Starting a business is a daunting prospect for anyone. In addition, the world of business has been dominated by men for decades, and women face an uphill battle to carve out their own place in the market. As a result, women entrepreneurs cannot afford to be unprepared. There’s so much misinformation out there that can send you down rabbit holes or waste your time.
There is a bright spot though, more women than ever are starting businesses. In fact, 4 out of 10 small businesses are women-owned and we’re growing our share faster than ever, according to a 2018 study commissioned by American Express.
However, if you’re going to do this, you can’t dive in headfirst. It is important to approach a new business with the knowledge gleaned from those who have come before us. Entrepreneurship takes dedication, hard work, and perhaps most importantly, a working knowledge of what it takes to be successful.
These four concepts are essential for any entrepreneurial woman hoping to start a lasting business.
Self-doubt is vital, but too much can be toxic
Every first-time business owner has struggled with that little, nagging voice in their head. What if I fail? What if my idea doesn’t take off? What if I’m not meant to start a business? This feels risky, is it too much?
We may even hear some of these doubts directed at us by friends and family members. It can hurt when a family member or friend expresses concern over your entrepreneurial ideas. It can hurt even more when we let self-doubt or fears overcome us. Don’t give in to the negativity! Make it useful. Introspection allows us to evaluate the quality of our ideas, the feasibility of our plans, and the strength of our commitment.
Refuse to allow these doubts to completely govern all of your decisions. Instead, focus on your customers. What was their experience? What was their feedback? What do they think? In the end if you don’t provide value to satisfied customers, the business will fail.
Another technique that I use myself, is writing down the wins, especially the small ones. Remember to celebrate! What went right? Where was the success? What action helped me get closer to my goals? As humans we’re really good at remembering the negative. Studies suggested that it takes at least 3 positive thoughts to undo a negative one. So, I love writing a weekly wins email to myself to make sure that when things inevitably do go wrong, I can also remember some of the things that went right.
When you make a financial plan, stick to it
No business can be successful without proper financial planning, and entrepreneurship necessitates keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line and the potential for future profits.
Yes, you probably have a business plan that looks at projections for revenue, sales, etc. but do you have a working financial plan that covers your professional and personal finances?
When you become an entrepreneur, your success or failure suddenly becomes very intertwined with your personal finances. For instance, if you haven’t made a plan to cover your basic expenses while you’re in the start-up phase, you might not be able to give your business the time it needs to find success. The bottom line is, if you forget about managing things on the personal side it can jeopardize the success of the business and vice versa.
Establishing a financial plan in the early stages of a business is a must. Every decision you make should be thought of through the lens of your financial plan on the personal and business side. It’s really important to allow for flexibility and to have cash safety nets to protect you from uneven income streams, having a slower than expected quarter or having a product/service flop. The “risk” we all fear starting a business can be mitigated by proper financial planning.
Don’t view sales as evil or scary
If you break it down into its simplest task this is all sales is: Confidently talking about why you do what you do and why it’s important to the customer.
You can’t be afraid of sales, but you don’t have to use that word if it seems scary. Sales is more about sharing, connecting, and listening than anything else. If you work on those skills, you’ll be great at getting new clients and customers. There’s not necessarily a magic formula either. Chances are you’re already pretty great talking about why you decided to do what you’re doing, now you have to make it relevant to your ideal client.
Practice helps create more confidence and confidence is a key success factor with sales.
When setting goals, strike a balance between practicality and optimism
Setting business goals can be complicated. Many first-time business owners either underestimate or overestimate the potential of their business, and this miscalculation can cause major headaches later on. It is always better to err on the side of caution, but not at the expense of future success. Starting off, set modest goals. Associate each goal with experiments that prove whether your hunches are right or wrong. As time goes on you will have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t and will have the flexibility to adjust your short and long-term goals accordingly.
This is process is known as “the pivot.” Start by breaking your big, audacious goals down into smaller manageable goals and tasks. Resist the urge to achieve them all at once (or over the course of 1-2 months), which can create costly mistakes if your hunches are wrong. Instead, as you achieve the little things, allow time to see and reflect on the results — did it move the needle? Did you sell more? Reach more people? If the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, pivot and try something else.
Small mistakes are much less costly than big ones with big investments attached to them.
We’ve all seen the dismal Small Business Administration statistics that show only half of businesses will make it past the 5-year mark. Don’t let these statistics deter you. Most businesses that fail don’t have a sustainable plan in place, haven’t focused on true customer needs, and they don’t have a support network to lean on. You should absolutely explore starting your business, but you need a plan.
Are there any more important points that you think women entrepreneurs should know? Tell us your thoughts.