7 Tips For Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs, According To A CEO
Over recent years, more and more women have been foregoing traditional male-dominated workplaces to start their own businesses. Whether they're expressing themselves through the arts, designing new technology, or establishing themselves as freelancers, women entrepreneurs are are constituting a bigger and bigger share of the workplace, with 114 percent more than there were two decades ago. Instead of exclusively seeing white men at the top of their companies, women who aspire to run their own businesses now have role models like Mogul founder and CEO Tiffany Pham to look up to. To help other women (and people of all genders) reach the point she's at, Pham recently released the book You Are a Mogul.
Pham moved to Texas from Paris at age 10 without speaking a word of English. She gradually rose to the top of her class and went on to attend Yale and Harvard Business School. She was working three jobs in New York City while she taught herself to code so that she could fulfill her dream of creating a place for women worldwide to support one another. That dream became Mogul, a site and app where women have discussions, give and get advice, share articles, post and find jobs, and more. Over 18 million women worldwide visit Mogul each week.
How did she do it? "When you have an idea, just get started," she tells Bustle. "Put pen to paper. Don’t worry about it being perfect at the beginning. Rapidly prototype, and iterate toward perfection over time. Next, reach out to your 50 role models. Not just one, but 50. Ask to collaborate with them, so you can learn from them while you support their projects and initiatives. In this way, you learn from the best of the best. And in the process, become genuine friends. Finally, be kind, authentic, and generous. Give, give, and give. Because that’s the energy you’re giving off, and that’s the energy you’re getting back. Momentum will continue to arise in this way."
Here are some more tips from Pham that she shares in her book.
1. Work In A Variety Of Fields
While some entrepreneurs may try to get as much experience as possible in the field they want to end up in, Pham advocates working in as many roles in as many fields as possible. If you're going to run a business, you need to understand all facets of it.
Pham learned this after being offered an internship at the United Nations while working in finance. She wanted to end up working at a place like the UN eventually, but she realized that the way to get there was to gain expertise in a number of areas including finance, so she stayed at her current job, which ultimately prepared her for running a business that changes the world the way she hoped to change it at the UN.
She imparts advice her father gave her when she was making the decision: "I know that you want to make a difference. And you will. But right now, you are putting in the hours to learn the skills necessary to make that difference. ... If you are ever going to pursue starting something, put your heart into it and finish this out. Become the best you can be at it. Then move on to the next thing."
2. Treat Every Small Task As A Chance To Excel
"You’ve got to kill it and over-deliver on every task you are given. And I mean every task. There is no task too small for you," Pham writes. If you're an intern charged with making your boss coffee, make the best cup of coffee you've ever made. If you're answering phones, be extra nice to the people on the other end of the line. Pham imparts the story of a friend who had to lick stamps for her job, so she became an extremely enthusiastic stamp-licker and got promoted.
If you can find a way to do even the most mundane tasks extremely well, you will be noticed. So, no matter what you're doing, over-deliver and kill it.
3. Fail Forward
Most of us are taught during childhood to view failure as a negative. But failure can actually mean that you're trying different things and making progress. Aside from the fact that it teaches you lessons about what doesn't work, failures can actually be successes in disguise — if you treat them as such.
For example, Pham's childhood years in an unfamiliar country, failing to fit in with her classmates, helped her "learn how to belong anywhere, to be curious about new places and new ideas, and to be ready and willing to incorporate new perspectives into my growing worldview," she writes. If you make a mistake, funnel the energy that would have gone into feeling regretful into making that mistake a changing point in your life.
4. Always Aim To Do Better
Most of us feel successful if we're outperforming the people around us, but Pham instead advocates trying to outperform yourself — even if you're already performing well. She first learned this in high school math class, where she'd typically get A-minuses on tests. She wasn't motivated to do better until she saw that the girl in front of her was getting A-pluses. Once she knew that was possible, she strove for a 100 every time, realizing that a little bit of extra time studying had big payoffs.
"Achieving the 'impossible' is usually possible with hard work and unwavering dedication," Pham writes. "When you set yourself up for success, you often surpass what once seemed impossible. Not just for grades or accolades, but because there is no better feeling than doing your best, whatever your best might be."
5. Choose A Supportive Partner
Pham believed she was going to marry the partner she was with when she started Mogul — until he made her choose between him and her career. That experience taught her that, before you become serious with someone, you need to make sure they support all your career goals.
Pham cites research showing that married women who are expected to do all the work around the house have less career success. "Who you choose to be your life partner is just as important as who you decide to have as your business partner," she writes. Sheryl Sandberg has similarly said that "the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is."
6. Value Your Voice
When you're the only woman in the room or the only person of color or the youngest, it can feel like your voice doesn't matter. But actually, it matters more because you're bringing a new perspective to the table, says Pham. We need businesses run by all kinds of people so that we can cater to all kinds of people.
"If you are facing an industry event, a board meeting, or an interview where you know you will be facing a roomful of people unlike you, acknowledge what an important thing you are doing," Pham writes. "You are taking one more step for each of us to claim our place at the table."
7. Establish A Routine That Helps You Look Forward To Each Day
Pham shares her morning routine in her book, and it helps you understand (though still not completely) how she manages to subsist off four hours of sleep a night. When she wakes up every morning, she texts "good morning" to several of her close friends, and they check in with one another. Then, she goes to a dance class and has her first meeting of the day over breakfast to turn business into an outing. "This allows me to go into the day feeling most like myself when I’ve connected with someone deeply," she says.
As Pham writes, "Every day is about high impact. It’s important to perform at 100 percent in every moment — with true kindness, authenticity, and generosity." That's a lesson anyone in any profession can apply to their careers.