I’ve come to the very speculative conclusion that women owners who hesitate to take the Next Big Step to grow their business may be hampered by misperceptions about how growth is accomplished.
As Jodi Glickman suggests in her recent HBR article, women focus on what they lack, not on what they have. And if women don’t have it all — everything that is required to do the job — they don’t apply for a job. By comparison, men with only half the qualifications asked for will present themselves as ideal candidates.
It’s a matter of perception: half full or half empty?
I think women may view their ability to grow their companies in the same way they view their qualifications for a job: all or nothing. They see the long list of tasks needed to grow a business and base their decision to forge ahead on whether they can do it all. The answer, not surprisingly, is “probably not,” making the undertaking seem too risky.
Looking at the same list of challenges, a man is more likely to think, “I can do half of this stuff and I’ll find someone else to do the rest.” Not so scary that way.
Be a coach, not a mom: Build a team instead of doing it all yourself.
Adopt the attitude of Talia Mashiach, CEO and founder of Eved, an online event planning service, who says that the most important lesson she’s learned as an entrepreneur is that “You can’t get to your end goal doing it all by yourself." Having mentors, investors and, most importantly, clients that are going to be there to support you and help you get there is the most important thing I’ve learned.”
If you see your job as being everything and doing everything, that’s overwhelming. You realize you don’t have — check all that apply — the time, money, expertise, childcare, bandwidth, range of skills needed to take your business to the next level. So the leap upwards is too high to try.
But you don’t need to be able to check all the boxes yourself in order to grow your business. You need to know how to identify what you don’t have and hire a team that fills the gaps.
Far too many women don’t ask for help, whether it’s a bowl of chicken soup when they’re sick or help estimating project cost. They expect to do it all and, just to make it a little more overwhelming, to take on any extra load when it arises, whether childcare or finding a larger office.
The women I’m interviewing who have made it to the $1-million, $2-million or $10-million revenue mark did ask for help. Yes, they are all the prime movers-and-shakers who worked excruciating hours and risked their financial futures to build their businesses. But every one of them mentioned other people who had made it all come out right in the end:
- a supportive spouse who held up half the home front
- a partner who bucked them up when they were down and vice versa, and who had the skills they lacked (and vice versa again)
- a team of accountants, lawyers, and other business advisors
- networks of other business owners with whom they could brainstorm about problems
- creative employees who came up with ideas to move the business forward
No one mentioned all of the above but all of them mentioned some of the above, with heartfelt gratitude for the help given. Growing a business is a lot like raising a child: It takes a village. You can’t do it alone, whether you are a man or a woman.
Maybe the way to push women to take the upward leap is to remind them that there is a village out there that can and will help their baby grow.