Women, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are the key to economic expansion. And all signs are pointing to that expansion hurtling on well into 2014 and beyond. In 2013, statistics from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) reported that in the United States alone, 8.6 million firms were owned by women with about 7.8 million people employed and $1.3 trillion generated in sales. Of the 8.6 million women-owned firms, 2.7 percent are majority-owned by women of color and 4.2 percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more.
The outlook for 2014 is just as positive for women in business. In an infographic survey study conducted by NAWBO and Web.com, 89 percent of the women business owners profiled remained optimistic about overall business performance in the year to come.
But for all this optimism, the study also reveals the challenges and worries women have about business. For 9 out of 10 surveyed, getting new customers ranked as the highest concern. Only half of the women profiled felt confident in their ability to create a social media presence for their companies, while the economy, access to capital, and business taxes also weigh heavily on the minds of these female entrepreneurs.
Once self-confidence goes out the window, it’s a slippery slope for women entrepreneurs to feel like their business — and sense of self — are still in control. If you’re worried that you’re sweating the small stuff too much and others are noticing, keep a few of my tips in mind to keep cool and stay strong.
Do What You Think Is Appropriate
“When women do better, companies do better.” This sage piece of wisdom courtesy of Christine Lagarde, managing editor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is truly a universal truth. Doing better means that one should be holding her own, listening, and being responsive to others. But ultimately, the decision you make needs to be appropriate to your circumstance. Many people (other women included) will try to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. Often this advice is unsolicited, but you should never outright dismiss any opinions expressed. Take it in, say you’ll think about it, and then do what is right for you.
Remember, Everyone Has an Opinion
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to your small business. And I used to take everyone’s opinion and truly value it — but that was exhausting, especially since some opinions are not made selflessly. Take it all in with a grain of salt. I take in feedback and then decide if it’s worth it for me to think any further about it (or to simply disregard it as unsolicited advice). While people can and do often offer great advice, it’s important to be able to quickly distill what you want to take action on and what you want to ignore, otherwise you’ll be mired in nonsense 24/7.
Know Your Strengths and Stick to Them
Rather than spend your days comparing and contrasting your business to that of a competitor’s, whether it’s run by a man or woman, focus on the unique aspects to your business that only you can bring to the table and play up those strengths. Time and time again, I see articles that offer advice like “Have the confidence of a man.”
I’m not even going to tell you to have the confidence of a woman. I’m going to tell you to have the confidence of you. Find what makes you feel powerful and use it. Do what works for you and keep doing it, and watch how it defines your business and yourself in the long run.