Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Hat to Wear

This week I was faced with my first real ethical issue as a stay-at-home mom, turned online business owner. I had to deal head-on with real competition in the very real world of, well, business. I had to figure out "What Hat to Wear."

(Yes, I know it should be "which hat" but then it wouldn't cleverly refer to my favorite TLC style show, not would it?)

When you've been changing diapers, wiping noses and trying to Oxyclean stains out of everything for so many years, it is truly a cold, hard reality when you face the real world and the choices you have to sometimes make as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's easy to lose your "edge" you once had in the corporate world when you've been in the toddler world for so long. There was a day when I would not have thought twice about writing that heated email when a deadline wasn't met or applying the information I found in my competitive research to enhance the proposal I was writing.

So, why was it so hard this week for me to still feel like a "good person" when I made a savvy business decision that, while a bold move for my little business, was nothing compared to moves being made all across corporate America thousands of times a day?

Yes, the move was good for my business (I opened a second Etsy shop selling oilcloth by the yard to remain competitive. I also listed several new items in my original shop that I knew that my competitor might soon offer). No, it was not good for my competition. Yes, it made me feel great that I was brave enough to make a strategic move (my sales have increased noticeably based on the moves already in less than a week). No, it did not feel good when my competition verbally (textually) confronted me regarding the matter.

Another key part of this discussion is that my competition seems like a really cool, really creative, really interesting person - who is also a stay-at-home-mom with an online business. We've "chatted" online from time to time about our businesses and a little about our lives. I like her, and would even want to be friends with her outside of the cyber world. But, because our products, materials and concepts are very similar, I also compete with her either directly or indirectly on an almost daily basis.

So, my question is this:

When you're a stay-at-home-mom and a business woman, when you literally wear both hats at the same time, when you realize that you need to take your business to the next level in order to compete in your targeted marketplace...

Do you -

1) Put on your Nice Mom Hat: Think about how you would treat another mom that you chat with in the carpool line and that you genuinely like and identify with and respect? Do you behave the way you would with someone whom you would consider to be an acquaintance or a potential friend?


Do you -

2) Put on your Business Woman Hat: Act like a business woman who has a job, who works a lot of long hours mostly after her kids are in bed at night when she is really tired, who has made many, many sacrifices for this new business over the past 13 months, who has a solid business plan and a specific marketing and product branding strategy in place and the business know-how and experience to implement it successfully?

So, you've figured out which hat I wore. It wasn't pretty, but it sure did the job. And the problem now, is that I feel like I can't just sit back and enjoy the business success I had this week. I feel guilty, or mean or something - something that I NEVER felt in the corporate world, not even with I worked for Arthur Andersen. Now that's sad. My husband, a really nice guy who is also a really hard-nosed attorney, can hardly even understand my dilemma. It's just business, right?

I guess it boils down to this. Even when we have to be cut-throat in the business world or just the "outside of our own home" world, we don't have to be cut-throat in our hearts. The decisions I made this week were strategic and smart for my business, but they made another person feel frustrated and deflated, and I do feel terrible about that. As a woman, I can try to use kind words and sentiments to ease the tension. But, as a believer, I must - must - take painstaking steps to make sure that a cut-throat, haughty or evil attitude does not remain in my heart.

In my mind, this is the only way I can wear both hats without one of them completely falling off. I an not willing to sacrifice my business or to deny myself the opportunity to use my intelligence and experience to make good, strategic decisions. But I am also not willing to let the loving, sympathetic, joyful heart that my 5 1/2 years now as a mom has allowed me to develop to be hardened one little bit by my own sin of pride.

So, I have the solution. I need to clean out my closet - to find a third hat.

If I'm going to wear the Business Woman Hat, it's only going to be with my Prayer Hat right underneath it. I have to cover these business decisions I make with prayer, just like I would decisions about my kids and my family. The reason I ask for God's help in my "real life" is because I know I can't always make good choices on my own. It only makes sense that the same thing be true for my "business life." The problem is that in both of my lives, my Prayer Hat seems to get shoved to the back of the closet. Then, I forget to take it with me, or just forget to put it on.

My new question, then - can I be a mom, run a business, be a good wife - all while wearing 3 different hats??
It's quite a look, but I think I can pull it off.
"My Help comes from the Lord," Psalm 121:12

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Well written and three cheers to the Prayer Hat. Where can I buy one that will stay on my head?