Starting and growing your own business is a tough challenge for men and women alike. But as technology and globalisation shift the nature of business and leadership, the way that women more typically do business is increasingly giving us a commercial edge.
Let’s put to one side what drives the different approach; the jury is still out on what degree is nature or nurture. And, of course, not all women follow a certain style of business and growing numbers of men do.
So what are the advantages for the typical woman in business?
A broader perspective on success
Recent research from the Centre for Entrepreneurs finds that:
Women explained that they are as growth-oriented as their male counterparts but characterised the execution of growing their business in a different way. They strive for steady, profitable growth trajectories, often preferring to re-invest business profits over equity investment to scale sustainably, and they tend to think of male entrepreneurs as more concerned with fast growth and a quick exit.
For women in business, success is less likely to be about short-term profit and more about creating value for customers, staff and society. It’s about really making a difference. It’s an approach that makes us more resilient and fulfilled and our businesses more sustainable.
Our ability to make and nurture connections is magnified in the social media age. While women have historically been shut out of ‘boys’ club’ networks, the rules are changing. Networks are increasingly open, organic and online.
Finding a work-life balance
Women are significantly more likely to start a business to be able to combine work with family commitments. It means that we are set to both multi-task and finely manage our time, plan for the future and build support networks. These are all skills that are integral to being an encouraging leader.
A thirst for knowledge
Women in business set greater store on skills and learning. Partly this is because we feel less self-assured to begin with and we undertake more research and learning to close that confidence gap. More of us are completing MBAs and business-focused courses like communications, accounting or management.
But too much analysis can lead to business paralysis. That may be why women increasingly value 1-1 support from coaches and mentors to help us to balance skills development with the need to take calculated risks to move our businesses forward.
Leading and building teams
Women are more likely to share information learned or gained, building trust in the team. We tend to be more community-minded and more willing to cooperate rather than compete, which can make us natural leaders. We are often more empathetic, considering the needs and desires of others and the ability to lead teams in a more thoughtful way. All of this builds the trust of staff and colleagues, who will consider an empathetic leader as someone out to achieve the best results for the team and not just for themselves.
The qualities that help women succeed in business are seeping into the mainstream. Increasingly they are being seen as not just female qualities but attributes that anyone who wants to build a successful business will need.
But while those qualities can help propel your business, you do, of course, need to get the fundamentals right first! No business will succeed without a strong business model, a great work ethic and the tenacity to keep going when things get difficult. It is what you do with those ingredients that will make all the difference to your long-term success.