I recently had the opportunity to interview Megan Macedo. In the interview she shares, among other things, her thoughts on the challenges of being a female entrepreneur and how she deals with stress and overwhelm.
Megan has a marketing consultancy, based in London, UK, which serves people all over the world who are doing the work that matters to them. Megan and her team help with everything from defining your purpose, to crafting your stories and marketing messages, and the technical implementation of your online marketing funnels.
Perry Marshall called Megan the “Brené Brown of marketing.” She writes, speaks and consults about authenticity in marketing and communication, helping individuals and companies be themselves, tell their stories, and create real relationships with their audience. A great way to get to know Megan is to watch her fabulous Becoming Yourself In Your Business film. I highly recommend you take a look.
So, without further ado, here’s the interview. Enjoy!
[Imogen] What’s the number one biggest challenge you have faced as a female entrepreneur?
[Megan] I think the biggest challenge is probably still to come as I don’t have kids yet. It’s something I think about more and more as I get older and have a started to see friends transition into being mothers as well as entrepreneurs. Each seems to find their own rhythm but it doesn’t look easy.
Karren Brady, a well-known businesswoman in the UK, spoke at a conference I was at years ago. She talked about how she only took 3 days off work when she had her first child and I remember being kind of disillusioned by the fact that I couldn’t seem to find any role models who were doing it differently and finding a healthy balance between their business life and their family life. To me, being an entrepreneur is about having the ability to make your work fit your life. Thankfully I’ve now found plenty of women who are creating flexible lives that allow room for both their business and their family.
[Imogen] That’s good to hear. I’m struck by what you say about being an entrepreneur is about having the ability to make your work fit your life. I couldn’t agree more, yet I’m not sure many entrepreneurs do this – women or men. I love the flexibility that having my own business gives me to do things my way. I didn’t have my own business until my son was about 11 or 12, and I was lucky that I was able to start out very gradually. Now my distraction is aging parents who live on a different continent. Fortunately I have the freedom to be able to organize my own time and visit when needed.
What other challenges have there been?
[Megan] When I was first beginning to consult with business owners on their marketing strategy I had a stark reminder from a mentor about what it means to be a woman in business. We were talking about how I could attract more consulting clients and he said, “Unfortunately, most of your target market are men and there are some men who will never pay a woman to consult with them on their business.” Over the years I learned that’s true, but I also learned it’s not really relevant to me because those men are not my target market. If they are the kind of person who thinks like that, they would never be of the right mindset to be interested in marketing in the way I teach.
These days I’m a big believer in the ‘over, under, through’ approach. It’s something Tina Fey talks about in her book, Bossypants as she shares her experience of being a woman in a male dominated industry. She says if you’re up against people who are only ever going to be obstacles for you, don’t try to convince them or change their minds. Instead figure out how you can go over them, around them or through them. She reminds us, “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”
[Imogen] Do you think women face different challenges than men? And if so, in what ways?
[Megan] I do think women face different challenges than men. A couple of months ago I was talking to a woman who works for a non-profit that focuses on women’s issues including things like promoting more female leadership in tech and other industries. We were discussing their marketing strategy to get more individual supporters to donate. I asked who their typical supporters were and she said, “A story we hear again and again from women is that when they were in their twenties they felt like it was a level playing field at work and that they had it pretty much the same as their male counterparts. It was only when they were into their thirties and maybe had kids that they started to realize how different their experience was from men. They’d see careers stall, women being assumed to be ‘out of the game’ when they got past a certain age, and being seen to be ‘falling apart’ if they didn’t do both work and home life perfectly.”
I can relate to that a lot. It can be very subtle and often subconscious but the expectations and judgment that are put on women are very different to men. In general, women are expected to sacrifice their work life more, and men are expected to sacrifice their family life more; there’s no denying that. That doesn’t mean you have to let yourself be defined by it but it’s another thing to navigate in the world of business.
[Imogen] I agree. I saw some statistics recently about the percentage of unpaid work done by men and women in different countries. I can’t remember the exact figures, but, as you might imagine, women do a LOT more unpaid work, in every country in the world. I think this relates to what you are saying.
What has surprised you most about being a female business owner?
[Megan] It might sound naive but I think what has surprised me most is that being a woman in business is a different experience than being a man in business. I grew up with four brothers and had a very firm belief that I could do whatever they could do and our challenges weren’t all that different. Over the years I’ve not only realized that it is a different experience, I’ve also learned that there is a power in acknowledging difference. Our real strengths – in business and life – come from who we are. They come from all of our experiences and our unique story. Being who you are is what sets you apart in business; no one else can knock that off.
[Imogen] I love that. My work, in a very different way from yours, is also about owning, accepting and being your true self. I help my clients shed the layers of tension – their “armor” – that not only causes pain and discomfort in a variety of forms, but also stops them feeling free to be themselves.
What are the physical activities that make up your day? What is your main activity?
[Megan] I don’t do well sitting in front of a computer all day long so I get out and about as much as I can. I write a lot so rather than sitting at my desk all day I’ll do a ‘walk and write’, which is basically a daytime pub or cafe crawl. I’ll write in a cafe for an hour or two, then I’ll walk for twenty minutes or so until I reach another cafe or pub to write in. The walk renews me and gives me time to think through what I’m going to write next. I solve a lot of my business problems with a walk.
[Imogen] Well, as you might imagine, being able to work comfortably at the computer is an issue that comes up a lot with my clients. Taking breaks, and getting up to move, are definitely strategies I recommend. What you’ve come up with is great – and your breaks are outside, which has the added benefit of literally allowing you to widen your horizon. I’m sure that helps your creativity, as well as your ability to feel better physically.
Do you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed?
What sorts of things trigger this for you?
In what ways does this manifest itself in you physically or emotionally?
[Megan] Stress and overwhelm are very familiar to me. Things like impossibly long to do lists and inevitably getting behind schedule make me feel the strain. But also I find that when you take bold steps in your work just the process of showing up and being seen can be emotionally taxing. I think that’s our most difficult work.
I usually realize I’m stressed when I notice I’m struggling to get done things that require any thought. If that happens I’ll just give in to it and take some time to switch off and relax. It sounds counterintuitive because the overwhelm usually comes from having “too much to do” but if I actually stop and take a few hours or a day off, then I’ll come back to my work and actually be able to get through it rather than lose hours going in circles.
[Imogen] That makes perfect sense to me. The time when we most feel we can’t take a break is when we need it most.
Who inspires you and why?
[Megan] Anyone who shows up as their real self in the world is an inspiration to me. I have the privilege of working closely with business owners to help themselves their story and market in a way that is authentic to them, and I learn a lot about them in the process. When I hear what people have come through in their lives and see their willingness to put their humanity into their business and marketing, that inspires me.
[Imogen] What do you do to look after yourself – for self-care, if you like?
What helps you feel good, and be more energized in your business?
[Megan] I live next to a park that’s on a hill and has a nice view across London so I’ll quite often take 20 minutes out of my work day to go and have a walk in the park. I also like to do some free-writing in the morning; I don’t do it religiously but when I do it really helps clear my mind. A big thing for me is regularly talking to people who are also out there doing their work in the world and who can relate to the challenges of running a business. Just being reminded you’re not alone is a very energizing thing I think!
I also take weekends off. In the early years of my business I worked evenings and weekends a lot and all it did was stress me out and slow me down. Taking time completely away from work makes me more productive in the week and lets me actually enjoy my life at the same time.
[Imogen] Interesting. I know that having the support of people who understand and can relate to what I’m going through is really helpful to me. Being a solo entrepreneur can feel especially isolated, so I’m with you about being reminded you’re not alone!
And I also agree about taking time off. It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking breaks from work can be one of the best things we do to improve our productivity.
And now for my last and most important question of all! Are you a cat person or a dog person?
[Megan] Is it possible to be both?!
[Imogen] Well, I guess I’ll allow that. Anyone who knows me, or follows me on Facebook, already knows for sure that I’m a cat person!
Thank you so much, Megan, for doing this interview. I appreciate your insights and hearing about your experiences.
If you’d like to respond to me or Megan, we’d love to hear from you. Please comment in the space below.