To start and grow a business, it helps to learn from the best. In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting helpful lessons and tips from successful women business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs.
1. Identify your purpose
When you’re running a business, you need to identify your “big why,” said Christina Sjahli, a CPA and the owner of Christina Sjahli Consulting, a company that offers virtual CFO services to mission-driven women entrepreneurs.
“Finding your clear sense of purpose enables you to focus on what matters most to you and push forward in the challenging moments.”
If you haven’t already identified your purpose, take some time to reflect. Do you want to build a product that makes people’s lives easier? Do you want to create jobs in your community? Maybe you want to offer a service that helps a certain group of people achieve a specific goal.
When you figure out what’s fueling you, not only are you less likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, Sjahli said, you’re also able to set better boundaries and goals.
Tips for finding your purpose:
- Think about why you wanted to start a business. What gets you excited? Who is your business for? What are you trying to achieve?
- Narrow your focus and define your mission.
2. Embrace the opportunity to grow
“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” – Virginia (Ginni) Rometty, former CEO of IBM
“Do not be afraid to make decisions. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.” – Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
To build a thriving business, you have to be willing to take risks and embrace challenges. Getting outside your comfort zone can help you gain new skills, solve problems more effectively, and achieve your goals faster. Depending on your business and background, a growth opportunity could be buying the building next door or figuring out how to digitize your services.
Tips for embracing growth:
- Say yes to challenging projects and endeavors.
- Be willing to try new things, whether that means developing a new product or targeting a different customer demographic.
- Carve out time and resources for one or two company growth projects a year, like launching a digital marketing campaign or opening a second store.
3. Be tenacious
“If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times, obstacles become utterly unimportant. A nuisance perhaps, but with no real power. The world respects creation; people will get out of your way.” – Candice Carpenter Olson, former Co-CEO of Fullbridge
As a business owner, dealing with setbacks and hardships is inevitable. In order to overcome the obstacles you encounter—including the challenges unique to women, like gender biases and pay inequity—tenacity is critical.
“I believe women entrepreneurs must stay resilient and go into each room with confidence like they belong,” said Chynna Morgan, the founder and CEO of GIF Out Loud, a company that creates experiential marketing campaigns. Picking yourself up takes practice, but it’s the only way to make progress toward your goals.
“I learned early that rejection is protection,” Morgan said, “and everything that I went through with my business happened for a reason.”
Tips for staying tenacious:
- Remember your purpose and find motivation there.
- Think creatively about how to use the resources and tools at your disposal.
- Set boundaries, so you have the energy and confidence to push on in tough times.
4. Connect with others
Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and professionals in your field can boost your business, leading to higher revenue and happier customers.
“Find one or two organizations that align with your purpose, join them, be an active member, and provide your own insights and values,” Sjahli said. “Over time, they can be your champions and bring in future leads.”
It’s also helpful to team up with other businesses for product launches or mutually beneficial marketing campaigns. “Don’t underestimate the power of good partnerships and collaborations. They can take your company to the next level,” Morgan said.
Tips for connecting:
- Join a professional group in your industry.
- Give back to an organization related to your mission.
- Reach out to other business owners in your area.
5. Adopt a learning attitude
“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” – Padmasree Warrior, Founder, President, and CEO at Fable
You can’t succeed in business if you’re not willing to learn. Prioritizing learning puts you ahead of the curve: it keeps you humble and adaptable, introduces you to new ideas and perspectives, and helps you stay up to date on industry trends and shifting customer needs.
Even a little bit of effort goes a long way. “Be one percent better every day,” said Sjahli. “Aim high and long-term, but take small steps forward every day.”
Tips for prioritizing learning:
- Get curious about the different aspects of running your business—from product development to customer service.
- Keep up with the news in your industry.
- Ask to shadow your employees to learn what they do on a daily basis.
- Take a course or seminar.
- Sign up for conferences and events in your field.
6. Ask for help
“Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Always be cultivating a support network so that when you stumble—and you will—they’ll be there to catch you.” – Claire Wasserman, CEO and Founder of Ladies Get Paid
Running a business isn’t a one-person job. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, it’s still crucial to lean on other people for support and advice.
“As business owners, sometimes we believe we’re supposed to have all the answers, but the truth is, asking for help is what makes you a great business owner,” Morgan said. “Knowing your strengths and bringing in people to help you with your weaknesses is vital in building a great company.”
Tips for asking for help:
- Ask other successful business owners for advice.
- Hire smart, capable team members.
- Outsource work you don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on.
7. Invest in financial knowledge
If you want to run a sustainable, profitable business, you have to invest in your own financial knowledge. Understanding your business’s financials is the first step to pricing your offerings correctly, setting realistic revenue goals, planning for growth projects, and securing funding.
“Growth requires you to know your company’s financial health and to have financial visibility of the future,” Sjahli said, “which means you must understand the story behind your balance sheet, profit and loss, and cash flow.”
Tips for improving your financial knowledge:
- Take an active interest in your company’s expenses, revenue, and profit margin.
- Learn how to track your cash flow.
- Set goals with financial targets in mind.
- Hire a business accountant.
Building powerful businesses
Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a successful business owner, there’s always room to grow. Check out our resources to learn more about how you can build a thriving operation as a woman in business.
Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.
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