I thought I’d share some thoughts about entrepreneurship and running a business on this World Entrepreneur day. I’ve been running my own business for 12 years now. At times, it’s been nerve-wracking, as I’ve been worried about getting work. However, running my own business has also been incredibly fulfilling as well. Here are some lessons I’ve learned as a female consultant, and I hope it helps everyone.
I deliver consulting services to organisations all over the world. And that allows me to have a fantastic impact and reach places where I can make a significant difference. Please leave comments, as I’d love to hear your opinion. The video is here, followed by the text with commentary.
Remember your Why - your ultimate goal
For me, running a business needs a defined goal. My goal is having a great impact and giving a service that’s unique. I like to think that I leave my projects with my customers as friends. I also look at whether I am leaving the organisation in a better shape than they were when I first met them. Obviously, I don’t want to be the sort of consultant that comes along and leaves the company in a worse shape than they were in! It becomes pretty obvious quite quickly if someone’s departure has a beneficial impact on the company.
Running a business means that you need to discern your Why. If you are not sure of your ‘Why’ then check out Simon Sinek’s book here.
Start with an Exit Strategy
Running a business means starting with the end in mind and knowing what success looks like. In my experience, it’s been really good to have an exit strategy. Rarely, I find I’m working in a situation that’s toxic; it can be the situation, people, or a noxious mixture of both. It’s part of the job of an external consultant because you are there to give a message from the leadership that other people may not want to hear. People do not like change, and, as an external consultant, you are there to help make the changes. So that does not always make you popular! Keeping the end goal in mind, along with the larger vision, means that it is easier to cope personally when you experience the negative consequences of bringing about change to people who do not want it.
You are there to absorb the impact, and to make the change; after all, the leadership will still be there when you are gone, and they have to work beside the people that they are trying to change. You are ultimately expendable so you need an exit strategy.
Running a business means understanding your customers' Why
Running a business means that your customers are thinking about what you deliver, and not just effort. Outcomes matter. I believe, as a woman, that only the best customers really come and talk to me because they are willing to work with a woman. I hate to say it, but some people just won’t want to work with you and they certainly will never recommend that you are promoted.
Since they don’t like the idea of me, or perhaps admitting that a woman knows things that they don’t, business leaders can sometimes the partial themselves out of potentially using my services. It is a shame because I can make a difference for them too. As an external consultant, I come across people from different backgrounds and perspectives. Very occasionally, I come across a man who is verging towards ‘male supremacy’ thinking. Obviously, someone like that isn’t going to want to work with me although fortunately this type of person is rare.
Running a business needs a good network
Running a business means you need a good network. So, if you are thinking of starting your own business, I suggest you get a good network. Just as important, it is crucial that you are very honest about who you are and what you do.
Businesses can sometimes be a ‘lifestyle’ business where everything is geared towards building something else for the business owner, such as building a profile. The ompany can be set up in such a way to allow the business owner to perhaps travel the world and do conferences and so on. If you build a profile through hard work, results and success, the conference invites will follow because people will notice your integrity and results.
Build a Portfolio of business references
Business leaders are effectively running two businesses; your current business and the future business you can’t see yet. Your current customers and colleagues could be the people who recommend you and also make future references for you. So, every job you do has to be your absolute best.
Any advice for me on running a business? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve given you some honesty about what it’s like as a as a woman running my own business.
Personally, I want to be successful, and even more successful for everyone in my life and everyone around me. Businesses do not happen in isolation. I’d love to hear your experiences. What else would you add to the list? Please comment below.
As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in working with me, or would like a chat to go through how I might help you. And you can also sign up for my monthly newsletter here by providing your details and checking the box.