By Jennifer Marszalek
Whether it is spurred by macro-economic factors, personal passion, inspiration or just the need for flexible schedules to juggle family life, the small business landscape is changing as the number of women becoming entrepreneurs continues to grow. How do they do it?
Here are a few pointers we at SurePayroll have culled from working with some really successful women-owned business who tell us that one of the key factors to making their business actually work is learning to work smarter, not harder.
- Accept that not everything can be perfect. Our customers have told us they feel like their business is their baby or their art – they take great pride in striving for perfection. It can be a real wakeup call when things are not perfect– and they won’t always be. Know that sometimes good enough is great! Constantly seeking perfection can slow down business development, and someone else may hit the market first. In truth, nothing is perfect; continuous improvement should be part of your business processes.
- Manage your entrepreneurial expectations. The idea of running a business can be far different than the reality of running a business. Startups often begin on a dime with tiny operating budgets and one or a few people running the business, which means many unforeseen duties like sales or admin projects. Keep your long-term goals in mind and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Determine how to staff your business. Your people are like gold–valuable. A good business plan includes plans to staff the business. Develop an interview process with open-ended questions for candidates to think through solutions to real problems your business faces. Use referrals, conduct due diligence and find true partners to delegate projects. Hiring too soon or hiring the wrong person can be costly, so plan ahead and adjust as you grow and learn more about your operating needs.
- Seek mentors to act as a sounding board and help guide you as you build your small business. While new ideas drive entrepreneurs to launch businesses, there are many people who have gained great experience building theirs. Search out experts across different business functions and learn from them. Network with friends and family. Find organizations to help. Resources are available at the U.S. Small Business Administration, Micromentor.org or SCORE. Women-specific entrepreneur organizations, like Ladies Who Launch (http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/) or Women 2.0 (http://women2.com/), connect women entrepreneurs and hold events, provide training opportunities and access to potential mentors. Remember that it’s important to seek both male and female mentors to get balanced perspectives on navigating the business environment.
- Harness digital tools to run your business. Remember there’s power in the cloud. Outsourcing certain tasks can be easy and super affordable in this digital age. Do you need an office or can staff work remotely? Do you need full-time and part-time staff? Online tools allow entrepreneurs to leverage efficiency and keep down costs. Automate back office, redundant tasks like payroll. There are affordable, easy online payroll options that will give you peace of mind and save you hours each month.Use social networking tools to market the business like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Identify tools and leverage messages across multiple platforms to save precious time with efficiency.
- Develop a plan to scale and grow your business. Plot your path now – and assume it will change. Budding entrepreneurs often dream of the big corporate buyout, but that is not the norm. Often businesses grow, then plateau. To scale a business, selling your solutions to customers is only a piece of a larger puzzle. Delivering the solutions and meeting growing demand takes strategic planning. Think about growth strategies like sourcing influxes of capital, developing processes and measurements, and finding resources to help you invest money – when, where, with whom – to reach your long-term growth goals. Constantly seek ways to invest capital into the business to prepare for growth.
- Really focus, listen and learn from your customers. Do it consistently! Putting mechanisms in place to get feedback from customers is critical. Talk to your customers all the time. Don’t lose touch with them and their changing needs while running the business. Otherwise, someone else will listen and provide a new solution. Listen, learn, evolve or sadly perish.
Heard any other really great nuggets for women business owners? Share them with us socially!
Jennifer Marszalek is the Director of Human Resources at SurePayroll, Inc., a leading provider of online payroll services to small businesses nationwide.