Editor’s note: Respondents to Bentley’s PreparedU study believe that men are more likely than women to have an entrepreneurial spirit (62 percent versus 38 percent). Even a majority of women felt this way. Yet, reports of successful women entrepreneurs continue to grow. What follows provides some insight into how and why.
My advice to women who have recently graduated from college is simple: Start thinking about launching and running your own business. You don’t have to open the doors of your company today — or tomorrow. You may want to think about it when you’re in your mid 30’s. By that time in your career, you’ll have some solid work experience under your belt, you will have a thorough understanding of your industry and competitors, and you will have a strong network of connections that will jump start your new venture.
That may seem like an eternity from now. But it’s not. So you need to get this critical and beneficial career goal on your professional radar right away — and begin planning for it.
A lot of young women just out of college simply don’t have the ambition to build their own company. I know I didn’t. But, when the opportunity to start my own business presented itself, I leapt at the opportunity. And I quickly realized there are immense benefits to doing so, especially for women. Being a female entrepreneur offers priceless life advantages.
Starting my company wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. A couple of months of working on the basics (suite of services, website, paperwork, database development, etc.) and a modest investment and we were off. I only invested about $30,000, which was paid off during my first six months in business.
I’ve been in business for eight years now, and I still hit my desk sometimes and feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. When you’re an entrepreneur, everything is new. You’re constantly challenged with business issues and opportunities that are sometimes intimidating, sometimes exhilarating. You have to listen to the advice of professionals (especially when it comes to legal or accounting issues), but it’s even more important to listen to yourself. You have to trust your own instincts. When you’re running a business, no one knows it better than you. You need to trust your gut. Mine always steers me in the right direction. And, once you know what’s right for the business, you need to attack — it always works out.
I suspect that all entrepreneurs have a moderately high level of anxiety about their business at all times. I know I do. And I think that’s what makes me successful — I just channel the anxiety productively.
My leadership style as a female entrepreneur is to treat every employee like they are part of our family, our corporate family. That can make it more difficult to fire someone. But the upside is that we have filled our firm with talented and committed people. They stay with us, because we care; because they are comfortable and happy in our environment; and because we offer better benefits, time off, and even tuition reimbursements. In terms of sheer dollars and cents, it all pays off with low turnover and nearly non-existent re-training costs.
Being my own boss sets a great example for my son and daughter, too. They see me taking charge and being in control. But I also work from home, so they see me at the bus stop and volunteering at school. They are learning what it means to have a positive and productive work-life balance. More important, they are learning how to be an entrepreneur. Just the other day, my daughter, who is in sixth grade, came into my home office and asked how the company’s second-quarter P&L was looking. I laughed. But I was so proud of her — and myself.
Elizabeth Scarborough is CEO of SimpsonScarborough, a marketing research and strategy firm that specializes in higher education.