I’m delighted with the recent Ernst & Young report, Thinking big: How to accelerate the growth of women-owned companies, which matches what I’ve found from talking with high-growth women entrepreneurs. With the number of women-owned businesses increasing yearly, accelerating their growth is important.
Babson College Center for Women’s Leadership worked with Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women to find out what worked for these highly successful entrepreneurs. It turned out that five tactics are the foundation on which growth is built and these tactics are the kind that can benefit every business, no matter who owns it … and even nonprofits that want to scale.
We’re talking the basics here, the steps entrepreneurs must take if they are going to shed the “small” modifier in front of “business owner.”
1. Think big and be bold
Satisfaction is not an ingredient of success. Big-growth entrepreneurs are always just a big discontent, wondering what could be around the next corner or it they can push the envelope just a bit. Dareth Colburn sets a new goal as soon as she comes close to achieving her existing one. She’s taken a business built on an inventory of 10 wedding accessories into a multi-million dollar business — USABride. Deborah Sweeney is CEO of MyCorporation, which provides document filing services. Sweeney says, “If you have your mind on growth and success, that will flow to your employees and support team … Engaged leaders who think big and are passionate about the business growth are far more likely to see growth and success than those who are merely content.” Amen.
2. Build a public profile
Media are good for you, whether talking with local reporters or keeping your online presence vibrant and up to date. Get ahead of the competition by publishing useful information before anyone else, as Jennifer Benz, founder of Benz Communications, does. Her company helps Human Resource managers educate their employees about benefits, such as healthcare and retirement.The night the Affordable Health Care Act was passed by Congress, Benz posted a blog, telling HR managers how to handle the onslaught of questions that would arise. The blog had thousands of hits, was picked up by industry blogs, and used by hundreds of organizations. Human Resources managers — her target audience — know her name.
3. Work on the business, rather than in it
Growing a business is like raising children: At a certain point, you have to let go. If, as Lisa Firestone, president of Managed Care Advisors says, if you put the right people in the right seats on the bus, your staff will handle the day to day business even better than you did. “You have to let go, you have to delegate, you have to focus on what you do best,” she says. Gayle Brandel, CEO of Professionals for Nonprofits, puts it a little differently: You can focus on running a business or on just doing a job. “I don’t have a job. I’m not a recruiter or a sales person. I manage policy,” Brandel says. “Those entrepreneurs who want to grow large have to step back and they have to bring on employees.”
4. Establish key advisory networks
Entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks, and whose networks include professional advisers, such as accountants and lawyers, tend to grow bigger companies, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2010 Women’s Report. Sweeney says advisory and support networks are phenomenal. They have given her the opportunity to connect with other business owners and help each other find solutions to business problems. Hester Taylor-Clark, founder of The Hester Group, which provides program management and strategic communications services. She credits some of her success to her learned willingness to ask for help from mentors, from the SBA, and anywhere else she could get support. Initially, “I was afraid to share in the beginning,” she says, “When I wasn’t making the best decision, I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t go for help as often or as early as I should.” That changed and so did her business.
5. Evaluate financing for expansion
While you may be able to start up by maxing out your credit cards and getting help from your friends, big growth requires big money. Continued access to credit and higher initial capitalization lead to higher revenues, assets, and employment. If you’re going to grow, you have to get a good grip on your financials and start asking. Of course, you also have to be open to new ideas. When Lourdes Martin-Rosa, president of Government Business Solutions, which help businesses bid on and win government contracts. When she needed short-term funding to get started on a major government contract, the SBA suggested she try factoring instead of a bank loan. It worked.
Because these factors are the foundation on which businesses — and nonprofits — can be scaled, I’ll be doing more in-depth posts on each of tactic and how successful entrepreneurs have implemented them. Stay tuned!
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