4 Keys to Entrepreneurial Success for Women Business Leaders

October 28, 2010

By following four powerful steps, women business leaders can fight the fear of failure and achieve their new business goals with strength.

As women, multitasking and scheduling are often our greatest abilities. Yet it can be overwhelming when we dive into a new business venture and allow our planning to turn into worry and anxiety.

The founder and owner of Eat Out In, Jackie Davies, overcame her doubts and concerns to create a new business that has effectively stood the test of time.

I’ve summarized 4 keys Jackie attributes to her entrepreneurial success:

  1. Be persistent. You will likely run into barriers when trying to launch your new business. These issues can often cause discouragement. It is import to stick with what you believe in, continue to sharpen your business plan and keep looking forward to your goal.
  2. Know your business. Thoroughly research the industry in which you are trying to build your new business. By understanding your potential vendors, colleagues and customers, you gain credibility and trust. These two elements are key for long-term achievement.
  3. Trust your instincts. In many cases, women business leaders possess natural intuition when making decisions in all areas of their lives. Use this ability when there isn’t a clear right or wrong choice. Trust your gut, it’s often correct. And when you make a mistake, always view it as an opportunity to learn and grow—preparing yourself for future success.
  4. Extend your skill set. Never stop learning. The more you know about all areas of your business, the more capable you will be when managing them. And you can often save money as well—avoiding the high costs of using too many outside resources. However, always remember not to bite off more than you can chew. When you need to use consultants, don’t hesitate—they are experts for a reason.

Getting your innovative business ideas off the ground will certainly prove challenging. Remember, tough times are often a catalyst for refocusing your strategy—providing a clearer and more stable plan for the future. And as a woman business leader, you can channel your enthusiasm, endurance and balance to shape a new direction for lasting, stable triumph.

Click on the link if you’d like to read Jackie’s entire WomenEntrepreneur.com article, How to Act on That Big Idea”

Back to the Basics: 6 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Amp Up Their Business Strategy

October 24, 2010

The economy hangs in the balance, but women business leaders can steady their companies and set a course for a strong “comeback” by applying just a few foundational truths.

Tim Berry, president of Palo Alto Software, expressed how integral it is to review your business strategy regularly in order to stay ahead of curve.

I have summarized Barry’s tips into these six ways to amp up your business strategy:

    1. Identify your identity. It is vital that your business has a clear identity. The things that make your business unique are the things that will make it excel. You should be able to concisely explain who your company is and how it serves the community. A cohesive image and branding will help your customers know how you will help them.
    2. Know your target market. Understanding your customers will allow you to better serve them—and in turn, increase sales. Do extensive research and evaluate whom you are trying to reach. By recognizing the attributes of your typical customer, you can better evaluate his or her needs to provide the products and services that fit accordingly.
    3. Understand the purpose of your business. This step may sound simple, but it is easy to veer from the key purpose that originally drove your business. You should have an unambiguous mission statement or goal that drives all other decisions. By deciding what your primary company goal is, you are better equipped to clean out any extraneous endeavors that do not fit that goal.
    4. Strive for harmony. Your identity, target market and business purpose should all complement each other. If you look at these three components and one does not make sense with the rest of the plan, you must work on it until it flows seamlessly. If your plan is not consistent, you will continually have issues with productivity, customer satisfaction, profitability and sales.
    5. Stay focused. It is easy to take on too many different opportunities or responsibilities for our companies. Especially as women business leaders, we often want to please everyone at all times. But your business cannot succeed if you’re trying to be all things to all people. Without focusing on a sound and stable business plan, your business will fall apart as it is overstretched. Be realistic and stay the course.
    6. As a bonus tip, I remind you to delegate to others so that you can focus on strategy. It may be hard, but allowing others to handle as much of the physical work as possible will allow you to focus on your expertise of business planning and leadership.

    To read Tim Berry’s complete article, “How to Refresh Your Strategy”

    Women Business Leaders: The Power of Living in the Present

    October 22, 2010

    Many of us spend our days unproductively worrying about the future and obsessing about the past, but taking the time to learn to live in the present can increase our efficiency immeasurably.

    Life can be an emotional rollercoaster – it’s human nature to second-guess our past actions and fret about upcoming events. The pace of modern life can leave even normally focused women business leaders reacting to events around them rather than concentrating on the tasks at hand.

    In a Harvard Business Review article, leadership consultant Peter Bregman noted that being pressed for time and unfocused on the present can seriously impede efficiency:

    • Even minor events and interactions can take our focus away from important business decisions and cause us to react in unproductive ways.
    • Spending too much time thinking about past events or worrying about upcoming situations keeps us from living in the present.

    Bregman recommends making time to “do nothing” – practicing meditation for a few minutes each day – to refocus the mind on the present:

    • Sit quietly with your eyes closed and try to focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your body.
    • Don’t worry about your mind wandering – according to Bregman, the important thing is to notice the wandering and return your focus to your breathing.

    It may seem counterintuitive to take time from a busy schedule to meditate – to do nothing, as Bregman calls it , but doing so is well worth the effort. That’s because meditation increases our capacity to live in the present by compelling us to focus on the simple, real-time action of breathing.

    Meditation teaches us to live in the present not just while meditating but in other areas of our daily lives.

    If you’re ready to live in the moment and let go of worrying about the past and future, try taking a few minutes each day for simple meditation. You can read Bregman’s full article by clicking on the link, Not Enough Time? Try Doing Nothing

    A Strategy for Women Business Leaders for Overcoming Stress and Getting Things Done

    October 21, 2010

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of work on your desk, use this simple strategy to gather the momentum you need.

    Sometimes it’s hardest to focus just when you need your powers of concentration the most. As women business leaders, we have multiple tasks to complete and a seemingly endless supply of competing needs to balance.

    The problem can be choosing where to begin.

    Studies show that when faced with many choices, people tend to become paralyzed by indecision and make no choice at all.

    Columbia University Business School researcher Sheena Iyengar demonstrated this principle by studying the decision-making capacity of 2 groups of people.

    One group was given the opportunity to purchase one jar of jam from among 6 varieties. Another group was offered a choice of 24 jams. The study participants who chose from among 6 types of jam were 10 times more likely to make a purchase than those who chose from 24 varieties.

    The more manageable choice led directly to significantly higher sales.

    Harvard Business Review guest writer, Peter Bregman, offers the following strategy for breaking up long lists of tasks into more manageable categories:

    • Take a few moments to write down the tasks you need to accomplish.
    • Spend 15 minutes completing the easiest items – quick phone calls, short email responses, etc. Make sure you stop after 15 minutes, and cross out the completed tasks.
    • When the initial 15 minutes are up, turn off your phone, close down all windows on your desktop and spend 35 minutes concentrating solely on tackling the most daunting item on your to-do list.
    • After you’ve allotted 35 minutes to the hardest task, take a 10 minute break and start the cycle over again by spending 15 minutes taking care of quick-action items.

    According to Bregman, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment by getting the smaller items completed. That will provide the momentum you need to tackle the larger items on your agenda.

    Next time you feel overwhelmed by a mountain of work in your in-box, try breaking the tasks down into quick-action items and work that requires more focus, and then tackle the items in a systematic way.

    You can read more about Bregman’s practical, stress-busting strategy, “A Practical Plan for When You Feel Overwhelmed.”

    Women Business Leaders: Ivanka Trump And The Art Of Being Underestimated

    October 20, 2010

    Ivanka Trump, an underestimated, strong, talented businesswomen in her own right, shares her thoughts to help you take your business success to a new level.

    Here are highlights from Ivanka’s Forbes.com interview:

    1. Tips for Negotiating

    Stressing the importance of preparation, Trump shares how to successfully enter into even the most critical negotiations.

    • “The person who is most prepared and has the most information always has a competitive advantage. Do your homework.”
    • “It is also very important to try to fully understand what the other party most values in terms of the outcomes of the negotiation. It is often things that you don’t value or give a premium to that would be an easy concession that you can still accomplish your goals by conceding.”

    • “I think it’s also important to define your own goals prior to starting to negotiate. . . . You should always walk into a transaction discussion knowing what your end goal is.”

    2. Using Underestimation as an Advantage

    While many women business leaders might cringe to know that their male counterparts underestimate them, Trump sees it as an advantage.

    • “I never mind when somebody underestimates me. It often means they are not well prepared. . . . It is always better to know more than the person you are speaking with.”

    3. Utilizing Technology

    Trump discusses how social media can reinforce branding, but that you have to know when to “disconnect” and take time for yourself.

    • “Through my social media efforts, I try to show a personal side to my brand, because people want the authenticity. Showing who we are as a family is a credence good as a family brand.”

    • “Technology is a tremendous asset but can also be very destructive. While you have to be available all the time today, it is so important to prioritize bigger-picture initiatives. Mornings are also a great time to reflect before the phones start ringing.”

    4. Dressing for Success

    When asked about her professional style, Trump emphasized being aware of your surroundings and always dressing appropriately for the context of the event.

    • “My top three style tips for women at work are context, modesty and femininity. . . . Understand what is appropriate for your industry and in terms of how much skin is being shown.”
    • “[When I was younger], I was almost afraid to be feminine on the job, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.”
    • “The instinct is to suppress our femininity, which is rooted in a concept that we should blend. But how you get there is not through shoulder-pads or pinstripes,” Trump shared. “You gain the respect of your colleagues. If you have their respect, they will not criticize you for dressing like a woman.”

    Although an unlikely role model, Ivanka Trump serves as a reminder to all of us that you can never judge a book by its cover–and that we should never allow the views of others to negatively interfere with our plans, business strategies and goals.

    To read Ivanka’s full interview, click here.

    Women Business Leaders: Harnessing Your Controlling Tendencies

    October 19, 2010

    Women business leaders can relieve a lot of their stress by learning to harness their controlling tendencies for their advantage.

    First off, the qualities that make you controlling are often the traits that help you excel in business. You are an achiever. Your skill is only surpassed by your work ethic.

    But a controlling personality is also a detriment. Staff and peers grow resentful from being told what to do and that can greatly hamper their productivity.

    Here is a summary of Forbes Woman writer, Lori Murray, Four Ways to Tame Your Inner Control Freak:

    1. Make a choice to focus on what you can control. Constant finger-pointing at other people creates additional angst and stress. Instead, focus on what you can do and how you can shift so you have peace.
    2. Admit that you may have control issues. By recognizing you have control issues, you free yourself to specifically work on delegating. In order to delegate successfully, you need to find people you can trust to get the job done. It’s only then that you can begin to relax.
    3. Practice empathy. Try to view the world from other people’s perspective. You will start to gain respect for others when you gain empathy and insight into how they operate.
    4. Ask for forgiveness and make the transition to having less control. Learn to trust by having weekly meetings and communicating with your team. And remember, although other people may not take the same route, if the outcome is the same, you should learn to accept it.

    So each morning, take time to remember that the more you can let go and give others responsibility, the more you can utilize your talents in the areas where they are most needed. This will help you avoid being a bottleneck in your company—allowing your business to grow farther, faster and more successfully as a team.

    Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the overall policy that you’ve decided upon is being carried out. – Ronald Reagan on Effective Leadership

    Read Lori’s article in its entirety: Tame Your Inner Control Freak, How to relinquish control without losing power or negatively impacting performance

    Study Finds Few Differences Between Men and Women Business Leaders

    October 18, 2010

    Despite a long held myth to the contrary, Women business leaders are as successful as men in starting new high tech companies.

    Here’s why:

    The stereotypical entrepreneur – particularly the Silicon Valley version – is a 20-something, single white male who dropped out of college to work 24/7 and take enormous risks for a shot at becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg.

    Women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are thought to be overrepresented in “lifestyle” industries and more focused on raising families than founding the next Facebook.

    A study of more than 600 start-up founders and 500+ fast-growth companies published in TechCrunch deflates these myths. Entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa and his team studied both men and women business leaders and their companies and found the following:

    • Men and women start-up founders are motivated by the same goals: Both men and women business leaders are driven by a desire to build wealth, chart their own destinies and capitalize on their business ideas.
    • Men and women business leaders largely share life circumstances: Wadhwa found that most entrepreneurs are closer to 40 than 20 when founding their companies and that most are married with children. Men were slightly more likely than women to be married.

    However, Wadhwa’s team did discover some interesting differences about the business climate in which male and female entrepreneurs operate:

    • Women business leaders receive more encouragement from co-founders: According to the research, women entrepreneurs were significantly more likely than men to report that their co-founders urged them to enter into a partnership to launch a new business.
    • Women start-up founders are more likely to cite a role model: Women entrepreneurs more often reported being inspired by an entrepreneurial friend or family member than their male counterparts.

    Much of Wadhwa’s research focused on high-tech fields, and he found that the academic representation of women in the computer sciences is low and falling:

    It decreased from 37% in 1985 to 19% today, largely because girls do not receive the same levels of encouragement in math and science, and this carries over into higher education and career choices. Wadhwa believes this imbalance should be remedied.

    However, a key takeaway from the study is that men and women business leaders have much more in common than is generally believed – both sexes are motivated by the same factors and largely share life circumstances.

    Women business leaders and those who aspire to launch an enterprise can therefore take encouragement from the fact that men don’t have an inherent advantage.