By Guest Blogger & WPO London Chapter Chair, Sue Stockdale
If you are keen to grow your business, it is likely that this will require you to step into the unknown. That could mean diversifying into a new sector, launching your product or service into a new geographical sector, or recruiting talented managers so that you can step back from the day to day running of the business and focus on being more strategic.
Being prepared to boldly go where others fear to tread requires a preparedness to take risks, make mistakes but to potentially reap the rewards maybe in terms of increased revenues, larger market share or a robust leadership team.
However going into the unknown will mean accepting some type of change, and as humans we are hard wired to avoid loss. A study by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky found that given a choice our brain will tend to choose the option that minimizes loss—the one with the least perceived change. So in other words, we have to work twice as hard to go into the unknown.
In business there are some great examples of women entrepreneurs who have achieved success by doing this. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx knew nothing about the pantyhose industry when she started up her business. Similarly Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, started Biocon Ltd, the biotech business based in India back in 1978 from the garage of her rented home, when the challenges that she faced from lack of reliable infrastructure, meant that she was stepping into the unknown as to whether it was viable or not.
Here are some tips to help you:
Practice being comfortable with uncertainty
It’s not the unknown that people fear, but the uncertainty that is associated with it. When I skied to the North Pole, there had been no UK woman there before me. But there had been other expeditions before mine, so I was able to learn from others about what we might encounter along the way. By doing this research is allayed some of my fears and I was then able to feel more confident about the factors that I could control. Take time to carry out research before expanding into new markets, or recruiting a key player to your team.
Understand your attitude to risk
Knowing your own propensity for risk-taking will help you understand how and why you make decisions. This can help when you are encouraging others in your business to take risks, particularly if they have a different attitude to risk than you do. Using an analysis tool such as Risk-Type Compass which identifies eight different risk types ranging from Prudent and Wary, to Adventurous and Spontaneous, can help teams to recognise what will encourage those with different attitudes to step into the unknown.
Your ability to be aware of, and question assumptions
We all make assumptions that influence our behaviour. For example. “If I lost money on the stock market, it might happen again, so I won’t do it” or “Venture Capitalists never fund our type of business” All of these statements contain assumptions that we may never even challenge. So when planning to step into the unknown, make sure you are aware of any assumptions you are making about the situation as they may hold you back.
For example, when US store chain, Best Buy expanded into foreign markets, Business Insider reported in 2011 that they messed up their European expansion by failing to observe that Europeans preferred smaller shops to large outlets, among other factors. Laurel Delaney’s article on Exporting can help you learn more about global markets and enable you to question assumptions, before you take action and embark on an ambitious expansion.
Sue Stockdale is Chapter Chair for the London WPO and is a Motivational Speaker and Executive Coach working with leaders worldwide. She was the First UK woman to ski to the North Pole and was recently awarded a Global Coaching Leadership Award in Mumbai. Sue is author of eight business books including The Growth Story and Secrets of Successful Women Entrepreneurs and writes regularly for a number of international publications.
Guest blog by Laurel Delaney
Think exporting isn’t for your business? Guess again. There are more than seven billion potential customers in the world, and 2.4 billion of them are online. How many of those customers is your company reaching? In a world that is now connected by the Internet, being a successful businessperson means no longer confining your business by borders—whether those of the city, state, or country. Exporting—or sending goods and services out of a country—increases a company’s sales and profits, enhances its prestige, creates jobs, and offers a valuable way to level seasonal fluctuations. Exporting is also a powerful force that contributes to economic growth, development, and prosperity in our world.
The explosion of US entrepreneurs and small businesses—more than twenty-eight million combined—engaging in the world economy in the last few years is largely attributable to the Internet. This transition has taken place as businesses have sought new ways to grow and tap into the more than 96 percent of the world’s consumers and 73 percent of the world’s purchasing power that lie outside the United States. Surprisingly, though, less than 1 percent of these businesses and individuals operate in the US export marketplace, even though the amount of exporters has grown faster than the amount of nonexporters in terms of both goods sold and employment.
Exporting puts you in the driver’s seat, so you can sell more everywhere, get on the world stage, and grow. Other benefits to exporting include:
• Improving your return on investments
• Creating jobs
• Overcoming low growth in your home market
• Outmaneuvering competitors
• Becoming more productive
• Generating economies of scale in production
• Exploring previously untapped markets
• Making productive use of excess domestic capacity
• Extending the product life cycle
• Insulating your seasonal domestic sales by allowing you to find new foreign markets
• Broadening your personal intellectual horizons
• Enriching your country
• Traveling to new countries
The Current State of Exporting
Export-driven entrepreneurs and small businesses play a significant role in the overall economic growth and prosperity of the United States and the world at large. They have the potential to improve productivity, achieve greater efficiencies, enhance world-class competitiveness, and create jobs. This is possible because:
• Exporting lends itself to small business. More than 293,100 US companies exported goods in 2010, nearly 16,500 more than in 2009. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—those with fewer than five hundred employees—accounted for 97 percent of all identified exporters in 2010 (Source: http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/smeoutlook/tg_ian_001925.asp#P27_2705).
• Exports generate revenue. The known export revenue of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the United States rose to $383.4 billion in 2010, up 24.1 percent from 2009. SMEs were responsible for 33.7 percent of goods exports in 2010 (Source: http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/smeoutlook/tg_ian_001925.asp#P27_2705).
• Exports are growing. US exports reached historic highs in 2011, which represents an increase of 33 percent from those in 2009. That year, US exports reached a record $2.1 trillion and supported 9.7 million American jobs. US exports of services reached a record $606 billion, boosting the 2011 trade surplus in services of the United States to a record $178.5 billion. Total global exports were higher in 2011 than in any previous year (Source: http://www.commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2012/05/17/fact-sheet-build-it-here-sell-it-everywhere-why-exports-matter).
• Exporting helps you find new customers and develop new markets. The International Monetary Fund (www.imf.org) forecasts that nearly 87 percent of the world economic growth during the next five years will take place outside of the United States.
The bottom line is whether you run a product or serviced-based business you need to be ready to take on the world, because the future of exporting literally lies in your hands. Are you ready? Let’s export!
Laurel J. Delaney is founder and president of Chicago-based GlobeTrade.com, a management consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses go global. She is the author of “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably,” Apress, 2013 (www.ExportingGuide.com).
Guest Blog Post by Beth Bronfman, Managing Partner, VIEW
I believe in empire building. Especially when it comes to women in business. If you want power, I say go for it. But what happens once you get to that mountaintop that once seemed so unattainable? What happens when the hurdles that seemed so high are now considered nothing more than temporary speed bumps? When you have every reason to rest on a nice cushy bed of laurels?
Wake up. You are now at a make or break moment.
The care and feeding of a successful business is every bit as challenging and critical as the long climb it took to achieve that success. Thankfully, you are now in a position to delegate, draw on the support of longtime contacts, and get advice from those who once had no time for you.
Interestingly, Advancing the State of Your Empire was the theme and focus I chose as the chair of this year’s annual Committee of 200 (C200) Conference in New York City. C200 is an invitation-only membership organization composed of some of the world’s most successful female business leaders and entrepreneurs. I feel privileged to be a board member of such a prestigious group and to share ideas, experiences and visions for the future of our careers — and for all women in business.
Though women are quite savvy about the tools needed to start their careers, they are woefully deficient in understanding what’s needed to progress as leaders. Here are a few tips I consider indispensable, whether you’re in the corporate world or an enterprising entrepreneur:
- Continue building your list of contacts. It is important to know people with a variety of skill sets you are able to draw upon at any point in time. You never know when someone in another industry might become the perfect partner for your next business goal.
- Carefully select a board of advisors. It is the old adage: Two heads are better than one. And in many cases, multiple heads are better than a few. Having a trusted team of advisors to turn to for big decisions can help provide important perspective, drawn from combined years of experience in business.
- Never stop networking. Learn about what other leaders are doing and how they think can only expand your own vision. Surround yourself with equally ambitious and successful leaders, and you will never lack for inspiration or guidance when you need it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised at how many other successful leaders have faced similar challenges, and can provide valuable insight into how to approach a problem to find a workable solution.
These tips are valuable at any stage of a career, including the CEO level! In fact, at the C200 Conference, our members, all corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, participated in panels where we leaned on one another for advice on all kinds of topics, including how to make tough choices — in life and in business, how to apply the growing field of big data to improve businesses in any industry, and how to get the most out of each stage of a career. The point is that you’ve never climbed the ladder far enough to stop climbing, or to look around at the scaffolding for support.
*This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on December 4, 2013
Are you a small business owner? Make Nov 30 one of the biggest days of the year for your business by taking part in Small Business Saturday®. Check out resources that can help you stand out on the big day at ShopSmall.com.
• SPREAD THE WORD: Download marketing materials that can help you attract new customers on the day
• PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS: Apply for free personalized online ads. Eligibility restrictions apply; see Terms of Participation for full details. Registration for free ads closes on 11/4/13 or while supplies last.
• GET INSPIRED: Visit ShopSmall.com to see what others have done in past years to make the day a success
This is a day no small business would want to miss. Make sure you’re a part of Small Business Saturday 2013.
The WPO will be posting a special guest blogging series from the Women’s Forum on the Economy and Society in Deauville, France from October 13th to October 16th written by female alumnae of iLive2Lead (iL2L) from 5 continents. The authors of these blogs are all young women and aspiring entrepreneurs.
The following blog was written by Beatriz Castro, iL2L Global Ambassador from Brazil.
About: Five iL2L alum from 5 nations have been invited to give the youth report on the findings at the annual Women’s Forum in France. This year’s program’s theme is competition, cooperation, and creativity. Delegates will look at open digital innovation and the role women uniquely play in this arena. The program also examines the digital effect on Europe and what the future holds. The following Gen Y report comes to you from the Women’s Forum.
“I had an amazing opportunity to interview Ms. Andrea Menezes, CEO of Standard Bank in Brazil. With 21 years of experience in finance, Ms. Menezes was appointed CEO in April 2012.
In an interview in Paris on October 15, 2013, Ms Menezes told me about her views on women in the labor market, their competitive advantages and features that make them entrepreneurs.
According to Andrea, the competitive advantage of women as leaders is that they think differently, and have different perspectives than men have; but she also highlights how important the complementary visions of both sexes are to the success of the organization, as well the need to have global expertise and specific knowledge in certain subjects.
When asked about the main characteristic of an entrepreneur, Andrea introduced me to a feature which she says is present in many women: the ability to carry out various activities at once, to be multidisciplinary; in other words, they have the ability to work, take care of children, run a house, as well as to be successful businesswomen.At last year’s Forum in 2012, Andrea participated in the CEO Champions, begun in 2010 for the purpose of promoting the advancement of women in the private sector, and to discuss topics such as the importance of their perspective and vision within organizations.
I asked Andrea if the project would succeed in making improvements in women’s leadership. Andrea tells me that the project has been helped along by McKinsey & Co., which since 2007 has provided data that show the importance of the role of women as leaders in the market. The CEO Champions has provided a valuable space for discussion of these issues and sharing of ideas among CEOs around the world, as they search for new ways to initiate change.
An event like the Women’s Forum is critical to help bring focus to the importance of women’s leadership in the business world. It creates an awareness that helps seek equality for generations to come, and highlights what has been achieved in the search for the rights and opportunities that we enjoy today, says Andrea.
Asked if she felt there were barriers to her in her career, or any kind of prejudice expressed against her as a CEO, leader and business woman, Andrea said she never felt anything like that. “Barriers exist when you put yourself in barriers; when you feel there aren’t barriers, the opportunities will appear,” says Andrea.
Andrea said that she feels very fulfilled with the business and the daily challenges provided by her work at the Bank. She emphasized how important it is for career women to maintain a balance between their personal life and their professional life.”
iLive2Lead is a youth leadership-training program based in Washington, D.C., that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world. iL2L brings the most exceptional young leaders together for International Leadership Summits and works with them to develop social initiatives which they lead back in their home nations, thus creating global examples of social responsibility and a ripple effect of impact worldwide.
About the Author: Beatriz Castro is 20 years old and comes from Guaratingueta in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She’s a hard-working, energetic young woman who has achieved many things beyond her family’s expectations. She is always ready with a smile and makes a great effort to meet new people and develop herself. Two years ago she participated in an international program sponsored by the state government. She was chosen for this by her teachers and headmaster as the best student at her technical highschool. The program offered her an international cultural exchange. She lived one month in the United States, took an English course, and lived with an American family, where she developed her intercultural skills. Currently, she is taking Business Administration at Unisal College and is working as an import/export trainee for Stollberg of Brazil, part of a Greek group called S&B Industrial Minerals.
The Great Equalizer
It is undeniably important that women of all backgrounds and industries support one another. Recently, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has generated significant buzz by encouraging women to work collaboratively to talk about what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.
This is an immensely important topic and a step in the right direction in breaking down gender barriers. The Lean In perspective specifically encourages women in the corporate arena to begin to support one another through monthly meetings and to share challenges they face as females in the corporate workplace.
However, the Lean In perspective is merely a snapshot of the whole women’s economic picture. By focusing primarily on helping corporate women, we are leaving out a significant segment, namely, women entrepreneurs.
Lean In is undoubtedly an interesting approach for corporate women but it is not the only source for women as it’s missing the “great equalizer”- the women’s entrepreneurship sector. This sector is the “great equalizer” because it gives women the opportunity to have significant control over their time, as well as more power and more influence in the global economy. Women’s entrepreneurship is the one place where women can be compensated at the same level as their male counterparts. Research has demonstrated that the most valuable resource available to help successful business owners learn and grow is other successful business owners, similar to Sandberg’s approach to the development of corporate women.
Pulling the Genius Out
The model surrounding the Lean In perspective is that women essentially become peer groups, called Lean In Circles. These peer groups meet to discuss best practices, provide support and encouragement, share experiences and challenges, and learn useful skills.
This is a concept long fostered by the Women Presidents’ Organization. The WPO has been providing women entrepreneurs with a similar resource for over 15 years. Members of the WPO meet once a month and are led by professionally trained facilitators in order to discuss challenges, best practices, and share experiences. Essentially, these peer groups pull the genius out of the group to accelerate the growth of these businesses. While the Lean In perspective is a step in the right direction by providing a platform for corporate women; the WPO has established that this format is the most effective approach to learning new strategies for women business owners.
The Future of Women in Business
Women entrepreneurs are the greatest hope in growing the economy, breaking down gender barriers, and becoming the great economic equalizer. Every year, the Women Presidents’ Organization partners with American Express OPEN to promote a program known as the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Businesses in North America. The 2013 and sixth annual ranking is a snapshot of the impressive strides that women entrepreneurs have made in just the last few years.
“Growing Under the Radar“, a research report commissioned by American Express OPEN earlier this year, shows that the number of women-owned firms pulling in $10 million or more in annual sales has jumped by 57% over the last decade. The women included on the list generated a combined $3.2 billion this year alone, and the average number of employees per company is 641. The list represents an impressive variety of women-owned businesses from transportation to IT, healthcare and recruiting. In addition, nearly half of the ranking includes WPO members who truly have reaped the benefits received through working with other women business owners.
Considering these impressive facts and statistics, it has become increasingly more apparent that supporting small businesses, specifically, women-owned companies will ultimately lead to a level playing field. The members of the WPO are established business owners who have a substantial amount of experience and skills to share. It’s important that society begins to recognize the economic importance of these women. The Lean In perspective is a compliment to the work that the WPO has already established. Women business owners are driving business breakthroughs because they are “reaching farther, together.” Perhaps, corporate women will do the same?