It is possible to achieve success in men's business. But not right away...

Resource: Expert Online

Julia Zubarik, founder of the urban planning bureau MASTER'S PLAN


Starting something new is always difficult. I decided to open my own bureau in 2011, and only now I can appreciate what it is like to start a business in almost entirely male sectors - architecture and urban planning. However, the gender component of the business is only part of the difficulties.

Struggle for Reputation

I will start with what was easiest: gaining the trust and reputation of customers. It turned out that it didn't matter who was doing the project, male or female, it was the result that mattered. And I vouched for the result with my head, and there was no case that I and my company failed the customer. That is why they, who are in fact the main people in any business process, started to trust me almost immediately.

It was a little more difficult with partners-architects and officials. Especially the bureaucrats. No, they did not build any intrigues or put obstacles in my way, but they treated me with, shall we say, condescension. Yes, it took time before they began to take me seriously, and I am glad that this time has finally come.

By the way, an interesting point - before opening my own business, I worked at the state Institute of General Plan as an ordinary specialist, and I had no problems neither with interaction with customers, nor with communication with the professional community. And I only now understand why - I did not encroach on the "male" territory of making money. It turns out that this can cause mixed reactions in a male environment. Nevertheless, I have never met any blatant "monsters" who would dream of destroying my career just because I am a woman.

Six years after founding the bureau it is of course much easier for me: a lot of architects already know how we work, they know that they can trust us unconditionally and they propose joint projects. They are ready to communicate in a professional manner and watch my public appearances, and they openly say, "I want to work with Zubarik on this project. I'm glad, I understand that we earned this through hard and honest work.

Women are "people of the world"

Of course, a woman in a big business will always have a slightly different style than a man - just as far as the conduct of business is concerned. I, for example, always try to reconcile everyone, to smooth out conflicts, even if I understand that I will have to pay for some compromise solution. I reconcile everyone - the investor and the city authorities or the communal service and the architect. I always try to hear people and understand why they insist on this or that decision. And then, having understood the goals, I do my job exactly as they expect. In general, since I started my own business, I have come to an unexpected conclusion: women entrepreneurs do business much less aggressively than men. Strange as it may seem, but in women's business you will not find so much meanness, intrigue and some backstabbing games as in men's business.

And if a woman, especially a young woman, is thinking about opening her own business - I would advise you first to find allies in the same industry. Let you support at least two or three people, no matter how - in word, deed, valuable advice. I was lucky - in the beginning I learned from great professionals, still am very grateful to them. It would be very difficult to be all alone. And then you must wisely assemble your team. Here, too, not everything can work out right away - when I first started gathering professionals in the office, I had a lot of blunders, I was looking for people through job sites, but I did not understand who exactly I needed, with what knowledge and competencies. Only with experience did it become clear what our company's requirements for employees should be. I think the situation is the same in other industries - many nuances emerge only with time.

You can be a lady, or you can be... you.

The style of behavior during a negotiation always depends on who exactly you are talking to. Yes, of course, in most cases it makes sense to remain a girl - sometimes it helps to reverse the decision in your favor, especially if the interlocutor thinks that the "girl" will be easy to "sell". In this situation, you first get more concrete feedback (because the interlocutor easily lets his guard down in such a situation), and second, you have more room for maneuvering.

But sometimes there are negotiations when it is better to be yourself, it's easier and more productive. As a rule, with those who have known me for a long time and trust me, I don't have to play. However, it seems to me that I am not very good at playing or lying, it's all written on my face.

Learn from moms

There are not many examples of purely female business in architecture and urban planning. Perhaps one of the most famous and successful individuals is Zaha Hadid, a unique woman, the only one, as far as I remember, who was awarded the Pritzker Prize: it is given for achievements in architecture. But I have my own example of a successful woman entrepreneur in front of me: my mother. In the Soviet years she was trained as a technologist and dealt with chemical fibers, and after perestroika, when opportunities opened up to create her own business, she founded a company supplying synthetic fibers to the countries of the former Soviet Union. That was the most interesting time for me - I used to visit her office, watched how she communicated with people, how attentively she treated them, how responsibly she worked with customers. Now my mom is retired, but I'm glad I learned so much from her. Those who know both my mother and me say that I am like her in my habits and manner of speaking. I think that her experience helps me a lot in the development of my business.