Number Ten:  Attitude & Self-esteem

This to me is HUGE.  So many of the VAs I work with who don’t stay in business, or whose business stagnates, are those with low self-esteem, or negative attitudes.  Remember earlier when we discussed surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people?  You have to be positive and supportive, too.

I remember when starting my business, I felt somewhat isolated.  I initially thought I really missed all those watercooler conversations in the corporate world, and the relationships I’d built at the companies I’d worked for, but honestly, I just missed having human contact.  I solved that issue by forcing myself to go to networking meetings and joining groups like BNI (Business Network International) where I was forced to talk about myself and my business.

While I didn’t have extremely low self-esteem, I still had some issues that I needed to work on.  Again, in many ways I believe some of this is unique to women.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of men with low self-esteem, but many women, at least until the 80’s, were brought up to believe that they were second class citizens. 

I remember in my earlier career that I was afraid to speak up in meetings because I thought people would laugh at me, or not take me seriously.  So, who was I to think that just because I had good administrative skills, I could meet people and they would immediately see that I was good at what I was doing?  That took a lot of time for me.

When I got my first taste of outside sales in the corporate world, I really had no sales skills at all.  I was also in an industry where there were very few women in sales.  Since I was on commission, I had to learn really quickly that I had to find some way to differentiate myself from my male counterparts.

I had a very strong service-oriented background, so I developed my sales by providing something the men in the industry weren’t – service.  I alerted them to rebate programs, provided them with copies of invoices so they could take advantage of rebates, and in some cases, filled out and mailed in the forms for them.  I provided more product information and resources than the men in the industry who simply took them to lunch or met them on the golf course.  It was what made enough of a difference for me to control their businesses, and develop a really successful sales career, even though I had no formal sales training.

This certainly helped boost my self-esteem, too.  But attitude has played a big role in my life, as well.  When I first left home at 16, it was very hard to get anyone to rent an apartment to me.  Young women just didn’t live on their own.  The only place I could find that would rent to me was in a seedy part of town. 

I learned a lot about attitude when I lived in my first apartment.  I remember walking from the bus stop to the apartment late at night hoping I wouldn’t get mugged or raped.  What I learned was to have an attitude that prevented people from messing with me.  When I was walking down the street, I always made eye contact with someone coming along, and said hello, or acknowledged them in some way, and I always acted like I knew exactly where I was going, and was expected, although many times that wasn’t the case.

I look back on those days now and wonder where I got the nerve to do some of the things I did.  If my daughter would have done the things I did, I would have been really angry at her.   It was when I realized that attitude was everything.

When I started my business, I read a lot about how to approach prospects and build a relationship without having to tell them I ran a home-based business.  Having a positive attitude about my skills, being a resource, and not giving them a hard sell, is really what allowed me to be successful in those first two to three years.

If you have low self-esteem, or you struggle with having a positive attitude, consider taking some classes on self-esteem, or get involved online in forums and seminars where they help improve your self-esteem and help you project a more positive attitude.

And when you feel yourself slipping into something negative, take a deep breath, and rework your thoughts to finding a more positive way to communicate it, even if it’s just self-talk. 

Start off very simply by always putting a smile on your face when you encounter or meet someone.  It’s very difficult for someone to be negative when someone presents them with a smile.  And always, no matter how your day is going, answer your phone with a smile on your face, you’d be surprised how that smile is easily received on the other end.

Jeannine Grich, owner of Accurate Business Services, a VA practice, is an author, writer, speaker, and VA Business Coach, specializing in providing professional business coaching to established and start-up virtual assistants (VA’s).  For her FREE article,  “What’s Holding Back my Business Success?” or “Finding or Expanding Your Niche”, Visit:; or contact her at: [email protected].

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