In the United States, women-owned firms account for roughly 40% of all privately held firms. However, they only contribute 8% of employment and 4.2% of revenue. The majority of women-owned firms are very small businesses. According to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 estimates (latest available), approximately 90% of women-owned businesses are “nonemployer” firms. In other words, they are single proprietors. Among them, nearly half of them have less than $10,000 in annual revenue.
There are many contributing factors for why most women-owned businesses are small: lack of funding, lack of opportunities or support, etc. These are real problems facing women entrepreneurs and our society as a whole, from government policies to venture firms, is actively working to solve them. In the meantime, I believe women entrepreneurs, myself included, could also reach deep into our own mindsets, identifying any limiting beliefs that might have prevented us from playing big.
A good guide for doing that is the book “Playing Big – Practical Wisdom for Women Who Wants to Speak up, Create, and Lead” by Tara Mohr. It certainly has helped me to be more self-aware. The book has not only summed up the typical limiting beliefs women hold inside themselves but also provided guidance for how to overcome them. These limiting beliefs have caused fear, self-doubt, and worries about what others think, and prevented us from taking big risks.
Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt.
―Tara Mohr, Playing Big
I believe that playing big doesn’t mean we have to work harder or longer hours. Having a bigger goal doesn’t require any more time in planning and executing it. However, we can only achieve bigger results if we set a big goal. That requires us to overcome our fear or self-doubt, and develop a winning mindset.
Reflecting on my own entrepreneurial and professional experience, and talking to many other high-achieving women professionals, I believe asking the following 6 questions will help us to aim big and achieve bigger.
- Is the market you are targeting big enough? Is it a multi-million-dollar market or a billion-dollar market? If it’s a small market, have you explored other opportunities to pivot your solutions? Can you simultaneously try multiple segments?
- Are you setting the price for your products and services high enough? It’s great that you find early customers who are quick to buy your products and services. You may feel it’s necessary to give “discount” to early customers. But make sure you have a pricing strategy that reflects the full value of your products and services. If you are not sure how to justify that, do some more analysis to justify why you can charge higher.
- Is the revenue goal big enough? This not only depends on the answers to the previous 2 questions but also is a result of performance targets for your sales and marketing effort. What is the target for qualified leads from your marketing activities? What is the target for the sales close rate? If you dig deeper into your current performance, you might find that there is a lot of room for improvement, but you need to set a higher goal for the team.
- Do you have a group of people who will counsel you to play big? Setting a high goal not only requires you to listen to your own inner voice but also tuning out voices that cast doubt on your goal. There is a famous quote from Steve Jobs from his Stanford University commencement speech, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinion drown out your own inner voice.” It’s not enough you tune out others’ opinions that don’t support yours. You also want to build a circle of supporters that will cheer you for setting big goals.
- Are you working too long hours? Our society has this image of working long hours as a badge of honor. For women, we may also have the biased belief that we have to work even harder to prove ourselves. I believe the goal should be “work effectively while minimizing hours”. To do that, you must delegate and hold other people accountable. Moreover, you want to develop an attitude that it is Ok to work less. It is our birthright to work less.
- Are you finding joy at what you do? This is about building a winning mindset. It’s like running a marathon, you must enjoy what you do to complete the race. If you enjoy the journey, the winning becomes easy.
Building a new business is hard for everyone. Being a women entrepreneur has its unique challenges. If you are a women entrepreneur, surround yourself with other women who will encourage you to set big goals, and cheer for your success!