Hello SOTGC community,
Welcome back to my series The 6 Stages Of A Woman’s E-Ship Journey. Today Patti Fletcher and I discuss Stage 6: Leadership.
Stage 6: Leadership (what is my next big thing?)
Heather Boggini: This is the final stage of a woman’s e-ship journey – leadership. Let’s start with a definition of Stage 6 and explain how it is unique to women.
Patti Fletcher: Sure. When I talk about Stage 6: Leadership, I do it in terms of questions an entrepreneur might ask herself after Stage 5: Exit, such as: I have run my own business, maybe I have exited, but now what? Do I want a board position? Another startup? An executive job with the company who acquired my startup? Or none of the above?
Stages 1 through 5 are experienced by all entrepreneurs, male or female. If your business is going to thrive, you’ll have to move through these 5 stages and achieve the individual milestones for each.
Why is Stage 6 unique to women? Because women experience entrepreneurship differently than men. Women, and not men, typically experience this 6th stage of leadership, which is not about the business at all, it’s about the leader.
Boggini: And why is that? Why is it more typical that a woman and not her male counterpart experience this stage?
Fletcher: Men plan for their “what’s next” very early on, or, at least, by the time they are leading their business in the growth stage. Women tend to look at what is in front of them, of landing those big clients to make the numbers, of ensuring a long-term product roadmap that works backwards from initial public offering (IPO) or acquisition.
The female entrepreneur gets a lot of different things done and is great at looking out for and planning for the stakeholders in her business. She is less likely to think about and plan for her “what’s next” until she is faced with making that post-exit decision. By then, she has missed the opportunity to build and cultivate relationships with people who can help her make her next move based on her own timelines and desired criteria.
Boggini: As a woman and an entrepreneur, I can easily relate to this discussion of leadership. But I’m nowhere near Stage 4 or 5 in my business. What can I do now, in the early stages, to participate in all the positives of leadership? Or how can I prepare for that stage?
Fletcher: A great start is to think about the life you want to live in ten years. When you have a high growth startup, it is about a seven- to ten-year stint as founder and CEO. It’s not a job where, if you are committed to the success of the business, that you can come and go. You have to be committed for the long haul. But, how you want to live your life a decade from now tells you a lot about what you can do today to lay the foundation. Live for today and plan for tomorrow.
For example, let’s say you want to be a member of a board some day. It takes about seven years to land a board seat. Start now by doing research on what a board member does, seek out people who currently hold board seats, and ask for their opinions on what they do and how you can prepare, volunteer at a nonprofit that you like and offer to sit on the board. Or, let’s say you want to potentially invest in the next big innovations. Do research on Angels or other private investors. Find out what the threshold is for investing and where you can have the biggest impact. Ask people who are already living the type of life, making the type of impact you want to make. The relationships you make through this process will result in friendships and in you landing where you want to be.
“Live for today and plan for tomorrow.”
Boggini: Let’s talk about the current climate for female founders and what is happening with leadership. What are the leadership actions that have the most impact on not only a woman’s career but on women-owned businesses as a whole?
Fletcher: I wish I could say that things are perfect. But, the truth is, women founders and executives are still not on par with their male counterparts in terms of their leadership opportunities.
The global numbers show us that women are 14 percent of CEOs, 12 percent of corporate board members and we account for less than 10 percent of venture-funded businesses. Considering, in the US at least, that women are projected to be accountable for 50 percent of job creation by the year 2018 and yet it will take us to 2085 to be on par with men when it comes to leadership positions, we have a major gap in expectations versus reality.
With that said, the women who have successfully transitioned from one leadership role, such as a founding member of the c-suite, to a role on a board or as an investor, they have done so by cultivating relationships that resulted in opportunities, and working on gaps in their skills to ensure they are ready and able to fulfill their next big thing.
Boggini: That concludes our 6 part series. Where can readers go to learn more about what to expect as a female entrepreneur?
Fletcher: This has been fun! We have a lot of information on the PSDNetwork site. The tabs along the top of the site will enable you navigate among the stages of entrepreneurship, from opportunity discovery to leadership and everything in between. And please also visit my Inc column and my Xconomy column online.
Boggini: Thank you Patti.
YOUR TURN: What is your “next big thing”? Have a specific plan in place, or still exploring your options? Let us know by reaching out to @hsboggini, leave a comment below, or click here to learn more about PSDNetwork, LLC co-founders Heather Boggini and Patti Fletcher.