Because diverse entrepreneurs have different definitions of success, they also have unique needs when it comes to planning for their business’ future. This article outlines the steps that three types of female entrepreneurs might consider taking to develop plans for their business’ future.
Every business owner creates her own definition of success. Whether she strives for growth over time,Guest Posting or just wants to maintain what she has well into the future, one key aspect of achieving success is planning. Just as every business owner creates her own definition of success, every business owner must also create her own plan to take her business from where it is now, to where she wants it to be.
A recent study from Jane Out of the Box, an authority on female entrepreneurs, reveals there are five distinct types of women in business. Based on professional market research of more than 2,500 women in business, this study shows that each type of business owner has a unique approach to running a business, and therefore, each one has a unique combination of needs. This article outlines three of the five types and provides advice about planning steps that meet the needs of the business owner and the business, now and in the future.
Jane Dough is an entrepreneur who enjoys running her business and generally, she makes a nice living. She is comfortable and determined in buying and selling, which may be why she’s five times more likely than the average female business owner to hit the million dollar mark. Jane Dough is clear in her priorities and may be intentionally and actively growing an asset-based or legacy business. It is estimated that 18% of women entrepreneurs fall in the category of Jane Dough.
Of all five types of entrepreneurs, Jane Dough is the most likely to have a plan for her business. She is driven to create a large business that has a life beyond herself and her own needs and interests. She enjoys strategizing and planning for long-term growth, and is great at delegating smaller tasks so she has the time she needs to do that. One of Jane Dough’s challenges, though, is that her visions are often on a large scale, and she doesn’t communicate them effectively to members of her team. They may be scrambling behind her, talking to each other in an effort to figure it all out. Each person may receive only parts of the story, and they speculate about her expectations and what she is doing, in an effort to anticipate her needs. This speculation and confusion can create havoc for Jane Dough and her business, and can slow down the progress of the plans she is making.
Here are some tips for Jane Dough on better communicating her vision and more effectively carrying out her plans:
· Schedule semi-annual business planning retreats. Not only will semi-annual planning retreats keep Jane Dough focused on the gap between her current situation and her goals (which naturally shift as time passes), it also will provide her with regular, specific opportunities to communicate her vision to her team members – all at once. Communicating that vision provides team members with a cohesive overall landscape of the anticipated future. Also, giving team members the chance to brainstorm about challenges, new product or service ideas or strategies for improving operations provides Jane Dough with insight from the people on the front lines.
· Create a hiring plan for the longer-term vision. Breadth and depth on a team will help a Jane Dough business owner realize the kind of growth for which she strives. A hiring plan, then, will allow Jane Dough to be effective in building strength into her organization. A well-constructed hiring plan takes into account the types of personalities a business owner enjoys working with, as well as the specific set of skills she needs in order to move her business to the next level. Draw an organizational chart detailing how each position fits with the others, and list below each position, the personality traits and skill sets it requires. With this plan at her fingertips, Jane Dough will find it easier to locate opportunities for the right people.
· Systematically track key performance metrics. To grow her business quickly and long-term, a business owner must understand the gaps that exist between where her company is today, and where she wants it to be. To gain that understanding, it is imperative to create clear, measurable goals, and to track the company’s performance against those goals. For example, if a Jane Dough wants to grow her business 10 percent in the next year, she may use several strategies to meet that goal. She may change copy or design elements of her web site to sell her product more effectively. She may advertise to increase traffic to her web site. She could also test a direct mail campaign to prospects who have opted-in on her web site, but haven’t followed up with a purchase. Each of these options is measurable, and Jane Dough can track each one to determine whether it is contributing to growth – and if so, by how much. She then can direct resources to the most effective strategy.
Go Jane Go is passionate about her work and provides excellent service, so she has plenty of clients – so much so, she’s struggling to keep up with demand. At 14% of women in business, she may be a classic overachiever, taking on volunteer opportunities as well. She’s eager to make an impact on the world and she often struggles to say no. Since she wants to say yes to so many people, she may even be in denial about how many hours she actually works during the course of a week. As a result, she may be running herself ragged and feeling guilty about neglecting herself and others who are important to her.
Undoubtedly the busiest type of business owner, more than a quarter of the original 2500 researched reported working more than 50 hours per week. For most Go Jane Go entrepreneurs, business is thriving – so much so, it can be overwhelming. At first glance, it may appear that Go Jane Go doesn’t really need to plan – business is booming, her income is high, and she has (almost) more customers than she can handle. However, creating a plan may help Go Jane Go feel less overwhelmed and therefore increase her personal satisfaction.
Here are some planning tips for Go Jane Go:
Get clear on personal priorities. Taking care of oneself isn’t selfish – it’s essential to high performance. It might benefit Go Jane Go to create a vision board. Here’s how: set aside a few hours to sit down with a poster-board (or a smaller piece of blank paper) and a pile of magazines. Go through the magazines and cut out images or words that represent “the dream life,” whether it’s a picture of a woman with an umbrella drink sitting poolside, a woman running in the park with her dog, or a woman sitting in the spa … getting absolutely clear on personal priorities gives Go Jane Go an idea of exactly where she wants to be – and she can then determine how to adjust her business accordingly.
Create a parking lot. Go Jane Go entrepreneurs often have long lists of desired future accomplishments. For many, those lists cause guilt or frustration. By giving those lists a specific place to “park,” Go Jane Go entrepreneurs will find they feel less stress because they know their dreams, in written form, are right there in the parking lot – waiting (and they won’t be forgotten). Go Jane Go can keep a shorter-term list of ideas and projects in a visible place at all times, and she can file longer-term lists in her drawer for regular review. This allows her to keep track of her plans, short- and long-term, and to feel at ease knowing those plans are always accessible.
Consider narrowing the focus of the company’s marketing campaign. If Go Jane Go feels overwhelmed (it is one of the primary factors in our research’s classification of Go Jane Go), then she might consider actively seeking clients who more ideally fit in with what she enjoys most about her business. For example, let’s consider a Go Jane Go jewelry designer. Currently, she’s designing wedding sets, necklace and earring sets, and jewelry for mothers. Let’s say that she most enjoys creating wedding sets – working with a couple to design a set of rings they’ll wear forever truly meets this Go Jane Go’s desire to help people, while using her creativity. Maybe it’s time she considered planning for a slightly different future in which she designs only wedding sets. She could narrow her marketing specifically to target people looking for wedding jewelry. It may be a future different than what Go Jane Go originally intended, but she’ll find more joy in creating jewelry that brings her together with clients who want the same thing she does.
Merry Jane is an entrepreneur who is usually building a part-time or “flexible time” business that gives her a creative outlet (whether she’s an ad agency consultant or she makes beautiful artwork) that she can manage within specific constraints around her schedule. She may have a day-job, or need to be fully present for family or other pursuits. Representing about 19% of women in business, she realizes she could make more money by working longer hours, but she’s happy with the tradeoff she has made because her business gives her tremendous freedom to work how and when she wants, around her other commitments.
A majority of Merry Jane-run businesses serve as outlets for expressing creativity and skills, and staying connected to professional interests, regardless of bigger priorities. Merry Jane business owners tend to judge success by different standards than other business owners. For example, Merry Jane appreciates the flexibility to work when, where and as much as she wants. She strives to meet all her obligations well, enjoys being recognized for her gifts and talents, and relishes the freedom to say no. And when this entrepreneurial type talks about making a contribution to the household, she’s talking more than money: from running her house to running her business and everything in between, Merry Jane’s systems-oriented style keeps her busy and on task – and gives her less time than most other business owner types to work on her business. So for Merry Jane, planning is a function of balance: she wants more customers – but not too many.
Here are some tips Merry Jane may consider when planning for her future:
Find a marketing method that pumps up business, just the right amount. Research shows that most Merry Janes would like to make more money. About 57 percent of Merry Jane entrepreneurs draw less than $25,000 per year, and 75 percent draw less than $50,000. So while Merry Jane likely wants more customers, she knows that a huge marketing push might generate so many customers, her time freedom is compromised. The first step is to hone in on a very specific target with a clear message, that will attract more ideal clients. A quick and easy way to identify the target market is to survey existing customers. Merry Jane can target more similar customers when she gets the answers to questions about how customers originally heard about the business, what attracted them to the business, what set the business apart and what the business’ biggest benefits are to them. Then, Merry Jane can find a marketing system that creates a steady stream of customers, such as network marketing, affiliate marketing, or referral marketing. By creating a low-investment marketing strategy directed at ideal clients, Merry Jane can plan for more customers, and more income, in the future.
Evaluate pricing – and consider raising it. Several factors contribute to a situation in which an entrepreneur simply isn’t charging enough. Maybe she “started low” to win business and never increased rates. Maybe she didn’t know what to charge and isn’t charging rates comparable to others in her industry. Maybe she overestimated her profit margin before she actually started running the business. Several strategies exist for evaluating pricing. The first is to determine what it costs to make a product, and then add a standard markup that represents company profit. The second is to “play the numbers” with the business owner’s desired hourly rate. For example, let’s say a business owner wants to gross $50,000, working 20 hours per week (remember, most Merry Jane business owners are part-time business owners). Take $50,000, divide it by 52 weeks and multiply it by 20 hours. The result: $48.07 per hour. However, consider tweaking the numbers to add in vacation and holiday time – make it 48 weeks. Plus, an entrepreneur must keep in mind the number of billable hours she works versus the number of other hours she works. Consider that paying bills, checking e-mails, reading the mail, marketing, planning and sending invoices aren’t billable tasks. So if a business owner figures that she spends 60 percent of her time working on billable tasks, she needs to adjust her equation again. Let’s take 48 weeks at 12 billable hours per week. To reach $50,000 in a year, Merry Jane would have to charge $86.81 per hour. By playing with the numbers, an entrepreneur can figure out exactly how much she needs to charge to make the money she wants – and if she’s not charging that much now, then increasing her rates could be part of her planning steps. By increasing her income, Merry Jane would have a little more freedom to stretch the creative muscles she so loves.
Planning for a business’ future means different things for diverse entrepreneurs. Not every entrepreneur wants rapid growth, and not every entrepreneur feels overwhelmed. The key is to evaluate the current situation, carve out a plan, and design the future.