Spring has sprung and that means kids will open their lemonade stands soon. There is one in every neighborhood run by a group of friends or siblings. Kids just trying to earn a buck or two in this economy. As an adult, we don't take these small operations seriously. They're playing pretend. They have no idea what they're doing. They're kids. But when does that mentality towards entrepreneurs stop? Does age matter when a business is trying to be taken seriously? Does gender?
Speaking only from my own experience as a woman, gender does have a lot to do with it. I've had both male and female clients in my career. There is a distinct shift in how I'm treated depending on who I'm addressing. Women treat me more on an equal level. We understand what we've been up against to get this far. We get it. Men have an air of patronizing superiority. Not all of my male clients, but it isn't not there (excuse the need for the double negative). Most are probably not consciously aware of their behavior because they have had different experiences than I have. In the more politically correct world that I grew up in, I've become hyper aware of how I'm treated by people.
Women continue to confront issues of gender inequality in the professional world. I've been running my business for almost a decade and I still encounter professionals that don't seem to take it seriously.
"So you have your own business then?"
"Oh, how long have you been doing that?"
"And how successful has it been?"
"Think you'll be able to retire doing that?"
Much like the example of the lemonade stand, some see my business is a cute concept with a short shelf life. What do I need to convince potential clients of my viability as a business owner? A large office building filled to the brim with staff? To be publicly traded on Wall Street? To have several offices in North America? To earn a few millions dollars a year?
No amount of business paraphernalia is needed to convince people that my business, or any business, matters. What matters is how I treat it. What matters is how I approach people and introduce myself and my business. As an adult, it's harder to dismiss someone when they speak sincerely and passionately. When you speak with confidence it shows. You could have a staff of two or two thousand, being proud about your crew and the work you've done will speak volumes more than a fancy office will.
More than just treating your business like it's made of gold, you have work that backs up your claims. To be successful in the long run you need both equally. Passible work but a lot of confidence might fool some people but will leave them unsatisfied. Amazing work and not enough confidence will make you easier to dismiss. If you don't believe in your product, why should anyone else?
It is difficult to shrug off negative and condescending remarks, especially when it's something you're deeply involved with. There will always be people that doubt your abilities in one facet or another. Pleasing everyone is exhausting and a waste of time. Focus on what you're great at and you'll attract people who believe in your message. Take the lemons others give you and make your lemonade stand amazing.