When you look at the businesses around you, consider how many are women-owned. How many companies are local, small, and started by an entrepreneurial woman who saw a specific need, and then filled it with creativity and business savvy?
In Arlington, VA alone – where Arlington Women Entrepreneurs now has more than 90 members – the number of businesses owned and operated by women entrepreneurs continues to grow. What led these women to leave the security of jobs with structure, salary and benefits? What drives them to forge out on their own to create something new for which they are entirely responsible and in charge?
Women entrepreneurship is growing not just in our community or even in the U.S., but in all areas of the world. What I find fascinating about these women is what prompts them to take the leap.
Studies and anecdotal evidence reveal that many were not your traditional stellar students or over-achievers. A majority weren’t motivated by good grades or the approval of others, in school or in their early jobs and careers. Instead, they found what motivated them, followed their own path, and turned that inner need into a thriving business.
In fact, in a recent study (reported in this article by Fast Company) Corinne Post, associate professor of management at Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics, studied gender differences among members of 82 teams in 29 innovative organizations. Her findings revealed that female leaders reported greater team cohesion, more co-operative learning, and more inclusive communication than those led by men.
“The special thing women leaders bring to the team is that they exercise relational leadership practices, stimulating high-quality relationships, bonding, and connectivity among members,” Post explained. “This can be a strong advantage when teams are challenged by size, geographic dispersion and functional diversity.”
Here are some other common traits successful women entrepreneurs share:
They Take Risks
Starting your own business takes courage and confidence. It’s not that women entrepreneurs – like all entrepreneurs — don’t experience fear, it’s that they overcome it. They believe in themselves and their ability to lead and succeed. Nothing new could be accomplished if it weren’t for the possibility of failing. Without risk, there can never be growth.
They Are Positive and Resilient
Successful women entrepreneurs are optimistic and great problem solvers. If they run into obstacles, they don’t panic or give up. They rise to the challenge, study the issue from all angles, come up with a plan, rally their troops and continue moving ahead. They also don’t take criticism personally, but rather as an opportunity to improve. If a client isn’t satisfied, they figure out why and fix it.
They Work Hard
No one ever said building a business is easy, but entrepreneurs – including women — take hard work to the next level. Nights, weekends, and keeping pen and paper by the bed for middle for night brainstorms are just par for the course. Which isn’t to say they don’t take breaks – one major reason women choose entrepreneurship is the flexibility it provides to accommodate all areas of their lives: work, family, travel and personal time. Many will spend a few hours on a personal project or volunteering at their child’s school during the day, then work until midnight once the kids are in bed.
They Delegate and Network
Small business owners can easily get lost in the weeds, doing all the work and not focusing enough on business development. Successful women entrepreneurs resist the tendency to try to do it all. They delegate day-to-day tasks to their employees and hire outside consultants when they need their expertise. They also know — or learn fast — when, and how, to say no.
They Are On Fire
The passion, motivation and drive women entrepreneurs have to succeed and bring their great ideas to the world is palpable. This is what we see at AWE meetings: you put a bunch of women business owners together in a room and their positive energy and enthusiasm could light up a city. They share info, refer and hire one another, and collaborate on larger projects. They are incredibly supportive and thrive on seeing each other succeed and grow.
Women entrepreneurs are generous mentors and role models. They play vital roles as small business owners in the local economy and in the communities in which they operate. They are a driving force in the current economic recovery — and in future growth here and around the world.