Women entrepreneurs: think big and be bold
(As originally published in the Financial Post, April 2013)
By Kate McKechnie, Senior Manager, EY
Taking a small company and making it big isn't the easiest undertaking. Knowing when, where and how to scale-up is one of the biggest challenges small business owners encounter. Setting the right expectations for yourself and your company is the first and foremost step to any growth goal.
The higher your expectations for yourself, the more you are likely to achieve. This is especially important for women entrepreneurs who sometimes neglect to view themselves as future market leaders — a crucial component to succeeding in today's competitive business environment.
Women entrepreneurs have the same set of unique qualities as their male counterparts — a desire to innovate, a willingness to take calculated risks, a knack for turning adversity into opportunity, an ability to see possibilities others don't. And often times their skills go above and beyond this. They deliver fresh ideas that can ignite change and drive growth for themselves, their businesses and their communities.
These are the qualities that make start-ups successful. And they're the same qualities that build market-leading companies. Yet too often women entrepreneurs fail to see themselves as game-changers. It's this mindset that stands in the way to setting high expectations.
But it's no surprise this mentality exists given the scarcity of women at the helm of large businesses. Women entrepreneurs have relatively few role models to encourage them in their boldest dreams. Women are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles in business. Although the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has doubled in the last decade, women still only represented 3.6% of total leadership roles in 2012.
This research says it all. There's a pressing need for more role models, confidence and awareness of their own potential among women entrepreneurs. So while setting high expectations for yourself and your company is the first step to achieving size and scale, the second step is pursuing those goals with confidence. Women need to adjust the way they see themselves. And one way to do that is to improve the way we talk about ourselves and our business — not an easy task.
Fortunately, this is a skill that can be learned. That's why we're excited to launch Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurial Winning Women program in Canada this year. The program teaches this critical tactic through customized executive leadership training and opportunities to join an elite North American business network of accomplished entrepreneurs and other high-growth companies.
Selling yourself and your company is never easy. But through our program, and in conversation with successful women entrepreneurs, we’ve identified the following four effective tips to start selling yourself and your company:
- Don't undersell yourself: Ensure the professional persona reflects your accomplishments and capabilities
- Describe your business in clear terms: Focus on what differentiates your business
- Highlight your growth potential: express your long-term vision (and those expectations)
- Leave them wanting more: pique your audience's interest enough to schedule the next meeting
Women entrepreneurs in all markets have great potential to expand their businesses. To get there, though, women entrepreneurs are going to have to become more comfortable setting high expectations for themselves and their companies and talking about them with confidence. It's about thinking big and being bold.