As part of SurveyGizmo’s effort to support local businesses and startups, we recently sponsored the Startup Phenomenon Women conference hosted by the University of Colorado.
It was an insightful and valuable event designed to inspire female entrepreneurs and encourage network opportunities. This daylong conference featured over 40 guest speakers addressing a number of topics like:
- Brand building
- Negotiation strategies
- Life/work balance
- Gender diversity
Below are key points from this event that apply to anyone starting a business (men and women alike).
Take Away #1: Qualities of An Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur is going to require some super powers. It is going to take a lot of effort and time. Before you get started it will be important to do a self-assessment and make sure you have what it takes. Conference panelists repeatedly mentioned these 4 qualities:
- Courage – You must have grit to face adversity.
- Doer – You need follow-through to gets things done.
- Passion – You have to love and believe in what you are doing. This will drive you.
- Optimist – A positive attitude will help you overcome many hurdles and challenges.
Take Away #2:Where There Is Joy, There Is Success
Be true to yourself and stay the course. There will be times where others will try to lead you a stray. Trust your gut and follow your heart. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
It is important to create your serendipity; it doesn’t happen by chance. You are the most powerful change agent in your life. Don’t rely on others to make your dream happen for you. If you believe that you can do it, then you really can.
Take Away #3: Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
Failure can lead to success. Everyone fails at some point. The key is to take failure in stride. If you are failing, fail fast and move on to the next thing.
Some failures are brilliant. Our CEO and Founder, Christian Vanek, wears a T-shirt that reads: Fail. Birth Place of Brilliance (from Seek). Penicillin, Slinky, Wheaties, and Post-It Notes all came from mistakes.
Take Away #4: Network and Connect
You can’t do it alone. Recognize when you need help. Surround yourself with people you respect. Find mentors and partners. When networking, be sure to include both genders. Build a team – they will act as your scaffolding.
Getting input from others will help you see the whole picture. Don’t feel like you are burden when asking for advice. Knowledge exchange is a gift. Not only should you seek mentors but be a mentor. Just as there are those who are a step ahead of you in their startup success, there are those who are a step behind. So pay it forward – it leads to good Karma!
Take Away #5. Learn to Negotiate
Negotiation should be thought of as creative problem solving. Collaborate so that you and the other party both feel that you have gained something. Negotiating should not be adversarial with a winner and a loser. Both parties have something to offer; it is a matter of finding the right balance.
To keep from getting angry when the discussion is not going your way, use the power of persuasion to influence. Refrain from arguing. You will need to remain flexible and agile in offering alternative solutions so that you can reach a deal.
Here is what you need to remember; if you don’t ask, you won’t receive. Know your aspirations and assess your opportunities. Have a clear understanding of what is possible.
There are some strong gender differences when it comes to negotiation. Women are often uncomfortable negotiating for fear of being viewed as selfish or difficult. For these reasons, women often don’t ask for a deal. Men, on the other hand are comfortable in negotiating and therefore usually get a better business deal.
As Margaret Neale, Graduate Professor at Stanford University says, “What you really want from your negotiation is not just to reach a deal, but to reach a good deal!”
Take Away #6. Hiring Well is Critical (and difficult)
When hiring employees, you need to consider more than just the skills the individual has to offer. You also need to think about the culture of your organization and whether the candidate is a good fit. A bad fit will poison your work environment.
It is ok if there is disagreement among the team. In fact, it is beneficial to have different perspectives. Disagreement however should be constructive; it should not be negative.
Balance they type of people you hire with big picture thinkers and detailed thinkers. This way you will cover all of the bases.
If you recognize that you made a bad hire, don’t delay the inevitable. A bad hire is costly in more ways than one as it will decrease productivity.
Take Away #7: Raise Money When You Don’t Need It
This is another area where there is disparity among gender. Women are far less likely to ask for funding when it is needed. Women also tend to understate their skills and market size when presenting their marketing plan.
Regardless of gender differences, here is what you need to know about funding:
- Don’t wait until you need the money to ask for it. Ask before you dig yourself in a hole and you don’t have the credit you need to qualify.
- Get to know your investor and make sure they understand your business. Investor relationships are a lot like marriages. You will be spending a lot of time together and the relationship will require a lot of work. So you better like them!
- Build a team. Investors are more likely to invest in a team that has synergy than in single individuals.
- Have a strong marketing plan. Understand your market size, target audience, and hoe you plan to reach them
Since SurveyGizmo was founded in 2006 as a bootstrapped startup, I have to mention that there are alternatives to seeking investment capital. You could stick with your day job and slowly build up your business over time so that you don’t need funding.
A lean startup model will take you longer to get off the ground but the payoff is tremendous – you will stay in control over the direction of your business.
Why Should You Care About Women Startups?
According to one report, women-operated, venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues than male-operated companies (American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses report)2.
Yet only 5% of startups are owned by women (University of North Carolina MBA research study)3.
The number of women-owned startups may be low but these entrepreneurs sure know how to generate revenue. More women startups could be just the boost our economy needs!
Empowering Startup Businesses
SurveyGizmo is committed to helping startups and small businesses. If you are an entrepreneur, we would love to hear about your challenges and tips for success! You can leave your comments here!
Startup Phenomenon Women
Van Heyst Group