done repeatedly, these behaviors become imbedded in your operations and your culture. It’s becomes the way you do things.
Consider this question: “What quick action or small behavior change could positively impact your company right now? Then do it!
This is a teaser to get you thinking. If you have additions, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that each item begins with an action…a behavior that if done regularly becomes a habit.
Benefits: You and your accountant will be very happy at tax time. You will avoid risks of errors or overpayment.
Benefits: You will save time and resources.
Benefits: You will build loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Women owned businesses represent nearly 50% of privately held companies in the U.S., however, three quarters of these businesses are not able to grow their businesses past $50,000 in annual gross revenue. (Forbes, May 2012)
Why do some businesses grow, while others languish or fade away? I don’t know the answer for every situation, but in my work with women business owners I have observed some patterns that are instructive. It’s these patterns that The Business Women’s Circle members try to break while coaching their peers through their blind spots.
We know that sustaining a business is hardest in the early phases. This is when owners are working 100% “in” the business, leaving little time for thinking about growth. It’s survival. There is ample research demonstrating that growth begins when a business owner hires that first person, thus relieving the owner to do what they do best. For me it was hiring someone to do my bookkeeping. Ahh what a relief!
Growth requires steady and steadfast attention to today and tomorrow. That means, time spent planning, producing, innovating, and building. It also means getting out of your place of business, turning away from the computer, and meeting other entrepreneurs from diverse businesses who will broaden your perspective, allowing you to visualize opportunities.
Women tend to start their business from an idea or passion. The “business” of running a business isn’t what’s fun and exciting to them. Their time and energy spent on “tasks” we call Urgent/Not Important…but easy or fun to do. Having a simple business plan establishes a disciplined approach, so time can be spent on the Important/Not Urgent growth activities.
As sales increase, so does the workload. Overwhelmed owners try to solve their problems with short-term solutions. They ask family or friends to “help out”, rather than find a contractor or employee with the skills needed to do the job. A bigger mistake happens when lonely owners give away a stake in their business to bring in a partner. This short sightedness leads to unanticipated problems that keep the business from moving to the next growth phase.
Sadly, many business owners stumble as they try to describe their business, let alone their Brand Promise. These are lost opportunities. Having a Brand Promise that clearly articulates what a business is and what it is not, is what drives people to you, and not your competition.
Getting the pricing right and then asking for it is a major stumbling block for women. Once the price is established based on a real cost analysis, including profit, then it must be asked for with confidence – no apologies. Too often women wiggle on price. They are quick to discount, negotiate, and give things away, then wonder why they don’t generate revenue.
Surprisingly fear of failure shows up in research on women owned businesses. I prefer to say “fear of success” caused by lack of confidence. Some owners are working so hard in their business they can’t visualize success. They don’t see themselves as a CEO, so they don’t act like one. I say, brag about your business. Let others know how proud you are. Your business is an opportunity to be amazing!
BeWISE Organics, LLC (formerly Greenbody Greenplanet Company)
Her Company Focus:
My company was created with a single focus in mind: The health and well-being of our hair, scalp, body and the planet—while never sacrificing personal style and beauty. I wanted to create high-performance haircare products for salons, stylists and consumers without the use of toxins and chemicals which are found so often in salon professional brands. Many think natural or organic haircare cannot perform as well as the big salon professional brands and I am out to prove that is simply not the case.
Where are you taking your business? What is your 5-Year Target?
I want AHNESTI to be a household name and to be on the shelves of salons, spas and natural stores throughout the country. The company will monitor it’s growth closely and continue to grow organically for the first 1-2 years. Expansion is on the horizon but only after a strong, solid foundation has been achieved.
What are you doing to reach your goal?
Along with eCommerce, the AHNESTI website will provide education and resources for consumers and stylists wanting to live healthier, more toxin-free lives. We believe knowledge isn’t powerful unless it is applied and so we plan to create community outreach programs within the next 2 years. We will also be a self-distributed company. The first sales rep will be hired this spring to focus on B2B sales, i.e. salons, spas, and natural stores and more will be hired as growth continues. Monthly company assessments will insure we are always keeping the horse before the cart.
How do you define success?
Being an entrepreneur is at the core of who I am and I feel my business success is only mirrored by my personal success. If at the end of each day I have given love and respect to others, appreciated others instead of judging them for being different, spoken kindly about others and myself, chosen to see the beauty that surrounds me, woke up with excitement for the day and went to bed in anticipation for tomorrow —then everyday I have been successful.
What advice do you have for our readers?
Carve out your own path and follow it. If you are not living your own dream, you are just a part of someone else’s and may end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Ive had a quote hanging in my office for 15 years that I read out loud everyday: “Choose Your Destiny or Someone Else Will.”
Why are you a member of The BWC? How does it help you?
I felt the knowledge and expert advice I could receive and share with the other BWC members would help me bring my business to the next level. I love that there is structure and accountability to the meetings, without any judgement. I’ve learned how to set achievable goals and track and gauge my progress in a way that is easy and successful. As my company is growing, the tools and resources I am receiving from being a BWC member is invaluable!
These are the words that the successful women business owners I work with repeat as their themes each month. Five words that have become their guideposts to growing strong and sustainable businesses.
Notice that the word action is missing. There is lots of action going on. The question is where is it getting you? What are you “so busy” doing? The trick is to spend more time working “ON” your business, so your time working “IN” is directed toward the outcomes you desire. That’s where the five words I opened with come into play. (See more below).
Our curriculum centers around Strategy, Focus, Momentum, Discipline, Celebration. If these guideposts challenge you, you are not alone. That’s why The BWC exists. To offer you a circle of like-minded smart women who will keep you focused and hold you accountable. You will not be alone.
STRATEGY. Design a roadmap for the next 12 months using three to five goals that reflect your company’s core values and the guarantee you make to your customers. The goals need to be realistic, written, reviewed, verbalized often, a stretch, yet achievable and measurable in small steps and big results.
FOCUS. Keep your eye on your strategy. Use it as your compass and the litmus test for decisions and actions. The demise of many women owned businesses is the plethora of shiny ideas that distract them from their strategy.
MOMENTUM. It’s hard to stop a woman business owner driven to “make it work.” Don’t look back. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Keep driving forward. Your plan will get you there.
DISCIPLINE. Like a marathon runner training for a race, it’s the planned, repetitive, measured, activities that build your strength and endurance. The more you become disciplined, the better your end results.
CELEBRATE. Who tells you they are “proud” of you these days? (My mother never understood what I did, so I never got it from her.) How great would it feel to hear “You rock!” from a woman who gets what a big deal your accomplishments really are?
John Jantsch recently posted an article titled “5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train” on his website – Duct Tape Marketing. His article continues the trend we discussed about “Big Data” at our February Open Circle. And, as John does – he offers great ways on how Small Business can take advantage of it now!
5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train
By John Jantsch
The idea of something that’s being called “Big Data” has definitely reached the trend tipping point. Tech firms like are all about it. PR firms are forming teams to promote it and consulting firms have their business technology teams all over it.
Well, maybe in a very roundabout way! Our own Sasha Westin of Fabuliss and member of Circle 3 was featured in a Fox9 News story that looked at the popularity of Pinterest – what it is, who is using it, how it is being used, etc.
Click below to watch the story!
This phrase has been around for a while. I’ve heard it used in context with new technology or IT firms selling software to “non-techies”.
There is no doubt we are a high tech world. As mentioned earlier – screens will become a way of life. Customers will find the info the need to justify their purchase or how they feel about it or the company.
Because of technology though – we are in danger of creating “non personal” interactions, “virtual” everything, paperless, text versus calling… While all good and desired – there is also a desire for experiences, for the tactile, for the physical, for the “real deal” – be that a person, an object or live experience.
A term called the “Retail Safari” has been identified. It speaks to the idea that customers expect to feel or experience something they can’t get online when they are in a physical space. This might be a compelling spectacle, exclusive products, ability to test and feel things or learn how to use the product.
Here are some things that are happening in this area:
So consider how to deliver that “High Touch” experience no matter your business model. How do you ensure that interactions with you, your company, your web presence has a “personal touch”?
Novel brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces offer smart and convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’, alleviate financial strains, or quell environmental concerns.
These ideas are also affecting consumers’ initial purchase decisions. Consumers are factoring an item’s resale value into the cost of ownership for an ever-wider range of purchases.
Here are a few things that are driving this “recommerce” mind set:
So what does this mean for you?
Keep in mind, with today’s consumer – value is still top of mind even as we start to come out of the economic times we have been in.