When it comes to topics related to women in business, there is no better person to talk on women in business than Kerri Ann Courtright. She has been in business for 25 years leading hundreds of employees and currently runs an Inc. 5000 company for the fourth time in five years. Kerri addresses topics like the challenges and benefits of being a woman in business, as well as what to do when you’re starting a business as a single mom. She gives some recommendations for resources for women who want to further their education, and touches on the highlights of her famous talk on the word “No” and how it’s used, especially when it comes to moms trying to run a business with kids with so much stuff going on.
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I’m going to sit here and pepper my wife with a few questions. We’re going to begin with a little bit of Kerri’s background. We have a number of new audiences as I’ve looked at the stats over the last 30 days. We are in 25 countries right now. We got a little break and found a way to get our podcast into Alexa, so you can now lean into Alexa and say a series of words and our podcast comes up. It’s something like, “Alexa, play podcast Ken Courtright or Today’s Growth,” or some version of it. When I found out exactly what it is, I will let everybody know, but we are officially in the Alexa machine, which is neat.
For those of you that are new to the podcast, this podcast is a compilation of Kerri and I bumping into people all over the world. We meet someone or we sit in on a session of some kind or we hold a conference or we speak at a conference, but in any way, shape or form, we are in a situation where we hear some form of teaching go down and it hits us that someone just learned something, so we make a note. We write it down and then the next time we sit down to podcast, we make sure we teach that very point.
As we were doing our Digital Footprint Conference, we had people there from Canada, London, Australia, Mexico and Colombia. There were a lot of people in the audience asking a lot of questions related to women in business. There is no better person to talk on women in business than Kerri Courtright. It’s not because she’s my wife, but it’s because she has been in business for 25 years, leading hundreds of employees. She currently runs an Inc. 5000 company for the fourth time in five years. She was a Chicago Bulls cheerleader. She is an elected official. She runs a global business and has for some time. I’m going to begin and start darting questions at Kerri Ann Courtright. Let’s begin. What one or two challenges are women having now in business?
Off the top of my head, I’m going to say for those women who have children, a lot of it is between mommy guilt and outside influences. I get a lot of, “Do you travel with your husband? Who takes care of the kids?” My husband doesn’t get, “Do you travel with your wife? Who takes care of the kids?” A lot of it is the perception that I am the mom and that I should be at home with my children who we are extremely close with. Our kids are doing fantastic. It’s almost a question of whether or not I could do both, but I can.
What one or two strengths do women have that maybe men lack? When it comes to business, what are some things women maybe have a slight edge with or it’s a benefit being a woman in business?
A big one is standing and listening. We, women, talk. Shakespeare wrote a quote, “I’m a woman, therefore I shall speak what’s on my mind.” We talk. When we talk, we’re usually talking with other people who are there to listen. We talk, so we’re good at listening and hearing. There’s a difference between just listening than hearing. It’s like listening to a song on the radio and after you hear it four times, I was like, “I can’t believe I listened to that song because that word is in there.” We tend to hear the words and so we can go back and digest and see the person that we’re working with at multiple levels versus just as a business. When you understand how to find how to communicate with that person because your communication skills are different, it makes doing business a lot easier and more lucrative.
If you were starting a business today as a single mom, what would you do first?
Describe it. In what way?
It is not easy, and it costs money. I understand the concern about money. What I would do is find whether it’s a tool online, finding a way to create a website online by plugins, whether or not it’s working with a coop, with church or whatnot to find someone there who can reciprocate, so you can clean their house, not that they want to clean the house, but it depends on your income of course, and then let them be able to babysit for you. Find a way to find help, and people want to help. Ken talks about us being Christians. Many years ago, I was in a Bible study with women and the question was, “Do you like giving gifts?” Every hand went up. “Do you like receiving gifts?” Everybody likes to receive gifts. “How do you feel when you are the receiver of someone giving you something?” The word was uncomfortable.
We all like to give gifts or something. Whether or not as I open the door for a person, you feel good. Whether or not I bought groceries in for someone who didn’t expect it or it’s just buying a coffee for the car that’s behind you. It feels good to do something for someone else. Other people want that same feeling and they need people to be the recipients of their goodwill. If someone offers to take care of your kids, say yes. If someone offers to clean your house and then you do their website or whatever your industry is or you’re the accountant and you do that for them, it takes you five minutes, it takes them three hours. It’s a great tradeoff. Do it.Let someone help you because you're actually helping them in return. Click To Tweet
Let someone help you because you’re helping them in return and giving them that warm fuzzy as well as it’s great to barter. Many years ago, we didn’t have currency. Many years ago, before we even had President Washington, we had rabbit pelts, raccoon pelts, bear pelts, and we bartered. Find the assistance. It doesn’t have to be a cash barter, that would be purchasing. Find a way to use your services for someone else’s services and get what you need done at a very low price so that you can move on and go with your dreams. The worst thing is if you don’t follow your passion, you don’t do something because we hear the statistics of being a single mom. If you have an inkling to do something out there and do something great, find a way to do it. Yes, it will cost a lot of sleep for you. It’s hard, but you’re helping your children and you’re their example by doing it.
Let’s say there’s a woman out there who’s already in business. She is moving, she has product flow, she has cash flow, but she knows she’s about to reach her limit. Where would you recommend she go for further education to learn, “What do I do next?”
A great resource is events in your industry. For us, Digital Footprint was amazing. We had multiple industries, multiple services, and products. It was absolutely fantastic. The thing about conferences, people are looking for someone to help them or they’re looking for someone to lead them somewhere to find help. If I’m looking for an insurance salesman, I will be at an event because we’re there for tech. At a tech event, you’re going to have not just techies but you’re going to have people there to utilize the services. If someone’s looking for an insurance agent, they’re just mingling, talking, “Hi, how are you?”
Eventually, you’ll find someone where they say, “I met so and so. His name is Ed. He’s sitting up there. He’s got a blue shirt. He is in insurance.” When you’re in that environment, you can go talk and pick their brain because you’re both looking to help. Not necessarily sell a product, but they’re both in the same industry. They want to share their knowledge. People want other people to succeed. There’s not a lot of business owners out there. We are the minority. It is a pyramid, not by choice but by action. People want other people to succeed. It’s more fun when you’re all succeeding because you have a conversation of commonality.
If you say, “I had a bad day. I was talking with the Prince of Saudi Arabia. He wanted me to have five barrels of so and so over there,” who understands that? The people who are pursuing and acting towards their goals. Otherwise, you sound like, “I got done talking to the Sheikh.” You sound like you’re pious and you’re bragging, but the reality is that’s your day. That’s not bragging. That’s just reality. I would go to conferences and not just in your industry either. The Digital Footprint wasn’t a tech conference for techies. It was for business owners of all walks of life. I definitely do use that and read books. Definitely read books and podcasts. I know Ken is a fantastic podcaster, which is what we’re doing right now, but podcasts are fantastic, too.
There was only one person that got a standing ovation after their talk. It happened to be you. The centerpiece of your talk, which is now somewhat of a famous talk, is on the word no, especially when it comes to women when it comes to mom’s trying to run a business with kids with so much stuff going on. Give everybody a little rundown of the two differentiations between the word no and how it’s used.
No is just a word. No peanut butter jelly. No coffee. No computer microphone. It’s two letters put together. The only meaning that it has is the one that you perceive and use your brain. That’s important because no can stop you. If you hear the word no, we use it with our children to stop for things like fire and cars but unfortunately, we take that with us when we’re older and we’re working in our business. We use that as, “No, you don’t like me. No, that’s not the truth.” What happens is I have a product, you are a person that I’m trying to sell my product or a service with and if you’re not interested, just use the word no.
Do you know how many people are in this world? You keep moving along. “No, you don’t need it right now?” “No.” “You couldn’t find me on the Internet. That’s my fault. At least I know I’ve got to go in and make a new website.” “No, you don’t need it because you just bought it from someone else.” “Okay.” “No, you don’t have the money.” To the next person, say yes. Then as long as you continue on, you do get another yes and you get another yes. You might get another no. No is just a word. You keep on going. It doesn’t mean you stop and when people give you the word no, it’s because they don’t need your product or services or can afford or for whatever reason it is, not because they don’t like you. It is not because you’re a woman. It is not because you have brown hair or yellow hair. It’s not because you are brown-skinned or white-skinned, it’s just a word.
As regarding business, you need to differentiate the two. It is not personal, so keep moving. Then on the flip side, you are very busy. You have a company that you’re running, so you need to get very good at saying the word no and you’re going to bother some people. In the beginning, some people might say, “How are your children doing?” “My children are fine.” When you go to the PTA meeting and you buy cookies and you walk in instead of making them for the last four hours, that’s okay. “Did you bake them?” “No, I didn’t. I didn’t have time. I was working for my company,” and that’s all right. Get used to saying no. You’re going to get pushback from people, from business.You need to focus on what you're doing because your goals in your business is going to help your family. Click To Tweet
You keep on moving and keep on saying no because most of the time, what happens when your business does fly off and you’re reaching your goals. Those people who give you the hardest time, especially when it comes to family, they are going to be the biggest recipients of your profits. Eventually, whether it’s time and money or both, one or the other. You’re going to hear it. Don’t stop and you got to get used to saying it because you need to focus on what you’re doing because your goals and your business is going to help your family. Ultimately, it is about you and your family, your employees, and your clients. It’s where you need to be thinking about. “No, don’t go to that barbecue if you’ve got a product deadline on Monday.” It’s okay. You’re going to get flacked. It’s all right. Just keep on moving because you’re going towards your goal.
See you, everybody.