3 adaptations to help women entrepreneurs scale big
Through the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program, we have gained a unique understanding of how to help women entrepreneurs succeed. This competition and executive leadership program identifies a select group of women entrepreneurs in the US and Canada whose businesses show real potential to scale — and then helps them do it.
In the program’s nine years, we’ve helped more than 80 participants grow their companies — averaging approximately 20% revenue growth annually. In the second year of participation in the program, when they are really beginning to internalize the information and connect with the new contacts they’ve made, revenue growth can be up to 50%.
Our latest research report draws on the knowledge we have gained. It also includes survey data on the program, developed and gathered by the Babson College Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, and advice from other experts in entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial finance and leadership.
Scaling big: 3 force multipliers for growth
Because women entrepreneurs are prone to underestimating what they can accomplish, our advice starts with “think big and be bold.” As Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, Founder and CEO of LetterLogic, told us recently, “It was through [the program] I realized I had a company that could easily be a $100 million company, and beyond. On my way!”
Additional guidance we’ve developed — our “5 Ways to Win” — counsels the entrepreneurs to take action in four other areas: building a public profile, working on the business rather than in it, establishing key advisory networks and evaluating financing for expansion.
While these steps are proven and necessary, our report reveals three new and noteworthy force multipliers, which are contributing significantly to accelerated growth in these women-led companies:
- A strong community. Communities offer women entrepreneurs much-welcomed affirmation, know-how, peer-to-peer guidance and, ultimately, role models.
- An authentic purpose. This simple statement of “why we do what we do” serves as the company’s North Star, guiding it in every aspect — from recruitment to customer management to product development and sales.
- A flexible, adaptive leadership style. When a company grows, its leader needs to evolve too. A small start-up requires different characteristics in its leader than a 100- or 1,000-person company. Entrepreneurs need the self-awareness to know when they need to change their focus, and how.
“Our program helps bridge the gap for an area we call ‘the missing middle’ — those second-stage women business owners whose companies have emerged from the start-up phase but face a crucial inflection point in their growth journey. We’re able to help these talented women access capital, identify strong business advisors and put the processes in place to radically expand their companies.”
— Kerrie MacPherson, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Executive Sponsor