An article in the Washington Post outlines why more business are being destroyed in America than created.
In spite of this, women entrepreneurship is on the rise in America. That might seem like great news to our economy. However, this Economist article explains while women own almost 3 in 10 American firms, they only employ 6% of the country's workforce and account for barely 4% of business revenues. In short, women aren't taking their businesses to the next level.
Women In The Game, But Not Playing All Out
As a female entrepreneur, I can tell you my peers and I are struggling with one or more of the following:
- Not having the skills, information, or resources to take their companies to a higher level.
- Anxiety over how people might react to their aspirations.
- Not wanting to fail publicly or let anybody down.
- Concerns around negatively impacting relationships with family and friends.
- An inability to manage other responsibilities in life, including their own health.
- Lack of funding.
- No blueprint to push through the business and societal barriers to female entrepreneurship.
All valid reasons to say, "I think my small business is just fine the way it is." While I don't expect every female entrepreneur to become the CEO of a large company, I do think we should pay more attention to providing women the means to realize their potential.
7 Ways Women Entrepreneurs Can Up-Skill
I am always trying to cope with the barriers listed above. I don't have all the answers, but I can say the following tips have helped me stay in the game:
1) Seek Out Your Tribe - I started my business in 2001 when I left Corporate America to be with my first child. Without a set of colleagues to collaborate with, I knew I wanted to build relationships with women who had the same aspirations as me. I didn't find many in my local area. Thus, social media played a major role in my ability to connect with women entrepreneurs. One such person is Sramana Mitra. I met her via an online weekly meeting she hosts for entrepreneurs. She was the one who encouraged me not to seek funding and to bootstrap my company to profitability so I could retain full control of my business. Her book, "Feminine Feminism," offers women real-life examples of the personal and professional journeys of female entrepreneurs who are now CEOs of million dollar companies.
2) Treat Every Obstacle Like a Research Project - Whenever I hit a major roadblock in my business, I go into research mode. I've always found the answers by talking to people who are experts in their fields and can relate to my challenge. Usually, within five conversations, I've got new information and ideas to get me on track. I will be forever grateful to the people in my past (and future) who agreed to have coffee or a call with me. They are my game-changers!
3) Level-set Before Moving On - Each time my business grows, it comes with a new set of activities that are time-consuming. When I find myself over-worked and scattered, it's a signal I need get my skills to the point where the situation feels manageable. Several times in the development of my business I've turned down opportunities because I knew I wasn't level-set to handle them. Which leads to the next tip...
4) Run a Marathon, Not a Sprint - Growing a business doesn't have to be like what we saw in, "The Social Network." We can take our time, but we shouldn't stop moving forward either. In business, my father always said, "If you aren't growing, you're dying," I'm constantly looking for ways to grow my business - but on my own terms. I'd rather take my time and finish the race than get injured and bow out.
5) Sleep On Every Emotional Decision - Don't let tough blows and unexpected issues make you react too strongly or quickly. There have been plenty of times in my entrepreneurial life when I've thought, "I can't do this!" Those days happen. I've come to learn when I'm emotional, I need to step back and let things settle down. When I give myself time to get the feelings and situation in check, I'm able to make better decisions and take more appropriate actions. A time-out is a female entrepreneur's friend!
6) Accept You'll Make Mistakes - This is so tough for women! We want to be perfect and never let anyone down. My decision to grow my business came with the acknowledgement I was going make more mistakes. My mantra and is, "Experience = Learn = Grow." Being too hard on yourself will kill your confidence. Don't let it! Business success is directly tied to our ability to believe in ourselves 200%.
7) Don't Let Loss-Aversion Hold You Back - The only thing women entrepreneurs fear more than letting people down is losing everything. As the business grows, it gets easier to say, "I should be grateful for what I've got." It's human nature to work harder to keep what we have instead of focusing on how to create even more success on our own terms. However, this is a business-limiting mindset that can stifle a female entrepreneur's ability to reach new levels of growth.
I hope this article inspires more female entrepreneurs to see how far they can take their businesses. Ladies, the world could benefit greatly from our willingness to build bigger companies!