Entrepreneur: 6 Strategies That Drive Business Growth

By: Patti Fletcher

There are numerous differences between men and women’s natural approaches to leadership. To really understand those differences, let’s take a look at the all-female founding team at Globalization Partners and see how their androgynous approach to company culture resulted in growing the company from zero to more than $17 million in annual revenue with business done in more than 150 countries in just three short years.

Here are six strategies they used to drive their growth.

An inclusive culture doesn’t support the company — it drives it

Some feminists might celebrate the fact that women compose 75 percent of Globalization Partners’ work force. CEO and founder Nicole Sahin actually wants that number to decrease to about 50 percent. This isn’t some philosophical or moral question but a strategic goal. The company revolutionized its industry in part because its all-female founding team brought a radically different perspective to the marketplace. But, those same women know that to stay innovative, they must continue to strive for a company comprising varied perspectives, experiences and skill sets. Diversity doesn’t do much, but inclusivity can be amazing.

When a new hire comes onboard, Nicole begins to build a personal relationship with them. Not only does she want to hear their ideas and gain fresh insights, she wants them to feel that they’re welcomed and a valuable addition to the overall fabric of the company. In short, she wants them to know their diverse perspective isn’t just permitted but expected.

Purpose and profit go hand in hand

Globalization Partners is a professional employer organization: They help companies hire foreign employees quickly. But, when I talked to the leadership team about why they do it, the conversation quickly switched from money to meaning. They felt they created and facilitated relationships across borders and boundaries.

Nicole said, “Through global commerce, comes peace.”

Echoing her sentiment, general counsel Nancy Cremins said, “It’s hard to go to war against your teammate or someone you value who works for you.”

It’s not just about turning a profit or gaining market share but about accomplishing something worthwhile while doing so.

Think about it, then take the risk

Despite being in the midst of that phenomenal growth, Nicole made the decision to stop taking new clients for several months.

For any high-growth startup, that’s just unthinkable. But, Globalization Partners’ leadership team was concerned that the operations that led to their success might not be sustainable as they grew. So they stopped taking on new business, continued to service their existing clients, and focused on building a structure for the future. It turned out to be the right choice.

This is a textbook example of the differences between men and women: Men see business barriers as obstacles, while women often see them as opportunities. Realizing they didn’t have a scalable framework, the team allowed the challenge to become the catalyst they needed to step back, rework their business model, then get back into the fray.

A male-dominated team would probably have followed the traditional high-growth startup approach: “Let’s build the plane while we’re flying it.” The lack of scalable operations would simply have been a problem to fix, not an opportunity to take advantage of.

Don’t hire an employee; hire a person

Globalization Partners embraces the concept of whole life integration. They don’t just deal with the person who shows up at the office but strive to offer a job that makes room for the rest of their employee’s life. Flexible schedules, generous family leave, a smart re-entry program for new parents — this place is nirvana for women who want to succeed at life and business at the same time. In making business decisions, the executive team considers not just what’s best for the company, but also what works for the people who compose it.

Invest in the future by investing in people

I almost fell off my chair when Nicole told me it’s company policy to extend a paid sabbatical — including fully paid world travel — to employees after five years of service.

“Traveling around the world with my husband, meeting people who were so different from me, changed my life. I want my employees to be able to experience that too with their families,” she explained.

Executive decisions are relational, not linear

Instead of The Lean Startup-inspired ethos of starting out as small and as quickly as possible, Nicole spent a year traveling the world to figure out Globalization Partners’ business model.

Of course, not everyone can take a year off and be a jet-setter. That’s not the point. She didn’t create a minimally viable product, sell it, see what worked, and then pivot and iterate again. That is, she didn’t start at point A, go to point B, and then hit point C.

Rather, she started outside herself. She talked to potential clients, providers, partners, and employees all over the world. She took multiple perspectives into account and then created a company that would work with all of them.

That kind of thinking — not “Where are we and where do we want to go?” but “What do our stakeholders need and how can we provide it?” — has made possible their fantastically profitable, fantastically fun journey.


Forbes: How A Female Founder Is Taking A Man’s Niche Product Mainstream

By: Geri Stengel

Susan Pieper noticed that snow and gardening shovels broke when her son, a backcountry skier, snowboarder and mountaineer, used them on his adventures in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an outdoor wonderland. Pieper decided to develop a shovel that was durable, big enough for real work, portable (fits on a snowmobile) and innovative — such as teeth to break through ice.

DMOS Collective launched in April, 2015, with the vision of reimagining the shovel from a tool your grandmother uses in her garden to a tool an outdoor adventurer could stake his life on (even if he didn’t have to). When you’re disrupting a category and expecting to scale big time, you need to have agile processes — iterative and incremental development to collaboration between cross-functional teams. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with artificial intelligence or shovels.

Subcontractors Can Be A Crucial Alliance

In 2017, creating agility in DMOS’ product development and manufacturing process was one of Pieper’s greatest challenges. Originally, DMOS manufactured its shovels in China. That’s great when you need low-cost manufacturing for huge volumes, like 2 million units. However, when working with China, you need two years lead time from product design to market launch. “I knew if we were going to innovate developing shovels for different vertical markets, we needed smaller unit runs and shorter production cycles,” she said.

Her manufacturing team is a valued strategic business partner, advising on all issues related to how a design was going to be produced in volume. Pieper was looking for a manufacturer who could produce 50,000 to 100,000 units cost-efficiently and in a timely fashion — bringing a new design to market in 4 to 6 months. The manufacturer needed to be an expert in robotics and automation.

In 2017, Pieper made a strategic decision to manufacture in the U.S. She wanted her manufacturing partner nearby — no more than a quick plane ride away. “If I needed to discuss something, I wanted them to be on the same schedule as me so I could pick up the phone and get an immediate response,” she said. It was also incredibly helpful that the entire manufacturing team spoke English, she added.

Others are also recognizing the benefits of manufacturing in the U.S. The number of middle market manufacturing companies more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, according to The Middle Market Power Index series of reports from American Express and Dun & Bradstreet. DMOS chose Lit Workshop, owned by Wayne Watson, a manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Portland ranks 4th in middle market dominance. This metric measures overall importance of middle market firms, defined as $10 million to $1 billion, to a city’s economy. An advantage of middle market manufacturers is that they are large enough to grow with a company that subcontracts to them and nimble enough to to go from design to market in 6 months.

“You always want to be the smallest customer of a manufacturer so when your production needs  surge, you know they have the capacity to ramp up quickly,” said Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia and one of the Astia Angels who recently invested in DMOS. “Reality is, as a startup, you don’t often have the choice of who will work with you. Because Pieper is so senior and has such an exciting product, she has been successful in attracting a manufacturing partner with the capacity to scale with her.”

From Niche To Mass Market

DMOS started as a product for outdoor enthusiasts. The market quickly expanded to their dads,  to farmers, to the guy who drives a snowcat and to highway patrolmen. Next up, the military, which Pieper believes needs high-quality, durable and portable tools, too

The original go-to-market strategy was direct to the consumer but now DMOS is pursuing a multi-channel approach, embracing both selling direct and through wholesalers. DMOS is now sold through Hammacher Schlemmer, Duluth Trading Company, Backcountry.com, Campsaver, Moosejaw, and Zumiez.

What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing Making Shovels?

Some investors thought a woman leading a company with more than a 90% male target market was out of her league. Boy, are they wrong! Pieper knows male markets. She has sailed 10,000 ocean miles, 3,000 of them as a captain. She’s been rigging and outfitting sailboats for 20 years. In addition, she has an MBA from Harvard and been a management consultant at McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers, among other places.

Despite her own adventures, finding funding was the hardest thing Pieper ever did. Less than 1% of all companies raise venture capital and women CEOs received only 7% of venture capital in 2017, according to Pitchbook.

Pieper, like many other entrepreneurs, tested interest in her product and raised money through Kickstarter. The first campaign raised $36,624 — exceeding its goal by more than 80%. The second raised $177,496 — exceeding its goal by more than 1,000%.

With an impressive market opportunity, growth to date, agile processes, top notch management team and intellectual property, DMOS was able to close a Series A round in January 2018. Investors included Astia Angels, a global investment community of men and women who invest exclusively in women-led ventures.

What are your biggest challenges in 2018 and how will you solve them?

The Encore: PwC Teams Up With #MovetheDial

Dedicated to increasing the participation and advancement of women in technology

We have always known that in the technology industry, women have a steeper hill to climb – as attested to by leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and the many brave women who have spoken up about the “bro-culture” in Silicon Valley and venture capital industry.

A movement called #MovetheDial was started to increase the participation and advancement of women in the Canadian tech community. We knew the Canadian tech industry faced similar issues to the global community – but we didn’t know to what extent, so we teamed up with #MovetheDial and MaRS Discovery District to find out.

Research and analysis of 933 tech companies in Canada uncovered key findings such as:

  • Currently, only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female founder. When companies with male and female co-founders are factored in, the percentage of tech companies with female founders increases only to 13%.
  • Only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO — and when companies with male and female co-CEOs are factored in, that statistic increases only to 6%.
  • Women comprise 13% of the average tech company’s executive team, while 53% of tech companies have no female executives at all.
  • On average, only 8% of directors at Canadian tech companies are women. 73% of boards have no women at all.
  • Approximately 30% of Canadian venture capital firms have a female partner, and on average, 12% of partners are women.

Female leaders are just as qualified as their male counterparts, and we believe they should be given equal opportunities to advance in their careers. In an industry fiercely competing for the best talent, we can’t afford to leave a significant portion of our workforce on the sidelines.

Learn more about the #MovetheDial initiative and read the new benchmark report Where is the Dial now? here.

Forbes: How Women Entrepreneurs Grow Stronger Together

By: Eve Ashworth

Imagine women in business as a powerful band of advocates, collaborators and allies. Imagine women entrepreneurs who know how to leverage their innate strength, overcome barriers and build relationships that drive growth in their businesses and careers. Male networking is a given — golf, squash, attending sporting events — while cliché, these are serious business-building opportunities. By contrast, women pride themselves on multi-tasking but fail to build into their schedules the networking opportunities that men take for granted. The truth is that networking builds business. However, being a single female entity in a male-dominated room can, on occasion, be uncomfortable and doesn’t always yield business.

These problems are greatly reduced when women network with other women. It is important to be creative in networking. For example, I have for years brought together women entrepreneurs and executive friends for dinner, and it has been productive, comfortable and good for my creative and mental well-being. Shared interests among women provide mutual respect and invaluable sounding boards. My running partner of seven years is a savvy HR professional who has given me tremendous business insights through spending time with her.

Choose Female Role Models

Every female entrepreneur should make a serious “business role models” list. This list embodies leaders you admire from all walks of life — living or dead humanitarians, rule-breaking and risk-taking business leaders or writers of books that have changed history. The list must include women — women who led or lead by example and inspire you to reach for greatness. Who are the women on your list?

To female entrepreneurs, women leaders are more relatable, understanding your struggles as an entrepreneur. Like you, they have to juggle demands that can make them feel conflicted. Their example can help you find your path. Studying business role models helps make the difference between planning your visions and goals and achieving them. If you’ve formed a business plan but faltered on the path to carry it out, study role models and don’t be disheartened by life getting in the way.

Women who are successful are dedicated and focused, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t journeyed for 15-20 years to be where they are today. The people on your list help you to grasp and stay in touch with the process of success and the longevity of focus that is needed.

Study those in your industry, learn from them, adapt their techniques and do things on your own terms. Tina Brown is someone I have looked up to. I remember reading that she rarely attended events in the evening so she could be a mother. Through her, I realized that I did not have to do it all now and to bide my time. I could do a proper job of raising my family and still be successful by attending key events. Making the most of events I do attend means knowing who will be there so I can make an effort to connect with them.

Don’t be discouraged — everyone started somewhere and it’s taken a lot of time to get to where they are today. Be efficient and become very good at saying no.

Recently, I was fortunate to meet Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board, U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She was a member of the third women’s class and first women’s basketball team at West Point. And now, 40 years later, is the first woman dean of the academic board. She has maintained a happy marriage, raised three children and has been a member of the National Security Agency among other prestigious posts. She is a great example of how to combine dignity, discipline and humanity in a male-dominated industry.

Add Value Through Collaboration

Many of the relationships I’ve built over decades with women I admire in business have resulted from a committed effort to collaborate. My first boss is a resource to this day, and I am proud to say that sometimes she leans on me for my experiences.

As women build careers and businesses, it is not uncommon to connect with other female entrepreneurs on a personal level within minutes of meeting. However, it is necessary as you structure your go-to network/advisory committee to be selective. Advisory committees work for entrepreneurs who are working on a new idea, unique model or need a sounding board to help business growth. First, analyze your expectations for each open spot on your board, then think of how each might contribute to the success of your company. Another criteria for your committee is to choose women who are open, honest, enjoy connecting with others, help you look credible and are genuinely happy to contribute.

Right now, I’m in the midst of launching a software-as-a-service product. It’s been a bootstrap effort all the way, but throughout I’ve found women who’ve been highly receptive to the idea and product. They have helped introduce me up the line to people who were willing to give the product a chance.

Treat Women In Business With Respect

When interacting with any colleagues, especially women, I remember the great Henry James quote: “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Taking ownership of one’s actions and words will increase your business relationships and, in turn, affect the overall business landscape.

Brigadier General Jebb’s advice to women was never to earn a laugh or leg-up at another’s expense. No matter who my competition is, if they are good at what they do, I give them the respect they deserve.

My new friend, Savannah Guthrie, faced an absolute ordeal by fire when she had to announce the departure of her co-host, Matt Lauer, in November. By taking the high road, she earned some criticism but I feel that her grace and compassion spoke highly of her character and business ethics. After all, is that not what matters most?

WPO Guest Blog: Entrepreneurs and the Law — Are We Efficient Enough? Let Disruption Lead You Into The Future!

By: Nicolene Schoeman-Louw

Access to speedy, reliable and affordable legal services is crucial to entrepreneurs. As attorneys, we are in the business of selling time and legal expertise, and obviously to make a decent profit in doing so. For years now, the public’s main objection with how attorneys provide legal solutions has been the time we need to complete tasks or the lack of planning. There is a clear disconnect between what we wish to achieve as attorneys and how the public views what we do and how do we it. So, how do we remedy this disconnect?

The fact is, if we don’t find a way to bridge this gap; legal solutions will not keep up with the fast pace of a modern business and entrepreneurs will look elsewhere. This may result in them receiving poor legal solutions in the long run and will impact the success of the business.  This is a real risk which, statistically, is one of the main causes of business failure, particularly in the case of a start-up or SME.

Moreover, the other option of running an in-house legal department does not make much sense to many businesses, particularly because it is not a revenue generating expense.

So, what to do???

I believe that entrepreneurs should partner with law firms who are willing to go on a journey with them. This journey is about remedying the disconnect while enhancing efficiency.

According to the dictionary, efficiency means “the state or quality of being efficient, or able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort; competency in performance.” Efficiency is key in order for the solution to be mutually beneficial.

First, identify aspects in your business which are repetitive in nature, such as a credit application or terms and conditions (“T&Cs”). Then look for a firm who is competent to review the documentation and finally automate your process. It is important that you contract with a firm that is not running any solutions as a separate entity. When contracting with a professional who is governed by a professional body there are inherent quality guarantees. . In essence, contracting with an entity — other than a partnership or Inc., or practicing firm of attorneys — may result in not having the necessary recourse you would normally have when contracting with an attorney.

The role of attorneys

Once you have updated your agreements and automated them through a reliable establishment, the role of your attorney shifts. Now they will annually review all the documents you regularly use to ensure that everything is still relevant and in line with best practice. The fact that it is optimized in this way ensures that the review process is efficient. The likelihood of missing something requiring update is significantly reduced. The completion is standardized and therefore the risk is limited.

Your attorney then becomes your specialist advisor in situations where simple or elementary solutions do not suffice, as opposed to trying to do it all or to project manage it all.

We long ago recognized this disconnect and have spent years creating what we believe to be the solution. This is only the beginning of where the revolution will take us. Making use of technology in driving your legal needs has the ability to propel businesses into success in a very efficient manner at a fraction of the traditional direct and time cost. This is a benefit for large and small businesses alike.

Click here for more on Nicolene Schoeman-Louw, SchoemanLaw Inc.

IBM: Getting started with IBM Design Thinking

Align. Innovate. Create.

Maybe you think you have a great idea for a new product. Or, maybe you already created a product and your competitors just released an update that scares. Either way, you need a proven process for innovating and delivering fast. You need IBM® Design Thinking.

IBM Design Thinking combines traditional techniques with new core practices

IBM Design Thinking starts by bringing together a series of traditional design techniques, such as personas, empathy maps, as-is scenarios, design ideation, to-be scenarios, wireframe sketches, hypothesis-driven design, and minimum viable product (MVP) definition. To these traditional design approaches, IBM Design Thinking adds three core practices: hills, playbacks, and sponsor users.


IBM Design Thinking created the notion of hills to provide a new business language for alignment around user-centric market outcomes, not feature requests. This new business language is rooted in user needs and desires. Each hill is expressed as an aspirational end state for users that is motivated by market understanding. Hills define the mission and scope of a release and serve to focus the design and development work on desired, measurable outcomes. For each project, define no more than three major release hill objectives plus a technical foundation objective.


As your effort moves forward, you’ll want to obtain lots of feedback. You need playbacks.

Playbacks align your team, stakeholders, and users around the user value that you plan to deliver, rather than project line items. All design and development work is iterative. To scale in an iterative world, IBM Design Thinking formalizes these sessions into iconic playback milestones that align everyone around a set of high-value scenarios that show the value of your offering.

Early playbacks align the team and ensure that it understands how to achieve a hill’s specific user objectives. In later playbacks, the development team demonstrates its progress on delivering high-value, end-to-end scenarios.

Sponsor users

Sponsor users, a special component of IBM Design Thinking, are people who are selected from your real or intended user group. By working with sponsor users, you can better design experiences for real target users, rather than imagined needs. If at all possible, engage sponsor uses when you create your personas, and continue to include them throughout the entire design and development process.

As you engage sponsor users on a regular basis throughout the release cycle, your relationship deepens, and their feedback provides direct insight into the specialized needs of their business domains. Collaboration between sponsor users and your team ensures that your product is valuable, effortless, and enjoyable.

Important components of IBM Design Thinking

  • Personas: Start by getting to know the person or people that you intend to help with your product. Collect information and answer a wide array of questions about them. Who are they? What are their personal demographics? What are their normal tasks? What motivates them? What problems do they face? What frustrates them?

    You can gather this information from many sources, including surveys, forums, direct observation, and interviews. Then, take all of the information and organize it to describe one or more specific individuals, or personas, who represent your target audience. As you work toward your solution, return to the personas to ensure that what you are building is going to excite them and make them say “Wow.”

  • Empathy maps: After you define one or more personas, get to know them at a deeper level. Capture what they think, what they feel, what they say, and what they do. By doing so, you’ll begin to develop empathy for this person. You’ll use an empathy map to identify their major pain points.
  • As-is scenarios maps: Next, take an in-depth look at your personas’ primary task scenarios. In an as-is scenario map, document the steps that they take, and as you do, document what they think, what they feel, and what they do along the way.

    During this phase, be sure to capture all of the issues and problems that your personas face in their current environment. Capturing issues can be difficult because you might need to candidly discuss the flaws in your current offering. Don’t be afraid to be honest. The more honest you are, the more likely you are to identify the most critical pain points. Ultimately, you develop greater empathy for your personas and gain a deeper understanding of the problems that they face as they try to achieve their goals.

  • Design ideation and prioritization: After you create a persona, an empathy map, and an as-is scenario map, you’ll understand your target audience and the problems that it faces. You’ll also probably have a few ideas about how to solve their problems and excite them. During design ideation, brainstorm and generate as many ideas as possible. Initially, don’t worry about what is feasible. Generate as many ideas as possible, regardless of whether you know how to implement them. Then, organize those ideas into clusters and decide which clusters have the greatest promise.
  • To-be scenario maps: At this point, your goal is to create a scenario map. This scenario map, called a to-be scenario map, describes the future state that the adoption of your best ideas leads to. Capture what personas think, do, and feel during this future set of activities. Be sure to capture the “wow” aspect in this new scenario flow. The key question is “Will the person feel compelled to purchase a product that achieves this outcome? Why? Why not?”
  • Wireframe sketches: To get a better sense of the to-be outcome, it is sometimes useful to create a set of low-fidelity wireframe sketches with various alternatives. These wireframe sketches are not intended to represent a final design. That comes later. At this point, try to sketch potential experiences and their flows. Create a wide array of alternatives, knowing that you might throw away most of them. You can show those alternative sketches to various stakeholders and to actual members of your target audience to get feedback.
  • Hypothesis-driven design: A key aspect of IBM Design Thinking is to create a set of testable and measurable hypotheses about what you design and deliver. The hypotheses are generally in this form: “If we provide persona A, with the ability to achieve outcome B, we’ll then be able to measure the impact via metrics X, Y, and Z.” These testable hypotheses help you determine whether you created the compelling product that you hoped to create.
  • Minimum viable product (MVP) definition: After you have a set of hypotheses, you can define an MVP. An MVP is the smallest thing that can be built and delivered quickly to test one of your hypotheses and help you learn and evaluate your effort. In IBM Design Thinking, MVPs are closely aligned with a set of hills. Teams often define their MVP statements and their hills in parallel.

The benefits of IBM Design Thinking

IBM Design Thinking takes the best industry recognized design methods, adds three core practices—hills, sponsor users, and playbacks—and applies knowledge from real development with real users at IBM’s worldwide IBM Cloud Garage locations.

By using IBM Design Thinking, you can generate ideas faster; design, evaluate, and test them faster; and develop code faster. Most importantly, you can deliver value to your customers faster.

The Women Presidents’ Organization would like to thank IBM for providing this week’s sponsor blog content. 

The Encore – PwC Canada: Women unbound – Unleashing Female Entrepreneurial Potential

In a recent study conducted by PwC, 450,000 seed crowdfunding campaigns were analyzed across the globe. The findings showed that women-led campaigns reached their funding target more often than male-led campaigns: in fact, campaigns led by women across the world in 2015 and 2016 were 32% more successful than those led by men across a wide range of sectors, geography and cultures.

Seed crowdfunding:  the use of ‘rewards based’ crowdfunding platforms to fund the creation, launch or development of new businesses, products and services where backers pay upfront for a product, service or project

In Canada, while women still achieve greater crowdfunding success when they finance through this channel, they struggle to receive even half the number of backers compared to male-led campaigns. Further, the average pledge amount received falls short of their male counterparts by more than 20%.

Despite this, significant opportunity still remains for women to become more active and represented in crowdfunding and to be more ambitious when establishing their finance raising goals.

Investing in or supporting women-led businesses has the potential to deliver some of the highest-returns – for investors and for societies. As female entrepreneurs and leaders, there’s a great opportunity to identify, quantify and remove the grey-suit-factor, which remains at the root of this inequality in female founders’ access to finance.

So what can you do to help women close the funding gap?

  1. Realize your potential, fuel your confidence and understand the opportunities that seed crowdfunding presents you;
  2. Be confident to use seed crowdfunding, as a tool of choice, to secure positive cash flow and market validation;
  3. Seek and participate in women-focused incubators, accelerators and platforms;
  4. Start or continue backing crowdfunded projects: some of the most crucial lessons about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign and launch a thriving business come from being a supporter of crowdfunded projects.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of crowdfunding, explore the opportunities it presents you to become a mini-VC and, in particular, the opportunity for women to champion women. It’s a great opportunity for already successful entrepreneurs to step into a role which was formerly exclusive to investors.

Read the full report to learn more about how seed crowdfunding is unleashing female entrepreneurial potential.