Over the past few years I’ve grown to appreciate Sandra Yancey as a business women with a lot offer women, and I’m happy to say, she’s also a friend. Read this interview I did with with Sandra Yancey, founder of eWomenNetwork, and you’ll gain a lot of rock solid wisdom about women heading into “the Change.”
Sandra got her start figuring out how she could network on her own and ended up building one of the largest and most decorated business networking organizations in North America. The eWomenNetwork is a multimillion-dollar enterprise in six countries with 118 chapters that helps thousands of women grow their businesses.
Sandra has been named one of the world’s 100 Top Difference Makers by CNN as an American Hero. The eWomenNetwork Foundation has awarded grants to 101 nonprofit organizations and scholarships to 147 emerging female leaders of tomorrow.
Dr. Mache Seibel: Sandra, thank you very much for discussing women, menopause, and work.
Sandra Yancey: Oh, Dr. Mache, thank you. I think what’s most relevant and important for our conversation is that something happens to women once they hit 40. I know the statistics show that we live a lot longer than 80 today, but from a business career perspective, our careers are only half over at 40. And many of us are mothers. I didn’t have my first child until I was 30, my second child when I was 35, so I had them a little bit later than many women. Yet, when I hit 40, I found myself thinking about how I wanted my life to be different than it had been. I begin to think about re-imagining my life.
MS: Did something in particular happen when you turned 40 or did the “Oh, no 4-0” just stare you in the face and you said, “Self, I’m 40. It’s time for me to get my act together.” What happened?
SY: It was the, “Oh, no I’m 4-0.” I had a daughter who was almost 10 and a son half her age. Brianna was about to enter her preteen years, and I thought to myself, “If I do this right, my kids going to be very crystal clear on their purpose and their goals and they’re going to fly the nest and they’re going to live their own life.” And I thought to myself there’s going to be a lot of life left in me.
MS: You were anticipating being an empty nester and rather than wait, you said to yourself, “Where am I, who am I, and what will I be doing?”
SY: Yes, that’s indicative of my style. I’m a big planner. A lot of people announce their resolutions on January 1. I announce mine on October 1, and I spend the last quarter of the year preparing for January 1, so that when the doors open and when the ball comes down I’m off to the races.
MS: A lot of women are struggling because they still provide the bulk of the domestic duties. They’re often the ones that are taking care of their families, their parents as they get older, and they’re trying to succeed in the workplace, How does a woman go from someone who is savvy and smart, but overwhelmed into trying to take her solopreneurship and turn it into something that has the power to be replicable and able to be done again, so that she can serve more people and not retreat from her family?
SY: I love that question because what I’m most passionate about is teaching entrepreneurs how to create a life they love that’s so much more inclusive than just how do you have a multimillion-dollar business.
I think we probably know really successful people who aren’t happy. For me, happiness trumps success. It’s not worth it for me to be financially successful if I’m not happy in my relationships. I have been married to my husband 38 years. My 24-year-old daughter now has her own business. My 20-year-old son is still figuring things out. I have primary responsibility for my mother, who is now in assisted living just two miles from my home. I can easily tend to her medical and financial needs.
I think the answer is learning how to create good boundary management. It’s less about time management and more about boundaries.
MS: You’re talking about “life creep.” There is “work creep” where you keep getting asked to do more, but you’re talking about life creep where your responsibilities become greater.
SY: Exactly. I also think that entrepreneurs often think that, “If I keep it small, then I’ll have more flexibility and more time.” The truth is counterintuitive. The bigger you go, the more time you get back; because the bigger you go, the more revenue you’re generate. Now, you have the resources to hire people to do the things that: 1. You don’t like to do or, 2. You’re simply not good at. Because as a CEO your ultimate goal is to do the things that only you can do.
So, I teach women to think about their plate and not just the one they eat on. I literally have women take paper plates and segment them so that they’re only putting the healthy things on it that will make them happy and enjoying life to the fullest.
Then I ask them to look at the ancillary things that we allow to creep onto our plates that don’t serve us well. Women need to learn how to say, “No.” “No” is a complete sentence. It’s “No.” Period.
It doesn’t mean, “No” forever. It just means, “No, not now. I’m going to focus on what I think is important right now.”
MS: You’re talking about setting limits. You want to fill your metaphorical plate with things that you do that no one else can do and not put a bunch of miscellaneous things onto your plate that someone else really should be doing.
SY: Totally. Let me give you a tactical business tip that everybody can use. Every night before I go to bed, I make a t-chart in my journal. On the left side I write all the things that are important and I put a dollar sign, so it reminds me that these are the things that make the cash register ring. Everything else goes on the right side. I label them distractions – things that may need to get done but distract me from making the cash register ring.
MS: So, it doesn’t mean a thing if the cash register doesn’t ring?
SY: That’s right. It’s not that it doesn’t get done, but we’ve got to figure out, Dr. Mache, as women, how we get things done through others. People say to me, “Well, Sandra that sounds great when you’ve got money, but I’m broke right now. I don’t have the money to go hire other people.” I will say, “Well, then let’s get really creative.” I’m going to look at, for example, my cable bill. “Do I have HBO?” People spend over $100 a month on their cable bill. Maybe there are some things that you can temporarily live without. Do you really need those 4-dollar lattes every morning?
I make my students and my coaching clients in my SOAR program look for ways to cut unnecessary spending and then have them redirect those resources elsewhere.
MS: So, if you don’t need it, delete it.
SY: I love that! “If you don’t need it, delete it,” right?
MS: Yeah, and now you can reuse it for something that has a higher purpose for this particular moment.
SY: Exactly. What if for a hundred days you just got good at saying “no” and maybe you pick up the phone and you call in a few favors. You allow other people to do for you what you have been doing for them? I always say, “Give yourself a hundred days to see 100 percent improvement.” These don’t happen overnight, right?
SY: Thirdly, you can always barter. You can’t sustain a successful business with bartering, but in the beginning when you’re struggling, you can say, “This is my strength and something that I do with great ease and flexibility and speed. I can trade this for something else that I’m not good at or I don’t like,” and make progress while you’re building your revenue.
MS: I would like to ask you a question if you are open to talking about it, and that has to do with the concept of hormones in the transition towards menopause. One of the things that many women do not realize is the impact that this time of life has on their performance in the workplace. What can you tell women about being open to getting their symptoms treated so their symptoms don’t make life and work more challenging?
SY: I would say to treat yourself as you would treat your child. If you saw your child experiencing a symptom that you knew was not in alignment with how the body should be functioning at its optimum best, would you allow that chronic situation to continue over time?
They would not, of course. It’s like getting on a plane, the flight attendant – I don’t care what plane you’re on – always stands up and says, “Should we go through some turbulence on this plane, a little yellow oxygen cup is going to drop out of the ceiling, put it on your mouth first and start breathing and then assist passengers traveling with you.”
We’ve got to learn to start taking care of ourselves. I had less hot flashes but I did experience night sweats. What I can tell you was I realized that the interruption in my sleep was impacting my effectiveness at work, and I knew that my body was going through some shifts and some changes and all I wanted to do was learn what I could do to help minimize them in a way that kept me functioning optimally, not only my sleep but my temperament, my feelings. All of those things that get out of whack when you start to go through menopause.
Going through my change ended up being the most wonderful productive time of my life.
MS: You’re at your peak. You have all your experience, your wisdom. You’re a role model, a mentor; you have a chance to impact your company. But the company can also benefit from your dynamism; it doesn’t go so well when a person is tired, foggy or moody.
SY: Totally. I wouldn’t change this time in my life for anything. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every phase just like I enjoyed all the phases of my children, the pluses and the minuses at times, of course.
But this is a very empowering time, particularly because for most of us we’re ending the child rearing, to take all of that energy and focus and begin to turn it inward and really take responsibility for taking care of ourselves. For no other reason, I want to be a role model for my own daughter.
That means putting yourself on the list, eating well, exercising, and getting good sleep. For me I believe in meditation and reflection, being in gratitude, focusing on the positive. Those are, I think, the ingredients for living not only a healthy life, but living an inspired and inspiring life, and this is a wonderful season.