Gather round Ladies – I have a secret to share with you. Size does not matter…indeed small can bring the most personal satisfaction. What am I talking about? Well business of course!
Both men and women buy into the myth that size equals success in business and we are horribly prone to making judgements on our peers based on this yard stick. Let me share with you from personal experience just why this is so wrong.
It would be fair to say that the majority of men start businesses with an aim to bring home the bacon and preferably lots of it. Women have much more diverse reasons. Some of these are as follows
- We may indeed start from financial necessity
- We may start not from absolute necessity but still for financial reasons, to increase the overall household income or to provide us with financial independence.
- We may start because we have a particular passion for a cause and want to share it.
- We may start from helping husbands/partners/families in their businesses.
- We may have a particular flair or talent which we are encouraged to nurture and turn into a commercial enterprise.
- Some of us have an aim to grow large.
And of course there are many more reasons…
Why I started
When I first started, it was certainly financial necessity. I was absolutely broke and had two small children to support. I could have, however, chosen to go out and get a job and get a child minder. I didn’t simply because I also wanted to be with my children and I tailored my job and my business to suit that. Like many women, therefore, there were lifestyle choices involved.
I am not saying I didn’t have the same nightmare moments as everyone else, but because the end was justifying the means, I enjoyed about 7-8 very happy years, with a very small business, bringing in a pretty low income but with a huge flexibility that enabled me to have a huge amount of time with my children when they were young. It was as near a perfect balance as possible.
Later, when my children were in their teens and needing me considerably less, an opportunity presented itself to grow my business. I had a great deal of luck in the timing again, by that time, I was ready for a new challenge and would probably have suffered considerably from feeling like a bored and redundant mum had chance not played a hand. Running a much bigger and more challenging operation suited me at that point.
That said, in the second wave of growth, I made the vital mistake of buying into the myth and assuming that going on growing would mean success. In my ignorance, I changed a very successful little business that was making a rather serious amount of dosh into one of twice the size that was immediately so badly run – untrained staff, systems that did not suit a larger company and so on – that it nearly crashed altogether. I overlooked that when it comes to the finances of a business, the size of the business is irrelevant, the size of the bottom line is all that matters.
Don’t believe the hype
Another motivation that many of us have – both men and women, and high fliers in particular – is that we believe that “success” in public terms will solve our self esteem problems. This is (easy to say from the outside) complete nonsense. No outside factor ever solves self esteem. The result is that simply we set ourselves ridiculous targets that we will be a “success” if we reach that much turnover or that many staff. This one is particularly fatal as we work ourselves into a state of complete exhaustion, reach the plateau and promptly have major, and often literal, nervous breakdowns, finding that the space above the clouds is just as empty as it was below.
The key to success
I am absolutely passionate about encouraging people into business but my lesson to you all is therefore this. Be very clear as to your reasons for doing it from day one. If you want to work for yourself and only work 10 hours a week and earn X number of pounds, and you achieve that and still manage to look after your children, race motor bikes, do the garden, practice acrobatics, – whatever your other life is, the rest of the time, you are a success.
Working for yourself gives you one of the greatest gifts and that is having the power to control your own life. Do not ever waste it by allowing other people’s judgements to colour your own. It is your life, organize it just how you want it. That is the greatest triumph of them all.
About the Author: Jan Cavelle is a member of the rare breed of successful women in manufacturing. Her story began as a single mum, desperate for an income and deciding to sell a product on the phone – strategically placed under the stairs at home– with one pad, one pen - and settling on furniture. She went on to acquire her own manufacturing business, selling top end furniture to customers worldwide. She has also fulfilled her original journalistic ambitions, writing for Real Business, and is a passionate supporter of enterprise, currently one of 50 UK Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors in Europe and working with Start Up Britain.
@jancavelle – Twitter