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Women are bad Entrepreneurs? Speak for yourself! Part 2

Continuation from Women are bad Entrepreneurs? Speak for yourself! Part 1

Women in BusinessI asked Smith College Alumnae to share their thoughts about the article by Penelope Trunk in Techcrunch that claims that women are bad at startup’s because of kids.  The post is inflammatory to say the least.  Here is a continuation of what Smith women had to say about the post.

Cynthia Neil says, “Ms. Trunk has made her own decision for her own reasons. She could have written an excellent article written simply from that premise. Instead she has generalized her decision to all women of a certain age who aren’t running startups — a mistake, in my view. I’d like to know what she means about the biological clock exploding at 35 — are you not supposed to have kids after that? There are women having their first children well after that date (including myself, and including many of the lawyers I know). Not everyone is dating the right person at 25, or 27 — I certainly wasn’t.

And only 1 year of marriage sans children? Girl needs to get a life — or may value her husband primarily as a sperm donor, which is too bad, because although men are definitely different from women I usually enjoy being around my husband, and we certainly enjoyed life together before our child arrived (which was four years into our marriage).

I also find it amusing that she thinks she’s “a magnet for high-powered women with stay-at-home husbands”, but it’s really the women running the household too, because the men just don’t pay enough attention. AND they’re running startups as well. Really? Methinks perhaps she’s a magnet for control freaks who fail to see the value of their spouses… not necessarily for high-powered women.

I’m sure she makes good points about the nature of startups — that they demand 100-hour weeks, that they are like having a child, that it’s very difficult to have a personal life of any magnitude while you are involved in a startup. That’s fine. The startup as a specific kind of business may not be what women with young children need. My mother runs a business out of her home — granted, she’s not in that age range and doesn’t have small children at home, but she COULD be in that situation and she’d still be fine doing what she’s doing. It’s a very flexible situation and she’s making a great deal of money. It’s not a “startup” in the sense that Penelope uses the word, or really in any sense — she’s been running it in one form or another since I went to college — but it would be a feasible business for a new/young mother.

I think it’s doable for young women with the right kind of knowhow and dedication to run their own new business while they get their personal lives going. They will need to remain more flexible than Ms. Trunk has.

I also wish that Ms. Trunk hadn’t generalized her experience to the entire female population. What about the women who met their mate when they were in college? Or the ones who don’t until they’re 35? She has a very narrow definition of the female personal/career path. She’s right that our personal choices affect our career choices — duh, it’s your career, so it’s personal too. But to generalize all of those choices to all of her readers is silly. Why not write it as “this is my decision and why I’m making it”?”

Kennie Desine wrote, “[The post] reminded me of a pivotal law suit, decades ago, charging Sears (it may have been Sears & Roebuck at the time) with discrimination against a female employee who vied with male employees for a significant departmental promotion. Sears stated that women didn’t perform well in management, as they were more interested in “makinig friends” on the job, while men approached management as if it were a jungle. The finding was against the female Plaintiff.”

Tish Gier wrote, “Trunk is an a$%&*#@ who is reporting her own anecdotal experience and someone should smack her right in the head. The issue is very complicated–and 20-30 something men are often prejudice against 40-something women(who are often in the “entrepreneurial phase” of their lives) because they see women only as either those who are marriagabel and those who are not. Yes, women have biological clocks, but when those clocks slow down, or if they decide (for many a good reason) not to have children, and they want to develop something, it’s men’s own biological clocks that cause us to be left out.” (@tishgrier, read her blog)

Annie Pedersen writes, “The author has a point. In my business, I see married couples with children and both spouses work. Many times the mother is the parent making the doctor’s appointments, driving the soccer taxi, and making dinner. There are plenty of exceptions, too; however, where the father takes over those tasks. Anecdotely, it appears the parent with the lower paying job seems to be the one who takes on more of the home-based work.” (read Annie’s other post on finding success here, email her,  or visit her website)

Project Junkie Pt. 3: Brilliant! now what?

Once I get through first four questions on the Project Junkie Checklist I move on to the next phase of the check list:

5. Is it worth my time? meaning, will it turn into something useful and productive?

6. Is it really as brilliant as I think?  I come up with some GREAT ideas that often are not quite as great as I initially thought.  So after my excitement, I try to take a step back and look to see if my idea of belly button gardening is really as amazing as it was when I first thought it up.

7. Is it something that needs prioritizing? sometimes we really do have brilliant ideas, but we need to evaluate where they stand in relation to all our other brilliant ideas.  Is this something that will require a lot of time, energy and focus?  If so, is it so important that you need to do it now or can it be put on the back burner while you finish some other things first?

Often when we have brilliant ideas they occupy all our mental energy.  So after the initial burst of excitement over your brilliance is done, step back and evaluate all facets of this new project.  Make sure that you are not spreading your mental energy too thin.  All of your projects will benefit if you can focus on each of them individually.

So give yourself some room to develop your brilliance and your brilliant ideas and give each of your projects the focus and attention they deserve.

Project Junkie pt. 2: Productivity Checklist

Matt Mansfield wrote a great post about being a project junkie. He admitted his project addiction and bravely took credit for it and all the professional chaos it can cause. It is my turn.

I too am a project junkie. I get excited about things and then just dive in feet first. But as a business owner you cannot always do that. You have to be smart about your projects.

Since I am in Project Junkie recovery, every time I start feeling that excitement about the next best thing, the newest and most exciting project on the horizon, I take a moment and got through a productivity check list:

1. Will it make me money now?
2. Can I afford to not make money now?
3. Have I taken care of my clients first?
4. Have I taken care of my existing business responsibilities?

Once I have answered these questions, I am ready for the next part of my checklist. (See Project Junkie Part 3 posting on Thursday Sept. 23, 2010 …aka. tomorrow).

Grow your buiness slowly: Patience is a Virtue

I want to be patient NOW
How virtuous do I need to be?

When you are growing your business, you receive tons of advice. One of my favorite pieces of advice is “Be patient”. I know that if I am working hard and putting my efforts into developing my business that it will grow. The more people I interact with the more connections I will make and the more opportunities will come my way. I get it.

However, when they tell you that patience is a virtue my immediate response is:

How virtuous do I need to be?

Intellectually we can all know that apparent over night successes are not actually overnight. They are the result of a lot of hard work. Often when we see someone who starts a business and then 3 months later they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is natural to compare our 8 months or a year or 2 years of business and wonder why we didn’t experience this level of success. What did I do wrong? The answer could be really simple. You did nothing wrong.

When you see someone’s overnight success, what you don’t see is all the other businesses that came before that. The months and years that they put into other ventures that were not as successful. Internalizing that previous experience allowed them to be successful now. But their history plays as important a role as the significance of their current venture.

It is hard not to get impatient, but sometimes we have to take the advice we give others. Learn from our mistakes. Learn from our successes. Take the time to focus your energies and do what you need to do. Know that nothing happens over night, it only seems that way when you are on the outside looking in.

When you ask yourself “How virtuous do you need to be?” Only as long as it takes to be the next overnight success.

How badly do you want to succeed?

How badly do you want to succeed?

Many of us are entrepreneurs, self starters, business owners, self-employed, freelancers, independent contract, enterprisers, linchpins, and go getters.

Some of us have business degrees. Some have MBA’s. Some of us have worked in an industry for 20 years and are finally making our own path. Some of us have never worked for someone else. Some of us have been idea generators our whole life. Some of us just have a talent.

All of us have drive.

All of us want to succeed.

Whether you came to your venture through twists and turns in your career, through layoffs, through frustration with the daily grind, through inspiration, through a desire to be your own boss, or through the natural development of your professional career, you are here. You are a leader. You are a thinker. You are a driver. Now what?

There are days that I wake up and feel like I am not making the kind of progress I want to see in my business. There are days that I feel like what I am doing is not good enough, or it is not the right thing, or there isn’t enough time in the day/week/month, or if I only had ________ fill in the blank.

We all have days like that. We all question our efforts. We all have times when we feel defeated. When you wake up and feel the weight of your venture pressing on your shoulders, take a minute. Take an hour. Take a little time, get a cup of coffee, sit down and relax. Ok, done? Now get the hell up and tell yourself to get over it!

You will never progress forward if you indulge in self-defeat. A friend once told me that all feelings are valid. Take a moment to experience them and then let them go. That last part is really important, LET THEM GO!!

We all have failures. Warning cliché coming: You learn more from failure than you do from success.

Of course, who wants to spend all their time learning?

We all have frustrations. We all make decisions that are not right, or not the best, or not ideal. That is ok. Keep moving.

Feeling overwhelmed? Embracing that will not get your to-do list done. Pick something and start doing it.

Get focused. Get motivated. Get inspired.

I watched a wonderful motivational speech by Eric Thomas. In it he said:

“When you get to the point when you want to be successful as badly as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.”

… I am breathing. Time for step 2.