Guest post by Leanne Stewart, owner of Ideations, a strategic advisory agency for women-owned businesses in Gothenburg, Sweden. Ideations is a partner agency for Presnal5.
Accepting yourself: What it took me seven years as an entrepreneur to figure out.
If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, “A stay-at-home wife and mother of five kids.” Some of that ambition was attributed to my crush on Anne Shirley, heroine of the Anne of Green Gables books, and some because I really, really enjoyed running a home and caring for children. I was good at it. The funny thing about ambition, especially when it’s so clearly focused on a specific outcome, is that you can miss a lot of opportunities along the way if you cling to the way you think things are supposed to be instead of embracing the way things are. What it took me decades to accept and understand was that the very same skills needed to run a household and family could be transferred into running a company. The problem I kept experiencing was trying to be like everyone else. I kept thinking if I had a business and was in business, that meant it had to fit within industry standards or else it wasn’t a “real” business. The pressure of fitting in, in order to be taken seriously, saw my company growing – and shrinking – in fits and starts. I wouldn’t accept that I had no heart for business as usual because that created doubts about my head for business. Yet, money for money’s sake was not a motivator for me. In fact, because my natural inclinations were more “maternal”, I only wanted to focus on helping, shaping, growing, and developing things. That was my focus and my goal. Simply seeking out people and projects in order to sell things was the hardest thing to do, and frankly, I never really did it very well. It took seven years as a business owner to realize and accept this about myself. Now, as I pivot toward a new way of working, the selling side of things is so much easier because I no longer even try to sell anything. Instead, I coach and advise other women who are in business and help them find a way to work within their circumstances to create new opportunities that fit their unique talents and values. I am great at spotting new opportunities and creating highly customized and strategic business plans for customer acquisition, retention, and new market penetration. I can talk “business” and strategy because I have 25 years of study and experience behind me. The difference is the way I choose to approach this. I now lead with what I value – helping to develop and grow other people and their businesses. The thrill I get when I meet with someone and see their eyes light up with possibilities and their lungs breathe in hope and exhale stress because they know they’re no longer all alone in entrepreneur-land is as rewarding to me as watching a child take their first steps or swing and hit their first home run. I still use all of my skills that made me so great at running a home and raising a child and transfer those into helping other women run their companies but, I no longer force myself to be something I’m not. It took me years and years to accept this side of myself. To realize the value in developing other people and operating from a position of equipping and growing versus selling and accumulating. Now, I teach it to others. Ideations offers business building strategy and customer development for companies ready to use better ideas for better results.