Women owned businesses represent nearly 50% of privately held companies in the U.S., however, three quarters of these businesses are not able to grow their businesses past $50,000 in annual gross revenue. (Forbes, May 2012)
Why do some businesses grow, while others languish or fade away? I don’t know the answer for every situation, but in my work with women business owners I have observed some patterns that are instructive. It’s these patterns that The Business Women’s Circle members try to break while coaching their peers through their blind spots.
We know that sustaining a business is hardest in the early phases. This is when owners are working 100% “in” the business, leaving little time for thinking about growth. It’s survival. There is ample research demonstrating that growth begins when a business owner hires that first person, thus relieving the owner to do what they do best. For me it was hiring someone to do my bookkeeping. Ahh what a relief!
Growth requires steady and steadfast attention to today and tomorrow. That means, time spent planning, producing, innovating, and building. It also means getting out of your place of business, turning away from the computer, and meeting other entrepreneurs from diverse businesses who will broaden your perspective, allowing you to visualize opportunities.
Women tend to start their business from an idea or passion. The “business” of running a business isn’t what’s fun and exciting to them. Their time and energy spent on “tasks” we call Urgent/Not Important…but easy or fun to do. Having a simple business plan establishes a disciplined approach, so time can be spent on the Important/Not Urgent growth activities.
As sales increase, so does the workload. Overwhelmed owners try to solve their problems with short-term solutions. They ask family or friends to “help out”, rather than find a contractor or employee with the skills needed to do the job. A bigger mistake happens when lonely owners give away a stake in their business to bring in a partner. This short sightedness leads to unanticipated problems that keep the business from moving to the next growth phase.
Sadly, many business owners stumble as they try to describe their business, let alone their Brand Promise. These are lost opportunities. Having a Brand Promise that clearly articulates what a business is and what it is not, is what drives people to you, and not your competition.
Getting the pricing right and then asking for it is a major stumbling block for women. Once the price is established based on a real cost analysis, including profit, then it must be asked for with confidence – no apologies. Too often women wiggle on price. They are quick to discount, negotiate, and give things away, then wonder why they don’t generate revenue.
Surprisingly fear of failure shows up in research on women owned businesses. I prefer to say “fear of success” caused by lack of confidence. Some owners are working so hard in their business they can’t visualize success. They don’t see themselves as a CEO, so they don’t act like one. I say, brag about your business. Let others know how proud you are. Your business is an opportunity to be amazing!
BeWISE Organics, LLC (formerly Greenbody Greenplanet Company)
Her Company Focus:
My company was created with a single focus in mind: The health and well-being of our hair, scalp, body and the planet—while never sacrificing personal style and beauty. I wanted to create high-performance haircare products for salons, stylists and consumers without the use of toxins and chemicals which are found so often in salon professional brands. Many think natural or organic haircare cannot perform as well as the big salon professional brands and I am out to prove that is simply not the case.
Where are you taking your business? What is your 5-Year Target?
I want AHNESTI to be a household name and to be on the shelves of salons, spas and natural stores throughout the country. The company will monitor it’s growth closely and continue to grow organically for the first 1-2 years. Expansion is on the horizon but only after a strong, solid foundation has been achieved.
What are you doing to reach your goal?
Along with eCommerce, the AHNESTI website will provide education and resources for consumers and stylists wanting to live healthier, more toxin-free lives. We believe knowledge isn’t powerful unless it is applied and so we plan to create community outreach programs within the next 2 years. We will also be a self-distributed company. The first sales rep will be hired this spring to focus on B2B sales, i.e. salons, spas, and natural stores and more will be hired as growth continues. Monthly company assessments will insure we are always keeping the horse before the cart.
How do you define success?
Being an entrepreneur is at the core of who I am and I feel my business success is only mirrored by my personal success. If at the end of each day I have given love and respect to others, appreciated others instead of judging them for being different, spoken kindly about others and myself, chosen to see the beauty that surrounds me, woke up with excitement for the day and went to bed in anticipation for tomorrow —then everyday I have been successful.
What advice do you have for our readers?
Carve out your own path and follow it. If you are not living your own dream, you are just a part of someone else’s and may end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Ive had a quote hanging in my office for 15 years that I read out loud everyday: “Choose Your Destiny or Someone Else Will.”
Why are you a member of The BWC? How does it help you?
I felt the knowledge and expert advice I could receive and share with the other BWC members would help me bring my business to the next level. I love that there is structure and accountability to the meetings, without any judgement. I’ve learned how to set achievable goals and track and gauge my progress in a way that is easy and successful. As my company is growing, the tools and resources I am receiving from being a BWC member is invaluable!
These are the words that the successful women business owners I work with repeat as their themes each month. Five words that have become their guideposts to growing strong and sustainable businesses.
Notice that the word action is missing. There is lots of action going on. The question is where is it getting you? What are you “so busy” doing? The trick is to spend more time working “ON” your business, so your time working “IN” is directed toward the outcomes you desire. That’s where the five words I opened with come into play. (See more below).
Our curriculum centers around Strategy, Focus, Momentum, Discipline, Celebration. If these guideposts challenge you, you are not alone. That’s why The BWC exists. To offer you a circle of like-minded smart women who will keep you focused and hold you accountable. You will not be alone.
STRATEGY. Design a roadmap for the next 12 months using three to five goals that reflect your company’s core values and the guarantee you make to your customers. The goals need to be realistic, written, reviewed, verbalized often, a stretch, yet achievable and measurable in small steps and big results.
FOCUS. Keep your eye on your strategy. Use it as your compass and the litmus test for decisions and actions. The demise of many women owned businesses is the plethora of shiny ideas that distract them from their strategy.
MOMENTUM. It’s hard to stop a woman business owner driven to “make it work.” Don’t look back. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Keep driving forward. Your plan will get you there.
DISCIPLINE. Like a marathon runner training for a race, it’s the planned, repetitive, measured, activities that build your strength and endurance. The more you become disciplined, the better your end results.
CELEBRATE. Who tells you they are “proud” of you these days? (My mother never understood what I did, so I never got it from her.) How great would it feel to hear “You rock!” from a woman who gets what a big deal your accomplishments really are?
John Jantsch recently posted an article titled “5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train” on his website – Duct Tape Marketing. His article continues the trend we discussed about “Big Data” at our February Open Circle. And, as John does – he offers great ways on how Small Business can take advantage of it now!
5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train
By John Jantsch
The idea of something that’s being called “Big Data” has definitely reached the trend tipping point. Tech firms like are all about it. PR firms are forming teams to promote it and consulting firms have their business technology teams all over it.
Well, maybe in a very roundabout way! Our own Sasha Westin of Fabuliss and member of Circle 3 was featured in a Fox9 News story that looked at the popularity of Pinterest – what it is, who is using it, how it is being used, etc.
Click below to watch the story!
This phrase has been around for a while. I’ve heard it used in context with new technology or IT firms selling software to “non-techies”.
There is no doubt we are a high tech world. As mentioned earlier – screens will become a way of life. Customers will find the info the need to justify their purchase or how they feel about it or the company.
Because of technology though – we are in danger of creating “non personal” interactions, “virtual” everything, paperless, text versus calling… While all good and desired – there is also a desire for experiences, for the tactile, for the physical, for the “real deal” – be that a person, an object or live experience.
A term called the “Retail Safari” has been identified. It speaks to the idea that customers expect to feel or experience something they can’t get online when they are in a physical space. This might be a compelling spectacle, exclusive products, ability to test and feel things or learn how to use the product.
Here are some things that are happening in this area:
So consider how to deliver that “High Touch” experience no matter your business model. How do you ensure that interactions with you, your company, your web presence has a “personal touch”?
Novel brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces offer smart and convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’, alleviate financial strains, or quell environmental concerns.
These ideas are also affecting consumers’ initial purchase decisions. Consumers are factoring an item’s resale value into the cost of ownership for an ever-wider range of purchases.
Here are a few things that are driving this “recommerce” mind set:
So what does this mean for you?
Keep in mind, with today’s consumer – value is still top of mind even as we start to come out of the economic times we have been in.
This is maybe less of a trend and more of a medium through which everything will be available. It ties tightly to the Reputations are Exposed trend.
How many have seen the YouTube video of the 1 year old who is growing up with screens? The mother writes at the end – “For my 1 year old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work.”
Consumers will care less about the screen and more about what’s being accessed through them. This opens up opportunities to inform, engage and motivate consumers as never before.
It’s important because of “Infolust” – an insatiable desire for the most relevant information.
Consumers are lusting after detailed information on where to get the best of the best, the cheapest of the cheapest, the first of the first, the healthiest of the healthiest, the coolest of the coolest, or on how to become the smartest of the smartest. Instant information gratification is upon us. You know about infolust – you’ve done it – googled that person, pulled up a handbag review, or checked prices.
When 8 out of 10 consumers research purchases online – over 1/2 buy in-store. Because of smartphones – some customers will even research while in the store and buy online while still there if the price is better! Information and knowledge give consumers power, control and certainty (or illusion of).
So think about it – Can your customers find you? What can they find out about you? How do you share information about you and your company? Being able to answer these questions will help ensure you can inform, engage and hopefully motivate potential customers to work with you.
Adoption of consumer driven health plans, especially HSAs continues to be a leading trend.
Shopping for alternative insurance carriers still paying off as underwriting competition will remain fierce until 2014.
Premiums are projected to increase 40-70% for individuals and businesses.
For companies with <50 employees – Small Employer Tax credits were made available thru the Affordable Care Act of 2011. Be sure to check into this.
There are Federal Penalties as well as Federal subsidies for Individual and Businesses – talk to an expert to navigate through this!
Fed has stated they will likely hold rates down into late 2014.
Bank deposit rates will remain low. Now is the time for a financial check up. Consider other non-bank products for a better rate of return. Healthy banks will pay similar to other banks – proceed with caution if a bank is paying above market rates.
Re-fi your mortgage if you haven’t done so already. 30 yr 3.87%, 15 yr 3.15% as of 2-7-12.
Know what your credit looks like and work to improve your credit score – re-fi once you do, rates will stay low for a while.
Lock in long term loans at today’s low rates.