It’s a tough world out there, no matter the industry of a business, and it takes a thick-skinned person with persistence and tenacity to be successful in any small business. For women, some of the challenges can be especially difficult. In the U.S. we have come a long way from the Women’s Right Movement in the 1920s, but even so many women still face lower wages than men, more prejudice than male counterparts, and more sexual harassment than men do. Many single mothers face the challenge of raising a family alone while at the same time trying to bring in an income.
As easy as it is to focus on those challenges, sometimes it’s better to turn your attention to those things you can control. So instead of attacking the system, this article focuses on ways we as women can take our fate into our own hands and succeed at owning our own small businesses. And while I’m specifically talking to women in this post, most of these points are equally applicable to anyone starting a business.
Ask for Help When Needed
In a business world still predominantly male, women may be pressured to rely on their own resources. Don’t try to conquer the world on your own if you can identify people who can help you attain your goals. Everyone needs help at times. Surround yourself with a strong support base who believes in you and your dream. Consider everyone’s advice. If someone’s advice doesn’t work for you then don’t use it. Network within your field and establish a base of support by finding other like-minded individuals. Look for people in similar situations as yours, if possible. Start an advisory group. Check out the local chapter of the Small Business Administration. Resources abound, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Another very important resource that every woman who owns a small business should take advantage of is the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification. Holding this certification gives women tax breaks and other helpful advantages. For more information, check out this Inc.com article.
Research Your Business and Ideas
To really find success in a business, thoroughly research your idea. Make sure you are creating a brand that people need. Strategically identify every aspect of the market you plan on tapping into. The more information you acquire, the more you will avoid surprises and the easier it will be to make informed and logical decisions.
Of course, this researching applies even after you get your startup going. Never stop learning! Technology changes constantly and so do most industries. Stay on top of the most recent happenings by carefully selecting a few trade journals or regional publications to subscribe to. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and also identify up-and-coming competitors.
Business is Business
Don’t forget that you are going to have to make tough decisions and you can’t always expect everyone to agree with them. Your business requires you to be shrewd. Try to make decisions that will benefit your employees but ultimately serve the needs of your business. This can be the most difficult task, but could be a huge factor in the success of your company.
If you are like me, then you probably have an emotional attachment with most of your contractors or employees or even suppliers or partners within your industry. However, there was a point in time when I had to make the tough decision and let my contractors go before the rest of my business went down, which is something I could not afford to let happen. When you arrive at tough decisions such as this, it may be helpful to draw up a “pros” and “cons” list to help you better see the situation with an objective eye rather than an emotional one.
Maintain Control of Your Finances
Keep an eye on your money. Understand what is happening in your company on every level. Where are you losing money? Where are you making money? Are your largest margins of profit occurring on holidays? Is your business a seasonal commodity?
Don’t just look at your finances when you file your taxes or run into financial trouble. Keep an eye on them throughout the year and remember that understanding your finances will provide you with more information about your company and render a roadmap to help you navigate through the complex field of business. You may want to have a day each month set aside to evaluate your cashflow and other financial indicators.
Don’t Stop Pursuing Success
If you run into road blocks, don’t stop moving forward with your goals. To avoid procrastination, map out a plan. Putting your goals into a realistic arrangement will allow you to focus on one step at a time. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, keep your tasks in an achievable format. Create a to-do list and work toward checking off a certain amount of items each and every day. This will keep you actively engaged. Creating lists is one of my personal weak points; I tend to put off creating a daily or weekly to-do list. However, I notice that every time I work with a list in front of me, I get more done than when I my list is absent.
You may also want to embody positive mantras to help motivate and push you when you are struggling to keep active. For example, “All you can do is the next right thing.” Learn from each experience, whether positive or negative. You can only fail if you stop pursuing your goals.
Here’s a trick from personal experience: one of my favorite times for gaining motivation is during my exercise time, whether I am doing a cardio routine, weights, or yoga. I find the empowerment and confidence that I need for the rest of the day in my morning exercise routine. Having a mantra, such as the one mentioned beforehand, in mind while exercising also gives me a motivating point of focus both during my workout and for all of my tasks the rest of the day, whether its in my business or time with my kids.
Take Full Advantage of Technology
New resources are being created every day. Utilize programs created to streamline your many business needs. Social media is a great way to expand awareness of your brand while allowing you to market your business and advertise its products at a relatively low cost. Be careful, though, as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ can be quite time consuming. Allot a small amount of time each day to your social media marketing and then leave it alone for the rest of the day.
If your industry offers classes for businesses in your field, sign up. Look for opportunities to pull ahead of the competition, such as taking an accredited course to gain some highly desired skills. Watch competitors in your industry to see what resources they are utilizing and do the same. Remain creative by continually looking for ways to use technology to build your business.
For More Information
For more reading on this topic, check out the following resources:
Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, graphic design, and desktop publishing. She writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company that offers brochure printing services, business cards, flyer printing services, posters, postcards, booklet printing services, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.