Friday, March 2, 2012

Why Many Women Entrepreneurs Secretly Decide to “Play Small”

By Yvonne Bynoe

Although I know that they exist, I’ve yet to meet a woman entrepreneur who describes her business in epic terms. I don’t know one woman who proclaims, “My business is going to radically change the marketplace like Apple did.”  You’d think that women entrepreneurs, no longer pounding up against corporate glass ceilings, would want to create big, innovative businesses. Unfortunately it appears that most don’t. 

As a business coach who works exclusively with women, I’m frequently told, “I’m starting a business to pursue my passions and to have more free time.” My response is always: “There’s nothing wrong with that goal except that it doesn’t explain how you’re planning to make money.”  The woman’s fuzzy, feel-good answer usually hides the fact despite her stellar credentials, she doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to create a high revenue business.
Although women are starting businesses at a more rapid rate than men, their businesses are under-capitalized and remain small.  You don’t need an over-sized ego to create a $100,000, $250,000 or even a $1 million dollar a year business, but  you do need to believe that you’re capable of doing it. A major reason women entrepreneurs struggle in their businesses because they’re unsure of their abilities.

Women in the U.S. generally have lower perceptions than men about their capabilities for starting a business, according to a 2011 study released by Babson College and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

This translates into a women entrepreneur:
  • not charging enough for her products or services;
  • not effectively marketing her business to potential customers;
  • not building a broad professional network;
  • not seeking outside funding;
  • not being visible in  her community; not hiring staff; and not seeking out mentors.
Generally women entrepreneurs are not reaching their income potential because they are afraid of failure, so they don’t take risks. Another reason that their incomes stall is because they don’t have a resource-rich network.  Women tend to socialize with other women like themselves. However successful women entrepreneurs are intentional about engaging people who can support their businesses’ growth and development.

To paraphrase what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in her TED talk ,
More women entrepreneurs need to get seats at the tables where useful information is being exchanged,  business relationships are being forged and lucrative deals are being done. Surprisingly, even very accomplished women entrepreneurs can discover that they’re “playing small.”
At the recent Urban Economic Forum   Monique Greenwood, owner of Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns said that she was embarrassed to divulge her business “exit strategy” after hearing the men in her Goldman Sachs business seminar discuss their goals. According to Greenwood, the men presented big plans (that would probably benefit their grandchildren). By contrast, Greenwood’s plan was to purchase four houses throughout the country.

Greenwood was no business novice. She is the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, a national women’s publication.  She also opened her first bed and breakfast, Akwaaba Mansion in 1996 in Brooklyn, New York; she subsequently opened additional locations Washington, DC and Cape May, NJ.  Greenwood also helped to revitalize her Bedford- Stuyvesant neighborhood by buying several buildings and renting them to local entrepreneurs.   Despite her vast accomplishments, Greenwood  still saw her business on a small scale. By participating in the Goldman Sachs program, she made new contacts and her colleagues helped her to expand her vision  for her business.  Greenwood said that she learned, “It’s worth having 52% of something really big than 100% of something really small.”

The take-away is that it doesn’t matter whether your goal is to generate $50,000 a year or $500,000 (that’s a personal matter).  I however want you to make a decision about the growth of your business based on your real wants, desires and values—and not because you’re afraid to reach higher.

Five Tips to Help Women Entrepreneurs “Play Bigger” In Their Businesses

1. Create a business plan that spells out how you are going to earn money in your business. (BTW, it doesn’t have to be long, formal or complex)

2. Claim your expertise. Be confident about the goods or service that you are selling.

3.  Be pro-active about building a resource-rich network.

4.  Seek out business mentors and coaches .  Studies indicate that entrepreneurs with mentors show more sales, stay in business longer, hire more employees and
generally are more successful.

5.  Learn how to describe the “why” of your business. Potential clients and investors want to know the big idea that anchors your business.

Yvonne Bynoe is an expert in holistic business and wealth development. She is the founder of the Business Alchemy System(TM). the proven, step-by-step program that shows you how to create a more profitable business...quickly. Click here to download her F.R.E.E. report "15 Secrets To Help You Charge What You're Worth and Get It!" and to receive her weekly marketing and success mindset articles on attracting high-paying clients and catapulting your income.

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