"I like to help women help themselves."
-- Louisa May Alcott
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
As an educator turned entrepreneur, I view learning through a different lens, my NICE lens. It affects my outlook, my choice of reading matter, and even my takeaways and how I implement them over time. It has certainly influenced my writings and the kinds of books, blogs, and social media posts I'm drawn to; all of which can provide thought leadership and reverse mentorship in today's busy workplaces.
I blog a lot about articles I've read but I also try to read books of all kind. There are very few interesting, easy to understand, and practical business books out there which provide both an insightful analysis of human nature and a short treatise on managing your brand and retaining customer loyalty. One book that comes to mind is mine, The NICE Reboot. The second one is The Paradox of Excellence by David Mosby and Michael Weissman, which I recently enjoyed and reviewed on Amazon.
Brand management and customer management/retention are two areas that need to be taught to startup entrepreneurs in today's take-out and on-demand society. Many people will tell you how to do it, but showing you how it's done is another matter. There is both an art and science to doing both, which involves carefully crafting one's mission from the way one creates a digital avatar to how one refines interactions in real time and online with present and prospective clients. Successful entrepreneurship today goes beyond
• Launching a one-of-a-kind service/product never seen by the competition (and thus proving to be very profitable-laws of supply and demand, etc.)
• Mounting a digital/social media marketing campaign full of eye-catching "blingy" slogans and photos.
Today's startup culture demands from entrepreneurs a level of balance between humanity and technology that is ushering in a whole new era of innovation, multi-tasking, and success, as well as failure and burnout. The exhibitionist, not quite truthful nature of social media tends to exacerbate the issue. While it globally connect us physically, it can fragment us psycho-socially due to the inconsistent dissemination of value in favor of sharing selfies/promo-selfies, quick fixes, and myths disguised as fact.
What's the real definition of success today? What's really going on behind the scenes of entrepreneurship? What lessons can women entrepreneurs learn from the journey of others, including mine?
These are questions I've attempted to answer in my book. I will try to answer them in this post and the next one, in a more condensed format, as I provide 10 takeaways gained through my own experiences.....
What I've Learned as a Female Entrepreneur:
1. Your digital footprint is today's calling card. Make sure you consistently cover the "3 E's": educate, entertain, and encourage change.
2. Content curation is a way of life. We're all students. Read. Save. File. Organize. The Evernote, Pocket, Zite, and Twitter Apps are all a successful entrepreneur's best line of defense re: staying current. Did I mention they're free?
3. Blogging is a foregone conclusion for entrepreneurs active in social media and seeking networking, branding, and thought leadership opportunities. It's easier than you think (I have three: The Huffington Post, Wordpress, and Tumblr) and there is lots of fodder out there and virtual mentorship to get you started. Another upside? It hones your vocabulary and creativity, and nurtures your "inner voice" which can get drowned by all the other voices out there in cyberspace.
4. iPads are not a luxury but a necessity. Yes, I wrote that! It streamlines your work/life balance and your overall workflow. You can be the most prepared, hard-working, creative, and talented entrepreneur who can still lose out because of an outdated, stagnating, or hindering digital environment. Don't believe me? Think of the American journalists and athletes in Sochi right now. Seen the funny photos?
5. There is more than one way to approach and solve a problem, any problem. That's what drives our economy, especially today. But creativity, clarity, and focus go by the wayside when you are on "sensory overload" due to lack of down time/sleep/socializing with your inner circle who knew you "before." Entrepreneurship can be a solitary, lonely, emotionally and physically grueling venture that can take its toll. Steer clear of burnout by maintaining your health; body/mind/heart.
6. Entrepreneurship today requires crash courses in digital marketing, content marketing, public speaking, and technology. Why? Because the #1 requirement for successful entrepreneurship is customers; getting them and keeping them. Understanding buyer personae (or social media archetypes a la Diane Bertolin's thought leadership) and how to communicate with them is crucial to your future success.
7. Entrepreneurship is a journey of self discovery and trial and error. It's a process; one where you will experience obstacles, detours, setbacks and even outright failures along the way. The outcome of the journey isn't determined by when you "get there." It's predicated on how you did it and who helped you/whom you helped along the way.
8. Having a mindset that you're in it for purpose and profit from the start will guide you correctly. It will steer the trajectory of your mission and business plan. It will affect whom you woo as customers, potential partners/collaborators, and even possible venture capitalists and angel investors. Embedding social entrepreneurship and civic engagement in your company and service/product's DNA is good for you; logistically and morally. It will keep you mindful of the legacy you want to leave, and others who can be helped by the unique talents and skills you have to offer.
9. A little narcissism is actually good. Introspection about your personal learning style and Tech IQ, which can be synthesized and harnessed as a combustible combination, will help you in the long run. A bit of narcissism can fuel your creativity and social media success. Not harnessing that power, by not doing your homework, about yourself or about the tech you need to succeed, can negatively impact upon your reputation; in real time or online. Learning about yourself, about your strengths and weaknesses, will help you truly tap into your potential. A bit of narcissism combined with your tech savvy, can profoundly impact your future as an entrepreneur, in today's global markets and social media circus venues. It can also make you vigilant about keeping track of your online reputation.
10. Ignore the naysayers, the meddlers, the critics, and the pessimists, all of whom can pollute your own Theory of Mind, about yourself and others around you. Learn when to heed your inner voice and let it help you craft your story. You're human, which gives you the right to be yourself and believe in yourself. To be a work in progress. To make mistakes and learn from them. To keep learning, keep evolving, and keep optimistic about your future. Remember to thank those who keep you going. Thank them sincerely. Thank them often.
To be continued.....