When corporate America’s legendary glass ceiling blocks their road to success, some women decide to take a different route. Their solution: Become their own boss.
“In so many cases when women start out in the corporate world, they find their talents and insights are undervalued,” says Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist and author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights (www.andisimon.com).
“They become frustrated, and the answer for them is to cut loose from their current situation and embark on their own journey of entrepreneurship.”
Over the last decade or so, that’s been happening more and more. The number of women-owned businesses grew 45 percent from 2007 to 2016, compared to only 9 percent growth in overall businesses.
Businesses led by women are also more profitable, Simon says. Women encourage staff to be innovators and they show a willingness to try new ideas themselves.
“They also are inclined to look after their employees more so than most men who launch businesses,” Simon says.
In the book Women on Top: How Women Entrepreneurs are Rewriting the Rules of Business Success, author Margaret Heffernan shares the experiences of a number of women, including one whose path to business ownership came after her boss summarily dismissed one of her suggestions.
At home, she unloaded on her husband, who suggested she quit and become her own boss. She took his advice and proclaimed it the best thing she ever did.
Other women Heffernan interviewed expressed their enthusiasm for “creating value out of nothing” or described the thrill of winging it when a business suffers shocks and setbacks that waylay all their careful planning.
Simon also has interviewed many women who are entrepreneurs and has found a few tenets in common that often help them succeed:
Intentionally build a company and its culture with forethought. Each of the women knew exactly what type of company she wanted to create, Simon says. They empowered their staff to be autonomous, but at the same time put in place processes and rules to manage their freedom.
Understand that women (and men) need a balanced workplace. These women CEOs realized their employees want to work hard and see results but also need independence to manage their homes, families and countless other commitments in order to have a meaningful life.
Training and development is a hallmark of successful companies. They are big believers in lifelong learning—for themselves and their companies. “From personal development coaching to ongoing professional training, they embraced change and made sure their people were equipped to adapt to what’s next,” Simon says.
Recently, Simon and her husband helped start an initiative at Washington University in St. Louis designed to inspire more women and underrepresented populations to become successful entrepreneurs. The Simon Initiative provides training, coaching, mentoring and access to resources.
Simon, who offers corporate consulting services through Simon Associates Management Consultants, says providing such support is critical for those budding entrepreneurs.
“I think that the loneliest part of building a business is having to rely on yourself,” she says. “The company founder is supposed to ‘know.’ It’s hard to ask the staff how to do something when you are supposed to be the visionary, the rainmaker and the ‘all-knowing.’ ”
About Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Andi Simon, award-winning author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, is a corporate anthropologist and trained practitioner in Blue Ocean Strategy® (www.simonassociates.net). She is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, designed over a decade ago to help companies use the tools of anthropology to better adapt to changing times. Simon also is a public speaker and an Innovation Games® facilitator and trainer. She served as a tenured professor of anthropology and American studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and was a visiting professor teaching entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis. Simon has appeared on “Good Morning America” and has been featured in the Washington Post, Business Week, Inc., Entrepreneur, the Los Angeles Times and Forbes, and on Bloomberg Radio.