If there were any doubt that women owners are an ever-growing force on the independent business scene, new studies of leading female entrepreneurs around the world supplies incontrovertible proof. The National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) has been hard at work, researching the small business climate for women and identifying strong trends.
Fifty Top Women Show Trends
In one study done jointly with IBM, the NFWBO used as its subjects 50 top women business owners (plus 10 more up-and-coming) to compile these findings:
- These women owners cover a wide range of industry categories, for example: 27 percent in manufacturing, 25 percent in retail trade, and 10 percent in real estate.
- Slightly less than half (46 percent) of these women inherited their businesses, and more than half began their own: 34 percent by themselves, and 17 percent with others.
- As a group, the study subjects generate $139 billion in revenue and employ more than 150,000 workers. And, the numbers keep increasing.
The Majority of Women Owners Prefer “Small”
More research from the NFWBO shows another picture: that women owners, taken as a whole, prefer pared-down operations — the very smallest, in fact. Among the approximately eight million women-owned businesses in the U.S., 75 percent of these are one-person operations with no employees. Ownership of such a small business gives women maximum flexibility with work schedules and offers a better chance of keeping their home lives healthy as well.
Ignoring the big-business gurus who claim that small does not equal successful, women owners continue to prefer keeping their businesses small. Although the NFWBO research reveals that fewer than one percent of these businesses have more than $1 million in sales, women owners are showing strength in numbers and gaining respect from many quarters necessary for their support and growth. The Small Business Administration, for example, offers a number of free counseling and assistance programs, as well as its loan guarantee program–all helping the woman-owned business to flourish.
Women Owners Triumph over Bank Loan Inequities
Another NFWBO study shows that women business owners, for the first time ever, are experiencing access to business loans from banks nearly equal to that of male owners. A number of U.S. banks, among them BankAmerica and Wells Fargo, offer special loan programs for women business owners. Partly thanks to the rise of women to high bank positions, the woman-owned business is being seen for its untapped potential.
With easier access to loans, women owners can now be less dependent on high-cost credit card loans for financing, and they have more leeway to reinvest earnings. According to the NFWBO, all this means that women-owned businesses have developed into more sophisticated operations.
Although male and female entrepreneurs may have equal access to loans, a related NFWBO finding shows that the sexes still approach the use of credit differently. Men owners tend to use this money to help out with cash flow or to consolidate debt; women put the dollars towards business growth.
In addition to these specific discoveries, NFWBO studies also showed that, on an international scale, women owners come from similar backgrounds and voice the same concerns about important business issues. They constitute between one-fourth and one-third of the world’s independent business owners. They are also vocal, as was evidenced at an international conference in Paris sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Approximately 350 delegates from 35 countries attended the multilingual sessions and workshops.Read More
The telephone rings, the caller receives a message welcoming them, then she is asked to dial the extension of the person she wants to talk to. Since she doesn’t know the extension, she has to wait and listen to the office directory; then presses the extension number only to discover that the person being called is not there.
Most Americans have called a credit card company, their bank or any other large company only to get lost in the maze with no way of talking to an actual person. Then there is the “hold music,” the commercial while you wait, with more “amusements” popping up all the time. Who knows what the future holds in telephone communication.
While it used to be that the telephone was a visitor’s first contact with your business, that tradition is changing. Now it is your Web site. Today’s busy buyer now goes to the Internet to look for whatever he or she is considering purchasing. It is even easier for potential clients or customers to find your telephone number from your Web site rather than the telephone book. They can even get directions to your place of business.
In business every call or Web site visitor is a potential customer or client. You can’t afford to lose even one. After all, if someone goes to the trouble of finding your telephone number or locating you on the Web, they must be at least half-serious.
Make sure your telephone system is as user-friendly as you can make it. If it isn’t, change it. One sale or new client will more than pay for this improvement. What is the status of your Web site? Pay a little extra to insure that it is also user-friendly. Your Web site should provide interesting and useful information on your company, your products or services, your personnel (including contact information), and anything else that will make you look like the well-established professional that you are. The more user-friendly and informative the site, the more business you will get.
Understand that the first contact potential customers or clients have with your business is either the telephone or your Web site – and probably both.
The following appeared in a study, Financial Difficulties of Small Businesses and Reasons for Their Failure, prepared for the Small Business Administration (SBA). They are statements made by individuals whose business was in financial difficulty and subsequently failed. Their comments are listed under the stated reason for failure.
- IRS stepped in and took over the bank account.
- The IRS threatened to repossess [our] tools of trade if [we] did not pay the $20,000 back taxes immediately.
- When the IRS agent told us that they will put padlocks on our doors if we can’t come up with the money in one month.
- Pressure from IRS. The IRS is “merciless.”
- IRS was attempting to reach the non-debtors wife’s income (i.e., levy) for the tax liabilities, which all preceded her marriage to the debtor.
- The IRS changed the locks on the business, and the business had to declare bankruptcy in order for the owners to be able to even get into the building.
- Bank was not going to refinance her business because of divorce settlement.
- Inability to control blood glucose level, cholesterol, etc. due to stress of dealing with creditors.
- His wife has a nervous breakdown. He just knew they couldn’t handle their bills.
- The injury to his arm.
- She could not pay her medical bills. She had filed bankruptcy as soon as she couldn’t pay her bills, rather than get behind in payments.
- Creditors were hounding him to pay his wife’s credit card. He had not canceled the cards after the divorce. He returned his but never closed the accounts.
- “I had lost court case in trying to settle child support but lost. Was given 48 hours to settle $36,000 of debt which was impossible.”
- And, finally, some comments regarding those who suffered a calamity that pushed them into failure, and subsequent bankruptcy.
- The engine blew in the truck and they couldn’t afford to buy another one.
- His van was stolen and he could no longer transport the equipment necessary to carry on his business.
- The organization they were linked with sold out and was taken over by another organization that was hard to work with.
- The gas explosion.
- Death of foreman.
- The State came in and tore up the road.
Despite the above comments, the study also suggests that entrepreneurs are often not the callow amateurs they are portrayed as being, but business veterans who have the gumption to take the risks inherent in starting a new enterprise. They are people who are often prepared to shrug off the effects of a business failure and try again; a process made possible by the “fresh start” philosophy of U.S. bankruptcy laws. Failure does not always have to be viewed negatively. It can offer an opportunity for the entrepreneur to learn and gain from the experience in order to do a better job next time.
As the federal government and the state governments look for more ways to bring in money, the independent contractor status is a likely place for them to look. After all, by using independent contractors rather than employees, employers don’t have to withhold taxes, provide workers’ compensation, contribute to unemployment compensation, or provide any benefits such as 401-k programs, health insurance or other benefits. Plus you can use and discontinue independent contractors as needed.
Certainly, in this age of home-based businesses, the use of outside sources makes a lot of sense. Outsourcing a lot of business needs has been done for years and will only increase with growth of small business. Most one-person and small businesses don’t need full-time employees. Many requirements can be outsourced to independent contractors who in turn outsource many of their requirements.
It is the use of workers who are classified as independent contractors, but are really employees that can cause legal issues. FedEx Ground has been in the middle of this type of legal dispute for several years. FedEx claimed that their drivers were franchisees and therefore independent contractors; several drivers (and later the IRS) challenged that status, claiming that the drivers were really employees.
Here are some basic distinctions between independent contractors and employees:
Lack of employers’ direction is one major difference. In other words, the worker is left to his or her devices and does what the particular job requires without direction from the employer.
Is the worker working primarily for one employer or working for several employers on an as needed basis?
The worker is not in the same general business as the employer. A full-time consultant in the same line of business as the employer might be considered an employee. If the employee has his or her own business and also works for other companies, he probably would be considered an independent contractor.
Just because the worker creates an LLC or even an S-corporation doesn’t necessarily protect both sides from being classified as an independent contractor.
The federal government and the states are narrowing the definition of an independent contractor. One must definitely be truly independent to be considered an independent contractor. FedEx franchises (for lack of another term) wear FedEx garb, have FedEx logos on their trucks, and deliver FedEx packages on defined routes. However, we understand that they buy their own trucks and can sell their FedEx routes. But, consider the old saying: If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and makes duck-like noises, there is a very good chance it is a duck. The battle goes on, but the penalties for violating the status of your people can be very expensive.
A recent article in the Boston Globe reported that although more attention is on the large, primarily publicly held companies, more and more people are making their living by operating their own businesses. In fact, nationally, over 500,000 new businesses are started every year. What this means is that over 10 percent of workers are “either starting a business or working at one that is less than 3 1/2 years old.” And, as indicated by frequent reports, new businesses create new jobs.
Those people who start businesses generally do not have their own funds available for start-up expenses. This is due in part to the fact that bank and SBA funding is not available to them. In addition, fewer than seven percent of new or prospective business owners will receive actual venture capital funds. So, where does the money come from? Second mortgages, credit cards, and family loans are the most common sources of start-up funds. The Globe added that “over the past few years, more than 80 percent of Inc. Magazine’s Fast 1000 companies have been started with about $50,000 or less.”
The article concluded with a plea for “seed” capital and funding from both public and private sources. Perhaps this article and similar ones will lead the way towards the recognition that those who own and operate their own businesses deserve a less arduous journey toward making the right start.
Small companies are the innovators. The need for large companies to acquire small companies is necessary in order for the former to capture new products and services. According to Fortune magazine, “Big companies almost never innovate. This is unfortunate because innovation is one of the few ways to gain proprietary advantage and stay profitable. It’s not that innovation itself is rare – it’s occurring everywhere. Which means, mostly, elsewhere. And as engineers and inventiveness continue to flourish in China and India, elsewhere moves farther and farther from here. A healthy business must therefore not only innovate more within its walls but leverage innovation elsewhere too.
“So why is innovation so hard for big companies? The main reason is that innovative people tend to prefer working in smaller organizations that have more focus and less bureaucracy. Even in small companies, adopting a large-company style can frustrate the innovators.
“The problem with large companies isn’t that they fail to do large and seemingly ambitious projects; it’s that they fail to do small, quirky, controversial projects – that have the potential to grow. (If everyone thinks an idea is okay, how can it be innovative?) A large organization – its missions threatened by new ideas – is often incredibly hostile to its own innovators; the antibodies to change are strong.”