Women Business Owners: Fad or Trend?

business-womenAre you an employee or an entrepreneur? Is it a job or a career? Are these options mutually exclusive? Can you develop a business on the side or must it be a full-time commitment? These are just some of the questions many of us grapple with in the course of our lives. Timing may not be perfect, new skills need to be learned, financing acquired, and relationships developed and/or managed. Most importantly, do you have a vision and are you passionate about your business?

KICKSTART Your Transition is one of 11.6 million businesses nationally that are owned by women. Women-owned businesses employ more than 9 million people and contribute an economic impact of $1.7 trillion in revenue.

To put this in perspective, if U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the fifth-largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany and ahead of countries including France, the United Kingdom and Italy. Women-owned firms are not a small, niche market but are a significant contributor and major player in the overall economy.

Women have strongly caught the entrepreneurial spirit and are leveraging opportunities to create and run their own businesses. According to an American Express analysis of Census Bureau figures, between 1997 and 2014 alone, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. rose by 68 percent, twice the growth rate for businesses owned by men and nearly 2.5% times the rate for all companies.

Women-owned businesses make up more than half (52.0 percent) of all businesses in health care and social assistance sectors, and they are making a real impact in other industry sectors, including educational services (45 percent) and administrative support and waste management services (44 percent). Many of these businesses are small to mid-size but have grown to more than $1 million in revenue. Meanwhile, the number of women-owned firms with $10 million or more in annual sales has increased 57 percent over the past decade.

Does this data inspire or discourage you? There are many ways to begin to collect your own information to determine if you are on the right track and if business ownership is a good fit for you. What we do know is that more women than ever have been inspired to take a risk and that is not an insignificant trend.

©MWeisner2017

Review Your Accomplishments

make your choice“The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to make the turn.” – Helen Keller

Oh, it’s always easier to be the Monday quarterback and see what you might have done, could have prepared better or managed under challenging circumstances. The reality for most of us is that we could always do better and that we beat ourselves up over the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” in life. Hopefully we learn from the experiences and add these new insights to the mini-arsenal of skills needed to succeed or sometimes just survive in the future.

Job loss can be an exceptionally demanding time for anyone. A serial entrepreneur who made millions before losing it all and then creating success again related an idea which worked for him during particularly stressful times of uncertainty. What got him through the most difficult periods was a list that he kept with him at all times; a list of his accomplishments. In such circumstances, many of us refer back not to our list of plusses, but rather to our list of failures and what we don’t have, rather than recalling our successes and what we have done well. Like any behavior that we are willing to change, this became a beacon for him to refer to and remind himself that he was indeed a man of accomplishments.

What a terrific tool for any of us to use and how simple to create, carry and refer to! Who couldn’t benefit from a confidence booster and reminder of their potential? When was the last time you took time to review your life through the lens of success? Would you be able to list 10 of your accomplishments right now? Is your mind a complete blank? If you are stuck because you have yet to master the piano, publish a book or cure cancer, among other feats, I urge you to stop. Take this moment to sit down and make your own list. Some examples of accomplishments you might include are:

• I completed my college degree
• I have a successful marriage
• I have raised good and healthy children
• I have worked in a field that I love
• I started my own business
• I bought my first car, home, etc.
• I learned to play an instrument
• I have traveled to many interesting places
• I wrote a book, song or poem

Now that you have the idea, you can take it even further. Begin by creating a file in your computer or dedicate a notebook to being your accomplishment “basket” list holder, not to be confused with a “bucket” list. This is the expanded record of those things you have already done. Challenge yourself to get up to at least 15 examples and add more as you please. Remember, this list is infinitely expandable; a work in progress. Print it out, keep it with you at all times and refer to it daily or as frequently as you like. After all, this IS your track record of successes and no matter what you are experiencing at the moment, you have a solid list of accomplishments that is yours alone.

©MWeisner2017

What’s Not Wrong With You?

pt_1350_303_oSo much has been written about what is wrong with us and how we can fix it. Well, the world is not so black and white, rather it’s more a shade of gray; not to be confused with the dubiously popularized novel. However, there are patterns that we may tend to follow that do not always serve us in the best way. Are they true personality flaws? According to Caroline Myss, author of Archetypes: Who Are You? There are keys to finding out how we operate or how deeply we understand ourselves and those in our world. Three of her categories may resonate for some of us and how we can flip the negative around to counteract these perceived faults.

The Saboteur: If you are the classic underachiever, failing to live up to your potential, you may grow resentful and sink your own ship by blaming others and self-victimizing. What if setbacks were actually growth opportunities and rather than setting yourself up for failure, you were taking responsibility for your own actions?

The Rescuer: Do you get a rush of satisfaction from saving others? You may thrive on this behavior of making people need you and then feeling angry and unloved when they aren’t appreciative enough. When you can step back and understand this, ask yourself if this is a healthy relationship and/or what does one really look like? Take stock even if it’s painful to do so.

The Princess and Knight: Some women dream of a Knight in Shining Armor who will slay the dragon, swim the moat and rescue them from a terrible fate. The reality is that there is not a AAA truck waiting for your most current predicament to manifest itself. The person you need to rely on for the rescue is yourself. Devolving the myth and the shattered illusion is the antidote. Resist the urge to blame the other person and give up those fairytale expectations.

These are only 3 of the universal types that can be found in different iterations in other cultures. Identifying how you have chosen to examine your personally expanded knowledge of what makes you tick is a journey unto itself. Be kind to yourself and take it one flaw at a time.

©MWeisner2017

Achieve Your 2018 Fitness Goals

imagescae2vkgaWill this be another year of half-hearted attempts at getting fit, or will this really be the year begun with a new attitude? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit gives us hope and a way to make changes that can break-up the old routines. The following is a mini-plan to begin.

1. Create a Routine: Teach your brain that it’s time to exercise by devising a cue, like putting your sneakers next to the door, or packing your lunch the night before. “A routine gives your brain something to latch onto,” says Duhigg. Establishing a new habit is far easier than changing one.

2. Set Small Goals: You want to run 5 miles 3 x weekly? Week one; wear your workout gear. Week two; walk around the block. Increase slowly until you reach your goal. “Habit formation is built on small wins, according to the author.”

3. Choose a Reward: When you reach your daily goal, regardless of what it is, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, 20-minutes of Web browsing or whatever you genuinely like. “This works because you are training yourself to associate a behavior with something you actually enjoy,” states Duhigg.

4. Write it Down: List your cues and rewards: “Monday- put on workout clothes + one square of dark chocolate.” This works because by identifying your routine, you significantly increase the chance that the habit will take hold,” according to the author.

Change requires discipline, patience and your personal buy-in. Think back to times when you have been able to consciously shift your thinking, modify or eliminate a behavior. Redirect your focus into replacing old actions with new behaviors for success!

©MWeisner2017

“It’s OK to Say NO!”

say-noIt’s frequently been my experience that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it. According to the authors of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling with ‘No’: Gender Differences in Doing Favors,” research takes it even further and strongly suggests that if you want a favor done, ask a woman.

Two recently completed studies were presented at a business conference. In one study, 47 business school students were asked to recall agreeing to do an on the job favor when their preference was to decline the request.

Despite the fact that they felt worn out and already overtaxed, the female participants were five times more likely to oblige and do the favor than their male counterparts. What is a likely explanation? Perhaps they agreed because they were also twice as likely to have been worried about the consequences of declining the request.

A second study involving altruistic behavior in small groups underscored similar results. Female undergraduates were 50% more likely to comply with an implied request for a favor than were male students. The researchers suggest that these behaviors, the willingness of women to do favors in the workplace may lead to being overburdened with low-skill tasks.

Were men more strategic in declining to perform certain types of favors or were women more likely to be asked in the first place? While the study did not identify these specifics, think about your own experience in the workplace.

• How did you respond?
• Were you more likely to comply as a rule or based on the circumstances around the request?
• Will the results of this study make you more aware of your behavior in the future?

©MWeisner2017

Are You Lucky or Purposeful?

imagesCAADD1X9There are some days when it feels like everything is running smoothly and other times it may feel like the end of a long run can’t happen soon enough. It’s human nature to focus on what’s not working than to revel in the moments when you are in the flow and the Universe is cooperating fully.

• Do you consider yourself to be a lucky person?
• Are you someone who takes full advantage of opportunities, focusing on them as they arise?

“Things worthwhile generally don’t just happen. Luck is a fact, but should not be a factor. Good luck is what is left over after intelligence and effort have combined at their best… Luck is the residue of design.” – Branch Rickey

Buying a winning lottery ticket is sheer luck as the odds are certainly not in your favor nor did any scheme in particular give you better probabilities. The more sales calls you make will increase your chances of closing a deal. The more swings at bat, shots at a goal or auditions you attend will increase the likelihood of your success. Too many people excuse their own limitations to by crediting other’s achievement to luck.

Lucky people actually do things that allow them to take advantage of chances that they position themselves for. Not everything works out of course, but wishing, hoping and praying for success is not a formula for success. What’s you action plan, setting aside the rabbit’s foot or palming a 4-leaf clover?

According to Kevin Daum, there are 5 “secret” behaviors of lucky people.

1. Play to your strengths: We waste too much time and energy doing things that we probably don’t do well. Focus on what you do well and delegate the rest or find a partner to compensate for your weaknesses.

2. Prepare in advance: Unlucky people often get that way because they are reactive and unprepared. A business plan, for example is a template. The point in having one isn’t to follow it for the sake of staying on track. Rather, it is to establish a structure for smart decision making that allows you to adjust and succeed.

3. Start early: It’s not necessarily about rising early, but beginning projects well in advance. So many people want to put their energies into things that provide immediate gratification. The most fortunate people I know are the ones who planted the seeds early and are now in a better position to have choices and take advantage of the most promising ones.

4. Connect with as many people as possible: The key to success is access to opportunity. Access comes from influence. If you are influential, people will bring opportunities to you. The way to build a following is to provide value to many people. How are you providing the sort of value that will cause people to spread your thoughts and attribute credit to you?

5. Follow up: Opportunities come and go because people do not follow-up in a timely manner. Following up is often more powerful and impressive than the act of initiating.

What will you plan to do to increase your LUCK?

©MWeisner2017

 

 

Change Your Mindset…Change Your Life!

noregrets-movingonWhat if the only directional gear your car was equipped with was forward? You will still have control over the rate of acceleration, yet reverse will not be an option for the driver and neutral has a time limit. This would certainly impact your route planning and preparation. Would it slow down your process, or prompt faster decision making? Would it limit your choices or expand your vision? How would you adjust?

“Life is a one-way street. No matter how many detours you take, none of them leads back. Once you know and accept that, life becomes much simpler.” Isabel  Moore

Changing your mindset is not like changing your shirt. Preliminary to making a change is choosing a goal, creating a plan and committing to a course of action. Having good intentions does not get the job done and it is far too easy to lapse back into old actions that supported old behaviors. Once you set the intention, you must schedule the actions and honor the intention to incorporate change into your revised routine. Your calendar, like your road map is the tool you will use for incorporating new activities/destinations into your master plan.

Picture yourself standing at the base of a mountain, looking up and wondering how you are supposed to make it to the summit. Climbing the mountain may seem insurmountable, yet once you commit to the challenge, you commit to a shift in thinking and the knowledge that in order to accomplish this goal, you must make a plan. You hire a crew, make necessary purchases and proceed forward. What may have been an overwhelming goal, can now be broken down into doable, incremental tasks. Designing a strategy is the best defense against the potential of “analysis paralysis” and those accompanying fears.

If you are still having trouble breaking down a big goal into smaller tasks, imagine you’ve already achieved your goal. For example, visualize yourself taking photos from the top of the mountain, surrounded by your climbing team. How did you get there?

By imagining that you have already accomplished your goal, the path to success becomes crystal clear. Rather than seeing obstacles, you see results and what you previously imagined to be powerful roadblocks may even disappear.
©MWeisner2017

Take the High Road…It’s Less Crowded

takethehighroadImagine for a moment, taking a leisurely stroll down a tree lined avenue, far removed from the high volume of expressway traffic. Not only is it a less crowded and pothole free route, but it’s also far more scenic and the tolls you pay are fewer in the end. Considering the mental health costs alone, you have potentially saved enough time and money to finance your dream get-away or perhaps a vacation home.

I am not suggesting that you tolerate any and all infractions, bad behaviors and personal affronts. Avoidance is not the solution. Rather, take a stand for yourself with respect to engaging with the challenging person or uncomfortable situation.

• How do you tend to handle confrontation?
• What is most important to you regarding the outcome?
• Notice when your buttons are being pressed.
• How clear are your boundaries?

Some situations are simply easier to manage. Some associates, even intimates, are highly predictable in the ways they relate to each other so that we can prepare for the interaction. On the other hand, since people do not yet come equipped with “bar codes” that could enable us to identify their personal traits and characteristics beforehand, determining a plan of action can happen on the spot.

Taking the high road is not about turning the other cheek either. It is more in alignment with an overall philosophy of self-care and personal empowerment as well as self management. Scratch even deeper and it is an understanding and sometimes an acceptance of what and who you are reacting to. Is it really the person in front of you or is it your third grade teacher, college coach or scout leader; all voices from the past?

© MWeisner2017

Mid-Life Crisis or Opportunity? It’s Your Choice!

midlifecrisis“Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of life it may occur.” ~ Muriel Spark

At a recent gathering, I asked someone for the time as it was too dark to see my watch clearly and I did not have my cell phone handy for a quick check. “No one wears watches anymore. That makes you sound so old,” she pronounced. While I suspect people in droves are not tossing out their designer timepieces or condemning them to a junk drawer, her snippy observation gave me pause to absorb her words. Manners aside, I really do not care how you access the information; in this case it was a simple request for the time. Use a sundial if it suits you better but it was my reaction to being thought of as OLD that was noteworthy. Could one simple comment begin a rapid spiral of negative thinking or was something else available to me if I could step back and notice its impact?

Mid-life and the process of aging can take many of us by surprise. In fact, it can feel like a much faster trip than we planned for and not the ticket we intended to purchase…yet. In our youth oriented environment, growing older is not as honored as it is in some cultures. It may be a time for feeling marginalized; like someone who should take up less space, leaving room for the next generation, those who are energized with fresh ideas to lead.

On the other hand, at a recent workshop I conducted, participants were asked to name four words that best described “aging”. The responses were fast and furious, underscoring the negatives they associated with the word. As these descriptors were recorded, I suggested we look beyond our initial reaction and consider the following choices like:
• Wisdom
• Character
• Strength
• Confidence

How did that feel? It was as if a light switch had been flipped on and from this newly positive perspective, we were able to collaboratively fill pages with many more words that were energizing and a reflection of the pronounced shift in thinking.
The words you choose are very important. They can empower you as much as they can weaken you. Words can be used to create clarity or confusion; crisis or opportunity; motivation or disinterest. They are powerful tools with which you can shape your life. As always, it is your choice.

• Select a word at the beginning of each day as a focus for the day
• Notice the language you use positively or negatively
• Become aware of your choices and how you can influence others by making conscious selections

©MWeisner2017

Attention + Intention = NO Tension

attention-pleaseInformation overload is distracting everyone. We are all busier than ever and constantly attempting our best to satisfy connections on an escalating level of immediacy. If you are always available to everyone else, when are you truly available to yourself? Does your calendar include space for YOU? If your response to that has anything to do with wishing for an 8th day of the week, then it is clearly time to put the brakes on and give yourself a real break.

We are each allotted 168 hours in a week. Some things are not negotiable. Assuming that work/commute can take up to 60 hours, sleep another 50 hours, general daily life activities are an additional 30 hours and we are still reasonably left with 25 hours. How intentional are you with that time? Does it melt into recovery from the overstimulation of your daily routine or do you designate specific periods to activities you enjoy and feed your soul?

According to Linda Stone, blogger and former Microsoft executive, we pay “continuous partial attention” as we skim furiously, hoping not to miss anything. We multi-task frantically yet the “to-do” list takes on a life of its own, morphing into an out of control, anxiety producing document, further proof of our inability to manage life as we should.

Not so fast with the blame game and impossible comparisons to what we assume other people are accomplishing in the fantasy life we have constructed for them. The turning point for a client was driving away from her favorite coffee shop and not realizing that her special latte had taken a nosedive from the roof of her vehicle miles earlier. She had been more attentive to her cell phone than to her unique AM caffeinated order kick start and more importantly, to her own safety! Together we created a preliminary plan to identify the habits that drove her multi-tasking engine and ways to modify those behaviors.

• Pre-plan your day the night before
• Prioritize. Take on the most challenging task first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and more energy to attack whatever is next.
• Schedule a break that includes some change of geography; a quick walk, a short phone call to a friend, or enjoying a beverage of choice
• Most importantly, staying in the present focuses your attention on what you are doing NOW through its completion. Remember, multi-tasking can take up to three times longer to finish the same task.

©MWeisner2017