Women entrepreneurs are starting small businesses at approximately twice the national average for all startups. Despite some inaccurate stereotypes, the evidence is that they are in every industry, from small consulting firms to medical high technology. As a result, there have also been many new resources and mentors popping up specifically aimed at women.
In most cases, the lifestyle questions asked and the answers given are essentially the same for all entrepreneurs, whether they be men or women. But according to a recent book by Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams, “The Big Enough Company,” based on years of helping women entrepreneurs, the road to success for women does involve its own unique set of demons.
All surveys of women business owners show that women’s business concerns tend to skew towards issues such as finding work-life balance, startup financing, and marketing. But a key problem the authors found even among the best women entrepreneurs was trying to do too much at once. Here is a short list of impacts they commonly reported and all mentors have seen:
1. You feel overwhelmed. This is easy to do when your to-do list is threatening to swallow you whole or when you’re staring your big bad goal in the face. Your work is never done, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your life catching up. Pace yourself.
2. You feel discouraged. It’s easy to get caught in this mindset and lose sight of what’s already been accomplished. Accept the reality that the business will forever be incomplete, and celebrate the small successes and the big milestones.
3. You are distracted. Everything unplanned seems like an unwelcome distraction, and it’s likely that important opportunities will be missed or be turned down. Don’t forget to pay attention to strategic priorities and time for yourself.
4. You suck all the fun out of your business. Chances are you became an entrepreneur to attain some level of satisfaction in the first place, so remember, the fun is in the building, not just the destination. Stressful journeys don’t lead to joyful outcomes.
5. You compromise your personal motivations. It’s pretty hard to bask in newfound freedom when you don’t even have a chance to breathe. The point is to build the business to honor your needs, not sacrifice them for the business.
6. You make bad decisions about the business you are building. When you’re under the false impression that your business won’t wait, you make decisions that are sub-optimal in the long-term. Be realistic, but don’t settle for less than satisfying outcomes.
7. You burn out. Remember … it’s a marathon. You gain nothing if you’re unable to keep going, especially if you expect your business to have any degree of longevity. Slow down and don’t let your work, passion, and creativity disappear before its time.
The antidote and solution to doing too much is doing less and, of course, doing it well. That doesn’t mean to do less overall, but do less right now, at this very moment. This entails the following:
• Prioritizing. Keep two to-do lists: things you “need to do” and things you “want to do.” Start with what is closest to the money, considering what you have available to make it happen. You are not super-human, so “want to do” things sometimes have to wait.
• Taking baby steps. While vision is great, progress is about putting one foot in front of the other, and taking small steps toward your goals. Other people’s steps always look larger, but in reality we all move forward one small step at a time.
• Creating accountability. Hold your own feet to the fire, and remember that it’s normal to have to do that for everyone else. Create specific goals and deadlines for everyone in the company. To help you, find a coach, create a system, join a group, or get a partner.
• Delegating. You can’t talk about doing less without talking about enlisting help, and relinquishing control. Focus on what you do best, and offload other tasks to people who can do them better, and you will both be happier and more productive.
• Celebrating progress, not just success. When you complete a baby step, or a major milestone, celebrate it. Then keep going. Then repeat. Consider each celebration a demonstration of respect for yourself, the work you have done, and the sacrifices made.
In the past, women have often come to entrepreneurship with fewer resources available to them than men. With this book, and the wealth of other information now available, the tide has turned, and every woman entrepreneur should be able to create a business that works for them. That’s the real definition of success. Go for it!
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups.