What corporate women can learn from female entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs have often once been corporate women. But rarely can corporate women point to a previous career as an entrepreneur.

So while many entrepreneurs have already learnt plenty of lessons from their experience in the corporate world, few corporate women can draw on direct entrepreneurial experience to boost their reputation, brand and potential at work.

But that doesn’t mean corporate women can’t pick up a few skills and traits from how these entrepreneurial types go about their business. Especially when it comes to self-promotion.

Female entrepreneurs have become comfortable with talking themselves up because their business depends on it. They rarely have access to a marketing department, nor a significant budget to get their business name out to the Australian public. They can’t rely on tradition, heritage or existing brand awareness to sell what they have to offer.

And so out of necessity, they become experts at not only reputation management but also reputation enhancement. They use their own name to build their business brand.

We can see some evidence of this in the number of entries in the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. Thus far (with another couple of days before entries close) women who’ve nominated for the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year category outnumber those who’ve put themselves forward for the Emerging leader in the Private Sector award by at least four to one.

But the number of women entering awards is just the first of many differences between entrepreneurial and corporate women when it comes to the art of self-promotion.

In very general terms, some of the other items that separates the two include where female entrepreneurs:

Don’t believe in luck. Female entrepreneurs know they’re not lucky when they achieve success, but rather that they’ve earned it by working hard. They can’t believe somebody handed them an opportunity because there’s nobody around to give them such opportunities.

Create personal websites. Female entrepreneurs don’t only work on their own business websites to sell what they have, but also their own name. They own personal domain names and use these to introduce the business or businesses they run. They describe themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’ (creators of multiple things) rather than individuals pursuing a single-business focus.

Can comfortably say, ‘I did X & Y & Z.’ Female entrepreneurs get straight to point in declaring what they’ve done. While they may mention and give credit to their employees or other supporters, they are also aware of what they’ve personally achieved.

Use social media for work. Many female entrepreneurs are experts at social media. They don’t necessarily use it to sell their own business, but rather to connect with other business owners, describe what they’ve learnt, share articles they find interesting and discuss the people and places that inspire. Not tied to company policies regarding social media use, they can generally get away with much more than the average corporate employee – and yet, even without policies to guide their behaviour, still manage to use such media without causing trouble to their personal or business brands. Amazing.

Take risks. Risk-taking is the hallmark of a great entrepreneur. It takes guts and determination to pursue a business venture, particularly one that’s unique and truly tests the market. It’s not all about the capital investment. It could be leaving a secure job, entering an unknown industry, or just putting themselves in uncomfortable situations they have absolutely no experience in. They talk about the risks they’re taking and let everybody know why they’re doing it.

Discuss failure. Any risk-taker has also experienced failure, and female entrepreneurs know there’s no shame in discussing where they’ve gone wrong and what they’ve learnt from the experience. If anything, some such women see failure as a badge of honour: a chance to show how they got through it and to prove they’ve done the hard yards.

While it’s obviously a generalisation to paint ALL female entrepreneurs as holding the above traits, surely there’s something to be gained for the rest of us in exploring some of the above and thinking more like an entrepreneur when it comes to self-promotion.

Have you got your entry in for the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards? Entries close in two days.

This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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