Entrepreneurship was once considered a man's domain, but according to a 2017 national study on the state of women’s entrepreneurship, commissioned by American Express Open, the number of women-owned businesses has been on the rise in the United States for the last two decades. The study reports that the number of women-owned businesses has grown more than 2.5 times the national average between 1997 and 2017 – a whopping 114%, compared to a 44% increase among all businesses. It also estimated that 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States – a total of 39% of all U.S. private sector firms – employed 8% of the total workforce (nearly 9 million people) and generated more than $1.7 trillion in revenues.
However, according to most indicators, women lag behind our male counterparts in growing our businesses beyond $50,000 in annual gross revenue. Why is this happening? One reason may be the pressures and obstacles women in particular face when starting, running, and growing a business. These pressures include: competing demands of family and business; the types of businesses women chose to start; how we structure our businesses; and a lack of adequate support. These pressures may be so intense that they can force some of us to second-guess our decision to follow our dreams, causing us to become stuck. When this happens, we feel like we’re spinning our wheels and we often resort to behaviors and activities that, perhaps, helped us in the past, hoping they’ll help us overcome our current situation. Sometimes these slumps may be caused by hitting a rough patch or two in our business, but if they drag on too long we may even become bogged down in indecisiveness and inaction.
Feeling stuck has happened to all of us in business at some point or another, but no matter how we got there, we can be confident that it is possible to get “unstuck” and get our business back on track. The important thing to know is how to move on from it – a necessity for our business’s survival and our economic well-being.
There are three key steps that have been successfully used by many other business owners to gain necessary traction and we know they will work. They are reassessing our priorities and goals for our business, reassessing our business strategies, and taking deliberate action. These three simple steps can help us get back on track and help turn our dreams into the income-generating powerhouses we envisioned.
Re-assess Your Goals
As our business grows, it’s priorities, goals, and objectives change as well. And since nothing grows in a vacuum, one of the things we should always do to stay relevant is check out the competition. Are they responding to some changes in the industry that we aren’t yet aware of? Are the solutions we’re providing still relevant to our target audience? Better still, let’s engage our prospects and clients for some insight into the major issues they are currently facing.
Doing so will help us gain a fresh perspective on our goals, the reasons behind them, and our competitive advantage. Furthermore, this is not something that we set and forget. Our goals need to be reviewed on a continual basis as internal and external business conditions constantly change.
Re-assess Your Strategy
Armed with new information and insight, we must then determine if we’ve adequately identified the barriers/obstacles we have to overcome; if our goals and guiding principles are still in alignment; and what resources we have at our disposal. This step helps us understand what needs to be done and how to measure progress. However, be careful not to let this exercise turn into a long laundry list of “to-do’s” that distract us from our goal.
Take Deliberate Action
Despite the incessantly pressing demands of the day-to-day operations inherent in running a business, there is no business if it doesn’t generate income. Therefore, it is vitally important to concentrate on those activities that add to our bottom-line such as sales and marketing. Sometimes the way to become unstuck is to get back to the basics and back to work.
Feeling overwhelmed can also cause us to become stuck, so asking for help is important if we are trying to take our businesses to the next level. By tapping into our networks, we can gain inspiration and motivation; receive reality checks on our capabilities and objectives; create partnership and joint venture prospects; and learn about funding opportunities. This type of support can give us a leg up on our competition while focusing our objectives and actions.
Some of us started businesses to pursue our dreams and passions or help others pursue theirs. Others just wanted to have the freedom to set their own hours, work from anywhere and do things their way. There are as many reasons as there are business owners, and each and every one continues to be the right reason. However, to become, or remain a profitable concern, we cannot allow ourselves to become stuck and let our businesses suffer. Learning to reflect, reevaluate, and take thoughtful, purposeful action during difficult times is key to bouncing back quickly and keeping the dream alive.
Guest post courtesy of Erika D. Williams and Dr. Yvonne Williams-McMillan. Founders of Color Your World Personal Development & Coaching www.coloryourworldcoaching.com