Starting Your Own Business? Don’t Let These 4 Myths Hold You Back from Growth
Why do so many women start their own businesses?
Female-led startups are on the rise, with the number of female owner-managers up 7% in the last decade compared to only 0.3% for men. While female-owned small businesses are still a minority at 33%, the figure is set to rise with more and more women starting up on their own.
For many of us, the reason is ‘work-life balance’. We believe that being our own boss will mean more flexibility and the freedom to order our lives the way we want to.
The reality is that a small operation can be incredibly demanding in its early stages, and over 60% of small businesses fail in the first three years. It’s tempting to keep your startup small and ‘manageable’, but businesses with a less than $50K annual turnover have the lowest survival rate, while those turning over $10M plus have a much healthier chance of survival.
While growth can be fear-inducing, we want to see more female entrepreneurs breaking through that seven- and eight-figure ceiling—and enjoy the perks of being your own boss as well. Don’t let these myths hold you back from playing a bigger game.
Myth #1. Staying small means staying flexible.
Many female entrepreneurs are motivated by flexibility when they decide to become their own boss. Then they discover the reality that running a business is hard at any size. Early in my career, I felt stuck in my business because all our clients wanted to deal with me personally; I believed that growing it bigger would make it even harder.
It seems counter-intuitive that it would get easier as it grows, but while the business is just you (and a few employees), it relies on you being available and involved 24/7. Once you’ve grown and trained a reliable team to implement what you’ve developed, you’ll have more freedom to get away from the office day-to-day.
I’ve been through this process with several startups now, and my comfort zone is getting bigger each time. At Gutsii we just launched a new product with over 10 tonnes of chocolate as a first run—a much bigger move than I would have made in my earlier ventures—and we’re loving every minute!
Myth #2. If I want it done well, I have to do it myself.
You’ll never get free if you insist on being the only face of your business; if you do, your clients will never want to deal with anybody else. It’s your responsibility to set culture so that your team learn to run the business as you would yourself.
Partnering up with like-minded people is essential for growth, but a perfect partnership is hard to find. Female-female partnerships are often burdened by the stereotype that women are catty and competitive. Follow a few key principles and you can foster a healthy, powerful partnership based on shared values.
A 2013 study showed that women who earned more money than their partners also did a larger share of household chores. Giving up control of those tasks to your partner, family members or hired help isn’t a weakness; it frees you to focus your energy. Concentrate on the areas where you bring unique value, and invite others in to share your life and take care of the rest.
Myth #3. I don’t have the resources to break into the international market.
Taking your product to the global marketplace can represent a huge mental block. But local growth takes a huge amount of time and effort too. Think about the energy you’re going to invest anyway, and then consider the most effective way to invest it.
You could sleep in your own bed and knock on doors all day to promote your product at home. Or you could sleep overnight on an aeroplane, and spend the same amount of energy taking much bigger meetings in Beijing or New York.
In my case, my business partner has combined lifestyle and business by taking an apartment in LA, from where she can coordinate Gutsii’s US product launches to correspond with launching in Australia. Another benefit of not trying to do it all alone!
Myth #4. It’s better to be a big fish in a little pond.
You won’t grow unless you’re prepared to be a little fish in a big pond. When I’m choosing who to spend time with, I want to choose people who challenge me. I like working with people who intimidate me a little bit. Those are the people who can teach me something!
It’s intimidating to seek out people who are smarter, wealthier, more experienced or higher risk-takers than you, but the rewards are worth it. You can’t predict the kinds of connections you’ll make or the people you’ll meet.
When my business partner Janine took the leap to move to LA, she didn’t know what was waiting for her there—she just knew that she wanted to rub shoulders with more inspiring people, and see if our products could stand up in a more discerning market. She was recently named as one of the top 500 Wellness Influencers in LA despite only moving there 5 months ago, something that never would have happened if she’d stayed in her circle of comfort.
Pushing your business out of its comfort zone involves personal and financial risk, and can represent a huge emotional burden. The support of your tribe is crucial, especially for women. We all need a little black book of people we can call on for advice, resources and expertise to help us handle the challenges of rapid growth.
Of course, the best way to widen your tribe and meet more amazing people is to step out of your immediate circle and step into a bigger game.