Women are a big demographic in business.
In fact, the Small Business Association reports that women own slightly more than 8 million small business, according to their 2018 Small Business Profile. Women also launched 1,821 net new businesses a day from 2017 to 2018 per a report commissioned by American Express.
While this growth in women-owned businesses is a 3,000 percent increase since 1972, it doesn't mean that women don't face regular obstacles and challenges. And what's particularly interesting is that these issues can be different when compared to the concerns of their male counterparts.
What concerns today's women business owners? A 2018 report by PlanBeyond identified three key areas that women owners say affect them most as compared with men. Here is a look at these issues and what you can do to overcome them when they arise:
The survey found that women are 21 percent less likely than men to feel optimistic about how their businesses will perform in 2019. The main reason? Money, or lack thereof. The same survey showed that women were 43 percent more likely than men to be concerned about limited access to money or funding.
Every business has money issues at some time, whether it's needing start-up capital, more regular cash flow, or investments in expansions. Yet, women don't have to go the traditional bank-lending route when looking for funding.
Get creative. There are many organizations and foundations that offer funding opportunities specifically for women business owners. For instance: the Female Founders Alliance, 37 Angels, Astia, and Golden Seeds. Other funding options are small business grants, which can provide limited funding without having to worry about investors or repaying loans, such as the Amber Grant, and loans from the Small Business Administration.
And never, ever be afraid to apply. I was a panelist at a conference on this topic, and one of the other women ran a fund. She said that no women applied--only men. When they did more research, they discovered that women looked at the qualifications for the application, and if they missed one of them, they didn't apply. However, men applied even when they didn't have all the qualifications.
2. Marketing skills
When asked which core skills were missing from their organizations, 39 percent of the women surveyed said that they lacked marketing expertise.
Follow the lead of other companies, especially ones you like as well as your competitors, can teach you much about how to improve your business marketing. What do they do that you find attractive as a consumer or potential client? Are their social media or business website presences strong--and if so, what stands out?
I have also found that reaching out more into your business community, like with local or national associations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners, and chambers of commerce, can give you opportunities to talk more about your business and expertise, which can help polish your messaging and communication skills.
It is also valuable to attend marketing and branding conferences. I have gained so much from these events, such as how to properly develop my website based on best practices, create impactful social media strategies, and how to develop a marketing roadmap. Marketing needs thought and discipline. If you don't love it then find a consultant or specialist that will work for you and do it on your behalf.
3. Finding the right employees
A little more than 50 percent of the women business owners surveyed said that finding employees with the right skill set, motivation and drive was a major hiring challenge.
Finding the right people for your business often begins with creating an attractive work culture. Does your work setting and the way you operate reflect your business's mission and your values?
Do you cultivate a culture of work-life harmony where you offer benefits like flex-time, group social outings, or child or pet-friendly work environments? Do you offer opportunities for employees to grow and expand?
If you show potential workers that you are willing to invest in them, you will attract talented people who are highly motivated to help your business to succeed. For instance, when I set up an easy way for people to work remotely, I often can recruit some of the most skilled people because they are able to do their work and also meet the demands of their home lives.
Women entrepreneurs continue to succeed at a growing rate. While they still face many of the same challenges as male business leaders, there are certain areas that for them pose the greatest challenges. By better understanding why these challenges occur and with a little bit of creative thinking, women entrepreneurs can find the right solutions when needed.