Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneur’

After Passion Comes the Work: Five Tools to Succeed As an Entrepreneur

July 13, 2012

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.

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The Job Coaches: Insightful companies need intrapreneurs

May 4, 2012

Dorothy Perrin MooreToday’s most successful careers are molded and developed by people who have a

personal vision of how all the parts might fit together and develop a path. They may become an entrepreneur by establishing a new firm. They may remain inside an organization and by creating something new become an intrapreneur.

Jennet Robinson Alterman, executive director of the Center for Women, is an example of a public sector, nonprofit intrapreneur who shepherded a service concept for women, inspired and developed the projects and initiatives, sponsored creative ideas and reached out to a current membership of more than 1,000 women in the tri-county area and across the state. Someone similar in a different kind of organization would be a “social entrepreneur.”

Insightful companies evolve from entrepreneurial ideas, and after a while policies and procedures may become restrictive. At this point, they need intrapreneurs on board to cultivate and develop new concepts. This requires firms to provide intrapreneurs with the trust and freedom they need to reinvent, transform, and push them up to new heights. These paths also challenge the status quo and seldom fit neatly into the embedded organizational culture. It is easy for a company to continue to follow the once-innovative business models conceived by their entrepreneurs, but which are now outdated.

The paradox in the business model: Firms need intrapreneurs. But creative implementers, the mavericks with intrapreneurial streaks, exhibit traits that may not be compatible with the status quo and viewed as creating turbulence. In static firms, would-be intrapreneurs end up not asking for permission to implement their initiatives because experience has taught them that any creative ideas will be zapped before they can get off the drawing board.

One intrapreneur/entrepreneur who transitioned many times is Marjorie Alfus. In “Careerpreneurs, Lessons From Leading Women Entrepreneurs,” I noted that she not only solves complicated problems in a creative way but also breaks out of career walls, a person who “knows an opportunity when they see it, one who is not bound by tradition, procedures or job descriptions,” someone who “works when and where there’s a need, rather than according to schedules and deadlines,” one who “cares less about why things happen but is interested in making things happen,” one who is “easily bored and infinitely curious, marches to the tune of a different drummer, thrives on chaos, and at times creates a little discord here and there to keep entertained.”

A few tidbits from her voluminous Maverick approach: Determined to have both a family and a career, she earned a Master of Science degree in biochemistry at 18, completed a stint as a fellow in pediatrics at NYU’s Bellevue Hospital. Then she wrote popular science shows for television, hosted and produced women’s daytime fashion and beauty shows for television, and joined her husband in running his leather sportswear design and manufacturing business in Italy.

She next created a high-fashion knitwear operation in the mountains north of Venice. This first of her many Italian factories consisted of two machines in a loft. There she learned three important rules of business: “How to drink Grappa and speak Italian; How to stay warm (it’s always colder when you are struggling); and the knit business, the hard way.”

In Marjorie’s own words, “I am sure I ran into roadblocks along the way but I kicked them down.” When I met her, she had just created “Golfers Gizmo” on the Internet and through the Marjorie Alfus/Committee of 200 Fund at Harvard Business School, had been instrumental in creating the first business cases featuring women. Most recently, at age 82, she developed and launched a nine-month online certification program in patient advocacy at the University of Miami.

Is there a strategy to identify intrapreneurial or entrepreneurial moments in your career?

Are you an intrapreneur? In your organization, do you create and initiate something new that adds value or capacity?

Are you a corporate climber? Are you most comfortable when people follow the manual, the SOPs? Do you feel you are on a fast-career track when you follow all the organizational prescribed guidelines and please your boss? Are you particularly skilled at “managing up?”

Are you entrepreneurial intentionally? Do you have an idea, product or service and have always wanted to own a business?

Are you a latent entrepreneur? Have you been seriously thinking, planning and mapping out a business ownership strategy?

Have you been working toward entrepreneurship all along? Are you self-reliant, independent, motivated, innovative — driven to accomplish goals, but delayed by life or economic circumstances?

Are you a Copreneur? Do you and your spouse operate a business together with equal ownership and opportunities?

A family firm owner? Will you inherit or take over a business, develop new concepts and ideas, advance strategies created by your family with new innovative initiatives and technology?

Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D., is professor emerita of business and entrepreneurship at The Citadel.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, April 23, 2010.

The Job Coaches: Women are changing business landscape

January 6, 2012

“I am five feet tall and female and people do not take me seriously right off the bat. You need to be bigger and more masculine to intimidate people; they pay attention to you. It’s like an elephant. An elephant gets more attention than a mouse. But if the mouse is the president of the company and it needs to be run effectively, then the mouse needs to learn how to manage the elephant. And that is what we do. We manage at least one elephant every single day.”

Linda Horn, L.R. Horn Concepts Inc., Women’s Business Advocate of the Year, 2009

Recent research suggests that women behave more democratically than men in leadership situations, use interactive skills more frequently, place greater emphasis on maintaining effective working relationships, value cooperation and being responsible to others and work to achieve outcomes that address the concerns of all parties involved. One researcher defines this female leadership style as an “ethic of care,” meaning that women manage with regard to the respect they wish for themselves. As a former Entrepreneur of the Year expressed it, “I want everybody to be treated like I want to be treated.”photo

These are also the skills of a transformational leader, one who articulates a vision to be shared by peers and subordinates, encourages and models effective behavior, respects individual differences, and empowers followers to become leaders. This approach is akin to “innovative realism,” the skill to be flexible, creative, action-oriented and inspirational and to integrate relationships.

The leadership and management approaches of women are being widely recognized today as extremely effective in dealing with the problems of economic downturn. In the top leadership seminars, both in the U.S. and worldwide, the focus is on a leadership style that incorporates effective communication, relationship building, quality values and commitment as the critical tools to successfully turn things around.

Where did all this come from? Slowly and methodically, the educational landscape of colleges and universities has been changing. Women now constitute 58 percent of the enrollment in two- and four-year colleges, are the majority of the total graduate and professional school population, and, in the field of business, earn more than two-thirds of the associate degrees, more than half the bachelor’s degrees, and over 40 percent of master’s degrees. Women entering the business world in recent years have been increasingly well-prepared.

Women are also changing the small-business landscape. Overall, the number of women-owned firms continues to increase at twice the rate of male-owned businesses. Women who own 50 percent or more of their firms now account for 40 percent of all privately held firms. One in five firms with revenues of $1 million or more are woman-owned. Many of these women entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the fact that more than 2,100 institutions of higher education offer at least one course in entrepreneurship. While programs geared to the specific needs of women entrepreneurs are still almost nonexistent, many women students understand that enrolling in an entrepreneurship course can lead to an understanding of the nuts and bolts of operating a business successfully. This is important because there is ample evidence that a good number of potentially creative entrepreneurs fail in their ventures because they cannot manage budgets, people and materials effectively.

Someone must do these tasks. But the requirement to be a good manager makes it easy for the entrepreneurial leader-turned-manager to get bogged down in day-to-day operational details. Faced with the choice of being the artistic leader or the business manager, Suzy Spafford, the creator of Suzy’s Zoo, elected “drawing and laughing and creating those characters … to make people happy, to share the joy you experience if you don’t forget what it is like to be a child.” Behind this premise is her labor of love for each of the 200-plus Suzy’s Zoo and Little Suzy’s Zoo characters she has brought to life. More than vibrant greeting and notecard illustrations, each character has a personality, history, and story. “I can create something that’s unique,” Spafford says, “therefore, I want to hire people who have the ability to expand my concept, to add to value, but not to redo the designs. It’s not as easy as I thought. I want to say to my artists, be graphic, have good composition, good words, but let me own the character. I am the little personality.”

Owning a business is a big job. As an enlightened woman leader and entrepreneur, the business owner is the vision-setter, information resource, motivator and analyzer.

As the firm manager, she is the ambassador, taskmaster, auditor and servant.

As the owner, the buck stops with her. But business owners cannot do everything themselves. By definition, the creator of the business must spend considerable time doing something other than working on the product or service. The most critical decision is where to invest one’s limited time.

Is there one key to dealing effectively with all the demands faced by a productive and smart leader? Dr. Suzanne Peterson, a professor at Arizona State University and managing director of CRA Inc., suggests keeping things on track may involve communicating in ways that focus attention, build credibility and motivate people. “Everything you do,” she says, “sends a message — not only about your work, but about who you are and how you relate to others.”

Studies of women executives and female entrepreneurs tend to show that they define effective power as deriving from mastery rather than control. Instead of focusing on the traditional perks and privileges that separate leaders from others in organizations, they constantly work to construct ties to individuals.

It’s not just a female leadership style, it’s good business.

Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D., is professor emerita of business and entrepreneurship at The Citadel. Sources for the quotations in this article may be found online and in Moore, D.P., 2000. “Careerpreneurs: Lessons From Leading Women Entrepreneurs on Building a Career Without Boundaries,” Davies-Black Publishing and in Moore’s published works through 2009.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, December 11, 2009.

The Job Coaches: The need for networking

November 11, 2011

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Like organizational careers, the growth stages in entrepreneurial women-owned firms take many twists and turns. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, many firms are growing larger, but are still predominantly owner-manager operations.photo

At startup, owner management can be a very good thing. Founder-led companies, though smaller, are more profitable than firms led by nonentrepreneurial managers because owners have a large span of control and can move swiftly. Motivated to sustain and grow the firm, founders are invested emotionally, financially and intellectually.

But as growth continues, the operational demands of the business may remove the founder from the creative aspects that enabled success in the first place. Founders at this point find their time increasingly taken with administrative and “firefighting” duties.

At first, founders may not recognize the toll on their creativity and drive. They also may not be using strategic planning techniques and thus react slowly to environmental changes. Owner/CEOs often develop a perspective unique to their business and become prone to generalizing from a few observations based on past experiences, which may no longer match market demands or a changing environment.

When is it wise for the founder/owner/CEO to continue controlling everything or concentrate on the creative side and turn operations over to a professional manager?

The importance of making just this kind of decision was addressed in the Small Business Administration E200 pilot program, initiated in 2009 among 200 inner-city small-business owners and executives from 10 cities. The selected participants had established businesses which had grossed at least $400,000 annually over the previous three years. The 100-hour applied curriculum (more like a mini-MBA) was designed to help owners employ multidisciplinary tools to analyze their businesses and develop concrete, multi-tiered five-year growth strategies focused around modules (core strategic planning, financial literacy, marketing, resource management, etc.).

The SBA program recognizes that entrepreneurs may need assistance to successfully lead their organizations through the stages of expansion and maturity. Two women participating in the E200 program illustrate how thresholds can be overcome.

After completing the financial segment of the E200 training program, Kelly Sargent, owner of Brainstorm Marketing Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa, found that she was no longer afraid of the numbers — a stigma previously holding back her success strategies. Sonya Jones, owner of the Sweet Auburn Bread Co., a small downtown bakery she opened in 1997 in Atlanta, felt enabled to “break free of a business-as-usual mindset” to a strategy for growing her business without increasing the square footage.

There are other approaches. According to one study, a decision to employ professional management requires founder action on four fronts: relinquishing control while able to counsel, withdrawal from active management, public commitment to a plan of succession and articulation of a new mission statement.

For a founder, all this involves a change in the delegation of tasks and the withdrawal from many day-to-day activities. Founder-owners dealing with the threshold decision need to answer some key questions.

1. Can I or do I need to make the transition to professional management?

2. What are my goals now?

3. Will some other strategy give me better results?

4. Where can I get good recommendations?

5. Whom do I really trust to talk straight?

Sound advice is important to achieving long-range goals.

Where to get it? Just as networks are critical in the initial foundation of the business, a good support net can be key to arriving at a wise threshold decision. A founder who has actively engaged in building network credits is strategically positioned to know who to trust for vital feedback and cash in on the advice.

Networking can’t be an afterthought, something to be done after more important business matters are tended to. As a Chicago entrepreneur pointed out, “Without the personality, networking, connections and the ability to put the pieces all together, one can’t do well.”

Launching and operating a business requires constant networking. Female entrepreneurs with mature firms attribute sales growth to network activities that enabled them to gain strategic advantages over larger, more established competitors. As Suzan Kotler, a Cincinnati entrepreneur, explains, “You have to put out more than what you expect to get back and it will usually come back to you more than one hundred fold. If you don’t do it that way you usually end up with zip.”

The bottom line is that only an unwise entrepreneur will say, “I can do it all by myself.” The notion of the lone wolf — that a single individual can make it unaided in a rapidly evolving technological environment and an increasingly international economy — is not just a romantic relic, it is a dangerous idea.

Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D., is professor emerita of business and entrepreneurship at The Citadel.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, June 18, 2010.

C4W Member Profile: Lee Heyward

March 11, 2011

What is your profession? I help women figure out why they walk into their closets and feel like they have nothing to wear. My job is to help women discover a style they love—keeping it simple and effortless to create. I am a style coach and founder of  Charleston Style Concierge.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? I have been riding horses since I was five years old and I still ride. There is no better therapy for me than being on the back of a horse on a beautiful Charleston day. There is also a good chance you will find me shopping on a day off (big surprise!). One of my favorite stores is TJMaxx. I have been shopping there since I was a teenager and love hunting through the racks for something amazing. As of recent my free time has drastically changed with the arrival of our daughter. My husband and I are enjoying spending time with her and discovering the ways of the world as parents.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? Two years.

What inspired you to become a member? I attended a Center for Women networking event and was hooked. I was really impressed by the camaraderie of the group and the passion of the Center for Women staff.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? The Center for Women has helped me build amazing relationships with other women in the community. It’s great to have other women who are taking business by storm to confide and strategize with.  I really appreciate the diverse programs that the Center for Women offers and always feel confident they will be fun and provide great value.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? As an entrepreneur, a mom, a wife, and a woman there is always a struggle to keep everything  running smoothly. There is definitely a learning curve to it all. I think this is a challenge that many women face and unfortunately the first ball that gets dropped is the one that has to do with ourselves. This is why I love having a career that helps women take a little time to spend on themselves. It’s amazing how feeling confident and happy with yourself can make everything around you easier and everyone else happier. One of the tricks to this is not accepting an okay standard. You wouldn’t pay to eat at a restaurant you think is just okay, you wouldn’t send your kids to an okay school if you can afford the best, so don’t accept just okay for yourself either.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Never leave the house in clothing that doesn’t make you feel confident, even if you’re only going to the grocery store. If you feel happy and confident about the way you look, you will ultimately forget about what you are wearing and have the confidence to accomplish anything. In an economy where people are more careful about where they spend their money you have to give people confidence to spend it with you. The most exciting part is that you have complete control over the message you send about yourself. Your clothing can tell people that you are the right woman for the job—and you might not have to say anything at all.

C4W Member Profile: Nan Brown

January 26, 2011

What is your profession? Owner of L’ATHENE Pure-Nutrient Skin Treatments; also a Registered Nurse

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? I enjoy art, music, theatre, nature walks and reading.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? Since 2006

What inspired you to become a member? With L’ATHENE, my business partner Lil Bogdan and I are dedicated to helping women feel empowered to succeed and feel good about themselves. That is also what the Center for Women is all about, so it was a natural fit to be part of the group.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? It has been so inspiring to be with an organization of people who share the same dedication in their business and their clients as we do. It is synchronistic.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? I feel that women have more challenges in business than men.  Since I have had a business for over 14 years, I feel I have ran into just about every challenge you can have and therefore it has helped me be resourceful in my decisions and the way I live my life.  I now expect that if I want to do something, I will indeed be able to get it done.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Keep going.  Believe in yourself and never take no for an answer if it is something you are truly passionate about.  There is always a way—it is never about the destination but always about the journey.  Live for the journey!

C4W Member Profile: Sonya Nordquist Altenbach

November 10, 2010

What is your profession? Owner/CEO of C3 Technology, Inc

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? Busy taking care of 3 children, ages 6, 4 and 3 mos.  Also sell Arbonne International – Health & Wellness products

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? 8 yrs

What inspired you to become a member? Originally the Brown Bag lunch topics, then I became more involved in their overall mission and started spreading the word to other women, business owners, etc.  It was a great source of networking as well as meeting other women going through similar struggles.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? It has been a great professional and personal group of women to surround myself around.  The advice and knowledge that was shared by other women have been priceless.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? Well, living in the South as a Northern Transplant, originally had its own challenges, but the more I surround myself around other Entrepreneurial & Professional Women in the area, it definitely makes things easier!

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? The Survivors are the ones who will come out on top. Keep on fighting and don’t give up on your dreams or goals, ever!


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