Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation. After graduating with a JD/MBA from Pepperdine University, she became a partner in a Los Angeles-based law firm practicing in the areas of corporate and intellectual property law for six years. She then joined the MyCorporation team as in-house counsel, and became General Manager after Intuit acquired the company. In 2009, she acquired MyCorporation from Intuit and is now acting President and CEO.
It is often said that women are less likely to take risks than men and that we prefer safe, calculable options rather that risky financial moves.
Of course, the truth of this varies from person to person, but there is likely a reason that this has become the accepted stereotype. According to an August study by Columbia Business School professor Elke Weber, women do seem to be a tad more cautious when it comes to their financial decisions, but things are not so cut and dry. Businesswomen are quite varied in their management styles, and it is an important step for any entrepreneur or business owner to figure out their own way of doing things, regardless of their sex.
As a businesswoman myself, I can give three bits of advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs to help them survive the early years of opening a business and to aid them in reaching their final goal.
Make your business your main priority
It is MONUMENTALLY difficult to get a business up and running. When you first start out, some of your biggest supporters, both fiscally and emotionally, will be your friends and family. If you look at opening your business like it is just a little something to do on the side, that is exactly how they will look at it. Plunging headfirst into anything is a bit frightening, but when it comes to something as big as starting a business, you have to. Be ready to field questions with this mindset as well – there will be plenty. There is no shortage of cultural barriers that you are going to have to overcome as the people you pitch to wonder why you are making such an assertive press into the business world; this is typically not the first thought in the minds of supporters when men follow the same path, but usually is when women push for the same thing. So be prepared, be confident, and above all be proud. You are trying to implement what you believe to be a great idea, and while constructive criticism is resoundingly important, you should still strongly support your business.
Trust your instincts – experience is a businesswoman’s greatest ally
The article by Professor Weber came to a pretty obvious conclusion about experience – if you are more experienced in a risky situation, you are less likely to see it as a substantial risk. If this isn’t your first venture, then you obviously have gone through all the obstacles and problems associated with opening a business before. But even if this is your first, I am sure you have met roadblocks in your life before. Most people have a story about overcoming a major obstacle, getting past someone who was constantly in the way, or pushing the boundaries of what they thought was possible. When you feel like you are pushing and pushing and not getting anywhere, take a few minutes and think on your past experiences. You’ve found the strength before and you can find it again. A bit of reflection could lead to a few solutions and then it is up to you to figure out which one seems like it would work best.
Connect with your community – Be a social butterfly!
The final lesson we can take from this article is about the willingness of women to be more social than most men. If that is the case and you are confident talking to people, then take advantage of it! There is no reason why you shouldn’t exploit your culturally perceived strengths, even if you are more confident in matters of finance than small talk. Host a gathering to bring your customers or clients together, or make the effort to be visible at public events. The trick is to increase your visibility and thus increase public recognition of your business. At the same time, appearing as a cool, confident woman in a social setting can in turn bolster your reputation as a strong business leader. Being as social and outgoing as possible is simply one of the best ways to boost credibility, and as you rub elbows with other business owners, financers, and customers, you can show your entrepreneurial skills in the conversations you’re bound to have with them.
Every woman is different, so using a blanket stereotype like “all women are bad risk-takers” is just silly. However, there will be plenty of people you meet along the way who ascribe to that very worldview. The trick is to be thick-skinned and to know how to play into it. Know your strong points, and remember to remain as strong as you can under pressure. Opening up a business is never easy, and is even harder for woman as business is seen as a male-dominated field. But with some effort and confidence, you can make it.