Enterprising Women Summer 2021

by Cathy Light From Intense Pressure, We Find the Strength to Shine LESSONS FROM THE PANDEMIC T he most beautiful, formidable things are often born of pressure and tumult. Think about diamonds; they form when carbon atoms encounter immense heat and pressure and then surface through violent volcanic eruptions. Trees form more robust trunks and deeper roots when repeatedly faced with vigorous winds. While hard times are not ideal, they force us to adapt and can lead to more resilient outcomes. Over the last year, the pandemic and the corresponding control measures have created intense pressure for businesses worldwide, especially for women-led companies. “From job losses to significant drops in revenue, women and women- owned businesses are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout from the pandemic,” Levi Cooperman, co-founder of Freshbooks, says. While it may be too soon to see diamonds surface, female entrepreneurs will emerge stronger from living through this. The uncomfortable reality is that we’ve been forced to do more with less, innovate, and rethink. For many, business slowed considerably – ours did. But the pandemic closures compelled us to work “on the business, instead of in the business,” as Michael Gerber conceptualized in his book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. Being an entrepreneur means casting a wide net. You can’t be singularly focused on one idea – we invent and expand and move forward. The result is that, as entrepreneurs, we can get weighed down by the number of hats that we wear. We sometimes find ourselves bogged down with “in the business” work, trying to balance the focus on income-producing activities with resources (people and funds). I’m a serial entrepreneur. My company, Liderança Group, is the parent company of four strategic brands. Having a diverse portfolio of offerings is a blessing, but under normal circumstances also comes with the curse of not having enough staff and time to manage it all. When doors closed, and the economy slowed, our consulting practice came to a screeching halt. My team and I had to look at our business strategy. How do we pivot? How do we become more agile? How do we ensure we survive this? Our focus shifted to being “on the business.” We decided to invest more time, effort, and concentration where we could make the most difference for both our clients and ourselves. We were fortunate on two accounts. First, remote work wasn’t a problem as we were founded as a virtual company (one of my many criteria to becoming an entrepreneur after leaving corporate America). Second, the diversity of our portfolio meant that we had access to different touchpoints in organizations and cross-selling, which we engaged to great success. We were able to pivot from our traditional Business and Workplace Success Consulting to online learnings. Businesses still had professional development, diversity and inclusion mandates to uphold. So we focused on our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion® (DEI) brand, www. DiversityEquityInclusion.com enhancing our Diversity Collection of online educational modules and resources that help companies build more inclusive cultures and strengthen leadership. Our agility in shifting to help companies with online learning kept us going. Our virtual DEI education filled a need in corporations as issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging appeared in the news more than ever. Organizations of all sizes and across all industries faced increased demands that they address unconscious bias, revaluate processes, and become truly inclusive. Each of our DEI programs focuses on a core aspect of building a cohesive workplace culture where every employee, regardless of race, sex, gender, orientation, ableness, or economic background, feels a sense of not only belonging but opportunity. Our programing both LIVE and online, our blended approach, made it possible for organizations to commit to their employees and begin the journey to a better work culture while dispersed from the physical office. By pivoting our products and services, we were recognized as a Business and DEI Trailblazer and selected by Microsoft as part of the #BuildFor2030 Campaign in support of inspiring technologies that are changing the world. I was recently honored to be named a Top 10 Women in Cloud Entrepreneur by Insights Success , a leading global business magazine for enterprises that provide disruptive and emerging solutions that strengthen market share. My team and I received this recognition for our DEInamics® software analytics tool powered by Microsoft that just became available in the market. Being forced (or freed) to step back and work on the business opened new opportunities. We saw what was happening in the world – not just with the pandemic but also with the protests and demands for recognition, transformation, and equity, and we knew our solutions could help drive the change needed. We had already created the Diversity Collection and DEInamics, but we hadn’t advanced them as far as intended as we were busy wearing so many other hats. Now, that area of the business is flourishing, and as offices reopen and our other brands come back into play, we will be a better, more resilient company. Emerging from Q2 of 2021, I’m thrilled to say our business is back on track and that it will survive the pandemic, and, like a diamond, it will shine a bit brighter from the pressure. CATHY LIGHT is CEO of Lideranca Group, Inc. She is a member of the Enterprising Women Advisory Board. Learn more and connect with her at www.liderancagroup.com. 34 enterprising Women