BY Vanessa McGrady

Apr 8th 2022

Sustainable BusinessEntrepreneurship

5 Strategies Women Can Use to Boost Business and Their Well-being

Apr 8th 2022

Let’s admit it: As a society, we are exhausted. More than 47 million people quit their jobs last year—that’s almost the combined adult population of California and New York. Prior to the pandemic, women in business were being advised to “lean in.” But as Michelle Obama said so bluntly, “It’s not always enough to lean in because that @#$! doesn’t work all the time.”

As we charge or crawl through year three of COVID-19, many women leaders are starting to define a third path between “leaning in” and quitting. This third path centers on making strategic shifts in how we run businesses and manage our work lives to make room for health. These shifts can result in tangible benefits for both employees and business leaders and—research is finding—provide a good bump for business.

Here are five ways to help boost your business and your well-being in 2022:

1. Make smart hires to make time for yourself

The value of high-performing teams is well-known. When you surround yourself with stellar employees, things run smoother and faster, and the team feels better—but don’t underestimate what it does for you as a leader. When you make smart hires and build a team you can trust, you free up your own time to focus on strategy, your well-being, or solve thorny problems that may be keeping you up at night. Simply put, employees who are more self-directed require less supervision, and that’s good for them and for you.

Bank of the West CEO Nandita Bakhshi has built high-performing teams throughout her career and knows the value of making smart hires.

“I look for two qualities in an individual amongst many when I’m making hiring decisions: Are they domain experts, meaning do they know what they’re doing? The second is the values,” Bakhshi says. “I want to be surrounded by people who have emotional intelligence, who have high integrity, and bring some of the values that I personally espouse—for example, being non-hierarchical, being transparent, and being able to relate to people.”

2. Align your business to your values

We all have different lifestyles and priorities, and it’s important to honor them as you create and evolve your business or career. What are your personal needs and wants that are non-negotiable? Which ones have wriggle room? Do you want to be able to eat dinner with your family every night, bike to work, or focus on a particular clientele?

Before the pandemic, Aishetu Fatima Dozie pivoted from her investment banking career to establish Bossy Cosmetics—a company that encourages women to claim ambition as a positive attribute. Bossy lipstick colors have names like FierceHustle, and Resilient. As CEO, Dozie had all the high-pressure demands of running and growing a successful business, but now she was in control of how she did so.

When COVID-19 hit, her supply chain became increasingly unreliable. She shifted her focus to content and services and began offering mentorships and business advice to her customers. It was a way of incorporating her business mission to empower women while keeping her clientele engaged in the face of low inventory.

“Many were focused on leveling up in their careers,” says Dozie. “I asked them if they would be open to a beauty brand wanting to support them through coaching. Everyone said ‘yes.'”

Whatever your dream is for your business, you can get there by moving strategically and methodically—but you may take a twist and turn along the journey.

3. Make wellness part of your business strategy

We know by now that we need to make time for our own health to stay at the top of our games mentally and physically—but there are benefits that ripple out to the entire organization when we develop wellness habits and build our work around them.

When well-being is built into the foundation of your organization—such as providing benefits that promote stress-management and exercise, addressing mental health needsmandated vacations, and sabbaticals without consequence, you’ll find that the investment pays for itself. A formal, organized gratitude practice in the workplace, for example, has been shown to improve overall worker health, retention, and productivity. It also fosters the development of empathy and citizenship.

In a recent article about wellness and business strategy, Michelle Di Gangi, Head of Small and Medium Enterprise Banking with Bank of the West, notes how wellness deserves to be treated as more than a short-term tactic. It’s about developing a sustainability mindset and being intentional with how you take care of yourself so that your business (and your relationships with family, employees, and business partners) can thrive.

4. Embrace digital tools that help your business thrive

It took a pandemic for some businesses to activate automation as a survival tool—think digital storefront, online ordering, mobile payments. It was a sharp learning curve for some, but there were proven benefits beyond mere survival.

Hannalee Pervan, owner of One House Bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area, had only been operating for two years when the pandemic struck. One House shut its doors as mandated by the state and, the day they closed, received so many phone calls it broke their phone system. Pervan pivoted quickly and taught herself how to set up an entire digital storefront, including how to send online food orders directly to the kitchen to circumvent the hundreds of tickets her staff were writing by hand.

“It’s just been a lot of learning. It pushes your business probably three to five years ahead of schedule,” says Pervan. “This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do my whole life, and there was no Plan B. This is it. You figured it out, or you failed.”

5. Grow at a manageable pace

A boom in business might be considered an enviable problem—but it’s still a problem. Growing too fast can strain your business operations, cash flow, and employees—and often leave your customers frustrated.

Trinity Mouzon Wofford, CEO and co-founder of the Golde beauty and wellness brand, understands first-hand what it’s like to go from creating products in your kitchen to suddenly supplying Target. “We did more in revenue in the month of June in 2020 than we did in the entire year of 2019. And I think people don’t talk enough about the challenges of something like that,” she says in the Means & Matters Podcast.

Her advice is to grow at a pace that can be managed and build meaningful relationships with stakeholders you’ll need down the line. “Don’t feel the pressure to go big too soon,” Wofford says. “Build those relationships over time, and launch when you’re ready.”

Weave wellness into the fabric of your business

For too long, business culture valued one type of work ethic: blood, sweat, and tears, 24/7. Lean in or get out. Turns out, there’s nothing incongruent about business success and prioritizing wellness—yours and your employees’. One recent study showed that when faced with the opportunity to swap some salary dollars for wellness benefits such as fitness classes, flexible hours, paid parental leave, vacation time, and decent health insurance, employees overwhelmingly would make the trade.

When you have a healthy organization, you’re going to attract the best employees. And when you have a healthy life, you can bring the best of yourself to your role as a leader and to your business.

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