To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

Women entrepreneurs: Keep those business skills sharp

You’ve decided to start a business – and that’s a brave thing to do: Not everyone makes the leap of faith to go it alone! But you need to run a business day in and day out, and it’s easy to forget that you have to keep building your business skills, even beyond what you do to keep the doors open and serve customers. Taking the steps below to build skills such as networking, public speaking, and mentoring can help you push the boundaries of what’s possible for your business.

It’s okay to be afraid – but do it anyway

Getting out of our comfort zones can wrack the nerves, but it’s essential for growth (as a person and as a business owner). “As women, we shouldn’t stick to assigned roles because we feel like it’s what we are good at,” writes Angela Ruth, co-founder of payments company Due, in Forbes. “In reality, we could be doing so much more that no one ever encouraged us to do.”

Ruth’s advice: “Sign up for something you would never do and get through it. You’ll experience a heightened sense of confidence.” In her case, the “something” was doing her first conference presentation: “It can be scary to go out and do something completely different than what you are used to, but once you do it, there’s no question as to how confident you’ll feel.”

Speak up!

Unless you’re naturally gregarious and outgoing, nothing may take you more out of your comfort zone than public speaking. But it’s a skill that comes very much in handy for a business owner, since you may be called on to speak at local business or government events, or offer your insights at conferences.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get some practice at speaking publicly on a small scale (without facing a room filled with a hundred people). Toastmasters organizations, located all around the country, can help you sharpen your speaking skills in a supportive environment – you can even ask for a local mentor who can offer advice.

Karen Catlin, a business coach and former tech executive who teaches public speaking workshops, is a fan of pushing yourself to schedule small public speaking gigs so you become, as she says, “comfortable being uncomfortable.” In her case, she’s committed to doing some kind of public speaking at least once a month. And it’s okay to think small – public speaking can be something as simple as raising your hand at a city council meeting.

Mentor a budding entrepreneur

If you’ve had a mentor, you know how valuable it is to get support from a business leader. But have you thought about becoming a mentor, and sharing your knowledge with someone who’s at the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey? You may have more advice to offer than you think. Plus, you’ll be helping another woman realize her business dreams.

Alicia Glen, New York City’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, firmly believes that mentorship is one of the keys to women’s empowerment. As she told, mentoring doesn’t need to be complicated. First, spend at least 15 minutes with a more junior woman in your business or your professional network, and give your undivided attention. Next, “actually pick up the phone and get her a connection,” Glen advises. While advice is helpful, it’s solid connections that truly help other women.

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