What do women in business feel are the secrets to thriving when it comes to staying competitive?
Most of the women I spoke to ahead of International Women's Day (March 8) agree that while today's business world has unique challenges, it's time-honored traditions like staying abreast of industry changes and simply taking the plunge and and being brave that results in continued success for women in business.
“The theme for International Women's Day this year is 'Be Bold for Change,'" says Carol Talbot, author of the YOU The Divine Genius. "It's about being bold to create a shift and a change inside each and every one of us in these competitive times."
I spoke to several women in business about what they do to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive business world. Their answers may surprise you.
Continue to Grow and Learn
"Because I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty doing work that others might perceive as 'beneath me,' I'm able to continue learning and growing with my company and in the industry. I'm also always keeping my eyes and ears open, looking for opportunities to increase company morale, which comes in the form of volunteering, giving back or having fun company events. With incredible company and staff support behind me, Broadway Stages is able to get ahead and continue to be a leader in the very competitive TV and film production industry." —Gina Argento, president and CEO of Broadway Stages
“I keep ahead of the competition by staying on top of the various trending regulatory topics through subscriptions to multiple industry newsletters. I also often confer with colleagues in the industry through networking and sharing information. Doing this information gathering helps keep me informed and on the competitive edge of things." —Katrina Jully, regulatory specialist for Popchips
“I stay ahead by reading. I read what's happening in my clients' industries and in other industries. It's actually the other industries where I learn the most. I've found that it's important to keep your finger on the pulse all around you. That's how you provide the best for your company and its clients." —Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of Dxagency
“Our competitive advantage is staying vigilant on the changes in our industry, understanding new opportunities available to better serve our clients' needs and executing our service at an expert level. At the end of the day, the best driver for staying ahead of your competition is a strong desire to have clients who are happy because you're delivering exactly what you promised, if not more. As a result, they continue to use your service and/or refer their friends and associates to your company." —Marsha Friedman, founder and CEO, EMSI Public Relations
Find Your Niche and Excel
“Understand your unique space in the market. The e-commerce world can be crowded. It's vital that you have clarity on how to bring an experience that is different or better. At Paper Mart, we built our company on providing quality packaging solutions at low prices. What we do differently, and the reason our customers are so loyal, is that we also provide excellent service, which customers don't always find online. That model of low prices and high quality service has set us apart in our industry. Finding your own magic formula is key to jumping into e-commerce successfully." —Buffy Simoni, president of Paper Mart
“The trick to succeeding in a competitive industry is to find a niche that's both lucrative and a good fit for the business. By lucrative, I mean a product or service that can easily produce a profit and one that potential customers can and will spend money to acquire." —Wendy Connick, owner of Connick Financial Solutions
[pullquote showtweet="false" username="Heidi Jannenga" alignment="center"]To stay competitive long-term, you have to invest in and empower the people around you. Relationships are crucial to business outcomes, and I'm not just talking about relationships between leadership and employees; meaningful connections are critical to every aspect of business.
—Heidi Jannenga, co-founder, WebPT[/pullquote]
“In a competitive field such as public relations, I've found that being an 'expert' in one area is more beneficial than trying to be an 'expert' in all. Defining and remaining true to my niche keeps me focused on my job and in demand. Though I get approached to do jobs outside of my niche, I feel it's in the best interest of me, my company and my clients to remain focused on my areas of expertise." —Tess Woods, principal, Tess Woods PR, LLC
"You'll never gain ground in a competitive market if you don't have a clear differentiator. Potential clients need to know what makes you different than others, and it must be clear and significant. If not, you'll consistently be chosen—or not—by pricing alone. Secondly, never stop learning: researching, reading, etc. You can't stay ahead of the rest if they are more informed than you!" —Kristin Hege, president and co-founder of Wired PR Group
Focus on Communication
“Kevin Lund, CEO of the award-winning content marketing firm T3 Custom, talks about 'speaking human' in content-driven business communications, and I've definitely found that to be an effective way to stay ahead and gain that edge in competitive industries. It allows a professional or organization at large to 'rise above the noise' in a content-crammed marketplace. It's a style and an attitude that I strive for at every touch point, both internally and when reaching out to the marketplace. This involves marketing, business development, public relations and all other communications initiatives focusing on telling a simple, human story that will educate, inform, entertain and, most importantly, compel your intended audience in a way that fully captures mindshare through messaging and a delivery approach that truly resonates on a more personal and emotional level. The result is simply communicating with your audience instead of talking AT them. This is not just in a given 'handshake moment,' but rather it is a continual friendly engagement with consumers and the marketplace at large that is built primarily by trust and performance." —Merilee Kern, chief PR strategist, Ascendant Group Branding
“I try to be the best at what I do, and to do what I do in the most conscious, most self-aware way possible. This means being open to feedback, even when it's constructive criticism that's hard to hear; continually being in learning mode; and working on myself and my own personal growth all of the time. If I'm 'walking my talk' it makes me much more powerful, effective, creative and open." —Beatrice Chestnut, founder, The Chestnut Group and author of The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st-Century Workplace
Expand Your Expectations and Horizons
“Ensure that you are constantly pushing yourself to be better. Learn from those who are better than you. Surround yourself with those who inspire you. Always question yourself. How can you improve? Lastly, travel. See the world and broaden your horizons. You will grow incredibly quickly when you experience other cultures and open your mind to new ideas." —Ivana Wong, senior art director, Fathom Creative
"The main thing that I do to stay competitive in today's market is to continually push my limits. I feel that complacency is the death of business. You can never stop growing. This means learning, trying new ideas, being innovative, being creative and pushing past what you have done before. I strive to become a better photographer with every shoot I do. To do that I look to other photographers for inspiration, and I compete against who I was yesterday. I also take time to create just for me, to rekindle my passion and to remember why I started in the first place. This helps me remain fresh and creative for my clients." —Larissa Bahr, business owner and creator, Larissa Bahr Photography
Stay Focused on Yourself
"Investing in yourself as a business owner is essential to personal growth and [consider] the opportunities you gain by getting around successful individuals who you can learn from. My best business ideas came from coaching opportunities I engaged in and continue to budget for. Continuous learning is the bedrock of business success so just as you would invest in technology, marketing materials, employees, you must invest in yourself to stay ahead." —Jeannette Bajalia, author of Retirement Done Right and Wi$e Up Women and president and principal advisor of Petros Estate & Retirement Planning
"Stay focused on the end result you want to achieve, not on what you think others want you to do. Stay positive and work hard. Don't compare yourself to others. I don't worry about what other people are doing. I know what I want to create and I stay focused on making that vision become a reality." —Susan Morrow Potje, owner Celebration of Fine Art
"To stay ahead in competitive industries, one must actually focus on one's self. Get in a good place mentally and physically so your brainpower can be maximized whenever necessary. By focusing on what you can do, as opposed to comparing yourself to others, you'll continue to make steps towards larger career goals. If you really can't stop the comparison game to get ahead? Reach out to those colleagues whose grass looks so green. Ask about grabbing a coffee or meal to see what their reality is like and how they got there." — Emily White, CEO of Dreamfuel and author of Interning 101
Successful Women in Business Remember That it's all About People
“In our business, what's given us an edge on the competition is the quality of people who we employ. Do your absolute best to vet employees and follow a thorough interview process. When you take the time to choose employees who fit your company and its mission and goals, you give yourself an extremely valuable asset." —Verna Maldonado, managing partner at Spectrumland Services
"To stay competitive long-term, you have to invest in and empower the people around you. Relationships are crucial to business outcomes, and I'm not just talking about relationships between leadership and employees; meaningful connections are critical to every aspect of business. That's why we take a people-first approach at WebPT: We strive to serve all stakeholders (including employees, investors, vendors, customers, and community members) first, and trust that business success will naturally follow." —Heidi Jannenga, co-founder and president of WebPT
“Define your core company values early on and then align every decision you make to support these values. For example, at Worldwide101 one of our core values is to provide over the top service, so we have aligned our hiring processes to deliver on that promise. We look for team members who are passionate about service, who love to make a difference in someone’s day, who are friendly and caring. Of course, our team is also skilled in their field of expertise however, attitude and a true desire to make our clients successful and look good is what crowns it all, and what has made our company the #1 choice as a premium virtual assistant company for hundreds of demanding business owners.” —Sandra Lewis, founder and director, Worldwide101
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