Going through the motions of creating a business plan is an incredible journey. I am a very methodical person by nature as an accountant.  However, I am tapping into my right side of my brain for creative innovation to find a niche in the vast market of small businesses and nonprofits I want to serve. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching the small business environment in Iowa; those around me know this too as I have been spouting statistics and referring to websites dedicated to assist Iowa small businesses.

What I need to keep asking myself is “is there a market for x?” If yes, how do I convince people they need it?  Stories.  It is all about stories.  Well to have a story – I need a client – any assistance there is greatly appreciated (paying clients please). So if I am in seedling mode and not even to startup stage, how to I tell a story? Previous experience…yes, I have that.

Women in particular – including myself – want to value what we pay for, we trust a quality result will be delivered.  Good entrepreneurs do not give away that trust – therefore I have to earn the trust of all the women I want to hire me. What are trustworthy attributes that I need to exhibit?  Reliability?  Yes, that would be a good start.  Responsiveness?  Again yes, I am more likely to do business with someone who even sends me a note saying to contact them on x date and they will have time to review their schedule for that week as they are out-of-town the next two weeks.  Compared to a response I received  several days later from a competitor asking to set up a meeting.  I agreed, but there wasn’t even an instant response to my inquiry. Or a third vendor who responded within 12 hours with two possibilities to meet and I responded with alternates since I would be out of town.  I haven’t heard back.

What other attributes make me as a woman-owner or others as women-owners want to do business with a vendor.  Transparency. I want to know what I am paying for.  Break it out.  Do you have an hourly rate?  I do….break it out.  Break out the cost of personnel vs licensing vs travel expenses, please.  If you have a lump sum – be sure I am going to read the fine print to see what I am getting, but if I have to hire an attorney to read the engagement letter – don’t count on my business. I want to see confidence in what you are selling me, show me YOU trust yourself and trust what it is supposed to do for me. NO DEADFISH HANDSHAKES, EVER, EVER, EVER! You will not get my business.

Finally, Appearance.  Yes I know, don’t judge a book by the cover…but if I am hiring you or you are interested in hiring me, it is a job interview people. Put forth your best. You don’t need a suit.  If I am hiring a marketing firm…I expect a little bit more of a laid back style. I’m in accounting/finance, I do lean towards a professional dress code more or less. BUt, it is summer – so sandals, heck yeah!  Women have a lot of the same requirements as men, we may prioritize differently or scrutinize closer.  We tend to hold less debt as business owners – and not grow as fast – we are in general, conservative beings.  Embrace us…I am on a journey to embrace it myself.