Three “force multipliers” can take a business to the next level.
BY FAISAL HOQUE | November 9, 2014
My grandmother lived in a remote village in Bangladesh. She could barely read or write; never had a formal education of any kind; yet she managed a farming and sharecropping business quite successfully.
She mobilized, organized, and managed a collaborative community of farmers, merchants, and seasonal workers. She had nine children, executed all household affairs, and made time to spend with her grandchildren when we visited her. She was barely five feet tall, skinny as a rod, and very soft-spoken.
This village had no electricity, no modern conveniences, no phones, and barely had passable road transportation.
It is at that remote village in the mid ’70s that I was introduced to entrepreneurship and leadership. I just didn’t realize it then!
A couple of months back, I was introduced to the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program. I talked to EY team members Kerrie McPherson, Katie Johnson, and Jennifer L. Compton about EY’s success with the program, their learnings, and inspiration that have been ignited by the women in the program.
From the beginning of time, women have always played a critical role in business and commerce. In a male-dominated, global society, those contributions are not always recognized. The story of my grandmother is one such example. And although times are different, the fundamentals remain the same.
EY’s program and the celebration of Women Entrepreneurship is particularly inspiring as it is attempting to scale women ventures to significant size and impact.
According to joint research conducted by EY with Babson College’s Center for Women’s Leadership, 46% of the privately held firms in the US are now at least half owned by women. These companies represent almost 16 million jobs.
However, despite robust growth in the early stages, these companies are not scaling up to the degree they could. Businesses owned by men are three and a half times as likely to reach $1 million in annual revenues as are businesses owned by women.
For men or women, scaling and sustaining a venture is anything but easy. I know this firsthand from my own venture efforts and have written about them in our book ”Everything Connects — How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability.”
Similar to what I have been learning and sharing about entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership, the EY report reveals three noteworthy force multipliers, which are contributing significantly to accelerated growth in the women-led companies. Below is the summary of their findings, combined with my own learnings.
A strong community
Communities offer women entrepreneurs much-welcomed affirmation, know-how, peer-to-peer guidance, and, ultimately, role models.
It is often what I describe as “ecosystem.” A business ecosystem is an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals. These ecosystems encourage companies to coevolve their capabilities.
Sometimes an ecosystem can sprout up around a product, like the range of cases, headphones, and other paraphernalia that surround mobile devices. In a very similar sense, ecosystem thinking has become a cornerstone of web publishing — the broad swathe of unpaid contributors creating content for popular publishing platforms do so in exchange for growing their own individual readership and brand.
Why are ecosystems — and understanding them — crucial to sustainable value creation?
They are the structure that surrounds and supports our businesses. They spread “stakeholdership” out from the business and into society, like it did for my grandmother with her farming community.
Women Leadership SummitOmar Vega/Invision/APIt’s important to figure out a specific purpose for your business before it can succeed.
An authentic purpose
This simple statement of “why we do what we do” serves as the company’s North Star, guiding it in every aspect — from recruitment to customer management to product development and sales.
Recent studies have shown that a strong purpose drives growth and profitability. For instance, an investment in the Stengel 50 (a list of the world’s 50 highest-performing companies that have a strong purpose) over the past 10 years would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.
In order to achieve sustainable success, we repeatedly need to go back to that purpose and build an ecosystem around our focus. An authentic and inspiring purpose allows for:
- Reminder of the focus
- Emotional engagement with ourselves and others
- Pragmatic innovation for growth
A flexible, adaptive leadership style
To continue growing, entrepreneurs must become the leader the business needs for each particular stage of growth — and that requires introspection, self-awareness, and a keen sense of strategy.
I believe that an adaptive, flexible leadership style comes from being mindful. Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By being mindful, we understand these connections. We learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.
We explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.
And that allows us to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not so subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.
The most sustainable way to create value is to continually invest in our capabilities both as individuals and as organizations.
This isn’t just a quick fix for our next financial quarter; this is how we (men or women) will succeed in the long run. It is a systemization of our art, science, business, and spirituality.
Original Article @BuisnessInsider.