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Is Being An Entrepreneur Risky Business for Women? 

If you are a woman in business- your business-you know firsthand that business and risk taking go hand in hand. 

 

There is nothing “safe” about being an entrepreneur- someone who starts and / or runs their own business. It is a far different mindset than for those that sign up for the predictable paycheck program that comes with being on someone else’s payroll.

 

What does that mean for us lady entrepreneurs? How do we assess risks and choose to take risks differently than our male counterparts?  And what advantages do we have to mitigate risks and create success?

 

First to be clear, there’s risk, and then there’s taking calculated risks. They are different and important to differentiate.  First, we’ll look at some of the differences between men and women entrepreneurs, and then look at some ways that women may actually have an advantage in the entrepreneurial arena.

 

In my experience, risk taking as a business owner is an everyday proposition, with some days having more opportunity to really swing that door wide open.  Most entrepreneurs would tell you that if you are completely risk averse, then business ownership may not be the right path for you. If you love the predictability of doing your job and knowing that a paycheck awaits at the end of your two week efforts, that is probably where you ought to stay.

 

For those of us that swing to the wild side, the unpredictability- especially just starting out of the gate -is the fuel and the rush we run on.  We are women entrepreneurs because we have a passion, a purpose, a calling… it’s in our blood and we have to do it- whatever the “it” might be.

 

I have owned numerous businesses from being a partner in a construction company, juice bar, and bottled juice company (the latter two being start ups) as well as owning my own businesses in massage, counseling, business and health coaching, and now a community wellbeing resource website. ( www.livewellkitsap.com).  Not once in any of those ventures did I think “maybe I shouldn’t do this.” Women have an intuition that I think men do not often naturally come by.

 

One of the biggest differences I see between male and female entrepreneurs, is often I hear men contemplate, “what business can I get into that I can really make some money at”, and conversely I hear women share their love or passion for doing hair, or health coaching or somehow bettering people’s lives that they feel led to do, and then they look at the idea of how   do I turn that passion into my livelihood?

 

Either way, there are risks associated with every new business venture and even more so if you are building it from the ground up.  Is there a market for your product or service? Who should your target market be? What should your price point be? Will you offer goods and services or just one or the other, and so on and so on the decisions go. The journey is on one hand exhilarating and on the other hand fraught with pitfalls and peril born of the consequences of bad decisions, unnecessary risk taking, or just not doing your homework. 

 

Thinking you will avoid all risks -calculated or not -is not realistic or a good strategy.  The questions to be asking is am I prepared and willing to accept that risk taking is inherently part of this “program”. And, as a woman, what advantages do I have with my magnificently designed feminine brain that can provide me with some advantages in the demanding world of the entrepreneur.  Here are some things every entrepreneur ought to be considering, but even more so for us ladies.

 

1.     Are you in (or about to get into) the right business for you? Do you love this business as much as you love your dog? You will be spending a lot of time here in THIS business so you better love just about every aspect of it.  If you have a doubt, connect or reconnect with your “Why”. You ought to be able to answer the question- Why am I in this specific business?, in a way that lights you up and propels you forward. If it doesn’t, you may want to pause, reflect and rethink what you are doing and why it matters.

2.     Does this business fit into the rest of your life and the people and things that matter most?  Every entrepreneur understands sooner or later that life is full of tradeoffs. Like an Olympic athlete training for her sport, there are sacrifices to be made. Are you willing to make them? Sometimes those sacrifices come with the cost of lost dollars, or time with others you love.  Are you able and willing to look at the practical side of how and when you are still going to spend time with your partner, kids, friends ( or your dog)?

3.     Are you intentional about taking calculated risks?  When faced with an important decision, do you have criteria in place for assessing your options as well as the likely consequences (intended and unintended) of your choices? Do you do your homework to see what options exist for you when confronted with important decisions?

4.     Do you engage in a regular SWOT Analysis? This is a great method to continuously ( I recommend once a quarter- more frequently than the customary annual Swot.) Because we are living in such a fast paced rapidly changing world this is one way to stay on top of identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that can inform your decisions and level of risk taking you are comfortable with.

5.     Do you use Emotion Intelligently? Here’s where we ladies can shine. I have heard many a male leader lament that “emotion has no place in the workplace (or in decision making).” But often we ladies are gifted at knowing how to use emotion intelligently. We are more apt to ask good questions, listen, identify, assess and then pull the trigger on the choice that we think will result in the most favorable outcome. We can use our strong intuition in conjunction with facts and often come out the victor as a result.

6.     Do you regularly lean into your team or tribe? In my observation, because we are so passion driven, the lady entrepreneurs I know are less ego driven.  They are often more willing to run things by others to get their opinions, expertise and insights that some ego driven owners or leaders are not willing to do.  Many bad risks can be avoided when we recognize we don’t have to have all the answers and in fact the insight we get from front line staff or others in the organization who see things through a different lens can be instrumental in helping us mitigate and manage risks more successfully.

7.     How do you manage your fears of failure? Are you a black and white all or nothing kind of thinker? Or, do you see taking risks as opportunities for growth and success?  Do you wrap up all your feelings of worthiness or success into only one decision, or one event or are you able to step back and assess your decisions accurately and see them more as experiments that offer opportunities for growth and learning?

 

Leading well in your business means willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, to take risks and assess which ones paid off and which ones you would do differently next time. 

 

There are many things you can do to mitigate risks, especially regularly engaging in Swot Analysis with your team or business partner. Are you a solopreneur? Invite a knowledgeable business person to engage in a Swot with you.

 

 Business ownership is inherently risky. If you have decided to embark on the path of business ownership then not only does it behoove you to accept the risks that come with this journey, but to embrace them.  You are more than capable.  Women in business are a powerful force that adds so much to our communities.

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