How to grow your business, one step at a time

 

There are now over 1 million self-employed women in the UK, and whilst over 70% own their own businesses, less than 20% of those have employees. Some might argue that women don’t want to grow big businesses, but it’s not true for many female entrepreneurs today. So what will encourage women to grow their businesses to a size that contributes to the economy by providing jobs for others?

Three things: aspirations, capabilities and resources, and underpinning them all a good idea that is scalable.

Business Model

Many women start out delivering a product or service that is based around their own skills e.g. complementary therapy. Whilst you might be the best therapist in your local area, the business can only be scalable if you create a business model which helps you (and others who may become involved in your business) understand how it makes money.

A business model should describe how your business positions itself within its industry and how it intends to generate revenue. It should answer the following questions:

1. Who pays? (consumer, producer, or third parties?)
2. What for? (goods, services, expertise, assurances of quality or security.)
3. To whom?
4. Why? (perceived value, competitive price etc.)

You need a clear and convincing answers to the above questions, especially “why”.

If your business model cannot be replicated then it will difficult to turn your service into a growth business. But assuming that it is, then consider the other areas too.

Read more about business models

Aspirations

Many women start up in business for different reasons to the traditional entrepreneurial values of financial success, power and status. Some tend to be motivated by personal comfort or self-actualization goals that allow them to work at something interesting and maintain flexibility. Running a high growth business tends to demand high levels of energy, commitment and leadership skills and might not seem so appealing.

How to get inspired

  • Read about women who are running growth businesses and find out what it’s really like
  • Think about your future and what you would like to achieve. Think about the benefits of investing time and effort for a few years in order to build a business that has the potential to be sold. This could provide the finance for you to achieve your longer term vision.
  • Believe it is possible. Sometime the greatest fear we have is fear of success, not fear of failure so create your own model for success based on your ideal work environment.

Capabilities

This is the combination of knowledge and skills that you bring to the table. Sometimes I think many of us like to imagine we can do it all, and it’s foolish to believe that this is the case. This encourages you not to delegate and get others involved, which is what is needed to grow a business.

– Critically assess the skills and capabilities that you have. Be honest with yourself and recognise that if you are focusing on your strengths then you can start to value strengths in others and it’s easier to delegate.
– Some useful tools to use are Strengths Finder and Wealth Dynamics profile

Resources

Resources are the combination of financial and social capital that you have available which can help you make the transition from lifestyle business to growing business.

Finances

Over the years, maybe you have not had as much interest or taken the responsibility for understanding and managing finances, and research shows that women spend less time engaged in activity related to acquiring finance at the start-up stage.

This could be because we can be more risk averse regarding business funding. I wish I had a pound for every woman I have spoken to that will only start their business on a shoe string because they don’t believe it’s really going to be a success! Yet it’s this under-capitalisation of a business that can cause problems if you intend to grow.

  • Find someone you can help you gain the financial knowledge that you will need or read books or attend a course.
  • Challenge your thinking – ask yourself – what is attitude to financial risk? Would you put up your house as security? If not, why not? Is it that you would not put your family in jeopardy, you don’t believe in the potential of the product/service? By asking yourself these questions, you can begin to think like an investor – if you don’t believe in your business, then why should the bank or an investor?
  • Contrary to popular belief, successful entrepreneurs are not risk takers, but what they do is carefully evaluate all the risks before making a decision.

Social Capital

As you begin to grow, you will need to find good people to help you. They might be business specialists, investors, potential members of staff, mentors etc. and the more diverse networks that you have, the greater the chance that you will be able to find the right people.

  • evaluate all the networks that you are part of already. E.g. family, school friends, other parents, business networks, evening class contacts, people at the gym, and you will amaze yourself at the number of people you know.
  • Even if you don’t have a large network, you can “borrow” social capital from others who do and that is where a mentor comes in. If you are looking to build contacts in a particular industry sector then you might consider seeking a mentor in that industry. Whilst this might seem a “one-sided approach” if you have ever mentored someone else you will know that the mentor gets a lot of satisfaction too from being able to help their mentee and to make introductions.
  • How to find a mentor

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