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The number of women-owned businesses is on the rise, according to a survey by SME South Africa, which showed that 47% of South African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are women-led. This is encouraging for the country’s economy considering that women possess a unique set of skills and attributes that are invaluable to the business sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a multitude of challenges, forcing many businesses to innovate in order to keep their doors open while fighting the pandemic. Particularly during this trying time, women entrepreneurs have been found to be reliable as a group when it comes to maintaining good credit with lenders, making them a lower statistical risk for business financiers.

In light of International Women’s Day celebrated on 8 March – themed #choosetochallenge based on the insight that from challenge comes change – it seems appropriate to highlight the lessons that can be learnt from women business owners, many of whom have overcome multiple challenges to change their story and become successful business owners.

1. Do what it takes to get the job done

According to a study by the World Bank named “Female Entrepreneurs, why and how are they different?”, more often than not women are pushed into starting their own businesses through necessity rather than creative impulsion. This added pressure can provide the drive required to achieve success – resulting in satisfied clients and a business run on the basic principle of doing what is needed to get the job done.

2. Be open to change

Planning is at the heart of any successful business, but if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that plans can (and sometimes, must) change. It is therefore essential to keep an eye on the fluctuating business environment and adapt.

This includes making sure your product or service is in line with market trends and responds to consumer needs. Keeping abreast of these changes and being flexible will give your business a better chance of survival. For example, e-Commerce has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months, so taking your business online will help you stay ahead.

3. Make provision for a rainy day

While it is important for businesses to have an emergency fund to provide short-term liquidity needs that may arrive unexpectedly, this is not always possible. In this case, the next best thing would be to maintain a good line of credit for your business; which is another good attribute of women business owners.

Due to COVID-19, many financiers are becoming increasingly risk-averse as many SMEs struggle to meet their existing payment obligations. However, women-owned businesses have proven to be reliable when it comes to maintaining good credit with lenders.

4. Build strong relationships

Relationships are key to any successful business – be it with your customers, staff, financiers, or suppliers. A large part of relationship-building is good communication, which is a positive attribute women are generally known to possess. Especially during tough times, it’s important to keep your stakeholders informed of developments within your business in order to negotiate favourable rates, manage possible crisis (such as a late order due to supply chain disruptions), and continue to highlight why your offering is better than the competition.

5. Ask for help

Another positive attribute of women is being better at asking for help. Businesses can thrive from bringing in experts to advise on specialist matters and benefit greatly from external business mentorship.

Entrepreneurs are known to wear many hats, but there is no shame in getting advice from experts around issues that do not form part of your skill set – like tax and financing. This, in turn will enable you to focus on running the rest of the business.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.

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