At one time or another, we have all questioned whether we have what it takes to make it in business. There are countless checklists and personality assessments available online to supposedly help you determine your natual business aptitude. They can be fun, thought-provoking, and interesting, but it would be best to ignore the results. Most of these tests ask questions like “are you an optimist?” or, “are you a good leader?” They pose the cliché and superficial questions “are you creative?” and “do you work well with people?”
No one is an optimist all of the time and being overly optimistic at the wrong time can actually lead to making poor business decisions. A successful businesswoman often needs to be a team player—or serve as an inspiration—and not insist on always being in the lead. Having an open mind is far more important than being a “creative” person and rather than claiming to be a people person, it is much more useful to have a good understanding of the people you will be working with.
All people cannot be lumped into one category, so being a “people person” is not a requirement in business. More important is the ability to put your personal feelings aside to make logical, fact-based business decisions—not emotional decisions to please other people.
Three Qualities to Develop
There are three very simple qualities entrepreneurs should have—or be willing to develop—that are meaningful assets for starting and running a business successfully. Notice the key word here is “develop,” not “already have”—the desire, willingness, and ability to learn new skills and habits can contribute to any businesswoman’s success.
One of these qualities is an attitude you can adopt, one is a skill that can be easily learned, and the third is a personality trait few of us come by naturally but which can be mastered with a little practice.
- Best Business Attitude: A refusal to quit when things get tough.
- Most Valuable Skill: Networking. Networking. Networking.
- Strongest Personality Trait: Having thick skin (being objective).
An optimist might look at the bright side of things and serve as an inspiration to keep pressing forward, but a pessimist may assess things more realistically and make less risky decisions. Either way, it is not necessarily how you see a situation, but how you respond to a situation that will either hinder or facilitate your success in business. A true entrepreneurial attitude requires refusing to quit when things get tough.
Even the most successful entrepreneurs have to do things that they are not happy about in the short-term but are glad they did in the long-run. In fact, some people who see an accomplishment as less than ideal may work harder to achieve even better results. Refusing to give up on something should not be confused with just being stubborn—the key difference between being stubborn and being tenacious is that stubbornness stands in denial of a problem refusing to accept a need for change, while a “can do” attitude works through problems by considering a variety of solutions.
Few things will help you establish and grow your business faster than a creating a strong network. No one person knows it all or can do it all, so if you isolate yourself and your thoughts, you isolate your business as well. Having access to a variety of resources can increase your efficiency and knowledge, your business’ publicity, and your chances of succeeding.
If you do not have much face-to-face contact with others in your field, you can still work on building a business network in other ways. Start by joining professional groups online, developing press releases, brochures, and other written communications.
Another great way to build networks is to simply participate in forums, e-mail discussion lists, and chat rooms that somehow relate to your business or the type of customer you want to attract. Use personal and other social opportunities
to network yourself and your business and always have a business card
handy when an opportunity to make business connections presents itself.
If you take everything personally you will have a much harder time accepting ideas and change, and you will never get the most out of your business or your employees. Having a thick skin is crucial to success, as you will need to be willing to listen to new ideas and actively solicit the opinions of others. Always treasure new ideas and opposing opinions, don’t rebuke them.
The ability to accept constructive criticism will help your business stay on the cutting edge and avoid potential problems you might not be able to see on your own. By showing that you value the opinions and advice of others, you will appear more approachable to your peers, employees, and customers.
Even if you do not actually follow others’ suggestions, the more you ask what they think, the more valued they will feel and the more loyalty they will have to you and your business. In other words, simply by soliciting input from other people you create a positive mini-public relations
network. People will talk about you and how your business is run so you should help them find positive things to talk about.
- Networking Beginnings: Ask others about their challenges, successes, and if they have any advice about your own business ideas. This is the first step to begin building your network.
- Do Not Give Up: When they say you are crazy, listen to their concerns, but don’t just give up on your idea. Instead, reassess its value from other points of view.
To evaluate if you have what it takes to make it in business you do not need to answer questions in self-assessment quizzes; instead, you should be asking your own questions. Talk to other business women, peers, colleagues, family, and friends—anyone you might be able to learn from. Just be sure to listen to the answers with more than just your ears and remember, it helps to have a thick skin.
CONTRIBUTING WRITER, LEIGH ELMORE. LEIGH SERVES AS THE EDITOR -AT-LARGE FOR ABWA’S WOMEN IN BUSINESS MAGAZINE AND ACHIEVE NEWSLETTERS.
Pioneering Astronomer Nancy G. Roman was “Mother of the Hubble Space Telescope. Nancy Roman knew from a very early age that she wanted to be an astronomer. Her greatest challenge was convincing the world that she could be a very good one. Overcoming traditional gender roles in the scientific community was almost as daunting a challenge as paving the way for the Hubble Space Telescope, an achievement for which she is most remembered. Roman, known as the “Mother of Hubble,” passed away on Christmas Day 2018 at the age of 93. She was NASA’s first chief of astronomy and one of the first women executives for the agency. Her achievements will live on
Her family moved around the country frequently when she was growing up. Roman cited both of her parents’ interest in the natural world—and her time beneath the clear night skies of Reno, Nevada—as an inspiration for her early interest in astronomy. Fueled by a fascination for the stars, she began her own astronomy club with a group of neighborhood girls when she was 11 years old. Though she knew she wanted to be an astronomer by the time she entered high school, her guidance counselor, who belittled her desire to take mathematics instead of Latin, discouraged her.
A promising student at Swarthmore College, Roman still had to ignore warnings from the Dean of Women and other teachers about studying science, ultimately earning her B.A. in Astronomy in 1946. She later recalled that the only encouragement she was given during her undergraduate years was by a teacher who told her, “I usually try to dissuade girls from majoring in physics but I think maybe you might make it,” National Geographic has reported
Roman went on to receive her Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of Chicago in 1949, where she worked for six more years at the Yerkes Observatory as an instructor and assistant professor.
Seeing little chance for tenure as a woman, Roman took a position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where she eventually won the trust of her peers and began to work in radio astronomy, geodetics, and microwave spectroscopy.
She attended a lecture on the origin of the moon given at the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the late 1950s where she was presented with the opportunity to work for NASA and set up a program in space astronomy.
As she told National Geographic, “The idea of coming in with an absolutely clean slate to set up a program I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn’t turn down. That’s all there is to it.”
She dedicated her time at NASA to promoting, initiating and supporting in-space observation, from satellites to the Scout probe. In 1964, her name was even given to a newly discovered asteroid, 2516 Roman.
But Roman’s crowning achievement at NASA was perhaps the greatest gift ever given to astrophysics: the Hubble Space Telescope, the groundbreaking satellite observatory that has generated more than 1.2 million observations and 14,000 scientific papers. Roman tirelessly laid the foundation that eventually made NASA’s space-based observatory a reality.
She retired from NASA in 1979 having prepared the way for Hubble’s eventual launch in 1990. “My work helped others explore the evolution of the galaxy,” she told National Geographic. “I did not let the fact that I was a woman deter me.”
Source: National Geographic, Dec. 31, 2018
A brief, no fluff, summary of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Techniques in Handling People
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Six ways to make people like you
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Win people to your way of thinking
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Dramatize your ideas.
- Throw down a challenge.
Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the other person save face.
- Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment. …. Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.
That reminds me of this famous quote by Thomas Carlyle: “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”
On dealing with people
When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.
[T]he only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.
On the secret of success
If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.
Author: Louise Smith, an excerpt from GAIAM
Chances are at some time in your life, you’ve made a New Year’s resolution — and then broken it. This year, stop the cycle of resolving to make change and then not following through. If your resolution is to take better care of yourself and get healthy, you will have a much better year if your resolution sticks. Here are ten tips to help you get started.
1. BE REALISTIC
The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make your goal unattainable. For instance, resolving to NEVER eat your favorite food again is setting you up to fail. Instead, strive for a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding it more often than you do now.
2. PLAN AHEAD
Don’t make your resolution on New Year’s Eve. If you wait until the last minute, it will be based on your mindset that particular day. Instead, it should be planned well before December 31st arrives.
3. OUTLINE YOUR PLAN
Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling on a friend for help, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.
4. MAKE A “PROS” AND “CONS” LIST
It may help to see a list of items on paper to keep your motivation strong. Develop this list over time, and ask others to contribute to it. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.
5. TALK ABOUT IT
Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better or improve your health. The best-case scenario is to find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and motivate each other.
6. REWARD YOURSELF
This doesn’t mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your resolution is to eat a better diet. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something you enjoy that doesn’t contradict your resolution. If you have been sticking to your promise to eat better, for example, reward yourself with new fitness clothing or by going to a movie with a friend.
7. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Keep track of each small success. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and each small accomplishment will help keep you motivated. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.
8. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Obsessing over the occasional slip won’t help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.
9. STICK TO IT
Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. It won’t happen overnight, so be persistent and patient!
10. KEEP TRYING
If you have totally run out of steam when it comes to keeping your resolution by mid-February, don’t despair. Start over again! Recommit yourself for 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours. The 24-hour increments will soon build on each other and, before you know it, you will be back on track.
What are your New Year’s goals?
The life of an entrepreneur – or at least the idea behind that life – can seem enticing to just about everyone. You launch a new enterprise that makes millions – and maybe even changes the way people lead their lives. But why do some people follow through on such visions with great fanfare and success, while others fail miserably – or never follow through at all?
“There’s just this mindset that the very best entrepreneurs have that positions them for success when others around them are struggling and unable to stay the course,” says Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com), an attorney, entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book The Accidental Life.
Strauss says that anyone who is feeling the entrepreneurial tug, and wants to mimic the most successful entrepreneurs, would do well to consider these three points:
- Remember that fortune favors the bold. On the outside entrepreneurs may appear confident and assured in their actions, ready to take the steps needed to achieve success without hesitation. In reality, Strauss says, most successful entrepreneurs have a voice inside them imploring them to wait, to not take that chance. The difference between them and others is they ignore that inner voice. “In my career, I tried to prepare myself as best I could for my next step, but I always had to take a leap of faith to some degree,” Strauss says. “There’s never going to be perfect time or situation that is a guaranteed win. For any significant opportunity, there is always a risk.”
- Take the “life gives you lemons” approach. Things don’t always work out the way we hope, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept defeat. Strauss points out that Steve Jobs was once fired by the board of the company he founded. “Steve Jobs easily could have decided that his life as an entrepreneur was not meant to be,” Strauss says. “Instead, he built another company and eventually found himself back at the helm of Apple. Jobs knew that whatever happened, his was not going to be a story of failure.” It’s inevitable that life will throw you curveballs, he says, so learn to hit them. “The good news is that adaptability can be learned,” Strauss says. “The more you train yourself to see possibility in the curveballs, the more you will adapt to hitting singles, doubles and even home runs.”
- Understand the “family” connection. Businesses often describe their organizations as “family.” Sometimes that’s just lip service, Strauss says, but in the best corporate cultures the team respects one another and holds each other accountable – much like a family. “If you are in a leadership position, it’s up to you to instill this mindset and to be the role model for it in your company,” he says. He even discovered that the business family he created as an entrepreneur helped make him a better parent. “If I don’t set clear goals and expectations at work, I can’t be disappointed or surprised when my team falls short,” he says. “The same holds true at home. Framing expectations as a dialogue will make your family and your team feel valued.”
“Ultimately, no matter the obstacles, entrepreneurs just find a way to persevere and get the job done,” Strauss says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are real risks involved. People rarely see all the ins and outs and ups and downs of what it takes to reach a place where you feel real success.”
About Peter J. Strauss
Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com) is an attorney, entrepreneur and author of several books, including the soon-to-be-released The Accidental Life. He is the founder and managing member of The Strauss Law Firm, LLC, on Hilton Head Island, S.C, and also the founder and CEO of Hamilton Captive Management, LLC. He is a graduate of the New England School of Law and of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program.
With 2019 just a few weeks away, managers and business owners are charged with writing a business plan. Shared by experts, here are 10 tips for jump starting your planning process:
- Know your competition, and be willing to capitalize on your competitive differences in the delivery of your packaging, pricing, products and services.
- Take time to identify your target customers and research industry trends that could impact your business performance.
- Use your past performance as a guide post when setting your business goals versus relying on your intuition.
- Identify variables that positively or negatively impacted your performance this year, and identify any potential threats that will impact your performance next year.
- Be conservative when it comes to your financial projections, and always build in a financial cushion in the event of lag performance or market variations. Cash flow is still king (or queen in case of the women business owner/executive)!
- Present your financial projections in a standard business format.
- Be realistic about your team’s competencies and capabilities when defining your business goals.
- Think like a journalist and avoid superlative adjectives like “amazing” and “outstanding.” Instead, aim for clarity and brevity without being needlessly wordy.
- Be prepared to support your business assumptions when presenting your plan to vested parties by answering the questions you think are likely to be asked during your presentation and,
- Finally, commit to your plan by monitoring and measuring your performance regularly.
These 10 tips should help when it comes to jump starting your planning process for 2019. For more support writing a business plan for your business, click here to join the American Business Women’s Association.