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Massage Today
July, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 07

Women in Business

By Linda Riach

In business, the issues that men and women face are no different. In fact, I would go so far as to say that how they feel about those issues is no different; however, the skills they bring to the table for coping are often very unique.

In boardroom meetings with other CEOs (all of whom run companies that are vastly different) in a variety of settings, I've found that most of us have very similar issues: finding the right team; watching our bottom lines; serving our clients; competing in a tough economy; and surviving, enduring, and ultimately, thriving. I find that we each "sweat it out" in pretty much the same way. While I may be the only woman in the room (and yes, sometimes excluded from the "old boys' club"), I've learned that I'm not alone in how I'm feeling about those struggles or about tackling issues that could make or break my company. We can all learn about marketing and bookkeeping - the business skills.

So, is the gender difference only in how well we put on our "game face?" It may be. How many women learned as children to put on bravado? Few of us. But there is another skill they don't teach in business schools - listening. Listening is something we, as women, learn on the telephone, and in cliques, family gatherings and through our innate desire to communicate.

Every successful business owner finds a market void and fills it. The key to survival, however, is being able to respond to our clients' needs. The amazing thing is that you can discover those needs merely by listening. Listening is the difference that will serve you, as a man or woman, corporate CEO or massage therapy practitioner.

While you may not have 250,000 clients, getting to know the 25 you do have will make those relationships better by helping you give them what they need and keep them coming back. My entire career is focused on the art of listening (something I share with my employees), and while I've had great success with it, there is always much more to learn. In fact, listening is the very foundation upon which my company was built 25 years ago; it is this very skill that makes all the difference in the marketplace.

Knowledge and information are also foundations upon which businesses are developed. Continuously developing and re-inventing your capabilities to meet client needs isn't easy, but it's crucial to serving the customer and to your success, no matter who you are. Listening also means hearing the stuff we don't want to hear - the criticisms and the judgments.

Criticism doesn't feel any better to us than it does to a sensitive teenager. But over the years, I've learned a thing or two about how to deal with the bad, as well as the good, and how to get past the hurt and use what I'm hearing to help my business thrive. So now when I'm confronted with "She's only a woman"; "She has no business background"; or "Just what are her credentials?" I find listening to those judgments spurs me on and incites a kind of "I'll show them!" attitude. This is a powerful motivator, as we "old-timers" in the massage community know. Didn't we grow in the face of skepticism, flourishing despite criticism and proving our value, despite the naysayers and overly arrogant "experts?"

Criticisms? Oh, they sting! It's time to forget those high school wounds, though, and listen for the opportunity for change and growth at its core. The negative feedback provides a wealth of insight, because it tells me as much about the critic (whether client, employee or competitor) as it does about our efforts and areas needing improvement. While I may not like the package it comes in, criticism is a gift, just the same. I feel blessed when I get good feedback, too.

Unlike when I first began my entrepreneurial journey, my more experienced ears are just now learning to appreciate what I do right, and my mind is beginning to use that juice to recharge the energy it takes to make it through the challenges. As entrepreneurs and women in business, we have to remember to celebrate the victories and to get up and do it all again tomorrow - better and bolder than we did it yesterday.

Click here for previous articles by Linda Riach.


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