For Small Business Saturday 2018 we speak to Penny Power OBE. Penny tells us how she has found her value after twenty years as a business owner and how you can find yours.
It is that amazing time of year when the team at Small Business Saturday encourage us all to celebrate and support the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.
This year I have reflected enormously on my twenty years as a business owner. When I say reflected, don’t under estimate what this journey of self-awareness and reflection has been like – twenty years of showing a positive face to the world, placing my stress into a drawer and closing it tight, and getting up each day thinking that today my “tipping point” will happen, when all the work, connection, passion, kindness and commitment to others would pay off.
When I was forced into a moment of reflection last November due to a moment of clinical exhaustion, I decided that the only way to be the ‘best me’ was to rest. My psychologist diagnosed me with ‘the curse of the strong’; a type of depression that people who are strong and bloody-minded about their resilience, capacity for stress and hard work are usually diagnosed with – it can take them years to discover that they are slightly broken inside.
So, as we move into what should be a great trading period for small businesses which rely on this time of year to thrive, we move at the same time into a period of hardly any business for those who depend on people to have time in their diaries for meetings. I would like to share one of my discoveries this year with you.
“You cannot get others to value you until you value yourself”
When you work alone as a sole business owner, or even if you work with a small team, it can be a very isolating experience. 83% of business owners that completed a survey I commissioned said they were currently experiencing or had previously experienced business loneliness. The aspect of loneliness that worries me the most is the need for validation – from my own experience and from interviews I have conducted, value and worthlessness are very entwined. These feelings are associated with our ability to negotiate and ask for fees or payment for a product or service that we have provided. The result of undervaluing services and products that your business provides is mainly financial, but it also indicates how you measure your business value.
Achieving the right balance between feeling valued and worth-while and having the strength to price ourselves at a level that makes all our hard work worthwhile can often be challenging.
Here are six tips that have helped me.
- Be aware that some people will play you – they are ruthless.
I am very aware that there are many people that have become rich due to their love of getting a bargain. I have witnessed many people break down a small business purely by their determination to win the deal. In an ideal world we would all seek a win-win – however for some it is a game. Here’s an extreme example: a friend once told me that when she went to Bali she couldn’t believe how little everything cost; however she went on to say that her boyfriend loved bartering in the markets and with taxi drivers – he would knock their prices down to save himself money. I personally found this heartless and cruel as those people are trying to make an honest living. Sadly, they found it funny.
- Don’t over-do your strengths of kindness and caring
When people start their business, they want their clients or customers to feel happy and satisfied with their service or product because they truly care about others. This is a real strength and creates a trusting culture throughout the business. Kindness is a human strength and a wonderful value to have. However, when it is misapplied to someone who doesn’t notice it or it is applied to someone who wants to exploit it, then it soon becomes a weakness for that kind person.
- Don’t give yourself a way for free
‘Can I pick your brains?’, ‘can I buy you a coffee? I would love to get to know you’ – these are flattering and wonderful for our self-worth but be aware of these people may just want free advice. Your knowledge has taken you years to build, your time is precious and your business needs to be directed in the right way. Networking and being valuable to others has its place, but you should build protection around yourself and understand each person and their intentions well before you agree to that coffee.
- Don’t under value or under-price
Being cheap doesn’t always win you the deal. A wonderful lady shared a story with me about how she worked really hard to get some business from a Board Director of a FTSE company; eventually she won it but at the end of the contract she asked why it was do hard to convince him when she had been referred and had great endorsements. He replied: “you were to cheap so I didn’t believe you would be any good.” Take this on board and ensure you are pricing your time and services appropriately.
- Negotiate from abundance, take a risk and watch what might happen
When life is tough, and we are desperate for money we can make the mistake of valuing ourselves too low. I was in the position once many years ago where I was asked to speak for a large company at an event – I usually charged £2,500, however as mad as it sounds this wasn’t going to help my financial situation enough to make a huge difference to my stress and worries. I decided to move the decimal point one place and sent a proposal for £25,000. The next day, I received confirmation that they were ‘delighted to hire someone of my calibre’. My advice is to take a risk sometimes – it may pay off.
- Understand your market and the price they will pay (delivery method)
Having a fixed view of pricing can impact your ability to reach different markets. If you are selling a product, then your brand will reflect the price you will pay and the market you are targeting. Many people who provide a service have found ways to vary the delivery method of their service. For example, if you’re a consultant or coach then face to face delivery will be more expensive than if you provide support virtually. Likewise, you may choose to vary your price whether you are delivering to a large company rather than a small one. While the percentage impact in their growth through your impact may be the same, the actual impact in money will be far greater in a large company and therefore you can justify a higher fee.
Penny started leading conversations in business wellness in 1998 when she Founded the world’s first business online community, Ecademy. She has been a business owner, speaker and writer for 20 years. She was awarded her OBE by the Queen in January 2014 for her contribution to Entrepreneurship in the Social Digital World.
Penny’s latest book, ‘Business is Personal’ launches in 2019. In the book, Penny discusses the importance of us holding onto our own beliefs and definition of the life we want to lead and live, in a world of ‘comparing and despairing’ that has been created by the overuse and dependence on social media.
Penny boldly opens up about the trials of her own life and the observations she has of the way we are all being sucked into believing we lack, rather than having the confidence in our own values, skills and dreams. Penny is keen to ensure that business start-ups, self-employed, business owners and employed people are also guided and supported in a world of communication that not only impacts the mental health of teenagers, but very much impacts working adults.