Tips on Running a Successful Enterprise
More than 224 million women impact today’s global economy, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, including the 126 million female entrepreneurs who have started businesses and 98 million women who operate established enterprises.
Women also make up the fastest-growing segment of business owners in the U.S. – and the Harvard Business Review says they represent 37 percent of global enterprises. According to NAWBO (the National Association of Women Business Owners), combined they generate $1.5 trillion in sales.
Technology allows a work from anywhere lifestyle, making today’s economy especially well-suited for women to start and sustain a business. If you focus on customer empathy and delivering digitally, you are where business is going. Below are tips to ensure that following your passion is a success.
Marketing and Selling
Carefully define your brand: In a recent Entrepreneur article, experienced women business owners advise newbies to determine what their brand looks like and what it stands for, and ensure that everything conforms – including color schemes, logo design, packaging, correspondence and presentations. Do not deviate from your brand, advises author Jacqueline Whitmore. It is the message and consistency by which your clients know, remember and trust you.
Digital first and social presence: Fish where the fish are. In addition to developing a website (make sure it is optimized for mobile) and keeping it current with recent samples of your work, social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter are a must. Videos will bring the experiences you offer to life, and industries like arts and food will especially benefit from the visual nature of Instagram. Some businesses lend themselves to online sales. Ensure traffic by posting your URL and social media handles on letterhead, business cards, advertising and in your email signature.
Write and share content: Showcase business highlights and your best advice on social media, in e-newsletters and in targeted media outlets/blogs that take guest submissions. Post the content on your website and conduct interviews with media to discuss customer trends. These efforts are part of the strategy to make you the go-to expert in your field.
The “Amazon effect”: While they don’t directly compete with everyone (i.e., hair salons and other service-focused businesses), Amazon’s convenience has elevated consumer buying expectations across all industries. Include a call to action by making it easy to buy from your content/overall marketing efforts. Analyze performance and simplify to ensure the highest ROI. In addition, explore opportunities to cross-promote sales aligned with neighboring businesses to share the cost.
Authentic referrals: Because they can share relatable, first-hand details about your character, service and dedication, positive recommendations from friends and family are the best ways to encourage others to use your services. Testimonials from happy customers (whether they are published online or provided in person/via phone) are another important way to increase your customer base.
Location and Operations
According to Entrepreneur, perhaps you don’t need a full-time location. Going virtual means no overhead, and outsourcing administrative tasks like scheduling and invoicing will give you the arms and legs you need to focus as much energy as possible on innovating to better serve customers. Co-working locations like WeWork are popping up in many cities, which provide access to office facilities for a membership fee. Consider these other cost-saving methods:
- Recycle your printer cartridges to receive discounted replacements.
- Use online forms rather than spending time creating them yourself.
- Try free software available via trial downloads, freeware and limited versions of the full product. Buy used computer equipment, furniture, copiers and printers.
- Check with your trade association about insurance, since many associations offer competitive group insurance.
- Entrepreneur also recommends considering hiring temporary employees to handle business surges, or giving college students a chance to learn from you and in turn get free or low-cost assistance.
Finances, Professional Services and Business Policies
It pays to speak to a CPA well-versed in home-based and small businesses to ensure you make the most of your deductions, including business, entertainment and travel expenses. When possible, pick up orders yourself in order to save costs and always seek three bids on everything.
Have a financial plan: NerdWallet offers critical advice to keep your credit secure and parlay it into ways to earn and save. Author Lindsay Konsko notes that business credit cards should be used only for business expenses. Business credit cards often come with higher credit limits than personal credit cards. In most cases, you can issue credit cards to your employees and track their spending. But business credit cards usually require a personal guarantee, which means you promise to pay off the balance with your own funds if business revenue won’t cover the charges.
In the End…
If you are on the fence about making your dream business a reality, female entrepreneurs in a recent Huff Post article advise going for it. “If you believe in yourself, then people will believe in you,” says Jillian Manus, Managing Partner at Structure Capital. “Your personal path and personal currency is what you have to establish before the professional piece can reach its full potential.” And more and more women are doing just that – with female entrepreneurship rates increasing by 10 percent on average versus 5 percent for males in just the past year alone.