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.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."