So many women dream of owning their own business. Today more than ever, that dream is becoming a reality. I’m not talking about reality TV and I’m not talking about women who dabble in an occasional hobby. I’m talking about driven and successful women who have marketable concepts and brilliant business minds.
According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, women own 10.6 million businesses in the Unites States, employ 19.1 million workers (that’s 1 in every 7 employees), and account for $2.5 trillion in sales.
Even though there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the success women are generating in the business world today, there is still room for improvement. As a career coach for more than 20 years, I have coached hundreds of women, many of whom are entrepreneurs and business owners…and their paths to business success are littered with challenges.
There is a big difference between a business thriving and merely surviving. There are external factors that impact a business owner’s success such as market conditions, economic downturns, competition, and basic supply and demand. These elements are difficult, if not impossible, to control. However, there are also many internal, controllable factors that impact professional success.
Everyone is guilty of self-sabotage at some point and in some way. These are the unintentional and often subconscious destructive patterns of behavior we commit that can mean the difference between professional success and stagnation.
Here are the top three ways women sabotage their own success:
1. Women Entrepreneurs Can Be Too Nice
Women have a deeply rooted need to be liked and an intense aversion to being labeled the “B-word”. If this is the driving force behind your business decisions, then you’re destined to sabotage your own success. Some women are paralyzed when a client is not 100% satisfied and complains about the product or service. Some women crumble after reading a bad review on social media. And some women retain poor-performing employees or vendors far too long because they fear being the “bad guy (gal)”.
In business, and in life, not everyone is going to like you. The challenge as a successful female business owner is not allowing the desire to be liked highjack the need to make sound business decisions. Don’t waste your precious time trying to woo, persuade, and convince that one client to love you, because there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Accept the fact that some people hide behind the anonymity of social media and make rude comments. And understand that sometimes you have to cut people lose in order to get ahead and be successful.
Not being liked, or being called the “B-word”, may sting in the moment, but it pales in comparison to the pain of a failing business.
2. Women Entrepreneurs Can Be Too Perfect
There isn’t enough space to house all the women trapped inside the “perfectionism prison”. We live in the Martha Stewart era where everything needs to homemade and it needs to be perfect or it’s simply a colossal failure. We bring the same mentality into our businesses.
I’ve coached women who have missed out on major business opportunities, because the proposal was never quite perfect enough and they missed the deadline. Other women have obsessed endlessly over selecting the perfect color blue for their logo and website and their brilliant idea never really comes to fruition. And other women, recognizing how important a book or blog is to their marketability, are completely paralyzed by the fact that the words might not be perfect so they don’t write a word.
Businesses, trends, and opportunities move at the speed of light these days, and if you’re stuck inside that “perfectionism prison” and unable to break free and capitalize on those opportunities, then you’re sabotaging yourself and setting yourself up for failure. It’s about progress not perfection. If you want to be successful, at some point you just need to hit “send” and move on.
3. Women Entrepreneurs Can Be Too Modest
This is not about the difference between wearing a bikini versus a one-piece bathing suit, this is about how women constantly undervalue, undersell, and underappreciate themselves. In other words, women are guilty of committing the disastrous “Triple-D”…they Downplay, Dismiss, and Diminish their own success and accomplishments.
As little girls we were taught that it’s not polite to brag. That message may have served us well in pre-school, but it does us an enormous disservice in our professional lives. If you can’t successfully promote yourself and toot your own horn, how do you plan to stand out in a crowded marketplace?
The business world is a competitive world and it’s not the time, nor the place, to act overly modest about what you bring to the table. In fact, these behaviors infect the business environment with an “undervalue epidemic” that causes significant negative consequences for women.
You may be suffering from this “undervalue epidemic” if you constantly give your products, services, or expertise away for free or at such a reduced rate it’s practically free. You may be infected if you avoid negotiating like the plague, apologize for your hourly rate, or believe you’re only worth a fraction of what your competitors charge. You may be afflicted if you refer to what you do as “No big deal” or “Anyone can do that.” And you may exhibit the symptoms if you keep yourself and your business small when you really want to go big and dominate the market.
Sometimes we’re aware of how we sabotage ourselves, and sometimes we need someone else to hold up the mirror and point out the error of our ways. Yes, being too nice, too perfect, or too modest may seem like minor, and possibly insignificant, patterns of behavior, but when you examine them in the context of being a successful business owner or entrepreneur, you realize that the smallest things can often make the biggest difference.
As I wrote in my recently published book, Woman UP! : ladies, it’s time to pull on those “big-girl panties” and take control of your businesses. Develop thicker skin and don’t always be so nice. Kick the Martha Stewart mentality to the curb and bust out of that perfectionism prison. And, understand that modesty holds you back – you’re worth every penny AND MORE.
Many economists predict a future where the female economy will have a global impact greater than Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Make this prediction a reality by joining the ranks of women who expect to succeed and work to overcome their challenges.
Aimee Cohen is a career expert, veteran speaker, and author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success. She is owner of Cohen Career Consulting where, for more than 20 years, she has a nearly 100% success rate empowering women to achieve career success. Aimee provides strategic step-by-step action plans to clients during personalized one-on-one consultations. She leads outplacement transition seminars for Fortune 500 companies and is a contributing writer for the Denver Business Journal. She facilitates the LINK to Leadership program for The Leadership Investment, has appeared as a career expert on television and radio shows, and in print media such as Glamour magazine, the Denver Post, and Denver Woman magazine, and she was a past nominee for Outstanding Women in Business Award from the Denver Business Journal.