I got on a Whatsapp chat for a women’s entrepreneur group and that set me thinking. Although running a business is almost the same for both men and women – I realised that women grapple with a different set of problems. And the skills women need to successfully run a business are also a little different.
A lot of women have faced opposition and unfavourable attitude from their families and society alike.
But it is also true that this is some of the best times for women to step out and fulfil their ambitions irrespective of what the world has to say about it. This post is just about giving them a helping hand to reach for the stars.
1. Devil-may-care attitude: People still don’t understand the concept of working on one’s own. There will be questions all the time about what you do all day. There is enough self-doubt when one starts a business and such reactions from others only make it worse.
I know I face these questions most of the times. And it hard to explain to people that posting on social media, sending out training proposals and writing invoices for work done is also legitimate work.
2. Assertiveness: You’ll collaborate with people or hire some others. Even when it comes to pitching for business, you’ll have to be confident and assertive to get what you want from the deal.
Women need to be assertive because men are naturally so. And also, we need to walk that extra mile for people to take us seriously.
3. Patience: This is essential for either gender – but more so for women because of the additional prejudice they need to fight. Making a business work is an uphill task in the best of circumstances.
And if you are working alone and on a budget, it can only get harder. You’ll need to have the conviction and patience to stick around in the long haul. And I mean months or maybe even a couple of years.
4. Fixed work time: This is something that I still struggle with. It becomes hard to pry apart dedicated time for focussed work given there are other responsibilities too. Maid schedules, kids’ homework, spouse’s routine, maintenance work at home – there are so many things that pull us in different directions.
And finding the zen to work at the end of all this can be pretty challenging.
One of the things that works for me is to plan in advance. I have a master to-do list – both for work and for domestic chores. And then I make a separate smaller list that needs to get done on a day – immediate emails to respond to, session plans to be made, social media plan for the next week.
The second thing that works for me is to step out of the house. Once everything at home is settled for the day, I head to the nearest cafe. I carry my internet device, my music and laptop charger. The amount of quality work I get done in 3-4 hours of staying out is unsurpassed by an entire day trying to work from home.
If you can’t step out of the house regularly, create a corner for yourself from where you can work. I have managed to find one even in a one bhk flat in Mumbai!
When I work from home – which is 50% of the times around late night or in between stuff happening at home, I try to sit in my corner which has a chair and a table with space to keep my notes. This puts me in work mode and I tend to think better.
5. Social media: If you need to get business, you need to make connections. And no place like social media to spread the word across. While Linkedin is THE professional platform to be on, you need to choose the platforms where your target audience is depending on the kind of product/service.
You need to know how to brand yourself, write content accordingly, engage with others, track analytics to know what’s working. There are free online courses that you can take up to learn all this. But as an entrepreneur, it is unacceptable to say you don’t know how these things work.
Even if you outsource this piece, it is important for you to understand what your goals are from social media and instruct your team accordingly.
6. Writing: To pitch to clients, write emails and social media content, you need to have command over language. And since most entrepreneurs work on their own at the beginning, this is a must have skill. Your language needs to be persuasive while being polite.
The quality of your emails will decide if you get a meeting with the client and the subsequent business that comes with it.
7. Networking: Online and offline. And live up to the image you’ve created on both. You have to supplement your online branding with personally going to networking events.
Meet real people and explore business opportunities. Follow up with leads after the event is pretty critical too.
8. Negotiation: People always want things for free or for less cost. So it’s important to decide how far you are willing to negotiate. And then draw the line there.
Being assertive and articulate about what your services are worth is an important skill to have as an entrepreneur. Invest on learning this critical skill. Anticipate different scenarios and objections and think of answers you can deliver with expertise.
9. Know when to outsource: Running a business on one’s own is a trade off between time spent and money spent. The more money you spend, the more time you save usually.
For instance, when I started my own company in 2014, I watched videos on starting a WordPress blog. But then I realised that I am not technically proficient enough to set up the whole blog. And my using my time to get tech savvy was getting in the way of creating content.
So I got a developer to help me with it – in fact, I have always gotten other experts to manage the tech part of my blog since they know best.
10. Actively pitch for business: It is very easy to get lost in setting up the business and getting the logistics right. But the most important thing about running a business is to make money – well one of the most important things.
So while your website will get done and the visiting cards will come, make sure that you get on Linkedin (or Facebook, if that is where your target audience is) and start connecting with your target audience. Building a network takes time and you can use the setting up time to get started on finding business.
11. Financial knowledge: This is one thing I recommend you learn yourself and preferably not outsource. Registrations, contracts, balance sheets, tax exemptions, accounting of expenses- these concepts might seem complex but are very important in a business.
Understanding balance sheets will help you make decisions about how much can you afford to spend before the liabilities outweigh the assets. Accounting of expenses will help you keep track of every small investment you make in the business – and trust me, from stationery to hiring designers, every expense adds up.
I also want to add a disclaimer at the end of this post: A lot of these skills are common to both genders. But I have chosen to give it a slant towards women since certain aspects apply more to us than to men – like being tech savvy or finance savvy. So if you are a man, feel free to borrow from the list. Or shoot any questions you might have in the comments.
Are you an entrepreneur? What was your start up journey like? How did you master the basics and start moving up the ladder? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.