Small businesses have made a huge recovery since the economic crash in 2008 and that’s good news for all of us. Since we account for 63 percent of new jobs, our success puts people back to work. That, in turn, helps us even more—people with paychecks buy stuff!
And here’s more good news: Women are launching more businesses than ever—1,288 a day, according to a recent analysis by American Express. That’s up from 602 in 2011-12. Since 1997, women-owned businesses rose by 68 percent.
As a female entrepreneur who will soon celebrate my company’s 25th anniversary, I’m well aware of the challenges these brave new CEOs face. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word “brave.” My experiences have taught me that courage is essential to launching and growing a successful business—particularly if you’re a woman. Why? Because we tend to be more risk adverse than men. We worry more about financial security and losing it all. Making the right decisions requires overcoming those fears.
Courage is one of what I call my 5 C’s for building a business. They’re the guiding principles I’ve learned through the ups and downs and all the mistakes. If I rely on the C’s as a sort of compass, I find I can always guide us back to smoother waters.
What are the C’s?
It starts with caring enough about yourself and your dreams to stay committed to achieving your goals. (Giving up is never a good option!) You have to care enough about yourself to firmly believe that you deserve success and the good things that come with it.
Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them. Protect their sanity from the clients who want to chew them up and from new hires who don’t fit in and hurt morale. Be supportive when stressful situations arise in their lives outside of work. And ensure everyone has the knowledge and tools they need to be successful.
None of us gets far at all if we don’t care about our customers. Give them the best exchange possible for their money; define expectations so that they understand the end product you are delivering and for which they are paying. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.
Thirty years ago, I probably would never have says it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail. There are dragons and quicksand and dark woods all around. You’ll find them in the day-to-day problems, the obstacles you didn’t see lying in wait, the risks you must take, and the stresses involved with honoring your obligations to everyone working with and for you.
Trust me, your courage will grow every time you push your fear behind you and deal with what frightens you. Which will also help you build confidence.
Think of the many challenges you’ve faced in your life, and the many times you’ve overcome them. Bring that confidence to your business. Believing that you can reach for and achieve your short- and long-term goals is essential to getting you there.
Competence comes from knowledge and experience. Hone it by staying up on the trends and disruptions in your industry. One of the most important roles a CEO plays is as the visionary for his or her company. That means you can’t, and shouldn’t, take on jobs within your company for which you’re not qualified. You’ll make yourself miserable and your business will suffer. Hire an accountant to handle the financials. Get marketing help if that’s not your thing.
As for employees, take the time to hire competent people who you’ll trust in their jobs—and then trust them!
Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes. That may mean taking painful measures, as it did for me after the 9/11 terrorist attacks put the brakes on the economy. There came a point for my business when all hope looked lost. I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go beloved employees. For more than a year, I ramped up marketing efforts, diversified our services, and took other steps to get the business out of the red. In 2005, I succeeded—and it has been upward and onward ever since.
Building my business has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I get a lot of pleasure from helping our clients meet their goals. I enjoy coming to work and spending time with the team I’m blessed to call part of the family. We laugh loudly and often!
If you’ve recently launched a new business, know that you’ll encounter challenges. Don’t panic! Remember the 5 C’s and forge ahead with caring, courage, confidence, competence and commitment.
Marsha Friedman is a 24-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors.