Many women feel less comfortable promoting their self-interests at the expense of others, according to research by Lisa Barron, Ph. D., of the University of California, Irvine. As small business owners, it may seem natural for women financial professionals to promote themselves and their businesses, but they can typically do so comfortably by remaining true to themselves and staying client-focused.
“Who you truly are inside and who you promote yourself to be, professionally, need to be the same,” said Patty Laramore, president of Premier Investment Advisory Services Inc., in Ada, Okla. “Women can be naturally empathetic. While you shouldn’t let your emotions ever drive your decisions, listening to your clients’ concerns, empathizing with them and comforting them will let them see your leadership more intently. I think women have, thankfully, entered an era where our given natural nurturing DNA is actually an asset as opposed to a detriment, and we need to embrace those talents with confidence. ”
Women are inherently nurturers, which can sometimes create conflict in the business world, according to Laramore. She believes everyone has the ability to comfortably promote themselves as long as they are genuine. Laramore also believes there isn’t a difference between promoting yourself and promoting your business.
“We are one and the same,” Laramore said. “There is total integration between my practice and who I am as a person. While the downside may mean when I go to Wal-Mart on the weekends, I am still ‘on the clock.’ There is strength in consistency. People see me when they see the company, and they see the company when they see my face. As long as what my business says and does is a direct reflection of me, then I don’t feel it is promotion. ”
“I am not a self-promoter,” said Nan Cohen, founder and CEO of Creekside Financial Advisors LLC in Pepper Pike, Ohio. “I am not even much of a business promoter. I am a completely client-centric woman. I try to be a good community person and to be as responsive as possible to my clients, which helps my business grow.”
Instead of promoting her business in traditional ways, Cohen volunteers in the community regularly and always puts her clients first, without ever breaking that expectation. Nan Cohen
“There are essentially two ways to promote a business: push or pull,” Cohen said. “Push marketing includes sending materials and mailers to push people in the door. I am too shy to ask for business, so I do pull marketing. I hold great client events and participate in community events that will – one client at a time – pull people in the door.”
Laramore advises women to not think about active promotion, but instead focus on operating in their natural zone, where confidence will be a natural byproduct.
“I have fears and insecurities,” Laramore said. “I am very honest about them, and I will address them. I will explain to clients when things don’t make sense that I will make the most of the hand of cards we have. I am confident in the business, and that is how I promote, through consistency with convictions and continued articulation.”
For Cohen, overcoming insecurities related to promoting her business meant finding a more rewarding purpose for her career.
“I don’t sell anything,” Cohen said. “If you sell something, you have a transaction relationship. If you nurture a relationship, you have a real relationship and these relationships can last a lifetime. I talk to people about their dreams and goals, and while there is often a closing sale with paperwork at the end, I consider it more of a contract to create habits and activities to get a person to a solid financial life. I want people to do what is right to create a solid foundation for their future, which keeps me focused on helping others instead of being focused on sales or self-promotion.”
Confidence comes from learning your strengths and embracing them and then forcing yourself to take what you are confident in and sharing that with others, Cohen said.
“I have spent every day of this career overcoming being shy,” Cohen said. “I would say I am not the typical person who goes into this industry, and I had to learn to come out of my shell, pick up the phone and make calls. I forced myself to have 10 appointments every week on my calendar where I would listen to people’s life stories, learning from them and asking them about their ideal financial advisor before telling them my story and how I felt I could help them. I am much better at giving than receiving. Once I realized I was more comfortable at asking to give my help to others than to receive anything from them; that’s when I could fully embrace this career.”
Cohen said she is privileged to be part of the greatest profession in the world, where she can design a business independently to provide a much-needed service.
“Utilize your strengths, and the confidence will come,” Cohen said. “For women, our strengths tend to be our natural nurturing and caring skills. Don’t shy away from that. Do what you know best, using your own voice and in your own way. Women tend to tentatively go about creating their future. Success will come. Just use your own voice, don’t look at any obstacles and keep going forward.”