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November 20th, 2010 - Darcie Harris

Expert Q&A: Entrepreneurship

Darcie Harris, CEO, EWF International

darcieharris_7-06x7-51cmDarcie Harris
e differences between male- and female-owned business models?   

DH: For the most part, they face the same challenges, like wearing many different hats.

I do see, though, that sometimes women start businesses with a smaller vision. Women are stretched so thin between personal and professional lives, they often start businesses looking for flexibility and independence and create a "lifestyle" business model. Some men do the same thing, but many men start a business with more of an "enterprise" concept, thinking bigger.

With a lifestyle model, their desire for flexibility and independence can backfire, because the business is so dependent on the owner that their growth is limited by the number of hours in the day. When they begin to think strategically about how the business can grow without being so dependent on them, they can get out of the trap of limited growth and having so many demands on them.

It's a bit counterintuitive, but getting bigger eventually means more freedom. 

So how does a female entrepreneur get out of that stage?

It starts with changing how you think about your role in the company. I encourage them to think of themselves as an orchestra conductor.
You want to get out of the role of being first-chair violin, plus playing the trumpet and percussion, too. You want to move into the conductor role, where your real job is to bring out the best music of all the musicians.  

What's the most common mistake women business owners make?  

DH: Not understanding your numbers can sink you. You have to understand not just the income/expense equation; you have to understand cash flow, too.

Ask any EWF member, and they will tell you I hound them to understand their "key indicators," which are numbers that may not show up on their P&L, like their lead-to-sales ratio, their profit per square foot (if they are in retail) or the number of website hits it takes to make one sale. It's different for each business, depending on your industry.    

What do you think is the most difficult challenge women business owners face?

DH: It's not just a clich
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