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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 15, 2010

Ladies, take on the role of boss

By Rhonda Abrams

This column is for female business owners, so listen up. Ladies, I'm challenging you to change the way you think about hiring if you want to grow really grow your companies. It's time you take on a new role: "boss."

Here's a startling fact: nearly 7 percent of male-owned businesses gross more than a million dollars a year, but less than 3 percent of women-owned businesses do.

In fact, there are only about 250,000 women-owned businesses that generate $1 million or more in sales a year. One reason: women's reluctance to hire.

Women are great entrepreneurs. It's estimated that one-third of all small businesses are owned by women, and they employ more than 23 million people. So many women already wear the title "boss."

But many more women won't hire the help they need, according to a just-released survey conducted by Count Me In, a New York-based organization committed to helping women entrepreneurs succeed in businesses.

Overwhelmingly, female entrepreneurs in the survey wanted to grow their businesses 87 percent of respondents said that was a goal. But hiring wasn't on their radar. Nearly half 49 percent believed they could grow without hiring and a whopping 54 percent felt that being more efficient was the best way to grow.

"They think about drinking more coffee to stay awake to do more rather than finding people who can do more with them," said Nell Merlino, the feisty head of Count Me In. Part of the problem, according to Merlino, is women's failure to understand the importance of hiring in relationship to business success.

"They have a real misconception about how growth occurs. There's only so much efficiency that a one-, two- or three-person business can achieve."

"You can't grow a business without more people," Merlino explained. "There are efficiencies with technology, but at some point you need more brains, more hands, more people. You need more than yourself to grow beyond $150,000 to $200,000 in revenue."

Count Me In has been on a mission to get women to make a lot more money than that. Their "Make Mine a Million" competition challenges women business owners to increase their sales to more than a million dollars a year.

What's holding women back? Is it a matter of priorities and family conflicts? Certainly, in some cases.

But perhaps we're all a bunch of sissies afraid of being the boss. After all, it takes a confident woman to be in charge of others.

Are women timid in business afraid to spend money to make money? Or do women just believe that they're not entitled to delegate some of their responsibilities to others that they have to prove themselves by doing everything themselves?

Whatever the reason, a failure to grow through hiring contributes to widespread stereotypes of women business owners. Overwhelmingly, according to Count Me In's survey, poll respondents felt women weren't serious about growing substantial businesses:

• 86 percent said women were satisfied with just small businesses.

• 84 percent said women are more risk averse.

• 81 percent said women need to be in control and are hesitant to hire.

And here's the kicker:

• 78 percent said profits don't mean much to women business owners.

Seriously? Are we back in the days when women were perceived as making "pocket money" rather than supporting a family or growing a real business?

C'mon ladies. If you want to create a business of substantial financial value, you're going to have to hire. And here's another truth: being a good, fair boss is one of the most important contributions you can make to society and one of the most satisfying things you can do in your career.

I know for myself. It took me 14 years as a sole proprietor before I hired my first employee. That was at least a decade overdue.

I was successful, but I couldn't grow a business with real value. And believe me when I tell you of the wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment when my business reached more than $1 million in sales.

Just as importantly, I have wonderful employees. And I don't cringe when they call me "boss."

Challenge yourself: think about adding employees and getting the help you need and deserve to grow. You don't have to you can't do everything yourself.

Rhonda Abrams is the president of The Planning Shop, publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest is "Successful Marketing: Secrets & Strategies." Register for her free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com. Follow her on Twitter at RhondaAbrams.