Lessons to be learnt from female entrepreneurs
Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs
It is widely agreed that a women's style of doing business tends to differ from that of men, even though the distinctions are never clear-cut.
There is however enough of a difference to suggest that along with the rise of female entrepreneurs, the culture of the business world is slowly changing, possibly for the better, and that all business owners – both male and female – should embrace this change in business style due to the numerous benefits it offers in the workplace.
The emergence of female entrepreneurs has clearly shown that success is not dependent on the traditional male style of doing business.
Several positive traits that are discernible among female entrepreneurs include:
Multi-tasking is one of the most celebrated abilities ascribed to women. It comes in particularly handy in the early stages of business, when the entrepreneur has to wear several hats, from production manager, sales manager, chief strategist to administrator. While being focused is good, being able to multi-task effectively will assist entrepreneurs greatly to survive their start-up days.
Intuition is the undefinable, unmeasurable sense that helps with decision making when cold facts are simply not enough. While everyone has it, women are said to listen more carefully to theirs. Although technical analysis and figures are a crucial part of business decisions, these can lead entrepreneurs astray when they don't pay attention to their intuition.
Prudence is a characteristic not normally associated with entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is often wrongly seen as a game in which risk-taking is everything. In fact, careful calculation, assessment and appraisal is just as much part of business success as the willingness to take risks. Women tend to be more careful in business than men, to the extent that they are sometimes overly cautious. The growing success of female entrepreneurs has however highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between overt risk-taking and caution.
Attention to detail
The ability to give careful attention to detail is also linked to a more cautious style of doing business. High-flying, fast-paced interactions often end in tears because some minor clause in a contract had been overlooked, or because a tiny flaw somewhere had spun out of control. The female approach to building business generally seems slower, with smaller steps, but also with fewer mistakes.
Few would argue against the phenomenon that women are generally tidier and more orderly than men, and make excellent administrators. Many businesses suffer from a lack of good filing systems, order in the workshop and well-kept schedules. It should come as no surprise that business women generally excel in this aspect of business.
Higher levels of empathy associated with women can have a profound effect on the way a business owner connects with people, and female entrepreneurs are putting it to good use by building stronger relations with their workers, clients, suppliers, partners and associates.
Anyone doubting that women are better at asking for advice need only think of the classic scenario of a couple lost on some driving trip. There are many aspects to running a business, and no one can possibly know it all. Business owners therefore often have to ask for advice from mentors, consultants, suppliers, financiers, clients, as well as other business owners. The fact that women are more willing to do so saves a lot of time and energy.
While the lack of female entrepreneurs among the empire brands, such as Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg, may lead to some suggesting only a male style of business will breed success, it is still early days for women in the business world and emerging female role models, such as Oprah Winfrey, show that women can compete, even at the same level, without losing their femininity.
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