Here are the facts:
- Over 80% of women owned businesses don't employ anyone other than the owner,
- The average revenue for a woman led company is under $150K per year -- compared to men at $500K,
- Fourty-four percent of women entrepreneurs say that they are not profitable, and for those who are, it took three or more years to get there.
Bottom line: We've got a long way to go before we can celebrate a city full of robust, profitable and influential woman-owned companies. All these facts lead up to a big opportunity, and a big challenge! How do we help women entrepreneurs reach profitability faster and grow to economic success sooner?
The CUF report ends with recommendations for how the City can help women-led companies succeed: financing, access to capital and mentorship. Now, as CFO on Speed Dial you'd be right in thinking I usually am one to jump right on financing and access to funding. However, as one of 17 mentors in SBS’s new WE Connect mentor program I also understand that some lessons on how to grow a business are really about how to lead.
I recently heard this story from two women business owners I know. Michelle and Janet recently ended up in the midst of an epic game of Bananagrams. Little did the other players know, Michelle is a talented and seasoned Bananagrams player. Not only is she fast, but she has a way of lining the tiles up that led to perfectly straight lines and right angles. Michelle dominated the game. Occasionally someone else would get close, or even win a round. The other players jokingly schemed ways to overthrow her winning streak. But whatever they did, time after time, it would be Michelle’s voice yelling “bananagrams!” indicating she had won the round.
During the game, Janet found herself impressed with Michelle for continuing to win. If the tables were turned, Janet thought she might have spent a few rounds fumbling with tiles, making things a little more challenging for herself, or finding other ways to delay so that her competitors could also take a turn in the limelight. But not Michelle. Instead, she played a brilliant game and inspired the rest of the group for hours as they tried to catch up with her.
What stops women-entrepreneurs from knocking ourselves out of the park? People talk so much about fear of failure, but too often the reverse is also true – we are afraid of success. Rather than let our light shine brightly, we sometimes ask ourselves: “Who am I to be amazing?” “I’m not better than any other woman, or any other entrepreneur.” “What makes me the expert?” And so we take a step back. Or we hesitate. Or we wait until we know more, develop more skills, get another degree or have everything just perfect before we start; and ‘just perfect’ never happens.
The flip side is not only letting yourself be great, but recognizing what you are NOT good at. Sometimes we think that to be successful, we have to do it all, and we have to do it all really well. We stretch ourselves wide and thin, and often end up exhausted and surrounded by chaos.
Erin Benzakein, owner of Floret Flowers, uses a strengths-based approach with her flower farm and floral design business. “Now that I recognize and better understand my strengths, I no longer spend my days struggling to keep up and instead invest my energy and talents where they’ll be the most effective. Hiring capable help in the areas where I’m weak is the greatest gift I’ve given myself.”
In an article in Design Sponge, Erin says: “Accept that you can’t do it all. It is too easy to beat yourself up and believe the myth that you can and must do it all to be successful… Define the parts of your business that you’re really good at and what brings you the most joy, and then hire someone to do all those things that are falling through the cracks and/or you aren’t good at."
Recognizing your strengths means not doing everything yourself. Instead, focus your time and energy on what you do best and find other people to step in where you are not strong. I see so many women entrepreneurs stepping forward and walking a path to success. Let’s each claim our strengths and inspire each other to lead.
At CFO on Speed Dial, our strengths are improving profits and helping companies get the financing they need to grow. If that’s not your strength and you want some help, start with a free Profit Assessment – a 30-minute phone call with me, CFO on Speed Dial.