In 2018 I had the privilege and honour of becoming part of Marnie LeFevre’s vision to uplift and empower women in business by becoming a Fempire Business Coach for Women. Our mission at Fempire is to provide female entrepreneurs with the support, knowledge, & strategy to bring their business dreams to life. Just as the Dalai Lama said, we believe that the world needs more ‘peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds’. Women are naturally drawn to these roles and small business is the perfect vehicle for them.
But as Lindzi Caputo and Charlotte Sandell write, the success rate for women in business is markedly lower than for men.
At Fempire, we’re on a mission to change that.
My first twelve months as a Fempire Coach were a wild and fast ride of rapid growth and learning. There was laughter, tears, celebrations and commiserations. And while I came into the role with many years of coaching experience under my belt in my own practice, my first year with Fempire took me on an accelerated path that taught me so much about myself, about others, and about women in business in general.
In order to help you succeed as a business woman, I’m sharing the most important lessons I’ve learned in the hope that they give you comfort, help you to know that you’re not alone, and give you the courage and confidence to continue on, knowing that with courage and persistence, you will succeed as a business owner.
11 Fascinating Things I Learned in my First Year as a Fempire Coach
1. All Women Struggle with the Imposter Syndrome
If you feel like a fraud when starting out in your own business, you’re not alone. Every woman struggles with the imposter syndrome to some extent, but it’s even more prevalent among female entrepreneurs because we’re constantly stepping outside of our comfort zone. According to Rebecca Burn-Callande, the imposter syndrome is “the single biggest block to success” for women in business. Thoughts of “Who am I to do this?” or “When will they figure out that I’m not qualified to do this?” can send you into an anxious spin and prevent you from showing up as your powerful self, with negative consequences. I see it all the time.
And just in case you’re wondering – yes, you are completely qualified to do the work you’re doing. We need you!
2. Women Struggle to Charge What They’re Worth
Women have a natural tendency to over-deliver and under-charge. Especially if you’re struggling with the imposter syndrome, you’ll be afraid to charge your clients what you’re worth, because even you don’t believe in your own value yet. Most of my clients come to me drastically under-charging. But here’s what I’ve learned:
And if you need to start out with low prices in order to build your confidence and to prove to yourself that you definitely do add value and that you provide an amazing product or service, then do that. But make sure you increase your prices when you start to feel resentful. You’ll quickly realise that your clients are often relieved when you increase your prices because it means you’re finally stepping into your power and claiming your value. And the clients who know and appreciate your value will be more than happy to pay you what you’re worth.
3. Being a Successful Business Woman Requires Sacrifice
There’s no denying that even in this modern era of working mothers, women still do the lion’s share of household duties. In surveys across the USA in 2016, it was found that women spend twice as much time on household activities each day than men. All those school drop offs, lunch preparations, loads of washing, and kids sporting activities take time. And if you’re serious about being a successful business woman, you have to make sacrifices and compromises at home.
You need to have difficult conversations with your husband or partner around them doing more at home, or maybe you need to hire help so that you can spend the time required to grow your business. Perhaps you’ll need to put your kids in before- or after-school care. But you can’t be one hundred percent responsible for your domestic duties and grow a business at the same time. I know that for a fact. And you’ll need to decide which one is a priority for you.
4. Mother Guilt is Real
Since us women have to make the tough decisions between work and children, we carry a lot of the guilt that goes along with it. When you finally decide to sacrifice some school pick ups to grow your business, you’ll be plagued by a constant sense of guilt and at three o’clock you’ll be thinking about your kids and wondering if you’re doing them any damage by not being there. I struggle with this too, and so do all working women.
Even though it won’t rid your guilt entirely, you might be comforted to know that groundbreaking studies have shown that children of working mothers actually fare better later in life. Carmen Nobel write that “Children whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibilities at those jobs, and earn higher wages than children whose mothers stayed home full time”. Kathleen McGinn says:
So focusing on growing your business is most certainly not harming your children in any way, and may even have a positive effect. Plus, you’re being an inspiring role model for your children and helping future generations by helping them to understand that woman’s work is equally as important as a man’s.
5. Not All Women are Cut Out to Be Business Owners
In his book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber describes how every business owner needs to be able to fulfil three different roles:
- The Technician: This person knows the craft of your business. If you started a clothes line, then you’re a great seamstress and designer. If you’re a life coach, then you’re great at helping people find solutions to their life’s challenges. Most of us start out in business as technicians with a honed craft.
- The Entrepreneur: This person has the ideas, innovation, passion, and charm. They have the desire and ability to forge strategic relationships with collaborators and investors. They’re forward thinking, and thinking about growing and scaling. They’re focused on opportunities and closing them.
- The Manager: This person is details-focused and organised. They’re a planner and always on top of the accounts, the timelines, and the project milestones. They know which items are on the critical path to success.
Gerber says that the number one mistake that business owners make is this:
And this isn’t true! The majority of us go into business because we’re technicians and we want to make a business out of it. But we’re not trained entrepreneurs or managers. These are skills that we absolutely must learn and grow.
Women who understand this and embrace it become successful business owners. They dedicate themselves to learning the art and craft of being an entrepreneur and manager and they go on to establish thriving businesses. But some women discover they’re not at all interested in becoming an entrepreneur or a manager, nor are they naturally inclined that way. And they then realise that small business is not for them.
6. Women Have Different Business Coaching Needs to Men
Having coached both men and women, and having worked among men and women during my professional career as an engineer, I’ve learned that women have different needs when it comes to coaching. Men generally need the right strategy and ongoing guidance, and they’re off and racing. As women, we need a lot more nurturing and validation. We need someone to believe in us until we can believe in ourselves. We need someone to discuss not just our business challenges with but also our emotional ones too. We need someone to remind us of our value on a regular basis. And when we get all of this, we thrive.
7. Your Coach Can’t Do Your Work for You
If you’re a business owner then hopefully you have a business coach who’s helped you to map out the best way to grow your business and establish yourself as a successful business owner. Your coach would have worked with you to develop your business vision, your mission, your goals, your business funnel, your pricing structures and your marketing strategies to promote your business, to build a sustainable and growing client base.
But unfortunately the onus is then on you to implement the advice and strategy. It’s up to you to carve out the time needed to take action on the things you agreed upon. It’s my greatest frustration when clients come to their sessions with their tail between their legs, having to admit that they haven’t done what they agreed they would do. I understand it’s hard. I have a young family too. And I really want you to be successful. But if you’re not willing to make the time to do the work that’s required to grow your business, then maybe being a small business owner isn’t for you.
8. Your Coach Can’t Save You
As a coach, my biggest desire is to see my clients succeed and to enjoy the fruits of running a successful business. And I want to be there to support you, guide you, and give you encouragement and inspiration along the way. But unfortunately I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t save you if you get yourself into a pickle. For example, if you’ve sold out a workshop and then you haven’t been able to generate the content for it on time, I can’t jump in and rescue you. While I would love to, I’ve had to learn (the hard way) that as a coach, I need to pull back. Because if I do it for you, I’m not empowering you or teaching you how to do it yourself. This is really hard for a coach who wants to see her clients succeed.
9. Women Thrive in Community
An essential component of our Fempire business coaching programs is the monthly group workshops we provide where all of our coaching clients come together to network, workshop, and learn business education. We often get clients coming back after they’ve left the nest, asking to re-join the group workshops again because they realise that they need the support of the sisterhood in order to thrive.
It’s simply essential to our ability to thrive.
10. Once Their Confidence Catches Up, Women are Unstoppable
One of the most beautiful things I get to experience as a business coach is watching my clients grow their confidence and then blossom like flowers. Often they start their business journey doubting themselves, struggling with imposter syndrome, and under-charging for their products or services. But with the right support guidance, encouragement, and sisterhood, they start to believe in themselves, step into their power and claim their worth. And they become unstoppable. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
11. Collaboration is Infinitely More Powerful than Competition
Once women get over the need to compete with each other, and instead start supporting each other through collaborations, referrals and affiliations, amazing things start to happen. We see it time and time again. When we come together, we really do have the power to change the world.
And this is what Fempire is all about.
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In service to your success,
Kate De Jong, Ph.D