By Stephanie Ward
Whatever the reason for starting a business, there are several important tips that apply to everyone. Unfortunately, some women’s ability to execute the advice may be hampered by their own underlying beliefs.
Many women and men are drawn to starting an enterprise because of the desire for independence and the opportunity to reach big goals. Drivers include entrepreneurial passion, personal reward, the need for a portable career, a wish to escape dissatisfaction in the workplace or simply to have flexibility and create a good work-life balance.
But does advice for men and women who want to start a business differ in any way?
Joan Raymond asked the question in a 2008 Newsweek article: “Are men smarter than women? No. But they sure think they are. An analysis of some 30 studies by British researcher Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London, shows that men and women are fairly equal overall in terms of I.Q. But women, it seems, underestimate their own candlepower (and that of women in general), while men overestimate theirs.”
Who is smarter, women or men, isn’t the point. It’s about acknowledging and embracing the capabilities that each person actually possesses.
Furnham continues: “Men aren’t more clever or smarter. But since they think they are, they are more confident about their abilities. These self-beliefs, however, may be highly adaptive. Who gets a job? A bright woman who doesn’t think she’s smart, or a not-so-bright man who believes he’s capable of anything? Arrogance and hubris are not attractive qualities, but confident, self-belief may be. Certainly, underestimating abilities might hurt you. There’s a good quote from one of your countrymen, Henry Ford. He says: ‘Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.’ And that is what is troublesome. Beliefs may be more important than actual ability in certain settings.”
Matching Confidence with Capability
Furnham was referring to “who gets the job” but could easily have said “who starts a successful business.” Advice for women who want to start their own business is generally the same as for men.
But, keeping in mind that women tend to underestimate their brilliance, one difference would be that women need to make sure their confidence level matches their true capability. Confidence goes a long way to create credibility, something that every business owner must have.
If this generality doesn’t apply to you and you feel super-confident, then there is nothing to stop you from moving forward and creating a successful business. And who knows? Perhaps you can inspire other women who aren’t as confident to connect to their true value.
Write Down the Vision You Have for Your Business
It’s important to know where you are going. Getting your thoughts down on paper is an excellent way to clarify what you want for your business. Think big and be willing to imagine large possibilities. Having a vision will also help you through the tough periods when you wonder why the heck you started a business in the first place (alas, it’s not always pure bliss).
Create a Rock-Solid Business Model
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not uncommon for people to have an idea for a business and yet not be clear about how exactly it will make money. Your business model doesn’t have to be a lengthy business plan but it does need to contain concrete information about how revenue will be generated and how much profit will be earned.
Have a Clear Niche and Target Group
Trying to be everything to everyone simply doesn’t work. Clarify what problems your business solves and for which specific group it solves them. By focusing on one group, creating a profitable business becomes much easier. Having a niche and a target group will allow you to grow faster and you will create expert status for yourself through your business.
Realize How Critical Marketing is, and the Amount of Time it Takes
Many business owners think they are in the business of delivering products or services their business provides. But actually, you are in the business of marketing the products and services your business offers. And yes, if you are a one-person business you will have to both market and deliver. Starting out, you can estimate spending 50 percent of your time on marketing. If you don’t want to do it (or know you won’t do it), hire someone. The point is, it has to get done.
Have a Franchise Mentality From the Start
Even it you have no intention to franchise your business, if you design it in a way so that it could be franchised, you will make life much simpler for yourself. This concept is all about creating systems and procedures so that things flow easily and you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. After all, you want to create a business, not a job. An exceptional resource on this topic is the book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
by Michael Gerber. A must-read for any business owner.
As a business owner you wear many different hats. And while that can be exciting, it is easy to get distracted and end up spending time on things that are not going to move your business forward. Identify the high payoff activities and plan them into your schedule.
Be Willing to Outsource
You don’t have to do it all yourself. In fact, in time you’ll find that it’s nearly impossible to do so. Begin by outsourcing tasks like administration, tax/accounting, and technical issues. As your business grows, you may want to hire employees or contract people for support in more expanded roles within the business.
Make Your Business Bigger and Portable Using the Internet
If you’re like many female entrepreneurs, you have lived in many cities (or countries) and you are likely to be moving again in the future. By marketing on the Internet you create a portable business you can take with you wherever you go. And even if you plan to stay put, you can dramatically increase the reach of your business by having an Internet presence and marketing online.
Avoid Isolation, Get Support
Starting your own business can feel lonely at times. Women are experts at creating connections and networking, so be willing to get out there and meet new people. Support can come from many sources. You can create a group of fellow entrepreneurs that meets regularly (in person or virtually on the phone/video Skype) to discuss and share ideas. And if you can’t meet in real time because of your location, don’t worry. There are many ways you can meet new people virtually. There are forums and blogs where you can interact and connect with people. And of course, there are all of the most well-known social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn just to name a few. And you can get one-on-one support and guidance by finding a mentor or hiring a coach.
Don’t Wait Until You Feel 100% Ready
Do the necessary research and preparation before starting your business, but do not fall into the trap of waiting until you know “everything” before you start. This is where the lack of confidence can delay, or arrest the decision to begin your own business. There will always be more to learn and some things you can’t learn until you actually begin.
© Stephanie Ward, 2010.
Stephanie Ward is a marketing and business coach for entrepreneurs and the author of a free special report, 7 Steps to Attract More Clients in Less Time, which is available for free at her website, www.fireflycoaching.com.