In our businesses, we all have expenditures that we could call mistakes.
The contractor you hastily hired and spent money on – only to find out, over the weeks, she was pretty flakey and not so knowledgeable about the thing you hired her for. The new product you spent months developing that didn’t sell. The expensive website redesign that looked gorgeous – but – oops – caused traffic to decline!
Often, women entrepreneurs end up feeling some shame or guilt about these mistakes. They can even cause us to feel we aren’t good at making financial or business decisions, and can’t trust ourselves.
Why is this? One reason has to do with our inner lives, and our inner critics. Contrary to what most of us assume, research studies have not found that women feel more self-doubt than men. But studies have found that women feel more self-doubt in a few major areas, including financial decisions, negotiation and leadership. We get the message from girlhood on, through our media and culture, that men are better at those kinds of work than women are, and that messaging impacts how we see our abilities.
Plus, there are some external factors. Compared to our male counterparts, women entrepreneurs tend to raise less money for their businesses. We have less “room” to do the healthy experimentation that building a successful business requires and are less used to doing it. Our mistakes may be perceived more harshly by biased investors or advisors, teaching us to become more conservative about making them. Particularly for those of us women with businesses outside of the technology sphere, we simply aren’t swimming in a culture where we constantly see that trial-and- error is a no-big- deal part of how businesses get built.
So here’s what we can do to develop a wiser relationship to losses – of time, money, and energy – in your business:
- Acknowledge that some of the resources spent for your business (money, time and energy) won’t have the return you hope for. You cannot eliminate this, no matter how smart your decisions, because there’s a great deal in your business that simply needs to be tested out.
- Call experiments what they are: experiments. Embrace that experimentation is going to be a constant part of your work. You don’t have to fake certainty, or even great optimism, that the new product or new hire or new internal system you’ve invested is going to work out. You can acknowledge and name what’s unknown about it. I even recommend you write it down. “Is this in fact what customers want?” or “Is this the right skill set for this position?” or “Will investing resources in this kind of marketing actually lead to growth?”
- Then, craft small experiments. This might sound funny coming from me. I wrote a book called Playing Big. I absolutely believe in women having big dreams and huge courage in sharing our most revolutionary work and ideas. But small experiments are integral on the path to Playing Big. In fact, if you are not allowing yourself to do small experiments with a sense of curiosity and focused intention, that’s a sign that fear and perfectionism are running the show.
What’s key is that you make your experiments inexpensive, intentional, and quick, so that they won’t take you and your business out. Identify what you want to experiment with (A new hire, a new feature, a new internal process, etc.) and what outcome from the experiment will tell you “yes go forward with this” vs. “no, let’s try a different approach next.”
Then do the experiment. Test the product concept with your customers before you spend months developing the actual product. Start with a six-week contract with the new hire to enable you to both feel out how it goes. Build one page on your website in the new format and see how it performs, before you overhaul the whole site. Here’s what I love about this way of working. It’s tactically smart and it’s particularly meaningful and internally transformative for women. (If you’ve read my work before, you know how I love this fusion of the practical and spiritual.)
On the tactical front, conscious, time-limited experiments change what would be big mistakes into opportunities for learning that that help you improve your business quickly.
On a deeper level, doing light-hearted and thoughtful experiments enables us as women to free ourselves from perfectionism, impossible expectations of ourselves, and the constraint of creative movement that still casts a shadow from a patriarchal past.
The freedom to have all kinds of wise failures and know they mean nothing about us, and everything about the nature of the creative process, is a freedom that’s now ours to claim.
Want to learn more from Tara? She will teach you how to handle self-doubt with easy-to-implement strategies and inspire you to have the impact, influence, and, ultimately, the life you want at Savor Life Summit on October 17 + 18, 2016! Learn more and register today.