I recently went to my first business mums conference, the MPowered conference run by Mums & Co. Going to one of these conferences was a bit of a revelation for me. I’ve been a freelancer for a few years but it’s only recently that I’ve considered that I’ve been ‘running a business’.

Becoming a ‘business mum’

I always thought the idea of setting up a business was a bit scary. Doesn’t it mean I’d have to think about things like having a business plan, printing business cards and wearing proper pants to work?

To be honest, I kind of fell into freelancing. I built up clients while working in a part-time job and after the birth of my second child, decided not to go back to work.

I’ve always called myself a ‘freelancer’ or ‘sole trader’, but never ‘a businesswoman’. (Although to be fair, does anyone think of themselves as a businesswoman? It makes me think of purple 80s power suits with fetching shoulder pads). Anyway… this year has been a game changer. I decided it was time to get serious – if I want to make a go of this, I need to be realistic about the fact that I own my own business. So I got all my business ducks in a row, invested in training, industry memberships and proper paid software (no more freeloading for me!).

Part of ‘getting serious’ was to start to network more and get in with my peeps. Which is how I ended up at the MPowered conference. I went with my colleagues from one of my clients – Birde. Four women and a baby (hmm that sounds familiar) joined a group of like-minded women one freezing cold Sydney Monday. Here is a taste of the main learnings I picked up from this business mums conference.

It’s ok to admit you’re wrong

I learnt this lesson even before the conference began. Originally, the tickets for MPowered were around $300. I’d looked at the lineup and thought it was amazing but $300 was a lot to spend on one day. Particularly when that day would also mean a loss of income. I couldn’t justify it. Fortunately, the Mums & Co ladies must have heard lots of similar feedback, and before long the ticket price changed to $89. They even had another rate for school hours, so people could attend between 10 and 2pm. As soon as I saw the new price, I booked straight in. What an empowering lesson – it’s ok to admit that you’re wrong as long as you do your best to rectify the situation.

Sure, I’m a mum in business but don’t call me a ‘mumpreneur’

They didn’t teach this at the conference but hearing it reiterated my opinion. This is one of my most hated phrases. In my opinion, when you call a mum a ‘mumpreneur’ you devalue the work that she’s doing. Sure, this conference was for mums in business. Other than the perks (free childcare and the chance to bring babes in arms), it was relevant for all women starting out in small business. It was for women who want to make a serious contribution to society and their families. Conferences like this are great because you learn relevant topics (like branding, innovation, and influencer marketing) in an environment where your private life isn’t taboo. It was a good model for the way workplaces and other conferences should operate in the 21st century.

Never make big decisions when you’re tired

Innovation psychologist Dr Amantha Imber gave a great talk about ways we can create disruptive thinking. One big factor is how we time our decision making. As the day progresses, we all start to have decision fatigue. I totally get that – by the evening, the only decision I’m capable of making is whether to watch The Handmaid’s Tale or Back in Time for Dinner on TV. Amantha advised timing the big decisions for when you’re fresh. So now if it’s getting late in the day, I put my big decisions into a task in Asana (my fave project management tool) and I tackle it the next morning.

Maybe it’s good to be ‘too big for your boots’

This was my biggest lesson. I joined in a fabulous workshop with clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse who analysed how to find your own narrative. It was one of those workshops with lots of deep thinking and analysis of who I am and what makes me tick. HEAVY!

Kirstin told a story about her own childhood where her primary school principal told her she was ‘too big for her boots’. For those who haven’t heard that phrase, it means when you behave as if you’re more important than you actually are. To be honest, kids are pretty self-absorbed so it’s not surprising for a child to think the world revolves around them.

I remember being told I was too big for my boots once or twice as a child. I remember it hurting and the feeling of the wind being taken out of my sails. These days, I wouldn’t mind a bit of that childhood confidence.

Did you know that women are far less likely to apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified? Whereas men have the confidence to apply when they only meet 60% of the criteria. I bet that is partly thanks to lots of bright little girls who were once told they were ‘too big for their boots’ or something similar. It seems like a phrase that is tailored towards girls too, as though they need to remain small and dainty for people to love them.

Well, it has to stop. Imposter syndrome is a huge issue for women in business. We all need to step up and realise we’re pretty amazing and we deserve a seat at the table. Plus we need to instil that confidence and belief in our young girls.

 

Were you at the conference? What were your big learnings?

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