One thing I’ve learned about entrepreneurs is that we’re always learning – about our industry, about marketing, about business. We go to courses and seminars and conferences. They’re a great way to learn as well as to network with other entrepreneurs.
But one of the easiest and cheapest ways to learn is by reading business books. Look in any entrepreneur’s office and you will find a variety of business books on the shelves. My office is no different. As a writer I’ve got tons of books about writing. But I’ve also got marketing and business books. Added to the books I’ve borrowed from the library and books colleagues and friends have lent to me, and the number is immense.
I just finished re-reading one of my favourites: Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny. Stanny has written a number of books about women and their relationship with money. As entrepreneurs, if we don’t have a comfortable relationship with money, we’re going to be in trouble.
Secrets of Six Figure Women is the result of hundreds of interviews Stanny had with women earning over $100,000. Over the course of these interviews, Stanny discovered seven strategies women (and men) need to use in order to earn big money.
Have an intention to make good money
Have a profit motive if you will. Now we all know money can’t buy happiness. But poverty doesn’t help either. And while Baby Boomer entrepreneurs have many reasons for starting a business, making money has to be one of them. If you’re not making money, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby. And if you’re going to work hard and make money, you might as well have a goal to earn enough to be comfortable now and when you retire.
Letting Go of the Ledge
This means you need to be willing to lose the security of the familiar to take the leap needed to raise your income. Stanny writes: “Their ledges took many forms, both concrete and intangible – from unfulfilling jobs to unpleasant relationships, from inappropriate goals to inaccurate beliefs, from damaging habits to detrimental emotions.”
Get in the Game
Stanny writes that people are basically playing one of two games: Not to Lose or To Win. The game Not to Lose is about playing it safe; avoiding risks, not looking bad, not making mistakes. As with investing, making safe choices as an entrepreneur may limit the risk you take, but it also limits how much you can gain.
When playing the game To Win, it’s not just about the Donald Trump style accumulating more money than the next guy. It’s about doing your best and seeing how far you can stretch. Yes, money is part of it, but not the whole deal. A key part of playing To Win is being willing to take risks and to keep going even when you’re scared out of your pants or your friends and family are telling you you’re nuts.
This strategy is about asking for what you want. For employees it can include asking for a raise. For entrepreneurs, it’s about raising your rates, not cutting your fees, setting boundaries.
Stanny writes “High earners are keenly aware of the immense power of audacity, which comes from the Latin word audace, meaning to dare. The women I interviewed somehow intuitively (if not always early) embrace this strategy as common practice: Stretch, dare to do which you think you cannot.”
If you’re an entrepreneur and are going to last, you’re going to have to stretch at some point. Maybe it’s speaking at a networking meeting or making cold calls; maybe it’s negotiating your fees or learning to wrestle your bookkeeping figures.
Whatever it is about business that you hate, that you’re not good at, that you’re afraid you can’t do, you can be sure you’ll have to get a handle on it before you can be truly successful.
This strategy has always been a hard one for me. I have a tendancy to want to do it all myself – a trait many entrepreneurs share. However, if you want to be truly successful, this is something you need to overcome. No one can do it alone.
Stanny writes about two types of help the successful women she interviewed talked about: True Believers, people who encouraged and believed in them whole heartedly, and Way Showers, mentors who served as proof that success is possible. These supports help us implement the other strategies.
“They inspire us to set our intention high and stick to it when our faith falls short. They gently pry our fingers loose when we cling too tightly to safety and then lead us into the game, explaining how to play. Maybe most important of all, they assuage our fears so we can stretch even farther.”
Obey the Rules of Money
Being successful isn’t just about how much you invoice – it’s how much you get to keep, how well you get to live as a result. Stanny’s rules of money are simple: Spend less than you earn, pay yourself first, put your money to work.
If you’re thinking, “I can’t spend less than I earn because my basic expenses take up all my income”, then you need to earn more. Then you need to make sure you spend less than you earn – save more. Once you’ve saved some money, don’t let it sit in your chequing account – you must invest, wisely.
If you’re an entrepreneur – man or woman – who’s not quite earning what you’d like, Secrets of Six Figure Women is a must read. The stories about how these women applied the strategies Stanny writes about and the successes they’ve had as a result are inspiring and motivating. This is definitely a book you need to add to your shelves.
Andrea J. Stenberg