Entrepreneurship & Women – Six Lessons I’ve Learned
I was at a dinner party last week when I was introduced to a woman I had never met before. She asked a pretty common question: “What is it that you do for work, Corinne?”
I said something along the lines of: “I run a small communications firm…” before offering a short explanation of the work we do at Six Words.
A few minutes later, a friend of mine gently pulled me aside and said: “You need to stop saying ‘small’ when it comes to your business. You run a company. Own it.”
She was 100 per cent right — I wasn’t doing my business justice by using words like “small” or casually, almost passively, explaining my recent projects. Her comment challenged me to revisit the language I use when speaking about my business in personal settings.
Whether she knew it or not, this conversation pushed me to do better.
It also got me thinking about the role women have played in my entrepreneurial journey so far – the ways they have subtly (and not so subtly) moved me forward. And so, in honour of International Women’s Day today, here are some things I’ve learned about entrepreneurship from the powerhouse women in my life:
1. Make Time for Each Other
When I first took the plunge into entrepreneurship, I was lucky to have the encouragement of my dear friend and fellow entrepreneur Irene Hawkings. She made time to share her experiences and offer a pep talk when I wasn’t sure I could take the leap. Now, two years in, I try to make time for other women who are getting started or feeling stuck in their careers. I definitely don’t have all the answers but I can listen, share resources, offer suggestions and always spare a few words of encouragement.
2. Let People In…I Mean, Really Let Them In
This can be hard when you’re determined to figure things out for yourself, but I’ve learned that sharing my successes and struggles (and yes, even asking for help or advice) has not only improved my business practices, it has also helped me develop rich relationships with many women in my professional circle. Having real conversations with women who have “been there, done that” or might have a different perspective has inspired my work and propelled my business (and life) forward. Special thanks on this one to Hilary Sinclair and Julianne Diubaldo.
3. Call Each Other On Language
Much like my friend Siahra Skelton Moen did last week, we need to encourage each other to use powerful, assertive language when speaking about our work and accomplishments. If you see a friend or colleague shying away from owning her success, talk about it. Encourage her to find words she’s comfortable with and that do her justice.
4. Share Your Network
It’s important to not only build your network, but also connect the dots between people you know. Sometimes these introductions lead to swapping ideas over coffee. Other times, they lead to new business opportunities. Either way, they’re almost always worth the time. When it comes to sharing her network, Kathryn Meisner is by far one of the most generous people I know. She reminds me that connecting people is a big part of empowering each other to succeed.
5. Surround Yourself With Women Who Work in Different Fields
From health care practitioners to engineers to finance and accounting professionals, I am constantly inspired by women who are killing it in their chosen careers. Spending time with women who are passionate about what they do, especially when it’s outside of your area of expertise (cc: Naveena Pareek) can inspire your own work.
6. Break Out the Bubbly
From new jobs to launching a freelance career to finishing a big project, it’s important to mark each other’s professional milestones with the same level of excitement we bring to birthdays, weddings and babies. My friend and killer PR professional Caroline Carter does this so well – thanks Caroline for championing the women in your life and reminding the rest of us to do the same. (And big thanks to Mary Harwood, my head cheerleader from across the globe).
I’d be remiss not to at least mention the men who have inspired my career and taught me many lessons, but today the spotlight shines on the women in my life. Cheers to many more years of lifting each other up.