Do Women Tend to Sell Services while Men Build Products?

male and female hands pulling on US dollars

Does the type of business different genders choose to start affect their ultimate profitability?

Now before you kill me, understand that I am aware of the danger of sweeping generalizations and also that many women, including those in the technology field have built some amazing products (see my article on a favorite app, Unstuck, which was built by SYPartners, which is led by Susan Schuman, a female CEO).  But when I attend various entrepreneur groups, or watch pitches for venture capital, it seems that women tend far and away to build service-led businesses, often heavily dependent on the principal’s time, background and continued future involvement. Whereas the men tend to build products, ideas or applications that can be sold and don’t require the continuous input of the founder over time.

Now to be fair, I have been spending a great deal of time at technology-based pitches of late, so this is strictly anecdotal evidence, and it’s well known that technology is a male dominated field at the moment. But considering that a product based business might be more easily sold down the line, are women shortchanging themselves by creating service-based businesses?

An example, at a recent series of pitches, a male-led team pitched the creation of an app that would allow you to order your favorite drink the minute you entered a crowded club, and have it served to you wherever you were, without having to engage the bartender personally. A female-led group pitched a service creating copy for websites and technology offerings. Regardless of your feelings on instant lager delivery vs. great copy editing, one product was basically a “one and done” item while the other would require quite a bit of ongoing effort to have value in the marketplace that would allow the founder to sell.

I’m not sure if this is the crux of the question on the relative divide on male and female success in the current business climate but it gives me pause. What are your thoughts? What do you see in the marketplace?

P.S. Some great reading on Building a Business to Sell by John Warrilow.

Are you selling what they need to hear?

Calculating ROI

Sure, you’ve got a great idea. What’s the ROI for them?

” It surprises me that most fashion buyers know everything there is to know about which trend and hemline we’ll be wearing in six months but can’t tell me what the density of their sales floor is, what the return is, what the dollars per square foot is, what their top-selling stock-keeping unit is and how many times they’ve reordered it in the season.  However fashionable the brand, we always start and finish with the numbers—the sell-throughs, the margins, the returns, the contributions—and then we talk about the pleasantries.” Marigay McKee, President Saks Fifth Avenue. From an interview in the Wall Street Journal.

How are you pitching your story? In business, your internal pitch needs to show the return on investment, not solely the brilliance of your vision or the cutting edge of your design.  Because vision and design can drive returns, but not if you can’t articulate them in a way to get your vision built in the first place.

At a recent workshop I listened to one female entrepreneur outline her next steps in growing her wellness business, which involved partnering with some other brick and mortar businesses. The first five minutes of the pitch outlined the wonderful community benefit, the sense of empowerment, the size of the mailing lists and the ambience of the event. Nowhere in the pitch was what the measurable benefit to her business would be, or the benefit to her brick and mortar partners.  A business coach kept probing, asking, “What is the benefit, where is the return?” and got more answers about wellness, community, and the overall specialness of the event. It took three tries for the business coach to get the entrepreneur to outline her plan for getting revenue from the event.

Lest any men be laughing and saying “typical female approach,” I’ve noticed many male-led pitches wax on endlessly about the speed of the technology, the sleekness of the interface, the inherent scalability of the product, while never addressing the paying market for the product.

At some point we all do it, fall so in love with our grand plan that we think everyone will buy in. And passion is a good thing.  Passion and drive keep you going at 3 am, when the 16th version is just not working the way you planned, and when you know in two hours the kids need to get up to get ready for school and you’re operating on no sleep. But we have to be mindful of our audience. Your significant other, your mom and your dog will love your idea, and think its brilliant, but unless they can finance it, eventually you have to sell it.

How are you pitching your vision? And are you selling it in a way that those who are buying can hear it?

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Want to Speed Read an Organization you may be pitching? Subscribe today.

 

Just Say No

Sometimes just saying "no" is the most powerful choice you can make.

Sometimes just saying “no” is the most powerful choice you can make.

What if you could free your day from the “Should do’s” “Ought to do’s” and only focus on the things that really move you towards your goal? What if you said, “This just isn’t going to happen” and crossed it off your “to do” list.

  • Say no to the networking event that never yields anything.
  • Cross off the “nice to have” product improvement that is sucking energy and time from your team but wont measurably increase usage or sales.
  • No, I’m sorry, we’ve done all our pro bono work for this year.
  • No, we’re not going to pursue that business line.
  • No, that sales/tech/ superstar just doesn’t fit our culture, lets stop pursuing him/her and find a different solution.
  • No, I don’t have the bandwidth for that.

What would you get done TODAY if you just said “No”?

 

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

But say YES to our free guide “Reading the Terrain” a field guide to understanding the corporate landscape…it may help you understand why your boss is saying NO to something you want to do! Subscribe in the box and get your copy today.

Speed Read your Work Environment, Today

Can you see what's going on around you?

Can you see what’s going on around you?

Ever think you might be missing the forest for the trees? Once you’re immersed in an organizational culture, you sometimes don’t even notice the quirks or unique habits of your environment.

What’s funny is that on the very first day you worked in the new environment you may have even spotted some key takeaways, but most likely  you didn’t fully process them or act upon them. (Okay, you may have slightly tweaked the way you dress but that’s usually about it for most people).

Our Free “Field Guide” gives you some key questions to help widen your view beyond your department or division. It covers topics as diverse as “Power Players” “Who’s Buying, Who’s Paying, Who’s Watching”, “Revenue Streams” “People Culture” “Technology” “Bomb Dropping”  and many other areas that help you truly understand the big picture.

You can get the guide for free, just sign up for our weekly newsletter in the subscription box at the right. We won’t mail bomb you, or share your email address. You’ll get a copy of the guide and our weekly updates of new articles.

Here’s a sample section:

Radioactive Fallout (aka “We tried that before” or “Previous Adventures in Change”)  

  1. What other change initiatives have been tried recently?  Are any similar to what you have planned?
  2. What were the results? Did anything actually change?
  3. What were the other consequences of the change; were there layoffs, staff cutbacks, staff reorganizations?
  4. Is “Change for Change’s Sake” a regular occurrence? How seriously is it taken?
  5. Does the team have a “set point?” a behavior or path of action they consistently revert back to when there is a problem with a change strategy or when the official “change period” is over?
  6. How quickly does the team come up with “workarounds” to avoid dealing with change? Is this the normal pattern?
  7. What is the persistent story around change in this organization (i.e. “Always leads to layoffs”  “ Screws everything up and then they go back to how it was”  “Another round of idiot consultants here to make money and make us miserable” )
  8. Does the culture favor real change or does it prefer band aids, quick fixes, and fluff (aka lots of marketing and branding fury signifying nothing).

If you don’t know where or what the “Elephants and Sacred Cows” are at your office, do yourself a favor and grab the guide.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

It’s Free, and it will take 30 seconds of your time. I guarantee it will open your eyes to at least one thing you may not have considered before.

And if you have a friend struggling at work, make their day better and forward this link to them!

 

A Fun Way to Get “Unstuck”

Team in a funk? Feel like you’re hitting a brick wall? There’s an app for that.

The “Unstuck” app, available on the ITunes store is a great, fun tool that allows you to put in a problem, business or personal, answer a few questions about feelings, who’s involved, what you perceive the roadblocks to be, and it shoots out a diagnosis of what’s going on, possible next steps, and some famous folks who have faced similar situations.  It’s been around for about two years and is constantly improved. Try it.

The app is for Ipads and is free. You can read more about it at www.unstuck.com

The Sunday Night Dreads: 5 ways to shake them. Starting Today

 

sunday night burnout

Looking forward to Monday?

A common phenomenon for many corporate and non-profit professionals is the “Sunday Night Dreads”. A combination of burnout, frustration, fear and a sinking feeling in your stomach, it occurs when you dread going back to work on Monday. And you know you’ve hit rock bottom when the “Sunday Night Dreads” morph into the “Saturday mid-afternoon blues” or even worse, the “Saturday Ten A.M. slump.” The “Dreads” are usually temporarily cured with large quantities of television viewing, the addictive substance of your choice (from chocolate to the hard stuff), some form of antacid and a healthy sprinkling of denial until morning rolls around. But what if that’s not working anymore? Here’s a hint, it never was working. What can you do about it?

1. Change your Venue.

Sometimes it’s just time to go. Pick up stakes and get the heck out. That means replacing the dread time with resume building / networking / “asking for a conversation” time with people who are in an industry or job role that gets you excited again. Better yet, assign some time on Saturday morning to do this so you can rest easy on Sunday night with a few conversations scheduled for the following week. But before you go, read on, because sometimes your junk will just follow you to the next venue.

2. Build a Better set of Allies.

Current thinking is that you (and your income) are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most. Your five may be co-workers, friends, drinking buddies or your family but it could be time to upgrade. I don’t recommend ditching your spouse and kids (they can get kind of sensitive about that) but it may be time to change who you socialize with. Who is doing what you want to do? How did they get there? Petulant answers like “Their father was the CEO and he bought them a position” get you nowhere, pick a different person and don’t be so quick to dismiss everyone as “not worthy”. What do they do in their day that is materially different than how you spend your time in a day? Look at your team members who also appear to be successful and very different from you. Is there something they’re doing you might be willing to try? Get to know them and see if you have some common ground. If your current set of allies is only, and perhaps with the best of intentions, reinforcing your “stuck” feeling, you need to expand your horizons. One of my most motivational moments ever was when I realized that a colleague I considered a moron was making significantly more income than I was. My normal default would be to decry the “unfairness” of it all, topped off with a soothing declaration of what a much better human being I am. Instead, I simply resolved that if that “moron” could make that kind of income, I could do much better than she/he did. And the following year I did.

3. Change One Thing this Week.

And another next week. Can you change just one small thing this week on how you spend your time or who you talk to? Maybe change the way you deal with difficult conversations at work. If you normally dodge them, confront them head on (some suggestions here). Can you take a walk/run/workout for 30 minutes? And can you listen to a TED Talk or business book during that time? Can you set aside 15 minutes to talk to someone different at work, perhaps in a different business line or with a different background?   Make one small change this week, one that takes 30 minutes or less. And then keep building on it each week. There’s some science showing that a series of small “micro” changes can actually lead to more lasting success than massive “overnight” changes. Take 2 minutes right now to write down that tiny change you’ll make this week. And stick it on a post it and look at it on Sunday night. And then do it Monday morning. And stick a reminder in your calendar for Wednesday to make sure you followed through.

4. Throw Yourself into Something Totally New, and a little Strange, that you may Suck at.

We tend to stay in one set of activities or line of learning. If we’re athletic we do sports, watch sports and coach sports. Academically inclined? They know you at the local library, Amazon Book delivery has your number and PBS counts on you for every pledge drive. What if you were to do something you were NOT likely to excel at on your first try? I’m all for playing to your strengths, and believe that 95% of the time you should, but to shake up your thinking you need to have “beginner’s brain” in one aspect of your life. If you’re an engineer take a public speaking class (maybe you’re great at public speaking, if you are, how do you feel about modern dance?). Do something that your friends, tribe, allies would say “Well that’s about the last thing I’d expect him/her to do”  Try Tai chi, play an instrument, join a Table Tennis league, learn a computer programming language, learn Tagalog. Try something where you are Rank Amateur and do it in a setting that involves other people. It will have you talking and engaging with people you normally don’t interact with and “wake up” your brain to other possibilities you haven’t considered. In a tiny way it changes the “Story of You.”  You are now a chemical engineer who also is a dancer. A marketer who is learning computer programming. A top performing salesman who speaks Tagalog.  Open your brain, change your story and see where it leads. And talk to the people you meet while you’re learning. You may find that one of them is the connection you need to start your next career adventure.

5. “If you can’t be with the job you love, love the one you’re with”, by changing it to suit your needs.

What if you could reinvent the place you currently work at to be your dream job? Can you create an entrepreneurial startup inside of the corporate structure? Create a new product or strategy that will increase revenue or reduce costs? Is there a product or project that you, the top salesperson, with an elementary  command of  conversational Tagalog, are the perfect person to take on? Is there a win-win situation where you and your employer can both grow, change and create something entirely new? We’ll be talking a lot about intrapreneurship and reinvention in the next few weeks so subscribe at right to catch the articles.

Got a friend who’s ready to “end it all” every Sunday evening? Do them a favor and forward this article to them. And let me know in the comments what you decided to do this week. (Even it was breaking into the jar of chocolate frosting in the pantry and sticking potato chips in it. Yup, been there, done that. It doesn’t work and it’s pretty disgusting after awhile. But, hey, do what you got to do).

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

The Problems you Have Left

Some greatness from Seth Godin. The truth is, the easy problems are easily solved. If you’re reading this blog it’s because you like to solve the tough ones!

Takes 1 minute to read but says a mouthful!

The Problems you Have Left

 

 

Lean Startups in the Government Sector

lean startups

It’s not easy, but it CAN be done!
Learn what to do and what to avoid!

Brussels, February 2014.  As promised, here’s a copy of the presentation that I delivered in Brussels on February 5th. The videos cover the benefits, challenges and approaches to creating Lean Startups in Government agencies, and also how to find areas of opportunity. I also touch on some successful models of Government Lean projects in the U.S. and the links to those are below. The volume will start almost immediately, so while I’d love to believe you and all your friends are gathered around to watch this presentation…you might want to grab a set of headphones! My fantastic co-presenter Carl Danneels’ presentation on Lean Startups in the Corporate world can be found here. Lean Startups in Government Part 1: Lean Startups in the Government Sector, Part 2: Lean Startups in the Government Sector, Part 3:

Resources for Successful Models:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-government-learn-how-to-fail-fast/2013/04/12/9cca9c36-9e07-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html http://fedscoop.com/radio/government-as-a-startup-with-the-lean-startup-author-eric-ries/ http://www.innovatenycschools.org/ http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2012/05/lean-government.html http://fedscoop.com/nasa-open-government-team-broadens-focus-to-innovation/ https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-03-26-the-lean-startup-model-goes-to-school Tennessee State projects: Scott Ritenour,  sritenour ( AT) gmail.com

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Postcards on Change from Belgium

Jeanne Goldie, Organizational Strategist

Jeanne Goldie is a “Start it Up” or “Turn it Around” plug-in strategist for businesses. For the past twelve years she’s worked in the Financial Services industry leading organizational strategy after doing similar work in the government and non-profit sector.

I’m in Belgium this week, getting ready to present Anarchy and the Acco™ Clip:  Lean Startups in Government at the Lean Startups Brussels meeting.

Can you imagine preparing a presentation in one language and then, on a moments notice being asked to present in another language? Yesterday I attended a workshop of Agile experts (an approach to building products and software) explaining the best uses and applications for Agile and XP which was hosted at Sirris.be. The meeting started off in Dutch, and five minutes into the meeting, an audience member requested they switch to English (no, it wasn’t me!). The panel then switched to English, offering 8 presentations in rapid fire succession (similar to the “sprint concept” in Agile) with each presenter offering an aspect of working in Agile in 5 minutes or less. It was a fascinating “deep dive” into an area I haven’t spent a lot of time in, and the experience and enthusiasm of the panel was obvious. After the presentation, the audience was divided into smaller break out groups to discuss challenges with executing and adapting Agile to the workplace, proving some issues are universal. Most of the areas involved the challenge of managing product development in a situation with diffused authority, something not uncommon in any change project. From the discussions led by the presenters it was obvious that the flexibility they had demonstrated flipping languages was also repeated in their project management. An amazing workshop, with lots of great insight and strategies.

The second event was a pitch program at Beta Group Brussels where several entrepreneurs had 5 minute to pitch their products in a way to test their marketability, similar to giving an “elevator speech” for venture capitalists. Over 300 people watched and voted on different applications, it was exciting to watch people passionately pitch their ideas. One interesting note was that sometimes the best, most marketable idea was often buried or missed in the “pitcher’s” enthusiasm for their original concept. One team, creating an online shopping site glossed over their best attribute, creating a routine, simplified, glossy marketing approach for small business owners who were NOT technically savvy, basically letting the business owners subcontract that work inexpensively to a group that would ensure that the their marketing would meet all current technical standards, and marketing for them on a consistent basis across multiple platforms (a huge issue for a frazzled small business owner). It was a great reminder that sometimes we’re so close to our creations that we miss the forest for the trees.

On a side note, much like the US there were very few females in either group, and often the females offered more “service concept” type products rather than application development or strict product development. The females had good insight into the how and why a product would or wouldn’t work, clearly we need to get more women in STEM professions!

Many thanks to my hosts from Lean Startup Brussels who are ensuring I get a great whirlwind tour of the technology community in Brussels. There’s tons of food for thought that has been shared, and I hope to be able to share it with all of you in a slightly more coherent fashion once I get some sleep!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

We Screwed Up.

public relations disasters

When the pressure is on, how will you respond?

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

For those of you who may have seen the U.S. news in the past few days you probably heard of Georgia’s disastrous response to 2-3 inches (6.35cm) of snowfall that quickly turned to ice. Thousands of residents of the Atlanta metropolitan area attempted to leave work at the same time to go pick up children at school and outrace the ice.

The result?  Trucks, cars and buses collided, blocking roads and highways rendering them impassable. Over 994 accidents were reported in the first 12 hours of the storm and many more minor ones occurred throughout the night. Commutes of 3 miles (4.82 km) stretched to 5 hours and 25 mile (40.23km) commutes became 24 hour ordeals. A baby was born on a highway, hundreds had to abandon their cars and walk for miles to get home after they ran out of gasoline.

Next was the parade of government officials trying to explain the uncoordinated response and chaos. The styles ranged from smooth to horribly awkward, and they were mercilessly skewered on twitter and social media. Some were in the awkward position of being blamed for jobs they were not responsible for but as leaders, would be held accountable for anyway. Others were openly hostile. As time went on, some leaders clearly got “off” the public relations scripting they had been prepped with while others clung to it like a lifeline, long after it stopped making any sense. Leaders of nearby counties most likely breathed a sigh of relief when they realized that the Mayor of the City of Atlanta (a small fraction of the Atlanta metro area) would be taking the majority of the heat publicly for the disaster.

One of the hardest things to do in public is to admit you are wrong. With the advances in social media and technology, it’s entirely possible that you can claim you’ve fixed something only to have live pictures scrolling alongside you on screen proving the opposite.

How do YOU handle admitting to a mistake?

The Uncomfortable Conversations series on 52weekturnaround gives you the tools to have the difficult conversations that you encounter as a change agent. See the series here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015