When I started my journey as an entrepreneur 16 years ago, I was as prepared as anyone could be who had spent most of their adult life working in corporate America. As I made the decision to follow a whole new path, I was excited about my dreams; ready to take on the world and change some lives. Sure, I had worries and fears about the unknowns, about what I was really getting myself into, but I was full of passion and ready to leap. The Pollyanna side of me knew the “how” would come together as I built my wings on the way down.
What I was not as prepared for was some of the hard decisions that come with running a business. I have such a deep love of helping people that I want to save everyone. To see everyone succeed. Perhaps you can connect with that feeling too. But it was my desire to help people that turned into hard lessons learned when I realized that I was not helping, I was enabling. Wanting it more for them than they wanted it for themselves.
As someone who runs a service-based business, I have made exceptions to my own rules all in the spirit of wanting to be helpful, to see others succeed, to be needed. Sometimes that meant saying ‘yes’ when my gut telling me to say ‘no’ to clients who made requests like wanting to pay in installments when they could not meet my terms of paying in full. Sometimes clients followed through and sometimes they did not. I would not be telling the truth if I said these situations did not leave me feeling taken advantage of and resentful.
It can be a hard balance, this business-ownership-saving-the-world thing. Like walking a tight rope and holding a very long stick. At one end is your compassionate, giving nature who wants to say ‘yes!’ in order to help every person who wants to work with you. And on the other end is honoring your self worth, core values and making good decisions for your business. You balance all this while carefully moving forward to accomplish the daily tasks required to reach the other side all without falling off. And this is where grace comes in.
As a woman in business you want to be fair, compassionate, kind, honor your worth so others will too, set firm boundaries and conduct business in an ethical manner that honors God for it is He who blesses us with our gifts and talents so that we can be a blessing to others.
Grace is commonly thought of as an elegant act of movement, and for me the first thing that comes to mind is the graceful flow of a ballerina when she dances. For Christians, grace is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace is what we extend to another person, even though they may not deserve it, because we are acting from a place of empathy – recognizing that we too are imperfect and will need grace ourselves at some point.
Grace is kindness, favor, dignity and respect. It means being thoughtful and diplomatic, but it doesn’t mean being a doormat. A woman who finds grace in business is one who is self-confident and doesn’t feel the need to point out the mistakes of others in order to feel good about herself. Grace is being compassionate and understanding, but making the right decisions and not the people-pleasing ones. Grace is taking responsibility for our mistakes. Grace is looking for solutions without shame or blame.
I love Dr. Bill Graybill’s definition “By extending grace you give the gift of dignity. This means you look at the person as a person, not an object… a person with dreams, feelings and needs.”
What I have learned in my journey over the years of working with people and dealing with situations and circumstances is that I have a responsibility to be at my best. To take ownership of my actions. To be mindful of the power I have to affect people in a positive or negative way.
We can’t always control what comes our way but we can control how we react. To run a business from the heart that honors God’s word. To do our best while extending grace to others with the belief that they too are striving to be at their best. Will mistakes be made? Of course. Will situations come up that we do not plan for? Always. That is the reality of life. But where there is grace there is room for understanding and forgiveness.
Running a business will have so many fulfilling moments that will make you feel like you are truly making a difference in the world and other moments where you will question if it’s truly worth it. It is a journey of exhilarating highs, disappointing lows and unexpected turns but don’t be discouraged friend, it’s important to show yourself the gift of grace too.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
So many of us find our purpose in helping people and changing lives, which often becomes the basis for our business. So how do you balance running your business and managing a generous heart?
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