Ten years ago (August 3, 2002) I stepped outside my comfort zone and took early retirement from my PR job with the Social Security Administration. I founded Money Wise Women Educational Services to educate and empower women to live financially healthy. Since I had worked for the Federal government since I was 19 years old I had no idea how to start my own business. But, I had a dream, vision, and passion to create a healthy and prosperous business. Here are the strategies I used:
Create your vision and goals
My vision for Money Wise Women was created when my doctor told me to take 3 weeks off from work and take care of myself. She gave me permission to take time to get quiet. I spent time reading motivational books, writing in my journal, gardening, spending time with friends, listening to music. It only took one week to realize I hadn’t been listening to my thoughts. I read a quote – “Our purpose in life is find our gift, perfect it and give it back to others”. I took early retirement three months later.
Allow yourself quiet time: My best quiet time is walking, on the ferry or airplane – listening to music. I keep a pen and paper handy and just write down whatever comes to mind. Do you have ideas floating around in your head? Do you listen to them intently, write them down and act on them? Or, do you let that little voice in your head say “What a dumb idea!” Having a vision guides you when the things get tough and life throws roadblocks in the way. Vision is a mental picture of what you want your life to be. The right vision will stir the passion in your soul.
Search for opportunities: Always on the lookout; never get stagnant – it stunts your growth; glean ideas from others.
Focus your life on something that nourishes your heart and spirit. Making more of your life starts with doing what you do best – all the time.
ACTION: Schedule a date to create your vision statement.
Stretch outside your comfort zone
One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt – “You gain strength, courage & confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
We’re all familiar with fear. It’s our old friend that raises its ugly head when we’re in the threshold of success. It’s that little nagging voice saying “You can’t do that!” You have two choices – blast through it or stay stuck. When you’re screaming because you’re breaking down the walls of your comfort zone your vision will inspire you to keep doing what needs to be done. Ask! You can’t get a Yes if you don’t ask. “No” just means maybe later.
A couple of my ASKing experiences:
- The day after the first Money Wise Women conference I called the Managing Editor of our local newspaper (Kitsap Sun). I pitched my idea about writing a column. He asked for writing samples and a month later I was writing a column. I didn’t get paid for writing, but it was great exposure and good credentials. I wrote a column for two years.
- Several years ago I sent an email to Johnson and Johnson about educating their employees on finances. I was hired for three webinars.
- In 2008 I was in Phoenix visiting my parents. Caught an episode of Sonoran Living Live and sent an email pitching my book. I was a guest on the show a few days later.
ACTION: Write down something – doesn’t have to be related to business – you intend to do to step outside your comfort zone.
Surround yourself with people who support you
Surround yourself with people who support your vision – women who are genuine and authentic. Get rid of the naysayers. Ditch them! Know that your friends might change. I don’t have the same friends today that I had 10 years ago.
Find people you admire and ask to take them to coffee. Women are relationship builders and love to share and help others grow. One of the savviest businesswomen I know is Sunny Kobe Cook. We met years ago at a networking event. I’ve learned so much from Sunny about business, speaking, media and more. And, we’re not only colleagues, but friends.
Join or start a mastermind group -- several participants who challenge each other to create and implement goals, brainstorm ideas. They also support each other with total honesty, respect and compassion. Mastermind participants act as catalysts for growth, devil’s advocates and supportive colleagues. The Creativity Circle is the mastermind group I belong to with four other businesswomen. We’ve been meeting regularly and sharing what’s happening in our business for the past four years. I can’t begin to tell you all I’ve learned from these amazing and talented women.
ACTION: Write down one person who supports you and one naysayer in your life.
Network, network, network
When I started Money Wise Women in August 2002 I attended every woman’s networking meeting I could find in the Puget Sound area. I told anyone who would listen about my business, my passion and what I was doing. Not only did I meet dozens of women. I met authentic, genuine women; knowledgeable women who asked questions and told others about Money Wi$e Women. One of the first things I did was to create a 30-second elevator speech. Every businesswoman should have an elevator speech and be prepared to share it with anyone who asks what you do. Practice, practice, practice it until it comes naturally.
I cultivate relationships and make referrals to women I meet. I love connecting women with other women and best compliment I can get is when I meet someone who says they’ve heard about me and my business from someone else.
ACTION: The next meeting you attend commit to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
Determine your rates and don’t forget to negotiate
After working for Social Security for 26 years it was a BIG stretch outside my comfort zone to determine my rates. And it was even harder to negotiate. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever heard was from Mikelann Valterra, author of Why Women Earn Less: How to Make What You’re Really Worth. Mikelann calls it Practice the Pause. It’s easy to do via email, but much harder on the phone. Don’t give an immediate response – instead tell them “I will get back to you” and give them a timeframe.
Barbara Stanny, author of Secrets of Six-Figure Women also taught me another value tip. Negotiate -- start with a higher rate because you can always go down, but you can’t go back up. It works! Several years ago Staples hired me to speak at their Small Business Events. I received the inquiry via email. They asked what my fee was. It took me 30 minutes to hit SEND on the email. I gave them my fee; they replied with a smaller fee, which was the amount I actually wanted and it was deal!
Raising your rates is not always easy. Determine to just say it out loud; practice in front of your mirror or with a friend until you can save it with confidence. Remember that your time is valuable. Give 100% plus and you’ll get hired again and/or referred to other businesses and organizations.
ACTION: Review your rates to determine if they should be raised.
Do what you do best and hire professionals to do the other things
You don’t have to do it alone. There’s an abundance of talented people to help you. Ask others for recommendations and referrals. I wrote the bulk of my first book in one week. A year later it was still sitting unfinished. I met David Bach of Smart Women Finish Rich and asked him how he got on Oprah. He told me I had to have a book. I called a ghostwriter on the ferry ride home and hired her. My book was finished and self-published six months later. Money Wise Women would not have a blog or teleseminars if I hadn’t hired the talented Michele Corey with Advanced Approach.
ACTION: List one thing in your business you don’t love to do. Set your intention to hire a professional
Be generous – support others and build relationships
Several years ago I met Curtis Arnold, Founder of CardRatings.com via email and a phone appointment. We’ve supported each other by making referrals. I was contacted by a writer (referred by Curtis) who was writing an article for Reader’s Digest.
I love matching people with other people. If a business provides me with excellent service I promote them by sharing my experience with others via email and social media.
Everyone appreciates receiving a thank you note. They’re easy to write and send and makes the recipient happy. And, they’ll remember you. I’m not talking about an email thank you. I’m talking about a handwritten, snail mail thank you note. It’s a simple thing, but we often forget or don’t take the time to do it. Years ago I received a card from a friend with a quote from Robert Kennedy that says it all -- “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives”.
ACTION: Determine a business colleague you can refer to someone.
Set healthy boundaries
Women have been programmed by our families and society to be nurturers and caregivers. We take care of everyone but ourselves. I think it’s because it is easier to give to others than ourselves. But, it’s okay to say no. Not only is it OKAY, it’s critical if you want to keep on track. And, it’s healthy for you.
When I started Money Wise Women I wanted to please everyone and said pretty much said yes to every request. One of my most embarrassing events was also was of my biggest lessons in saying “NO. I was asked to speak to a group of 13 year-old girls about finances. I was the last speaker of the day and had spent hours creating a presentation appropriate to teenagers. The girls talked and laughed until I screamed “Shut up!” Can you imagine how horrified I was? The teachers assured me it was okay, but I was so embarrassed. On my drive home I kept asking myself “What lesson was there in this experience?” I finally realized I was not meant to speak to teenagers. My audience was women – women who willingly came to my presentations. A week later I received a phone call asking me to speak to high school student. Guess what my response was? “No thank you!”
Jennifer White, author of Work Less, Earn More wrote an entire chapter on Say YES to Yourself. Rather than spending all your time taking care of everyone else, take care of yourself as a gift to everyone else and expect them to take care of themselves as a gift to you. Your gift to the world is being the best you can be.
ACTION: Write down one healthy boundary you intend to set for yourself.
Thinking big starts to shrink and deflates quickly. Connect with other people who think BIG to pump yourself back up. It’s a constant process but every successful businesswoman started somewhere. Keep a win file with thank you notes, media clippings, emails, etc. and review it periodically. Each year I create a Dream Board that helps me Think BIG! My Dream Board is in my closet where I see it morning and night. A beautiful mosaic mirror hangs across from the Dream Board. Each morning I look in the mirror and say “Good morning gorgeous! You’re a brilliant, talented woman.”
What I know is that You MUST give yourself time to be successful. Pay attention to your whispers, create your vision statement, set goals and taken action. And, never, ever, ever give up.
Founder/President Money Wise Women Educational Services