I had an interesting telephone conversation with Oliver Bremer, the co-founder of Founder2be, an online company that helps entrepreneurs to find a co-founder for their start-up or an idea. He asked me what were the most important skills or attributes that would-be women entrepreneurs were lacking. He wanted to understand if their service would be complementary to what DrivenWoman is doing as many of our members want to start their own business. I surprised Oliver with my answer.
He was expecting I’d list various skills such as programming or business development. Instead, I think women who have a business idea and want to build a company around what they are passionate about need first strengthen their attitude rather than their skills. Men tend to posses more of the ‘go and get’ attributes than women who still ask permission for their dreams.
Women are passionate and flexible, are often well prepared financially and have done their market research, which are all great qualities for any entrepreneur. However, there are some attributes that women should either have or develop if they want to become successful in building a business doing what they love.
Many women should build endurance. There may be a tendency to give up too easily because obstacles are taken as a sign that this path is not for you. Women might not fully believe it’s ok for them to build something for themselves as they are more used to putting others needs first. Women need to build stamina to get over those obstacles or to push them aside. We must accept there will be lots and lots of difficulties and we just have to persevere.
This is closely linked with the first attribute. Women often have wrong expectations on the time horizon on what it will take to build a business, and that the route to success may be completely different from the original plan. Wrong expectations about how fast things can actually happen seems to be a major road block (based on the experience we have with women in our groups). You must build durability and commit to your path for the long run and not to expect an overnight success.
This is one of the main obstacles for women in improving their lives in general, wether they want to set up a business or not. Women simply don’t protect their time the way many men do! Women put their family first – as they should – but don’t understand that there is still a lot of ‘grey area’ between being 100% dedicated to your family or being 100% dedicated to your business. If a guy wants to work all Sunday evening on his business it’s ok, but for a woman to do the same and not be the parent who puts the kids to bed is – eh, selfish. Protecting your time and not letting other people run your schedule is one of the major attributes you must pick up if you want to be successful.
4) Tolerance for risk and imperfection
The fear of unknown is a major barrier of entry for women considering starting their own business. Girls are very good at school and are praised for their grades. They are rewarded for being predictable. If boys behave recklessly the commenting goes “well, boys are boys”. Women need to learn to adapt a little bit of that recklessness and try things out with a bigger brush, even though the end result is often far from perfect. Stop trying to colour inside the lines, little bit of splashing and a lot of mess is part of the process!.
Everything of course comes down to self-confidence, to the fundamental belief that you’re entitled to be successful and get what you want. To be successful women need to be confident enough to surround themselves with confident and successful people, but often are more comfortable surrounding themselves with a superficial crowd bragging about their husband’s achievements. To be confident is also to be open for criticism and to be vulnerable. Many are too proud to expose themselves if their facade ‘looks great’. To try something that might fail requires confidence and you must be prepared to do what ever it takes regardless of what other people might think or say.
I told Oliver that having a co-founder would help many women to stay focused and to get longer term perspective. Skills can be learned or complemented with the skills of a co-founder, but to develop the key personality traits takes a lot more practise and is easier when you work together with someone.