Women-owned small businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, according to the National Women’s Business Council. Yet, just like any other business, women business owners’ successes don’t come without challenges. From staffing to business development to communicating with customers to simply getting it all done, there are many factors that affect today’s female small business owner. However, knowing how to navigate these challenges may help ensure the success of their company.
The first step is to hire the right people. Although this may seem obvious, it is especially true for small businesses where employees take on a number of different tasks. When interviewing a potential candidate, small business owners should look for someone who is capable of handling various needs within the business and juggling multiple tasks to get the job done. Having strong support teams in place will help ease some of the daily pressures and allow more time for owners to tackle the high-level issues of the business.
It’s also important to apply what you already know to your business. Women often look to their peers or their employees for inspiration and advice on how to approach certain matters. However, there is another place they should take a cue from when figuring out how to do it all: their home. Though some might say men rule the household, women are often the ones who run the household. A Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 40 percent of women are the breadwinner in the family.
Given this, women are still busy balancing the needs of their children, fulfilling school obligations, participating in extracurricular activities, etc. A recent survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 82 percent of women are responsible for household duties, compared to 65 percent of men. Navigating many needs at once is definitely akin to running a small business. A household has many moving parts at one time and learning to manage them benefits everyone involved. Women should look to incorporate these same skills into running their business.
If you’re looking for support, reach outside of your comfort zone. You would be surprised to see how many people understand exactly what you’re going through and can help you navigate potential issues or concerns. Joining an industry group for small business owners and CEOs within certain verticals is a good way to create a personal network of support. Professionals within these groups can provide a great sounding board for new ideas, frustrations, and genuine dilemmas.
Finally, in my opinion the most important, is remembering who is really at the heart of your business: your customers. Whether you’re a consumer-facing company or B-to-B, you should be conducting regular surveys of your customers, not only to make sure they are happy, but also to get feedback on how they think you can improve. Losing one big customer could be detrimental to a small business, and having regular check-ins can help minimize this risk. Consumer-facing businesses should use their website as a forum for customers to offer opinions and suggestions. For B-to-B companies, regular phone or face-to-face conversations are a good way to determine how happy customers are. The goal in both instances is securing customer loyalty, because that’s something that can help sustain a business in good times or bad.
Every business goes through its ups and downs, but in the case of small businesses, the stakes are much higher. That’s why it’s important to focus on certain areas to help foster growth and contribute to the overall success of the company.
About the Author
Laura Miller is president of Ink from Chase, the business card portfolio from Chase Card Services. Laura previously served on the Global Commercial Card (GCC) leadership team, leading middle-market product and sales, as well as the product partnership with the Commercial Bank. Connect with her on Twitter.
Photo by Jesse Bowser
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