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August 14, 2008


Check out our post on the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs' Blog (NYSWE)!

This Strength in Numbers article is an adaptation of a concept piece that Amy and I wrote when In Good Company was just a teeny tiny idea that we had. It is so exciting to think about how far we have come and how much we have grown! IGC is now a real place with 175 dynamic members. Thanks to you all for your support, feedback, and most of all company (since this article is about peers and relationships)! We are honored that you choose our community as a source for collaboration, support, inspiration, and expertise.

And, if you haven't heard of NYSWE before, take the time to get connected. They are a wonderful group of women who are doing very good things in the world.

(NYWSE is the New York Chapter of Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (YWSE). In addition to events, such as member-led workshops, a group of ten to twenty women meets monthly to share stories and support each other. NYWSE members include seasoned social entrepreneurs, women transitioning from one career to another, and/or adding a social venture idea to their already full plates. NYWSE supports and promotes women social entrepreneurs through workshops, networking opportunities, and a book club forum.)

We have reprinted the article below:

Small and woman-owned. Few, if any, employees. Creating meaningful, flexible, and successful work. We know these women well. We are these women. Our clients are these women.

The good news is that we are in good company. Media and news sources continue to site the staggering rise in women business owners. A whopping 42% increase in the last 8 years, according to Center for Women’s Business Research!

Despite the sheer size of our community, however, we are always surprised to find out how isolating being a business owner can be. We have consistently found that while our clients interact heavily and frequently with their clients and industry colleagues, they have relatively small networks of other women business owners. One the whole, we are very disconnected from one another.

Why is this the case?

Perhaps it is because many of us work from home; perhaps it is because we are stretched for time and don’t prioritize connecting with others outside our business; perhaps it is because we all fear competition; or perhaps we find it hard to believe that as a professional services consultant we can learn from or help another type of business be it a store owner, designer, or freelancer.

Perhaps it is a combination of all these reasons that prevents us from investing the time to cultivate strong women business owner communities.

So we ask, ‘What is the cost of not cultivating strong peer relationships?’

Our experience has shown that our women business owner colleagues have an abundance of valuable and helpful expertise, experience, feedback, information, and resources. These relationships have enabled us to trouble-shoot and creatively solve problems, make stronger and wiser decisions, create new business opportunities, and forge strategic partnerships and alliances.

At first it might not seem as obvious the value that other businesses have to offer you. However, once you dig a little deeper you may find for example that an independent lawyer has lots of advice on how to increase your margins, that a designer can offer feedback on the best ways to delegate and outsource tasks, that a consultant can share advice about how to create solid customer relationships, that a store owner can teach you about product line expansion, or that a freelancers can help you feel more comfortable selling yourself. There are countless things to learn and ways to leverage our collective experience and wisdom…if this information is shared.

You can start to build and cultivate a strong peer community with a few simple changes.

1. Get involved with other women business owners!
Instead of exclusively focusing your time and energy on those with whom you transact business, ask your peers for help and feedback on current business challenges, growth goals, business vision, and long-term plans. See what you can learn from their experiences and perspective. What is validated? What is challenged? What is solved?

2. Create cross-industry partnerships!
Instead of relying on your existing industry networks and contacts, reach out to women business owners in other industries to see what you can learn and leverage. Perhaps, together, you can craft a joint offering, referral system, or learn from each other’s typical business challenges and strategies.

3. Forge strong within-industry relationships!
Instead of fearing and shying away from your competition, you should know these businesses and make it a point to have a positive relationship with them. Carving out your own niche and being clear about your areas of specialty will enable you to comfortably work and collaborate with those you might otherwise see as competition. Consider the ways that you and successful others in your field could leverage your joint value and different areas of expertise. These relationships can also serve as great sources of referrals and trouble-shooting solutions.

We have made it part of our core business values to connect with our peers by creating a collegial community and fostering collaborative business relationships. This not only contributes to our bottom line but also enables us to better manage, grow, and enjoy our business. As peers, we encourage all women business owners to make it part of their business to connect with others, and to recognize the strength and wisdom that comes in numbers.

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