What Is Working Spotlight is an ongoing series that aims to highlight the successes, challenges and unique lessons faced by different group of entrepreneurs. This April, What Is Working: Small Businesses will be talking to female small businesses owners. Below, our editors ask Susan Griffin-Black about her biggest challenges, proudest achievements and what the future looks like for women in business.
What, according to you, are the main challenges facing women small business owners today?
I talk with a lot of women starting or in the very early stages of small business and some common threads regarding their challenges are focus and priorities. I say you have to focus on generating revenue/sales and cash flow. We can't have any other conversation until there is some market acceptance - so please show me 20k in monthly revenue, otherwise you don't have a business that supports you, let alone other people. So, what to focus on, and then cash flow and understanding the difference between cash flow and profitability. You can be at break even for a long time or even losing a bit and self- correct as you increase sales.
How are women business owners different from men? What specific strengths do they bring to the table that business owners could do well to learn from?
Women are amazing multi-taskers and bring a more collaborative, empathetic spirit to the table. They understand, especially if they are mothers, that there is no peace of mind without their children and families being well taken care of. I don't think balance is attainable. I think presence is possible. Women have the capacity to focus and attend to what is directly in front of them and naturally prioritize.
What inspired you to start your own business and what is the biggest challenge you've faced to date?
I wanted to be able to do what I love to do, work close to home and not have to compromise my relationship and availability with/to my kids. I wanted to be able to work with smart, funny, creative, like-minded people with shared values. I wanted everyday to be like a vacation, instead of waiting for a vacation. Biggest challenges: making the choice to keep going, stay private (only angels and bank debt - no private equity or venture money), maintain controlling interest.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring women business owners?
Generate revenue. The other problems are much easier to work out when you have market acceptance/sales. Become the queen of cash flow. Understand receivables, payables and how to work with your customers and vendors to optimize cash. Know yourself - what are your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for help - it's all around you.
What's the one achievement you're particularly proud of?
Sticking with it - we started in 1995. My business partner, co-CEO, is my former husband of 11 years and we've been divorced for 6 years. We have a daughter together, age 16, and he parented my son, age 26. We have transformed our relationship and are great partners and parents together. Not an easy task, but a shining achievement and commitment to the greater good.
How empowered do you feel by other young female business owners?
They are the bright lights of the future and help me appreciate evolution. I have met so many beautiful, smart, creative, kind young female business owners - truly inspired by them.
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