Women entrepreneurs: how to build your business with confidence

Starting up

8 March 2018

In partnership with Global Invest Her

Some key foundations are needed to build a business that lasts. Here are five practical key tips and reminders to help you keep motivated and stay on track as you move forward.

Research by GEM UK shows that women’s total entrepreneurial activity (in the early stages of starting or having started a business less than 3.5 years old) in the UK remains consistently below half that of men (5.7% vs 12%). Yet a recent study by Natwest shows women-owned businesses contributed £3.51 billion to the UK economy in 2015 alone.

Here are some key things to keep in mind to help you be successful:

Stay Customer-focused

The ‘Customer is king’ and without them you don’t have a business. Yet, sometimes in the early stages of building a business you may be juggling different priorities, working on different parts of your business or refining a product and it’s easy to lose sight of the person you aim to serve. Regularly ask your customers for feedback to check what’s working and what, if anything, needs to change. Watch them use your product, get feedback through surveys, interviews or focus groups and take their views on board. When you really care about your customers and listen closely, they become your best advocates, even referring new business to you. Build an even better product or service that meets their needs and your sales will follow.

“Starting and growing a business can be hard and sometimes lonely. It’s important to get out of the office to meet peers, prospective clients, partners, potential investors and keep up to date with what’s happening in your industry.”

Build your network

Starting and growing a business can be hard and sometimes lonely. It’s important to get out of the office to meet peers, prospective clients, partners, potential investors and keep up to date with what’s happening in your industry. Going to sector-specific Meetups and business networking events often gives you the opportunity to meet new people passionate about the same thing as you, share ideas and contacts. There are many women business networks across the UK so try some that resonate with you. Are you particularly allergic to networking? Bringing a fellow entrepreneur with you to an event can often make things easier. Remember, it’s all about building relationships through conversations, not sharing out business cards. One woman entrepreneur I know found her future co-founder by going to an evening networking event she really didn’t feel like going to! Fortune favours the brave, so just get out there – it becomes easier the more you do it and you may surprise yourself by actually enjoying it!

Keep an eye on Cashflow

40% of businesses fail before the five-year mark, very often because they run out of money. Women-led businesses are often even more effected by this because we usually start our business with less cash than men to begin with. Get help from your accountant, another business owner or check out online courses on Udemy or Coursera to create your cashflow statements. It’s a vital discipline to keep an eye on the money flowing in and out of your business on a regular basis so you are not caught off guard and understand the true financials that drive your business. This is also key if you decide to look for external investors in the future.

Ask for help, build a team

Like many women, I too can sometimes find it hard to ask for help, but it’s a vital skill a business owner needs to have, both in the early days and as you grow. If you started your business with some other co-founders, you’ll need to split up tasks among everyone and make sure everybody is pulling their weight fairly. Just you for now or can’t employ someone just yet? Build up your team by working with referred freelancers or part-time staff, either co-located or remote, depending on your business. Call in favours from friends, colleagues who have skills and expertise in the areas you need help on and maybe barter some of your own expertise until you can pay. If you do decide to take on interns, make sure they really have the skills you need, because you won’t have much time to train them. Having the right people on your team can really help you move your business forward – make it a priority.

Take care of yourself, the business will follow

Remember that fire in your belly that made you start your company to solve a key problem you spotted in the market? And days when all you want to do is stay on the sofa with Netflix? Entrepreneurial life is a roller-coaster and the journey can wear you down sometimes.  Even Olympic athletes build in recovery time in-between strenuous routines, so remember to pace yourself. Building your business is a marathon, not a sprint, so take breaks, get enough sleep and find things that help you switch off like creating your own ‘Chillin’ playlist, using the Headspace mindfulness app – whatever works for you.

Once recharged, you bring your best energy to help you work on and in the business more effectively.

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