The episode aired November 11, 2015 on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Host Bonnie D. Graham moderated a lively one-hour discussion with three women entrepreneurs who mentor others as they launch and build their businesses: Jane Wesman, founder of Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc.; Sandi Webster, Consultants 2 Go, LLC; and Nina Kaufmann, Esq., Entrepreneur.com Legal Expert.
The panelists shared their thoughts about what it takes for a woman to make it as an entrepreneur – as well as what are some common mistakes. You can listen to a recording of the show here. If you missed part one of this series, listen here or read the blog to find out what advice this expert panel had for entrepreneurs.
Here are 10 amazing success secrets — for both women and men — that the panel shared during the show:
1. Build a network.
Good advice is worth repeating. “You cannot launch a business on your own. You need other people to help you, whether it’s your lawyer, an accountant, or your informal board of advisors,” said Wesman. As an entrepreneur you always need a team around you. Your team can comprise paid advisors, volunteers who want to help you, or your employees. It’s critical to the success of your business that you’re never alone.
2. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
The quote from baseball legend Yogi Berra holds true in business too. Even though it’s Q4, keep your mind open. Remember, the books aren’t closed yet. “Stop. Take a breath. Go back to your game plan, and look at very simple things you could execute towards end of year,” said Webster. Her tip: One simple way to drive revenue in Q4 is to get your outstandings to pay you. Pick up the phone and ask for your money.
3. Make sure you get the money you deserve.
Women entrepreneurs can stumble if they have an aversion to being direct in communicating their financial terms, according to Kaufmann, who has guided many entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. “I see that with a number of my clients, for example – the discomfort of asking for money upfront, or making sure their payment terms are disclosed and they are not deviating from them,” said Kaufmann. She advises women that the best way avoid the situation of having to chase people down for money is to make sure to disclose payment terms upfront.
4. Avoid the naysayers.
Surround yourself instead with positive, supportive people. If you don’t have the support of family and friends, it is important to seek out people who do understand entrepreneurship. “The naysayers come from the unlikeliest of places. The people in your family who you think should support you are the ones that are very invested in your success for a variety of reasons,” said Webster, who shared her personal experiences with family concerns as well as gender bias in business support groups. “You have to have positivity within yourself, because you’re going to come across all kinds of people who are naysayers, and you have to push back.”
5. Make sure your employees know what you expect of them.
“To motivate employees, you really need to begin right at the hiring process,” said Wesman, who tells business owners to be very clear about what the job is when talking to candidates. Wesman recommended training employees well, having processes in place, and being clear about expected outcomes. “You really need a training process. You cannot expect someone to come right in to your business, sit down, and get to work.”
6. Banish fear in your work environment.
Employees need to feel that it’s safe to speak up and communicate problems in a timely manner. “One of the problems I’ve seen in small businesses is that the business owner starts to think people are making mistakes on purpose,” said Wesman. “They don’t understand that people really want to do a good job; they’re not making mistakes because it’s fun. They’re usually making mistakes because they don’t have the proper tools or information to do a good job.” This advice applies to independent contractors too. Kaufmann said, be clear about what you want but also encourage the contractor to give input with their expertise.
7. Write down the processes that guide your business.
If someone leaves your company and you don’t have processes written down, you lose a lot of intellectual capital. Webster shared her own experience of when a lead person left her organization. She observed, “In smaller businesses, when one person leaves, it’s detrimental to your business. You don’t want to have to start over from scratch.”
8. Remove yourself from some meetings.
Your team should be able to function well without your constant oversight. They also need freedom to express ideas. Webster has made it a practice to not attend every meeting, but instead to read the meeting minutes, which she says are valuable for passive feedback. She recommended Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish, for its tips on how growing businesses can structure meetings effectively, among other best practices.
9. Think carefully before taking on a business partner.
“What competitive advantage will a business partner bring that you would not otherwise get by hiring an employee?” Kaufman suggests asking yourself first. Panel members agreed that it really depends on your unique business requirements as to whether it is a good idea to add a business partner. You also have to ask yourself what you will do when you stop being in alignment with one another, noted Kaufmann. In her book The Entrepreneur’s Prenup, she outlines how to make arrangements to cover such situations, because it’s not so easy to remove a business partner. “It’s not like throwing out an old blouse. It’s more like uprooting a tree,” she observed, relating an old saying: If there are two of you in a business and you agree on everything – then one of you is redundant.
10. Avoid deadbeat clients and customers.
“The best way to avoid them is by not taking them on in the first place,” advised Kaufman. Be clear about who you are going to serve, what you are offering, your price point, and your terms for payment. Also, if you are not going to get paid in advance for your work, make sure you don’t become a bank for your customer by extending them liberal payment deadlines, said Kaufmann, who suggested making a plan for what your follow up is going to be in the event that you don’t get paid.
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