If you’ve been reading our posts, it may be apparent we’re readers (for some of us, books are the drug of choice).  So what do quirky actress Felicia Day [author of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost)] and social scientist Brené Brown [author of Rising Strong] have of interest to SDMWVLGBTBE (Small, Disadvantaged/Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) owners? Ms. Day is the entrepreneur behind the online digital channel Geek & Sundry, while Ms. Brown is the CEO of The Daring Way. So both know a thing or two about running a business. And, in our minds, both authors expand on our post about the Confidence Code  by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  One of our favorite quotes from that book … “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”  And, that’s what entrepreneurs do.

After thirty years, we believe we’ve learned more from our business mistakes than any easy success.  Bidding and service/product pricing is always an issue for us.  We actually had to tell a client there were not enough billable hours available in a year for us to make a profit on a particular engagement — and, that’s not good. We’ve extracted and paraphrased a really good list from Ms. Brown’s chapter Composting Failure‘s (page 187) about the quicksand every SDMWVLGBTBE can face in price quoting:

  • Emotional blinders: being so emotionally involved with your client that you are blind to the fact that your bid is too low for the scope of work;
  • Loss leader: you’re convinced that a big discount, even if you lose money, will generate future, more profitable work that will offset the loss;
  • Uncharted territory: you’re seeking new business in which you have no experience (you don’t know what you don’t know);
  • Win at any cost: you’re addicted to the thrill, or your self-worth is tied to bringing in business;
  • Defensive pricing: protect your turf so a competitor can’t match your pricing, even if you take a loss.

Ms. Brown says: “I couldn’t help but notice their application to everyday life … spent plenty of time in similar sinkholes, like getting sucked in emotionally, living in the future, thinking in the short term, wanting to win, and being defensive.”  Her contributor Andrew remarks, “But sometimes the greatest threat is keeping your head down and staying so focused on dodging the sinkholes that you lose sight of where you’re going and why.”  We have all been there done that, and Ms. Brown’s book is a good read that can help us recognize and learn from our behaviors and failures.

Oh, the most fortunate Felicia Day (!) to work with Joss Whedon (what Fox did to Firefly still makes us cringe) on Buffy and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog or appear in Supernatural with a cool character arc of her own. She also appears in My Gimpy Life, another web series, that we tweeted about last month (watch, it please!). All right, enough fan-like behavior.

What Ms. Day’s book has to offer the SDMWVLGBTBE owner is a rollicking, and sometimes sad, tour of what it was like for her to risk big in creating new products.  We could certainly relate to her advice to “Find a group to support you, to encourage you, to guilt you into DOING.  If you can’t find one, start one yourself.”

We have several support groups, some formal and some not so much.  Many SDMWVLGBTBE owners can find support among the specific third party certifiers such as: National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; National Minority Supplier Diversity Council; United States Business Leader Network (businesses owned by people with disabilities); or the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.  These organizations offer networking opportunities between their certified members and their corporate sponsors.  They are a great resource for finding people to help make your own group.  We have an informal Ladies Who Lunch mini-group that meets, duh, for lunch every six weeks or so. The core members met through WBENC and we act as sounding boards, sometimes offering advice but always supporting each other as friends and colleagues.

Ultimately, it is Ms. Day’s parting note that resonates for us as a SDMWVLGBTBE business: “I hope all my copious oversharing encourages someone to stop, drop and do something that’s always scared them. Create something they’ve always dreamt of. Connect with people they never thought they’d know. Because there’s no better time in history to do it.”