I recently admitted to a roomful of businesswomen that I struggled with my worthiness as a business owner.
It’s something I’ve always known, but I didn’t realize until that moment that I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I know that the person everyone sees is capable, follows through on everything she promises, and is passionate about what she does.
But there’s something inside of me that makes me feel like I’m playing a part. And I’ve realized that’s because of the word “business.”
That word scares the shit out of me. I have a degree in English that I got after giving up a music scholarship in voice and piano. Everything about me screams “creativity.” So, the idea of a business plan, budgets, numbers in general…I feel like the little girl who used to pretend to type on my mother’s old typewriter.
I’ve had to re-think how I go about business.
As I’ve said in countless presentations, I can’t sell. If you told me to sell something, I would immediately clam up and know that I was out of my element.
What I CAN do is help.
When I think of my business that way, I have no problem talking to people about what I do. Of course, I’ll look at your website. Yes, I’ll look at your digital marketing. When I meet you and I hear about what you do and how passionate you are…I want people to find you. And in that way I can help.
During the last year, I have been floundering a little bit, trying to figure out where I want to go with my business. It would be easy to keep things small, keep this as a one-woman operation, and a year ago I thought that’s what I was going to do.
But then the “helping” part got in the way. I hated telling potential clients that they would have to wait before I brought them on because I just didn’t have the time. So, I took a chance and brought in a consultant.
Not just any consultant. I advertised on my neighborhood website for someone with good written communication skills. I realized that who I wanted was a woman and, possibly, a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always stayed home with my kids and when my husband was here, that was something we agreed on.
When he died, it was something I struggled with.
My resumé was old.
I felt unemployable. I was scared.
And I wasn’t sure anyone would take a chance on me.
So, that’s who I wanted to find; someone who was home, but who wanted to work, whether it was just to exercise her brain or because she needed the money. And I found her.
That started me thinking about my purpose. And my worthiness.
I recently talked to a friend who has not only been sexually harassed at work…she’s truly been preyed upon. Not only that, but when she reported it, she was first told by her superior, “This is a rug matter” (as in “sweep it under the rug”), and then she was asked the following questions:
How many drinks did you have that night?
Why does he have your cell phone number?
Why did you choose the friend that you did to walk you back to your room?
I was speechless. Frankly, I can’t even believe these questions are legal. But as we talked I heard that a few other women had come forward with complaints about the same man…which immediately made me think of all the women who haven’t.
To be honest, I’ve been out of the corporate world for so long that I thought this kind of stuff was so old school, it wasn’t still happening. And during this #MeToo movement, I assumed that those who would normally prey on others…well…would get the message that if they "hunt"...something is going to happen.
Unless they thought they were above receiving the message.
I’ve found my worthiness as a business owner.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t think of my business in terms of money. Some might say that it’s because women don’t ask for what they want, but in my case it’s because I find that BORING.
I could do the same thing I do every day and I would be fine.
But I’m not going to do that anymore.
My purpose is to employ women. My purpose is to create a safe and inclusive work environment. My purpose is for those women who have felt violated and scared about where they work – I want to grow enough to find a place for you. My purpose is to empower those who might feel like me – unworthy even though you have so much to give.
There. I’ve said it out loud.
My company may only grow a little bit. But now I’m comfortable with that growth - and I was afraid of it before. I want it. My big picture is not growing a million-dollar business because I can.
That’s because I’m not just a business.
I have a purpose.