Later this month I’ve been invited to speak at the National Association of Women Business Owner‘s annual conference in San Antonio, TX on the subject of how women business owners can spark and sustain real growth in their companies.
I might seem an odd choice to be included on the keynote panel on this subject, after all, I’m a man. But I do have an inside view into the subject, having built one of the most successful business coaching companies in the United States, Maui Mastermind. This has given me behind the scenes access to thousands of business owners, the majority of whom are women.
So when I say that on the whole women make better business owners than men I hope you’ll hear me out.
Here are my top 3 reasons why I feel this is so:
- Women business owners are much better at leading their teams–they take the time to see their employees as whole people, not just “worker bees”. Most small businesses rely on the ongoing efforts of a small, core team that over time internalize a vast reserve of key knowhow to make the business work. It’s been my observation that our female business owner clients retain their workforce and do a better job at developing them with an intentional career path than our male business owner clients. For example, a typical male owned client who had just lost two of his most senior employees lamented to me, “David, I don’t understand why they quit. I treated them like family.” I asked him to tell me about these two former employees’ goals and life ambitions that they felt like working with his company no longer supported. His answer, “I don’t know what their goals and aspirations are.” Hmmm, might this be a strong clue about why they left? Contrast this with Joan, who runs a successful marketing agency in Seattle. She’s recently shared with me how she’s helped develop her existing team step up in responsibility and take on a leadership role in her company, in a way that helped them meet their internal career goals. Any wonder why her company has grown by over 50 percent in the past 18 months?
- Woman business owners are more willing to implement systems and controls in their companies, and to do it in a more effective manner. Now let’s be clear–most business owners resist building formal systems and internal controls, even though they will give lip service to their importance. But one thing I’ve observed watching the actual behavior of hundreds of business coaching clients is that woman business owners are much faster to embrace and institute the ongoing discipline of leveraging systems and controls inside their companies. What’s more, I’ve found woman business owners to be much more capable of enlisting their team’s support for these systems, both by engaging their teams in their creation (versus male business owners who tend to be more autocratic about “you shalt use these systems”) and keeping a close eye on making sure that these systems actually help their teams be more productive. In a study by Babson College/MassMutual Financial Group, they found that women owned businesses were 1.7 times more productive than male owned firms. This doesn’t surprise me.
- Women are better at building deeper relationships with customers, suppliers, and vendors than men. Again, I know this is a generalization, but in my work with hundreds of companies, I can see this trend in a concrete way. Women owned businesses tend to be more customer-centric, finding ways to deeply connect with their customers that many male owned counterparts don’t come close to. This same trend plays out with suppliers and vendors too.
Okay so this is the good news for women. But I’ve observed one pattern that hurts women owned businesses that I want to point out in the hopes that this warning can help any women owned business from falling prey to this same pitfall.
So what is this pitfall? It’s trying to personally cover too many gaps in their business and attempting to scale their company through their own personal production.
Whereas I commonly see this behavior for men driven by fear of loss of control, for women I observe it’s more common for their “perfectionism” to push them into this trap. They are victim to their own competence compounded by their desire to have things done right.
You may be talented, gifted, and supremely efficient, but when you scale a company by personally trying to sell more, produce more, do more, you’re severely limited in the potential growth you can enjoy. What’s more, you’re making your company more reliant (and hence vulnerable) on just you.
So before you absorb another function, or fill in the gap, I strongly encourage you to look for ways to get your other team members to take the task, project, or ongoing function on.
One useful tool to increase the odds of this succeeding is to not just hand the task to a person, but if it’s a recurring project or function, to use this as an opportunity to bolster your internal systems and controls to give this team member the structure to help him or her be more successful.
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