Many professional women have become sick of playing politics, working hard and receiving little or unequal return for their efforts. They have “kicked off their corporate high-heeled shoes” and are leaving behind the strictures of the corporate world. Why? To pursue their dreams. On their own terms.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), America’s leading small business advocacy association, predicts that by 2018 more than half of small businesses will be run by women entrepreneurs.
“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
Embrace your strengths. If you’re starting a new business, all you may see are your self-perceived limitations and flaws. Men do it better, you may think. Think Again!
What are some of the attributes an entrepreneurial woman may have already?
Instinct? Intuition? Both!
Most of us use the words “instinct” and “intuition” interchangeably.
Instinct: (1) a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency; (2) an inborn pattern of activity, a tendency to action common to a given biological species; (3) a natural intuitive power.
“An animal’s instincts and behaviors help it survive. Bears adapt to harsh winters by hibernating; humpback whales migrate from their nurseries off the coast of Hawaii to feed in the krill-rich waters off of Alaska.”
Intuition: (1) direct perception of truth, fact, etc. Independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension; (2) a fact, truth, etc., perceived in this way; (3) a keen and quick insight.
“Her understanding of her husband is a result both of her intuition and of the years she spent with him. It’s that internal (gut) feeling, that prevailing thought that silently tells her something isn’t right before any signs appear. It’s a woman’s intuition and it may just be one of the most powerful forces any human can possess.”
Some decades ago, the snarky comment was “Ah, yes, women’s intuition.” Intuition is a valuable asset, a commodity to be treasured. USE it!
Fast Company, the business magazine, notes that intuition is now valued in the business world. Calling it “women’s intuition in a Hugo Boss suit,” the magazine calls it a cognitive ability that allows star performers to recognize patterns, the basis of big picture thinking. Women in the business world have a knack for pinpointing trends from the jumble of information that confronts us.
Eileen Fisher, an American clothing designer and founder of the women’s clothing brand, Eileen Fisher, Inc., created apparel pieces for women with complex, busy lives and pieces that transition easily from work to family life. She saw how women were frustrated by the money, time and styles required for each part of their complicated lives. She saw a need and filled it, establishing a hugely successful business in the process.
Carol Latham has been recognized for entrepreneurial endeavors by Inc. Magazine and by the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Program. She discovered that heat would build up in computers, making them run hot, which at the time prevented them from being made smaller. When her current bosses weren’t interested in her ideas, this physical chemist set up Thermagon to perfect polymer semiconductors. Intel recognized the advantages and the result was the revolutionary Pentium chip.
Dr. Blossom O-Meally-Nelson is a staunch believer that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She wrote in the Jamaica Observer that women have been business-oriented throughout history, either overtly or, more commonly, on the sly, to assure the financial stability of their families. She feels that intuition is the core of their business ability, which she sees as an extension of their drive by instinctively striving to protect the family.
Women are natural social networkers. This doesn’t mean all women are extroverts. It simply means that raising a family, “women’s work” for millennia, is the source of all networking. For example, traditionally, the wife in the family, not the husband, handles the social calendar.
Modern business outreach is closely tied to social media. Though the belief is that students and 20-somethings are the foundation of this social media giant, the fact is that women in their 40s and 50s latched onto Facebook from its earliest days. They connected to old friends and shared photos of kids and grandkids.
For women starting a business, asking friends and friends of friends for contacts, advice and other types of help can keep their start-ups afloat as they transition from dream to actual business.
Another source of strength is listening. Women are known for asking questions and listening to the answers. This creates relationships with customers, industry leaders and employees. Listening also nurtures their capacity for compassion and enhances their natural ability for negotiation.
An article in Forbes addresses the leadership skills that are natural to women. One of the most essential skills for entrepreneurs is the ability to see a glass as half full, not as half empty. Faced with lack of encouragement, lack of funds or any number of adverse conditions, they tend to look for the underlying opportunity. Every mother knows how important it is to encourage a child and to find the good in what she has done to keep her motivated.
This skill gives women entrepreneurs the strength to persevere, to keep pushing and to find the door that will let them continue ahead. And in the process, they take in what is happening and learn from it.
Estee Lauder was an American business woman. Cited in the article as an example, she was one of the powerhouses in the cosmetics industry in the 20th century. After the war, there was a major boom in the sale of cosmetics. New users wanted to sample the products before buying but suppliers were unwilling to give away their product for free. Lauder realized the allure of a “free try.” She pioneered the free-gift and gift-with-purchase marketing strategies that are so common today.
As a woman, you have abundant natural strengths. Finding them and using them will help you make your dream your reality and make a living from your business.
“Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as a survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading, buying and selling.”– Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame, Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop.