Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Birthing the Elephant by Karin Abarbanel & Bruce Freeman

I am giving up the floor today to bring you a guest post from Karin Abarbanel, the co-author of Birthing the Elephant: The Woman's go-for-it! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business.

Karin Abarbanel is an entrepreneur, marketing consultant, and expert on start-up strategies for women. In addition to her new book, Birthing the Elephant, she is the author of How to Succeed on Your Own and 3 other how-to guides. She served as the spokesperson for Avon’s “Corporation to Cottage” initiative.

A frequent guest on broadcast/cable TV and radio, Karin has appeared on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America,” CNBC, and WCBS, among others. She has been a featured speaker at a wide range of organizations and universities. She received her MA from Columbia University and her BA from Middlebury College.

She lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband, son, and her dog, Dr. Watson, who holds a PhD in Snackology.


Every day, More than 7,000 women put their dreams on the line by launching new ventures – that’s 200,000 women a month and more than 2.5 million a year. Surviving the ups and downs of entrepreneurship isn’t easy! While other guides focus on the 3Ms – money, marketing, and management, only Birthing the Elephant focuses on the 4th M: motivation, which lies at the heart of small-business success.

Birthing the Elephant helps women master the “small-business mind game” – and mobilize the emotional resilience to reshape their identities and overcome obstacles on the path to success. Step by step, it gives women a road map to the first 22 months of their venture, showing them how to:

• make the shift from employee to entrepreneur
• anticipate problems and overcome obstacles
• manage the 4 stages of the launch cycle
• avoid 10 costly mistakes that many women make

Birthing the Elephant is the What to Expect When You’re Expecting for aspiring women entrepreneurs. It acts as an emotional GPS for their start-ups, helping them stay
motivated, focused, and on track during their launch stage.

Packed with inspirational frontline advice from cosmetics company founder Bobbi Brown, maternity-wear pioneer Liz Lange and 20+ other entrepreneurs and experts -- Birthing the Elephant also offers quick tips, checklists, action steps, and a helpful resource guide. This inspiring action guides gives women the support they need to deliver on their dreams.

Birthing the Elephant’s target audiences range from younger women who are opting out of corporate life early in their careers to mothers seeking more flexibility to midlife career changers who are reinventing themselves by launching new businesses.

I asked Karin how women are different from men when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Great question! In writing Birthing the Elephant, we found a number of important ways in which women differ from men in their entrepreneurial approach.

First, men tend to define themselves narrowly by their occupation and as providers. Women have a broader, more balanced view: they tend to be more comfortable in assuming many roles in their lives. This kind of flexibility and willingness to wear a number of hats is crucial to success as an entrepreneur.

Second, women are more willing to talk about their emotions; men, even today, still tend to see this as a weakness. As a result, women recognize and readily accept the impact of the emotional barriers to success – like fear, image anxiety, and financial stress – and are willing to reach out for advice to overcome them. That’s a big plus! Birthing the Elephant focuses on motivation and shows women how to navigate the rocky emotional terrain they’ll encounter during the first 22 months of a start-up. Women totally “get” how important building emotional resiliency is to their launch success.

Third, women tend to be under funded compared to men when launching their start-ups. Ironically, in our book we found that this can be an asset instead of a liability because women, by necessity, excel at a critical start-up skill: substituting brains for bucks. Their businesses often grow slowly but steadily – and they run lean operations.

And finally, for women, valuing customers, employees, and exceptional service is central to their business model. Because they put their customers and employees first, they often outperform their male competitors.

I went on to ask Karin how women can position themselves better for entrepreneurial success. This is what she had to say:

Mind your motivation: First, don’t neglect the importance of emotional stamina and resiliency: Staying motivated and rebounding from setbacks are at the heart of small-business survival. Don’t underestimate the effects of the emotional roller coaster you’ll be riding during your launch. Acknowledge the influence of emotional stressors like fear, image anxiety, and financial worries – and have a game plan for managing them.

Build a support system for success: Get your family and friends on board – and prepare them for the enormous amounts of time you’ll be spending on your start-up. Find other new business owners you can talk with and get together on a regular basis so you can boost each other up and brainstorm. Launching can be lonely; don’t isolate yourself – stay connected with people and the world beyond the four walls of your home office. Have a “brain trust” on tap that you can turn to quickly for advice when you really hit a major obstacle.

Understand the launch cycle and how it unfolds: In Birthing the Elephant, we explore in depth the four stages of the launch cycle: starting your start-up, running your own show, shifting from breakdown to break through; and finding your business rhythm. In each of these stages, there are predictable problems and emotional obstacles that you’ll need to handle. Understanding that these problems and challenges are a natural outgrowth of the stage you’re in is very helpful.

Avoid burn out: A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Positive emotions boost your problem-solving abilities. So it’s vital to build stress-relieving activities into your daily work plan. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are especially important. Guided meditations are also great: take 10 minutes each morning or during your work day to close your eyes and go to your favorite beach or mountain. Visualize yourself running your business easily, happily – and abundantly.

Don’t let fear stop you! Fear is inevitable when you’re taking the leap and launching a business. To succeed, you’re going to have to let go of self-imposed limits and take on tasks that are unfamiliar and even uncomfortable. But don’t let this stop you. There’s an old Estonian proverb that says: The work itself will teach you. So dive in, make mistakes, adjust your strategy, and just keep moving forward, day by day. Good luck!

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1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Welcome to The Book Connection, Karin. Thanks for the great post!