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Women Connect to Succeed

20 November 2013

Westpac reveals keys to success for female entrepreneurs

Business mentors (79%) and ex-business colleagues (72%) considered most valuable sources for support and guidance

More than three in five (62%) female SME owners who are confident about running their business have someone to contact for advice


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New research released by Westpac today has revealed having a trusted business mentor together with a clear plan are key ingredients for female small business owners to succeed and grow.

Although the internet and speaking with friends or family are the most commonly used sources for getting business advice (62% and 59% respectively), The Westpac Women SME Report suggests female SME owners believe business mentors (79%) and ex-colleagues (72%) are by far the most valuable.

Westpac Director of Women’s Markets, Larke Riemer said, “It’s no secret that having a business plan and someone to talk it through with is really useful, but you’d be surprised how many women don’t have these fundamental ingredients lined up when they first start a business.

“Although these women are confident and capable, they still need advice every now and then. Our research has shown that women currently in business value the opinion most from those they have a personal connection with; other like-minded women with experience similar to their own and from whom they can learn, grow and evolve their businesses. “The statistics confirm that women who have a mentor are more confident in business. More than three in five (62%) female business owners who currently feel confident about running their business, have someone they contact for advice and support when they need it.”

The report also shone a light on women who are less confident about their business management, with one in five (20%) female small business owners admitting to a lack of confidence in running their business and an alarming one third (33%) confessing to not having a business plan at all.

Not surprisingly, this suggests that planning and feeling confident about running a business are inextricably linked. Women who have a clear understanding of their plan and direction are significantly more confident in achieving their goals (52%) than those who don’t have a business plan (28%).

“It’s this simple – if you want to start your own business, you need a plan. As women, we plan to have children, plan where to buy a home to raise a family, and plan the kids’ education – it’s something we do every day and it’s also one of the most critical tools to succeed in business,” said Ms Riemer.

“Women who know where they want to take their business are the ones who are the most confident in their ability to get there. We’re also noticing that women who do this best are the ones that connect with supporters around them, as they can turn to those people for advice and insights.”

When asked about sources of advice they would turn to in future, two in three (66%) female SME owners would consider consulting a business mentor, while two in five (43%) would consider networking sessions or industry conferences.

“We live in a world of relationships whether they are at work, in the community or online, and women in business are now, probably more than ever, looking to expand these networks. At Westpac, we explore new ways to help Australian business women network – whether it’s through Ruby Connection, our online interactive community, or special initiatives like our upcoming ‘SME Dating’ event which will bring together a select group of like-minded businesswomen to talk, network and ideally, find a business mentor of their own,” said Ms Riemer.


Sources of Advice

While the internet and speaking with friends and family were considered the most utilised sources of advice, business mentors (79%) and ex-colleagues (72%) were considered the most valuable.

When asked what sources respondents used or consulted for support, the top responses were:

o Internet (62%)

o Friends and family (59%)

o Industry conferences (51%)

o Business mentor (47%)

More than three in five (62%) who are confident about running their business have someone they can contact.


Planning Key to Success

One in five (20%) lack confidence in running their business.

One in three female SME owners (33%) do not have a business plan

Female SME owners with a business plan (52%) are significantly more likely to feel confident in achieving these goals if they have a business plan than those who don’t (28%).


Future Sources of Advice

Two in three female SME owners (66%) said they would like a business mentor as a source for more advice and support

Two in five (43%) said they would like to attend more networking sessions or industry conferences.


Westpac Tips for Female SME Owners

1. Have a plan, write it down, and review it regularly


The plan is your roadmap to success. It needs to be fluid and flexible, reviewed and revised throughout the business year. If at any time you are forced to take a detour in your strategy, your business plan will help you find your way back onto the main road.

2. Know your objectives


Not everybody wants the same thing out of business. Being clear up front will help business planning, and give you guideposts for what activities you will take up, and those you won't.

3. Don't think "network", think "connection"


Networking is an opportunity to connect with other people who share your passions, interests and values. People do business with people they like and trust, and forming positive connections fosters this like nothing else.

4. When networking, split your time 50%/50%.


The purpose of networking is twofold: forming connections with both potential clients (which can improve revenue flows) and other business owners (who might be able to identify complimentary offerings or potential clients).

5. Share your connections


The more connections you make, the more likely someone will think of your business when they have the relevant need. The more you share your connections, the more likely your connections will grow as others want to be part of your "tribe”.


About the survey

This survey was driven by online polling of 369 female small business owners currently residing in Australia, sourced from the Sweeney Research panel. A copy of the executive summary of the report is available upon request.