Work on the business, rather than in it
(As originally published in the Financial Post, May 2013)
By Alison E. Jackson, Partner, Tax, EY
This is part five of our Entrepreneurial Winning Women series of articles.
No entrepreneur is an island. In order to grow a successful business, you need to have connections with suppliers, clients and potential partners. And in order to be a successful leader, you need to draw on the experience of peers, mentors and advisors to help you evolve and grow personally as well.
Networking is not just a nice thing to do, it’s a business imperative.
Making important connections
The right networks can yield new opportunities and a new way of thinking. Through our Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program, which launched in Canada in 2013, we’ve helped many women entrepreneurs make critical connections to help them grow their business.
Dr. Marsha Firestone, Founder and President of the Women Presidents' Organization in the US, sees peer networks as key for women in the missing middle. "For women just at the start-up stage," she explains, "most of what has to be learned is best learned in an educational setting. But at $1 million in revenues, we're talking about second-stage entrepreneurs who benefit most by learning from each other. "
So how do you establish networks?
There are a number of ways to expand your network and make it work for you. Consider the following tips:
- At social events and conferences, scan the attendee list in advance and then seek meetings with the most valuable potential contacts when you are there.
- Consider joining entrepreneurial networks to meet other like-minded business leaders to discuss issues/challenges and to share best practices.
- Consider joining industry associations to meet other companies that may face challenges that are similar to yours.
- Consider pursuing education programs tailored to women entrepreneurs with organizations like Centre for Women in Business and Women Entrepreneurs of Canada.
- Use social media to get in touch with and network with key advisors. Sites like LinkedIn allow you to reconnect with former colleagues and contacts. Also considering using social media to reinforce your brand and business objectives.
- Consider formalizing your networks by establishing an advisory board for your business. An advisory board can provide you with an external perspective and diverse ideas on how to handle challenges and opportunities.
Entrepreneurs want to see other entrepreneurs thrive -- and they’re willing to take the time to step up and help others achieve similar success.
“My premier advisors include a former boss at an environmental company, a woman entrepreneur who had had an impressive career at GE before launching her small business, and another woman business owner,“ says Susan P. Rice, Founder and President, Cavanagh Services Group and participant in the Entrepreneurial Winning Woman Program.“ None of them hesitated a second when I asked them to join my board.”
- Finally, consider getting involved in formal programs like Entrepreneurial Winning Women. With the assistance of Babson College’s Center for Women’s Leadership, we’ve co-developed and administered an Entrepreneurial Winning Women impact assessment report, Thinking big, that reveals:
Women have the brains and the guts to build big businesses — but they need help to break through the barriers for rapid growth and entrepreneurial success. They need access to mentors who can challenge and encourage them to think bigger. By investing time into building your network and by participating in formal programs like Entrepreneurial Winning Women, you can build your network to help you meet with people who have diverse perspectives and could ultimately help you identify opportunities to grow your business.
About Entrepreneurial Winning Woman program
In the US since 2008 and new to Canada in 2013, Ernst & Young, a world leader in advising, guiding and recognizing entrepreneurs, created an annual competition and leadership development program called Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ that identifies women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale up — and then helps them do it. Learn more about the Entrepreneurial Winning Woman program.. Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.