Recently, I was asked, why do I do what I do? When I asked a clarifying question, to narrow the topic, the person went on to ask why would I want to be president of NAWBO Phoenix while also building a business? It takes a lot to run an organization. Why put energy into it and not the business. “Awe,” I thought to myself. The question caused me to pause. Not because I hadn’t thought about it but because no one had so bluntly asked. I am sure that many people may wonder the same. So I thought I would answer that in the first blog for the chapter.
As an entrepreneur, it is tough navigating this business ecosystem. It sometimes seems that this journey can be rather arduous and lonely, wondering if I will succeed or succumb to the pressure of the unknown. What I have gathered, over time, is that every woman has a driving force, something that is propelling her towards a destination. If too many obstacles mask that driving force, need, or desire, it can create chasms. And the longer we go, the harder it is for us to figure out how to build a bridge or find a way to get back to where we need to be.
I want to prevent or shrink chasms for WBOs. I went to an event about a year or two ago. When the panelists were asked how does being a woman impact their growth, all of them answered, it does not. They essentially positioned that they do not let the fact that they are a woman change how they perform. That being a woman is a fact that would not change, not an obstacle that they would have to overcome.
While I agree that being a woman is a fact, it is also true that women who work hard and do the same work are paid less than men in corporate and as WBOs, we continue to see less revenue than our male counterparts. Which indicates that womanhood does not always have an equitable return. At the end of the panelists' discussion, I was asked to make a quick introduction of NAWBO and myself. I shared that I have faced many obstacles, many of them were because I am a woman and that NAWBO has helped me overcome those obstacles.
Two women came up to me after the meeting was over and thanked me for my comments. They went on to say that even though I was not a panelist, they wish I were able to share longer. My short introduction resonated with them more than the panelists. They explained that they felt like they were on an island, the two of them abandoned. They just heard four women who were seemingly successful, and perhaps where they want to be, tell them that they should not struggle with being a woman. My vulnerability pulled them up. They now knew that they were not alone and that what they were experiencing was not made up.
As president of the chapter I want women to know that they are not alone, that these chasms they experience are real but can be reduced. The way to minimize them is by having real conversations about real challenges that are impacting each of us. These conversations help to acknowledge barriers but then refocus us back to our driving force of why we do what we do.
I want to be a bridge builder for WBOs. NAWBO is a vehicle that allows me to do that. When I started my entrepreneur journey in 2016, I had no idea what I was doing. So many questions, like who is my ideal client and how do I connect with them. That dreaded question, what do you do, was the bane of my existence. Every time I was asked, I fumbled through.
I remember practicing my 30-second elevator speech over and over. In my mind, it was amazingly clear. I was excited to attend a NAWBO event and walked in ready to introduce myself. However, I quickly knew that things had gone to the left when I was met with that look of confusion, an awkward smile and an uncomfortable nod as women turned away from me.
After one of the meetings, a past president sat me down and asked me clarifying questions and coached me through creating a dynamic 30-second pitch. I am not certain if it was intentional or if she was just getting to know me. However, it was a defining moment for me. She was a bridge builder. She helped me connect what I had been trying to do alone. The more I showed up to meetings, the more questions I asked and the more I practiced, the clearer it all became.
There are women who have taken the time to ask me, “Angela, what do you need.” Many are part of NAWBO or connected to the community. The truth is, in many cases I had no idea what I needed, but they offered me resources as they asked probing questions and listened for the needs.
As president, I want to bridge the gaps between WBOs and the tools and resources they need to be successful, as many of the past presidents and other members have done for me. I want WBOs to know that there are resources that can be leveraged to get them to where they need to be. They don't have to go it alone. But there is a community behind them to ensure they succeed. More personally, when a WBO is struggling, I want them to know that I am here to sit with them and coach them through.
I want to grow my business. Everything we do should have a strategy behind it. Yes, NAWBO Phoenix takes a lot of time and effort. However, I am a firm believer in reciprocity. As I am assisting others with shrinking their chasms and building bridges, I am doing the same for myself. As I offer resources and tools to WBOs, I am learning about resources and tools to grow my business. As I strategize and plan for the chapter, I am doing the same for ARG Coaching & Consulting Group.
Over the course of the year, I will dedicate time to strengthen NAWBO Phoenix and will also devote equal or more time to strengthen my business. Just because we volunteer does not mean that part of our life has to suffer at the demand of the other or vice versa. Both can become stronger.
So what is your chasm? What bridge do you need help building? As a chapter, we are here to support you and as the president of the chapter, I am here to support you. I look forward to a focused year.
Angela Garmon, with ARG Coaching & Consulting Group, is a change management expert who works with leaders that want to increase their company’s profits by focusing on three key areas: leadership effectiveness, team cohesion, and process improvement. For more information, visit www.argccgroup.com.