navigation main:
Bookmark and Share
One of our big motivators for writing our book was that we felt there were too few books out there that reinforced the idea that it is okay to stay small. | graphic courtesy of Raised Eyebrow

One of our big motivators for writing our book was that we felt there were too few books out there that reinforced the idea that it is okay to stay small. | graphic courtesy of Raised Eyebrow


excerpt the boss of you

by Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears | August 5, 2008

One of the things that bothers us most about the way business is discussed out there in the world is how little time or space is given to profiling smaller, sustainable, and creative business. While we’d really like to think that has nothing to do with how many of them are started by women, chances are that plays into it.

Whenever we find ourselves checking out the business section of the newspaper or book store, we get the same feeling of mild confusion. Most of the what is written about the world of business is totally focussed on making money. End of story. And while, money is certainly a factor for our own business – if we didn’t make any, it would be a hobby, not a day job – it wasn’t the only thing on our list of goals when we started out.

One of our big motivators for writing our book, The Boss of You, was that we felt there were too few books out there that reinforced the idea that it is okay to stay small – to build your own business that takes care of you and maybe a few employees, and that allows you to do something that you love while getting paid what you are worth. And frankly, we reacted pretty strongly against all the hype – which is particularly bad when you’re in anything related to computers and the Internet – that can fill your head as people you meet start telling you about how you should take big leaps forward in the service of making yourself a quick buck.

But here’s the big lesson we want to pass on: Small doesn’t mean stuck. You can grow in all kinds of ways that work for you and your business regardless of what those guys on late-night TV say about making fast cash with their proven system.

In the early days of our company, Raised Eyebrow, we knew this one guy who was forever proclaiming, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” every single time we saw him. And saying that to two headstrong gals, who had founded their business on the principle that small was beautiful, kind of got our panties in a twist. (Kind of a lot actually.)

“What is that all about?!” we would wail. “Why must we ‘grow, grow, grow’? Is it not enough to just want to build our business one client at a time and get paid what we’re worth?” And for years, we kept along our path of growing at a reasonable pace, staying out of debt and incrementally raising both our rates and our salaries as our client base grew with us.

We regularly declared that particular dude to be “so very off base” – and in some ways we were right, but in others (while it pains us to admit it), we were missing out on the larger lesson.

While the vision of hiring scads of staff (which we knew we could not support) and expanding to offshore development to keep our rates competitive – resulting in our paying other people what we would never consider a living wage so that we could make some cash off their backs – was in no way in line with our business model or personal values, that didn’t mean that some growth wasn’t necessary to keep our business healthy and us happy.

Growing sustainably is really just about making sure that you have the resources to sustain the growth you initiate, whether that is enough hours in a day to take on more work, enough money to pay employees to help you take on more work, or enough expertise in-house to deal with new challenges. Evaluating your internal resources – money, skill sets, hours in the day, space in the store – before you initiate new growth will help you ensure that your expansion will be sustainable.

While we still don’t really think, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” is any kind of useful credo to run a business by, we hope other women will see that growing doesn’t need to look like having so many outlets of their fair-trade coffee shop on every corner that no one can go a block without being able to pop in and get one of their yummy soy lattes – though if one of you want to take those other guys on, we’re totally behind you, baby.

Someone starting out now will get a sense of how her business will evolve and expand as she settles in. Being an entrepreneur by definition seems to mean never really resting. Just as a businesswoman reaches one level, she’ll probably start thinking ahead to new things she can do, how she can do things better, or what else she can offer her customers. And even if it is just in little ways that don’t make the front of the business pages, she’ll know she is doing her best to keep her business and her customers happy.

When we first sat down to write The Boss of You, we were fueled by the idea of sharing the stories of the incredibly smart, successful businesswomen we knew. As we got further into things and had the chance to speak to an even wider circle of talented business gals, our excitement only grew. There truly are so freakin’ many of us out there starting and running businesses that buck the mainstream business models – and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. It is our deepest hope that our book helps those numbers soar.

Last time we checked, women running small, successful businesses that allow them to take control of their own lives still aren’t making it onto the front pages of the business section of the newspaper. That doesn’t mean we’re not out there, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another in a quest to grow even stronger.

So the next time you meet a woman who is running her own business, congratulate her on her success. And if she tries to play it down and tell you, “Well, it’s really not a big deal, I just work for myself/run a small store/make this line of products that only a niche market knows about,” push her modesty aside and tell her you think she’s awesome. And feel free to mention that you know at least another two businesswomen who think so too.

Excerpt of The Boss of You published with the permission of the authors and publisher, Seal Press, copyright © 2008.

The Boss of You: Everything A Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business, by EMIRA MEARS and LAUREN BACON, Seal Press, 256 pages, paperback $15.95 US, ISBN-10: 1580052363, ISBN-13: 9781580052368 | April 2008


  • Seasonal Feature

  • April 1994: the night raid at Kingston’s Prison for Women

    by Sierra Bacquie

    There was supposed to be a new approach to the Correctional Service of Canada’s relationship to female offenders, who were promised responsible choices, respect, dignity, supportive environments, and shared responsibility. But on the night of April 26, eight women experienced humiliation, degradation, raw fear and trauma at the hands of an all-male emergency team. How did this happen? What has changed since?  read more