I wrote ‘Female Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Their Success’ to help every woman who has dreamt of being an entrepreneur to set up a successful entrepreneurial business.
Below are some nuggets of advice from the 52 female entrepreneurs featured in the book on what to think through when starting your new business.
To partner or not to partner
When deciding whether to start a business with partners or to go it alone, we advise people to know their control needs. Some of our interviewees wanted partners as they needed a broad set of skills at the top or wanted to share the risk and responsibility of the new venture. Others wanted almost absolute control and opted for employees rather than fellow partners who would want to influence the direction. It’s far better to ‘know yourself’ upfront and make decisions with this self-knowledge, rather than face high colleague turnover. If you are having trouble figuring out your control needs then ask family, past business associates, friends or even a counsellor.
Building the right inner circle
Many interviewees talked about entrepreneurship being a lonely business, particularly when making tough commercial decisions or working through fraught situations. To counter this, they sought out advisors to be part of their inner circle. Some of these advisors had taken a similar entrepreneurial journey and thus could talk from experience. Others were keen to invest in the business and so were incentivised to help it succeed. Others had great connections and so could open doors. Others became part of a more formal advisory network. If you’re thinking of building an inner circle, then we suggest thinking through what role you want them to play and who in your network would be ideal for the position.
Building the right day-to-day team
When building the right day-to-day team, people can be tempted to recruit in their own likeness. Conversely, we encourage people to ‘know yourself’ – both your strengths that you can play to, and your weaknesses or gaps that others need to fill. Incorporate your strengths into your day-to-day entrepreneurial role and recruit people around you who can fill your gaps. Assessment tools like Myers Briggs, Hogan, Gallup StrengthsFinder, 16 Personality Factor, the Obsessive Compulsive Inventory (OCI), SHL’s OPQ and many more may help you avoid recruiting in your own likeness.
To plan or not to plan
Start-ups that need the investment of other people’s money need a plan showing how the money will be used and when a return might be expected – with progress reviewed at regular intervals. In contrast, ‘resource lean’ start-ups often survive at the beginning by putting one foot in front of the other without much of a plan. The choice of whether to plan or not seems to primarily mirror personality. Some like to plan, to squeeze as much into their day as possible or give them the confidence to take the next leap. And others believe that ‘planning’ should paint a future business direction that doesn’t over-influence daily decision-making. There seems to be no right way, just the one that best suits your preferred working style.
Being determined yet patient
Determination, resilience and self-belief were seen as critical to keeping going when faced with inevitable adversity and setbacks. But, on the other hand, knowing when and how to be patient, as well as when to change course, was also viewed as important. The time between having an idea and making adequate returns can take years – for example, it took Mumsnet 8 years to become profitable. Patience can prove tough for entrepreneurs who want to achieve their goals fast.
The power of behaving courteously
Being courteous and kind was widely seen as essential to good business. Our entrepreneurs advise others to treat everyone in the same manner that they would want to be treated themselves – and to support others at every stage. As one of our interviewees Melina Jacovou, founder of Propel said: ‘If you invest in that support, the rewards are incredible’.
Once you’ve discovered and honed your winning idea, you need to set your business up for success. At this stage, our 52 interviewees advise new entrepreneurs to:
Consider whether to:
Partner or not partner, depending on the complexity of your business and your own personal control needs.
Plan or not plan, depending on the need to prove to others how their money will be used or on your own preferred working style.
Self-fund or seek external investment. If the latter, then our interviewees advise to bring in ‘smart money’ from people with relevant expertise and contacts.
Build the right
Inner circle to give you advice and support when making tough commercial decisions.
Day-to-day team by knowing the strengths that you can play to and your weaknesses and gaps that need to be filled.
Be determined and resilient when faced with inevitable adversity, yet patient when needing to change course.
Be courteous to all, treating people as you would want to be treated themselves
Ruth Saunders uses her 30 years of experience as a strategy consultant at McKinsey, marketer at P&G, advertising planner at Saatchi & Saatchi and market researcher at Mars Inc, to help clients be ‘On Point’. She is a marketing and branding consultant, trainer, speaker and coach – and author of “Marketing in the Boardroom: Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Board.”
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 7768 600906.