Entrepreneurs Share Tips on How Best to Assert Yourself in Business

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There's a stereotype in the world of business about the businesspeople themselves. Either they need to be pure, outright sharks or sharks in the form of dolphins. The sharks go for the kill in business and they don't really care who sees them doing so. Their business skill is finely honed and they have made sure everyone knows it. For the puppies, it's a little more hidden. Puppies put on a very calm and kind exterior to the public but before long their shark comes bounding through in small, cunning ways. Of course, these stereotypes are false. Not everyone in the world of business is a shark or a puppy. And asserting yourself in business can still be done without using the same tactics as the shark and puppy. Below we asked some entrepreneurs and business owners to tell us how they assert themselves in business.

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Photo Credit: Robert Godino
Photo Credit: Robert Godino

There's no substitute for knowledge and expertise

Though I was never the loud, hard-selling and networking type, I have managed to run two successful businesses, and, for over 14 years. I was never comfortable with the “big talk”, grand promises and rhetoric some salespeople use in transactions, so in order to assert myself and for my businesses to survive, I decided that there was no substitute for knowledge and expertise and trained myself very early on to be an expert in my chosen disciplines; the Digital Design/Development arena and online Brand Asset Management. Despite my laid-back and calm personality, my clients know and trust that I have the expertise to make things happen and I take full responsibility for project success.

Thanks to Robert Godino, BrandToolbox


Photo Credit: Catherine Stewart
Photo Credit: Catherine Stewart

Everyone has an opinion and everyone's is worthwhile

There is a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive. While the outcome can often be viewed the same, your long term success and the respect of your peers can only be achieved through asserting yourself. The philosophy I live by is that everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is worthwhile. Therefore you should never approach business thinking that you need to sit back and let others take charge. If you ever hope to achieve anything, whether it is in business or life in general, you need to make sure that your opinions, especially when relevant are heard. This can only happen if you have the confidence in your own ability and knowledge. I learnt to sit back , assess the situation and ask myself have I got something to offer here; is my opinion just as valid as the next person’s? Of course it was, so the next step was for me to take the initiative and be heard. It was only once I did this that I was able to achieve the things I have. In less than 7 years I was offered partnership in a Financial Planning firm. I had only been in the industry for 8 years in total. When I asked why I had specifically been chosen for partner, they explained that it was my passion for what I did and my ability to articulate the knowledge that I had, that made them know that I was the one for the job.

Thanks to Catherine Stewart, Arnold Stevens Finlay


Being a respectful kind of assertive

I have to be assertive! Everyone has a level of dominion they need to take in their life. The key is being a respectful assertive business man or woman. Anyone can be rude and assert their power for the sake of being insecure and running roughshod over people. That's easy. Pulling back, using restraint, letting others talk first and express ideas contrary to yours, finding common ground in a way that's collaborative, welcomed, and waited upon. Well that is profound, refreshing, not found everyday. Being a woman in this environment as well makes it a little more tricky. I think it takes super confidence and a sense of finesse to be able to do it right. Let see how it works!

Thanks to Stephanie Young, Chart Profit Capital

Related Post: How to Rebel in the Workplace


Photo Credit: Delanie West
Photo Credit: Delanie West

Be bold in defining your personality and beliefs

As a woman, it's quite important that I approach business assertiveness with the right mix of charm and “soft” amplification. Often women get the bad rap of being “bitchy” whereas that same behavior from a man is deemed forward, and “assertive”. I'm a girl raised in the south, and I am expert at taking the sting and harshness out of my delivery. One of the most important things you want to do whether you're a member of a corporate team or you own your own business, is to be BOLD in defining your personality and beliefs as they relate to relevant business challenges and situations. Create conversations with colleagues and higher-ups that open the door to sharing your opinions about projects. Do your homework of course, but think innovatively in your assessments of workplace initiatives. Leaders don't always like status-quo. They want and like new thinking and like to NOT be always agreed with. If you're an entrepreneur, don't “blend” in with your competition, be BOLD in your product offering, mix and pitch. Never be afraid to introduce yourself and drive conversation with business leaders by asking THEM questions. You would be surprised at how a simple conversation built on your being the “interviewer” will open opportunity and allow you to be perceived as an interested engaging person. Always be that initiator, and your ideas and perspectives will almost always be heard and received in favor. Stay Relevant and Amplify! Make sure your position or services are known. Talk about your community services, share your professional development schedule, always attend relevant industry lectures and events and share your learnings and findings with colleagues, higher ups and customers as relevant. We all lead busy lives, but if you invest time in taking advantage of social information exchange, you'll be the individual that's sought out for newness, change and crisp thinking.

Thanks to Delanie West, SheHue


Photo Credit: Lisa Porter
Photo Credit: Lisa Porter

Be open to change

After many years of slipping my dog into hotel rooms undercover, I realized there was a need for a directory where people could find pet friendly hotels. I designed a website called Pet Hotels of America. It took much more work than I had imagined to get people to the site, and once there, to book a hotel room. In researching why, I found people wanted more than just a place to stay with their pet; they wanted to know everything about their travel destination that was pet friendly. They especially needed to know that we, as a company, were pet friendly. Today Pet Hotels of America has grown immensely and now is a comprehensive one-stop travel website for pet owners, providing listings in every U.S. city for pet friendly hotels, vacation home rentals, parks, beaches, restaurants, events, hiking trails, attractions, shopping, kennels, pet sitters and more. To become well known, I used online advertising and public relations. I learned the importance of online marketing. I also learned that owning and operating a website is not a get-rich-quick endeavor. It takes being open to new ideas; replacing product and programs that don't work, even if you've spent endless hours developing them; and constantly creating fresh content for higher Google ranking. For those starting a new online business, I recommend you plan your website in its entirety before the developers begin coding, understand your market's needs by reading magazines, blogs and competitors' pages, and be open to changing with the trends.

Thanks to Lisa Porter, Pet Hotels of America


Photo Credit: Gayle Carson
Photo Credit: Gayle Carson

Have something important to say

To assert yourself in business, first you must have something important to say. Then it's important to make sure your thoughts are in order, you've practiced your presentation and your voice and body language is under control. You also have to make sure your image is one of authority which means dressing correctly, and your walk and posture is the best. When you have that under your belt, you should also make sure you have researched your subject area, know your prospect, board or client well, along with their hot buttons. Being assertive means you believe you have the right to state your thoughts, feelings and opinions as long as you don't hurt anyone else in the process. And when you do that with integrity, you are always the winner.

Thanks to Gayle Carson, Carson Research Center

Related Post: Tips on Having Good Customer Service


Photo Credit: Misti Cain
Photo Credit: Misti Cain

Two then it's up to you

I use the “two then it's up to you” strategy when asserting myself in business. Generally, I have no problem speaking up and voicing my professional opinions, thoughts and ideas. There are times, though, when I am rebuffed and/or challenged. If it's not going to make a difference to a campaign and it's simply a personal preference, I let it go. But if I feel the client is making a huge mistake or potentially wrecking a campaign I will present my strategy twice and, if it's shot down both times, will leave the decision in the client's hands this way: “I strongly disagree with the way you'd like to carry out [insert project or strategy here] however, I've presented my case a couple of times. Now, I'll leave the entirety of this decision and its outcome in your hands and carry it out according to your desires. It's completely up to you.” This is usually the point where clients want to ‘circle back' and take one more look. Telling a person you're leaving a business decision (and its outcome) entirely in their hands suddenly makes them super aware of the fact that they will be the sole responsible party. Very few clients want that weight on their shoulders. They are usually more than happy to turn the reigns back over or at least start collaborating on a resolution.

Thanks to Misti Cain, Red Cello Marketing


Photo Credit: Kimberly Gerber
Photo Credit: Kimberly Gerber

Giving a clear understanding of what you mean

In both life and business, many people have misconceptions of what assertiveness means and what confident behavior looks like. However, giving others a clear understanding of what we want simply opens the lines of communication and makes way for opportunities that otherwise may never have been available. An appropriate quote to remember in times of self-doubt or timidity says, “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.

Thanks to Kimberly Gerber, Excelerate


Photo Credit: Jacob Kache
Photo Credit: Jacob Kache

It takes practice

Navigating the sea of social etiquette that is the modern workplace can be difficult. With very few exceptions, no one wants to offend anyone else, or to appear pushy or uncompromising. Unfortunately, with the weight of so many people involved in almost every business decision, sometimes you need to push a little harder just to overcome the inertia. In fact, where many employees will bend over backwards out of fear of offending anyone, it's the team member who knows how to express and defend their point that is most often recognized for exceptional work, through promotions and employee. So, when there's a lot at stake, being assertive may be the only way to get anything done right. The problem is that assertiveness isn't something you can just turn on and off; it takes practice. Yes you could simply force yourself to jump right into it, but without the right experience, you'll probably just come off as tactless and stubborn. Instead, start small by voicing opinions in safe, non-work settings. Learn to support a point with facts rather than feelings, and don't allow yourself to be cowed into submission by aggressive or loud opponents. Really, the most important traits you can learn are calm and patience. If you need a few minutes to collect your thoughts before speaking your mind, then take that time. Remember, if the conversation has the potential to affect you and your career, then you have the right and the responsibility to become involved in it. Just be sure to remain respectful, impersonal, and calm.

Thanks to Jacob Kache

Related Post: A Strong Corporate Culture is the Key to Sustainability


Photo Credit: Connie Kadansky
Photo Credit: Connie Kadansky

Get your ask in gear

Get your “ask” in gear and position yourself as someone to creates value for your prospects. Ask people of influence to lunch. Ask your local Business Journal Publisher if you can go in and introduce yourself. Ask the local Chamber of Commerce if they need a short article for their newsletter. Ask someone who is retired – like a former news producer – to give you advice on making a good video promo for YouTube. Ask the editor of a trade magazine in your targeted prospect area if you can write an article for the publication. If you are not confident in your writing skills, find a free-lance writer to either write the article for you or interview you and write the article. Ask someone you really admire for some business advice. Ask an expert in your field how they got started. Ask someone at a networking event how you can help them. Ask for someone to write a recommendation on your Linked In profile. Ask a current satisfied customer to refer you to people like him/her. Ask for what you want. You may be surprised that you start getting what you want!

Thanks to Connie Kadansky, Exceptional Sales


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  1. Hey everyone, the best way to assert authority is to create tension. What I mean is not in a negative way. Tension in my definition is an environment of increased awareness. In a dating process, creating tension between the opposite sex creates a sense of interest. In a business environment, creating tension allows increased alertness from the opposite party. With tension, you have their attention. Then the next step is to execute your delivery or intention with finesse and congruence or certainty.

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