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Authenticity And A Support Network Can Grow Women-Owned Businesses

The key to being successful and true to yourself is what Sharon Lamm-Hartman calls the authenticity code—presence, audience, and presentation. Her book, The Authenticity Code: The Art and Science of Success and Why You Can’t Fake It to Make It, will be released on October 18, 2021, for the e-book and October 19, 2021, for the print version. The book provides practical advice and tools women entrepreneurs can use to grow their businesses.

Lamm-Hartman is one of the few women business owners—less than 2%—to pass the million-dollar mark.

Like many business owners, Lamm-Hartman started her career in corporate America. While there, she discovered her love for leadership training and development. To increase her knowledge of the field, Lamm-Hartman earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University, attending part-time. Business executives from Fortune 100 companies, who were are classmates, told her that they would hire her if she went out on her own. And that they did!

In 1996, she started Inside-Out Learning. “In the first year, I quadrupled what I earned working for someone else,” exclaimed Lamm-Hartman. “I now have a team of 40: seven full-time employees and a number of contractors who do project-based work for us.”

Whether through formal presentations or informal communications, entrepreneurs are always pitching. It goes without saying that you should always prepare for meetings, make sure the substance of the conversation is relevant and that you have a clear call to action.

Lamm-Hartman developed a formula through the years—your presence plus your audience plus your presentation equals your success. “I have found that if you separate one of those things, you won’t be successful,” she said. For example, even if you have the best presentation in the world, if you show up and your presence doesn’t communicate that, your audience will not listen to you.

Lamm-Hartman has identified 12 qualities that contribute to an authentic presence: warmth, thoughtfulness, openness, sincerity, integrity, clarity, passion, confidence, polish and presentation, inspiration, trustworthiness, and respect. A tool in the book can help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

Importantly, authenticity isn’t just about you. It’s about your audience—your customers. Why should they care about your products and services? “It is an authentic choice to say that I’m going to choose a customer to work with and not another,” said Lamm-Hartman.

She uses dressing for your audience to make the point. “If I choose a military customer to work with, they’re not going to be okay with purple hair. It’s going to be so distracting that they won’t listen to you, your presentation, your product, or your service.” Other clients would be very comfortable if you had purple hair and uncomfortable if you attended a meeting in executive clothing. Know your audience and look the part.

You also need to know how to put together a rocking presentation. She provides a formula in the book. “It [the formula] has helped earn corporations billions of dollars,” said Lamm-Hartman.

  • Deliver an attention-getting opening: People tend to make up their minds in the first 90 to one hundred and twenty seconds. Grab attention from the get-go with a quote, a personal story, or a startling relevant statistic.
  • Focus on a clear executive summary: The summary should explain the purpose of your presentation, why the audience should care, and what actions you want them to take.
  • Develop an agenda with a concise body message: “70% of the population needs an agenda to follow a presentation, so always have one prepared,” said Lamm-Hartman. “It can be as simple as Our Study, Our Findings, and Our Recommendations.”
  • Finish strong: What’s your desired outcome? What are the next steps for how you’re going to move this forward?

An additional tip that isn’t in the book is the importance of women having a strong support network. She didn’t have one when she worked in corporate America but now does. “We researched this at the Center for Creative Leadership when I worked there,” she said. “Women develop most through supportive relationships. Men develop more through challenging job assignments.”

Women develop themselves and become our authentic leaders when they have a strong support network. “Women business owners need to make sure that you have those people around you who know what your brand is and what you want it to develop into, and who are going to be your cheerleaders, who are going to challenge you,” she said.

Her company is Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certified. WBENC trains its members on growing their businesses. Through WBENC certification, women-owned businesses gain access to business development opportunities with large corporations and resources. Lamm-Harman is a trainer for WBENC educational programs.

She’s also a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a peer advisory organization that supports multi-million-dollar, women-led businesses. “My WPO group challenges me,” said Lamm-Harman. “They know my brand and how I want to develop. My group holds up the mirror and they make me look at how I’m blocking myself or sabotaging myself.” She’s also a member of KNOW, which is bringing attention to dynamic women doing remarkable things in the Phoenix metro area.

How will you use your authenticity and network to grow your business?

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