The startup world war zone is same for men and women. But they both have very different sets of battles to fight. There are some unique challenges that women entrepreneurs face right from being given idea credibility to facing questions about their marital status in investor meets. This additional layer of complexities might influence the choices a woman entrepreneur makes during her startup journey. Internal and external conflicts might at times result in women being less aggressive with their scale up plans and staying put in the ‘All is going good’ zone.
It takes tremendous energy and will to commit to taking your business to the next level and will definitely put you in discomforting situations. Here’s how to ride against the conflicts, shake yourself out of the comfort zone and get around the stumbling blocks to speed up on the road to success.
Fall in love with Selling
Driven by a passion and cause, many a times women lag behind in the most important aspect of running the business- sales. They don’t feel good about being salesy or pushing their product aggressively or following up with clients. They shy away from asking a premium price for their product /service. To top it, if there is gendered response from the client where he asks to speak to the male co-founder or CTO, things get worse.
Colleen Francis of Engage Selling Solutions suggests a worthy fix for this problem. She says “Change your attitude about sales. Rather than thinking,’My job is to sell something to that person,’think ‘My job is to start a dialogue and figure out how I can help the prospective buyers. ’Don’t think about the sales process, think about facilitating the buying process and yourself as a valuable resource.”
Be the woman in the room
It is a common phenomenon that when one walks in at a conclave or networking event, the room is majorly filled with men. At some occasions you can count the number of women on your fingertips. This subtly triggers the women to blend in the crowd by being more like men from choosing to wear safe neutral colors to being mansplained to finding it unnerving to start conversations.
Lead with authenticity by being who you are in every sense and feel free to reveal your personality. People will relate to you more and you will find buyers/supporters/investors for your business offerings because they will trust you more.
Jane Gentry, Principal of JaneGentry and Company shares, “Millennials, who will soon be the majority of your workforce, respond well to a more authentic, collaborative, transparent kind of leadership — a leadership style more naturally attributed to women. Historically, women have made accomplishments in business through influence or inspiration because they didn’t have the authority to make things happen. Now that you do have the authority, don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to behave like a man. Your natural leadership style will make you very successful — embrace it!”
Acknowledge your fears
According to a global survey among entrepreneurs conducted by Babson College in 2012, fear of failure was the prime reason of concern for women entrepreneurs. Failure is a startup world reality but it shouldn’t stop one from taking the plunge or scaling up. Adding to this are fears of not being respected by the staff, wronging people, not being good with finance issues and all the ‘I am not good enough.
The first step is to acknowledge your fears. Don’t shy away from them trying to pretend they do not exist. Confront your fears by writing them down, sharing with mentor or seeking help from a coach. Once you see it as a reality you are in a position to consciously work towards removing it.
Archana Gupta, Director KEI Industries was a homemaker till the early demise of her husband. She had to now run a manufacturing industry and she was clueless about running a business and how production lines worked. The head engineer looked down upon her for this reason. But Archana came to face with her fear of being sidelined and drowning what her husband had built. She took six months to learn all about the business and came back to tell a thing or two about running production line to the same engineer. She faced her fear and dealt with it.
Shed the ‘Super Woman’ image
A new thinking is doing round these days that there is no such thing as work-life balance. In this fast paced life with utter intrusion of technology, flexi-timings, global businesses, etc. professional and personal time are having blurry boundaries. The balancing act becomes more challenging for a mother who is on an entrepreneurial journey as she cannot take a six month maternity leave (its her business), doesn’t have colleagues who are ready to share your load and taking a break raises all the more investor eyebrows.
A term first coined in 1984, Superwoman Syndrome occurs when a woman neglects herself because she is seeking to “do it all” to perfection and stretching herself too thin. “The idea that fulfilling all of your roles and responsibilities to perfection will lead to a lifetime of happiness and balance is not realistic, nor should it be,” says Jennifer Duong, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Encinitas. She adds, “Superwoman is a fictional character, not a role model, and trying to be her isn’t sustainable or healthy.”
The fact is, there is only so much one can do. Adding to your to-do-list endlessly will only lead to a burn out. Stop trying to be the ‘acchhi ladki’ that social conditioning wants you to be and face the fact that you have to make everyday choices which might not please everyone around. Limit the to-do list, delegate, get support, let the people dependent on you get a little independent and be happy even if things are not perfect all the time!
The post was first published on Bizztor as guest post by Roshni Baronia, a growth strategist helping women entrepreneurs at early stage startups with sales strategy. A startup enthusiast, her purpose is to increase the number of women-led startups getting funded and creating sustainable businesses. Her special interests are in digital marketing, strategic networking and mentoring.