Are You Ready? The Shift to Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship: Start Right, Start SmartJan 27, 2023
The Basics: Start With Your Dream and Your Vision
If you are a woman approaching a crossroads in your life and work and you find yourself dreaming of self-employment, here are a few basics you need to know to start.
Dreams quickly give way to fear and self-doubt that you simply aren’t “ready”, or you are unaccustomed to today's business environment. You might also triggered by your own internalized ageism and think that you are too old to start.
I hear your frustration. I understand self-doubt. I want to assure you that with a few smart steps and as much tenacity as it took to build your career so far, the leap is possible.
In this blog post, I discuss how shifting into self-employment can be done right – ready for you no matter what age – and make sure you start off on strong footing.
The shift to self-employment can be the most rewarding accomplishment and pathway to personal and professional fulfillment there ever was. Ask anyone who has ventured out on their own and yes, they will tell you tales of blood, sweat, and tears shed. Some women confide that if they knew entrepreneurship was like "this", they would not have signed up. However, being self-employed, being a woman entrepreneur, and seeing your great idea flourish offers so many rewards. If you have a good idea, it won’t take long before others are nipping on your heels and therefore, let's start right, start smart, and start now!.
Decode Your Vision and Create Your Vision Statement
Simply put, if you don't get what you are doing and why, you won't be able to influence others. You won't be able to bring your great idea into the world and to all who need and will benefit from what you have to offer. What a loss!
Your vision clearly defines who and what your business enterprise (organization, company) is, provides a map for where you are taking it, and describes how you are going to get it there.
Vision statements can be quite lofty are best placed in a frame on the corporate wall in the reception area.
Your vision statement will be different. It will be well-articulated as it comes from your head and heart onto paper. Brainstorm with an experienced business coach. Write several versions to find the statement that works best for you and influences others.
When working with women entrepreneurs (solopreneurs and scaling businesses), I coach my clients with key questions about their core values, core focus, long and short targets, their plans, goals, key strategies, and challenges. This is "deep work", both personal, and professional.
Hone Your Value Proposition
Most likely, you have heard or read about the importance of a value-proposition: a simple, memorable statement about what you do and why you do it. Your value proposition describes the functional and emotional benefits of your company and your brand.
- Functional benefits are linked to specific product features.
- Emotional benefits refer to positive feelings that customers experience when using your products and services.
For example, the functional benefit of a gardening tool could be the efficient removal of lawn weeds. The emotional benefit could be its ease of use by people with physical limitations or people who want to spend more time appreciating the beauty of their gardens rather than "toiling" in the garden.
Value propositions are not about offering the cheapest products or services. Value propositions are about convincing customers that they are getting value for their money. For me value is quality and impact.
Your value proposition can be created in four steps:
Step 1: Know your "ideal" customer
Continuing with the example of a gardening tool, your customer is a woman executive with quite a large house and garden. Let's call her Annie.
Annie likes the "meditative feeling" of caring for her garden. It's part of her self-care. But, she does not enjoy mowing the lawn because it takes too long and keeps her away from another important element of self-care: her lawn chair, a book, and a cool refreshment. Annie is conscious of curb appeal and appreciates the appearance of a well-groomed lawn. Annie is not averse to doing it herself, but she wants it done effectively, efficiently, and enjoyably.
Step 2: Know your product or idea
For Annie, the product could be a ride-on mower with a 25 horsepower (powerful) engine and 45 inch (wide) cutting blades. Or, a reliable landscaping service.
Let's have some fun and go with Annie's choice of the ride-on mower. Annie is bold. She rides a Harley-Davidson, and she thrives on being self-sufficient and capable.
Step 3: Know your competitors
Your mower goes faster and cuts wider than the competition.
Step 4: Distill the customer-oriented proposition
"Our mower cuts your grass in 50% of the time of 'big brand' mowers in its class. It's easy to start and comfortable to ride. And, it leaves your lawn looking beautiful!"
Next: Craft Your Business Positioning Statement
Your business positioning statement flows from your value proposition (explained above). Your statement should describe why customers should use your product over another.
Let's look at another example. A small bakery's positioning statement could be its multigrain breads and custom-designed cakes that appeal to customers like Annie who are looking for flavourful, healthy, and creative products that are different from the standard mass-produced items at local major grocery stores. Correct positioning is critical and could determine market-share gains and profitability.
In this case, the bakery is focused on and committed to positioning its products in the market segment that includes customers like Annie who want high-quality, high-priced goods. If the bakery bends to compete solely on price, it might not survive. Big grocers can use their buying power to drive down costs. This specialty bakery cannot.
Positioning statements focus on the most relevant benefit and points of competitive differentiation that are meaningful to the buying persona:
- Audience (Persona type/niche market. Think about Annie)
- Key customer benefit
- Think "Why?" and answer the customer’s question of "What's in it for me?" (WIFM). What's in it for Annie?
Be prepared to modify your positioning statements to respond to changes in the business environment and consumer habits and behaviours? The pandemic has taught us so much about how the business environment can change - quickly - and can be finicky and mercurial.
Next: Craft and Memorize Your Personal Positioning Statement
Your personal positioning statement flows from your value propositions and business positioning statement. It describes why customers like Annie should choose you over someone else.
Sometimes this statement is referred to as your elevator pitch or your unique selling proposition (USP). I am not a proponent of either because of the "cliched", "canned", "scripted", and inauthentic perception I get from hearing painful "pitches" and USPs for decades.
Whatever you want to call it, your personal positioning statement could include how you help or have helped other clients/customers. How would you and your offer appeal to prospects who are looking for similar results (or have similar problems). Based on your niche market values, your personal positioning statement must focus on the most relevant benefit of working with you versus your competitors.
Here is one of many templates for you to consider in crafting a memorable statement:
For ____________________ (your audience/niche market/persona type),
I am the ________________(your specialty or category of service)
with the unique combination of ____________ (your differentiator)
that can help you ____________________ (key customer benefit/the “why”/WIFM answer).
Reviewing and refining your business and personal positioning statements will help to keep your vision alive. These statements are reminders of what you do, why you do it, and why you are the best at what you do. These statements prepare you to answer the dreaded networking question: “What do you do?” A word of caution: make sure your statements aren't obviously canned or scripted. Craft your statements to be flexible and conversational, and support you in responding authentically.
This is just the beginning of something magical. If you are a women exploring self-employment and the entrepreneurial lifestyle, I offer the unique combination of quality consulting, business coaching, and emotional intelligence that can help you launch your executive encore, cope with the demands and challenges, and find fulfillment. I can also introduce you to other bold women entrepreneurs and executives. A few ride Harleys!
Reference and Resources
- Maestro's Top 3 Resource Books - Recommended for Self Development and Entrepreneurial Business Development
- Better TOGETHER - Maestro's Preferred Partners and Resources - Innovation Guelph Rhyze Programs and WEConnect International
Your Next Steps
- Explore strategies for finding fulfillment after 60 which might include self-employment, entrepreneurship, or excelling as an intrapreneur. Schedule a 30-minute complimentary call to explore possibilities. On this call, Patricia and you will get acquainted and discuss what outcome is important to you. Patricia will explain the application process for working with her. By the end of the call, you will have a "quick-win" action plan.
- Listen to the Executive Encore podcast. Women Finding Fulfillment After 60!
- Receive Maestro's Encore blog in your inbox with VIP content and specific exercises, self-assessments, and self-assignments related to this topic and to accelerate your emotional well-being and resilience. Start with your 90-Day EQ Mini-Plan or the mini workbook Emotions Drive Performance: Triggers from Thinking to Results - Predispositions, Self-Handicapping, Self-Sabotage
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