In business circles, it is widely believed that women’s style of doing business differs from the approach taken by men even though the distinctions are not clear-cut.
Nevertheless, there are some differences to suggest that the rise of female entrepreneurs is slowly changing the culture of the business world.
Is it a change for the better? Can all business owners—male and female—embrace this change and benefit from it?
Business Partners International country director Fosters Kalaile gives an affirmative “yes” in her response to these questions.
Kalaile points to several positive traits that are discernible among female entrepreneurs. These include multi-tasking, intuition, prudence, attention to detail, patience, excellent administration, empathy and advice.
These traits, of course, are not exclusive to women entrepreneurs but, they have made many of them excel.
Multi-tasking is one of the most celebrated abilities ascribed to women. It comes in particularly handy in the early stages of business when the entrepreneur has to wear several hats, from production manager through to sales manager and chief strategist to administrator.
Focus is good, but if one can multi-task effectively, they stand a better chance of surviving their start-up days.
Then there is intuition which is the undefinable and immeasurable sense that helps with decision-making when cold facts are simply not enough. Everyone has it. Women are said to listen more carefully to theirs.
But Kalaile argues that although technical analysis and figures are a critical part of business decisions, they can lead entrepreneurs astray when they do not pay attention to their intuition.
On the other hand, prudence is a characteristic not normally associated with entrepreneurship, observes Kalaile. Rather, she said, entrepreneurship is often wrongly seen as a game in which risk-taking is everything.
Said Kalaile: “In fact, careful calculation, assessment and appraisal is just as much part of business success as the willingness to take risks.
Women tend to be more careful in business than men to the extent that they are sometimes overly cautious.
“But there is no doubt that the success of female entrepreneurs has highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between overt risk-taking and caution.”
She adds that patience is linked to the trait of prudence and is helpful to entrepreneurs who often have to get the timing of their ventures and plans just right to succeed.
“And then there are the difficult stretches in any business owner’s life where only patience and tenacity can stop them from throwing in the towel. The signs are there that the kind of patience traditionally attributed to women is helping them in the business world,” further advises Kalaile.
Besides, the ability to give careful attention to detail is also linked to a more cautious style of doing business. High-flying, fast-paced wheeling and dealing often ends in tears because some minor clause in a contract had been overlooked or because a tiny flaw somewhere had spun out of control.
She said: “The female approach to building business generally seems slower, with smaller steps, but also with fewer mistakes.”
Few would argue against the phenomenon that women are generally tidier and more orderly than men, and make excellent administrators. Many businesses suffer from a lack of good filing systems, order in the workshop and well-kept schedules; some even fail to timely submit their tax returns. It should come as no surprise that business women generally excel in this aspect of business.
Higher levels of empathy associated with women can have a profound effect on the way a business owner connects with people, and female entrepreneurs are putting it to good use by building stronger relationships with their workers, clients, suppliers, partners and associates.
In Kalaile’s view, “anyone doubting” that women are better at asking for advice need only think of the classic scenario of a couple lost on some driving trip, with the wife suggesting that they stop to ask for directions and the husband stubbornly continuing in the hope that he might stumble upon the right path.
She said: “There are so many aspects to running a business that no one person can possibly know it all. Business owners often have to stop to ask for advice from mentors, consultants, suppliers, financiers, clients as well as other business owners. The fact that women are quicker to do so saves a lot of time and energy.”
The emergence of female entrepreneurs has shown that success is not dependent on a traditional male style of doing business, says Kalaile, adding that evidence shows that businesses started and run by women survive just as well as male-run businesses.
But what about the super league of entrepreneurship? Does the lack of female entrepreneurs among the empire builders such as Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg or locally the Jimmy Koreia-Mpatsas and the Mohammad Sidik Mias of this world, suggest only a male style of business will get you there?
From the look of things, it is early days yet for women in the business world, but Kalaile believes that emerging female role models such as Oprah Winfrey and the ones in the making locally show that women can compete even on that level without losing their femininity. – BUSINESS PARTNERS INTERNATIONAL