I want to take a small detour this week and write a column for the millions of women out there who have just started or are kicking around the idea of starting a business. I have spent much of the last 22 years of my life advocating for women business owners. While I was employed as a magazine editorial director, I also started three magazines targeted to this vital market (which, for various reasons, all failed) and helped launch a Web site for women business owners as well.
Now that I am an entrepreneurial woman myself (I still get a thrill when I say that), I want all of you to join me. I realize we all have different reasons and motivations for going out on our own. Some of us are propelled by a great new idea or invention. Others simply outgrew our jobs, got fed up working for idiots, or decided to take full control of our lives. And then there’s the dreaded glass ceiling.
Not to take anything away from the many successful (and legendary) women business owners in “the old days,” it wasn’t until the early nineties that women-owned businesses really starting taking off. While a horrific economy (sound familiar?) propelled a lot of women out of (recently attained) corporate jobs and into businesses of their own, another factor was the infamous glass ceiling. That ceiling, sad to say, still exists today. I recently read that young women college students believe the glass ceiling no longer exists, even though female college grads earn less than young men right after graduating. In fact, working women the ages of 25 to 34 earn only 88 percent of what men in their same age group do. While that may be progress (women used to earn about 78 cents for every dollar a man earned), it is simply not good enough.
Back in the nineties, unemployed (due to the recession) and underemployed women quickly figured out that the path to equal or better pay was not to be found by climbing the corporate ladder, but by taking charge of their careers and starting their own businesses. In 1978, women owned only about 4 percent of all businesses in the U.S., while today, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research, they own as high as 41 percent.
The beauty of entrepreneurship is it’s more or less customizable. As the owner of the business you get to decide what you want to do, when you want to do it, and what you expect to get out of it. Of course, you need to be realistic — you’re not going to make millions working part time, no matter what you may hear. In fact, you’re not going to make millions overnight, or likely in the first few years. You really can’t get rich that quick.
As I said, I’ve spent my life advocating on your behalf and now that I’m one of you, I can better understand your concerns, challenges, and fears. I’m facing them myself. But I’m following the advice I’ve given over the years and want to share it with you. It doesn’t only apply to women, so you can share it with all your favorite entrepreneurs. I call it “The P’s of Success.” Here’s the abbreviated version:
Imagine the POSSIBILITIES
PLAN, and every time you achieve your goals, PLAN again
They’re pretty self-explanatory points, but often when we’re in the throes of startup or even during our growth spurts, it’s too easy to lose sight of the simple stuff. I don’t think they really need a lot of explanation, but someday I’m going to write a book about following the P’s of success. So if you have some P’s of your own you want to share with me, drop me a line at email@example.com.
And I’m going to add another point here, even though it’s not a “P.” Help other women. Back in the nineties, at the beginning of the entrepreneurial women’s revolution, a successful female business owner asked me why she should help aspiring women entrepreneurs when no one was there to help her when she started out. I told her that was the wrong attitude. And that’s still true today. I strongly believe we women owe it to ourselves (and our daughters and granddaughters to come) to help one another succeed. As Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, once said, “I think it’s important for women to help one another. There is a special place in hell for women who don’t.”
AllBusiness.com has just launched an “Ask the AllBusiness Expert” podcast and we want to hear from you. If you’d like Rieva to answer your questions, call the “Ask the Expert” toll-free line at 1-877-49-EXPERT and leave her a message. Or you can just e-mail Rieva directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.