NAWBO Columbus President's Message- September

What Is Your “First”?

August marked many firsts for me professionally and personally. I had the amazing experience of conducting women’s leadership programs for a client in three cities across India. It was my first time in India and my first time in an Asian country.

During one of the senior leader career strategy panels in which I participated, a female executive director responded to an audience question about how to feel more confident in your work results. The director observed, “I am sure most of you in this room are probably the first woman in your family to work outside the home.”

Most of the women nodded their heads in agreement and she continued by emphasizing, “Just the fact that you are here in this company, working outside your home as the first in your family to do so, should instill in you a great level of confidence and pride in what you have already accomplished. You should be confident for that reason alone, if nothing else.” This reality for my colleagues had completely escaped me.

It’s easy to forget that in other parts of the world, women are just now entering the workforce as the first in their families to do so and breaking tradition in their culture. Coincidentally, this past weekend I received this postin my NAWBO Chapter Leaders Facebook feed, which points out that in four countries women are banned from owning a business, and still trying to break that barrier of being the “first” in that respect.   

Why did this senior leader observation really strike me, apart from the obvious cultural and economic, even legal, norms women are still overcoming in other countries?

Because the weekend before I left for my trip, I was bemoaning to my husband how much I had yet to accomplish in work and in life. He stopped me abruptly to ask, “How many people get to do all that you get to do, go to the places you travel, live in a nice house and neighborhood, and run their own business too? You’re successful, you just need to remember it.”

Are you falling into the trap of “If you’re not first, you’re last?”

Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobbyis one of my favorite comedy movies. In it, the main character, played by Will Farrell, espouses, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” While an extreme (and meant to be comical) view of the importance of winning, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that we’re finishing last if it’s not a huge event we’re winning. Surprisingly, many of us unconscientiously think like Ricky Bobby when it comes to our businesses.  This mindset can rob us of the opportunity to relish the little, and still equally significant firsts, which are victories, to build our confidence and to influence change. 

What is a “first” in your business?

Is it your first month or year in business? Congratulations! First time reading a balance sheet or crafting a contract for a prospective client? It’s part of the learning curve. Landed your first customer? Fist bump to you. Had to fire a client for the first time? That’s still a fist bump because it’s all part of running a business and, as unpleasant as it can be, you still did it.

Is September a “first” for you with NAWBO?

We hope September may bring a “first” for some of you with NAWBO Columbus too. We have an important Candidates Forum planned for Thursday, Sept. 6th. We realize the political arena and topics of public policy may be intimidating or confusing. Don’t worry if that’s the case. I felt the same way just a few years ago and now it’s an area of genuine interest to me. 

Our NAWBO chapter has experienced some “firsts” over the past few years too. For example, three years ago, we began contracting with a public policy advisor, Rachel Winder of Benesch, to help us make significant strides on policies that affect women business owners. Our first “win” was the passage of a bill recognizing microbusinesses (20 employees or less) in the state of Ohio. This designation impacts a majority of our NAWBO Columbus members when securing government contracts as a “small” business. And, we’re currently working on HB 492 to create the first-ever certification for women business owners in Ohio.

So, this month, be ready to celebrate small wins and firsts. I’ll start. The Candidate’s Forum on Sept. 6thwill be my first time attending such an event. If it’s your first time, let me know. Let’s experience that “first” together.

To your continued success,

Tonya Tiggett

President, NAWBO Columbus