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THE WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR:

MANAGEMENT SKILLS AND


BUSINESS PROBLEMS
by Robert D. Hisrich and Candida Brush

ABSTRACT: LA FEMME D'AFFAIRES: SES HABILETES EN FAIT DE GESTION ET


SES PROBLEMES DANS LE DOMAINE DES AFFAIRES
Jusqu'd main tenant, bien que le chiffre des entreprises dont Ies propridtaires sont du sexe
iAin soit en hausse, peu de recherches ont 6t^ faites sur Ies habilet^s des femmes d'affaires en
fait de gestion et sur Ies difficult^s auxquelles elles sont appel^s k faire face pr^isement k cause de
leur sexe.- En effet, Ies recherches d6j& faites en cette mati^re ont port^ notamment sur Ies diff^rents
types de femme d'affaires, leur motivation, leurs caract^ristiques ddmographiques et Ies genres
d'entreprise auxquelles elles se sont assocides. Or, pour rem^er k cefte lacune nous avons fait l'ex-
pertise, k unefehellenationale, de 468 femmes d'affaires. Plus pr&is6ment, nous nous sommes
renseignds sur leurs milieux et leurs entrainements, ainsi que sur leurs entreprises dans le monde
des affaires, leurs habilitds en fait de gestion, et, en dernier Ueii, Ies prbbl^mes auxquelles elles sont
exposdes par le fait qu'elles sont du sexe fdminin. De cette expertise nous avons pu tirer certaines
conclusions pratiques, dont nous ferons part & nos lecteurs dans l'article qui suit.

Starting and operating a business en- force, some of whom have elected to
tails considerable risk and effort, start and operate their own businesses.
especially for the entrepreneur, who
A Bureau of Census report based on
creates and builds a business from
1972 data indicates that female owned-
scratch, thereby assuming all the re-
businesses accounted for only 4.6 percent
sponsibilities for development and man-
of all firms in the United States, with the
agement as well as the corresponding
receipts from female-owned businesses
risks and gains. The risk is perhaps even
accounting for only 0.03 percent of all
greater for a woman entrepreneur, who
business receipts. The Small Business
has all the usual business problems as
Administration reports that the number
well as the problems associated with
of self-employed women increased from
being a woman in a male-dominated
1.7 million in 1977 to 2.3 million in
arena. In spite of this, increasing num-
1982—a 35 percent increase. During the
bers of women have entered the labor
same period the number of self-employed
men rose by only 12 percent. Women-
Dr. Hisrich is associate professor of management and di- owned businesses accounted for over
rector of the Small Business Institute at Boston College. He is
also a director of H&P Associates, a marketing/management forty billion dollars in revenues.'
consulting firm. His publications include numerous articles
and four books: Marketing a New Pmduct: Its Plaiimiif;. BACKGROUND
Deuehiinwnt. ami Conlml; The MBA Career. Marketing: A
Practical Managerial Apprxmch: and Prmiuct Planning atui Most of what is known about entre-
Development.
Candida Brush is a director with H&P Associates, a preneurs—their backgrounds, their mo-
marketing and management consulting firm in Boston. She re.
ceived an MBA degree from Boston College, and has taught
marketing and business courses at several universities. Wall Street Journal. 17 May 1983, p. 1.

30 Journal of Small Business Management


tives for starting their own companies, their businesses at a later age than the
and their business problems—is based non-minority women. Non-minority fe-
on studies of male entrepreneurs.^ This male entrepreneurs scored higher on
is not surprising, since men make up the ratings of need for achievement and in-
majority of people who start and run dependence; minority women appeared to
their own businesses. Interest in women place greater value on conformity and
entrepreneurs as research subjects has benevolence.''
developed more recently. Twenty-one women who participated
Studies of female entrepreneui-s have in a study of the demographic character-
addressed basically the same questions istics, motivations, and business prob-
as those of male entrepreneurs. One lems of female entrepreneurs indicated
study of twenty female entrepreneurs that they had particular problems with
found that their major motivations for collateral, obtaining credit, and over-
starting a business were: the need to coming society's belief that women are
achieve, the desire to be independent, not as serious as men about business.^
the need for job satisfaction, and A final study focused on how the char-
economic necessity. These female entre- acteristics of women entrepreneurs
preneurs tended to have an autocratic varied according to the type of business.
style of management, and their major The results indicated that women entre-
problem during startup was credit dis- preneurs exhibited some distinctive char-
crimination. Underestimating operating acteristics. They were older and more
and/or marketing costs was a subse- educated than either the general populace
quent problem.3 or the respondents in previous studies.
Another study of 122 black, white, They also had very supportive parents
Hispanic, and American Indian women and husbands. Female entrepreneurs in
entrepreneurs found that the responses nontraditional business areas (finance, in-
of both minority and non-minority surance, manufacturing, and construc-
women entrepreneurs differed signifi- tion) also differed from their counterparts
cantly from those of women in the gen- in more traditionally "female" business
eral population on tests measuring areas (retail and wholesale trade). The lat-
achievement, autonomy, aggression, con- ter group had particular difficulty in
formity," independence, benevolence, and gaining access to external financial
leadership. Differences were also found sources.^
between minority and non-minority The studies reported above dealt with
women entrepreneurs, with minority en- restricted samples. In order to answer
trepreneurs reporting that they started questions about female entrepreneurs in
general throughout the United States, a
'See, for example: Neil Cohen. "The Five Ages of Ihe En- survey was developed, the construction
trepreneur." Vpitture (July 1980), pp. 40-43; Orvis Collins and
David G. Moore, 'I'he Enterprising Man, Michigan State Uni- and results of which are described below.
versity, East Lansing, Michigan (1964); Eugene Gomolka,
"Characteristics of Minority International and Small Business
Enterprises," American Journal of Small Business (July 1977), 'James DeCarlo and Paul R. Lyons, "A Comparison of
pp, 12-21; John A, Hornady and John Abond,"Characteristics Selected Personal Characteristics of Minority and Non-
of Successful Entrepreneurs," Personnel Psychology (1971), Minority Female Entrepreneurs," Journal of Small Business
pp. 50-60; Edward B. Roberts, "Entrepreneurship and Tech- Management (December 1979), pp, 22-29.
nology; A Basic Study of Innovators—How to Keep and Capi- 'Robert D. Hisricb and Marie O'Brien, "The Woman En-
talize on Their Talents," Research Management (July 1968), trepreneur from a Business and Sociological Perspective, "in
pp, 249-266; and Harry Schrage, "The R&D Entrepreneur; Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research. 1981 (Proceedings of
Profile of Success," Hariianl Business Heiiiew (November the 1981 Conference on Entrepreneurship, Babson College,
1966), pp. 55-69; Herbert A. Wainer and Ir»-in M. Robin, June 1981), pp. 21-39.
"Motivation of Research and Development Entrepreneurs," 'Robert D. Hisrich and Marie O'Brien, "The Woman En-
Journal of AiJlilinI Psyrliology (Fall 1969), pp. 178-184. trepreneur as a Reflection of the Type of Business," in Fran-
'Kleanor B. Schwartz, "Entrepreneurship; A New Female tiers of Entrepreneurship Research. 1982 (Proceedings of the
Frontier," ,/()iirfi(i/(»/• (V>n/<'/;)/«>rar\' Business (Winter 1979), 1982 Conference on Entrepreneurship, Babson College, June
pp. 47-76. 1982), pp. 54-67.

January 1984 31
RESEARCH DESIGN degrees reporting that their degrees were
A questionnaire was developed which in one area or another of liberal arts.
included a mixture of scaled, dichoto- Education played an important role in
mous, multiple choice, open-ended, and the backgrounds of the women entrepre-
rank-order items designed to assess the neurs. Not only were their parents—par-
following: motivation for starting a busi- ticularly their fathers—more highly edu-
ness, general entrepreneurial characteris- cated than the general populace, but the
tics, management skills, social and psy- women entrepreneurs also tended to
chological factors, educational and occu- marry more highly educated men. The
pational influences, demographic infor- importance of education is reflected in
mation, and business data. the following comment of one woman en-
Mailing lists of women entrepreneurs trepreneur:
were obtained from trade associations In my family, education was very im-
and state offices. The questionnaire was portant. My mother was a dentist in a
then mailed to 1,151 women entrepre- day when most women did not even
neurs in 18 states. The survey included graduate from high school. But it was
women from all areas of the country. my father who was my real motivator.
Four hundred and sixty-eight usable
questionnaires (fully completed and con- This respondent's father, a self-employed
taining all of the relevant information) professional, gave her the example and
were returned, a 41 percent response rate. encouragement she needed to be success-
ful in her own business.
FINDINGS
This high education level of the
The findings are divided into four women entrepreneurs and their parents is
areas: the demographic composition and reflected in their social class—67 percent
background of the women entrepreneurs, of the women entrepreneurs indicated
the nature of their business ventures, the that they grew up in the middle- to upper-
skills of the entrepreneurs, and the prob- class environments. Social class was also
lems they confronted. correlated with the parents' occupation.
The majority of the women entrepreneurs
Demographics
stated that their fathers were self-
The majority of the 468 women entre- employed. A relatively small percentage
preneurs in the sample were between the of the mothers, fathers, and spouses of
ages of 35 and 45; 55 percent were mar- the women entrepreneurs were blue collar
ried and had children. Fifty-one percent workers (3 percent of the spouses, 8 per-
of the women were the first-born in their cent of the mothers, and 19 percent of the
families, and 68 percent had attended col- fathers). Spouses held predominantly
lege or graduate school. Nearly 70 per- professional or technical positions. This
cent of the women entrepreneurs had kind of background appears to have pro-
liberal arts degrees in one of several ma- vided the women entrepreneurs with
jors, with business administration being good role models as well as a supportive,
the most frequently mentioned. Fewer financially sound environment in which
than 9 percent reported majors in engi- to begin new business ventures.
neering and science—an obvious barrier
to entering such traditionally male- The Business Venture
dominated business areas as construction An overwhelming majority of the
and manufacturing. The specific field of women entrepreneurs (90 percent) oper-
graduate study most frequently men- ated service businesses—only 7 percent
tioned was law, with the vast majority of were engaged in manufacturing, and only
women entrepreneurs who had graduate 3 percent in financial businesses. This, of

32 Journal of Small Business Management


course, reflects the liberal arts educations slightly modified product for an existing
and past experiences of most of the entre- market. Few women entrepreneurs form
preneurs, over 70 percent of whom had companies that enter new markets with
previous service-related experience. The
educational system and the general en- distinctly new inventions.
vironment appeared to provide little en-
couragement or advice for these entrepre- Table 2
neurs, as the following two comments GROSS BUSINESS REVENUES
demonstrate: IN 1980 AND 1981
It would be good to raise society's ex-
pectations for the female population; Percentage o< Firms
better career guidance and advice is Gross Revenue in Doliars 1980 1981
also needed for women students.
Less than $30,000 26 20
Women should grow up with the expec- $30,000-$99,999 28 27
tation that they will need to support $100,000-$499,999 29 32
themselves. $500,000-$999,999 8 9
$1,000,000-$4,999,999 8 9
The type of business venture varied $5,000,000 and over 1 1
widely, from the very innovative (a pri-
vate post office) to the male-dominated
A large proportion of the businesses
fields of petroleum products and plumb-
were incorporated (43 percent). Thirty-
ing, but traditionally female areas (such
as a travel agency or clothing design) pre- five percent were sole proprietorships; 12
dominated, as shown in table 1. The busi- percent were general partnerships. Most
ness area most women entrepreneurs of the businesses were relatively young-
were involved in was sales. The women over 60 percent had been in operation for
established these enterprises themselves, four years or less. The gross revenues of
the type of business varying from real the firms were fairly low, as would be ex-
estate and insurance to wholesaling and pected given the short periods of time in
manufacturers' representatives. operation and the predominance of busi-
nesses in the service sector. Table 2
Table 1 shows gross revenues for 1980 and 1981.
NATURE OF BUSINESS VENTURE These figures are consonant with the em-
ployment patterns of the businesses (see
table 3). More than 30 percent of the busi-
Type o< BOsiness Percentage
nesses had no employees other than the
Sales 19.7
Consulting
woman entrepreneur herself, and 42 per-
14.6
Design/Art/Architecture 10.0 cent had only one to four employees.
Public Relations and Advertising 8.3
Personnel and Business Services 7.7 Even though the present venture was
Computer.Related Business 7.5 the first for most of the women entre-
Manufacturing 7.0
Secretarial 6.7
preneurs (78 percent), 64 percent had
Educational Services 6.1 gained previous experience in their busi-
Law/Medical Services 5.4 ness area. This is consistent with previ-
Distribution and Construction 4.5 ous findings that entrepreneurs tend to
Finance 3.0
start businesses in fields in which they
have had job experience.' The most fre-
None of the businesses was based on a
product innovation or product modifica-
'Arnold C. Cooper and William G. Dunkelberg. "A New
tion. The majority of the women founded Ix)ok aL Business Entry." in Fnmtiers of Entrepreneurship He-
their enterprises using an established or search, 19H1 (Proceedings of the 1981 Conference on Entrepre-
neurship. Babson College, June 1981). pp. 1-20.

January 1984 33
Table 3 (see table 5). (This comes as no surprise,
SIZE OF FIRMS BY since only 22 percent of the women en-
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES trepreneurs had undergraduate business
training. Few had direct experience with
finance, marketing, and business opera-
Number of Percentage of Firms by
Type of Employees
tions.) In addition, since most of the busi-
Employees
nesses (60 percent) were relatively young
Full Part Family
Time Time —between one and four yeeirs old—the
None 30 34 66
women business owners may not yet
1-4 42 48 32 have developed confidence in some of
5-9 13 8 * their management abilities. Their lack of
10-19 10 6 * experience in finance, marketing, organiz-
20-49 4 4 • ing, and planning could lead to problems
50 or more 1 1 *
that limit the growth of their businesses
'Less than 1 percent. unless these women can acquire the skills
they lack and make plans to accom-
quently mentioned etreas of recent past modate expansion, increased sales, and
experience were teaching, administration capital needs.
(middle management), and secretarial Business Problems
positions, most often in service busi-
nesses (see table 4). Ninety percent of the Nearly all of the women surveyed indi-
female entrepreneurs owned service busi- cated that they had encountered one or
nesses. more problems with their businesses dur-
ing startup and/or current operations.
Table 4 The biggest problems during startup
MOST RECENT PAST EXPERIENCE were lack of business and financial train-
OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ing, obtaining credit, and lack of col-
lateral (see table 6). These problems, too,
are related to lack of specific business
Field Percentage education and work experience. Further-
Education 11,7 more, many of the women had not estab-
Administration 11,1 lished credit ratings, making it even more
Secretarial 9,6 difficult to obteiin conventional fineincing.
Art/Photography 8,9
Marl<eting/Personnei 7,3 One woman entrepreneur commented
Saies 7,1
5,0
that "It is important to stress equal
Consuiting
Finance/CPA 4,7 rights for women with regard to assess-
Executive 4,4 ments of credit worthiness, stability, pro-
Homemaker 4,3 ductivity, and effectiveness. Business
women are stiU treated as second-class
citizens when dealing with the financial
Management Skills
community."
The service orientation of the new Other often-cited problems are also
business ventures of the women surveyed tied to lack of education and experience,
is in keeping with the women's appraisals e.g., inadequate management experience
of their own management skills. Overall, and lack of experience in hiring others.
the women entrepreneurs considered The women were aware of their need for
themselves to be adept at idea genera- guidance and counsel—this problem was
tion, product innovation, and dealing mentioned by 21 percent of the respond-
with people, average in marketing and ents—but they apparently had problems
business operations, and weak in finance acquiring it. Some comments:

34 Journal of Small Business Management


Table 5
WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS' SELF-APPRAISALS
OF MANAGEMENT SKILLS

Percentage oi Responses
Very No
Management Skill Poor Fair Good Good Excellent Opinion
Finance: securing capitai.
forecasting, budgeting 15 32 27 15 6 4
Dealing with Peopie: management.
development, and training 2 10 28 33 27 —
Marketing/Sales: marketing research.
promotion, selling 6 20 20 33 22 —
Idea Generation/Product
Innovation 3 10 26 27 33 1
Business Operations:
inventory, production.
day-to-day operations 3 18 32 30 . 17 —
Organizing and Planning:
business strategy.
policies, and organization 4 15 29 29 23 —

What I needed was more effective SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION


SBA involvement during the first
year. I approached both, the SBA and The "typical" woman entrepreneur
SCORE for assistance (not money) and as depicted in this study is the first-born
felt I was treated in a patronizing way. child of middle class parents—a self-
I received very little encouragement employed father, and mother who does
because of my financial circumstances. not work outside the home. After obtain-
ing a liberal arts degree, the typical
The biggest roadblock to women's woman entrepreneur marries a college-
success is the lack of business-related educated man who works in a profes-
skills such as independence, self-confi-
sional or technical capacity. She then
dence, assertiveness, and drive (skills
men learn while growing up), as well as has children, and works as a teacher, ad-
the absence of a defined women's net- ministrator, or secretary. She does not
work for referrals and business in- start her own business—most likely a
roads into other successful businesses. service-related one—until the age of
forty or later. Her biggest business
Women continued to encounter prob- startup problems are with finance,
lems as their businesses continued in credit, and a lack of business training.
operation, but the problems were men- Once the business is in operation, lack of
tioned less frequently than at startup financial planning experience is her
(see table 7). Again, lack of experience greatest difficulty.
with financial planning was a major
problem, but other difficulties, such as There are, of course, exceptions to
hiring competent staff and attracting this composite portrait, but a great
customers, which were deemed relative- many of the 465 women entrepreneurs
ly unimportant during startup, took on surveyed share these general character-
increased importance. After the intro- istics. Most of their businesses are small
ductory stage, the demands of the busi- and young, with accompanying low
ness impinging on personal life also ap- revenues. Will these businesses grow,
peared to become more of a problem. adapt, and change? Are women entre-

January 1984 35
Table 6
STARTUP PROBLEMS

Responses
Problem Area Percentage Number
Lack of business training 30 140
Obtaining iines of credit 28 131
Lack of financiai planning experience 26 122
Lack of guidance and counsei 21 94
Weak collateral position 21 94
Lack of management experience 21 94
Lack of experience in use of outside services
(e.g., accounting and legal) 17 80
Other (e.g., cash flow, hiring,
attracting business) 17 80
Lack of involvement with business colleagues 16 75
Demands of company affecting personal
relationships 16 75
Lack of respect for business women 15 70
Personal problems 7 33
Legal problems 7 33

Table 7
PROBLEMS IN CURRENT OPERATIONS

Responses
Problem Area Percentage N umber
Lack of experience in financial planning 18 84
Other (attracting business, cash flow, hiring,
and organization) 17 80
Demands of company affecting personal relationships 15 70
Weak collateral position 13 61
Obtaining lines of credit 11 51
Lack of business training 11 51
Lack of guidance and counsel 10 47
Lack of involvement with business colleagues 10 47
Lack of management experience 10 47
Lack of experience in use of outside services 9 42
Legal problems 5 23
Personal problems 4 19

preneurs able to gain the training and zation? Will their businesses survive to
experience necessary to plan for growth? compete at new size and revenue levels?
Will they encounter the same difficulties Some women entrepreneurs may prefer
as male entrepreneurs do in making the to maintain small, easy-to-manage
transition from a "one man show" to the businesses, but what can be done to help
management of a more complex organi- those who choose to expand, or those

36 Journal of Small Business Management


who have not yet begun their business general and specific topics. General
ventures? The responses and comments topics that need to be covered are
of the women themselves indicate a need finance, cash flow management,
for the following changes: marketing, preparation of business
plans and loan applications, and
• Elimination of stereotypes so as
general business organization.
to increase acceptance of women
SpecieJ seminars could address spe-
in the business world.
cific industry topics such as "de-
• More visible role models and men- veloping a business plan for a new
tors for younger women, so that retail store." Women entrepreneurs
they can see how women can be are generally well-educated, and
successful in business and in their desire for such information
various professions. makes it likely that such seminars
would be well-attended.
• Changes in women's own atti-
tudes and goals, including a will- • Women entrepreneurs should avail
ingness to learn finance. themselves of all of the informa-
Some specific changes that need to tion services now avedlable, £ind
be implemented in order for women en- should seek assistance from ex-
trepreneurs to become a more important perts in the field, from colleagues,
and effective element in the business en- and from friends in order to estab-
vironment include: lish both formal and informed net-
works that serve as support sys-
• Women should be encouraged to tems. Experienced mentors could
study in fields other than liberal be drawn from these networks to
arts. Guidance counselors and act as advisors, particularly on
others should point out the value financial matters.
of learning more technical sub-
jects that can be useful when If women are encouraged and en-
starting a business, especially in abled to prepare themselves for running
male-dominated fields such as businesses through formal education
computer science, science, engi- and attendance at strategic seminars,
neering, and, of course, business. and through the formation of support
networks, their chances for success in
• Women need to have access to a the business environment should in-
wide variety of seminars on both crease significantly.

EPA SMALL BUSINESS OMBUDSMAN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now has a Small Business


Ombudsman to make sure your problems and suggestions are heard and
you are fairly treated. The Ombudsman is charged with giving you easier
access to the Agency, helping you comply with EPA's regulations, investi-
gating and resolving your disputes, and increasing the Agency's respon-
siveness and sensitivity to the needs of small business.
Call toll-free: 800-368-5888
(In Washington, D.C.: 382-4538)

January 1984 37

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