We know women need more seats at the table in a lot of ways – in the C-Suite, on corporate boards, in politics, in entertainment – you name it. We often hear about how women can earn their spot at the table in these roles, which many times starts with a single step in the direction of change.
There’s another table at which I’d like to see more women: the table of business owners.
In my career, I primarily work with people who already own businesses and people who want to start one. The overwhelming majority of these individuals are men, so naturally, I’ve seen a lot of strategies that men put into action to make their dreams of owning a business reality. What may come as a surprise to you is, often times, women don’t take advantage of these same strategies.
Here are a few ideas I’d like you to consider:
1. Instead of starting a business, buy one that already exists.
A number of women I meet with think they want to start a business versus evaluating an established business for sale. However, there are a lot of benefits to buying an existing business. For example, the product or service is already tested and hopefully successful, the team, processes and systems are in place, and you have a customer-base to build from. Another huge benefit: you don’t have to create a new idea out of thin air. Most businesses are created because they solve a problem or fill a need, but lots of successful businesses like this already exist.
If you’d like to own a business, consider the skillset you have, areas outside your expertise you need to research, and the relationships you’ve already built that you can leverage to fill in the gaps.
2. Connect with resources that are available to help.
One of the biggest barriers to buying a business is the cash required for down payment. Let me share a little secret: men don’t always have the money for a down payment either! But they figure out how to get it. Men are more likely to go out and find others who are willing to invest in their business with them. Ladies, we can do this too! Talk to other women you trust about investing and partnering. In fact, there’s a Des Moines-based women investor group called FIN Capital that you can apply to for consideration.
In addition, bring in professional partners who can help advise you on the next steps to take, whether it’s a merger and acquisition attorney, business accountant, business broker or commercial lender. These professionals can help you better understand the historical financials, what you are buying and the right price to pay for it. Nobody is facilitating these conversations if prospective business owners aren’t asking, but there are many, many ways to make business ownership happen for those who are truly willing to invest the time to learn.
3. Don’t let risk overshadow opportunity.
Numerous studies have shown women tend to be more risk averse than men, particularly when it comes to business. We want to know the probable result of whatever significant step we may take, and when it comes to business ownership, there are a lot of unknowns. However, what I want you to take away today is that the path to business ownership is a skill that can be learned. Start some conversations with free resources like the SBDC, Women’s Business Center and local business brokers to learn about available opportunities.
For existing business owners looking to grow their business, I encourage you to seriously consider acquiring a friendly competitor or a business that complements your existing services. I’d love to see more women talking about buying a business, taking a seat at the table as an owner, and reaping the financial rewards that can follow. It’s a smart way to enter business ownership or grow an existing business – and it’s more achievable than you may think.
This article was originally featured in the Des Moines Business Record’s Lift IOWA newsletter on July 1, 2019.