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Skills that female entrepreneurs must have

Truth to tell, many of the required skills are developments of things women probably do already

Female entrepreneurs may need to boost some of their skills to succeed in setting up their own businesses. As women’s routes into business are often more diverse than men’s, it can be useful for them to audit their strengths and weaknesses as they deal with the challenges of a startup business. 

Goal setting is often quoted as something that men do better than women. This requires you to acknowledge your own ambition – something that many women are slightly reluctant to do. If your goal in business is to run a large organisation that competes with nationally-known brands, it can be very helpful to state this and actually write it down – once you have recognised a goal, you can start to think about the practicalities of how it can be achieved.

What follows is what psychologists call ‘goal-oriented behaviour’, which means that you make choices based on the goal both consciously and subconsciously. Without even thinking about it, or being aware of it, you may reject one path because it conflicts with the goal and take another because it will help you to achieve it.

Many women are somewhat cynical about business speak and will even now be thinking to themselves that they already set goals by writing a list. To an extent they are correct – the only difference is that the goal setting exercise is a longer-term list.

Luke Johnson, the successful entrepreneur who has run many businesses, writes an entrepreneurship and business column in the Sunday Times and one of his recent articles was passionate in defence of the list-writing habit. He owns up to not being as systematic as he could be and to using lists to rectify this defect, writing an annual list of specific objectives. This is a good combination of strategic thinking and an achievable time frame.

What can female entrepreneurs learn from this? Firstly, it is no crime if you are not hyper-organised – simply make up for it by adopting some tools that you probably use already to organise your life. Secondly, note that Johnson is aware of his weaknesses and finds ways to counteract them, which is a very useful quality for entrepreneurs.

Most women entrepreneurs who have families or other commitments outside work will think they could write a book on time management and this is possibly true; however, inside the block marked ‘business hours’, are they spending too much time persuading, negotiating and fostering consensus? We are often told that these are wonderful female skills, but actually they are colossally time-intensive. Female entrepreneurs may want to think about delegating some of the touchy-feely stuff to give them time to get on with growing the business.

Also beware of the ‘good girl’ syndrome – the feeling that you must be nicer, kinder, more competent and less outspoken. This can lead to women business leaders becoming frazzled and snappy, as they are not being themselves. Be authentic and the people around you will take the cue and also become their authentic selves, which by and large – we have all worked with exceptions – will lead to a happier and healthier workplace.

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