Editor’s Note: Mary Cantando is a former Council for Entrepreneurial Development board member. An author, speaker, and consultant, Mary is the growth expert of WomanBusinessOwner.com. Her latest book, “The Woman’s Advantage: 20 Women Entrepreneurs Show You What it Takes to Grow Your Business,” is now in its second printing. This column is the latest in the Entrepreneurial Spirit series done in partnership between the CED and WRAL Local Tech Wire.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK—As a facilitator for the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), I participate on an ongoing basis with women who are dedicated to both self-improvement and the growth of their businesses.
One of the requirements for membership is that a woman must own and run a multimillion-dollar business. As a result, the women in this group share similar problems, challenges and fears, and they share their learning experiences, marketing tips and thoughts on success as well.
The most successful members capitalize on their involvement by absorbing and synthesizing the contributions of their WPO sisters and by supporting them as well.
My learnings from these women, coupled with my 20 years as an entrepreneurial executive, have led me to formulate what I believe are the “Five Biggest Mistakes Women Make in Business.” Here they are:
1. Flighty Networking—Some women have the mistaken notion that networking means attending as many events as possible and pitching their business. This concept has two fallacies: First, it’s crazy to spend all your time flitting between functions unless you feel confident that your target audience will be there. Rather than attending lots of events, analyze who will be at each one and then determine if it is smart for you to invest your time and money to be there. Second, when you do identify an individual as a potential prospect, describe yourself and your business in a short, interesting way. Then focus on asking questions and really listening to what they say. Remember the old adage: Be Interested rather than Interesting.
2. Being too busy to volunteer—Always be ready to volunteer. Whether it is for CED or another organization to which you belong, always be ready to offer service. I have found that every hour I invest in an organization such as CED comes back to me tenfold.
3. Inflexibility—Today’s world is one of constant change and requires creative, out-of-the-norm approaches to business problems and opportunities. You can’t run a 2007 business playing with a 1999 handbook. It just won’t work. Always be open to listening, observing and trying new things. Always be thinking, “What will my customers want five years from now?” And be sure your business is heading in that direction.
4. Showing your strength by bullying others—I know so many women who have had to be “tough” in order to survive in a male-dominated industry. But the really smart ones have taken a different approach. They have developed a cooperative, consensus-building approach in dealing with others, and this wins out every time.
5. Working from a position of scarcity—Too many businesspeople have a “scarcity mentality.” They believe there is not enough time, not enough money, not enough customers, not enough qualified employees and on and on. Of course there is enough of everything in the world; you just have to look at situations from a slightly different perspective to be able to see it all. It is up to you to share and keep the cycle of success alive, not only for your own organization, but for every business within CED. Pass on what you’ve learned through trial and error, and share your time, energy, and encouragement with others. This is the mark of a truly successful entrepreneur!