I’ve coached and worked with hundreds of women entrepreneurs making between $75k and $750k in revenues, and in my book Million Dollar Women I profiled women who successfully built multi-million dollar companies. When only 3% of women entrepreneurs are reaching $1M in revenues, we know that the women who make it “big” are more the exception than the rule.
Mistake #1: Doing it all yourself
Any entrepreneur who gets $1M in revenues has figured out how to delegate and usually has one or more full time staff, part time people or consultants, virtual assistants and/or interns. Many women I work with are hesitant about delegating, even when they know they’re stretched too thin. They are afraid the job won’t get done right, they don’t want to spend the money, or don’t have the experience to hire and manage people effectively. If you read my blog regularly, you know I talk about the importance of becoming a Delegation Ninja and that I am myself a recovering perfectionist, so I can relate! In my Masterclass, I help women start offloading responsibilities so they can focus on their genius work and be the leader in their company, not the lead do-er .
Twice as many men get to $1M, or 6% compared to our 3%.
So exactly what is getting in our way of catching up with men in turning our business ideas into ones that make bank? Twice as many men get to $1M, or 6% compared to our 3%. I’ve noticed some common issues that hold back companies with fantastic potential from doubling in size and getting on a path to go big (and I committed at least four of these mistakes for yearsat Little Pim). Check out my top ten here, and if you want to learn how to avoid them.
Mistake #2: Lack of internal systems and processes
It takes some trial and error to learn what internal systems and processes work when it comes to finance, marketing, sales, operations, etc. While it’s hard to carve the time out to actually finesse these, it’s crucial for scaling up. To get to $1M in revenues we need to fine tune the “money making machine” at the center of our business. This usually means having a specific and written sales playbook, software the automates much of the work, and established systems that work.
Mistake #3: Not busting limiting beliefs
As a trained Master Practitioner in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and someone who has done a lot of work on mindset in my personal and professional life, I can tell you that we may think we are making rational decisions all day based on facts, when in reality, the unconscious drives the show. Many entrepreneurs think that just ramping up sales is the golden ticket for growth, but that’s simply not the case.
Without the right mindset, and tackling our own limiting beliefs, many entrepreneurs lack the confidence and belief in themselves that they need and deserve to go big. It’s rarely competence holding women back, it’s often confidence and a mix of beliefs about money, what we deserve, and how we can do what we love and make bank at the same time.
Mindset mastery is one of the first things we tackle in my Masterclass, because in clearing up our limiting beliefs and building mental toughness, we can truly embrace success. As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.”
Having the right mindset is like laying down the foundation on which you can build your mansion, and it’s the number one thing the women I interviewed for Million Dollar Women underscored as critical to their success.
Mistake #4: Not understanding the scalable part of your business
While it’s true that sometimes entrepreneurs can’t see the forest from the trees, being able to understand the scalable part of your business is the difference between hitting a plateau and the “hockey stick” growth that we all aim for. It’s also what makes your company “investable” because the company can grow to fives or ten times bigger than it is today without having to bring on five or ten times more staff, marketing or infrastructure spend.
Mistake #5: Not working with coaches, mentors and advisors
An entrepreneur without coaches, mentors and advisors is like a backpacker without navigation tools. Sure, you can find your way to success on your own, but it will take you so much longer. Some female business owners I speak to are hesitant to work with what I call “flying buttresses”, or won’t invest the time or money to work with a coach. The truth is working with the people who have been there and done that can have huge ROI.
This is one of the main reasons that I designed my Masterclass with coaching built into it. I believe that every entrepreneur could benefit from a coach and most of the uber successful ones still have one, and have had several along the way. If you haven’t worked with a coach, mentor, or advisor, remember that they aren’t there to fix your business. They’re there to guide you in the right direction and course-correct you when you’re heading off track, show you paths you hadn’t seen, and help you get out of your own way.
Mistake #6: Insufficient financial know how
I’ve said before that finance is the proverbial Achilles heel for entrepreneurs because it’s not something most of the women I coach are excited or passionate about. Business owners don’t need to have a financial degree to run a business, but we do need to educate ourselves in order to create a cash runway, steward our money better, and raise capital. This really hits home for me, and in Masterclass we make sure everyone gets better at money management.
Mistake #7: Not having a cash runway
“You can be low on cash for a long time, but you can only run out of cash once.”
I’ll never forget when one of my advisors told me, “You can be low on cash for a long time, but you can only run out of cash once.” Many businesses fail or start sinking simply because they run out of cash.
In my research for Million Dollar Women, I learned that women are twice as likely as men to shut down their businesses because they run out of cash. And I made some errors in the early days of Little Pim that almost cost me the company (I share that story in my free Masterclass Primer Series). I don’t want that to happen to you.
Mistake #8: Good on vision, bad on execution and vice versa
Every entrepreneur has different skills. Some are excellent when it comes to having a vision for their company, but terrible at execution. On the other hand, some are excellent with execution, but bad on vision. Do you fall into one of these categories?
If you do (most of us do), you may want to think about how you can either improve on what you’re lacking in the good vision/good execution equation or find someone to work with you that will provide that necessary balance.
Without good vision, how can we create a one-year, three-year and five-year plan for our businesses? And without good execution, how can we get the necessary tasks done to produce our work and keep scaling up? Successful entrepreneurs learn to work on the business not just in the business, and to make strategy a priority — I wrote about this in my blog on strategy, “plan the dive and dive the plan.”
Mistake #9: Improperly tracking marketing spend
One of the dangers of running out of cash is tied to miscalculating marketing spend. There was a time at Little Pim where we didn’t track where our customers were coming from and didn’t know which marketing channels were performing and why. Eventually, we started keeping a closer eye on our marketing spend and were able to avoid falling into the money pit that is digital marketing and started getting excellent ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). We implement the 75/25 marketing budget rule. This was part of the “money making machine” we built that I referenced in #2.
Mistake #10: Not investing in networking and personal and business growth
Ok, I snuck two Mistakes into this last one. We don’t know what we don’t know, right? So the only way to learn what we don’t know is to invest in resources for personal and business growth, whether it’s reading blogs, devouring business books, finding coaches and mentors or joining an entrepreneur’s group. I did all of those and so did most of the women who made it to $1M in revenues and beyond.
At the end of the day, if your business is in trouble or you’re stuck at a certain point, you can either spend your time, money and energy trying every solution, or you can spend it on resources that will give you the frameworks, support systems, and education necessary to make that jump to the next level.
As for networking, without meeting people who can help you stretch to the next level, you may stay stuck wherever you are currently.
Getting further, faster
Many women entrepreneurs who struggle with scaling up don’t initially see that the answer probably lies in learning how to work smarter, not harder. I created Masterclass to help even more women make the climb to $1M in revenues, and it’s the program I wish I could have taken when I was scaling up Little Pim. (Click here to learn more about the course)
Anyone who has worked with me knows I like to say that in life you can have REASONS or you can have RESULTS. This means, you can have all the reasons you didn’t get what you said you wanted, or you can have the results, because you did what it took. Which will it be for you and your company? If it’s the latter, join us, and let’s all go big together!
This article first appeared in Julia Pimsleur.
Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses
Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.
I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.
The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony
The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.
I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.
I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.
I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke
I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.
I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.
From Paper to Digital
We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.
The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.
I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.
I second guessed myself all the time.
A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.
I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.