Small Business Guides
10 top tips for women in business
7 min read
How can you juggle running a business with other commitments – such as parenthood, sports teams, or your social life? We asked Go-to Girl, a social media and networking company, to share the combined experience and knowledge of thousands of women in business. Here are their tips.
Challenges and opportunities
Women at work can face some unique challenges. Workplace sexism is being actively challenged all over the world. But it hasn’t been completely eradicated.
Attitudes are changing, but not quickly enough. And life decisions such as parenthood still tend to affect women’s careers more than men’s.
For these reasons and others, many women are setting up their own businesses. This gives them more freedom:
- They can work the hours that suit them, rather than a strict 9-to-5 day.
- They can work from home whenever necessary.
- They can make better use of their skills, experience and knowledge.
- They can balance working life with parenthood.
- They aren’t limited by a glass ceiling.
It’s not just women who are making this choice, of course. Gender roles are shifting and slowly becoming more balanced. Some of the above reasons also apply to men, many of whom are actively involved in looking after children.
This guide is about “women in business.” But the 10 tips here are relevant to anyone who’s trying to balance a working life with demands such as parenthood. Here are 10 tips we collaborated on with Go-to Girl founder Natalie.
1. Learn to delegate
Business owners tend to wear many hats and have to keep many balls in the air at once. You might be the CEO of your one-person company. But you’re also the head of sales, business development manager, administrator, bookkeeper and tea maker!
You can’t do everything well. There simply isn’t enough time in the day. Mothers in particular often feel time poor. They therefore feel obliged to throw every spare minute at their business in order to make it succeed.
But that’s not a good strategy. Instead, you should focus on the work that you love. Concentrate on what you really enjoy doing in your business. After all, that’s why you started the business in the first place. And it’s probably what you’re best at.
Delegate and outsource everything else, whether it’s accounting, graphic design or marketing. The more you concentrate on what you’re best at, the faster your business will grow.
2. Remember to set goals – and rewards
Setting goals is a basic ingredient for business success. But some entrepreneurs forget the other side of that coin – the rewards for meeting those goals. Women in business sometimes neglect this, but it’s important.
Everyone responds to positive reinforcement of behavior – from children to teenagers to business owners. So if you’ve achieved a milestone in your business, reward yourself for it! Give yourself something to aim for, something enjoyable in return for all that hard work.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weekend away or simply a day out of the office. What’s important is that you reward yourself for your achievements in building your business.
3. Don’t try to be all things to all people
If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to nobody. Marketing is all about targeting the individual. It’s about persuading your customer that you understand their needs – and can fulfill them.
So try to refine your “avatar” – the image of your company that you want to project to your customers. Keep that avatar in mind for all your marketing campaigns, and make sure you always “speak” with its voice. Don’t try to please everyone!
4. Know your USP
Your unique selling proposition, or unique selling point (USP), is what makes you different from other businesses. Do you know what it is? Could you explain it to your customers?
This is important because your USP should be guiding nearly everything you do in business. It determines your target customers and guides your product or service development. In fact it shapes the destiny of your business.
If you can explain your USP in two or three sentences, great. If you can’t, work on it until you can. Without a clear USP you will struggle to build a successful business.
5. Don’t get lost in social media
There are so many social networks that it can be hard to know where to concentrate your resources. The answer is to go where your customers are.
Social media is a powerful method of communicating with your customers. But it takes time to do it properly. So identify your “ideal client” and see which social media channels they use most.
Marketing is all about targeting the individual. It’s about persuading your customer that you understand their needs – and can fulfill them.
6. Make time for yourself
Women in business should never forget why they’re in business. One of the reasons is to build a better life for yourself. You can’t do that if you don’t take time for yourself.
So block out some “me time” in your calendar, and take it. Do something every day that makes you feel better. It might be going for a run or having a cup of tea while reading a magazine. The activity itself doesn’t matter – what matters is that it’s not work.
Taking time out will help you recharge and stay in control during your busy working day. It will also give you a better perspective on your business – and your life.
7. Have buffers and boundaries
One of the hardest things for any entrepreneur to learn is to say “No”. When you run your own business you’re acutely aware of where the money comes from. So if a client asks you to do a rush job on a Friday afternoon, there’s strong pressure to say “Yes”. Otherwise you might feel you’ll lose the client.
But that way lies disaster – for your business and for your health. Without boundaries you could end up working all the time. You might earn more money in the short term, but only at the expense of your family and other relationships.
So set some boundaries. Perhaps you might decide to:
- never work at weekends
- work a maximum of two evenings during the week
- win enough clients that the loss of one won’t matter too much
- choose clients who have realistic expectations
- have buffers between meetings and appointments – don’t run them back-to-back.
Work-related stress is a killer all over the world, and it’s particularly bad for entrepreneurs. Take sensible steps to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
8. Try the “keep, stop, start” technique
This is an interesting technique that can help you focus on what’s important in your business. It can also help you to make changes that you know are necessary, but are hard to make.
The technique is simple. Just write down the following:
- One thing that you’re going to keep doing.
- One thing that you’re going to stop doing.
- One thing that you’re going to start doing.
You can do this for your business and for your personal life. It works for both. Having just three things written down can help you concentrate on them – and help you reach your goals.
9. Invest in yourself and your business
Many entrepreneurs start out with the view that the less money they spend, the more they will make. It does make sense to economize where practical. But sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
Without investment, your business can’t grow any larger than you – its founder. Investment in your business might mean:
- outsourcing work to other people
- spending money on marketing and advertising
- paying for product development and market research
- renting office space to be nearer to your clients.
All of these involve spending money, but that money should work hard for you. It may seem like a gamble at times, but it’s a necessary one if you want your business to grow. The old saying “You have to speculate to accumulate” is often true in business.
10. Forget the “to do” list
It’s easy to make a list of things to do. The trouble is, the list tends to get longer and longer over time! That can be demoralizing and it also means you may lose your direction.
Instead, focus on a single target – your number one goal. Let’s say your goal is to make a certain amount of money per month:
- Break that sum down into how much you need to earn per week.
- Determine what actions you need to take to earn that weekly amount.
- Focus on those actions – each and every week.
This will help you concentrate on what’s important for your business. And it will prevent you getting lost in never-ending lists of things that seem important – but often aren’t.
Learn from other entrepreneurs
The ten tips in this guide have been put together from years of experience. They represent feedback and ideas from thousands of women in business.
Whether you're an experienced entrepreneur or you're just starting out in business, you can learn from those who have gone before you.
Successful entrepreneurs understand how to delegate. They know how to concentrate on what they're good at, and how to balance work with life. If you do what they do, there's a good chance you'll be successful too.