At the start of this year, I did something I wouldn't usually do. I applied to do an early accelerator program with the team at SBE Australia. I say "something I wouldn't usually do" as whenever I've seen similar opportunities come up or application dates open (and subsequently close), I've found excuses to be too busy, too involved "in" the business with not enough time to spare. After much encouragement from friends, I bit the bullet and applied for the E3 program. I was accepted (happy dance) and then had to face the mental challenge of committing to 4 hours a week to work "on" my business. 4 hours might not seem like much, but when the hours turn in to days, which turn in to weeks, finding a spare 4 hours (with enough energy to focus) can be hard to do (or so it has been for me for the past 4 years).
The E3 program kicked off in February. I met an incredible group of women who were all in the same position as myself, who I felt all had the same trepidation that I did in giving themselves the permission to stop working in their business and spend some time focusing on their business. There was another thing we all had in common, which I fear spreads far beyond our cohort of female founders.
We all spent the first couple of weeks of the E3 program apologising. "Sorry I'm not confident enough", "sorry my slides aren't perfect", "sorry I took 3 seconds to get from my chair to the front of the room". Reasons that were completely and utterly unworthy of an apology. But yet, there we all were, a successful group of 7 seemingly confident, entrepreneurial women, apologising for an array of things we hadn't done wrong. It was huge takeaway over the next few weeks, with the help of our amazing facilitator Mary Minas, we pulled each other up whenever we unnecessarily apologised.
It made me think, that perhaps the inequality in funding for female founders compared with male founders is partly due to us apologising for things we don't need to apologise for (Australian female founders represent 4% of all VC-backed companies). Things that perhaps our male counterparts don't even consider as wrongdoings. So my first lesson from the E3 program was to stop apologising. And I put it to all the other female founders out there, or females in any role within any business - pull yourself up when you say sorry. Ask whether it was really necessary, or was it a bad habit, that like myself, you've formed over time without really realising.
Moving on from our apologies, we spent the next 8 weeks reflecting on the businesses we'd built, or were in the process of building, challenging our assumptions and ideas. I learnt such an incredible amount on an array of topics during the E3 program, and was in awe each week as I felt more energised after leaving our classes. I found a new level of inspiration to push harder on my business' growth, setting more ambitious goals. I wasn't fatigued by having 'more on my plate', but found that carving out time for not only my business, but also myself, had done the opposite.
Here I am, 2 weeks later, invigorated to scale my businesses. I am less busy than I felt I was prior to the program, as I am more productive, more aligned and more strategic in what I am doing.
I wanted to share this lesson with all the women out there in a similar position. If you feel you are 'too busy' to invest in yourself or on the strategy of your business, perhaps it's quite the opposite, and you could benefit from stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. Even more so as a founder, where it can be exhausting constantly steering the ship (when you don't always know what direction you're meant to be steering it in). Having a team of experts around you, as well as the support of incredible cohorts of women, can really help provide that direction, I know it certainly did for me. I had help answering questions I didn't know I should have been asking, as well as answers I'd been trying to figure out for months, if not years, on my own.
Written by Sage Lamont, founder of Golden Grind.
Applications NOW OPEN for the next intake of E3 in Melbourne and Perth - you can apply here if you're interested. Applications will close on May 8th 2020.