From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

Let’s Talk Business, Woman-to-Woman

I started my business, “eWomenNetwork,” from scratch, alone in my home office, but I didn’t do this entirely by myself. I did it by learning, listening, interacting and engaging with other dynamic women.

The very nature of my company means I am always meeting new, fabulously wonderful women. And I have learned something from these women that I want to share with you: how to become a successful woman entrepreneur and realize your dreams, both in business and in life.

With these lessons in mind, I have created ten ingredients that, when combined, will help you achieve your life’s dreams:

#1—Live your vision. The first ingredient to running any successful business is to have a vision. It’s not enough to be competent at what you do; in Corporate America, it’s the pyramid, and the more you climb the ladder of success, the more the pyramid narrows. The same is true if you own your own business, except that those who rise to the top of the pyramid are those who are successful against their competitors in the marketplace. Everyone is smart, everyone works hard, and everyone is focused on delivering their product or service to the customer in a better, cheaper, faster, more meaningful way.

Look for transformational opportunities—evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Create your vision, hold on to it, measure it and make sure you have the fuel you need to continue going after your dream, building your business and overcoming the many challenges you’ll face along the way. Vision is paramount to your success.

#2—Overcome obstacles. Another ingredient in building a wildly successful company is the ability to overcome obstacles. No matter what business you’re in, you’re going to encounter impossible-to-foresee barriers, and you’re undoubtedly going to make mistakes.

When I started eWomenNetwork, the original business plan was based on an online networking organization. While conducting focus groups, women said they were too busy to attend yet another meeting. What they wanted was a way to connect with other women at a time that worked for them best, around their home and work schedules. Online networking appeared to be the answer to their needs.

Thus, I launched my company purely as an online networking organization. But then I discovered that some of our members wanted to meet in person. It was then I realized I had asked the wrong question to the focus groups; my original question was, “Would you attend another meeting?”

So I created face-to-face networking opportunities, calling them “events” instead of meetings. I completely reengineered and expanded the company’s business model to not only include the high-tech ability to connect via the Web site, but also to connect via “high-touch, personal networking.”

This shift to incorporate both online and personal networking opportunities for our members created success I could never have anticipated. I definitely learned from my mistake!

#3—Inspire others. The third ingredient is an ability to inspire others. It’s all about pioneering and getting other people to join you, climb on board with you, and follow you to your destination. It’s about helping them picture that destination, what that service or product is going to be and how it’s going to better their lives. This is such an important skill, something that you can learn to do. You can have the best product in the world or be the tops in a revolutionary service, but if you can’t inspire others to see what you see, it’s going to be lonely. In the end, you will falter. None of us makes it alone.

#4—Develop your “A-Team.” When you’re starting your business, you sometimes wear all the hats—product development, accounting, human resource specialist, marketing, sales and so on. You’ll find that you’re so busy working in the business that you’re not working on the business.

You must end your “nobody can do it like I can” thinking. Instead, surround yourself with people who can outsmart you. To grow your business, you must build an A-Team—people with focused experience and expertise in particular aspects of running a business. By creating your own A-Team, you’ll have time to focus on your vision, grow the business and inspire new customers. Now that’s the sign of a really successful entrepreneur.

#5—Trust your intuition. Throughout the entire development of your company, your convictions will be tested, and it’s important that you challenge the data. You’ll need to look, listen and investigate. But most of all, you will need to use your power of intuition and trust your gut instincts.

You must be willing to stand alone in the end. You must be willing to go to the edge and eventually jump, knowing that you will build your wings on the way down. Being an entrepreneur is not about living in a safe place; entrepreneurs know that life is about getting comfortable with the discomfort of living on the edge. This is the journey and the process of owning, running and growing a business.

#6—Above all, maintain integrity. As an entrepreneur, you can know everything and still fail the test. Yes, you have all the answers, but without integrity, chances are you will fail that test, and your company will fail as well.

We’re all tempted to take the easy way out, to not be honest with employees and others, to promise what we know we can’t deliver. Each of us has an opportunity every day to make decisions that tell others who we are. The impact these decisions have on trust and our relationships can’t be overestimated. Always take the high road and do the right thing. Don’t let anyone’s logic talk you out of this. That way you can look back without regret, no matter what happens.

#7—Eliminate negativity. As women, particularly as business owners, we must think about with whom we spend our time. Who is it that’s supportive and giving us energy? Who is it that’s draining and taking it away? Many of the people who love you and want the best for you also want you to play it safe, but unfortunately being an entrepreneur is not always about playing it safe.

Toxic people are the people who prevent you from going after your dreams. They’re the people who look at the glass half-empty versus half-full. They zap you of your energy without ever adding to your energy cup. Know when to wish them well and move on without burning bridges.

#8—Connect to capital early on. Develop a solid relationship with your banker. While the bank’s drive-thru lanes are effective from the perspective that they provide convenience and expediency, this is not a relationship with a bank. I’m talking about a relationship with a woman banker. In fact, if you don’t have the banker’s name and her phone number programmed into your cell phone, then you don’t have a relationship with a banker.

The best time to build a relationship with a banker is when you need nothing. The worse time to start a relationship with a banker is when you need a loan. I occasionally make the daily deposits, and while I’m there, I’ll drop off an article or sales brochure with my banker; it’s important to keep your banker updated on your company’s doings and progress.

Your banker is instrumental to your growth. Even if you started your business with no outside capital, there will be times over your business career that you’ll need capital assistance, whether it’s a line of credit or an SBA loan. You’ll find it to be a much more productive and successful experience if you have an established relationship with your banker well in advance.

#9—Find ways to support your positive attitude. Your smile is an ingredient that will attract others to you. Your attitude is more important than your degrees and diplomas, your awards and accomplishments, your circumstances and successes.

When I was starting eWomenNetwork, I was scared. Cash flow was extremely tight between making payroll and paying the lease, and I was stressed and stretched. But I knew my employees wanted to be part of a winning team; they wanted to hold on to that vision that I painted when I hired them; they didn’t want to hear me come in and talk about my woes.

There are going to be many stressful days, days when you’ll feel incredibly disappointed and discontent. I still have days like this, just like anyone else, and do you know what I do? I change my attitude, which instantly makes me feel better. I pretend that I’m going onstage for the day. I walk out the door and get in my car, saying, “It’s show time!” And at the end of the day, I say, “That’s a wrap.” I take a fabulous bath with a few candles, eat some decadent chocolates, then call it a day, in a much, much better mood than when I started the day.

#10—Develop and expand your network. The final important ingredient in this recipe for success is to continue developing and expanding your network.

When I walk into a room and see one hundred people, I know that I am speaking to thousands. I’m not just being introduced to the people in that room; by my connecting and establishing relationships with these one hundred people, I’m actually being introduced to their vast networks.

I firmly believe that behind every successful woman is a huge network, one that she has built by meeting new people. The way I build my network is this: When I meet someone new, I smile and use my five favorite words, “How can I help you?” I then accept their business card, and on the back I write what it is that they are looking for or what their biggest challenge is. I do my best to follow up, expecting nothing in return but a simple thank-you.

This is just one way I network, and it has helped me expand my business and life. It’s about giving without expectation of anything in return, even though what I do get in return is possibly a new business contact, networking opportunity and even a new friend.

* * *

Wherever you go, go with excitement, understanding that the enthusiasm you create as a female entrepreneur will be contagious. Start an epidemic. And I do hope we have an opportunity to connect. It would be an honor to have you as part of my network.

Sandra Yancey

EPILOGUE: Sandra Yancey is the founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork, Inc. Her company is the fastest-growing membership-based women’s business network in North America, and eWomenNetwork.com is the number-one online resource for connecting and promoting women and their businesses worldwide.

Founded in 2000, eWomenNetwork is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Under Yancey’s leadership, eWomenNetwork has pioneered a whole new way for women to promote themselves and achieve their business objectives. One of the underlying principles of eWomenNetwork is “It takes teamwork to make the dream work!”

The organization boasts a database of over 500,000 female business owners and executives and conducts nearly two thousand events for professional women in cities across North America annually. The eWomenNetwork.com Web site receives over two hundred thousand hits daily, making it the most visited business-women’s Web site in the United States and Canada, with the largest photographic profile directory of women business owners in the world.

Yancey also hosts the “eWomenNetwork Radio Show” on WBAP News/Talk 820, the highest rated and most listened-to station in Texas, and the largest ABC radio affiliate in the United States. An author as well, Yancey penned the bestselling Relationship Networking: The Art of Turning Contacts into Connections (eWomenPublishingNetwork, 2006). Additionally, her eWomen-Network Foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash grants, in-kind donations and support to women’s nonprofit organizations and scholarships for emerging female leaders of tomorrow.

To learn more about Sandra Yancey and her company, please visit www.eWomenNetwork.com.

Dahlynn McKowen

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