Women Going Global
Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a ‘power panel’ of female founders at Business Chicks ‘Movers and Breakers’ conference. It’s easy to look at women like Samantha Wills, Emma Isaacs and Lizzy Abegg – three trailblazing Australian entrepreneurs who have built global businesses from the ground up- and assume it was always in their stars; that they have something that you don’t.
It’s not true. What is true is that each of us can do pretty amazing things. We just have to refuse to buy into the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t, roll up our sleeves and do the hard yards!
While not everyone aspires to build a global fashion empire or design jewelry for the stars, every single one of us can take an idea that inspires us and turn it into something that inspires others.
Drawing on the hard-won wisdom these big thinking women had to share, along with my previous interview with Emma Isaacs, founder of Business Chicks, below are eight lessons for building whatever it is that lights you up.
1. Be passionate: Building any business requires enormous investment of energy, grit and hard work. So be clear about why you’re up to the challenge and if you can’t put your heart into it, get out of it.
2. Define your difference: Know what your brand stands for and how it stands apart from your competitors. Your value lies in what sets you apart. So while you may want to out do everyone else on what they do well, your competitive edge is doing what no one else will ever do as well as you.
3. Communicate your Why: Get your employees on board with the bigger mission you’re trying to serve. People are hungry to feel that what they do serves a purpose bigger than profit. As Samantha Wills shared, “You need to be always going back to the ‘why’.”
4. Risk mistakes: Don’t wait to have a perfect plan. Just do what makes the most sense and trust that you’ll finesse the rest as you go along. Fail fast, fail often and fail forward. As Emma Isaacs shared with me the first time I interviewed her for RawCourage.TV, “Every minute of the day I’m thinking I hope I can pull this one off.”
Unless we’re willing to back ourselves, to lean in to our fear and take the risk we never discover just how much we can do!
5. Work from your strengths: You can’t be good at everything and if you try to be, you’ll hold your business back. So work from your strengths and recruit people to do what you’ll never do well. Richard Branson shared the same advice with me when I interviewed him on Necker Island. Do what you do well and leave others to do what they do better than you ever can!
6. Don’t over personalize: Things won’t always go well and people won’t always respond the way you’d like. That’s business. That’s life. So don’t take rejection too personally or interpret a mistake as a personal and permanent deficiency on your part. If you’re forging new ground, you’re going to get it wrong some times. As Emma Isaacs also shared during our conversation above, “When things don’t go as you want, don’t make a big drama about it.” Learn the lesson and move on. People who achieve the most aren’t continually avoiding the possibility of rejection or failure. They just aren’t taking it personally when their risks don’t pay off.
7. Ditch your ego: Too much pride can hold your business hostage and keep you from taking the risks needed to forge new ground, admit mistakes and ask for help. There’s no space in a growing business for ego. Not if you want it to succeed anyway. No matter how big your business grows, it’s never ‘too big too fail’ as we learned in 2008. Pride is the enemy of learning, innovation and growth.
8. Hire (and fire) on values: Management guru Peter Drucker has said that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ It’s why hiring people who will fit with your culture is more important than hiring really smart people who may only undermine it. All three women spoke about the importance of only bringing people on board if their values align with your own. If you get it wrong, waste no time letting go those who don’t fit. The wrong people can be toxic to the rest of your workforce and cost you far more in the long run that cutting your losses as soon as you realize you have a cultural misfit.
The goal of leadership is to find a just balance between competing values and competing goals, but sacrificing values in pursuit of your goals can exact a steep toll in the longer term. As Lizzy Abegg, founder, Spell & The Gypsy Collective said, “You need to find people who literally get up in the morning and bounce into the office.”
Margie has been appointed Australia’s first Ambassador for Women in Global Business by the Australian Federal Government. WIBG was created to support Australian business women in expanding their businesses around the world. To access support and resources, visit www.wigb.gov.au