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While the majority of women entrepreneurs create solo or micro businesses, there are many advantages to thinking ‘medium’. Here’s why and how.
By Rania Anderson
Globally, the most common entrepreneurial advice encourages women to either 1) start a business or 2) “Think BIG” (i.e. create a very large business).
But I’d like you to consider a third alternative: Think Medium.
Think Medium means setting goals and developing plans to create a medium-sized firm with employees.
Many women erroneously believe that operating as a solopreneur offers them more flexibility and is less risky. However, having a slightly larger business with a few employees may actually be a lot more advantageous.
Here’s why: Across the globe, the rate of women starting their own businesses has accelerated. According to the World Bank (PDF), women worldwide own or operate 25% to 33% of all private businesses. Recognizing the critical contribution of women-owned businesses, organizations and resources are increasingly committed to supporting woman-owned startups. However, most of the existing programs are designed to help individuals who want to start a business. Very few are designed to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
At the other end of the continuum, angel investors, venture capitalists, governments and entrepreneurial support organizations seek out high-growth businesses. Yet from the most developed to the least developed economies, women entrepreneurs have lower growth expectations and operate smaller businesses than their male counterparts. Very few women entrepreneurs indicate that they plan to add 20 or more employees over the next five years according to the Global Entrepreneurial Monitor Report.
Often overlooked and rarely discussed, is the middle ground between staying a micro-enterprise or being a solopreneur, and aspiring to grow your company into a very large one. With a few key actions you can endeavor to increase your business slightly and achieve some significant benefits from doing so. Many women erroneously believe that staying very small and operating as a solopreneur offers them more flexibility and is less risky. In fact, having a slightly larger business and a few employees may actually be a lot more advantageous.
If done well, delegating tasks to employees can free a business owner from time consuming tasks and allow her to spend time focused on high impact, high return activities. Having more employees can actually also provide the founder with more time flexibility and opportunities to better integrate work/life priorities. Going from a one woman show to a slightly larger company usually involves increasing the number or customers, products or markets, typically diversifying risk for the entrepreneur.
1. It all starts with setting an intention for growth. First and foremost you must believe that you are capable of expanding your business and having the confidence to take the necessary steps to do so.
2. Identify and pursue the fastest growing opportunities, customers or markets within your business expertise and expand your business offering there.
3. Identify and approach other larger businesses already working in these high growth arenas. One underutilized path to growth is to subcontract or partner with larger organizations who have access to larger contracts. Contributing your company’s expertise or product as part of a larger strategic team can give you access to contracts you could not have secured on your own.
4. Don’t be afraid to use credit as one of your sources of financing growth. Women are generally more reticent to use credit preferring to only finance operations from earnings but this can limit the businesses ability to get to the next level. Although bank credit may be not be easy to get in your country, figure out how you can apply for it even if you don’t have traditional forms of collateral or find credit granting institutions or programs designed to help women entrepreneurs grow.
5. Hire employees that enable growth. Around the world, the vast majority of women-owned businesses consist only of the founder. Many women entrepreneurs are reticent to bring on staff worrying about how they will be able to incur regular salary and benefit expenses. But, the right hire will more than pay for her/himself by generating more opportunities and profit.
6. Seek role models and mentors with successful scaling results. Identify and approach one or two people in your community who successful operate a medium enterprise. Ask them for specific advice and insights on the key actions that led to their growth.
Women have been led to believe or have come to think that there are only two business size alternatives. But, like clothes, businesses don’t just come in two sizes: large and small – there’s also always a Medium. It’s actually one of the most popular sizes. Try one on for size, it just takes a little risk for a really nice potential reward.If you’ve grown your business to ‘medium’ size, or plan to, share your story!
This article was first published at The Way Women Work
Rania Anderson is Founder & President of The Way Women Work. She is a global speaker, Executive coach, angel investor and former corporate leader, as well as a forthcoming author.
Pic credit: Pulihora (Used under a Creative Commons license)
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