What Is Behind a Strong Businesswoman? Stories of Courage and Inspiration

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Submitted by guest author Elaine King, CFP®, Founder, Family & Money Matters

For some, it may feel like the immediate crisis of the pandemic has passed. But for others, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty and fear of the lasting economic impact, especially among small business owners.

With this in mind, I want to share two stories of strong businesswomen that inspire me every day to keep growing my small business. When we see businesswomen thrive, we tend to focus on the results of their success, and often overlook the resilience they had to muster every step of their journey. Today, that kind of resilience can be the difference between surviving/thriving and going out of business. Fortunately, Intuit offers tools that can help.

Historically, women have faced obstacles to prosperity. In some parts of the world, laws at the beginning of the 1900s forbade women from inheriting property, voting, or getting a loan. In the United States, it was not until 1978 that the law protected pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.

Despite these setbacks, women have prevailed and succeeded. Today, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 11.6 million U.S. businesses are owned by women, and 39 percent of privately held firms have majority women ownership. I myself am fortunate to descend from a brave group of women on both sides of my family. They were immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Europe who left everything behind to look for better opportunities.

Let’s dive into the stories.

Practice financial etiquette — no matter what!

I believe that the golden rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you,” applies to the world of finances. It underpins financial etiquette. My grandmother, is a living embodiment of financial etiquette.

My grandmother met my grandfather in the army when they were young. She loved fashion and wanted to start a business to give her kids a better education. She realized she needed a loan, but like many people today, she found this was difficult with little to no cash flow. Due to the local laws at the time, no bank would lend her the money. So she started networking in earnest, seeking professionals in the industry who might become passive investors in her startup. Her efforts paid off when found a woman who lent her the amount she needed to kick off her business.

She has always attributed her success to keeping things in order and discipline with her finances. She always made her loan payments on time and kept a notebook detailing her expenses and projections. She kept a list of her accounts receivable and also had a notebook for vendors to sign when they had been paid. Thanks to her focus on financial discipline, she grew her fashion business to be a successful boutique providing items to several larger stores.

Even today, aged 80-something years old, my grandmother puts financial etiquette first. She pays her bills on time, tracks expenses, projects future finances and has a financial plan. As a business owner, it’s important to always practice financial discipline, even during challenging or uncertain times. And remember, there’s no age limit on success! Did you know the average age of Nobel Prize winners in the science awards is 58?

Key takeaways/action steps:

  • Get on track. Make sure you have an accounting tool to track your expenses and invoices, and make it as easy as possible for your clients to pay you. Personally, I like to use Intuit’s QuickBooks product to keep my finances organized. Always be sure to mark your calendar, and try to pay your bills and vendors ahead of time.
  • Seek and embrace help from experts. To help you practice financial etiquette, Intuit is providing financial guidance to help you manage your finances, including what to do if you fall behind on your bills or how to support your small business.

Your legacy — starting with the end in mind

Even during these uncertain times, it’s important not to lose sight of your goals. After a long corporate career at a Fortune 500 company, Carmen retired in her late 50s and started her small business consulting company working with family businesses. Carmen is my friend and mentor. Her philosophy was that every woman needs to be a role model for the next generation — for example, by participating in the community, helping others who are starting up their own business, inspiring others to develop leadership skills, and striving for change, without ever losing your essence.

Carmen maintained that businesses don’t require men or women, but leaders that can grow the business in a profitable way. After all, leadership is a personal choice and path that’s independent of gender. And diversity (as Carmen would say) is not the privilege of some, but the well being of all of us. Carmen was a mover of mountains who managed her small business and attended to her children and husband, all while fighting an aggressive disease. She passed away a few of months ago, leaving behind a legacy that people like me are still benefitting from. As small business owners, we should all strive to leave an impactful legacy like she did.

Key takeaways/action steps:

Here are two things you can do now with your legacy in mind:

  • Organize your finances. First, you will need an updated balance sheet to then update your estate planning documents, such as your will, your durable power of attorney, your life insurance and succession plan. According to one study, 58 percent of small business owners have no succession plan. Make sure you’re not one of them! QuickBooks can help you with this.
  • Take a leadership position in an organization. If you own a small business, be sure to make time to hone your leadership skills. If you’re an employee, speak to your manager about leadership opportunities or a path to help build those skills. Also, consider helping small businesses that have been hardest hit by the sputtering economy by collaborating and combining your respective services or products. Think economies of scale and joining communities of future clients.

To recap, keep your legacy always in front of your actions, practice financial etiquette using the golden rule and be creative in the way you make money in a socially responsible way for a better world. And finally, choose your role models wisely and start each day by using your super power for good.

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