Anyone who’s sought to be in business for themselves has probably heard this sage old advice: Find what you love to do and the rest (meaning cash) will follow. Of course when I was younger, all I thought I wanted to do was to make money, and the ride didn’t seem to matter if I could eventually get there in a Ferrari.
I can’t put my finger on the exact day or time or place, but I do remember at some point, very early on in the creation of our first business, I began to actually understand that sewn-on-a-pillow advice: We weren’t making a dime yet, but we were having so much fun!
When customers realized how much we loved what we were doing and how much fun we were having, they responded. And soon, while we were enjoying every bit of the ride – even though it was in a Jeep with no air-conditioning – we even started to make money.
But that was just the beginning, because what lies beyond the burning passion to birth a new business and raise it up right takes tools we don’t necessarily see sewn on pillows. Once you have the idea, the passion, the financing, the desk and the laptop, there are other tools you’ll need to bring to the table.
Here are five favorites you actually already have at your disposal. Reach for them often as you launch or grow your business:
1. A Sense of Humor: Work doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. Not everything about every business is fun, but if our approach to it is, even the difficult parts can be enjoyable. This usually amounts to taking the project seriously, but taking ourselves a little less seriously. And on days when it all seems to go wrong (we all have them) find a movie that will make you laugh out loud. Sometimes just the simplest realignment of our perspective can make the day go easier and perhaps even offer us a solution to a nagging problem.
2. Dialing into Your Community: No woman is an island, and we’re lucky to live in a community that supports and encourages new businesses.
The SC Women’s Business Center is a valuable resource for women launching businesses, and the Center for Women helps women succeed every day! Both offer loads of workshops at reasonable prices, but the greatest resource these organizations and their events offer is the opportunity to connect with others during these events. The women I’ve encountered there go far beyond networking; they are each powerful “plugins” with whom to brainstorm ideas and improve your business.
Other groups that make a difference and encourage community-based support include Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, and online communities. And by approaching each with an open mind as to what you can give of your own talents, you’ll find you come away with a whole lot more!
3. The Third Option: This one seems to elude us when we most need it, so sew it on a pillow if you must. It simply requires the ability to recognize that every dilemma we think is limited to “either this or that” always has a third option.
Example: A client knew she could bring in another $250 a week and save towards her home if she took on just one more day of work each week, but she believed doing so would not allow her time to keep the house and home office clean. She was trying to decide between two options: increased income and dusty chaos, forgetting that a third option definitely existed. Now, she enjoys the extra income, pays someone far less to come in to clean once a week, and as a bonus has helped fund another woman business owner.
4. Conviction Sometimes Means Confrontation: Unfortunately, if we have the passion and conviction to execute our business plans, sometimes confrontation is a necessary by-product.
But more unfortunate is the negative connotation with which this word has been saddled. After all, to confront something is to meet it head on, to face it. And a confrontation need not be hostile; it’s typically just a matter of how we approach a situation with opposing viewpoints.
The two most common statements we hear from women faced with confrontation begin with either, “What I wanted to say was…” or “I probably shouldn’t have said…”
Neither is effective, for obvious reasons. Shrinking in the face of confrontation can dent and damage our conviction. Likewise, getting over-emotional creates a loss of control over the situation.
Instead, take a deep breath, state your case calmly, logically, and without emotionally charged words, and persist until you get your way (without stomping your feet!).
5. Stay Open to New Ideas: This works well with the Third Option tool, but stands on its own merit, especially in today’s business climate where the “new normal” changes nearly every day. Sure, we all used to love browsing record stores and renting videos, but as these industries plainly demonstrate, those who’ve refused to stay open to new ideas have, sad to say, ceased to stay open!
This tool begins with the premise that every product and/or service can be improved upon. My favorite example involves Apple. They didn’t build the first PC, or the first mp3 player, but being open to new ideas and innovation sure let them do it better!
In the publishing business, everyone from magazines to books has had to embrace new tech that seemed at first to most publishers to just be looming competition. But by learning to package content digitally many were able to actually improve their products and increase their customer base. In fact books, despite a once shrinking market, are now the highest selling product online.
Who knows, the laptop (or business) we love today may be a dinosaur tomorrow, and we may hate that, but we’d also better be open to what we’re going to do to retool it or we’ll be left behind…
Shark Marketing Co. CEO and creator of Where Writers Win, Shari Stauch has been involved in publishing, marketing and PR for 33 years. She is the co-creator of Pool & Billiard Magazine, celebrating 30 years as the sport’s oldest monthly. She retired from the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour in 2004 after a 20-year career as a top player and marketer/co-creator of the tour (inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame in 2007), to serve a growing community of writers using their words to promote greater issues. As president of Charleston’s Center for Women, she moderates the Center’s Women Writers Forum. Shari serves on the executive board of LILA: Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts, and co-directs programming for Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans, where she continues to help emerging authors create and broaden their audiences.
First appeared in the Business Review section of The Post and Courier on Monday, June 25, 2012.