Woman as Entrepreneur
Are You a Woman With Entrepreneurial Promise?
Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP
Ready for a change? Are you a stay-at-home mom contemplating a return to work or a career woman tired of "punching someone else's time clock"? Well, here are the facts: 1.3 million new businesses are started each year. Nearly 40 percent of business ventures are female-owned. And 80 percent of U.S. companies have less than 20 employees.
If you haven't already gotten my drift, women from every walk of life are starting their own small businesses. And we women have already developed some skills that are critical to the success of an entrepreneurial venture: We have learned to "multitask" and problem solve with the best of them.
There are other skills and traits necessary for successful entrepreneurship. Which of these describe you?
Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
- High-energy -- Can work long hours and re-charge easily.
- Decisive -- Don't mind being the decision maker; in other words, it's OK that "the buck stops with you."
- Self-starter -- Don't need a "push" from anyone else to get started.
- Independent -- Enjoys time alone. Can create sufficient time with others through networking, client contact and leisure activities.
- Determined -- Have the perseverance to overcome problems that beset every business venture.
- Flexible and pragmatic -- Can change course as necessary for the livelihood and success of your business.
- Willing marketer -- Willing and able to market your business, and network with other professionals as necessary.
- Versatile -- Can play a variety of roles (and some you may not like); for example: marketer, clerk, bookkeeper or "hatchet woman."
- Problem solver -- Possess the creativity and fortitude to work your way around or through seeming impediments.
- Risk taker -- Willing to put time, energy and resources on the line for the success of your business. What others look at as risky, you see as controllable.
- Communicator -- Can get the word out effectively, both orally and in writing.
If you can say "yes" to all of the above, you have the makings of an entrepreneur. Of all of these characteristics, motivation is the most important. Here are some other factors that can increase your chances of success as an independent businesswoman:
- Love what you do -- Without a passion for your service or product, it will be hard to get through the tough times.
- Have the support of those you care about -- They'll be able to boost your morale when the going gets rough and will understand when you have to put in extra time or elbow grease.
- Have a cash reserve -- The first 18 months of any business is usually slow, so make sure you have saved up sufficient funds to get you through this lean time.
- Keep your overhead low -- If possible, start your business from home. Whenever possible buy second-hand equipment, and forget "posh" (at least at the start).
- Have a good customer base -- No matter how great a product or service you offer, you will never make it without customers or clients.
- Find a mentor -- Benefit from the experience and skill of an accomplished entrepreneur. Periodically take her out for lunch, and pick her brain. She will feel flattered and you will feel reassured that you are on the right track.
Starting your own business is a big step. Talking with other women entrepreneurs, and hearing their "war stories" and their successes, may boost your courage and determination. Joining a professional group for women business owners may provide important business contacts as well as a morale boost. In the final analysis, however, it's up to you: Sometimes you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP, is a psychotherapist and corporate consultant based in Stamford, Conn. She contends that problems are a normal part of living, and that most dilemmas have straightforward, commonsense solutions. Purcell lives with her husband and teen-age daughter. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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