Business Conversations With MyselfSeptember 1, 2013 | By: Nikki Hall
I read books about business all the time. I read about women in business, business etiquette, the ABCs of success, etc. All the reading in the world, however, cannot prepare a person for the actual act of conducting and operating a business. There are also very few mentors left that are willing to guide and teach a person as they start a company and learn about business. Specifically women; I have yet to come across another woman that is willing to put their time and energy into another woman to help them learn. Unless I reference myself of course. This is made more apparent to me with the passing years. As I engage in business dealings with people that have been company owners for many more decades than me, I watch how they interact with one another; the gestures and shortened sentences that indicate ease and camaraderie, or the clipped commands and tense voices when dealing with unpleasant contractors, clients, and the like. I realize that there is so much more taking place than the actual deal that is being shaken down. More specifically, the actual deal isn’t the most important part. It is the most important outcome, but it is predicated on the personalities, conversations, and principles that lead up to it. That fact that I work in a male dominated service industry makes me even more aware of the words that I use in communicating with others, my gestures, eye contact, and intonation.
The more I read, the more I understand that business is learned through experience. A person can understand the surface of any artificial scenario, but to actually live it is completely different. I know women as a whole believe they are men’s equal in almost every capacity, but it just isn’t so. There aren’t many women alive that can physically match a man’s physical strength and speed in dismantling a tree. As a woman in a man’s field, I know my limitations. I’m learning my boundaries and the effective means of communication too. It is actually more powerful for a woman to use her vulnerability and subtlety in business than it is to try and match men in their habits and rituals.
I’m reminded of the above every day; when I try and orchestrate a vehicle repair, purchasing equipment from online auctions, arranging pickup of paid equipment and parts, etc. There isn’t a clear cut formula for women guide their actions, behaviors, thoughts, etc. I’m doubly sure if I were to talk with other women in the work field, they wouldn’t want to duplicate what came before them; the stereotypical business women leave little to admire. They fall into two categories: emasculating and controlling or loose and manipulative. True success for women, especially in a male dominated industry, is subtlety and strength. A woman can find her stride if she takes each moment cautiously and feels out the situation and acts with certainty. I have found that assertiveness can mask certainty. While they can be the same and reap the same result, assertiveness, if not careful, masks a controlling behavior.
I don’t have a quick and easy formula; most of the time I learn as I go along. My husband is helpful in that he freely talks about business with me. He shares both the good and the bad in situations. He guides me through good common sense practices. He has helped over the years break down situations and see them for what they are really about. All of these things are helpful and have taken me a long way in sustaining good managerial and leadership qualities. What I am still struggling to understand and navigate through is, how can I find satisfaction in business and still be a lady while doing so?Last modified: September 1, 2013
Nikki is the co-owner of Aspect Tree Service in Alexandria, VA. Learn about her business at www.aspecttreeservice.com
This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.