I launched my healthcare company 16 years ago. Since then, it has grown to nearly 700 employees, 3 states, 11 cities and 8-figures. It took a lot of hard work, failures, lessons and perseverance to get it to where it is today. I think it's safe to say that I know what I'm doing now – and I want to share that with women like me who are just now starting. Now that I've mentored women and helped them scale their own businesses to 6-figures, I've seen some common mistakes and issues that new business owners run into. But what good would my 16 years be if I don't share what I learned, right?!
Here are 5 business tips that every woman needs to know.
Always Use Contracts
I don't care if the potential client seems nice, if it's a "quick" project, if it's low-budget or if it's your Auntie Sue -use a contract. Every single business owner has a story of that time they didn't have a contract and got burned. Don't be one of them.
I've found that so many new business owners feel like a contract is uncomfortable, they don't know how to draw one up, or maybe they feel it's an "insult" or a sign of distrust. Think of it this way, a contract is a written agreement that protects you and the client. It's solidifying what both sides are agreeing to in order to remove any grey areas.
Your contract should be taken care of first and foremost before any payments are made or work is started. It's imperative to be detailed and clear in your contracts, including: payment plan, scope of service, deadlines and terms. Then if you get in a bind you can always reference the contract. Don't be scared to say "per our contract". This is just a reminder that you have previously agreed to certain terms and stand by them.
Get Your Finances Straight from the Start
You might have started your business out of passion – but at the end of the day your business runs off of money. Get your finances straight from day one. Majority of business owners begin as "solopreneurs", you're on your own and wear all the hats, including collect the payables.
This isn't the wrong approach, but I highly recommend keeping your finances separate from day one, starting with your business entity and setting up a business bank account. It's super easy and simple to do! Once you've registered your business as an entity, you'll set up your EIN with the IRS, from there you can take your corporate documents to your local bank and tell them you want to set up a business account. Just like your personal accounts, you'll set up a business checking account, savings and business credit.
From this point on, all business money needs to go through your business bank account. Even though it's your business and you own the company and money is yours, treat the business like a separate person. You need to save money for taxes, invest money in the business and build credit for the business – just like you would for yourself. If you start this from day one, your CPA will thank you! And come tax time, YOU'LL thank you, too!
Don't Burn Bridges
This is a tough one. There will come times in your business where you will get burned by clients, or even team members. It will suck and sometimes be infuriating or emotional, but always take the high road and be careful not to burn any bridges. You can't control other people and their decisions, but you have total control over how you handle your business. Remember, you are a CEO now. So represent yourself and your company well. This is where contracts come in handy. If you have a confrontation with a client or team member, you can always refer back to the contract as your primary line of defense.
Don't Be Scared to Ask
If you don't ask, the answer is always "no". As the CEO you have to be bold, be fearless. Remove any fear of rejection, confrontation or failure. And confidently make your decisions by knowing your own worth. Especially as it applies to money. So many women feel the need to negotiate or compromise on their price. But why? You set your prices based on your worth, quality and experience. Why should that ever be negotiated? This may mean turning away clients who can't afford you right now. It's not personal, it's business. This can also apply to contracts. If someone is paying you late or breaching the negotiated terms of their contract, don't be afraid to say something. It may not necessarily mean they are malicious people doing it out of intent, but if you don't stick up for your business, then who will? Stand your ground for what you are worth and don't be afraid to ask for what you're due.
Respect is Earned
We live in a time where female entrepreneurship is on the rise. There are more female-owned businesses now than ever before! Each of us plays a huge role in this revolution and we have to keep pushing this "boulder" uphill. Our efforts are changing statistics and we are working towards equality in the workplace. But sadly, we haven't reached equality yet. There is still a huge gap for wages and women at the C-level. But many of us female entrepreneurs took the leap into entrepreneurship because we were, at some point, belittled, disregarded or undervalued in our previous job.
Now that you're the CEO all your troubles are gone, right? Ha. Unfortunately, no. There will still be meetings where someone tries to make you feel small and there will still be clients who don't respect you. But when you respond by holding your head high, shoulders back and using your voice, you'll find your power. You deserve just as much respect as anybody else at the table.
One of the challenges I discovered when researching gender equality in the workplace is the "double bind" women face. If a man gets angry in a meeting, he's passionate. If he holds high standards, he's a good leader. If he's blunt or direct, he's strong. But if a woman is angry, she's emotional. If she holds high standards, she's picky. If she's blunt or direct, she's a b****. I can recall many times where someone considered me a b**** because I spoke my mind and stayed true to my boundaries. There is nothing wrong with speaking up for yourself and what you believe in. You are worthy and valuable and you have a seat at the table for a reason. Don't be afraid to speak up- because earned respect starts with YOU respecting you first.
There's a ton that goes into being a female entrepreneur who's building an empire. But it all comes down to putting your foot down and knowing your worth. From being smart with your contracts, proactive with your finances, building good relationships and respecting yourself first – you have to be strong. And sometimes, it takes having a mentor or business coach to guide you through the tough times. Shameless plug, I'm here for you. If you're building your empire and need help along the way – reach out. Let's put you on the path to success and build the empire that you deserve and are capable of!