Career 08 August 2018
Today’s women entering the workforce have a unique challenge. Perhaps even more than any other generation before them. They must meet and exceed expectations while also managing to deliver quality work. They also must ensure that they have their best professional interests at heart, and stand strong for their worth/values in the workplace. I’ve witnessed time and time again women struggling to achieve this balance. As a business owner and woman boss myself, I am happy to share some advice to millennial women entering the job market. As I tell my team: Print and Post this to your wall!
Answer Every Email Within 24 Hours
Following up is super important. You don’t ever want others to constantly chase unanswered correspondence. This creates resentment. I suggest some sort of acknowledgment such as 'I’m on it!' or offer a specified time frame for an expected response. Don't drop the ball(s)....and learn to juggle many!
There is no way anyone can possibly remember everything so keep an organized checklist on your desk or desktop and cross out tasks only when it is all tied up. Star or circle, in red, the time-sensitive matters so you can attend to these first.
Keep a Detailed Calendar
Register events, follow up, and plan ahead! I work with a great application called Mail Butler that allows me to prepare and program emails in advance- it’s a lifesaver!
Listen carefully during team meetings and take detailed notes. Be able to then provide the recap to all. This will not only impress your boss, but also enable your teammates to be on the same page, divvy up any responsibilities, and have clear deliverables against timelines. Keep these notes in a file to refer to often, as we all need to jog our memories (at any age!). These notes will also come in handy when you are responsible to train newcomers.
"Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers."
Whether it’s an invitation mock-up, blast mail proof, or a landing page for new website, always provide choices! This saves time, shows that you’re thinking ahead and in a variety of ways, and your superior will greatly appreciate the effort.
Don't Show up in Wrinkled Clothes
This tells me your attention to detail is lacking. Buy an iron or a steamer, it’s a small but worthwhile investment. Appearance goes a long way, regardless of if you're on the sales floor or in the back office. I really do believe in the saying “dress for the job you want” – and a polished look will always go a long way in impressing your employers and conveying the right message.
Go Bold or Go Home
Bring strong ideas to the table, give us something we haven’t already done, or that you can do better than we can! That’s why you were hired. It’s ok to push the envelope sometimes and take risks. As long as they are calculated ones. After a couple of months working somewhere, you will get a hang of the culture and the overall vibe. You’ll know where you can push the boundaries. Creativity in this manner can pay off in a big way, so don’t be afraid to make suggestions and come to the table with unique, out of the box ideas.
All jobs and positions are creative, not just the ones in the “creative” department. Find innovative ways to deal with mundane tasks - this can make any job more fun and fulfilling. Remember you are there to get the job done - how you do it up to you. Being creative can facilitate implementation and free up time to do new things, this is especially valuable advice for junior positions.
Diffuse, Don't Ignite
Own it if you messed up and move forward. Talk to your superior, converse if there is a concern, but don't let it fester. Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers. This shows maturity and makes for a more comfortable work environment for all.
Be a Team Player
The hiring process is a complicated one today as many people aspire to wear many hats (at our company we wear many gloves!) and with the younger generation especially, they are not always sure what they want in a role. It is important to get to the bottom of what you really want to do within an organization. Sometimes people are hired for one task, but realize they are better suited for something else. Identifying this can bring value to the overall operation.
Nothing is Lost on the Boss
We register everything- trust me!
Two or Three Heads Can Be Better than One
Don’t hesitate to run something by a co-worker and ask for their thoughts. They may see something you missed, find a mistake, offer insight, or have an idea. Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen.
"Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen."
Have a Sense of Humor
Bring the fun to the office! It’s important in the workplace for co- workers to laugh together and enjoy coming to a pleasant environment on a daily basis. Self-deprecation can also be useful. No one likes anyone who takes themselves too seriously!
Make Your Boss's Life Easier
Don’t be too proud to offer to make a reservation, arrange travel arrangements, run an errand or call an Uber. Facilitate the busy and chaotic life of your superior, it will be most appreciated.
Avoid Being on your Phone at the Office
Do your social media activities on your own time. Step out or take an occasional coffee break, but your attention needs to be on your job at all times. Remember that social media is part of your CV these days. So if it’s public, it better be professionally appropriate!
Don't Chew Gum
There is nothing more unbecoming for me than to see an employee smacking on a piece of gum. It’s a bad habit. Try a mint instead. Fresh breath highly encouraged!
Talk to Your Parents and Grandparents
The basic rules still apply such as leading from above, going the extra mile, etc. Skills they utilized in their jobs to get ahead are surprisingly still relevant.
The Golden Rule: ASSUMPTION IS THE MOTHER OF ALL MISTAKES! I was told this once, and is ever so true...
Bon Courage/Best of Luck!
From Your Site Articles
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.