Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
This article won’t be as concise as the others I’ve done so far because it’s an issue closer to home. I mean I am a woman who’s active in business. Men before you exit, take time to scheme through maybe you can learn a thing or two. Ladies I do hope I drum your heart strings to inspiring highs.
Placing all cards on the table, we are in the 21st century… so this issue may sound outdated to some of you. However, it’s imperative that you do realise this is a conversation worth having. We may be told that we can do everything twice as better as men but the one thing that hinders us is our gender.
Strengths vs Weaknesses
Here are few challenges or as some chauvinistic members of this society may call them weaknesses that I’ve personally learnt to turn to advantages and vice versa
Your money, their money
When you’re a lady in business. Your money is never yours. Aside from a few personal expenses, especially in an all-girl family, there are expectations. Furthermore, the burden is heavier when you have a family of your own. Have you found yourself making Ksh 5,000 in a day but you’re struggling to count coins for fare the next day? This is clearly a budget issue (topic for another day) but no matter how much you make or bring home, the expenses seem to catch up to that lump-some before you can “treat yourself” for a job well done.
I’ve had this line one too many times. Unless you’re selling makeup, people tend to look down on you or cast you aside because your looks aren’t in line with your trade. I say use it to your advantage especially at flea markets or as you pitch, distract and flirt (cautiously of course). Smile, compliment but be humble as you prove to the world that beauty and brains are in-deed a package!
For those who know me personally, you know how petite I am which is ironic to the amount of food I can down in a sitting. Sadly this isn’t translated to my weight. Most clients I encounter are shocked to learn I make most of the jewelery I sell. Maybe I should flex a bit more but that’s besides the point. I’m yet to find an advantageous twist to this.
I’ve had an acne phase in this short early adulthood period and although good regimen and a bit of self love is helping, they still persist. It’s not easy to post about it, but it’s significant that I keep these posts as real as possible. Some clients will ignore others may even try to give you advice on what to do or try. What is important is that you just listen and acknowledge. If you come across the few who have an attitude change especially in cases where you may have a physical handicap. Don’t shun them, don’t be irritated. Always remember people’s reactions are a reflection of their soul. Be comfortable with you, if they aren’t that’s their problem.
Metalworks is a man’s world
My trade is considered manly to some extent because it’s mostly done by fundis. I mean there was once a lady who came to pick her order and she exclaimed because she genuinely thought I source my products for resale. In fact in such moments, I beam with pride to explain the process and materials. When a client hears you speak passionately about your product or service, they get more in touch with your WHY and are more likely to refer or come back for more.
Business should be done after working experience
This point can also be put as an issue of age or timing. People will always have opinions as to when is the best time to go into business. You’ll always be too young or too old according to some know-it-alls. If it feels right go ahead and start. If you’re already in business, keep pushing. Advantage of going into business early i.e. while in campus, is that your struggle may not be felt as much as you may rely on parents for support. The advantage of going into it after the cooperate world is tons of experience and contacts so you’re definitely not starting from scratch.
If there’s something I’ve come to learn and see first hand, is how we women tend to be ruthless with one another. Whether it’s clients or partners, we need to remember that we tend to be very emotional beings thus when faced with a fellow difficult female; take take a step back breathe in and proceed with logic. By difficult, I’m referring to clients who don’t pay, or refuse to take the order, demand refunds while screaming to the rest of the world of your incompetence. Or even partners who ruin your reputation through delays or poor quality items. Either way, learn how to respond/communicate as opposed to reacting.
As mentioned above, we tend to be led by our heart more than our minds which makes us more empathetic and grants us an advantage in customer service and dealing with consumer related setbacks/ public relations. However, it’s really crucial to know when to shut down the empathy and be indifferent especially when you have a set budget and a friend borrows you cash. Or when a client insists on avoiding a pay first policy. Stand your ground, you’re not running a charity. Be as careful as you would be if you had a supervisor and dodge any actions that would get you in trouble.
Ask for help
Because in so many ways we are considered the timid/needy gender, we often hesitate when it comes to asking for help. I insist that you ask! Making a mistake due to lack of proper information could, in retrospect, be more damaging to your brand’s reputation when you could have asked and avoided the mistake. Also, please note there’s a very wide gap difference between asking and always being unsure of what you’re doing. Confidence is key, so ask without fear and in an engaging way.
Those may just be tips to various icebergs, but the conclusion to all this is to always view your disadvantage as a competitive edge to those around you. I mean no one can be more you than YOU!
Feel free to comment some weaknesses that you turned into strengths…