While the media flashes a spotlight on women cracking the notorious glass ceiling of the Fortune 500, you might argue that it’s really the female small business owners who are blazing a trail by creating companies in record numbers. Not only are women-owned small businesses expanding rapidly, women small business owners are also among the most optimistic. In fact, the Bank of America® Spring 2014 Small Business Owner Report, found that 70 percent of female entrepreneurs expect their revenues to increase over the next 12 months.
This month, both The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Inc. magazine held prominent industry conferences for female entrepreneurs. Having attended both events, we heard from many women during morning walks, networking events and fireside chats. We discussed everything from access to capital to empowering female entrepreneurs, but an interesting topic that arose was the different approach women take to their businesses compared to their male counterparts. For instance, women rank empathy, creativity and multi-tasking as key qualities, while men value their confidence and tech-savviness more than their female counterparts (2014 Small Business Owner Report). Here’s what else we heard:
- Improving Time Management: Women seem more likely to sacrifice time for themselves to run their businesses, while men are more likely to sacrifice relationships with their spouses/partners and time with their children. To get more time back, we all need to be willing to invest in our people. Women are far less likely to do this than men, with only 14 percent saying they would invest in employee training if they had a loan (versus 29 percent of men who said the same). Employee training is critical, and we can empower our teams to get the work done while we focus time on the larger, more strategic issues.
- Using Innovation: Technology is extremely important, however, only one in four women (27 percent) invest in new equipment. Investing in new technology is vital for an efficiently run company and can allow you to stay connected as you grow. At the NAWBO conference, Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, founders of Georgetown Cupcake, discussed ways to better leverage technology and data to manage their business and position the company for growth. New technology helped them track and utilize the number of customers who come in the door each day to the cost of materials.
- Seeking Financing: Nearly one in three women (29 percent) feel they have less access to capital than their male counterparts. What can we do about this, and how can women entrepreneurs find confidence when applying for financing? One way is to look to organizations that understand, encourage and actively help women-owned businesses achieve their goals. I am proud to say that Bank of America recently teamed up with the Tory Burch Foundation to form Elizabeth Street Capital, an initiative that’s designed to boost female-owned businesses through mentorship, networking and access to capital.
As the business world is ever-evolving and women continue to take a leading role, take pride in what makes us different, as entrepreneurs and as women.
I recently participated in a Google Hangout with NAWBO Chair, Darla Beggs; Inc. magazine Editor-at-Large, Kimberly Weisul; and CNBC correspondent and moderator, Carol Roth. You can watch a recorded replay of that event by clicking here.