I'm a perfectionist.
I say this, not with pride, but in a manner more shameful,
a manner that one might admit to night-time snoring or daytime television viewing.
I used to think being a perfectionist was a good thing - a sign of my high standards.
Not any more.
This time last year, I saw an ad in a local West Cork newspaper for a course aimed at women in business. The course was run by the Local Enterprise Office and delivered by two mentors from Business IQ. I applied and was accepted. There, I met a small group of other business women. Some were already successful, some, like me, were finding their way. All of us were willing to share our knowledge, our hopes and our fears.
I learnt many lessons from that course but one of the most striking was the concept that 'done is better than perfect': the idea that you can spend all your time faffing, fiddling and finessing or you can stop right now, share your ideas with the world and start to make money.
Bouyed with confidence I printed 100 copies of the first Ladies' Guide. I wasn't totally happy with the final design but I went for it. I decided to test the idea to see if they would sell. (100 copies might seem a tiny figure but I was originally was going to print 30 copies - so the extra 70 was a super-brave step).
And sell they did. They really, really did.
I was recently recommended the book Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas. Her opening chapter echoes this idea. She accepts most of us struggle with confidence when we put ourselves out there and she offers a wonderful twist. She suggests we stop aiming to be the guru or the expert in our field. And instead we can chose to be a contributor. That simple exchange of words - from guru to contributor - makes a big difference for me. I already know a bit about my field. I don't have to wait until I know it all. I can jump in now and be part of an arena which I love.
So while I am not an expert in graphic design or Irish social history I love them both. I have just ordered a reprint of my book. I have improved and enlarged upon the original version. It's still not perfect... but it's slightly better. This time I have ordered 300 copies. The Local Enterprise Board have appointed me a mentor and she has given me many tips about retail partners and how they operate. I hope to grow bigger and better as time goes on.
There is so much help out there for business women - and men. Help from the Local Enterprise Board. Help from other business people. Help from websites. Help from books. Just reach out and people respond. People want you to succeed. Your business idea might not be perfect right now, but that's ok. It doesn't need to be. You can perfect it as you go. Get out there.
One last thought about striving for perfection. In my early 20s I was living with my partner in Dublin. One evening we had a row and I stormed out and went to sulk in the Waterloo Bar on Baggot Street. It was not as trendy then as it is now, the bar was filled with old men. I got chatting to them as one does when there is a pint or two involved. I shared that I was an art student and they started to talk about about creativity. They invited me to look at the beauty of the ceiling. I can't remember now if it was panelled or stucco work but they showed me an imperfection. They said it was done on purpose. I was surprised. They went on to say that this was a common trait in skilled work in the past - the craftsman made something beautiful and then made some tiny nick, some tiny purposeful imperfection. I wondered about this. As an art student I was learning how to make my work perfect - why would a craftsperson purposely deface something they had created? The answer was to be humble. Only God is perfect.
I was stunned by that.
I was thrilled by that.
So these days, I am pleased to be humble,
and I'm also pleased to be a kick-ass entrepreneur
(and I often snore and sometimes watch television during the daytime)