3 Mindset Shifts For Female Founders

August 8, 2019/ by Tara McMullin, Founder and CEO of What Works

When I started my business, I looked at it like a math problem or a logic puzzle. I figured that if I got the right ideas in the right places, and made sure the numbers added up, my business would be successful. It seemed like that was true for a long time. Our revenue went up year after year, our clients were happy, and my own influence grew and grew.


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Despite all of that, I could tell things weren’t working quite right. I never felt like I got into a real groove. I felt like things could collapse at any given time. Outwardly, the company was succeeding. Inwardly, we were struggling. I wanted a business that was as structurally sound as it was financially successful, and I wanted to be the leader this kind of business needed. It turns out business is more than numbers and strategy. The more I talked with other successful women business owners, the more I realized that my mindset was preventing me from building the business I desired. At this point, I wasn’t the leader my business really needed. But I could become her.

Tara McMullin in the mountains

Tara McMullin

So, I set about examining the beliefs, mental habits, and assumptions that were controlling the way I approached my business. The result has been a complete turnaround in how my company runs and the quality of the work we produce.

Here are 3 of the most important mindset shifts I’ve made to level-up as a female founder in business:

1. Discipline is What You Do, Not Who You Are

I used to horrify my team by bringing up a new, brilliant idea every few weeks. I loved working spontaneously and constantly keeping my eye out for the next great opportunity. Of course, my spontaneity and seemingly endless flexibility meant constantly changing our systems and plans. We could never work ahead or streamline our processes because I was always changing things up.


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The truth is, flying by the seat of my pants was exhausting for me, too. I looked around at successful women business-owners and longed to be the kind of disciplined, routine-following people they were. So, I started experimenting with adherence to structure. Instead of first tackling discipline in my business, I tackled it with exercise. I set a goal of waking up earlier, getting out of bed more quickly, and starting every day with movement.

Soon, morning exercise became a non-negotiable, ingrained habit. As my new exercise habit started to solidify, I noticed I started showing up in my business in a different way, too. I was more prepared for difficult decisions, I was better equipped to show up and share my work on a daily basis, and I was more capable of enduring a big project. I realized that I didn’t have to be born a person who loves structure and discipline to fall in love with the results that building structure could create for me.

A car driving through the mountains

Image Courtesy of Tara McMullin

Today, I embrace planning ahead, establishing working systems, and following routines—and the result has been a more resilient and successful business.

2. Less Attachment, More Commitment

Early on in my journey as a business owner, I was attached to the outcomes I worked towards with clients and customers. If they didn’t succeed, I assumed it was a personal failing. Of course, this led me to a pattern of over-delivering and feeling overwhelmed. I worked overtime, not just to avoid my own failure but to avoid my customers’ failures too.

This seems to be a pretty common scenario for female founders. It seems many of us prioritize others’ needs over our own. Either way, it’s not sustainable. This level of attachment can only lead to burn-out. The shift I made was realizing that I could still commit to success for me, my business, and my clients without attaching my personal worth to whether or not certain expectations were met.


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Instead, I could see outcomes—met or unmet—as a reflection of my process. If an outcome wasn’t met, I could analyze my process objectively, look for places where my team or I could do better, and adjust for the future. This subtle but impactful shift has helped us create more robust systems and processes in the business while also reclaiming personal time for myself.

3. Embracing Hard Work Instead of Aiming for Easy

I always assumed that the right work for me to be doing would come easily to me. So, every time I bumped up against something in my business that felt hard and required effort, I’d go in a different direction. 

A few years ago, I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t that “hard” was a reason to stop. It was a reason to check in, recommit to the work, and embrace the effort it took to strive towards mastery. Or, as one of the running coaches I follow puts it, “The real workout starts when you want to stop.”

Whether in my life, business, or fitness practice, I now pay close attention to the times I want to quit so that I can decide instead to push forward towards my goals.

Tara McMullin looking at her phone

Addressing my mindset has been the missing piece to my business growth.

While I continue to examine my strategy and make sure the numbers add up, I spend an equal amount of time working to get my head in the game. I don’t just look to emulate the nuts and bolts of how other businesses have succeeded; I examine why their leaders made the decisions they did and how their mindset might be different than mine.

Each mindset shift I make is one step closer to my ultimate goals.

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Tara McMullin is an entrepreneur, podcast host, and community builder. She is the Founder & CEO of What Works, a podcast and community for small business owners.