For Decades, These Same 3 Issues Have Held Women Entrepreneurs Back. Here's What You Can Do About It.
Since my book Dive Right In – The Sharks Won’t Bite: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Success was published in 1995, I have seen plenty of amazing changes happen for women founders, including an increase in resources, networks and opportunities. I have observed these positive shifts not only in my own work life, but also through mentoring women and being involved in a number of female-focused organizations, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners and the National Women's Business Council.
But despite these positive changes, overall revenues for women-owned businesses have stagnated. In fact, women’s share of revenue has actually decreased from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent of all U.S. firms since 1997. What’s more, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, only 4.2 percent of women-owned enterprises ever reaches the million-dollar mark. Why? That’s a tough question to answer, but I suspect that it partially involves various forms of gender bias or stereotyping. We have expectations about how women should think and behave, and how driven they should be when it comes to business, success and money. This bias, on the part of both men and women, has changed little during the past 20 years, although now it can often be more subtle.
But gender bias is not the only roadblock to building a thriving business. Women’s own fears and beliefs often stand in their way to success. Here are three of the personal barriers that continue to plague women and what they can do about it.
1. PerfectionismOne of the biggest problems I saw in the mid ’90s with women wanting to start businesses was their inability to choose one business and focus on it. They would tell me about all the businesses they wanted to launch but kept stalling. At first, I thought this was a commitment issue until I realized that it was a form of perfectionism. Everything had to be perfect before they would officially launch.
Today, I see this in the woman who won’t start a business until she has the perfect name for the company, the woman who won’t delegate tasks because she can do it better herself, or the woman who obsesses over the fact that a client complained about some minor glitch. Yes, the name of your company is important, but don’t let it keep you from launching. And doing everything yourself is a way to get tasks done perfectly, but it’s not the way to build a business. You need employees, partners or outside help in order to grow. And, of course, you want satisfied customers, but don’t let something minor through you off track. Women often blame themselves for minor imperfections. Don’t do that. You need to fix the problem and move on.
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