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Over the years, I've had the opportunity to sit down with many, many, many folk to talk about birthy-business--and I don't mean the usual birthy-business talk about grumpy nipples and sore downunders, I mean real birthy-business talk like about reaching birthy-business goals.
My birthy-business brain has been picked over breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, in parking lots, on FaceTime and even during supposedly romantic dates (seriously, is all men really want these days business advice??). In return I've received (without solicitation) enough Starbucks gift cards to wean me from McDonald's coffee, gigantic hugs, actual cash, and my personal favorite: UPS-store credit. #win
Most requests have come from aspiring birthy-business owners wanting confidential mentorship: doulas, midwives, doctors, photographers, lactation consultants...and also just plain nosy people wanting to know how this single mama made it despite.
In the past few months, however, I've seen an unusual amount of "How would you handle this?", "Am I doing this right?", or "I need a business-perspective attitude adjustment." requests. And I've also received an unusual amount of fantabulous life-illuminating updates about business successes which I had a hand in...which is why I'm writing this blog.
Based on these very cool opportunities to see what is working and what isn't, both from my experience and from the experience of others, I've compiled a list of 10 dispelled myths that may be getting in the way of success for birthy-business folk...each with its own applicable and practical tips.
Spoiler alert: Number 10 might be your favorite. ;)
Myth #1. Successful birthy-business owners do not believe that they own birth and breastfeeding.
(Just getting the tough one out first...)
As odd as it sounds, I have indeed met many aspiring birthy folk who go in to business because they think that their stance on whatever their business topic is, as we say in Spanish, is la última Coca-Cola en el desierto (or, the last Coca-Cola in the desert/the ultimate everything). According to their egos, they are the only ones who know how to deliver care and teaching about their birthy topic, and they are the only ones who clients will absolutely love. The truth is that business narcissism actually screams business naivity to both clients and referral sources.
To approach this in a sweeter way...
Many of us have entered the birthy world in order to give to other mothers what we were given (or what was taken from us), yet in the spirit of helping others, we may confuse knowing what feels best for ourselves with knowing what is best for the families we serve.
Successful birthy-business owners took steps early on to check their humility and genuinely understand different birthy approaches, or more importantly, they took self-inventory of their ability to empathize with all (most) birth and parenting scenarios-even if they don't fit with their personal health and parenting values.
Arriving at the realization that parents and babies are the sole owners of their birthy seasons tells clients that your services are ego-free and and welcoming to all (something which referral sources really, really like).
Apply these today:
Tip: Families Googling birthy services are going to notice if your website has a lot of "I"s, or if your branding is more about you than about what you can facilitate for your clients. Maybe you're amazing enough that it doesn't matter, but if you're amazingness is still in development (which should always be the case) , focusing on what your services (not you) can do for the clients will mean much more business.
Tip: Never forget that you're a business owner, a leader and a professional decision-maker now. Your passion will only go so far if it isn't focused on your own businesses growth. Remembering to mind your own business (1 Thesselonians 11:4) will help you focus and grow on your own approach, and give a life and flavor that attracts clients, instead of putting off a aire of condescention, which is a natural consequence of the "ownership" mentality.
And, btw, for those of you who think I'm talking about you, I'm not. Ego is a huge hindrance for many, many, many business folk-so, relax-this isn't aimed at any one person...we're all passionate, and ego and passion can often collide.
Myth #2: Successful birthy business owners do not believe that all parents are looking for free services
As evidenced by my busy fee-for-service private practice and by the practices of many independent doulas, midwives and breastfeeding professionals that I know, the type of parents that seek private birthy services aren't looking for free, or even cheap. And, guess what? There are more of these parents than what you think.
While the families we serve aren't necessarily high-income (see myths #3 & #8 for more), they are planners and savers, and are forward-thinking as they grow their families. These are parents who want to pay for a personal relationship and for a provider's TIME, usually because they know this will save them time and money in the long run.
Apply this today: If you're an existing or aspiring birthy-business owner, stop the mind-talk about having to compete with free. List your prices and don't worry about them not being as low as the next...most parents know that quality often requires an investment.
Myth #3: Successful birthy business owners do not believe that serving families on a tight budget is fruitless
I have done housecalls in all corners of San Antonio and south Texas, and for every demographic imaginable. Because I want to attract economically diverse clients, it's important to me to be able to serve families on tight budgets or in low income households, and I do, everyday...and I still make a living.
For families on a budget, value means getting quality, making sure it is not wasted, and that it doesn't become a regular expense (or if it does, that it's affordable). Offering service options and being flexible with pricing will help you accomodate the needs of low income households without necessarily sacrificing your service quality or value.
Apply this today: Successful birthy-business owners understand that "low-income" isn't "no-income". Being willing to offer services on a sliding-scale basis, offering payment plans, service-registries for parents' family members to pay into, tapping in to grant funding, offering discounted services, or even bartering services will help expand your territory (again, see Myth #8).
Myth #4: Successful birthy business owners refuse to believe that their competitors must be their enemies.
Any successful business owner views and genuinely treats their "competitors" as a referral source.
Whether they are intentionally referring clients, passively referring clients (like when another doula is booked), or if a client calls you because they didn't have a positive experience with your competitor (it happens, and you could be next, so it's best to stay humble), it's important that you scrub your head of whatever you've heard/seen/thought of a competitor before. If your competitor is worth your mind-space, that likely means that they're doing something right, so stop trolling their pages and policing their every move and focus on your business. Building a competitor up, instead of comparing yourself to them, is only going to make clients like and trust you more, plus, competition grows your market--something you, your competitors and your prospective clients appreciate.
Apply these today:
Tip: Needless to say but never ever refer to someone has acted irresponsibly and dangerously with a client.
Practical Tip: Your competitor and you have more in common than likely most people on this planet. Changing your attitude about your competition will free up mind-space, and allow you both to be a better resource to each other.
Myth #5: Successful birthy business owners do not believe that everything natural is always better...or that everything medical is infallible.
Yep, this one's a tough one to overcome if, like me, you fix all of your own kid's ailments with breastmilk and coconut oil.
BUT, the truth is that not all of the parent-consumers ready to invest in your brand and services are equally crunchy ("natural") or equally allopathic ("medicalized") in their birth and parenting approach. If being a tool for more families is important to you, sticking to an evidence-based business approach rather than marrying a specific natural vs. medical camp will help you attract and keep more clients.
Practical tip: "Evidence-based" falls on both sides of the "camp". Learning to interpret research is important to anyone in the birthy-services world. Ask yourself who paid for the evidence to be gathered, and consider the methods by which it was gathered . Since not every birth/baby professional is trained in evidence-critique, here is a good beginner's tool by the Huffington Post to help non-scientists decipher decipher evidence.
Myth #6: Successful birthy business owners do not believe that verbal contracts from business partners, clients or vendors are enough.
Nearly every successful birthy service entrepreneur will tell you that they learned this lesson the hard way.
One of the things that every birthy person has in common is that we're all exceptionally caring and often-times emotionally malleable (how else did we get here?), so when someone approaches us in need of services or with big ideas to partner, we jump in with adrenaline and think things will be awesome, until they aren't.
And things not being awesome could be anything from losing a contract for a teaching space, to being stiffed by a client, to getting super sued.
If you get anything from this blog entry, it's to put words and intentions on paper, then get signatures.
Remember the ego-lesson from Myth #1? Not wanting to put things in writing screams "I'm too good/well-known/sweet/knowledgable to be screwed over." You are not, I'm so sorry.
Apply these like right now:
Myth #7: Successful birthy business owners definitely don't believe that one shouldn't be in a birth/breastfeeding profession for the money.
"We're in this for the passion, not the money."
Yeah right. What. Evs.
Anyone who has ever said this to me should start working clinically for free then report back to me in 6 months how their sense of urgency and self-value was impacted...not to mention their level of passion.
Me, personally, I'm absolutely in private-practice for the money-because it takes money to be a resource. I have an office and an apartment to pay for, food to buy, and a kid to take to the movies--so, yes, pay here, please.
Charging gives birthy-business owners accountability, and it gives clients accountability to show up and follow-through. I wouldn't, however, make a dime if I didn't have passion. Exuding passion and care, and keeping myself knowledgeable (CEUs are expensive!) is what keeps clients coming back to me, and what keeps referral sources referring.
Apply this business mental feng-shui technique right now: Even if you don't need the money, pretend you do (and if you just can't pretend, are you sure self employment is for you?). Put yourself on a budget, and force yourself to replace what you spend from new sales (partners, you're welcome). Nothing will motivate you to hustle more than being hungry.
Myth #8: Successful birthy business owners don't believe that the market is too small.
"There are already X amount of doulas/midwives/birth photographers in San Antonio." is one I hear a LOT...but when I help others actually understand the market, they are able to see that there may, in fact, not be enough doulas/midwives/birth photographers in our market. That there isn't enough room for you in your birthy-segment is more about you than it is about the market. Stop thinking like that. And stop listening to people who make you feel like you won't make it because chances are that they simply don't want to compete with someone new and awesome, like you.
Admittedly, the last market analysis that I did for my own business was depressing...which is why I decided to be the change I wanted to see in my market. Out of X amount of births, my perceived "market" for housecalls was like 2% of those births...until I added choices like office visits, sliding scale prices and industry discounts, and my market share rose.
Successful birthy business owners dont wait for their markets to expand, they expand how they reach their market.
Apply this today:
You can start by expanding the easy things like your business hours, service areas and types of services offered. Then maybe try out new services until one shows that it's reaching families you wouldn't otherwise see.
Myth #9: Successful birthy business owners do not believe that one must have a perfectly aligned world, or a perfectly planned business in order to start hustling.
Someone with a valuable service or product to sell, with a market who is ready to pay, isn't going to wait around for the "right time". Instead, successful small business owners will tell you that they had an idea, set up their logistical shell, marketed their butts off, and then perfected business operations one client at a time.
The invaluable lessons learned by (responsibly) jumping in to starting your business will help you avoid the writer's block of early business plan writing and the logistical what-ifs (ummm, hello, can we all scream about the logistical issue of childcare--see below) that hold so many dreamers behind.
With that said, nothing will kill a business like impulsiveness and empty talk, so if you're jumping in head first, make sure that you so have an element of structure to your plans, the very basics of which include having legit credentials, a good reputation, a sense of urgency for your client's need, and childcare options...which brings me to this..
If childcare is an obstacle, apply these today:
Childcare...alas, one of the toughest challenge for a birthy-business owner to overcome.
For me personally, the biggest childcare challenge was the oncallish nature of my work, but here is how you can get creative:
• Could any of the services you offer be professionally delivered with your own child in tow? And maybe offer a discount for needing to bring your child. Say, babywearing your infant, or taking your school-aged kiddo with you to teach a class. Some clients won't like it, but some won't mind-so ask first, and consider tweaking your rate for their graciousness.
• Could you change how you offer your services? Maybe teach classes in your home instead of working 1:1 with clients during your babies "tougher years". You can stil profit by offering some of these services remotely, or on your turf.
• Could you barter child care?
• What about drop-in childcare options?
• What about planning ahead and posting to see who in your network could be available on a dime?
Ok, back to our regularly programmed demything...which is almost over:
Myth # 10. Of course, I would save the biggest myth-debunking for last...remember, I told you it might be your favorite. ;)
Successful birthy business owners absolutely positively do not believe that one can wing a business start-up without meaningful business mentorship...
When I first started my private-practice, I devoured DIY books about small business, visited the interestingly flirtatious gentleman of SCORE, and I joined industry support groups...yet the one thing I desperately needed and couldn't find was someone who I felt comfortable mentoring me (privately, since protecting your business' business is important).
I wanted someone who would listen to my adrenaline and tell me if I was wasting time or if I was on to something, someone who would gently give me business perspective without clipping my wings--yet who would push me over and force me to fly when she saw me about to clip my own. I wanted an ambitious business "partner" without actually needing to sell him/her a part of my business-soul.
Which brings me to this post's last applicable practical tip that you can do today:
If this post has helped you understand some of the traits of successful business birthy business owners, then know that in May 2017, I will be turning this hobby of mine (talking to others about growing their business) into a real-deal service (and not for Starbucks or UPS store credit).
To learn more about the different types of business mentorship you can receive from me, and to submit an interest form for mentorship, please read more submit your interest!
And, of course, if you feel like this post could be helpful to other small birthy-business owners in your network, please share!