In 2006 I left a lucrative market research career to start a business.
As a new business owner I needed to “work a room”, promote myself, give presentations, sell my services and pitch my ideas. Having spent the first half of my career “behind the scenes” making sure business ran smoothly for others, I didn’t have the confidence or skills to do any of those effectively.
In fact, at networking events I’d head straight into market research mode asking questions of everyone else yet rarely talking about my business. During presentations I could feel my heart race and see people tuning out. And sales? Well, let’s just say I didn’t want to bother people with what I had to say.
As a result, I’d watch everyone around me walk away with new opportunities while I walked away wanting to shout, “Hey! I’m smart and capable! Hire me!”
This lead to a steady stream of stress instead of a steady stream of opportunities.
At a crossroad, I needed to either get another research job or figure out how to talk to people. Not ready to give up on the business, I decided to beef up my communication skills.
So, I joined Toastmasters, hired personal and business coaches, took classes, read books and said “yes” to speaking and leadership opportunities. Anything to help me stick to my vision and commitment.
Over time the work paid off.
Not only did I feel more comfortable with these activities, I became more effective. And the more I put myself out there – building relationships, influencing others, acting on and selling my ideas – the more I noticed other professional and entrepreneurial women had similar challenges.
While our business roles and responsibilities differed, we had the following in common:
We had built successful careers “behind the scenes” – in research, operations, technical jobs – and had reached a level (i.e., promoted to leadership or started a business) that made us more visible. As a result, we had to talk with people all the time. Many felt uneasy and ill-prepared for these new roles.
So, I turned my biggest obstacle into a business.
Today I’m a performance coach and Principal of Engage The Room, where I specialize in showing professional women – who are used to working “behind the scenes” – how to come across more dynamically, and effectively, in business settings. As a result, they get ideas heard, strengthen relationships and achieve business goals. Learn more about me professionally.