Women need to think big
(As originally published in the Financial Post, 12 March 2012)
By Colleen McMorrow, Leader, Entrepreneurial Services, EY
Women entrepreneurs are not new. But despite robust growth in the early stages, companies owned by women are not scaling up to the degree they could.
In Canada, women-owned businesses grew an explosive 208% from 1981 to 2001, compared with a 38% uptick for men. In the United States, women are starting businesses at nearly twice the rate of their male counterparts. Worldwide, women now own or operate 25% to 33% of all private businesses.
So why aren’t we seeing the kind of growth that we could? A host of challenges pervasive among entrepreneurs seem to be particularly acute among female business owners, including difficulty accessing capital and networking opportunities. But how can we solve this?
In the next decade, the impact of women on the global economy — as entrepreneurs, producers, employees and consumers — will be at least as significant as that of China’s and India’s respective one-billion-plus populations.
Campaigns such as The Third Billion seek to provide the resources women need to become full participants in the world’s economy. It recognizes that women (as employees, clients and entrepreneurs) represent tremendous untapped business potential. These types of initiatives and International Women’s Day events are critical. But female entrepreneurs can take small steps every day to push the agenda – and their businesses – forward, too.
EY’s Think Big report explored the issue through the firm’s key programs for entrepreneurs, and uncovered five elements female entrepreneurs should be building into their scalability plans if they really want to grow:
Think big and bold Entrepreneurial success is directly linked to an entrepreneurial mindset. People must believe the qualities that have brought them this far – ability to see possibilities others don’t, desire to innovate, knack for turning adversity into opportunity – are those that build marketleading companies. In short, entrepreneurs must believe it before they can achieve it. Sometimes, taking a significant step toward growth can be as simple as that.
Build a public profile Like anyone hoping to grow their business, women must build the right external visibility. It’s easier to win attention if the media have already identified you as someone to watch. Taking the time to build a media plan, and tell a story can give any entrepreneur an edge over the competition.
Work on, not in the business Every year were amazed at the passionate individuals through the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards (ey.com/ca/EOY). But disconnecting emotionally from the business is sometimes critical to future success.
Entrepreneurs must carefully determine the goal, then implement the right team to help reach it. This widens their ability to drive strategy rather than operations.
Establish the right network Remarkable entrepreneurs surround themselves with brilliant advice. That means getting into the right industry groups, attending the right events and knocking on the right doors – even if it can feel counterintuitive. To be a successful leader, entrepreneurs must draw on the experience of peers and mentors, as well as business and personal advisors. This yields opportunities and new ways of thinking.
Tackle financing head on Studies show women are less likely to use outside financing than men. With access to capital tight and competition fierce, women can’t afford to limit themselves. Anyone reluctant to tap into new financing sources should get a better understanding of what’s out there – then learn how to approach it, pitch it and present it before initiating critical conversations.
Colleen McMorrow is entrepreneurial services leader and national Entrepreneur Of The Year program director at Ernst & Young LLP (ey.com).