Women entrepreneurs are coming into their own, there’s no denying it. According to a recent FOX Business report, nearly half of all new businesses in this country are launched by women.Unfortunately, a second statistic follows hard on the heels of this encouraging news—businesses launched by men are three-and-a-half times more likely to reach $1 million in annual revenue.
Yet for those women who get off on the right foot, the sky’s the limit. According to a recent Forbes article, “elite women-owned businesses — those earning $10 million in revenue annually — are growing in numbers almost 50% faster than $10 million business in general and nearly 100% faster than all women-owned businesses.” Clearly, while gender can be a factor to contend with when launching a business, it doesn’t have to be the deciding factor. So what’s a budding female entrepreneur to do? In many instances, what comes naturally.
Capitalize on your strengths
In a recent Forbes articles, contributor Geri Stengel identifies a series of practices that she believes successful women entrepreneurs leverage to great advantage:
- Participate in peer advisory groups: Entrepreneurs learn by doing and women entrepreneurs who surround themselves with other, like-minded individuals get a serious leg up on the competition. Indeed, according to a survey by Vistage, companies that participated in peer advisory groups saw measurable improvements in revenue.
- Use emotional intelligence (EI): Emotional intelligence varies between men and women—generally speaking, women tend to be more supportive and nurturing, while men are more analytical and systems oriented. Successful female entrepreneurs employ a blend of these two styles.
- Seek outside funding: According to Stengel, women may “undernourish their businesses by not seeking outside financing.” This is not entirely their fault—a recent Business Insider piece notes that venture capitalists don’t respect women, particularly those with non-technical backgrounds. But successful female entrepreneurs remain sensitive to these potential barriers and push past them, and they are increasingly finding support.
- Participate in training and formal networks for high growth women-led companies: In recent years, several companies have emerged (including Astia and Springboard Enterprises) whose sole raison d’être is to provide “leadership training, access to capital, and connections to accelerate the growth of women-led companies. Find out what they have to offer.
- Make strategic use of mentors, advisors, and connections: Work your network wisely. Go where the power brokers congregate and avail yourself of the opportunities that your mentors and connections offer. In her recent WE interview, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson recalls an opportunity offered by her mentor John Rogers that set her on the path to success.
- Increase visibility: Put yourself in situations where you can gain exposure for yourself and your business. Competitions such as the Ernest & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program are a great place to showcase your talents.
According to Sharon Hadary & Laura Henderson’s recent book, How Women Lead, there are additional strategic practices that can go a long way toward ensuring your success. Among those that Stengel calls out in her recent Forbes piece:
- Empower the woman leader within. We’re all familiar with the now-hackneyed phrase, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” John Gray was talking about relationship styles, but not surprisingly, differences between men and women extend into other areas. In leadership as in life, women tend to collaborate, include others in their decision-making process, and listen intently to those around them. As it turns out these traits also serve them well in the global economy.
- Own your destiny: To succeed you have to want it badly and be willing to risk it all to achieve your goals. Complacency has no place in the entrepreneurial equation.
Alejandra Villagra, Head of Product Development at Citi Velocity summed it up beautifully when asked what advice she would give to her younger self: “Having an entrepreneurial spirit will serve you well in any work environment. An idea you believe in and the willingness to take risk can yield great things. You might learn something new, gain valuable experience, make money for you or your company, or earn deep personal pride and satisfaction. And, whether your available resource is time, money or political or emotional capital, invest it consciously; it isn’t free.”