Both career women and those in business have faced many obstacles in past decades and unfortunately, still today. Women in the workforce have battled glass ceilings, unequal pay for equal production and undeserved stereotypical barriers. As business prototypes have changed with the advent and growth of the internet, so have the unique issues encountered by women in business. Below are five of these challenges and solutions to overcome and achieve success.
Challenge 1: Lack of Cash Flow
Even the most brilliant business plan will fail without sufficient cash flow. Simply put, cash flow can be loosely defined as "cash in" (as generated by revenue) and "cash out" (to pay the expenses incurred to achieve "cash in." Inadequate cash flow can stifle a business into failure.
Let’s just get real… your creditors, employees or suppliers don’t care about your cash flow woes. They want to be paid in a timely manner!
Solution:To simplify this problem, as well as correct it, look at all facets of the balance sheet and income statement. Is there a lag time between the time you have to pay your creditors, suppliers and employees and when you collect from your customers? If so, you must pinpoint the problem areas and take necessary steps to correct them.
Four quick solutions to manage your cash flow:
- Consider factoring. In factoring, a business owner sells accounts receivable at a discount to a third-party funding source that pays invoices immediately. Chris Lehres, a loan officer for Versant Funding says, “A wide range of companies in a multitude of industries, including some with a negative net worth, that are losing money, and often even companies in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy are eligible for factoring services.”
- Open a line of credit. A line of credit is a standard service provided by many banks and credit unions that serve small businesses. Your banker can best discuss the benefits of a business line of credit.
- Offer several payment options to your clients, such as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or pay pal.
- Track your receivables. Have a collection process in place so that you have a protocol to handle aging invoices.
Challenge 2: Undefined Niche
To Niche or Not to Niche…that is the question. What is a niche? A niche business is one that targets a very specific group of people with specific shared interest. A business with an undefined niche is like a ship sailing in shallow water.
By creating a niche business allows you to market to your ideal clients. For example, if you were a behavioral psychologist targeting teens, you would market your services in places where parents are likely to find out about you; such as advertising in parent magazines, providing resources to local middle and high schools or joining organizations geared towards parents.
Solution:By understanding who and where your ideal customers are; it is easy to craft a marketing plan to target them. Here are three easy ways to target your potential clients:
- Improve your website’s SEO with specific key words
- Generate exposure locally and virtually with professional speaking, seminars or publishing a book or articles.
- Craft a clear message that speak at the heart of your customer
Challenge 3: Not Understanding the Power of Referral Marketing
For years, the mantra for success in marketing was "cold calling." Today, we know that cold calling is ineffectual, especially when compared to referral marketing. Referral marketing is promoting your business thru referrals and word of mouth networking to more effectively gain sales.
When comparing referral marketing to cold calling, think of it as sowing grass seed. It is much easier to grow grass from seeds if you know how fertile the ground is. You can scatter a handful of seeds over a wide area of dirt and some of it may, or may not, take root.
Solution: Find others with whom to network and collaborate to gain sales. For instance, if your business sells cars, you might collaborate with a local automobile service company with the result that the purchase of a car includes a certificate for a free oil change from the car servicing business. Both businesses benefit and just increased the likelihood for repeat business.
Challenge 4: No Social Media Plan
Random tweets and meandering Facebook posts will result in a lot of time devoted to zero results. Before making another useless post, sit down with pen and paper and make a list of what you want to achieve from social media. To which social media do you belong? What are some social media marketing strategies that you have noticed from other companies? What do you have that will offer value? You may find that your company is spread a little too thin across the social media spectrum. Quality truly is superior to quantity in this respect.
Solution: Create a social media marketing plan and stay the long haul. Establishing a strong presence can be a very time consuming process. It is unwise to expect your list of fans, followers or subscribers to grow overnight.
Challenge 5: No Strategic Plan (after 3 years in business)
Without a strategic plan, a business can become stagnant in the mire of what is immediately going on, rather than focusing on long-term goals. Successful businesses recognize the critical need for strategic planning and it is an ongoing process - it is never finished.
Solution:An effective strategic planning process allows small businesses to take control of their future and stay focused on the essential areas that will result in sustained periods of growth and success. Here are six tips to help you in the planning process:
- Assess the Current Business Environment
- Focus on Important (SWOT) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
- Define (or Redefine) the Company’s Mission and Goals
- Start with An End In Mind
- Establish Mini Milestones
- Plan for Follow Through
If starting your strategic plan seems a little intimidating, download your FREE ‘Strategic Planning Strategy Worksheet.’
As you can see, there are many hurdles that can cause women to fail in business; nevertheless, many solutions to prevent failure from happening. These are my top 5 challenges; what other challenges do you think women face today?
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Sylvia Browder is a small business consultant, trainer and author. She is founder of National Association Women on the Rise, a virtual community for aspiring and established women entrepreneurs. For the past 6 years, she has worked as Project Director of the Women's Business Center; and served as an online volunteer SCORE counselor since 2004. For FREE weekly articles go to Sylvia Browder's Blog for Women Entrepreneurs, http://www.sylviabrowder.com.