Monday, June 21, 2010

Ah, to be the bosswoman

While the past few weeks have been a steady continuation of making great cheese meet wonderful cheese freaks, there have also been many reality checks around what it really means to be "the boss". Since I know I have readers out there who are interested in potentially starting their own shop some day, I figure it's more than worthwhile to share some insights on this otherwise incredibly droll subject.

When you open your own business, regardless of industry or trade, you suddenly take on a ton of responsibility that is pretty delicate in nature. You may be the boss, but really every person you make a transaction with is the boss, plain and simple. It's definitely an odd feeling to have so much and yet so little power all at the same time. While I am the end where the buck stops to my employees, and to some degree, my suppliers, I am on the other end of the spectrum in relationships with customers and neighbors. I would definitely say that if you've never managed subordinates in one way or another, you'll be ill-prepared to run your own show. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, I've known a handful of people who just have the type of personality that lends itself to assuming authority without being an asshole - a very delicate balance indeed. One thing that I've noticed, as much as I absolutely abhor making generalizations based on gender, is that men are given much more wiggle room when it comes to asserting themselves in the workplace. I don't agree with it, I really wish it wasn't this way, but the fact remains that when a man is in charge and asserts himself in the eyes of those under him and his equals, he can get away with a lot more and still remain simply assertive and demanding of respect. When a woman does the same thing, it's a fine, fine line between asserting the power she has in her position and being perceived as a squaking, arms-flapping, irrational bitch.

I've crossed this line a few times in the past few weeks, and while I'll save you all the details, it's overwhelmingly frustrating. You speak up for yourself diplomatically over and over again, it repeatedly falls on deaf ears, and when you finally decide that enough's enough and make a more bold statement in the spirit of finally being heard, suddenly you go from being seen as a Cathy to The Chicken Lady. If only I could lay fresh eggs!

And so it goes. I knew I'd come up against situations in which I'd feel my novice status reeking off me like onion breath, so it's not a huge surprise, but it still sucks.

On the positive side, I have the pleasure of being "the boss", of some really amazing employees. I seriously could not be operating without them, and I am forever grateful that they happened up on me right out of the starting gate. I've been through the hiring process before in several different jobs, however I was never the final say in who got the job. I've always been one who leans towards hiring for personality; learning curves are learning curves no matter how much experience a person brings to the table, but if you can't work well together then what's the point? I've looked for people with a passion for cheese and personalities much like my own; vibrant, friendly, and hard-working. So far, so good, and just two months in I already have a full day off that I can enjoy stress-free knowing that my shop is being cared for by people who mirror my own level of commitment as much as I could possibly ask. So cheers, Calf & Kid Cheese Vixens!

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