As a female entrepreneur, actually just as an entrepreneur, and married to an entrepreneur, I’ve learned a lot of things about how to take an idea and turn it into a great business. But the rate at which women-owned businesses fail is disturbing. According to CNBC, around 20% of small businesses fail in the first year and half do not survive beyond five years.
At SAMC we often have women come to us after leaving a corporate job who want to take their skills and turn them into a business. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes it makes no sense. Why? They’re trying to build it from the inside out to find clients.
To go forward you sometimes need to go backward
At this point, what we suggest to these women entrepreneurs is to go backward. As Blue Ocean Strategists, we see the world in terms of unmet needs and nonusers, where there are opportunities if you don’t think inside out, but outside in. This is a very interesting exercise that we often use with our clients, both women and men. What we find is that with women entrepreneurs, the anxiousness around starting a business often interferes with their ability to see opportunities. And that’s all an entrepreneur has: opportunities to take an idea and see it through a fresh lens.
I’ll give an example. A woman came to us having had a good career in a software company. She thought her techniques and talent would be great for others who were looking for new software development. Her concept was to find others like herself, perhaps freelancers, and to help them put together a scalable business. Sounded fine as a starting point.
Entrepreneurs, especially women, need to be the only, not just another
As we listened to her story, we learned that what she really wanted was to create another business just like others she had worked at or knew about. This was comfortable to her. And familiar. But it wasn’t terribly innovative. What we decided to do was to work together to try and reframe her ideas into something like a “new sandbox,” not just another.
As it came together, what was clear was that she had a very powerful story about why her approach would give businesses speed and ease in developing what they thought they needed. Then the time came to go to market. As she began to tell her story, she saw how it would resonate with customers. But it wasn’t that they were buying her technique. They were looking for and buying her talent. The story became all about her approach to, vision for, and ability to deliver. Her business grew and she prospered without ever wavering from her story.
This could be you or anyone. Here are the 10 qualities that we see in driving success for entrepreneurs. Take a look and think about where you are in your own journey as a woman who wants to create a business in an entrepreneurial fashion. Maybe you don’t want to just be a small business, maybe what you really want is to be a creator of a business that adds value, innovatively. Use this list to propel you on your way.
10 qualities that help determine success for female entrepreneurs:
- Visionary: Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how to get there is crucial. Women who are able to think big and set ambitious goals are more likely to succeed because they have a clear road map.
- Leadership: The ability to lead, inspire and motivate others cannot be underestimated. To grow a successful company, you must be a great leader but you must also have great followers. Women who are able to clearly communicate their vision and lead their team with confidence and purpose are the ones who go far.
- Innovation: Entrepreneurs must be innovative thinkers who constantly seek out new ideas and opportunities. Look for new solutions, new ways to solve customers’ unmet needs. In so doing, you will carve out a market space no one else is in, or has not even thought of.
- Risk-taking: Be willing to take risks and step outside your comfort zones. Embrace uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s often where the best learning comes from.
- Adaptability: Develop your ability to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot when necessary. Women often are more flexible and adaptable than men, which could be why so many female-led businesses are the best in their field.
- Resilience: Entrepreneurship can be a tough road, with many ups and downs. You’ve got to be able to bounce back from setbacks, which there will be, and keep moving forward.
- Networking: Build a strong network of contacts and supporters. Form relationships with those who want to see you succeed and will help you get there. Seek out mentors and also those who will propose you for promotions and leadership positions.
- Financial savvy: Understanding finances and managing money effectively is crucial. Women leaders who are able to manage their finances wisely and make smart financial decisions signal to potential investors that they know what they’re doing.
- Time management: Time management can spell the difference between a business’s success and failure. You need to be able to prioritize your work, set realistic goals, and manage your time effectively.
- Perseverance: Success as an entrepreneur requires perseverance. You must keep pushing forward even when things get tough. Stay focused on your goals and persist, even when you come up against barriers, roadblocks and setbacks. I write about 11 successful women, including myself, who did just this. They persevered even in the face of enormous challenges in my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business. You might want to pick up a copy and learn how they did it.
Envision where you want to go and then go after it. You can do it!
By cultivating these qualities, you can overcome the many challenges that come with starting and growing a business. These are as relevant for men as for women. But we are particularly excited about the growing number of women who are building new, creative and successful businesses. Let us know how you are doing. Perhaps we can be of help. Contact us, we’d love to hear from you. We also invite you to share your story on our podcast, On The Brink With Andi Simon. Inquire about being a guest speaker here.
From Observation to Innovation,
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
CEO | Corporate Anthropologist | Author