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Essential Resources for Women Small Business Owners

Essential Resources for Women Small Business Owners

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, a chance to recognize and celebrate the 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the US.

 

While the 45% increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the US since 2007 is a cause for celebration, women still face gender-specific challenges when setting up their own businesses, from defying social expectations and owning their accomplishments to achieving the right work-life balance.

 

The essential resources listed here will help women small business owners find the support and community they need to develop and grow their businesses.

 

ORGANISATIONS

There are a number of organisations and communities set to encourage, empower and help women business owners in the US and all around the world:

 

COMMUNITY-MINDED CO-WORKING SPACES

Co-working spaces have traditionally been male-dominated environments, but women-only spaces have been popping up everywhere to empower women entrepreneurs and welcome them into a community based on support over competition. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, and co-working spaces are a fantastic way to meet other like-minded women who will inspire you, encourage you to accomplish even more and celebrate your big wins. Here are some fantastic female-focused co-working spaces built around a strong community in the US and abroad.

 

BLOGS

There are many useful blogs run by women who want to share their experience, tips and advice on setting-up, growing and successfully running your business. Great for various tips and tricks!

 

PODCASTS

Who doesn’t love an honest podcast full of inspiration and advice for a good start to the day? The podcasts listed below focus on the challenges of setting up and running your business as a woman without ever being patronising or condescending.

 

MEETUPS

Women entrepreneurs can often find themselves isolated. This is especially true for those who are in the early stages of starting a business or can’t afford to rent a desk space to get out of the house and meet other professionals. Meetups are a great way to meet other women who are facing the same challenges and can offer advice and support, or even just to have a relaxing chat. Here are some of the best groups for women small business owners on MeetUp:

 

FACEBOOK GROUPS

If you can’t make meetups offline, Facebook groups offer a good alternative. You can take part in discussions, give and receive advice and support as part of a community of like-minded women ready to take their businesses to the next level. Here are some of the most popular groups for women entrepreneurs on Facebook:

 

LINKEDIN GROUPS

Alternatively, LinkedIn groups can also be a good way to grow your network while getting advice from fellow female small business owners willing to share their experience. Join one of these groups to get started:

Small Business Bookkeeping Made Simple

Small Business Bookkeeping Made Simple

If (like me) you’ve ever found yourself pounding a fistful of Advil to quash your bookkeeping headache, I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I was to discover Bench – a new subscription service designed to help small businesses cope with the hassles of budgeting, tracking expenses and preparing tax reports.

I just checked out their website, and what can I say? They had me at, “Let’s agree to never talk about QuickBooks again” …

Digging a little deeper, I discovered that the service includes monthly financial reporting, direct interface with your CPA at tax time, and Q+As with an expert whenever you need it. Their team is rigorously screened (including criminal background checks) and entirely based in North America, so you don’t have to be afraid of your financial data being sold or sent overseas.

Possibly best of all, I fell in love with the Bench About page – see here – a classic example of what it looks like to build a relationship with your prospective clients by offering transparency and a glimpse into your company’s culture. So now, I’m not only feeling a “glory hallelujah” over the service they offer, but additionally I have a giant branding crush.

I’m not signed up as an affiliate or earning any referral credits by saying this, but –

If you’re ready to invest a modest monthly fee into having your bookkeeping hassles lifted from your shoulders…

If you want to work with a company that employs actual humans you can speak with (as opposed to subscribing to yet another software program that ultimately leaves you still “doing it yourself”) …

If you want to know you’re not undermining the value of someone’s professional skills by paying them with a Saltine cracker and a song (which so often happens on sites like Fiverr and Upwork) …

– then I recommend checking out what Bench has to offer: a highly needed service at a fair and reasonable rate!

Compensation With Consciousness

Compensation With Consciousness

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen small businesses struggle with is knowing how best to compensate their employees.

On one hand, small business owners – especially those with heart – want to be as generous as possible with their employees, and often start compensation for a new employee at higher than the market average. This can present challenges down the road, starting with the obvious (too high of a payroll burden has been the sinking stone for many small businesses), to complications that may not emerge until some months or even years later, for example –

  • If your employee turns out to be a rockstar, how do you reward them for their excellent work when you’ve already maxed out the level at which you can compensate them?
  • If your employee turns out to be average, and you later bring on a rockstar to join the team in a similar role, how are you going to reward on the basis of performance versus seniority?
  • As your company grows and you open up new roles with varying levels of responsibility, are you going to be able to afford to pay *everyone* proportionately the same amount above market average?

On the other hand, I have seen unfair employee compensation functioning as a huge blind spot for small business owners, even those who say they have the intention of operating with conscious business practices.

Just as one example, I recently had a client with four receptionists working at their front desk, all of whom had nearly identical job responsibilities, length of time with the company, levels of education and prior work experience, and all of whom were making a different hourly rate.

You could line up those four employees in order from the highest paid to the lowest paid, and I kid you not, the employee with the highest rate of pay was also the employee with the lightest complexion, and their hourly rates of pay decreased in exactly the same order as the darkness of their complexions increased.

I am certain my client did not intentionally set out to pay their employees on the basis of skin color, and in their mind, “That’s just the way it worked out.” After auditing their business, I made the recommendation to standardize the criteria they were using to set their rates of pay, and their response was, “We think it’s appropriate to have ‘a range’ for each role and to use our discretion when hiring.”

While that might sound appropriate, I strongly believe that it’s actually NOT, and here’s why –

When a company has a “range” of compensation they are willing to offer a new employee, if they are acting in the company’s self interest, they will start negotiations at the bottom of that range, or maybe even slightly below the range they anticipate will be the final agreement point.

Conversely, when a potential employee is acting with confident self interest, they are going to negotiate for a higher rate of pay than what they are initially offered.

Sounds like a textbook case of two parties advocating for their own interests but knowing they will eventually reach a fair agreement somewhere in the middle, right?

But here’s the thing: when entering a negotiation, every person is going to have a different sense of their “worth” to the company, a complicated equation that factors in not only their individual history and personal attitude, but what they know their chances are of finding a position on the basis of their gender, ethnic background, and other factors.

In other words, if you’re not a straight-presenting white male, you may not feel your “self interest” lies with negotiating the highest rate of pay possible, but rather your “self interest” may be to accept what is offered now, because you don’t know when another door of opportunity is going to open – in short, you’re going to believe yourself to be in a weaker bargaining position. This may or may not even be a conscious decision, so much as an unconscious operator that governs your levels of confidence while negotiating your rate of pay.

In my opinion, this dynamic plays a big role in shaping why we still have a significant pay gap on the basis of gender, race, and other aspects of identity and appearance – and it’s not good enough for employers to say “that’s just where the negotiations ended up”.

Although this problem of systemic pay inequity may be too big for any one person or small business to solve, if you have the intention of bringing consciousness to your business practices, then with some planning and forethought there is a way you can at least do your part in working towards a system of transparency and justice in the way you compensate your team.

I also know that if you are like most small business owners, you’re probably already so overwhelmed with the amount of work you have and the number of details to think about, that adding yet another system to your business might feel like it’s going to send you into overwhelm.

Believe me, I can relate to the feeling of overwhelm and I sympathize, but I also SO strongly believe in using business as a vehicle for creating justice. That’s why I’ve decided to create an easy-to-use tool that will help you standardize your compensation structure with a LOT less of a time commitment from you!

I’ll be including the Salary Transparency Tool in my monthly video training series, which will launch in early 2017, so please stay tuned. Better yet, make sure you’re signed up for my Love Letters, and you’ll hear from me the moment the tool goes live.

Making Time For Your “Great Work”

Making Time For Your “Great Work”

A friend and I were recently discussing an eternal conundrum: why, when we’ve given advice to clients and we’ve seen how our suggestions have helped them immensely, do we still find places where it’s hard to follow our own advice?

I’ve noticed a common pattern playing out for my clients: even when they have an idea or project burning on their heart, and they manage to carve out time in addition to their existing work and family obligations to make progress on their project – somehow, the time just seems to vaporize with little to no progress being made from one work session to the next.

Sound familiar?

With a little reflection, I realized the pattern was familiar to me, too – and that I was falling into the very same pitfalls as my clients.

The repercussions of not swallowing my own medicine in this case has been that I often “don’t have time” – or at least THINK that I don’t have time – to write as much as I’d like, both for business and for pleasure. Writing is what I consider my “great work”, that thing which smacks of destiny and purpose, so it’s fairly inexcusable for me not to be doing more of it.

After my “aha moment” I decided there was only one thing to do: organize the advice I give my clients into a self-directed course – Making Time For Your Great Work – and then put myself on the hook for following my own program!

I’ll be publishing the course soon, so please stay tuned. Better yet, make sure you’re signed up for my Love Letters, and you’ll hear from me the moment the booklet goes live.

Add A Personal Touch With Bond

Add A Personal Touch With Bond

I’ve always had a Jacqueline Kennedy inspired fascination with handwritten letters – even a short but sweet note, written on gorgeous stationary, adds a touch of class to your persona, and goes a long way towards building authentic connection with your clients and associates.

But – let’s be serious for a minute – how many of us busy entrepreneurs have the time and the creative energy to sit down with pen and paper, and compose a batch of handwritten missives after every conference and networking event?

This is the part where I get to thank my lucky stars to be living in the year 2016, a time when technology collides with artisan genius to bring us gorgeous new services such as Bond.

Lovelies, I am absolutely obsessed!

Here’s how it works –

Visit the Bond website and create an account.

You will be sent several pages of forms to fill out, which will capture all the individual quirks of your unique handwriting: the curves, angles and connections, the spaces between letters and words. Send it back, and Bond’s software will analyze your writing sample and capture your unique style. Once you’re writing has been entered into their system, you’re ready to write! Choose your own stationary, type your own messages, and Bond will compose and send ink-on-paper messages to your recipients.

Rather than creating a font based on your handwriting, and then digitally printing your message, Bond has “calligraphy machines” which will write out your message – complete with quirks and variety within the letters – so that every note or card will be unique (even if you’re sending out 500 copies of the same thing, as you might during the holidays).

Prices start at $2.99 per card or letter, and can go as low as $1.49 per note, depending on the volume of letters you are ordering. The price includes first class postage within the United States.

Zenefits: Your HR Hassles Are Solved

Zenefits: Your HR Hassles Are Solved

Many small business owners try to pinch pennies by managing every aspect of their administrative functions “in house”, even as their business grows large enough to bring on employees.

From organizing new hire paperwork, to running payroll, to managing health insurance coverage and compliance with state and federal labor laws, there’s a tremendous number of details to be keeping track of – details which will absorb both your time and your creative bandwidth.

Remember: although I don’t advocate throwing down your money for every shiny object that crosses your path, every choice you make also has an opportunity cost – and when you factor in the value of your time and your energy, sometimes the opportunity cost of the “cheapest” solution ends up being more expensive in the long run.

Enter Zenefits – a new all-in-one dreamboat solution for small business owners. Zenefits provides small business support for almost every aspect of HR management: employee recruitment, new hire paperwork, ongoing support for payroll and benefits, taxes and compliance.

Many of Zenefits services are completely free of charge to their clients; additional à-la-carte options are reasonably priced for the value they provide.

I encourage anyone running a small business, whether you have one employee or many: don’t feel like you have to be everything to everyone, just to save a dime. Allow yourself the ease and support that comes with outsourcing your administrative functions.

This will not only free up your energy to continue your big picture visioneering, it also provides you with a measure of protection by ensuring – when it comes to compliance with employment laws – that every i has been dotted, and every t has been crossed.

Has anyone tried Zenefits? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!