1. Ask for advice but listen selectively.
- It’s tempting to “poll” people when you have questions about your business (especially if your business is research!). I try to listen for what really speaks to me and move on that. If I’ve asked for advice and it contradicts my gut instinct, then that’s a sign that I need to follow my own advice.
2. There will be times where you will wish you had a steady job in a bigger company.
- There are going to be bad days. This is just a reality.
3. If you want it, own it.
- Building consensus is a good thing, but even in a small business like ours, it can be slow. If you want to want something to happen, think about everything you can do to move the process along. The gift of small business is that you have more opportunity to initiate and ignite new ideas but you have to be willing to be the spark.
4. Loyalty is rewarded.
- Maybe not immediately. Maybe not in ways entirely clear at the time. But we are still in business today because this is true. With loyalty, always look at the long view not the immediate gain.
Feel free to share your your small business truths or realities – I’d love to hear them!
I have been reading a book called “This I Believe” that’s filled with essays from all kinds of people that NPR collected as part of a series. The book got me thinking about my beliefs about owning a small business and I thought I would share three that immediately came to mind:
1. The strength of the business partnership affects everything.
- My business partner Brenda and I are a good fit because we trust each other, have different strengths but the same values and almost never lose our minds at the same time. We actually have very little drama in the office, which is a combination of good employees and very little conflict between Brenda and me.
2. Know who you are and what you do.
- Because we started as a marketing and communications agency, it took a while to realize that we had completely shifted to a consumer insight business. Once we embraced that fact, we were much clearer in communicating what we offered and why companies should work with us.
3. Realize you have choices.
- In most of our work, we operate without contracts. Our clients hire us for projects, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll get the next one. So we focus on delivering well so we’ll be asked to do more work. I believe this idea of choice – that our clients offer work to us and we accept it – greatly influences how we approach our business.
As I continue to read, I’ll share more of my truths.
There’s a lot of back and forth about Gen Y (defined in my mind primarily as people in their 20’s). In the media and the workplace, Gen Y is often portrayed as unmotivated and overindulged with unrealistic career expectations. A recent article in the New York Times asks why it seems to be taking so long for people in their 20’s to grow up and assesses the merit of an entirely new developmental stage called “emerging adulthood.”
It may be true that some Gen Yers may be delaying adulthood – putting off marriage, postponing careers, living at home to save money or because they have been so hard hit in this economy. But, if given the chance, isn’t that what we 40-something women would advise our younger selves to do? To take our time and really choose a career rather than taking the job right in front of us, to worry less about finding the person we’re going to spend our lives with right now and to have different experiences to build a foundation for interesting lives and careers? Coming of age in the 80’s, my generation learned that sometimes the traditional way, or the most immediate, isn’t always the best way.
When my mom graduated from college 50 years ago, choices were limited and cultural expectations were well-defined. When she married at 26, it was seen as late; now it’s the median age. Today’s women have more choices and the freedom to make their own way – to experiment, to make mistakes, to learn – but that all takes time.
We have been involved in five studies involving Gen Y women in the past 18 months, and my experience is based on that, along with employees we have had here at OYM. Most of the Gen Y women I have met are sincere, down to earth and funny. Gen Y is often criticized for overconfidence, but I believe optimism is one their best qualities, especially considering the obstacles they’re facing. In fact, their generation is the first in a century that is unlikely to end up better off financially than their parents, according to a recent report by Demos, a public policy research and advocacy think tank.
In our work, we’ve seen that this is a group on the verge of adulthood during a unique time with an exceptional amount of change. They must believe in themselves because they have learned not to rely on institutions. They ask questions because they are natural seekers who are highly connected and want to know where they fit in.
Now, it’s true that there are challenges that come with the new needs these “emerging adults” present. I admit that it’s sometimes been hard for me to adapt to concerns and suggestions that have come from our GenY employees. But we’re getting better at having those conversations and working together to explore the possibilities. What are you exploring with Gen Y?