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Seven Things I've Learned Running a Business

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It is hard to believe that Company of Women is celebrating its 10th birthday. Where did the time go? As I reflect on the past, I share some lessons I have learned -- some the hard way.

MY ATTITUDE
Like many women, I tended to be a pleaser, ever keen to keep everyone happy. I would look at evaluations after events and wonder if people had been to the same event as they rated a speaker. Some would think she was fantastic and others felt she shouldn't give up her day job. So I quickly realized it was impossible to satisfy everyone.

I was also super-sensitive so when someone didn't renew their membership or made a negative comment, I would take it personally and get all hurt and defensive. These days I have come to realize it is not all about me, it's just business.

BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS
I would leap into a business relationship, because on the surface it seemed like a good fit, then when the "honeymoon" period was over, it was clear we didn't share the same values and vision, or how we would achieve our not-so-shared goals. Now I like to "date" first before moving in with someone.

Also while I would believe that we'd discussed everything and it was all clear, often it wasn't and when assumptions were made, it caught me off guard. So I have learned to spell it all out and put it on paper, so there is less of a risk of miscommunication.

BALANCE
I guess I bought into the myth that women can do it all and I sure would try. Looking back I realize this was a big mistake because I would end up undertaking tasks that just weren't my forte and not a good use of my time, and errors would be made.

Reluctant to give up control, I would not delegate to others for fear that they wouldn't do it to my way. A rather self-defeating attitude and meant I ran the risk of burning out, fast. I also missed the opportunity to discover that doing it differently might actually be better.

Being driven and focused on business, I would sometimes work silly hours just to get something done. Keep up that schedule for too long, and it catches up with you -- and it did. This winter, I got sick.

RELATIONSHIPS
When running your own business, friends often don't understand the time you have to put into making your dream come true. Some become naysayers and it can be hard to ignore their negative feedback.

But you have to. If you truly believe in what you want to achieve, let go of or ignore negative people, they can only pull you down. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you.

One of the great results of Company of Women is bringing like-minded women together, who share the same drive and purpose. These women get it and know only too well what is involved in building a business.

EXPECTATIONS
Everything takes longer than you think, especially when you are doing something for the first time. And when finding your way in unknown territory, it can be easy to get lost.

I've also observed that sometimes people have unrealistic expectations on what they will achieve in attending a networking event. Many come thinking if they hand out enough business cards, they will leave with business. If only that was true. It takes time and it is all about building relationships, not how many cards you have collected. Nor can we promise to deliver you business if you are part of our group, that is up to you.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before spending your hard-earned marketing/advertising dollars, make sure that first you know who your target audience is, and how best to reach them. I spent a fortune advertising in a newspaper that wasn't read by the women I wanted to attract to an event. Now that was an expensive mistake to make. Today I rely more on word of mouth and social media, and the price is right -- it's free.

SUCCESS
It is all too easy to get caught up on what didn't work, and what went wrong, but be clear on what success looks like, and celebrate and honour those moments. It can be little things. I like to think I am a connector (matchmaker) bringing women together. For me, when I connect two people and it works, now that's success, and it feels good, really, really good.