Although I have been chronicling the changing face of women's entrepreneurship every year with an article about the Enterprising Women honoraries, I had not gone back to compare them to a common baseline.
Frankly, I had to go back and read the article (in fact I no longer had a copy and had to find it on line).
What an eye-opener it was!
Yes! I was delighted to see that there had been changes -- not so much changes in the issues, but a seismic shift in how woman are addressing the issues. In 2009 we thought in terms of barriers.
As women-owned business grew in number, revenues, and employment, we started thinking positively and asking what was propelling women entrepreneurs and their businesses to the highest levels of success.
Women learn best from other women. Over the past eight years leading women business owner organizations including Enterprising Women Magazine, WPO, NAWBO, WIPP, and Springboard have moved us from focusing on the barriers to embracing the opportunities.
Enterprising Women Magazine has always shined the spotlight on the success of women entrepreneurs When. When we see that just a few years ago, we were celebrating that the top revenue category at the annual awards even was $50 million compared to and this year (2017) the top revenue category was over $100 million it becomes clear that we are no longer being held back.
Every year we ask our award winners w about the key factors that are driving their busing. By now we have results from over 500 award winners. These findings are complemented by my y 29 years of research with women entrepreneurs -- creating a rich resource of information on what women entrepreneurs have learned about success over the year.
Leading women business owners focus on what they are dong to be successful rather than on what is standing n their way -- even in the years of economic stress. The responses have been amazingly consistent over the years. Six factors emerge consistently as the propellant to success.
The Six Success Factors
"Your values are your foundation" say successful women entrepreneurs. No matter how chaotic business and life become, say highly successful women entrepreneurs, your values remain rock-solid. Most importantly, women business owners say, " we have e the courage to act based on our values -- no matter the pressures."
Expect to Grow
Highly successful women entrepreneurs fall in love with the business of growing a business. For years women entrepreneurs were told to "think big." Our award winners say this mind shift to "expecting to grow" moves you t to action from day one. It affects the systems you put in place to track the business, the way you organize the
company, who you hire, and how you establish financial and customer relations. Successful women entrepreneurs are solution oriented. They continually evaluate the company's strengths and challenges. They focus on growth options and how to best position the business for high growth.
You don't have to be the best; You have to bring out the best
Your job is not to be the best in every part of the business. Your job is to hire and inspire the best. Highly successful women business owners create and sustain the company culture and then hire the best and the brightest to do the work of the company. The owner is responsible for the health of the company in all ways: financially, technically, politically, and culturally. When the owner stays engaged in delivering the product or service, she become the greatest barrier to the company's growth.
Surround yourself with diverse, smart advisors who have your best interests at heart
Leading women entrepreneurs create a personal circle of trusted advisors who help her be the best that she can be as a leader and a business owners. Take advantage of an informal network of advisors as well as a formal board of directors. They will help you see opportunities you may have missed and pitfalls before they happen.
Become financially savvy
Make financial knowledge and metrics your best ally . Numbers can help you see where your company is on track and where it needs tweaking. Strong financials create confidence when seeking financing -- whether debt or equity. Form effective relationships within the financial community. Reach out beyond your banker to other financial institutions and potential inventors. These relationships go well beyond transactional advice and insights; they can open sources of business advice and connections.
Be Strategic in Building a Web of Networks
Be strategic in joining networks. Networks are a valuable source of connections, information, and visibility for both you and your business, and for personal growth. When asked about their greatest regret, the vast majority of women entrepreneurs say it was not realizing the value of building networks strategically earlier in their career. In additional professionals networks, be sure to join a network of like-minded women who will help you through the tough times and celebrate with you in the good times.
What is propelling women-owned businesses to success? It is the energy, insight and determination of the women whose vision and positive energy go into building and sustaining them!
How will I answer the young woman who wrote to me? I will tell her there HAS been change and that it is positive, inspiring change.
However, I must also tell her that despite all the documented success of women as entrepreneurs and leaders, we are still plagued by the issue of f unconscious bias. This manifests itself in barriers especially in access to equity and d entry into the tech world.
This won't go away until men join with women and become part of the solution.
The issue is not about social justice; it is an issue of national and international economics. Research affirms that having women in leadership positions and on boards results in higher performance. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagard estimates that increasing the participation of women in the US economy -- including entrepreneurship -- would increase the gross domestic product by 5%.
This is our next frontier. I hope when another 8 years has passed, and I am asked whether things have changed since I wrote this article I can, as I did this year, say yes!
Parts of this article were previously published in the Wall Street Journal.