Five ways women can take it to the next level in business

Five ways women can take it to the next level in business
3 minute read

Women are running more than a third of the privately
owned businesses in the United States. With their job numbers, income, and
overall growth rates accelerating at a rapid clip, it’s no surprise they are
feeling optimistic about business conditions and their prospects for the
future. In fact, our Spark
Business Barometer
 recently showed women business owners were more
likely to have experienced higher sales over the past six months, feel good
about current business conditions, and feel optimistic about the future
economy. Indeed, women are making headway as business starters and leaders, and
they are a driver of growth and optimism in the small business
marketplace.

But there is also evidence suggesting that gaps remain —
from earnings statistics to the percentage of women executives at larger
companies. We still have work to do to ensure there are equal opportunities for
women to pursue their dreams to lead businesses both big and small. Throughout
my career, I’ve learned my share of lessons and observed a variety of workplace
dynamics and barriers to success for women at enterprises of all sizes. Here
are a few opportunities that we — as women and as business leaders — can
leverage to enable our success as entrepreneurs and leaders.

Have a plan. My first piece of advice to every
entrepreneur who is either on the cusp of start-up, or looking to scale and
grow a business: Have a well-thought-out, well-communicated plan. Map out your
financials, do your homework, know your market and customers and have a growth
strategy outlined. Then, be prepared to share it confidently with potential
partners, investors, bankers and other influencers who may be able to support
or enable your business goals.

Be willing to take risks. I’ve mentored many
talented women whose biggest hang-ups stemmed from their fear of failure. While
being prepared and doing your research is important, you’ll never be fully
prepared for what the future may bring. Believe in yourself and your ideas, and
don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes along the way. Those mistakes
will prove to be valuable lessons and experiences that make you an even smarter
business woman.

Don’t do it all by yourself. Great leaders take
charge and delegate (or outsource) supporting responsibilities and business
functions to other experts so they can focus on leading their business. Taking
on all the responsibilities and micromanaging will rarely get your business to
its full potential – so don’t be afraid to take the reins, lead the way, and
empower your teams.

Find balanceOur
research shows
 achieving work-life balance is especially important for
women, yet men are the ones setting more guardrails – like limiting work hours,
travel time and speaking events – to achieve it. Studies also show that even as
their employment rates increase, women tend to take on more housework and
family responsibilities, demonstrating how critical it is support networks are
to ensure roles at home and work can work seamlessly and enable success.
Aligning on roles and expectations with spouses, family and friends up front is
also crucial – as starting and running a business requires a lot of
flexibility, patience and support.

Ask for help. Nine out of 10 women business owners do
not have a mentor – a huge lost opportunity! We should all seek out
mentors to help guide and support us as we pursue our dreams and navigate the
inevitable ups and downs that come with starting, owning and running a
business. And the great news is there are some terrific resources (like BusinessAdvising.org) that can help you
make those connections and get on the path to growth.

Women bring a critical perspective and diversity of style to
the workplace and business landscape, and it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm
and positivity they’re expressing about their businesses and the future. And
with the confidence to lead, a well-thought out plan, and quality resources
(including a support team and technology) they can be better enabled to drive
business results, and have an even greater impact on our local and national
economies.

Keri Gohman is the head of small business banking at
Capital One.