Get the most from your WBENC membership by fully participating.
I joined WBENC in the early days of start-up. At that time, I was aware that WBENC offered several benefits: participation in a recognized certification program as a woman-owned business, access to a database of certified suppliers, and the chance to attend conferences and other events targeted to women business owners. A pretty good deal, I figured. I was sure I was on the right track.
“Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”
One of the first things I learned when I started my business is that I couldn’t succeed by flying solo. Like many new business owners, I needed a team of experts to draw on in fields where my experience was limited. Sometimes I just needed someone to bounce ideas off, to tell me that I was moving in the right direction, or to let me know it was time to get off the fence and make a decision. The business wasn’t big enough to hire all this expertise.
“Entrepreneurs learn best from one another rather than academic courses.”
Marsha Firestone, President & Founder, Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO)
So where could I find other women with experience in the unfamiliar situations I was encountering on what seemed like a daily basis? What better place to start than your WBENC Regional Partner Organization (RPO)?
When I began reaching out to other members is when I began to learn about some of the “undocumented features” of WBENC membership. Attending the regional partner meetings—in my case, the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC)—helped me find supportive women willing to give advice and encouragement. Their generosity in sharing expertise and sometimes asking the hard questions increased my confidence as well as my business skills.
If you want to experience a sense of empowerment, get together with some other powerful women.
The wealth of knowledge among our membership cannot be overstated. Chances are many of them have encountered just about any situation you may run into getting your business off the ground. All you have to do is ask -- at a meeting, over the phone, or by email. Yet to ensure you don’t wear out your welcome, here are some tips that will help your fellow WBEs help you:
- Be concise and clear in what you are asking.
- Don’t barrage your contact with so many questions that you become an unwelcome distraction.
- Always say “thank you.” (Buy me a cup of coffee and I’ll answer questions galore!)
- Stay open-minded, even if the advice doesn’t fit with your usual way of doing things.
- Return the favor, either directly or by paying it forward.
As I became more active in GWBC and the national WBENC organization, the more opportunities I found to stretch myself through volunteering to serve on committees and work groups. I got better at public speaking because I had a supportive audience who were interested in what I had to say. I was able to evolve my own mentoring skills and help set up events to encourage women and students who dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
These activities provide a wealth of benefits, as they can
- Increase your confidence.
- Improve your communications skills.
- Provide greater visibility and exposure to the media.
- Enhance decision-making, conflict resolution, and negotiating skills.
- Build trust.
That last one may be the most important. A lot of us who become entrepreneurs are, to put it bluntly, control freaks. We think “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is a good business philosophy. We can’t trust other people to do it the way we want it done—whatever “it” is. But when your enterprise starts to take off, you soon learn that you simply can’t do everything yourself.
This is where committee work can help you get past the trust issue. Working closely with other WBENC-Certified WBEs and Corporate Members towards a common goal builds trust, and sharing responsibility for getting something done reminds you that teamwork can get results faster and better than doing everything alone. Being able to trust can help you open your mind up to other possibilities, enhance your mentoring experiences, and makes you a better leader.
Working with a group of smart and strong women also brings lots of opportunities to laugh, no small thing when you are under the tremendous stress of starting up or growing a business.
By working closely with fellow WBEs, I continue to develop a network of trusted advisors and friends, find satisfaction through helping others, and strengthen my leadership skills in a supportive environment. Here’s hoping you reap similar benefits by becoming actively involved.
Leveraging Committee Assignments For Advancement, Science Magazine
Top 9 Benefits of Business Networking, Amazing Business
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