What Makes Women Entrepreneurs Fail or Stand Out
As the year is coming to an end, more and more organizations are announcing their choice of Outstanding Business Women of 2019. Award ceremonies are hosted celebrating female executives, tech leaders, startup breakthroughs and bringing thousands of women from across the world to network and make meaningful connections.
At the same time, there is still a large group of business women who are not yet represented on the list of finalists but deserve it just as much -- women entrepreneurs building their very first business. The ones that are only on the way to their first 100K and flashy headlines. Just like the business women in award ceremonies, every day they too have to fight their battles: win over their customers, overcome many society’s misperceptions of independent women in business, conquer their own fears and the isolation that often comes with the choice to be a sole entrepreneur.
I had the honor of hosting an event for these remarkable women where they shared their journeys and lessons they have learnt along the way. What was inspiring is how they managed to turn around the challenges they experience into their winning qualities.
Here are traits that make women entrepreneurs stand out but if not treated with care they can become self-created traps.
Striving for perfection.
The most common phrase I hear from women is “I want it to be perfect.” When applied to business, it means we aspire to deliver a flawless product or service. And on the receiving end, it is wonderful. It is one of those times when you get a market analysis report and besides answering all the questions you had, it has convincing references, readable font, beautiful graphs, and can be presented to your own peers immediately without any rework.
But attention to detail is a virtue only in a reasonable amount. If after three weeks of working on one page of text or design, you still hear that little voice in the back of your head telling you “It’s not good enough”, it means that perfectionism has paralyzed your ability to judge your own work objectively.
Besides often what we consider perfect ourselves differs from the opinion of our customers. So to avoid falling into this trap, a great rule is 80/20 (or the Pareto principle): 80 percent of work is done in the first 20 percent of the time. Once you have that, it is very important to check with your customers what they think about the quality. In the tech world, they call it quick prototyping and testing. That allows you to deliver excellent work while being in sync with your client.
Focus on action.
As a woman in the business world, you know that terrifying feeling before you enter a room full of men -- where you have to either do a presentation or facilitate a workshop -- when you tell yourself “I’m just a girl, they won’t take me seriously.” And that self-programming has brought more than one entrepreneur down.
But there is a way that we can turn it around by focusing on what we are doing. If you got yourself a spot in front of an audience that means you worked hard to get it. So do what you do best, be present in the moment and enjoy the journey. Let the magic happen. Instead of worrying about how they are going to see you, earn their respect by listening and understanding them, giving them the value they are looking for.
Learning by proximity.
As a sole entrepreneur, you get to work and network with people from various walks of life, ages and business positions. Most of the time they are happy to share their advice and expertise. The diversity of your network gives you an enriching difference in perspectives.
One of the unique traits of business women that often gets underestimated -- especially if they are younger than 35 -- is their ability to learn from people around them. For example, working side by side with clients who have executive positions, you get to see and hear the same things that they do. Maybe you cannot do their job but essentially you shortcut your way to gaining invaluable insights.
But the most remarkable trait that unites all women entrepreneurs is courage. The courage to start on our own, put ourselves out there, get criticized and learn. The courage to speak to our peers and clients, work really hard without immediate return and create something they would really value. Every day we dare ourselves to do what yesterday seemed impossible. And so in the spirit of awarding the outstanding women of the year, I would like to nominate and shortlist every woman entrepreneur out there who is yet to make it.