A new survey highlights the traits that female business owners share—and where they could stand to improve.
Men launch businesses at about twice the rate that women do, according to the Kauffman Foundation. That being said, the number of women-owned firms from 2007 to 2014 increased by 17 percent, compared to an overall increase of 13 percent, American Express Open research found.
What traits are shared by women who start a business? KPMG’s recent survey Women Entrepreneurs: Passion, Purpose and Perseverance notes these trends:
1. Women want to control their own destiny.
Half of respondents said this was the key factor that motivated them to launch a business. Only 11 percent said they started a company for financial rewards. And another 11 percent said they can’t (or don’t want to) work for someone else.
2. Their success comes from hard work.
Women entrepreneurs credit their perseverance and willingness to take risks as the top factors behind their success. Only 16 percent said luck had anything to do with it.
3. You have to be confident.
Eighty-three percent of women business owners said self-confidence was a must-have trait. Only 0.5 percent said confidence doesn’t matter. And almost two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) said they are willing to take risks.
4. Vision matters more than finances or education.
About 60 percent replied that a strong vision for the company is extremely important. That’s three times as many who said financial resources were, and nine times more than those who cited education as critical to success.
5. Work-life balance is a must.
Women entrepreneurs aren’t willing to sacrifice family and personal time. The vast majority said a good work-life balance is important to them. A mere 1 percent said it wasn’t important at all.
6. They’re good at hiring but not at delegating.
Finding qualified candidates who are a good cultural fit was called out as top strength. But many women said they weren’t very good at passing off tasks to others. A lot of female entrepreneurs also cited a general inability to let go of all the details as one of their major weaknesses.
7. Friends and family help out the most.
One-third said these close relationships were extremely important to getting the job done, with another 22 percent saying they were very important.
8. Mentors are welcome—but female advisors are hard to come by.
Respondents said they were willing to get advice on how to run their business, and this often came from men. Sixty-seven percent said mentors were extremely or very important—but only 33 percent said this advice came from other women. “Did I wish there were women in such positions as I was working my way up?” asked Kirsten Hall, CEO of Logistics Planning Services in Woodbury, Minnesota. “Sure, but there was nobody like that at the time.”
Not a Level Playing Field?
These findings are all the more important given that there’s some evidence women entrepreneurs have a more difficult task. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, a lead on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, in an op-ed for the Huffington Post, cited a Harvard Business School study: Potential investors watched two videotaped business pitches. They were identical, except that one had a man doing the voiceover and the other a woman.
The findings? Sixty-eight percent of investors chose to fund the venture pitched by the man’s voice, and only 32 percent chose to fund the one with the woman’s voice.