Entrepreneurial Life Hacks from Sophie Toh, Founder, TOH.
A wise man said that there are three hard things in life; diamond, steel and knowing yourself. In my experience as a relatively young female entrepreneur setting up a company in a non-familiar country, this has often rung true. I wish someone could email me a neat assessment of my strengths and weaknesses that would help me understand my potential, and help make the right decisions about hiring, risk taking and the full gambit of options that come with running a business on a daily basis based on my actual, as opposed to perceived limitations.
Sadly, they don’t teach much in the way of self-awareness at school or university – not in the traditional sense anyway. This is one of those nebulous qualities that is instinctive and can only be honed by age, experience, set back and plain old failure. Considering this got me thinking about the other qualities that female entrepreneurs must have, but cannot be taught in conventional ways. What are they? I hope by setting them out, potential female business owners like me might have an idea at least of what skills might come in useful. And find comfort in the fact that we all struggle with the impermanent, the unknown and the intangible in our day to day professional lives.
There is no rule book; and perhaps that’s what makes the whole ride so utterly thrilling and joyously life affirming. When leading, we get to go at it, freestyle.
1.Just keep showing up...
Perhaps the biggest realization of all has been that some days aren’t plain sailing but just plain tough. However, there’s always the possibility of a good night’s sleep and a clean start with a resolved attitude the following day. My ability to adapt, keep going and generally cope in fast changing and challenging times, even when I really don’t feel like it has been my greatest source of pride. Sometimes you don’t have to be excellent to get ahead. You just have to keep showing up.
We all can get overwhelmed by negativity and anxiety when we are faced with difficult or challenging situations. And sometimes managing the people around you is way harder than making the numbers add up. However, a successful entrepreneur has to be an emotionally intelligent master, regulating themselves and their responses, so that other people don’t encroach on your focus and ability to deliver. I’ve often been surprised by how much channeling a zen master, or yoda is part of the job role… and I work towards detachment and objectivity every day. It’s never personal and I think that I’m now smart enough to understand when people around me are acting out. This perspective definitely helps me lead from a place of objectivity and calm.
3.Ask a million questions and decide... Now.
Need to think about it? Sometimes you don’t get the luxury as the deadlines might come hard and fast. As an entrepreneur, I’ve often found that any decision is better than no decision. But you still need the facts, so entrepreneurs must become very good at asking the right questions very quickly to get to the core of the issue – within a specific timeframe. This is key. Once you have what you believe to be the nut of the issue, take a call on it. You might call it wrong – but you wouldn’t be the first! Stick with your decision and run with it.
4.No, you can’t do it all… delegate.
Something that all females struggle with is not being able to do it all. We are literally spoon fed this wonderful ideal from childhood – we are the generation that is supposed to conquer the world in heels broadcast on instagram – correct? But that’s simply not possible. We all have a certain amount of mental and physical resources and channeling them in one direction means something has to give. Here, that elusive notion of self-awareness is so important. Listen to your instinct and try to surround yourself with people that don’t duplicate your efforts, but enhance what you’re good at. And know you’re the leader in the room for a reason – even if it’s that you just had the energy or curiosity to be the first to try.
This article was published by Forbes Middle East. You can view the article here.