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From one female founder to another: Advice I wish I knew sooner

In light of International Women's Day on Friday, RetailX founder Juanita Neville-Te Rito shares some timely advice for younger women on what she wishes she knew sooner about business. 

With International Women's Day behind us, it reminded me just how important it is that women support each other. I have some incredible females and males in my life who helped me on my way by recognising my unique talents and ambitions and helping me foster and amplify them.

I come from a family of five kids. My mum and dad both left school early and didn't finish high school. They instilled in us the ethics of hard work, respect and treat as you'd like to be treated. My dad interestingly, always promoted the girls in our family more as he thought we were incredibly articulate, sensible and worth being the best versions of ourselves that we could be.

Having an organisation that is predominantly female, the way I treat our people is how I have always wanted to be treated. It's the same advice I give my daughter and the young superstars that are all around us.

  • Be firm but fair, and give yourself a good kick when letting yourself down.
  • Say what you mean but don't set out to hurt someone (although the dialogue in your head often wants to)
  • Remember that you can't read others minds so you have no idea what they think about you. And quite frankly they probably aren't thinking about you at all.
  • Other people's baggage are theirs, and you don't have to solve everyone else's problem (stop collecting the monkeys).
  • A good sleep can always give you a different perspective.

Here is some additional advice which I wish someone else told me when I was younger.

Stop apologising unnecessarily.

While you should take responsibility when needed, you shouldn’t automatically apologise if you get challenged because you’re junior, new or a woman. Stand by what you say and mean.

People will treat you how you train them to treat you.

If you consistently raise your hand for new projects, people will start to come to you first when opportunities arise. If you answer every email sent long after working hours, people will expect you to respond at all times, even during evening and weekend hours. If you give them discounts or free stuff, they will never "value" your work.

Take everything in stride.

As you gain experience, it’s easier to stay poised because you have more reference points. Now I give advice to others to stay calm, assume the best of your teammates and stay focused on delivering your best work and helping your team. Look around - no one is going to die because of this - be realistic about the situation and breath.

It’s okay to stand up for yourself.

There’s the topic of never burning bridges and that’s true, but there’s also something to standing up for what you believe in and making sure you’re not associated with toxic people. Sometimes those bridges should be cut down and burned.

Say stuff out loud.

I think about the number of times I sat at a board table and a bloke said something that everyone thought was profound (eg. Look the sky is blue, Oh my god, it is blue. That's a really good point Roger.) What we think is obvious and makes sense may not be the same for others. An important part of influence strategy is saying what is in your heads. Others need to hear your brilliance. Don't wait to be asked.

Take a seat at the table.

I had an incredible boss, Des Flynn, who always made me take a seat at the Board Table. Even when there is standing room only, he always said "come on" (there were possibly only 2 other women in the room and I was young). He always said, I deserved my place and I didn't need to sit in the back row and I must never not take my placed, even if I thought it was good manners.

You don’t have to know everything (or act like it).

Sure we are all experts and knowledgeable in something but it's ok to say, "Gosh I don't know but I can find out." It took age and wisdom to become more open-minded to others and pull on their knowledge by asking questions without thinking someone is judging me.

Forget about a perfect career path.

Don’t panic over whether this is “the one” role or career for you. We’re going to be working for decades, so taking your time to learn what you like and dislike is key. Each job will teach you something and will equip you with valuable skills.

Value your friends, family and yourself.

We only have one life and you want to be the best version of yourself. But don't spend all the time working as you will miss out on life. We are here for but a short time and it's worth making it matter. But it's also worth smelling the roses along the way. That's why I now always book my next holiday when I am on holiday - so my family has something to look forward to. For years I never even took holidays (dumb!)

This was originally published on Neville Te-Rito's LinkedIn

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