Small businesses in America are booming. They are the engine driving the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 and the animating force behind the creation of new jobs.
In its, Inc. magazine outlined the improved confidence levels of small business owners as reported in their second annual State of Small Business survey. One CEO summed up the prevailing sentiment going into 2015 with, “It would take something pretty significant to inhibit the growth we’ve been experiencing.” Job growth was up, credit requirements less restrictive, bankruptcies down, and the small business sector was poised to experience another fantastic year.
One slice of the small business sector is proving to be even better at generating new jobs than the sector as a whole – female-owned, small businesses. According to ZipBooks’ Women-Owned Business Report 2015, based on the most recent US Census Bureau’s Small Business Owner survey, female-owned companies increased payrolls by 70% more than male-owned businesses during the 2007-2012 time period.
This despite the fact that women own only 36% of all privately-held businesses, approximately 9.9 million companies, which employ 9 million people and generate $1.6 trillion in revenues. This is only a fraction of the number of firms owned by males – yet revenue and job creation numbers are growing at a dramatic rate.
As the internet lowers the cost of starting a new business, more women are discovering that owning a business is a key factor in financial independence. They are starting up new businesses at twice the rate of the national average, in every state in the country, in every industry. Women are everywhere and they are determined to be equally successful in their endeavors.
One thing that women, and all new entrepreneurs, really, have going for them is that the internet can cut their failure rate and increase their odds of success. Increasingly, the web is an extraordinary wealth of information and advice from experienced business leaders. The internet offers thousands of websites with case studies and other concrete examples of how businesses can succeed.
Here’s the advice I would offer, as someone who has experienced both the employee and the owner sides of a company:
1. Make sure you have your technology solutions in place before you need them. If you know that you are going to be collaborating on documents and project plans, start thinking now about what you will want in terms of a collaboration. Don’t make do with what you are currently using, and wait until the need arises. At that point your options may be more limited than you would like. Research and choose the best option for your small business, based on where you are now and where you hope to grow.
2. Choose something that is scalable. You may be a small business now, with only one or two people, but you want to be huge someday, right? If you pick the correct software solution now, you will not have to migrate to something more robust when your company grows. I recommend Google for Work, because it is a comprehensive suite of tools, easy to learn, and best of all, free to use.
3. In terms of the expense of your technology tools, be leery of the “if it costs more, it must be better” mentality. Cost does not correlate to value in this sector. Microsoft Office is not cheap, but Google for Work can provide the same – and more – for free. ZipBooks is an accounting and invoicing solution that can rival some of the pricier apps available, and it’s completely free to use.
4. Get your pricing right. Whether you provide a product or a service, the pricing of your offering is critical. It doesn’t matter how much it cost to produce, or how much your time is worth to you – it matters what the market will pay. Many advisors will recommend the you go with a “cost plus” pricing system – in which you take the actual expense of providing your product or service and add a reasonable mark-up in order to arrive at your price to the consumer. This method may not reflect what your customer may actually be willing to pay.
5. Be ready and willing to change your model as you go along, as you discover what works and what does not. Listen to what your customers are saying. Don’t be so married to your initial business idea that you cannot recognize when it needs to be modified and improved. Pivot when needed, and then pivot more. You may find that something completely unexpected becomes your most successful product or service.
6. Your mom is proud of you, but the rest of us just want something that doesn’t suck. The old advice still rings true: Money follows value. If there is a product or service that you would want to buy, but no one seems to sell – there’s your magic opportunity. Chances are others would buy it as well.
7. Joining an MLM does not make you an entrepreneur. Success comes when you add value that people want to pay for – go out and change a product or service for the better and capture that profit.
The environment has never been better for small business, and it’s only getting stronger as the U.S. economy continues its recovery. There’s an entire world of opportunity, but it’s not sitting around waiting for you to stumble across something. Get out there and make it happen.