Hey there Friends! My blog today is something a bit different than those that I’ve previously done, because it’s about one of my personal struggles I’ve had since starting my business. The Imposter Syndrome! If you’ve ever felt like an imposter in your role before, you know what I mean. I love to listen to Amy Porterfield’s podcast “Online Marketing Made Easy”, and she recently did an episode discussing about being ready to start from ground zero when you start your business. I wished I would have listened to that before I started my business, because it was SO good (Episode 575.) Regardless, that episode spurred me to share my story and struggles with Imposter Syndrome in hopes of helping others, so shout out to Amy!
Many of you know that I left a position in the energy industry where I moved up in the organization because I thoroughly understood the commercial and regulatory aspects of our contracts, the hydraulics of our pipeline systems, and built successful relationships with my customers based upon trust, being a straight shooter, and the knowledge I brought to the table. I loved what I did and the customers we served, but I didn’t enjoy the corporate politics that seemed to be taking over a lot of my role. Therefore, at the age of 50, I voluntarily retired. After some time, I decided to open my own store in my hometown of Rogers City, Michigan, and decided on an organic bath, body and beauty store, and Harborside Bath & Body was born. I thought it would be fun because it was completely different and I loved the products I planned to carry, and it would give me a good challenge, which I am always game for. However, here is where the imposter syndrome snuck in. It came in rapidly and it really did a number on my confidence. I left a role where I felt very confident and competent in my knowledge and skills. I KNEW what I brought to the table in negotiations and how I could create value for the company I worked for and our customers. I KNEW my customers, their pain points, what solutions would work best for them, and if our pipeline system wasn’t adequate to meet their needs, I KNEW how to go about making investments into our infrastructure to satisfy their requirements and make a profitable deal for our customers. Guess what? I didn’t know any of this in the bath, body and beauty industry! Sure, I knew what I knew from my own experiences, but I didn’t know how to open, much less run a small business. I didn’t know all the challenges small businesses face, I didn’t know the in’s and out’s of organic products or know all the ingredients and what they did, I didn’t know how to do social media marketing, and the list goes on and on. I went from knowing something extraordinarily well to something I didn’t, and it was SCARY. I was taking money from our hard-earned retirement income to try to make a new venture of something I knew very little about, and for those who know me and how fiscally conservative I am, this was truly terrifying to me. So I had to change my mind set and remind myself of some things if I wanted any hope of making this new endeavor work.
THE MIND SET SHIFT
You Have Transferrable Skills
First, I had to remind myself that many of the skills I acquired in the corporate world would help me in running a business, such as understanding financials, working with customers, being solution oriented for our customers, creating a solid team, etc. These were all very valuable and while they would be used differently, these skills would still be used and help me in this new endeavor. Everyone has transferrable skills. So, take inventory of your skills. Anything you do well in one job will most likely aid you in a new position. Leverage those skills to help you gain your footing, and recognize, you really aren’t starting from scratch, but rather building upon a solid foundation of skills you’ve already acquired.
Unleash Your Grit
Running your own business is not for the faint of heart, so you do have to be tenacious and not give up at the first hiccup. Thankfully, I was born with a healthy dose of grit (I prefer using the term grit rather than saying I have a boatload of stubbornness), but it’s true. I don’t give up easily, and when I hear the naysayers, either real or perceived in my head, I do my best to tune them out and try to prove them wrong. I started thinking of all the challenges I overcame in my career and personally, and remembering the lessons I learned from those challenges, because there were always lessons. Taking inventory of what I learned, reminded me of just how much grit I do have and helped me refocus and develop new strategies. So, if you are struggling with self doubt because you don’t know everything you feel you should, remember the challenges you’ve overcome and the knowledge you’ve gained about yourself throughout these trials. Tap into those lessons, and then unleash your grit.
Embrace Your Lack of Knowledge
Sounds crazy, right? But, we all know that when someone is knee deep in something, someone just joining the party can offer a fresh perspective. I needed to remind myself that my lack of knowledge in this new business landscape, may offer a fresh perspective to someone who’s been in it for their entire career. Trust me, I KNEW I had a lot to learn, still do, and thankfully I have suppliers that were willing and gracious to teach me about their products, ingredients, their take on the FDA and the regulations (or lack thereof) in the industry, but I also recognized that my inexperience in the industry, could offer new perspectives for my suppliers and potentially offer some insight for them that they previously had not considered. Additionally, because of my corporate experience, I needed to remember and focus on what my vision and reasons were for starting this business. After seeing the challenges firsthand many women, including myself, had in the corporate environment, part of my vision and passion was to uplift successful women owned businesses in Michigan and help them become more successful by expanding their market while carrying and promoting their products. That distinctive lens sets me apart from other bath, body and/or beauty companies’ “why” and I needed to understand and communicate that with an audience where that message resonates. This is so important to remember. When you are new at something, don’t focus on what you don’t know and think of it as a hindrance. Make a mental mind shift and recognize that others know this is new for you, and your fresh perspective has the potential to help your business or employer make a much needed change. Your lack of knowledge can actually serve as an asset if you use it wisely, and always remember your “why”, because your previous work experience, which is unique to you may play into your why.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
No one gets anywhere on their own. I believe that to my core. If you look at any successful person, they have a strong support network, whether it be their spouse, ther family, their friends, their co-workers, their team, a mentor, etc. I hate admitting this, but there have been more meltdowns since owning my own business than I like, but I am so incredibly grateful for those that unwaveringly support me, whether it is to give me a much-needed hug or words of encouragement, a sounding board, a different perspective, help me list out solutions, are able to tell me the hard truth when I need it, etc. Whatever it is, building a support system is crucial when facing imposter syndrome. If you don’t feel like you have a great support system, then I suggest seeking out like-minded individuals who have experienced or are currently experiencing similar challenges. Connect with fellow business owners, ask someone you admire to mentor you, or even join online communities where you can share your thoughts, concerns, and triumphs. Surrounding yourself with a positive, supportive group of people who you trust, will remind you that you’re not alone in your journey and provide invaluable advice and encouragement along the way.
Learn, Learn and Learn Some More:
This one may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. At the crux of imposter syndrome is being in a position where you don’t feel like you have the knowledge or skills to be. Many people opt for the strategy of “fake it until you make it”, but I completely disagree with that strategy. I think learning as much as you can by trusted individuals and owning what you don’t know will help combat those negative feelings and build trust with your clients. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I am new to this and still learning, but I can ask my supplier and get back with you as soon as possible”, and then be sure to follow through. This will gain you more respect and trust within your community because your clients know that you are not trying to sell them something for the sake of selling, but that you want to make sure they are getting the best product to meet their needs. I’ve learned so much in the two years since starting this business. I’ve learned from my suppliers, my most trusted confidants, purchased and worked through several digital classes, listen to small business podcast regularly, and read, research, read and research even more. You have to invest in your own growth if you want to eliminate the imposter syndrome from rearing its ugly head. I’m still learning and will continue to do so, because this industry is constantly evolving, and chances are, your industry is as well. Take advantage of workshops, seminars, and digital courses to expand your knowledge and skills, and if you don’t have the time or money to do those right now, then find business podcasts that you find helpful. They are free and I get a ton out of them. Two of my favorites are Amy Porterfield with “Online Marketing Made Easy” as mentioned earlier, and Jacqueline Snyder and Minna Khounio-Sithep co-founders of “The Product Boss”. I find inspiration in these podcasts every time I listen. Additionally, both their courses have helped me grow personally in being a small biz owner and I’ve learned so many usable skills. This commitment to ongoing learning will not only boost your confidence but also demonstrate to yourself and others that you’re dedicated to providing the best possible service and products for your customers, and that YOU are worth it!
Celebrate Your Wins (Big and Small):
This is sometimes hard for me, because it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget to celebrate your accomplishments, but it is so important to remember, every obstacle you overcome deserves recognition. Each happy customer, positive review, or successful marketing campaign is a testament to your skills and hard work and that of your team. Celebrate these wins and celebrate with your team and acknowledge their contributions. It keeps the vision, mission goals in focus, motivates them to continue to do their best, and shows them that you really appreciate all that they do for you and the business.
Imposter syndrome is a real and nasty feeling, but don’t let it bring you down as you embark on an exciting new chapter in your life. Embrace your journey, trust in your abilities, and remember that you have the power to create something truly amazing. Surround yourself with a supportive network, commit to continuous learning, and celebrate your wins along the way. By doing so, you’ll not only slay the imposter syndrome beast but also thrive.
Wishing you success and fulfillment friends!