The days when people raised their eyebrows at a woman claiming to be an entrepreneur are, thankfully, almost gone. Things are changing for the better – in fact, over 1 million SMEs in the UK are run by women. More and more women are launching start-ups and quite a few large organisations are launching initiatives that support female small business owners. My name is Jeremy Powers and this post is, as you can see, targeted at female entrepreneurs. I’ll do my best to provide you with some strategical tips and advice for running a company.
In order to understand the best approaches female entrepreneurs can take, it is best to take a look at the reasons why women leave large companies to become entrepreneurs or launch start-ups instead of getting a job with an organisation. To be fair, their reasons are quite similar to those of male entrepreneurs’ – both segments are looking for greater flexibility and a higher degree of control in their professional lives, to explore new professional and personal horizons, to achieve their goals, and to be their own boss, amongst other things. It is, however, true, that women do tend to be more passionate about their own companies than men – while men see owning a business as just another job, women tend to view it as a big part of their lives, something they genuinely care about. And this is where male and female entrepreneurs’ strategies for running a company differ.
I’ve previously spoken about the importance of networking, and I won’t hesitate to stress it again – networking is the one thing entrepreneurs in this day and age simply can’t get wrong. This applies equally to male and female business owners. There are quite a few events in many industries, for example technology and law, that celebrate the achievements of notable women in these industries, and I do advise that you try and attend them in order to meet fellow female entrepreneurs that could be a source of advice and support, as well as to hear inspiring women of your industry speak. For example, awards like First Women Awards that celebrate successful women and what they’ve done for the UK economy are a great place of making your own network of successful women that could get you very far. Men might believe that their “gentlemen’s clubs” are the ones in charge, but I’ve never seen a team of successful women fail.
Self-Confidence is the Key
Being confident is always the key to success. I’ve spoken about networking in the previous paragraph but I’ll also mention another benefit of it here – the inspiring women who attend would almost definitely inspire you and make you believe that you can achieve what they’ve achieved. They haven’t gotten where they did without good levels of confidence combined with the support of their fellow female entrepreneurs, and there’s nothing to stop you from being just as confident and receiving just as much support. You can do it!
That being said, don’t be too over-confident. Despite the high levels of experience, skills and knowledge that you undoubtedly possess, you don’t know everything. You will learn with experience but at the start, the gaps are unavoidable. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your fellow industry peers for help. I wouldn’t advice against getting a mentor either, particularly if you’re completely new to the industry. If you genuinely believe that your business ideas are amazing, chances are that someone else might believe that too and be more than happy to extend their helping hand of support and guidance.
Effective Networking and Marketing
Self-promotion is also a very important thing you should be doing, both during networking events and via various social media platforms. Chances are that over half of your target audience don’t attend networking events and instead, look for potential sellers via Google, Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, you can’t really afford to skimp on that and need to maintain some sort of an online presence. Social media and the Internet in general is currently a hugely lucrative marketing and distribution channel for almost all companies and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to decrease anytime soon in the next decade. If you have different marketing channels that seem particularly lucrative, it goes without saying that you should develop and execute a solid marketing strategy for them as well. Shyness and modesty don’t come across too well across any channels – don’t be afraid to engage in self-promotion. If you don’t promote yourself, how would your prospective customers know that your product is better than your competitors’?
If you’re a sole trader and your business is doing really well, it’s very possible that it would be doing even better within the next few months. In fact, it’s entirely possible that you might have to hire some people in order to manage the workload and the increasing number of clients. When you’re hiring someone for your company for the first time, it’s very tough to find the people who correspond with your vision of the business and unfortunately, as your company grows, so does the list of the requirements your ideal candidate must meet. Not only do they have to be skilled, knowledgeable and professional, but their values must also match the company’s for a relationship that’s as mutually beneficial as possible. I don’t have the magical formula for hiring the perfect candidates, nor do I recommend seeking one – everyone is different and most candidates that you interview would be likely to bring something to your company. It is up to you to come up with a great recruitment strategy that would both attract the right candidates and make your company, with all the risks associated with a small business, attractive to them. Make sure that they know the advantages of working for you rather than for a larger organisation.
Once your chosen candidates join your company, you should never forget that they are also people, like you, who have dreams and aspirations. A true entrepreneur doesn’t dismiss those aspirations but strives to provide the best ways for her people to realise them in the course of their work. That is truly the best motivating factor for most people, and you need to ensure that your company doesn’t fall back on that. Investing in your people’s hopes and aspirations is what’s going to keep your company going in the short term as well as in the long term. You also shouldn’t forget that they’re not going to perform their tasks perfectly and sometimes their personal lives (sickness or certain events) would interfere with their jobs. You need to emphasise that you’re going to be supportive to the best of your ability in those scenarios and let them know that help would be provided if asked.
I genuinely believe that the advice I’ve given you in this post can be applied to both female and male entrepreneurs and the way they launch and run their respective companies. However, given that female entrepreneurs view their businesses slightly differently than their male counterparts, the advice I’ve given places a greater emphasis on how to foster relationships within the company and outside it for the benefit of the company. Professional relationships are the key to making it in the commercial world today, and since female entrepreneurs tend to want their company to do as well as possible, I believe that this advice is applicable to them in particular.