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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Stop Fixing Women to Act Like Men

Many things have changed, but a lot remains the same.

Entrepreneur

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The workplace has so overwhelmingly changed since the 1950s. Yet many of the leadership and management programs, policies and practices still in use today at many large corporations had their philosophical beginnings back then, with men planning how to best lead and manage huge workforces comprised almost entirely of men.

The marketplace itself has undergone dramatic changes. Women today dominate purchase decisions in virtually every consumer category. Yet many of the marketing strategies, selling techniques and buying assumptions can be traced back to the thoughts and actions of men and how they’re inclined to sell and buy cars, homes, computers, food, insurance and health care.

The way companies have worked in the past may not be the best way to work in the future and prior success is not necessarily a guarantee of that in the future.

What’s not being taken into account and brought into balance is the complementary way that many women think and act when it comes to their leadership, management and business strategy. Unfortunately, several large companies today without this line of sight fall into a women-focused initiatives frenzy.

They send women to universities for leadership and management development, put them through sales-training programs, have them role-play assertiveness in conflict-resolution workshops, all instructing women how to behave like men to survive and advance in the world of business.

They’re singularly focused on reaching numeric goals and not encouraging culture change, hoping that addressing one agenda will eventually take care of the other.

While producing some modest inroads, these and other decades-old programs haven’t helped women advance in male-designed corporations.

Women in male-designed corporations

The major reason is that the mind-set that creates these programs, with the best of intentions, is not acknowledging the environment that women are coming into. It’s not recognising the value that women bring in thinking differently from men when solving problems or making decisions and actively seeking to blend the talents and skills of men and women – at all levels of leadership.

Established businesses often fail to discover breakthroughs primarily because they stick to their rigid formulas rather than pursue new ways of thinking. Like mosquitoes stuck in amber, these large corporations remain frozen in the past while entrepreneurial companies led by men and women, across all industries, are nimbly moving forward and shaping this new business world.

Forward-thinking entrepreneurs are seeking out and capitalising on the blended instincts of their leaders and managers and not focused on fixing women to act like men and adhere to a limited paradigm of business.

They’re challenging conventional wisdom and running circles around the behemoths by being more fluid and flexible in policies and procedures. And they’re constantly seeking innovative ideas and strategies to improve business operations and grow their markets. They are closer to the pulse of the marketplace and realising there is more than one business model and path to success. Two of our clients are involved in such a pursuit.

In 2008, American Express reviewed the composition of its workforce and discovered something surprising and disappointing given all its efforts to create greater gender balance within its leadership ranks. While women made up more than half its employees, and a third of the top 500 positions, women were disproportionately less prevalent at the senior level and practically nonexistent at the top. Company leaders set out to discover why.

One finding across the studies was perplexing and its potential solu­tion “elusive,” according to Valerie Grillo, American Express’ chief diversity officer. “We found the higher a woman rose in the company, the more male-influenced the environment became around her,” she said.

“After 15 years of driving for gender equality, the gender balance had not changed at American Express precisely because of the culture at its most senior-most levels.”

“At historic companies like ours, it can be easy to rely on approaches that have worked in the past,” Grillo said. “But by taking the time to teach our leaders,” to appreciate diversity, she said, “we shifted mind-sets. It was an ‘aha!’ moment for many of our executives, and almost immediately we started to see a positive change.

“As a customer-centric organisation, creating an inclusive culture is the only way for us succeed,” Grillo added. “We have a lot of diverse talent here, both in ideas and background. Ensuring they can be their true selves has helped us to connect and better service our customers in innovative ways.”

Today, American Express, a client of our firm since 2002, has had some of the highest percentages of women in its senior management and leader­ship ranks. President Ed Gilligan said: “We know in order to succeed we must create a workplace that embraces diverse opinions and empowers all employees to reach their highest potential. This spirit of inclusiveness enables us to make better decisions today to accelerate our growth for tomorrow.”

A-HA!

Realising that just hiring more women doesn’t solve the problem was Deloitte’s breakthrough insight. Before its aha! moment, the firm couldn’t explain the high turnover of women in its North America division, a trend that was costing the company tens of millions of dollars every year.

The company, another client of ours, was losing more women than it was hiring. And in exit interviews, the departing women didn’t offer any specific reason why they were opting out, aside for personal or family-related causes. They didn’t want to burn bridges by speaking about real reasons for their leaving or risk being tagged as negative by competing firms.

When we conducted post-exit interviews several months after their departures, we discovered the reasons why Deloitte’s women executives were quitting. They did not feel valued in what they deemed a very male-influenced environment and many believed they would never make partner.

Deloitte realised that its focus on doing things “by the numbers” was costing them a lot and getting the company nowhere. It had spent money to get talent only to lose it because of the environment.

Once the company saw past the numbers, it made more valuable discoveries: Deloitte learned that men and women don’t often think through issues, make decisions, lead teams and engage clients in the same fashion.

Ultimately, they came to the game-changing realisation that it’s not merely a balance in numbers but the balance in contribution that gives a sense of satisfaction and worth to men and women individually and economic value to the organisation as a whole.

Deloitte’s new insights changed the mind-set of the organisation. Managers realised how much the company’s diverse client base valued the different perspectives brought by Deloitte women and began to view partnership in a new light.

It became the first organisation in its industry to focus on retaining women and men as partners with less than full-time work commitments. In a little less than two years, the turnover rate of women in the accounting division dropped from 27 percent to 11 percent.

In our highly developed global business community where new ideas and talent are increasingly in short supply, the successful organisations today are led by men and women with an entrepreneurial spirit – leaders who recognise that there’s a deeper merit in gender diversity and committed to change beyond quotas, sameness-thinking and one-size-fits-all meritocracies.

The successful companies will be those, regardless of size, who will secure and use the best talent in the marketplace by embracing gender equality in value and welcoming diversity of thought.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Savvy Business Sale Spells New Life

With woman’s month nearly at the end- take some inspiration from business woman, Sue Kiley. Who discusses, how selling her business paved a way for bigger and better opportunities for her to re-invent herself and how Andrew Bahlmann’s professional guidance, was pivotal in making this business transaction – a “Savvy Business Sale”.

Andrew Bahlmann

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Breaking up is hard to do – even if you have made a rational decision that the time has come to sell the business you built up, the exit process is never easy, says businesswoman Sue Kiley. But she feels that since she and business partner Gordon Slater sold Johannesburg-based boiler company Dryden Combustion, she has been freed her to reinvent herself.

Kiley had joined Industrial Plant and Machinery, Dryden’s parent, in 1981, working her way up from receptionist/secretary to running Dryden by 1988. She and Slater, who had joined Dryden in 1989, were both given minority shareholdings by owner George Roberts in 1991. In 1997, Roberts sold his remaining interest to them.

“We poured our hearts and souls into growing the business for two decades, then it slowly dawned on us that it was our turn to consider whether we were ready to go through another round of expansion or whether we would sell on,” says Kiley. “It felt daunting and frightening but we are sure that both we – and ultimately our buyers – benefited extensively from the professional guidance we received from acquisitions expert Andrew Bahlmann.

“Selling up can be like a messy divorce or a death in the family with everyone squabbling over access to assets. Instead, it was a savvy and controlled negotiation leading to a well-managed handover.”

Related: 5 Truths Women Need To Grow A Successful Business

Kiley and Slater had built Dryden into a thriving business, increasing staff from nine to more than 70, for instance. Both recognised that their business had “hit some ceilings” and certain departments needed the benefits of substantial expansion.

“We realised that we had reached our limit and did not really want to change how we worked by bringing in new partners, doubling staff and substantially increasing factory capacity, even though this was what both the company and our staff needed,” says Kiley.

They opted for Bahlmann’s professional and hands-on sales offering because they wanted to avoid the more perfunctory way in which some business brokers simply post their portfolio of businesses for sale on the internet.

“We assumed that our business would go to our opposition but Andrew pointed out we were selling future business potential to a buyer that wanted to expand into our sector,” says Kiley. “We ended up with international offers on the table from India, Belgium and Pakistan, as well as South Africa.”

Kiley and Slater chose the offer from Cape Town’s Energy Partners, part of the PSG Group, not because it was the highest but because it made such a good fit with Dryden. Recognising and working with the intense emotional aspects of selling your business was an important aspect of Bahlmann’s guidance, says Kiley.

“Your company is your life and opening up our floor and our books to strangers made us feel very exposed,” she recalls. “Andrew ensured we were well prepared and fortunately I have always been a stickler for proper governance.

“This ensured that everything had been recorded and referenced, making the company far more saleable than if its history and processes are just in the owner’s memory. In fact, we accomplished due diligence in four days instead of at least six weeks.”

Preparing to part ways with the business and staff was inevitably emotional, especially as many employees had been with the company for at least 10 years. Kiley and Slater were as transparent as possible, sharing with staff the fact that the business would be sold as soon as they had engaged with Bahlmann.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

“It was pivotal to us that Energy Partners wanted to retain our staff,” says Kiley. “Becoming part of a larger company and group also gave staff opportunities for career growth that would not have happened with us.”

Dryden’s staff were not the only ones to enjoy career growth. After a handover year as semi-employees at Energy Partners, Kiley semigrated to Knysna where she is currently launching a completely different new business – collaborating with a young designer on the Roze Collection, a fashion label for plus-size women with sales run online.

“Selling Dryden was the right decision for all of us,” says Kiley. “The new owners are taking the company to exciting new levels that we would never have undertaken and our former staff are really happy and thriving on this.

“Gordon felt ready to retire and is enjoying it. I didn’t want to look for a new business partner but still wanted to have an exciting reason to wake up in the morning, something to plan and strategise about.”

Kiley believes selling Dryden enabled them both to move on completely and she is delighted with her opportunity to reinvent herself.

“I have always loved fabrics and fashion so I have a fresh start working with a lifetime passion,” she says. “Those around me comment on how the change has completely re-energised me. I am having the time of my life and selling up made this possible.”

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce of www.Segeriusbrucecoaching.com talks through how she does business with a world-wide audience of entrepreneurs from her home in a rural part of the Eastern Cape.

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce

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We’re so lucky to live in this era where the world has become a very small place.

With the right set of skills and IT infrastructure behind them, I believe anyone can set up to work from literally anywhere, including the South African beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay where I have been working with a varying international client base since the beginning of 2016.

Whether it’s a virtual assistant, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting or translation work, I have seen a mass of companies starting up that don’t require regular face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings are almost outdated with Skype and Zoom being so successful in bringing teams together.

After doing a year-long coaching programme with one of the top multi seven-figure earning coaches from the USA, I now have the confidence to charge in USD $ so that I can leverage the currency conversion which works out nicely for me in South Africa. I’ve been able to help people do the same thing too.

One of my clients is a branding and website designer based in Knysna and she’s able to work with clients globally too. When she lost her house last year in the big fires, she was able to save her laptop and backup drive and therefore save her livelihood even though her entire home burnt down! Imagine what would have happened if she lost her laptop too.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

The first thing I did when I looked at our beachfront property to rent was check the Internet line speed. To run an online business, you need to have the best Internet connection available. We have a 10 Meg uncapped ADSL line and I believe they’ll be installing fibre optic soon. Don’t skimp on this technology.

The way I attract international clients is by giving value-led video training sessions using live streaming such as Facebook Live. This is the fastest way to show people you know what you’re talking about and they can decide if they want to connect with you.

Build a community

I have a thriving Facebook group, with over 2,000 members, where people feel safe to ask questions about their business and everyone’s able to get to know each other. By having your own Facebook group and being seen as a leader you automatically gain authority.

Become an influencer

Use Instagram and Facebook to show behind the scenes, share where you travel to, what you like and share your unique perspective. Create a personal brand online, be visible, show up and stand out. Although some people have an issue with becoming more visible online, my coaching skills do come into play when I’m helping people with confidence issues or impostor syndrome. They key is to give practical marketing, social media and personal branding advice.

Work on your money mindset

As South Africans, many of us grew up being told “money doesn’t grow on trees” and many of you may have a mentality that needs to be changed, especially when it comes to having the confidence to charge your worth and even charge in USD $.

Finally, outsource as much as you can as fast as you can

Ask yourself “Who else could be doing this task?” Keep in your “Zone of Genius” and get a virtual assistant, web developer, bookkeeper and a cleaner to help you with all the things that take up your time. Stick to the things that only you can do in your business, like creating content, showing up on video and planning out your bigger picture plan.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate

To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.

Nadine Todd

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The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.

At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.

1. Prepare your mind

Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.

When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:

“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.

2. Create shared value

thato-kgatlhanye-bagsThato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.

Most successful organisations would never have been launched  if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.

Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.

According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.

Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

3. Get stuff done

When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.

Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.

The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.

the-five-second-rule-mel-robbinsIn her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.

Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.

The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.

Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.


IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Focus on learning new stuff

FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.

Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:

“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”

Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.

Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:

  • Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
  • Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.

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