The number of women owned businesses continues to increase. The Small Business Association estimates that women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of private businesses. While women are gaining in ownership numbers, the revenues they produce account for only 18% of the small business revenues….a big drop from the ownership numbers. In fact it looks as though in the most typical business for women is a sole proprietership in a service business with income of less than 50,000. Many of these women are married and running and running their businesses from home. More than half of the start-ups are by women but since the ownership is holding at a third, we can also see that a number of these businesses do not last.
What does the research tell us about how to make sure your business is one of the successful ones? Dr. Edward Hess who is the Goizueta School of Business’ Adjunct Professor in Entrepreneurship recently presented the results of his 30 years review of the research to a group of us,women alums from Emory. The news is both good and bad. He finds that there is no correlation to personality,age, IQ, education and numerous other variables for successful business owners. Rather he finds that there are several processes that are essential: being good at “iterative” processing and taking a series of small risks. The iterative process is one that develops through trial and error and is constantly being refined over time. It is not rigid and final but is constantly taking in new information and responding to that. The small risks are a more cautious outlook;risks that don’t bet everything on one outcome and can afford to fail without a wipeout. This may go against the typical stereotype of the wheeler dealer but it is a finding that should encourage women as we are especially strong with this kind of process.
The disadvantage of being a women relates to the existence of the “boys” network and the facility with which men are able to give each other a boost along the way and create a network of people who owe each other favors. Hopefully as we women get better and better at network creation and have more resources with which to help each other this will begin to shift. In the meantime, there are many men who are interested in mentoring women and who are helpful to us and the trick is to find one who takes an interest in your project. Also as you move forward in your success, make a committment to help the other women who are coming behind you.