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2014: Small Business, Big Opportunity

PA Beneficial Pam CyrA small business does not equate to small challenges. It does not equate to small risk, small investment, or small amounts of preparation. Often times, it’s quite the opposite. Nowadays it takes a lot of moxie to create a business, especially in a struggling economy where competition can be fierce. And while gender doesn’t dictate confidence, women face a unique set of challenges that can derail even the most motivated entrepreneur before their company even gets off the ground.

As we look ahead to 2014, there is one word that sums up the forecast for small business.

Opportunity.

  • Thinking of opening a small business? The water is just right, and if the stock market continues an upward trajectory there will be more investors anxious to dip a toe in.
  • Concerned about running a company as a woman? Why? If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that female leadership has never been stronger. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo showed us that it’s possible to have a family, and run a company. Mary Barra of General Motors showed us that it’s possible to exceed even in a historically male-dominated environment. And Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook showed us that if we ‘Lean In’ and confront issues head-on, we can arrive at commonsense solutions that will empower women everywhere to achieve their full potential.

So what’s the secret? As a woman, how can you begin a small business and run it successfully? While there is plenty to consider, here are 5 quick things to keep in mind as we begin 2014.

Knowledge is Power

Small business owners need to know one thing better than anyone else – their business. And that means all aspects of it, from the product to the consumer, and from the business plan to the annual report. Your small business runs on knowledge and it’s the difference between talking about “one day” and planning for “day one”.

Know Your Limits

There is a common misconception (especially among women) that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The best leaders are the ones who not only know their strengths, but also their limitations. Especially in the beginning stages, if you don’t know something, ask. Start a conversation with a financial professional who is trained in the particulars of small business. That way you’ll be more confident when speaking with investors about what is realistic.

Find a Role Model, Be a Role Model

Despite the increasing number of female executives, it’s sometimes a challenge for women to acquire role models or mentors. Do some research to find a female executive who is currently doing what you aspire to do, then reach out. While modern business is competitive, you’d be surprised at how receptive they might be. They were likely once in your shoes and can be a great resource or sounding board for issues you’re going through. And if you’re lucky enough to find a role model, pay-it-forward by trying to be one for other women.

Work Your Network

The growth of any business depends on networking, but it can be especially tough for female entrepreneurs to find other women to connect with. This is where events like the PA Conference for Women are crucial. Besides these formal occasions, take some time to examine your own network of friends to determine their unique skillsets. Connections are highly important to success, and nurturing strong professional relationships can go a long way.

Act Local

Practicality rules in small business. While it’s good to be mindful of macroeconomic issues that might impact your company, small businesses thrive in local communities and personality can be a powerful advantage for women. Get out and talk to your neighbors and find trends in the area. Stop into your local bank and inquire about their lending process or commercial real estate options. If you become a part of the community you serve, you’re likely to be around for a long time.

 

There is never going to be an ultimate “DIY Guide to Starting a Small Business” and despite all of the opportunity ahead in 2014, the challenges facing small business owners are real. If the above tips offer any common theme for women it’s this – gender doesn’t dictate confidence, knowledge does. If you arm yourself with the knowledge of your company, the market, your network and your community, doors will open for you, including the one to your own small business.

 

Written by Pam Cyr, is executive vice president and chief retail banking Officer for Beneficial Bank. Beneficial is the oldest and largest bank headquartered in Philadelphia, with 60 offices in the greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey regions. Cyr previously held positions at St. Edmond’s Federal Savings Bank, Susquehanna Patriot Bank and Roxborough-Manayunk Bank, as well as at Deloitte & Touche, LLP. Cyr is a C.P.A. and member of the AICPA and PICPA. She also serves on the board of trustees for Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, and is host committee member for the Cooper Foundation’s Annual Pink Roses Teal Magnolias event. Cyr is a graduate of LaSalle University.

 

 

 
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