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November 28, 2009

Getting Perspective(s)

Last week the Mom/Business Owner Affinity Group gathered for a wonderful discussion where several of IGC's more seasoned parents (aka "moms with distance") joined regular members of the affinity group (most of whom have young children under the age of 10) to discuss their experiences of raising children and juggling their careers. The "moms with distance" all have childredn who are now in their 20s and 30s. These members shared stories of memorable parenting highs and lows, favorite family traditions and lessons learned retrospectively, sparking a lively, wide-ranging conversation that touched on evergreen parenting challenges (e.g., handling picky eaters) as well as more recent phenomena, including helicopter parenting. We wanted to share some of the feedback and tips they shared with the group.

Celia, who worked full-time while raising her two sons, talked about the importance of establishing rituals, celebrating important achievements, always following through on threatened punishments and eating dinner as a family. Given her work schedule, she recalled, this often meant sitting down to a home-cooked meal at 9:00 pm at night - which her sons grew up believing was a typical dinner hour. She also introduced the group to the concept of the "favor bank", a method of encouraging unsolicited acts of generosity (as in clearing the table without being asked) and, if a child's virtual balance was running particularly low, potential grounds for ruling out a special treat until his behavior improved. Celia's overriding goal, she said, was to raise boys who were not spoiled brats, and she is proud of the fact that she and her husband now have two adult sons whom they genuinely like and enjoy spending time with. Celia also recommended a few books that she found invaluable, particularly when her sons hit adolescence, including Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, both by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Karen, who also worked full-time while her daughter was growing up, also emphasized the importance of carving out regular time together - in her family's case, during meals and on weekends at a minimum. But this wasn't always the case. She recalled a particularly painful moment when her daughter Heather, who was then six, told her that her frequent traveling meant that they "weren't a family any more." Karen subsequently decided to cut her consulting hours back to part-time, and had to threaten to quit her job altogether before her boss grudgingly agreed to let her do it. Fortunately for the entire group, Karen's daughter Heather, who now has two young sons of her own and is also an IGC member, was on hand to share her perspective as well. She said that while she has no memory of being a catalyst in her mother's decision to alter her work schedule, she did grow up believing that Saturdays and Sundays really were "family days" and didn't realize the rest of the world called them "the weekend" until she was a teenager.

Alice, in reflecting on her parenting style and philosophy, said that she very consciously chose to raise her children in a much more laissez-faire way than she herself had been raised. She noted that this not only felt right to her at the time, but that she continues to feel good about the decisions she made, given that both of her children are now thriving, highly independent adults.

It seemed to many of the younger moms in the room that perhaps being a parent - and in particular, a mother - was less fraught with guilt and anxiety a generation ago than it is today. While all of the "moms with distance" had to engage in the same kind of juggling act that working women today must contend with, they agreed that they didn't spend a lot of time agonizing (or comparing notes with friends) about how well they were doing it. By comparison, as one mom with a toddler pointed out, the continued evolution of parenting as a "science" over the past couple of decades has created enormous pressure on parents, borne disproportionately by mothers, to get it right at every step of the way - or be made to feel that they risk potentially dire consequences.

Ultimately, the two-hour discussion didn't result in any resolutions, proclamations or manifestos. That wasn't the point. But it did get a lot of bright, accomplished women to speak candidly about, and listen respectfully to, a variety of opinions on the topic of motherhood. And it's quite possible that it got many of the newer moms in the room (aka "moms in the thick of it") to feel perfectly good about deviating, as often as necessary, from the use of patient explanations and reasoning to say "NO, because I said so and that's final." It's a tried-and-true method that worked on all of us, after all.

Guest Blogger: Eden Abrahams (co-faciliator, Mom Business Owner Affinity Group & Founder of Clear Path Executive Coaching)

November 27, 2009

A little bit can go a long way: Kiva, inKindness, IGC, & YOU!

(photo courtesy of Kelly Bentley)

Last year in lieu of sending holiday gifts or cards to our members and close colleagues, we set aside $1 for each of them and loaned the money through Kiva to women entrepreneurs around the world.

Since then, we have continued to reissue loans as soon as the original ones were paid back.
Using just the initial funds, we have loaned $1000 to date. These 15 loans have reached dozens of women in 10 countries!

We are inspired by how far this little gesture has gone and will be making a similar contribution this year.

Want us to make a contribution on your behalf? Let us know in the comments section.

Want to join our lending team? Do so here.

November 26, 2009

In Good Company’s Ears are Burning

(Image courtesy of Tony Golding)

IGC has been mentioned on some really fantastic blogs recently. Each is a great resource for women entrepreneurs! Check out the articles and blogs below. Thanks for all the support.

Women Entrepreneurs Fight the Urge to Do It All
What Gen Y Entrepreneurs Have Learned and Can Teach You

Working in the New Economy:
How to Deal With Post Conference Overload
4 Reasons to Share Your Ideas

Game Change Ventures: Trouncing the Recession like an Upstart!
Gen Y Start Up

November 14, 2009

The Business Owner's "Imposter Complex"

(photo courtesy of Megan Horsburgh)

In a recent consulting session I was struck by a client's poignant statement. She said that after 8 years of running a successful business (in which she has supported herself and several employees), she finally feels like a "real-business owner". Hum... I scratched my head and asked. "what do you mean?" She said that she had always felt like a fake and that it was mere luck that had been propelling her business forward over the years.

Ah ha, I realized she had suffered from the Business Owner's Imposter Complex!

A quick and easy definition provided by wikipedia of the Imposter Complex is when "sufferers are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be."

On further reflection, I thought about just how many business owners we connect with who also describe this same experience. Despite their talent, hard work and success they often do not own their identity as a REAL (and successful) business owner or entrepreneur.

When we started In Good Company, our mission was to "elevate the status of women business owners".

This goal was twofold:

First, to help increase recognition of an often overlooked demographic and the large economic impact that demographic is continuing to make at a breaking pace.

Second, on a more local, and arguably important level, we wanted to help more women see themselves as "REAL" business owners.

It reflects a critical shift in thinking, to go from thinking of yourself as a X (consultant, nutritionist, photographer) to understanding that you are truly an entrepreneur. To date these are the best kinds of testimonials and feedback that we receive!

-posted by Amy Abrams

November 11, 2009

On being an expert: A tricky but important identity

(photo courtesy of Merle Pace)

Earlier this week, I participated with 14 other women entrepreneurs in an incredibly valuable workshop called 'Write to Change the World' put on by The OpEd Project and facilitated by Katie Orenstein and Marci Alboher.

The program aims to "to expand public debate, with an immediate emphasis on enlarging the pool of women experts who are accessing (and accessible to) our nation's key print and online forums—which are a gateway into public debate, feed all other media, and are a hub of thought leadership."

The first interactive exercise, designed by the founder of the organization, Katie Orenstein sounded easy...at first.

Katie simply asked us each to state the following in less than a minute:

Hi, I'm (name)
I'm an expert in _________________
Because _______________________

Most of the women in the room struggled with the exercise. In part, because there was a feeling of discomfort in owning the "expert" title.

Many of us brought a sense of humbleness to the exercise and watered down our answer - not wanting to feel like a braggart - not wanting to project a false image. Many of us were not even sure we had the right to define ourselves as an expert.

This led us to a great discussion about what defines an expert. Academic credentials? Personal experience? Professional work experience? Number of clients? Brand name? Third party endorsements? Media accolades and appearances? All of the above?

It was striking to me was that this conversation was occurring as I was sitting around the table with experienced business owners who are not only talented but also clearly experts in their field, and well sought after ones at that.

The exercise helped each of articulate our expertise and understanding how valuable it was to ourselves and our businesses to own the expert identity.

Because, Katie asked us to both spread the word and share our experience, I strongly encourage you to try this exercise!

See if you can craft your response in a manner that is big and genuine and comfortable. For the purposes of this exercise, clear your head of your finely-tuned 15 second pitch (that is a useful, but different tool). Stick to the guidelines. Then own it, and most importantly use it!

-posted by Amy Abrams

November 4, 2009

Twitter was a well-needed kick in the pants to improve my grammar

Business communication is tricky.

My attention to detail and penchant for “resource gathering” is liable to turn any power point slide into a 30 page document. And, for me, email is a catch22 nightmare.

I do prefer email as I am really not a “phone person”. Yet, as someone who is not instinctively attuned to grammar and spelling (no shock to any of our blog readers) AND who has a direct tone, each email is fraught with opportunity for error and misunderstanding.

I have long relied on spell check and a two-prong email writing technique I developed a couple years ago where I write the content of the email, and then I go back and add in the conversation (ex. I hope you are well; it was great to see you) to keep me out of trouble.

As an avid reader and book lover however, I have great respect for skilled writers and clever, well-articulated communication.

I have always felt insecure and uncomfortable about my lack of grammatical and spelling prowess but it has really taken Twitter to motivate me to do something about it. (It took me a while to get on Twitter in the first place, but I'm here!)

Now I find this somewhat ironic since most tweets use “twitter shorthand” and may be incomprehensible to someone who is not yet familiar with the symbols and formulas used.

However, at the Global Innovation Conference in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, Peter Shankman said that the average attention span is 2.9 seconds (or about the amount of time that it takes to read a tweet). This, he said, coupled with the amount of mobile communication we engage in, really underscores the importance of being a good writer.

He is right, of course. And for the first time it really sunk in for me. I don’t email blog posts directly to the blog from my Blackberry because I’m sure there are too many errors. I do need to check over tweets a couple times before I send them out.

And while I probably wouldn’t hold small errors against another writer (in truth I probably wouldn’t even recognize them), there are too many smart people out there that would and do hold these faux pas against me.

So, recognizing that I am charged with representing my brand AND that I don’t want to be limited in using mobile applications and communication, I have turned a new leaf and have begun a concerted effort to improve my grammar (those damn commas) and spelling (those damn vowels).

Any suggestions of resources you may have would be greatly appreciated!

So far I am listening to Grammar Girl podcasts and reading Eats, Shoots, & Leaves. For those in my boat, both resources are highly recommended!

November 2, 2009

Restraining yourself from internet searching off course

(photo courtesy of K W Baker)

I admit that very often the minute I open my browser to look up one quick thing, at least 30 minutes pass before I shake myself out of my “internet coma”, which has inevitably led deep into the internet abyss and entangled me with things that are certainly not relevant or helpful (forget about related) to the work at hand!

Ah, the double edge sword of search. On the one hand, you can easily find information that would have previously taken you to a library (and maybe even microfiche film – does that even still exist?). But on the other hand, the possibility for distraction is endless and can easily take you off course and smack into an unproductive cycle of distraction and stress.

I wonder whether all this information that I discover is really useful Since I do not have a mechanism to “empty the trash” in my brain, isn’t it just taking up valuable space? Could that be why I have become so forgetful of things that are important or urgent (i.e. what did I need at the grocery store?).

I was thrilled to read Peggy Orenstein’s piece in the New York Times Magazine, Stop Your Search Engines that touched on this very topic. She shares an application that she has discovered (although it is only for Macs – boohoo!) called Freedom. On its site it is described as “an application that disables networking on an Apple computer for up to eight hours at a time” but the kicker is that “freedom enforces freedom” – I love that!

Perhaps it takes restraint in shutting off our internet, disabling our email and turning off our cell phone to focus, avoid distractions and get our work done. Personally, I can’t wait until the PC application comes out to try the experiment!!!

posted by Amy Abrams