Conversation

What Makes Women Successful Business Owners?

Recently, I’ve noticed an increasing number of women leaving their corporate jobs in favor of starting their own small business. In one case, the woman was let go, and in several other cases, she left voluntarily. Regardless of why she ventured out on her own, one thing seems consistent: women make great entrepreneurs. Here are some interesting facts I came across from the National Women’s Business Council:

  • There are 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States.
  • Women-owned firms generate $1.2 trillion in total receipts.
  • Women-owned firms employ 7.6 million people across the country with a payroll of $217.6 billion. These employer firms have average receipts of $1.1 million.
  • Women-owned businesses make up more than half (52.0%) of all businesses in health care and social assistance.
  • The other top industries for women include: educational services (45.9% of all businesses are women-owned), administration and support and waste management and remediation services (37.0%), retail trade (34.4%), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (30.4%).
  • Industries with the lowest percent of women-owned businesses include mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (15.0%), transportation and warehousing (11.4%), agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (10.3%), construction (7.9%), and management of companies and enterprises (6.7%).

If you look at the industries where women business owners tend to gravitate—healthcare, social assistance, education, administration, retail, and the arts—you can see a glaring trend. Women do well in industries that are communication based.

Surprising? Not really. Women are, by nature, strong communicators. They know how to build relationships and create strong teams, and they believe that teams are important. No wonder they do so well in fields that require fine-tuned communication skills.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration has reported in recent years that women-owned businesses are far outpacing all other businesses in terms of growth. To me, that means women are choosing businesses that play to their strengths and their passion and are putting their all to making it a success.

As a female business owner myself, I’m obviously happy by these findings. But I think we can do even more. Yes, women are choosing business ownership because they want more control in their life—they want a way to work and stay productive without having to sacrifice family time. But what if they didn’t have to make that choice? What if the fact that women held only 14.4% of Fortune 500 executive officer positions weren’t true? What if women held more than the measly 15.7% of Fortune 500 board seats? And what if women held more than 2.6% of Fortune 500 CEO positions? I believe, as does Harvard Business Review, that having more women in top positions ultimately leads to greater overall success. Why? Because with women participating, a group’s “collective intelligence” rises.

So women, if you’ve ever dreamt about starting your own business, know that you have some natural tendencies that will contribute to your success. And if you’re one who enjoys the corporate culture, push on to make your voice heard in the executive level. Whichever path you choose, know that the business world needs your expertise, your passion, your communication skills, and your unique female success traits.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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Steve Jobs, One of Today’s Great Presenters, Steps Down from the Main Stage

Anyone in the public speaking business has likely paused at the news that Steve Jobs has resigned from the iconic Apple Computer. We all knew it was coming, given the serious health issues he has battled since being diagnosed with treatable pancreatic cancer in 2004. But it is a surprise nonetheless. His career has been nothing short of inspiring. Jobs had been named the most important person in personal technology at the start of his career in 1978, and then again at the end in 2011. Over the years, he has brought a wealth of innovative products to the world that have touched and changed nearly everyone’s life. And though his primary goal wasn’t to inspire presenters, that’s exactly what he did, giving us all a solid roadmap to follow. As sad as having him step down from his role at Apple is, the thought that he will no longer be giving his exciting keynote presentations is even sadder.

I have analyzed Jobs’ speeches many times over the years, and while I have never had the privilege of working with him, I admire that he is such a thoughtful and skillful practitioner of the best public speaking principles. He embodies the core success principles top notch speakers are known for, and he seemingly follows the DeFinis Communications methodology to a T, such as:

Delivery Skills: Jobs has excellent physical presence skills (eye contact, facial expression, posture, gestures, and movement), highly developed vocal resonance (uses his voice carefully, clear pronunciation and enunciation, and effective use of pitch, inflection, rate of speech, and strategic pauses), and a masterful use of distinctive language (uses short sentences never more than eight to thirteen words, chooses exhilarating words that are both powerful and emotional, and keeps his language clean of fillers and unintentional slang). He has the talent for drama, clearly conveying his passion.

Content Development: Jobs clearly understands his audience, and as such, he respects the importance of structuring his presentation’s content for each group he addresses. He defines his purpose and states it clearly and succinctly. He develops a clear beginning, middle, and end. He begins with a strong hook, states his purpose, and then lays out the agenda of his three to five main points. He develops the body of his presentation with a series of touch points, including analogies, metaphors, stories, data, statistics, and humor. And he uses thoughtful, sequential transitions, and ends with a summary, thank you, and final thought—“one last thing.” It’s textbook perfect in every way.

Visual Aids: Jobs’ visual aids are the opposite of the dense eye charts we so often see in typical technical presentations. His slides are image based with large colorful images, one big statistic, or one powerful graphic. He uses these images to augment his key point, not to overshadow it or mute his performance. His slides are exciting and dynamic visual entertainment, with a powerful point.

The Bar Has Been Raised

Jobs has consistently been one of the most powerful and best role models for business speakers in high tech. And he makes public speaking look easy, seamless, and enjoyable. But this is not due to a natural talent. I’ve heard that he works hard to prepare and even harder to rehearse so that every moment is well coordinated. He spends days, not mere hours, in preparation for one of his large main stage product announcements. Indeed, he has set the bar high.

In the only commencement speech he ever gave at Stanford University six years ago, Jobs told the newly minted graduates, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” That statement is so true for public speakers. While it’s great to use Steve Jobs as a role model for excellent presentation technique, what made him really great was that his technique allowed him and his message to shine through. And he would be the first person to tell you to model his skill, but to develop you own personal spirit and style.

In his resignation letter, Jobs wrote, “Apple’s best days are ahead of it.” While that may seem hard for us to believe today, we know that by stating this, he is preserving his legacy—a legacy of poise, power, and passion.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart…and Other Workplace Communication No-No’s

Recently I was having an email exchange with a gentleman I had never met before. During the course of our communication, he replied to one of my questions by writing, “Well of course, silly.” “Silly”? I’m sure he meant no disrespect in his word choice, so I brushed the incident off. However, it got me thinking about all the times I’ve heard men (bosses, clients, vendors, and co-workers) refer to women in the workplace as “sweetheart,” “darling,” “love,” “honey,” and even “babe.” I know I’ve been called all sorts of pet names on many occasions. Have you?

No matter what type of workplace communication it is—an informal meeting with management, a formal presentation to a client, or a phone inquiry to a vendor—showing professionalism and respect is key. As such, pet names have no place in workplace communication.

So how do you get people to stop calling you “honey” and other such names? The most effective way is to take a compassionate and direct approach. This is one of those communication challenges that require tact and diplomacy so you don’t trigger defensiveness in the other person. Essentially, you’re giving constructive feedback—and that requires skill.

While the issue of pet names in the workplace can be a touchy subject, women have an opportunity to raise awareness. Being called “sweetheart,” “honey,” or any other pet  name can make a woman feel less respected, belittled, undermined, not taken seriously and consequently uncomfortable. And I’ve found that men either don’t even know it’s an issue, or they play it down and think women are making a mountain out of a molehill. So it’s a matter of taking the time to educate and inform men in order to help each other communicate professionally and respectfully.

Here are some pointers to help you navigate this situation.

  • Set boundaries early. Sometimes people perceive a relationship to be casual in nature when it isn’t. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries early on and to maintain those boundaries throughout the relationship. If you let the issue slide and allow someone to call you “sweetheart” for many months, changing that behavior may be a bit more difficult. It’s better to call it out the first time you hear it.
  • Decide if it’s worth the effort. Is being called a pet name a “small annoyance” to you, or is it something that gets in the way of smooth communication and productivity? For me, the “silly” comment was a small annoyance. However, I’ve been in situations where being called a pet name was a bigger, ongoing problem. In many cases, it’s best to overlook and disregard the small annoyances and focus on the bigger challenges.
  • Think about the other person first. If you decide the issue needs to be addressed, first consider the person you’ll be confronting. Does he need a sit-down formal meeting about the issue, or would a short casual comment correct the situation? Sometimes a quick, “Rather than call me ‘sweetheart,’ can you please call me… (insert your name),” works wonders. Other times the person may need more insight into why the pet name is disrespectful.
  • Plan your “script.” If a formal sit-down meeting is warranted, carefully plan what you will say and how you will say it. Include both power words and emotional words to convey sensitivity and certainty. Remember to use “I” sentences so you stay focused on the issue and not the person. For example, “I have noticed that I get called ‘honey’ a lot, and I find that term disrespectful (unprofessional, condescending, etc.). I’d prefer if everyone in the office, including you, call me by my proper name. Can I have your support on that?”
  • Keep the tone light, but don’t make a joke out of it. You want to send the appropriate message and make sure it’s acted upon, so being overly jovial or too stern may not help you get the desired results. If there’s an edge to your voice, the other person may take offense to your words; if there’s too much humor in your voice, the other person may not take you seriously at all. Therefore, keep your tone professional but not too formal.

Of course, any conversation like this hinges on trust. Therefore, before you rush in and state “Don’t call me ‘honey’ anymore,” you need to determine whether you trust the other person enough to give them feedback, and whether they trust you enough to receive it. If trust is lacking in the relationship, you may need to work on it first before addressing other issues.

Ultimately, communication is the key to highly productive and satisfying relationships, and it’s everyone’s job to focus on, improve, and develop effective communication skills. And because women tend to have higher relationship and communication skills than men, it falls on our shoulders to raise the bar, set expectations, and be strong role models so everyone can participate fully, feel included, and bring their best to every communication situation.

Have you been in a situation where someone repeatedly called you a pet name at work? I’d love your comments on how you handled it.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive valuable tips, techniques and updates on the latest news and events from DeFinis Communications.

A Conversation with Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox…and You’re Invited

I just learned that Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, will be in the Bay Area next Wednesday (6/29/11) giving a presentation with George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research. And here’s the best part of all: You’re invited to attend (and for a discounted rate—see the end of this blog for a special offer for DeFinis Communications readers). The event with Burns and Colony is being presented by the Churchill Club, Silicon Valley’s premier business and technology forum. Titled, When Two Luminaries Meet: Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, in conversation with George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research,” the event promises to be an unscripted, candid conversation between two powerful global business leaders about topics that matter to our economic success as a nation, as companies, and as individuals. Topics for discussion include innovation, the economy, leadership, recent “aha moments,” how they’re viewing the market, and more.

In July 2009, when Burns was first appointed CEO of Xerox, I wrote a blog about the accomplishment. You can read it here. What impressed me about Burns and prompted me to write about her was the fact that she was the first African American woman to lead a major Fortune 500 company. She was also the first woman in modern history to take the reins from another female, departing CEO Ann Mulcahy. Since then, Burns has led Xerox through the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services, in a move to transform the company once known for copiers into the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management.

In a world where there are too few women in C-suite positions, we need women like Burns to speak out and show everyone what is possible. Burns wasn’t born with a proverbial “silver spoon” in her mouth. Rather, she was raised in a housing project by a single mother. She beat the odds and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in mechanical engineering and a master’s from Columbia University. She started at Xerox as a summer intern, and over a 30-year period she worked her way to become the CEO. She serves on boards such as American Express, National Association of Manufacturers, University of Rochester, and the MIT Corporation. She helps lead Obama’s national program on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and serves as vice chair of his Export Council. In 2009, this impressive woman ranked ninth in Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. Yet she is known as one of the most down-to-earth CEOs you will ever meet. She is truly the kind of role model we all need.

The Churchill Club has asked Burns and Colony (who was a recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2006) to have a public conversation on the evening of Wednesday, June 29 in Palo Alto, CA. So mark your calendar for this dynamic and inspiring event:

Date: Wed., June 29

Time: 5:30 p.m. Registration and networking 6:00 p.m. Banquet (plated dinner) 7:15 p.m. Program begins 8:45 p.m. Program concludes

Place: Four Seasons Hotel Palo Alto 2050 University Ave East Palo Alto, CA 94303

RSVP: http://www.churchillclub.org/eventDetail.jsp?EVT_ID=907.

Use discount code “gDeFinis15” and get $15 off the non-member price of $107.

Contact Churchill Club at info@churchillclub.org for group discounts.

Hope to see you there!

Speaking With Conviction…Over the Phone

I have been working with a recent college graduate who is seeking an entry level job in sales and he is finding that many of the positions available are cold calling, telemarketing positions. While I am not certain that sitting behind a desk, on the phone for 80-100 calls a day, is the best fit for this young man, his job search got me thinking… What does it take to properly convey your message and deliver a captivating presentation over the phone?

Even if you’re not a telemarketer, you’re likely giving phone presentations every day. Think about it…we live in a world saturated with technology. Tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Telepresence are common in business, and you probably use them often. Yet, how much thought have you given to using these presentation options effectively?

When you’re using any one of these tools, you are essentially giving a presentation over the phone. You have to deliver your ideas without the benefits of a face-to-face meeting, or you have to speak to an image on a computer screen. When you’re faced with these situations, how can you use your public speaking skills and prevent your message from going down in flames?

Here are a few things to remember when trying to be persuasive over the phone or when videoconferencing:

Vary your vocal emphasis and inflection.

You’re on a conference call and your presentation is on the computer screen via GoToMeeting. You are talking about profit and loss margins, ROI, and, synergy. You’re using as much business jargon as you can to impress your clients. However, you forgot one thing: your shining personality!

Too many speakers deliver bland presentations in live settings, let alone over a conference call. To be compelling and interesting when you’re not physically there, you need to vary your vocal delivery. Using emphasis and inflection on key words helps your audience stay engaged.

Don’t let yourself drone on in order to get through your meeting. Rather, give your audience the opportunity to glean extra meaning from your words with some variety in your intonation and some diversity in the range of your voice.

Pay attention to your clarity and speed.

When speaking to a group in a live public speaking situation you always want to articulate clearly and talk slowly. When speaking to a group over the phone or via your computer, you need to pay extra attention to these points.

I cannot stress this enough. Producing a clear voice and a clean sound from a computer microphone or a speakerphone is difficult. Words will inevitably be lost due to static and choppy internet connections. So open your mouth, raise your volume, enunciate clearly and slow down.

When you speak slowly and articulate clearly, you enable your audience to catch every word, even if there is static or connection choppiness, so they don’t lose the entire meaning of your content. Give your listeners the chance to keep up and they will give you their full attention.

Smile and enjoy yourself!

While your audience may not be able to see you, they certainly know when you are smiling. Whenever you deliver an exciting and emotional presentation, whether in person or over the phone, feel it! Show your emotions through your facial and physical gestures; your audience on the other end of the line will absolutely be able to follow along.   

When you are excited and smiling, your voice naturally changes pitch. It is just as easy to recognize those speakers who enjoy themselves over the phone as it is to recognize those who simply run through the motions. Therefore, enjoy yourself and let your colors shine through. Your virtual audience will thank you for it with their rapt attention.

When you follow these three tips, you’ll be able to give virtual and phone presentations that engage both the hearts and minds of your listeners….and that inspire them to action.

How to Create “Enchanting” Relationships

The word “enchant” means to cast a spell on or bewitch; to delight or captivate utterly; to fascinate; charm. Guy Kawasaki’s new book, Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, has given us a new spin on a more traditional approach to persuasion, influence, marketing and customer care.

Kawasaki defines enchantment as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea. The outcome of enchantment is voluntary and long lasting support that is mutually beneficial.” He adds, “The greater your goals, the greater you’ll need to change people’s hearts, minds and actions.” And then he sets out to give us a step-by-step process for creating enchanting relationships.

This book is for anyone who has ever dreamed a dream and wanted to see it materialize. If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, if you work for a large enterprise, or if you’re a recent college graduate, you’ll find tips in Kawasaki’s book that will help you engage your prospects or customers so that you can compete in this changing marketplace.

With such chapters as “How to Achieve Likability,” How to Achieve Trustworthiness,” “How to Prepare,” and many others, Kawasaki gives tools for mounting a campaign that is geared to achieve your vision and goals by creating powerful relationships. The book is packed with interesting personal profiles, from everyday working people to celebrity icons such as Steve Jobs and Al Gore. And because the book took a year to write and a lifetime of experience to create, it is loaded with background research, which provides a nice balance to the short paragraph format. I especially enjoyed his “hat tips,” where he acknowledges anyone whose idea he shares. 

Yes, this is a great book for the everyday entrepreneur, but is the concept of “enchantment” too soft for the C Suite? In a recent Forbes interview, Steve Denning asked Kawasaki how he communicates enchantment as a business proposition to CEOs, CFOs, and other senior leaders. How does he persuade this serious group that they too need to be in the business of enchantment?

“The best way is to use examples,” says Kawasaki. “Wouldn’t you like to have the evangelistic base of Apple or the likeability of Virgin America? Wouldn’t you like customers to trust you the way they trust Zappo’s, so that they will buy shoes, sight unseen? Even the most hard-core pencil-pushing bean-counter will have to say, ‘Yeah, I wish we were Apple or Virgin America or Zappo’s! That’s not such a bad place to be.’”

If you want to get a taste of your company’s ability to cast a spell and enchant your audience, listeners, customers, or prospects, take this test Kawasaki created: Guy’s Realistic Enchantment Aptitude Test (GREAT). Then, no matter what your results are, read Enchantment. You’ll get practical, doable suggestions that could just make your company the next Apple. Now, wouldn’t that be great!

IM, Text, and Tweet…Oh My!

The overwhelming proliferation of Instant Messaging (IM), text messages, and Twitter has long placed linguists on alert.  The seamless incorporation of these media into everyday life and communication is astounding.  From 2001 to 2002, text messages leapt from 30 million sent to nearly 1 billion. Records also show that in March 2008, over 3 million Twitter messages (tweets) were posted daily. The world has certainly “shrunk,” but has speech quality diminished as well?

To me, it seems rather natural to think that the flurry of emoticons, blistered thumbs, and 140 character correspondences would weaken proper English. But amidst my research I discovered that there are many professionals who feel that these conversational tools are not spoiling syntax. Rather, they recommend that this generation’s newly integrated dialect should be considered enhancements of the English language as we’ve known it.

photo by smithrw@fu.edu

 

 

Professor David Crystal, who has written at length on language and the Internet, responded to the Instant Messaging phenomena: "I see a brand new variety of language evolving, invented really by young people... within five years! It's extraordinary." He believes that acronyms like LOL (laughing out loud) and BRB (be right back) “extend the range of the language, the expressiveness... the richness of the language."

Supporting Crystal is a 2007 study performed at the University of Toronto by Professor Tagliamonte. The review analyzed 71 Instant Messenger conversations from participants ranging 15 to 20 years old. The results illustrated a fusion of different language features: written and spoken, formal and informal. "It's showing a real creativity and a firm grasp of the linguistic resources available to them," said Derek Denis, a co-author of the study.

What do you think? Do your experiences support these findings, or do you think technology has jeopardized speech? And what does this mean for the public speaker? 

Public Speaking is a Performance, Not a Conversation

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking to the Pro Track 2009 program of the National Speakers Association, Northern CA Chapter. Pro Track is a year-long professional development program for people who want to learn the business aspects of the public speaking industry. Group members meet one Saturday a month for a year. Each Saturday program is devoted to a different topic, such as promotion, marketing, speakers’ bureaus, topic development, and professional platform skills. Typically, people who attend the year-long program are subject matter experts who want to improve their professional speaking skills and leave a memorable impression on their listeners.

When I introduce people to our public speaking methods and skills, I tell them that they may feel uncomfortable at first. They may feel and look awkward. They may believe they’re getting worse instead of better. They may even think they’re too mechanical, inauthentic, and fake. But learning new skills and behaviors often feels this way, so I encourage them to just jump in and try it. “Fake it until you make it,” I say.

I was delighted to introduce the Pro Track audience to one of our performance improvement models called Create Performance Combustion. The critical elements of this model focus on developing delivery skills and include your:

• Physical Presence (your non-verbal skills: eye contact, facial expression, posture, gesture and movement) • Vocal Resonance (skills that promote vocal clarity, interest and emphasis) • Distinctive Language (your language skills: using concise sentences, powerful language, avoiding non-words and distracting language)

After that I had the chance to work with seven participants, bringing them on stage to experience our Line by Line Coaching™ process. I coached each person with the camera running so they had a DVD to review and analyze their “before and after.” Amazingly, nobody fainted and everyone improved!

I wanted these speakers to understand one key point: There is a big difference between giving a presentation at a staff meeting (or chatting at the dinner table) and standing on the main stage of an auditorium speaking to a crowd of 100 or more.

A keynote speech needs to have a compelling theme and well developed message with great stories, examples, quotes, data, and facts, but it also needs powerful delivery. That includes demonstrating commanding physical presence and strong vocal expression. Public speaking requires using a great deal of physical and mental energy, and speakers must be willing to be more expressive. It’s as simple as that, and it’s harder than it looks.

So the key lesson of the day was this: Keynote speaking is not a conversation—it is a performance. It’s the difference between playing with marbles and playing with bowling balls…or playing ping pong and playing tennis. In each case there is a need for different gross motor movements and physical behavior.

When performing, your whole body must be involved and you must effectively utilize your space. To be able to Create Performance Combustion you must “turn up” your physical skills. Body language must be bigger, your voice must have more power and emphasis, and your pauses must be longer and more strategic. Adding a dramatic element to keynote speaking, if used effectively, can bring you in close connection with the audience in a deep and meaningful way. And that’s what the Pro Track participants want to be able to do.

At the Pro Track meeting I was reminded once again how important it is for those of us who want to improve our public speaking to embrace the idea of performance. Rest assured that even if it is uncomfortable at first, it will become easier and easier. And until it does—fake it until you make it.