Mistakes can be costly and permanently damage your reputation in the business arena. They are an inevitable part of life and business, but with experience you can avoid them. The longer you do business, hopefully, the fewer mistakes you will make. The following are seven of the worst mistakes women can make in business and how you can avoid them.
1. Buying into Your Socialization
Women are socialized differently than men, and this reflects in the workplace. Businesswomen must go beyond this cultural socialization to attain their full potential. The “nice girl” attitude you may have learned growing up doesn’t work in business, and customers and clients may have a tendency to doubt your abilities or, worse yet, try to take advantage of you. It’s important to identify and be clear about your business goals in order to successfully achieve what you want. You need to focus on and play the specific business game you are engaged in, understand the rules, and then keep it fresh by playing at the edge of the bounds. That’s where most games are won.
2. Lacking Confidence
Show a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities and you may be passed up for profitable opportunities. Women who minimize their accomplishments, constantly apologize, and remain silent in meetings or presentations are going to fail. A lack of confidence, even if you are competent, is like a time bomb and will eventually sabotage your business career.
It’s essential to believe in your abilities and have confidence that you can succeed in business. One way to help you get there is to use affirmations several times each day (for at least 21 days) to overcome self-defeating behaviors and habits. Don’t expect someone else to tell you that you can do it. Instead, follow your passion in business for your greatest success. Reach out to associates through networking and find a mentor to help build your business strengths. When you don’t know the answer to an important question, admit it and say “I will find out the answer and get right back to you.”
3. Having a Poor Professional Image
A poor professional image can ruin a woman’s business reputation. Your professional image is your identity in the business world. Colleagues, customers, and clients often decide whether to work with you based on their first image or impression of you. Because of this, first impressions can give you a competitive edge or cut you out of the game.
The people you work with like to have a personal sense of who you are. Verbal as well as nonverbal communication, such as posture, greeting, voice tone, gestures, handshake, attitude, and eye contact, comes together to form your professional image. When you are speaking to a group, move slowly and purposefully around the room. Smile and look directly at customers and associates as you speak. Project your voice in a pleasing yet commanding tone, and share anecdotes.
An easy way to polish your professional image is to practice your greetings or presentations in front of a mirror or a video camera. You can see what mistakes you are making and what you are doing right. Also create a professional, cohesive online identity. A Web site is a good place to build and showcase your abilities. Use networking groups such as LinkedIn and Facebook to list your credentials, education, skills, achievements, and interests. Google yourself and find out what the net is saying about you.
4. Trusting Customers to Pay Their Bills
Trusting people to pay their bills can be a huge mistake. Be sure you know with whom you are doing business. Check them out, and get their D&B credit rating. Never let your customers get too far behind on their payments, even if you are certain they can pay later. When you do suffer a business loss, sometimes it’s best to walk away instead of spending a lot of money on lawyers, just to be told you don’t have the resources to win the case. Women need to recognize their limitations and options and make the best possible choices.
5. Displaying Negative Emotions
Displaying anger, being rude or egotistical, whining, complaining, and crying will lose you customers. Don’t cuss in person, on the phone, or in correspondence, even if your colleagues do. Chances are you will eventually be labeled foul-mouthed. Yelling at or arguing with your customers and associates will label you a hothead or a problem, and you will alienate them. If you only think about yourself or are openly rude, people will run, not walk, in the other direction, and you will pay a heavy price.
Complaining or nagging in business works about as well as it does at home. Women can deal with every challenge in business without complaining, criticizing, yelling, cussing, or being negative. One rule of thumb is to suggest a viable solution instead of criticizing others. Motivate and persuade instead of yelling or bullying to get your point across. Remember to take a couple of deep breaths when you begin to feel overwhelmed; and before you lash out, ask yourself “Is it worth the liability?”
6. Failing to Delegate
Profit most often comes from getting the job done. You don’t necessarily have to do the job yourself, but you have to work smart and delegate. Some women are not only afraid to delegate, they just don’t know how to ask other people for help. To make matters worse, they also do the work of others. One word of advice: stop.
You need to delegate or you will never expand your business. Identify who can do the job the best for you. Ask, don’t tell, people to do something. Be firm and develop a cooperative working effort. In this way, you not only better manage your work, you also empower the people who work for you so they can excel.
7. Not Investing in Yourself
Not investing in yourself is counterproductive. If you are serious about your value, you will commit a certain amount of money and time to invest in your future. If you don’t, you will never find out what you are truly capable of achieving. Pay yourself a good wage and a few well-earned bonuses, and carry adequate insurance to protect you and your business.
Take action steps to ensure your business success. This involves being aware of trends and keeping your eyes and ears open. Look for creative and innovative approaches to solving business problems and taking advantage of opportunities. Women need to step out of their comfort zones and do some research. Develop a plan for investing in yourself and your business, including advertising, consultant fees, new equipment, staff development, and a better business location. Remember to diversify your assets and tap into professional pools by asking your accountant, banker, and lawyer a lot of pertinent questions.
Fortunately, with experience, your decision-making process often improves as you learn from your past mistakes. You begin to make better choices and open the windows of opportunity and achievement.