I was recently part of a panel at a women’s enterprise event and asked what holds women back in business. I only had 2 minutes to answer this so I promised the audience I would blog my response in full so here goes….
Firstly let me say there has never been a better time to be a woman – we are at the peak of our emotional development, the UK has more female millionaires than ever before, the corporate world of leadership is starting to crack open and women are starting businesses at a healthy rate leading the economic recovery, however, I would like to focus on female entrepreneurship.
For me the definition of an entrepreneur is someone building a business that is bigger than them as opposed to self employment which generally creates a job. Now, in this arena women do not fair so well. We are great at stepping up and into self employment but taking the next step to growth seems to be fraught with anxiety, fear and one too many obstacles. These obstacles are nothing to do with our capability and everything to do with our mindsets. I have coached and mentored hundreds of women in business and these are the key areas that, in my opinion, are disempowering us and keeping us from the BIG money and influence.
OUR NEED FOR PERFECTION IS STIFLING US. We need more qualifications, a better website, more twitter followers, more research and a knock out brand before we even dip our toe in the water. I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation ‘I am just not ready to take the next step yet. My website needs some work.’ Ok I say so when and the reply ‘Well we are on the 5th version now so hopefully this year.’ Arrrrgh!!! It will never be perfect, perfect does not exist. My mantra GET GOING and GET BETTER. The market cannot respond to what you are planning it can only respond to what you put out there. To learn to swim you must first get in the pool! Just JUMP!
TOO EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO LET GO. A close ally of perfectionism is control. We believe no one can do all the work as well as us so we struggle to let go of ANYTHING!! We talk about not being able to find the staff, how it is easier to just do it ourselves but this is exhausting and cripples any growth. This is all about our emotional attachment to our business. I hear women refer to their business as ‘their baby’ all the time and with this goes a reluctance and in some instances real fear of letting go or allowing anyone else to look after their baby. We need to reframe this if we are to take our rightful place in the world of business. We will not grow businesses without some external investment, a management team, Board of Non Execs etc. We could easily apply the baby analogy but in a different way. Recognising that babies grow into children, teenagers then adults and along the way we as parents need to step back and let them make some of the decisions to build resilience and gain an element of independence. Bingo! Think about your ‘business baby’ like this and we could be onto a winner!
WE ARE FINANCIALLY FEARFUL. One of the key fears most women hold onto is the fear of debt and they associate growing a business with getting into debt so they stay small and attempt to grow incrementally via their cashflow. Now in exceptional circumstances this can work but in most cases growth demands some form of financial investment and this is interpreted as debt so it is bad. I am fascinated by this association as we do not do it with other capital investments. If I asked a group of women to raise their hand if they own their own home, most of the room would be ablaze with proud, outstretched arms but the next question ‘How many of you have a mortgage on this property’ shows me a very different picture. You see, you do not own your home if it is mortgaged. Stop your mortgage payments for 6 months and you will find out who owns your house! Yet we are comfortable with this debt are we not? So could we not reframe financial debt to be an investment in our next 25 year future? Just a thought!
And finally, the big one FEAR OF FAILURE. I see the most amazing, gifted and bright women staying small and insignificant for fear of failure and it breaks my heart. Failure is not personal, it is just the market telling you to move on, the world has changed etc. Markets and customers change all the time. What was in last week is old hat tomorrow and as entrepreneurs we need to keep abreast of this all the time. If we stop looking we will get caught out and this is when failure shows up. Quite often it is out of our control, a new competitor arrives, new technology changes the market overnight etc. What I know for sure is I have learnt all my lessons on my knees in sight of failure. It is how I have built personal resilience, honed my passion and raised my game. I, like millions of entrepreneurs am as proud of my failures as any of my successes and if you really want to walk the exciting and unpredictable path of entrepreneurship you really have to embrace failure as a key element of the journey.
I could go on, but blogs are supposed to be short and sweet are they not? If anyone is interested in taking the entrepreneur road I will be delivering a one day workshop on The Mindset of the DIvapreneur in early 2014. Watch this space for more details coming soon.