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6 Things Women in Business Should Know About Success

6 Things Women in Business Should Know About Success

Inspiring words from women leaders at First Midwest Bank.

While every woman will have a unique journey on her way to launching a business or managing a team, the truth is, when it comes to success, there tends to be some overlapping factors. One thing is abundantly clear: It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.  Take note of what has worked best for others and consider these ideas when it comes to your own ambitions.

Tip No. 1: Communication is key
In the business world, communication is everything.

“From communication with your clients and your colleagues to expressing what your business is going to be known for in the community, getting your message straight is of the utmost importance,” said Kristen Saranteas, Head of Treasury Management at First Midwest Bank. But communication isn’t always about talking. In fact, it’s often more about listening than anything else.

“Leadership-minded people often feel naturally drawn towards offering input,” added Heidi Smithson, Head of Commercial Real Estate at First Midwest Bank. “But by taking a step back and listening to those around you, you might be able to see something from a new point of view and to learn from it.”

Being an empathetic leader can also help foster a more collaborative work environment between teams and an overall healthier environment where everyone’s voice has a chance to be heard.

Tip No. 2: Keep a growth mindset
A good leader is a well-rounded leader. With that in mind, it helps to seek out learning opportunities. That might include taking on projects outside of your normal purview or finding different ways to get involved. 

“I’ve been in a position for a couple of years as co-director of a real estate group, and my network has been focused on the commercial real estate world,” said Smithson. “As I continue to grow in my position, I get involved with other teams and  areas of the bank to learn about things outside of commercial real estate. That helps me expand the way I think, and become more involved in the overall thought process.”

If you are a business owner, you can work to hone your communication or negotiating skills, or further educate yourself on different factors within your market. Keeping a growth mindset not only helps you stay focused on the big picture, but it helps with day-to-day operations as well.

“We all have a tendency to stay in our comfort zones, it can be beneficial to think more broadly,” said Saranteas.

Rather than defaulting to what has always been, keeping an open mind can be a positive thing, and it just might take your business to new and exciting places.

Tip No 3: Be authentic when creating your network
A solid network can come in handy in a myriad of ways, from offering referrals for talent to providing you with new opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that connections should be made authentically. If your interest in a connection comes from a genuine place, you’ll be more likely to stay front-of-mind with that person when new prospects arise.

Mentors are also an essential element in creating a solid and strategic network. They can help provide motivation and emotional support and serve as a sounding board for new ideas. A mentor’s perspective may put you outside your comfort zone. If you are open to listening to and learning from this feedback, you may grow in ways you didn’t think possible. 

“I had a mentor early in my career who pushed me into places I would never have thought of,” said Saranteas. “If it weren’t for that leader, I don’t know if I was as confident enough in myself to see what he saw, so that was really helpful.”

Tip No. 4: Work/life balance is a moving target, and there’s time for both
Many women struggle with the pull between family and career. If you worry about how much time you spend working, remember that the quality of time that you spend with your family is often more important than the quantity. It helps that workplace culture is shifting, and many companies today recognize that all employees have full lives, defined by more than just their work.

As a business owner, you can model an understanding of work/life balance by taking that  vacation or leaving early now and then. In general, there are ebbs and flows in life, and it’s okay if each day is balanced in different ways.

“For me, balance is just about scheduling my time strategically throughout the workday,” said Cheri Rubocki, Head of Branch Banking at First Midwest Bank. “That means scheduling time to work on the things you need to work on ... as well as scheduling time with friends and family. For example, I now schedule breakfast with my friends, rather than dinner, because I’m always running late, or another meeting came up, and my workday is extended. For me, this tends to work better.”

Tip 5: Know what you're worth
When it comes to progressing in our careers, women have, historically, allowed themselves to be held back. “Something I heard in a training session a while ago is that for women growing in their career, when there’s a job or promotion they’re interested in, if there’s a list of 10 attributes listed as necessary for the job, a man will look at that list and say, ‘I’ve got four of them, I’m good to go,’” said Smithson. “Women will say, ‘I only have four, I’m not going to go for it.’ Instead, know what you’re worth and apply for that job or promotion.” Gaining career success or starting a business is all about taking a leap of faith, and understanding what unique value you bring to the table. This is essential — whether you can tick off every single prerequisite or not.

Tip 6: Don’t forget about your finances
It’s not necessary to be a certified financial planner to start a business  or to advance your career, but it doesn't hurt to work with one.

 “You may not have the expertise yourself to make every financial move, but relying on strong connections with financial resources like your banker and an accountant, for example, can help guide you through both your business and personal life,” said Saranteas.

Your financial team should walk you through how to keep good financial records offer advice on where to go for funding and work closely with you. 

Plus, starting as early as possible when it comes to your personal finances — with things like savings and retirement — is always a good idea, Rubocki added.

Among the common threads that led each of these women to success, there was another theme that really had them excited: The desire for women to support and lift each other up. Whether you are the woman who benefits from the help of other businesswomen, or you’re the successful businesswoman helping out a woman who is just starting out, when women lend a hand to other women, there’s no telling where those partnerships will lead.

For more leadership lessons visit First Midwest Bank Ideas HUB.

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