Business / Leadership

Hearing That Entrepreneurial Voice?

Darcie Harris, CEO & Founder, EWF International®

For the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of working strictly with women business owners. Operating in this market gives me the good fortune to learn about some of the deeper themes in the lives of women business owners. It gives me insights into what really matters to women, and to what contributes not only to their success, but more importantly to their happiness and gratification in their professional lives.

So what are some of the common denominators among women who on the surface appear very different and diverse?

Female entrepreneurs got comfortable enough with the idea of risk to take action. Notice I did not just say “comfortable” I said, “comfortable enough.” By being a risk-taker, I don’t mean adopting a “ready, fire, aim” mentality. I also don’t mean “ready, aim, do more research, aim again, talk it over with friends, aim again, do another market analysis, prepare to fire, ask more questions, aim again…” and never fire. Successful women entrepreneurs do not suffer from what we might call “analysis paralysis.” And they would see this as a blessing. Most entrepreneurs would tell you that it’s a good thing they didn’t know what their future would look like and how many challenges they would face, or they would never have begun! To be an entrepreneur means having the courage which is best summed up by John Wayne when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddlin’ up anyway.”

Many, perhaps most, women business owners simply “started” – they didn’t found a company with a formal business plan and an SBA loan so much as they hung out a shingle and began doing what they knew they did well. They recognized they were good at what they did and thought, “I know as much (or more!) as the owner of this company does about how to run a good business. Why am I working for him (her)?” Or they were uncomfortable with something in their work environment (perhaps the values, the management style, the vision) and decided it was time to fly. Most women found something they loved to do and turned it into a business. They didn’t buy a business based on market analysis or how much income they could generate. It wasn’t a process based solely on logic, but more on love. Recently, more women have become entrepreneurs by accident, not by choice, when corporate downsizing eliminated their position. They became a consultant or bought a franchise or started a company. Women who began entrepreneurship through unemployment shared the attitude that they were the lucky recipients of a severance package that will help them start their own business, not victims of the corporate machine.

While women entrepreneurs are a diverse group, they do share some important character traits. In general, we see women owners inclined to take initiative, to act; they are blessed with a high energy level. They are persevering, not daunted by problems, but facing them squarely they find a way through, around, or over to a solution.

Women business owners honor the importance of making their work a reflection of who they are and what is important to them. They know who they are, what their values are, what brings them satisfaction and what gives their days meaning. This often has less to do with the content of their work than with the process. For example, one of our members owns a wholesale meat company. This doesn’t mean that she has a lifelong love of cattle, (or worse, of cattle carcasses), but it does mean that she works in a business that is a perfect fit for her skills and talents. She loves the process of creating the vision, the systems, the structure and the teamwork to carry out the plan. She loves the process of improvement, the process of making something better.

And last, but perhaps most important, the most successful female entrepreneurs we see are those who have a grounded sense of self-confidence. They are not arrogant by any means. In fact they are usually quite humble. But somewhere along the way they learned the importance of removing any self-imposed limitations or psychological glass ceilings. I know several successful women business owners who never graduated from college. If they let that get in their way, if they somehow saw themselves as less able, less capable than other women, they would never have built the successful businesses they have today.

Are you hearing that entrepreneurial voice? If so, I hope you’ll see yourself as competent and capable enough of accepting the full manifestation of the success you desire, see yourself as deserving. You don’t need to know all there is to know, but please do hold in your mind your specific image of what success looks like for you. We wish you much success!

National Statistics

The estimated 10.4 million privately-held, 50% or more women owned firms in the U.S. account for two in five (40.2%) of all businesses in the country.

The number of women-owned employer firms grew by 13.9% between 1997 and 2006, twice the growth rate of all employer firms.

Women entrepreneurs employ 12.8 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in revenues to the U.S. economy.

Statistics from the Center for Women’s Business Research, www.cfwbr.org

©Darcie Harris is an accomplished speaker, consultant, columnist, and media resource on women’s entrepreneurship and the challenges faced by professional women. CEO and Founder of EWF International, Darcie can be reached at 405.205.1124 or darcie@ewfinternational.com.

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