A few years back I took my 75 year old dad out for dinner. On the drive there he said that he had a question about my work and not to be offended. Well you know when someone prefaces a question in this way you better brace yourself.
He asked me “How do you get your credibility? He went on to state “You are a woman, a small woman, and not what I would think of as a business coach”
In his world, a business coach is a MAN, wearing a blue suit and red tie.
It didn’t matter that I had a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching and Organizational Development, or that I had worked with over 300 small business owners, or that I had won the ICF Vancouver Business Coach of the year. Strictly because of my gender I was being judged as not being credible.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!
What stereotypes are you still holding when it comes to women in business? Are you paying the women in your organization the same as you pay the men?
I don’t know how many times I’ve observed and challenged wage inequality where men have been paid up to 50% more in a small business than the women. Then the men would laugh and say truthfully “the women do all the work”. Often in family run organization, the sons are paid way more than the daughters.
Last year, on International Women’s Day I went through my outsourced contractors. I announced to the team that from now on all the women would be paid the same as the men, even if they didn’t ask for it. There was zero pushback, even as I rolled back some of the guys rates.
Today, being International Women’s Day, is a day to challenge your assumptions about women in business and to take a stand on truly making women equal partners on your entrepreneurial journey.
Globally women are building and running an ever increasing number of new businesses. This is great news! The not so great news is that they are also failing at an alarming rate. If they are making it in business, they can find themselves exhausted, frustrated, underpaid, and lonely but they carry on. I found a better way 25 years ago this month to build, run and sell a business. I did this through a best selling book that you have never explored on the Oprah show or magazine called “The E-Myth Revisited, Why Most Small Businesses Don”t Work and What To Do About It.” by Michael E. Gerber. This book has been rated one of the best business books ever written by Fortune 500 Magazine and women in business need to read it.
Can I share my story?
In 1993, absolutely exasperated working for someone else I took the plunge. I quit my 40K year commission job, re-mortgaged my little house, took on a $2000 month rent, and hired my first employee.
What is it that drives us to take such risks? For me it was the only way to gain the freedom I needed to be my 5-year old son’s mom. Recently divorced from his father, receiving no financial support, I wanted to create a better life for us both. I wanted to be the one to take him to school and pick him up again. For me, it was the only option.
What did I know about running a business? I knew I was a great travel agent but I didn’t have the first clue about running a business.
The one thing I knew for sure was that my company was going to be different. I was going to do it my way. I was going to get rich!
Entrepreneurial passion drives every economy, creates jobs and builds community.
So you know how it goes, lease holds, shareholder loans, workman’s compensation, taxes, debit memo’s, Tom’s got the flu, business insurance, vandalism, rent’s due, clients ticket not arriving on time,20 hour days, pro-D day …again, business growing need more staff. HELP!! …things were getting out of control!!
I have to say at this point I am grateful that my dad gave me a copy of a book about running a business called “The E-Myth Revisited, Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It”, by Michael E. Gerber. I had heard about E Myth at a course offered by the Federal Business Development Bank and had until then never fully explored it’s pages. It was one of many of business books that I would read….but this one was different. My story…the story of Sarah the pie baker, a typical entrepreneur, your story, is played out in the first few chapters of this book. This book will both break your heart and give you hope.
This was the pivotal point to my success in business. If you have not yet read this book and if you take anything away with you today it is…read this book. For the next 6 years I went to work “on” my business and extracted myself from working “in” my business.
I put in writing for every new employee to see why I started this company. This included who I was, where I came from, why I do things the way I want them, need them, …must have them done.
To keep me grounded I hung a picture of my great grandmother in our office reminding me of my core values when things got hard and guiding me towards my goal of a stronger more stable life for my family. Values underpin your systems which in turn helped me create a wonderful place for my growing team to work in.
I started documenting our procedures and then testing them. How long would a client wait for a call back before we lost the sale? When was the best time to give clients their travel tickets? What should the office look like, smell like, feel like. What suppliers should we sell? Which customers were our best fit? Should be discount? How to tactfully get rid of customers that we didn’t’ want? What did the clients want? With all this data I went to work building “systems” for my business.
One Saturday my young son and I rode the Airport Parking bus back and forth from the parking lot to the terminal just to watch the passengers. I learned that the average traveler looked at their ticket jacket 9 times before checking in. With that information I changed the way the tickets were presented. We put together a “ticket jacket system”. The font size was increased and important issues like the time and flight number were bolded. The phone number for the airline was included on every itinerary as were clients frequent flyer numbers and most importantly seats were booked every time. We learned what the travelling public demanded, needed, wanted, and we delivered…on time, every time, exactly as promised.
One day I looked around and just shook my head. One agent in her designer canary yellow suit looked elegant but out of place, another lived in house dresses and that day had forgot her shoes and was wearing slippers, and my young up start was wearing a fashionable super short mini with bare legs. My next major purchase for the business was $8000 worth of designer uniforms.
I put together money systems, selling systems, answering the phone systems, how to greet the clients systems, client acquisition systems, opening and closing systems, how to make the coffee systems…pretty soon the business ran on auto pilot.
Each employee had authority and responsibility for their work or “their systems”. They were well trained in “the Somerville Way” so they knew what to do, understood the value of why they were doing it our way, and were empowered to do it because of the Leadership that was driven by a vision of excellence. Together we created a 3 million dollar a year money machine. We never discounted, didn’t have to advertise because our clients loved what we did for them and they told their friends, and I had time to live my life and own a business. During the 7 years that I owned Somerville Travel I got married had two more babies and had freedom to pursue involvement in our community. E Myth taught me to start with the end in mind, so I did, by selling my company….and I did it at a time when most travel agency owners could not give theirs away.
The best part of my story…and proof that dreams really do come true is that three years after selling my business I decided to contact and then met the author of the book that brought me so much success, Michael Gerber. I wanted to see if there was any way that I could teach what I had experienced using the E Myth way of doing business. What I loved about owning Somerville Travel was not the travel so much as was creating the environment for the work to take place. I wrote Michael a detailed letter and be damned if he didn’t write me back! Five months later I earned a position on his team and worked full time for three years sharing E Myth with struggling small business owners worldwide.
It doesn’t get any better than that! ….or does it?
What I learned at E Myth from speaking heart to heart with over 3000 business owners is that they are broke, frustrated, scared and desperately want their freedom back. The freedom they dreamed of when they started their business. Unfortunately most of them could not afford an expensive coaching program and for the majority they would either suffer through or close their doors.
Having experienced what it takes to be a successful women in business even with the worst possible conditions, like the airlines taking away 70% of our revenue in one day , I have felt called to continue to create ways to help. For the past 10 years I have worked daily on both coaching entrepreneurs and creating affordable business development training material that focuses on prosperity and freedom for struggling small business owners.
Working ON your business results in great things like a positive number on your balance sheet and the smiles on kids faces when entrepreneurial families finally have things set up so that summer holidays are possible again. While this applied to both women AND men, there is still a big gap to fill in supporting women in business. My hope is that by reading this book, The E-Myth Revisited, the story of Sarah the pie maker, and applying the idea of systematizing your business, that I can help close that gap!
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