Perhaps it’s women’s natural instinct to nurture or maybe high-impact entrepreneurs know that you can’t sustain rapid growth without employees who deliver excellent products and customer service. It’s both, according to Marsha Firestone, President of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which compiled a list of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/led Companies in North America sponsored by American Express OPEN, it’s both.
These companies were already substantial in size, projecting an average number of employees of nearly 700 in 2012. On average, the 50 fastest grew from $31.5 million in 2007 to $80.1 million in 2011 — that’s a growth rate of more than 250%.
There is a misperception that women-led businesses tend to fall into “pink ghetto” industries, such as healthcare and social assistance or that they produce girly products and services. The 50 fastest growing women-led businesses prove that women can make it in any industry, including ones you might not as expect, such as precious metals, security, and energy, according to Sarah Forger, manager of customer advocacy at American Express OPEN.
As those who made the list demonstrate, a team that functions well has a major competitive edge. To achieve this edge, high-growth companies:
- find the best people
- provide the knowledge and training they need to succeed
- empower them to be responsible and accountable
- reward them for a job well done
For ideas about how to do this, check out How Changing Corporate Culture Is Good for Business and for Employees
“The key to our growth has been to hire great people and then empower them to make a positive difference every day with our customers and vendors,” said Jennifer Smith of Innovative Office Solutions, one of those on this year’s list of fastest growing companies. Echoing this sentiment is Marie Seipenko, Preferred Solutions, another who made the list, and said, “build an incredible team, give them the right tools, then get out of their way.”
Women business owners recognize that talented staff allow the CEO to build the business instead of just doing a job.
Women may have an advantage when it comes to running teams. “Women are really good managers. People love working for them … Women attract teams that are very driven. That’s because they subvert their egos and allow other egos to shine,” said Tim Draper, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman supports that women are better leaders than men.
When first starting out, some entrepreneurs make the mistake of hiring people they like who have skill sets similar to their own. Not so good. What you really need is people who complement your skill. “Invest in senior talent with strong skill sets aligned to your own areas of weakness,” said Kara Trott, Quantum Health. Quantum Health is another of the fastest growing companies.
Core values guide the way employees act today and tomorrow. “Performance. Purpose. Passion. Integrity. Persistence. With these core values, you can accomplish anything,” said Jennifer Schoenhofer of Axis Teknologies. And, yes, Axis Teknologies, is among the shooting stars as well.
The message is clear: Employees count. They are the engine that moves the company upward. Choose them wisely; treat them well and you, too, can shoot for the stars.
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