Keep learning from fellow women entrepreneurs

They say you are never too old to learn, and when you are an entrepreneur you never stop learning, particularly from those around you. Put a group of like-minded entrepreneurs together in a room and within minutes, experiences will be shared, networks will be opened, and advice will be given - often, whether you want it or not! But that’s the wonderful thing about being amongst people just like you. You can learn from each other’s mistakes, and hopefully not repeat them. You can get insights into how to launch new products or break into new markets from those who are already there. You can glean useful trade tips from specialists who have great experience of doing business in tough industry sectors. And importantly, you can make connections that can stand you and your business in great stead when it comes to gaining knowledge and getting access to specialist expertise. There is a great quote from uber successful global entrepreneur, Cher Wang, co-founder and chairperson of HTC Corp, who says, “As entrepreneurs, we must continue to ask ourselves ‘what’s next?’ It takes humility to realize that we don’t know everything, not to rest on our laurels, and know that we must keep learning and observing.” Great advice!

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Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask

There is not a single entrepreneur out there who has not needed help or advice at some point on their journey, so why is it that all too often, women entrepreneurs find it tough to ask for that help. My biggest piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to ask, after all, what’s the worst that can happen? Just someone saying no, or not right now! Remember that everyone who has achieved success in business or the corporate world will probably have had to face challenges and hurdles along the way, it’s inevitable. So they will understand what you are going through, and importantly, how to provide some much needed advice or information to help you on your journey. So don’t be afraid to reach out to someone more experienced, to request a chat over coffee, or to ask for advice on how to deal with a particular challenge in your business. There is a wealth of experience and great insights out there, so get over any hesitation you might have and just ask. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response you get!

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Learn from more experienced women business builders

There is nothing quite like the energy that comes from a room full of young aspirant women entrepreneurs, keen to talk about their ideas for a new business, enthusiastic about learning from other more experience women business builders. And perhaps one of the biggest lessons that these next generation women entrepreneurs can learn is that by taking the opportunity to connect with other successful women who have been there and done it in business, they can gain invaluable knowledge. Not only that, they can see at first hand how these women so often turn passion into profit, and importantly get inspired and fired up to start their own entrepreneurial journeys. Seeing other successful women entrepreneurs in action also helps to shorten the learning curve for those starting up in business, witnessing at first hand how to deal with some of the inevitable challenges that arise. Starting out in business for any young aspirant entrepreneur can be daunting, but by seeing how other women have blazed a trail before you demonstrates that it’s possible.

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Don’t let your business swallow your identity

As an entrepreneur, if you have ever felt that your business is beginning to shape your identity because your whole life revolves around it, then you are not alone. It seems like more and more of us are dedicating almost all our waking hours to work on our businesses, putting other things such as hobbies, recreational activities, personal relationships, healthy eating and even sleep to one side. This approach inevitably means we become one dimensional, and this isn’t healthy for us, the business, or those around us. It also increases the chances of burn-out. So, how do you reclaim your identity and maintain a healthy sense of self outside of your business?  Well, it all starts with your schedule. Make a conscious effort to book time in the diary for you and your family and friends; times for doing the things you enjoy, whether it’s exercise, reading a book, watching a movie, or meditating; set boundaries - times and places where everything except business is talked about; and build personal relationships that are based on you and your interests, not your business. Here’s to reclaiming your identity so that you and your business ultimately benefit. 

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Inspiration is sometimes hard to find

It can happen to the best of entrepreneurs - that period of time in business when you know it’s important to keep things fresh and to ensure products and services stay relevant and interesting to your customers, but your creativity dries up! New ideas suddenly refuse to appear, inspiration is hard to find, and you hit that proverbial creative wall, worried you will never have an original idea of your own again. The truth is, creative slumps are par for the course in business, and they can strike at any time. The trick is to find ways of getting that spark back in your life, and there are some practical methods to do that. Start by surrounding yourself with other creative entrepreneurs, get a dose of their passion and enthusiasm for their new ideas, be stimulated by the conversations you will have. Try something new, develop a new interest or skill that could help the business further down the line, set up a chat with someone whose creative work inspires you, and share experiences. Chances are, you will beat your slump, and if all else fails, at least you will know you are not alone.

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Cut out the distractions to get the job done

Everywhere we look there are distractions - our smartphones constantly encourage us to check on things that are happening in our 24/7 connected world; our team members want to bounce ideas around or chat about projects in a constant stream of engagement; our electronic meeting schedules remind us throughout the day of people to see and deadlines to make. We live in a world where there’s always another distraction to take us away from what we should be focusing on. But research points to a need to stop multitasking and working at a shallow level, and instead to focus our attention on individual tasks, and to remove the distractions around us until those tasks are completed. So here are four tips to cutting the distractions and getting the job done. Firstly, put your smartphone on silent and out of sight for the set period of time you have allocated to your task. Next, inform your team that you are not available for meetings or discussions during that time. Thirdly, switch off any electronic reminders or email alerts. Finally, be in the moment, just focus on the task at hand and it will get done quicker and less painfully.

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Accept that there will be failures

How often as an entrepreneur do you find yourself spending precious time re-hashing mistakes or bad decisions you have made - over and over again? You are not alone! It seems that one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to do is to stop pressing the replay button and to let that mistake or decision go once it has been made. It’s all about mindset - it’s important to learn from our mistakes and our errors of judgement, but then to move quickly on, incorporating those learnings as we go. As tech entrepreneur and founder of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell, says: “Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.” Something to remember when you are tempted to press that replay button in your head and relive your latest mistake. 

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Focus on being productive instead of busy

Speaking about what it takes to build a successful life and business, best-selling author and serial entrepreneur, Tim Ferris, said, “Focus on being productive instead of busy”, and he has a point. As entrepreneurs we all have busy lives, that’s just a given, but if we really want to accomplish our goals we have to become more productive. It’s not about the number of hours worked, it’s about doing things that will move our businesses and lives forward. And, it all starts with knowing when your body feels at its most productive in the day - if you are a morning person, then harness those early hours of the day to tackle the most pressing jobs before most people have arrived at their offices. If you are more of an afternoon and evening person, then get your scheduling right to ensure you have quality uninterrupted time to work on your priorities, and squeeze in any essential meetings. Create a productivity checklist to review at the end of each day to ensure you have achieved your goals. Now, that’s being productive!

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You need a strategic roadmap

You would never set out on a journey to an unknown destination without a map, so why would you set out to build a business without a roadmap to take you to your end goal? When you fail to plan an efficient route to realize your long-term business ambitions, chances are it will take a lot longer to get there. So to ensure your business heads in the right direction with a minimum of detours along the way, it’s essential that you put a strategic roadmap in place, reviewing it frequently. A well-designed road map is like a GPS for your business. It keeps everyone moving in the right direction, at the right time, focused on the right objectives, with a clearly articulated vision. And it’s not just big established businesses that need such a roadmap; every business needs a route to success. So make your strategic roadmap an integral part of the way you run your business, it can be one of the most powerful tools you have to keep you and your team focused on the end goal and heading in the right direction.

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Make your time work better for you

They say, “time is money”, but in your business day how often do you actually track the amount of time you spend on key tasks, and importantly, are you spending your valuable time on the things that actually bring in the revenues? Like many entrepreneurs, you might be surprised at just where your time is actually focused and it might not be in the right place. So how do you start making your time work better for you? Here are a few tips to ensure you maximize your valuable time in the business. Start by monitoring a week’s worth of activities, track time spent on each activity each day, and the return on investment of that time on each activity. Incorporate a digital time-tracking tool into the business so that everyone sets time completion goals for each activity and records it against agreed deadlines. The daily and weekly digital reports will highlight where improvements can be made or where certain activities need to be addressed differently. Knowledge is power and by incorporating a time-tracking system into the business, it’s possible to make time work better for you.

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Is it time you hired a Virtual Assistant?

Most people think about hiring a Virtual Assistant when they feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks that stop them from doing what they really want or need to do in their businesses. And that can definitely be one of the signs that it may be time to hire a VA. However, another sign is when you find yourself spending a lot of time on tasks that don’t necessarily make any money for the business. It could be basic administrative tasks, or responding to emails, handling social media or updating the website. The bottom line is that if you’re spending more time on these small tasks than actually prospecting clients or working on projects that do bring in the money, then the balance of time and effort for return on investment isn’t right. So why not take a look at your business and make an honest assessment of what you’re spending your time on and what the value proposition is of that time spent. Ask yourself how many of these routine tasks could be handled by someone else. It may be time to start looking for a virtual assistant.

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Stay on top of your game

In the two diverse worlds of sport and business, the saying, ‘being on top of your game’ means you recognize the value of what you are doing, you have the edge, and you are determined to stay ahead of any competition. The trick is to make sure you don’t fall behind once you have gained this edge. One of the best ways to stay on top of any situation is to keep learning - whether that’s learning new skills, new business practices, new manufacturing techniques. It’s about welcoming change, embracing new ways of doing things, bringing new technology into the business, and accepting new information and using it effectively. By its very nature, business is always changing and successful entrepreneurs know that learning to adapt to those changes is key. Having the ability to quickly learn and apply those learnings directly into the business practically translates into a more flexible and agile business, better success down the road, and an improved ability to cope with the obstacles life throws in your path. As you learn, and as you apply the lessons in your life and business, you can stay on top of your game.

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Celebrate what makes you and your business unique

Women entrepreneurs often spend too much time worrying about the competition, and not enough time focusing on what makes their business more attractive to customers in the marketplace. It’s a common trait, but one that needs to be avoided. Competition is a reality, but how you approach it is what sets you apart in business. Celebrate what makes you and your business unique, and remember that no other company or entrepreneur has your story, so leverage that fact with your customers. Acknowledge that we live and operate in a new economy, one that celebrates sharing and collaboration, so perhaps instead of seeing other entrepreneurs as competition, explore whether there is the opportunity to share expertise and collaborate to win new business.  And importantly, stop comparing your efforts and results with those of other entrepreneurs. Everyone has a different business building journey they are on, so learn from others, celebrate and be inspired by other entrepreneurs’ success, and focus on your own journey. It’s a mind-shift that is needed, but one that is worth the effort.

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Use being small and agile to your advantage

Every small business has probably experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed when trying to compete with bigger businesses. Yet often it is precisely being small and agile that wins the race. So how do you position your unique brand and business to win customers away from the bigger guys in the market? It starts with specialization, building a reputation for providing a product or a service that is unique or boutique, or that does things differently. Secondly, it’s all about the personal touch, having the opportunity to deliver a more personalized service, one that treats customers as individuals and creates a positive experience. Thirdly, communication is key, using that insight and knowledge of each individual customer to build up a regular touchpoint that in turn builds brand loyalty. Fourthly, smaller businesses are more agile, better able to respond to market conditions or customer needs, producing products or services that resonate. Ultimately, small businesses are at the heart of communities and can deliver unique customer experiences that big businesses cannot, so stop worrying about the bigger competitors and simply focus on what you do best.

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Owning your daily schedule is always a challenge

Are you in charge of your daily schedule, or is it in charge of you? If you are one of those fortunate people who is naturally organized around your schedule and you make it work for you, then that’s great. However, there are many entrepreneurs out there who struggle daily with their schedule. So here are five ways to help you get to grips with it, and fast! Firstly, shorten your daily to-do list - if it’s too long, chances are things will never get done and that just adds to the daily stress. Secondly identify your priorities for the day and make sure you tackle those first. Thirdly, if meetings take up the majority of your day, something’s probably wrong. Determine which people need a face to face meeting, and which ones can be dealt with online, ultimately keeping all meetings short and to the point. Fourthly, take control of your email, use an email scheduling tool, and set aside designated times to deal with your messages. Finally use a calendar application, making your scheduling much more efficient. This should help you to reclaim your time and maximize your productivity.

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Keep your entrepreneurial fire burning

We all know the saying, “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” and this especially rings true for many passion driven entrepreneurs. But the reality is that the day to day grind of running a business can be just that in the early start up phase, a grind! You will be required to tackle endless, seemingly menial tasks that drain your creative energy, such as managing your customer lists, or doing your accounts, or marketing to find new clients. You will often find that there are just not enough hours in the day to complete everything you have to do. At times like these, you have to keep that entrepreneurial fire burning, focus on the passion you have for what you do, and keep your eye on the end goal you are trying to achieve. Yes, there will be days when you have to do things that don’t inspire you, but the trick is to find that fire and approach any task as though it’s the most exciting thing in the world. That fire will drive your business and it will pay off in the long run.

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Your customers value the human touch

Have you noticed how much broadcast and social media talk, and how many newspaper and magazine column inches, are dedicated to talking about innovative technologies like AI and blockchain. And there’s no doubt that these have a lot of potential. But there’s a tendency to forget that the biggest trend in business is on how we understand and treat our customers and ensure we continue to meet their needs. New UK research indicates that consumers place a significant value on human interaction in the customer services process, with 87% reporting they tend to stay more loyal and increase their business with companies that offer a real person to talk to at the right stage of their customer journey. So while all this talk about innovation is exciting, there is no substitute for world-class customer service delivered by people who really care about the customer experience, who are responsive and open to listening to what customers really need. It’s why there’s nothing quite like the human touch.

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Freelancers bring skills and expertise to the table

As every start-up knows, in the early days you have to wear many hats and fulfill many roles, it’s just part of the journey. But not every entrepreneur is a natural marketeer, or a talented designer and content creator, or a detail oriented accountant or business strategist. And, taking on a specialist workforce during the start-up phase may simply not be an option. So it makes sense to work with freelancers who bring their skills and expertise to the table and undertake individual projects or key tasks when needed. The advantages of this approach can be seen on both sides. The freelancer gets the opportunity to build a multiple client and work portfolio, and the entrepreneur finds a solution to dealing with non-core work demands as they happen, freeing up essential time to focus on the things that matter most in the business. Time is a precious commodity to any entrepreneur, so it makes sense to ensure that it is maximized by outsourcing to specialist freelancers when needed.

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Co-working is now a part of our entrepreneurial lives

Co-working is rapidly becoming the norm in the world of start-up businesses. And it’s interesting to see how big business is also starting to tap into this way of thinking, with many of them setting up satellite offices for their innovation or intrapreneur teams in trendy co-working spots. As a result, co-working spaces are not only providing a sense of community for the independent entrepreneur who is looking to be part of a like-minded community, but also an inspirational environment for employees who want to think more like entrepreneurs. It makes for interesting and often dynamic spaces. Because they are often accessible 24/7 and people can come and go as they please, these collaborative spaces encourage interaction on what can often be an isolating entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial journey. Co-working is now a part of our entrepreneurial lives and thinking, and whilst it may not suit everyone, that sense of community created in these dedicated spaces is definitely a draw card for many. That’s why many businesses are now incorporating co-working into their strategies, seeing the value that can be generated from the experience.  

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Stress management is a continual challenge for women entrepreneurs

There’s a big difference between starting a business and then successfully running and growing that business over time. It can be a hard slog with continual stress, pressure to effectively manage finances through the inevitable peaks and troughs, managing and developing your employees, retaining your existing clients and finding new ones, and still finding the time to innovate and develop new products and services along the way. It can be a lot to deal with, and unlike corporate employees, you can’t simply leave it all behind at the office each day when you are an entrepreneur. Stress management amongst entrepreneurs is a continual challenge. That’s why you need a really effective support network of fellow entrepreneurs, friends, family and people who can be there when you need them, to offer advice, a shoulder to cry on, a familiar face to have a moan to when the going gets tough, and a cheerleading brigade when you have something to celebrate.

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