I’m all about finding ways to stay focused and motivated when it comes to maintaining and growing your business, and sometimes it comes down to a helpful list of reminders to keep me moving forward. So when the concept behind the 3 C’s was introduced to me a while back via the American Express OPEN Forum: CEO BootCamp, I instantly became intrigued. Today, the Philly OPEN Forum: CEO BootCamp Ambassador, Colleen Mook, is giving us some insight into the 3 C’s and sharing her personal approach to utilizing them in her business, Baby Be Hip. –Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump…
While I’ve been in business for 12+ years, I’ve only just been working to take a hobby to a “real business.” I started my company, Baby Be Hip, when my oldest was not quite a year old. I was a stay-at-home mom and had the luxury of not going back to my corporate job, but after nine months at home, I was itching to do something more. I chose to start a business, and Baby Be Hip was born. It was a natural business for me as I just had my first child, Molly. I was so proud of her, and the name we had chosen, that I wanted it on everything. This is where the inspiration for Baby Be Hip stems and it’s now an online retailer of personalized baby and children’s gifts. For the first nine or ten years it was a “nights and naps” kind of business, as I always worked around my children’s schedule (I now have four children, ages 13, 11, 8 and 4).
For me, the biggest challenge as a woman business owner has been raising a family and all that comes with that while raising another baby – my company. I was doing just fine after babies #1 and #2 and the business was growing slowly on its own, and this was a great balance for me. It gave me exactly what I needed. While I was pregnant with #3, we decided to position Baby Be Hip for a growth push. We had just moved into a new space, bought a $40,000 embroidery machine, launched a new e-commerce website and started doing PR and online marketing with PPC and SEO. But my life changed dramatically overnight in 2005, after my third child, Ellie, was born with significant special needs. As a result of our new situation, my attention was on my daughter and it really became less about planning and executing a business and more about living one day at a time. The growth push for my business was put on hold really fast. Fortunately, having great employees that I trusted enabled the business to sustain itself and allowed me to stay present with my daughter. I believe this is one of the best business lessons around: have trusted employees that know your process and values so that they can execute with confidence in your absence.
As a result of my personal challenges, I have had slow and steady growth over the years in my business. While slow business growth is not ideal, the business model was tested and the business sustained itself. I learned that I do have a good business, but I also needed to get back in the driver’s seat and scale the business in order to make the economics work. With all four children in school now, I re-committed to growing my business and sought out others to help me on the journey. This past year, I have become active with the new initiative launched by American Express OPEN Forum: CEO BootCamp. I was introduced to their 3 C’s last September at their conference in NY. The 3 C’s were Confidence, Competence and Connections, essentials of success for Women Business Owners. It was there that I learned that knowing my numbers, getting customers and staying inspired was key.
Confidence is key and critical for success. We’ve all heard the adage that you have to “fake it till you make it,” and we learned that’s okay. As with most things in life, confidence will come with practice as well as with mindset and behavior shifts. The first thing we need to do is to really get to know who we are as individuals and leaders. The past few years, I have really spent a lot of time focusing on my own personal development. As leaders, we need to embrace ourselves and our strengths. As a result of this, I recently took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test to gain more awareness of where my strengths are and then as a group we shared our results with our monthly CEO Bootcamp meet-up group in Philadelphia. I have also sought out many opportunities in the last year to “practice” my leadership skills and I am constantly asking for feedback from others. Initially, it is difficult to ask for feedback because you may not hear what you want to hear, but it is powerful and, in turn, helps build your confidence as well. I have always been a glass-half-full kind of girl, and I truly believe if we switch the way we look at things it will help our confidence as a leader and a person in general. Any time there is an obstacle, look at it as opportunity to make things better and tackle the challenge headfirst. You will get through it and come out stronger on the other end. Once our confidence improves, our communication as a leader also improves, which is only going to help our businesses as well.
The second C that we focused on is Competence. We learned that competence is all about sharpening important skills as a business owner such as harnessing the power of money, building and running a team, and tackling tough decisions. Never has this been truer in my business as this year. In the past, I never really analyzed my numbers but now I look forward to seeing my monthly dashboard and I review my Google Analytics all the time. It is true that numbers tell the real story. The power is in knowing your numbers and then working your butt off to improve them. I admit, I don’t always like the story the numbers are telling me, but I can’t deny the facts and it forces me to see where my energy and time should be spent. It really is all about metrics. I have changed as a leader as a result of this and it has made it much easier in business to make decisions when there is rational behind the decisions. For example, for many years, I didn’t want to increase my prices but it was only after doing a pricing analysis that I saw that we were losing money on some products and decided to increase the prices where necessary or stop selling some products altogether. The competence in the numbers gave me the confidence to do what needed to be done for the business. I also learned that we will not get the business growth that I want until I have the right team on board. Because of my limited hours with balancing home and work, I need to be able to delegate with confidence to others who understand the vision, are proactive and can help grow the business. This reinforced the lesson I learned after Ellie was born, this time in a growth context instead of survival. And of course, the importance of leading through challenging times is all part of competence.
The final C is Connections. I learned through experience in my personal life from having a sick child the power of community and thought I should also give it a try in my business life. Connecting with others is one of my favorite things and is definitely a personal strength. I totally understand the power of a network both personally and professionally. It DOES make a difference. We’ve all heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. There is power in having mentors, a board of advisors, masterminds as well as other friends in business that can tell you the hard truth and push you further than you would push yourself. I have also found that picking up the phone and asking an expert usually saves me a ton of time and as a result, strengthens our relationship. I love connecting with people and have learned that folks naturally want to help as long as they are asked and with specificity. It’s all about real relationships, and this has never been truer especially with the emergence of social media and information overload. We need to understand the importance of keeping it real in our relationships.
I am definitely one of those cases where my business is NOT an overnight success (I don’t know many that are), but I do believe in the power of “consistent persistence.” I know if I continue on my journey and keep the focus on the 3 C’s of Confidence, Competence and Connections, things will continue to go and grow in the right direction. Obviously, there will be setbacks along the way both personally and professionally, but I have learned to keep moving forward and making progress even if it is just a little a day. As you look to grow your business, or even personally, remember the 3 C’s and see where you are strong as well as where you could use a little help and seek it out. There are plenty of folks that are looking to help and build connections with you, too! Go for it!