Do you have what it takes – or can you solve the problem anyway?

You’ve taken the plunge and launched your microbusiness. Or maybe you haven’t yet because something is holding you back. What would that be? “I’m not a real businesswoman”, “I can’t write a business plan”, “I’m not good with numbers”.

Running any kind of business takes a wide range of skills and there’s plenty to do – make/buy products, provide services, find customers, admin tasks, bookkeeping, solve the IT issues, possibly supervise/manage others etc. We each have our strengths and weaknesses and will do some of these things better than others – and that’s just fine. We can’t be good at everything.

My research into microbusinesses that grew showed that these were run by women who – knowing they didn’t have all the answers and skills required – were able to solve the problem anyway. They looked at the matter head on and found a solution. Here’s one example from my own business. I work for a number of customers who are located across Europe and each one has a different invoicing procedure. Certain words need to be on the invoice, it has to be issued at a certain time, have a particular date or other information on it, be submitted online, by post or email. Attention to detail for words – fine, love that! But this level of detail and it’s all numbers – no thanks. And anyway, spending all that time issuing invoices means I’m not translating – so not earning money. Answer: get someone else to do it – in my case a family member. I pay them – but I earn more translating as a result of not spending hours a month doing something necessary but I’m not good at.

My research showed that this problem-solving attitude also helped when it came to employing others – a big step for any microbusiness owner. Strategies used by growing businesses included using short-term contracts, work experience students, interns, agency staff and outsourcing.

Nobody can do it all, but can you find someone who has the skills you don’t have?


Is this micro-business your life’s mission or just a different kind of treadmill?

We have many choices and options open to us in Britain today, especially if we’ve had the benefit of a good education. However, the world of work is frequently not a satisfying experience. There are many reasons why it’s called the 9to5 and many go on a daily basis just for the salary payment each month – postponing real life until they can leave the drudgery behind. There is an increasing trend towards more flexibility in the workplace but we also want work to have a purpose. And this desire for significance can be a strong driver for establishing a micro-business. “There must be more to life than this…”

And yet, as many a freelancer for example has discovered, once established and with work flowing on a regular basis it can feel as if you have just switched from one kind of treadmill for another. And this one does not have a fixed salary payment on a particular day each month. So now you are working at full capacity and the dreams of flexibility and significance have got lost in the new type of work. You rush from deadline to deadline, appointment to appointment, training course to training course. And after the working day is done you still have the invoices to issue and chase, the tax man to keep happy and the bills to pay.

Where did the dreams go? What’s the difference to a permanent job? It must be time for a re-think. So here’s a key question for you: what is your life’s mission and are you working at fulfilling it? My research showed that if you identify closely with your business and its purpose, it is more likely to grow. If it is integral to your sense of identity and worth, you will put your all into it.

And here’s another interesting thing that emerged: business owners who talked a lot about society’s expectations of women and “juggling” various roles did not have growing businesses. Those whose businesses were growing were doing this for themselves. They knew what they wanted to achieve and were doing their utmost to achieve it. How about you?

To grow or not to grow? The challenges faced by the heroines of microbusiness

This starts a short series on the findings of my final MBA research project. This first one is mainly for the more academically minded.

 As a result of the importance of micro-businesses, entrepreneurship and business growth to economic recovery in the UK and beyond after the recent recession, the paper researches the factors that influence women micro-business owners when deciding whether to grow their businesses. It argues that business growth is a function of the level and intensity of focus that owners are able to bring to their businesses. The findings indicate that this in turn is influenced by five factors:

–          The identity of the business owner and their identification with the business (to what extent is the business integral to who you are?),

–          Their own perception of their skill level (not “do you have what it takes?” but rather “do you know how to resolve the fact that you don’t have everything it takes?”),

–          The involvement of a partner in the business (are you doing this alone or are there two of you?),

–          The level to which they have integrated the various roles in their lives (have you merged the business into your whole life or are you juggling the various roles you undertake, e.g. parent/carer/…?) and

–          The owner’s attitude to growth (is growth a good thing? Or, when you take a good, hard, honest look, would not growing actually be easier for you right now?)

 The research recommends that business owners reflect on the issues stated above in order to ascertain the potential for growth. In conclusion, it states the limitations of the project and proposes potential subjects for future research.