Ask SUCCESS: Forget the Glass Ceiling. What Are My Strengths as a Businesswoman?
Ask SUCCESS is your place to get questions answered on how to market more effectively. In each issue, marketing expert Bob Serling is joined by another expert to answer your questions. Have a question you’d like answered? Just email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s submitted question is: You often hear of disadvantages that women face running a business, but what are some of the advantages of being a female in business?
Bob Serling: My guest today, MaryEllen Tribby, is one of the foremost experts on helping women entrepreneurs and business owners, so I’m really pleased to have her join me.
I’ll start by chipping in my perspective from the male’s point of view and then I’ll turn it over to MaryEllen. What I’ve found when working with clients is that the majority of women tend to have more empathy and better listening skills than men. For example, about two years ago I switched to a female insurance agent because my male insurance agent never seemed to really listen to me.
A specific example is when I said to my agent, “We'd like to bundle our homeowners, health and auto insurance all under one company. I’d like you to recommend a few companies and give me a breakdown of the benefits of one company over another.” His answer was vague and dismissive, as if he was either confused or didn’t care to put extra effort into asking follow-up questions.
When I posed the same question to the female agent, she said, “I don’t know exactly what they are, but I will find out for you and lay them all out individually.”
Now, that’s the difference between really listening and going that extra mile versus just doing it the way that’s easiest for the agent. So that’s my small piece of insight into this.
Now, MaryEllen, I’ll turn it over to you.
MaryEllen Tribby: Great! I’ve got five awesome examples here that we’ll go through.
The first one is that I find women in business don’t define themselves by their business. Most men will say, “I am an executive, I’m an entrepreneur, a doctor,” whatever their industry is. But women tend to have a more holistic 360 life, and when that happens there is a direct correlation of that affecting their employees.
When your employees see that you enjoy your life as a whole, that there are a lot of things that are important to you, they understand that’s how they should live, and they will do a better job for you. There’s a direct correlation between your happiness and the productivity of your employees. That’s a key right there.
MaryEllen: Number two is that when we really look at the statistics, when you look at the percentage of consumer products that are purchased in the U.S. by women, it’s just about 85 percent. So 85 percent of all consumer products are being purchased by women. As a female business owner, we understand that customer. We can talk to her challenges, her needs, her desires, what makes her tick. I think there’s a much better understanding of the customer and how you service that customer.
Bob: That’s an exceptional point and a great statistic. I wasn’t aware of that.
MaryEllen: Oh, yeah. And when I say consumer products, I mean if you look at the number of women who purchase products on ESPN.com, the last time I looked, they made up about 70 percent on that site.
Bob: That’s amazing.
MaryEllen: Because they’re buying the gifts for families—and they want to be treated a certain way. As a woman business owner, we tend to treat our customers in the manner in which we like to be treated.
MaryEllen: Number three is that more businesses are being started by women, certainly small businesses, than by men. Frankly, women like doing business with other women.
The other part of this is that women choose their partners carefully. When I say partners, I mean colleagues, joint venture partners, and whoever they’re doing business with. It’s not solely based on a bottom line, which is still very important. Don’t get me wrong, all business has to be profitable. But at this point in my life I have a “no jerk” rule, which means I only work with people that I like. I’m not working with anybody that I think is a jerk just because it’s going to make me money.
I think women tend to have a higher standard of who they work with.
Bob: That’s fair.
MaryEllen: Number four is that women are actually great negotiators, but they disguise it. Women are so used to wanting to resolve a situation so that everybody wins. They have wonderful negotiation skills that don’t come off as “I’m going to win this. I’m right. You’re wrong.” They come off much more as wanting to have an outcome where everybody is a winner.
I think that’s because if you have several kids in your household and they’re arguing, you want to come to a solution where all the kids are happy, not just one of them. That stems from a nurturing quality that females have. What that does is give you a great reputation of people wanting to work with you.
Bob: Great. What’s number five?
MaryEllen: Because women have so many aspects to their lives, like I was saying before—they could be a primary caretaker of their kids or parents, or they can be the one taking care of a sick friend or neighbor. This means they understand what’s important and know how to get the important things done.
In business, all tasks are not created equal. I think women have a great way of looking at things and saying, “Okay, I’ve got ten things on my to-do list, but numbers 7, 8, 9 and 10 aren’t that important. I only have a certain amount of time, so I’m going to tackle the ones that are important.” Just like if you have to make a decision, if you had to go home and take care of your child or you have to clean the house. They’re both important but you’re going to take care of your kid.
It’s the same thing in business. You have the ability to get the important things done first.
Bob: What I hear overall from this, MaryEllen, is that women are much more connected to a balance in life. If they stay true to that as opposed to trying to do business like a male in a male world, they can easily use that balance to their advantage and in many ways be more competitive than men who are coming at things almost one dimensionally.
MaryEllen: Exactly, Bob. The biggest thing that I like to teach women all the time is doing business on their terms.
Bob Serling helps business owners and entrepreneurs generate more traffic, make more sales, and do both more often. Get his free ebook of interviews with 30 leading experts, including SUCCESS publisher, Darren Hardy, at www.ProfitAlchemy.com/success
MaryEllen Tribby is CEO and Founder of MetEdge Media where her groundbreaking “iMags” Working Moms Only.com, and The CEO’s Edge (found at MaryEllen Tribby.com) have helped thousands of entrepreneurs grow their businesses. You can get a copy of her latest hot-off-the press report “The Success Indicator Acceleration Report” right here at http://maryellentribby.com/successfultips and watch your business grow!
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