Driving Business Success
Content provided by the Women Presidents' Organization
By Marsha Firestone, Ph.D.
President and Founder of Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO)
With an average $11 million in annual revenues, 199 employees and 16 years in business, Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) members know how to drive business success. As the president and founder of WPO, I would like to share some of the insights gained from working with these highly motivated, wise business owners over the past ten years.
KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO GO.
Have a clear idea of what you plan to sell and know the demographic, psychographic and behavioristic profile of the customer to whom you will sell. You may have a great idea, but if it is not sufficiently planned, success is not likely. Begin with a written plan that will become a road map to help you move forward.
CLARIFY WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE.
A new product or service sells better when you can articulate exactly what makes it a desirable purchase as well as what differentiates it from other similar products and services. Customers will not change what they are already purchasing unless there is something really special to attract them.
Trying to save money by not hiring legal and financial advice could be the most costly mistake you can make. Starting out with the proper guidance can save you thousands, perhaps millions, in the future, as well as ensure that you lay the proper foundation for your business.
FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!
Although you may have wonderful ideas for expansion, new products and new markets, you may not be financially able to take those strategic steps until later in the life cycle of the business. Instead plan to grow your business in stages, making sure that you do not shoulder too many simultaneous goals. As you succeed with each stage, consider further opportunities to broaden your horizons.
KNOW YOUR COMPETITION AND WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT.
Many business owners start their enterprises by reviewing what the competition is offering, but along the way, they fail to continue to reevaluate their competitors. Stay up-to-date with what is being sold, what it costs and how it differs from your own product or service. Regularly seek feedback from your customers as to how you can better serve them. Not only will you come up with new approaches, but you will win customer loyalty and goodwill.
HIRE CAREFULLY, TRAIN THOROUGHLY AND RETAIN COMPETENT EMPLOYEES.
One of the most difficult areas you will face is hiring and retaining good employees. Interview no one who does not meet your specifically defined job criteria. Once the selection is made, train employees and integrate them into the culture of your organization. The most successful businesses build a culture that motivates and empowers employees.
Too many business owners turn over all of their financial reporting to their accountants. They cannot read their balance or cash flow statements; they do not know their most cost effective products and services; and they fail to review budget-to-actuals on a weekly/monthly basis. By all means, have an accountant prepare the financial information, but understand how to use these financial reports yourself to manage your business.
LEAD BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE COMPANY
As the CEO of your business, you must be able to communicate the vision and mission to your own employees. Make sure everyone is on the same team, with a commitment to the values you embrace. In your external role, you are the voice and vision to the media, trade organizations, vendors and customers. Whether at a personal or professional engagement, you should always be "on" and ready for business.
LETTING GO IS ESSENTIAL
In the beginning of your business, you not only wear many different hats — you may wear ALL of the hats. To grow, however, you must learn to let go of many of the responsibilities you shouldered in the early days. Create a division of labor with roles that are clearly differentiated. Build a solid management team and avoid having all of your employees reporting solely to you. These actions will accelerate your company’s growth.
KEEP THE FIRE IN YOUR HEART BURNING
As exciting as it is to start your own business, the journey can be demanding, exhausting and isolating. It will challenge you to stay strong in your convictions and continue to follow your vision through difficult professional and personal times. A support group of like-minded professional women — like the WPO — can be instrumental to the continued success of your business, and to your own renewal and re-energization, so your fire never goes out.
Content copyrighted by the Women Presidents' Organization