I recently joined the Young Professionals of Asheville and attended a lunch and learn focused on Women Entrepreneurs in Asheville. Laura Webb, President of Webb Investment Services, Inc. moderated the panel of previous recipients of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women Entrepreneurs Award. The panel at the presentation included Becky Cannon, President of i play, Drue Ray, VP of SimplyHome, and Julie Stehling, Co-Owner of Early Girl Eatery and King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle.
They discussed the challenges that come with owning a business. Owning a business is far more than just having an idea and creating a product. It requires you to wear every hat from sales to finances, be the boss, ask the right questions, and take risks while voices in your head tell you that you could fail. It’s important to always keep learning. Education inspires growth and success and is integral to creating a successful business.
Since we were focused on women-owned business, questions were geared to strengths and weaknesses of being a female leader. The panel agreed, stereotypically, women are more emotional. Emotions can play both positively and negatively into a business, so figuring out your balance is important. As a leader, it is important to push yourself to truly be the boss, while still being empathetic to the needs of your employees and target audience.
The panel shared a lot of great insight into how they try to balance work and family life and surprisingly all of the panelists currently have a spouse or family member as a co-owner or employee in their business. They mentioned they make it work by focusing on different aspects of the business, so they don’t end up having to tell the other how to do something. By determining their strengths, they created scenarios where egos don’t get in the way.
Throughout my career, I have worked for entrepreneurial women at Marketing Mojo and Barb Wired in Charlottesville and Plum Print and Asheville Event Co. in Asheville. It has inspired me to see women follow their dream and create opportunities where they are in charge of their career. During the panel discussion, Laura Webb mentioned the book The Stiletto Network after several panel members mentioned that they have career coaches and networks that act as a personal advisory board. While at Marketing Mojo, as part of training, we were required to read several business books that inspired us to improve our professional skills. If you are starting out as an entrepreneur, you might not have developed your network yet, so reading business and management books could be the right place for you to start. I haven’t actually read Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, but that is probably one that should be added to this list. Here are 6 business and entrepreneurial books that I’ve learned from:
This was a fantastic book to read when I started my first job and I truly wished I read it before I even started my job search. Written primarily for a female audience, author Cathie Black, shares many of her career lessons that helped her land dream jobs and become a better boss. Admittedly, she made a lot of mistakes, but by learning from them, was able to pursue her passions and create her own success.
Again, I read this book a bit later than I would have liked. Acknowledging the difference between a manager and a friend is important. Especially when managers and employees are similar ages, it can be hard to always be the boss. At a previous job, I found that one of my coworkers made a clear decision to not join company happy hours. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to be friends, but it was easier for her to be seen as a superior if she didn’t mix her professional and personal life. I respected her for that decision and ultimately looked up to her for career advice and industry expertise.
One of the YPA members asked the panel about how they deal with growth and letting go when employees have control to react and make decisions. That question and the subsequent answers reminded me of this book that dives into changes in the workplace. Not everyone in your company may handle each situation as you, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture and know that changing a practice doesn’t mean it’s bad. Also, if you work in industries that change often, this is a good book for coping with change within your company.
I loved this book. It can be SO hard to ask for a promotion or bring up a work situation where you think things were handled poorly. This book gives advice into addressing those difficult situations in a comfortable, non-aggressive manner. I agree with studies that show women have a harder time asserting their value in the workplace and are too often defined as “bitchy” when they stand up for themselves or act like a boss, so this is a good read if you have trouble in those high stake situations.
This book focuses on proven managerial skills and acts as a role model when learning to be a manager. While I was reading this book, I started to put it into practice. I held short, quick update meetings to address goals, strategies and concerns for the week. It helped us create a stronger relationship and I immediately felt my managerial skills improve. Having regular, quick update meetings in the office or during walks outside are so valuable to prioritizing what is important to your team.
When most entrepreneurs begin, they begin by themselves and work a zillion hours as they slowly grow their team. For many entrepreneurs it is hard to let go and know that the business can run successfully without you as a key figure. If you started your business in the first place for greater flexibility, this is a great book to identify ways to create a business that can prosper without you there 24/7.
What leadership or entrepreneurial books are on your favorites list? Which have made an impact on how you manage your career? I’d love to be able to add to my list in the future, so please share in the comments below!