The Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face in Their Family Businesses

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Yes, you don't have to believe it but a small to medium enterprises (SME) business owned by a female entrepreneur is more likely to be profitable, than one run by a male business owner.

Having worked with several family owned businesses over the last 6 years, it's become clear to me that women, often play a pivotable role in the success of the family business. One case in point is where an engineering maintenance business was under performing when we started the coaching journey. I met with the owners and the son and son-in-law who at the time were co-shareholders.

At the time the business lacked clear direction and although technically they delivered an above average service, the systems in the business were lacking. We set clear goals for the team and started implementing the new strategy and it was the owner's wife who took the lead in systematizing the business.

Women play an important role in business leadership and studies have shown that gender diversity within boards or teams increase their performance as a group. However, in a typical family businesses environment they face numerous challenges which could include:

1)Gender Bias

  • Family businesses are typically sexist in their thinking. It is also accepted that men can be forceful and assertive leaders whilst women, if she is the same, risks being labelled.
  • Specifically, relationships with other siblings or brothers in particular could be strenuous as they can develop bruised egos if daughters are promoted ahead of them

2)Building a reputation as viable successor

  • As a woman in family business she must undergo a change in thinking or who she is, her being. Typically, this is from being the "I am the daughter" thinking and mindset to that of "I am the Leader"
  • Leadership development is key in ensuring that all siblings in the family business step up to the challenges of the business, that they understand the role of the leader and that they can take the business to the next level.

3)Balancing work and home life

  • Women, in a relationship typically end up with a larger share of the household and child rearing responsibilities. Although the family business environment may have more life-work integration options, using them may have its disadvantages.
  • The greatest challenges faced by women in family business today are juggling the roles. Women tend to take on too much, the roles of mother, wife, manager and family member.
  • Defining then within the business, what kind of career path she wants whilst at the same time being mother to young children and pursuing a position in the business. The consequence could be that she might be seen as less dedicated or committed to their role, the family business and future leadership roles

I have seen businesses benefit tremendously from the dedication and hard work by the women in business. There is no reason why women cannot be as successful as men in running their own business, its al about defining what you want and then going all out to making it real.

Developing a focused business plan is as important to get clarity as it is to set budgets and financial targets! I have seen how setting these goals and instilling the discipline of weekly and monthly follow-up sessions have significantly changed the performance of many businesses. In almost all of them, women played a key supportive and accountability role to ensure that the business outcomes changed!

Finally, women have particular qualities that can be crucial to the long-term survival and success of a family business. When working in and for family businesses they need to be aware of the dilemmas and conflicts that affect women in business to ensure they make the right choice for them.

May you have an awesome Women's day!

Coach Bert


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Tuesday, 21 January 2020