When I had the “a-ha” moment that my biggest risk was not taking the risk of starting my own business, I let go of the corporate ledge. I still remember after my last day, coming home, sitting down at my kitchen table and crying. Sure, there were tears that represented fear, but the teary breakdown was necessary, serving as the beginning of a breakthrough — creating a new career that gave me more happiness, better health and more wealth.
Having spent over a decade being a female entrepreneur, and then working with female entrepreneurs to help build their brands, I’ve observed that most successful women take these 7 steps to create scalable, sustainable businesses.
The most successful entrepreneurs do what they do best, and have others do the rest. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it. Hiring help was my biggest game-changer, as is the case for many female entrepreneurs. My philosophy: “Delegate work that isn’t allowing you to make money, honey!” This could be as simple as hiring a virtual assistant to schedule meetings, or bringing on a bookkeeper, or training staff to do other work that frees you up. Or it might be time to outsource professional services, invest in technology, engage a coach for accountability, bring on a partner or hire a new employee.
Entrepreneurs who are “in it to win it” invest in their business to take it to the next level. I had zero marketing budget when I launched my business. My first website did not look as professional as I wanted, but the copy was compelling. It got me through the first year until I had the funds to hire a designer to make a logo and website. When I made enough money, I invested it back into the business. Always remember, savvy entrepreneurs invest strategically to grow. Before you buy, do your homework. Make sure the professional help, job candidate, technology or service will allow you to do more, sell more and be more.
3. Negotiate Well
Women who mean business know how to ask for what they want and negotiate for what works for them, their team, their clients and their company. You don’t have to take every deal thrown your way. The easiest place to start when negotiating a new agreement or re-evaluating is to ask yourself: “Does this work for me (or my business)?” If you don’t have the budget, the time or the energy, then the decision is simple. Also ask yourself “What would best work for me?” This answer could drive a different price, help you hire a different firm, or define different contractual terms. Successful entrepreneurs don’t just sit in the driver’s seat; they drive their business in the right direction.
Yes, entrepreneurs create companies. But the most successful entrepreneurs create and re-evaluate. Make time to evaluate administrative, operations and sales/marketing components of your company to make sure you are following the best practices. When you look critically at all aspects of the business, you are able to overcome challenges and tap opportunities.
Many entrepreneurs fail to see that their job is more than selling products or services. Successful entrepreneurs truly lead their companies — making tough decisions, motivating their team, managing vendors and making sure clients are cared for. They don’t do this singlehandedly; they lead their team so it happens. It’s not uncommon for women, especially those who go from working for other people to being an entrepreneur, to struggle with leadership. Some fear they are being “pushy” for calling the shots. Just like children crave and feel safe with structure and guidance, know that your company needs the same. If you don’t run your business, it will run you. Take the reins!
6. Have Strong Networks
Being successful never happens in isolation. It is imperative to your success as an entrepreneur to surround yourself with people who support you, whom you admire and who can empower you as you navigate your business – no matter how new or old your company is. Do you have a coach or mentor? Are you part of strong business networks? Are you staying on top of trends of your industry, getting educated and growing? It can be very lonely as an entrepreneur; the saying “it’s lonely the top” is true. Be proactive about getting involved in constructive networks.
7. Have Fun
While successful female entrepreneurs work hard, they aren’t afraid to play hard. They know what is important, personally…not just professionally. Being a successful entrepreneur is about providing value and about having strong values. When you run your own business, you have the power to architect your business so it is “on brand” and “on purpose” – weave in what matters you to (like giving back, vacation time, health priorities, family time, etc.). And celebrate your success. It breaks my heart when I see female entrepreneurs achieve milestones or have big wins without pausing to soak it in. I’m all about pushing forward, but don’t discount your wins along the way.
Merriam-Webster defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” I define a successful woman entrepreneur as someone who embraces the risk of a business or enterprise and enjoys the journey crafting the lives they want and deserve.
Lorrie Thomas Ross, MA, is a marketing expert on a mission to help more women brand, build and boost business to be happier, healthier and wealthier. Her agency, Web Marketing Therapy is a full-service marketing agency that diagnoses, prescribes and guides healthy marketing solutions. Her Wild Web Women community supports women in launching and growing web-based businesses. She wrote the McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course to Online Marketing and several Lynda.com (now Linkedin Learning) courses.