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Entrepreneur Tracy Higginbotham’s Success Strategies in Business

April 13, 2018

Success Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs

In February 2015 I was interviewed by Stan Linhorst of Syracuse.com for his Sunday column “CNY Conversations” about leaders in the Syracuse community. Stan knew I wrote a bi-weekly column in the Syracuse Post Standard for 11 years. I was approaching the 10th Anniversary of my company Women TIES.

I had forgotten about this interview until it appeared on a website search today. I thought since new people follow my blog but don’t know much about me, this would enlighten my followers.

INTERVIEW:

Q: You successfully founded companies and you bring women entrepreneurs together. Were you an entrepreneur or in leadership roles growing up?

I was one of those raise-your-hands students in classrooms. To be the sixth-grade graduation speaker in elementary school, you had to stand in front of your classmates and tell them why you should be selected. It was me and two boys. I won! I was also the No. 1 salesperson selling yearbook ads in junior high school. In high school, I was treasurer of National Honor Society. Even back then, I was somebody who raised their hand.

Q: Where do you think that came from?

I always had female leaders in front of me and around me. My mother and father owned their own business. My aunt owned her own business and still works in her business today.

Q: Tell me about your family growing up.

My parents were Physical Education teachers — hence my love for sports at an early age. Both came out of Cortland State. They ended up in Rome, which is where my mom was from. My mom, I think, was one of the first female coaches for a boys’ team. She was this short Italian woman, who was always sure and believed she could do it.

They owned a ski shop called the Schuss Ski Shop. They got divorced and had to sell the business. I was young around fourth grade.

My father remarried someone who had three girls. I was the oldest. We were separated by about a year. So 14, 13, 12, 10 and then 8. Together my dad and my stepmother had another girl and two boys. So I am the oldest of eight all combined. I was a leader in that aspect of my life too! I love coming from a big family.

Q: What tips would you give someone moving into a leadership position?

1. I’ll talk from an entrepreneurial standpoint. You have to be knowledgeable about the field you’re in. It helps to be an expert within your field.

2. Have education behind you. Continuing to educate yourself is an important part of leadership.

3. Find collaborative partners in your field, people that can help you learn or promote or connect and you do the same for them.

4. Having a personal mission statement helps you lead. When it comes to entrepreneurship, it helps to know what contribution you truly want to make by what you’re doing.

Q: What is your personal mission statement

To help as many women entrepreneurs as I can become more financially successful.

I’ll give you an example about that. I asked a woman who owns a number of car dealerships in Rochester to speak at an event. We didn’t know each other, but she said, sure, I’ll be glad to speak. I’m standing up and explaining the mission of women trying to buy from more women. She was looking at me and I couldn’t figure out if she liked what I was saying or not. She got up to speak and said: Tracy, in all of the years that I’ve been in business — and it was hard coming up through a male-dominated field — I’ve never thought of giving business to women. I will do that from now on.

Q: You’ve encouraged many women entrepreneurs. What tips would you give somebody who wants to start their own business?

I didn’t have a business plan when I started Five Star Events (my first company). So when I started Women TIES ten years later than Five Star Events, I knew that I needed the business plan first.

You really need to crunch the numbers, do the research and do a SWOT analysis — SWOT is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Look at your numbers, a competitive analysis of who is in the market place and where you fit. You have to do the planning to eventually be successful.

The thing that I probably promote the most is market, market, market, promote, promote, public relations. A lot of entrepreneurs start and they’ve got to do a lot of things. But they need to be promoting their business. If nobody knows you exist, how are you going to get business?

You have to have an online presence and social media. You have to feel comfortable advertising, marketing and promoting your business.

You need collaborative partners. Find other companies within your industry. Even in a competitive field you can find people who are collaborative in spirit, who understand that there is a larger pie of sales to go around, that are willing to help.

Another thing that has become a stronger focus for me is sales. When it comes to asking people for money, I don’t think it’s just women that don’t love doing it.

A woman spoke at one of my events and one of the important things she said was: Go for the noes, don’t go for the yeses. Have a tally and say, “I’m not going to stop my sales day until I get 10 or 20 noes.” When you get your first yes, you think, OK, good, I got that one today and I’m done.

If you’re going for the noes, you’re in it for a longer period of time. If you get the rejections up front, you realize it’s just part of the process.

Q: Rejection can be difficult to take?

It is, emotionally, because you’re so tied into and in love with your business concept and idea. I went to a number of sales training programs, because I knew it had to be a focus of what I was doing.

Q: To succeed, you need to innovate. How do you spark innovation in an organization?

For me, innovation comes from customers asking for something that I didn’t offer. If I have enough customers asking for something or to do a different type of program or to do a webinar, and I have enough of them asking, then I know that’s something I need to do. It’s being innovative, creating a service that answers that call.

Q: You become innovative by listening to your customers?

I started the Women’s Athletic Network when I noticed how many women at my events were talking about athletics and fitness and exercise. It wasn’t that anybody was telling me that they wanted it, but I noticed the interest.

Q: Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

No. You have to have a passion or desire to do it — to create or to serve. And then, the confidence to be able to do it.

“CNY Conversations” feature Q&A interviews about leadership, success, and innovation. The conversations are condensed and edited. To suggest a leader for CNY Conversations, contact Stan Linhorst at StanLinhorst@gmail.com.

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