Top lessons from women entrepreneurs

Published: Monday, Aug. 6 2012 10:50 p.m. MDT

There has never been a greater need or time for women to start businesses. We need their abilities, experiences and skills more than ever in the very competitive world of commerce. Today I honor and pay tribute to bright women of all ages who have and will undertake a significant risk to launch a flourishing enterprise. It's been my great privilege to be associated with many talented women business founders, and they deserve my praise and encouragement. All are remarkable women.

As an angel investor and venture capitalist, it is my pleasure to engage with a growing number of strong woman leaders. What I admire most about these tremendous executives is their empathy for employees, vendors and customers. They seem to have a profound ability to understand and feel what's in the hearts and minds of people. As such, they tend to be superb communicators and advisers. In addition, I value their integrity, industry, insight, kind hearts, conviction and superb people skills. They are deep thinkers. They are visionary. They conceive brilliant strategies and can execute them adroitly.

In many ways, they surpass and out hustle their male peers. They intuitively manage resources, processes and priorities extremely well. Lastly, and most importantly, they understand the marketplace and its customers. Perhaps it's an inherent ability, or a learned skill. Whatever the case, I recognize that women are cognizant of nearly any business issue including their thoughts on the needs, feelings, aspirations and desires of consumers.

Recently, I asked a few high achievers to share with me the lessons they have learned as leaders of thriving businesses. Here are their comments.

Amy Rees Anderson is the award-winning CEO of MediConnect Global, a leader in medical record retrieval and management and one of the largest health information exchanges in the country. Here's her advice:

Always do the right thing, no matter what the consequences of doing the right thing will be. At the end of the day, there is nothing more valuable than your integrity, both in life and in business. Success will come and go but integrity is forever. If you always choose to do the right thing, it won't matter what the outcome is because you will be successful as a human being in the areas that matter most. That is true success.

Great leaders believe in their people. They help each person to see the potential that exists and they believe in the ability to achieve amazing things. I have been truly blessed with many great leaders throughout my career. They inspired me to accomplish all I was capable of, even when I didn't feel that confidence on my own.

I believe in the power of a "goal poster." I have had mine from the time I started my first company at the age of 23. When you limit the goals you make visual, you are limiting the possibilities that can come into your life. We should never limit the picture we have in our heads, because God intends us to be a masterpiece!

Cheryl Snapp Conner is the founder of Snapp Conner PR, a highly successful public relations company.

It's critical to have a strategic perspective, always. Interestingly, I've seen research (from Zenger Folkman) that points out that every — 100 percent — top line leader is exceptionally strong in this trait, whether woman or man. Yet there are many tremendous women executives who never attain the top role due to lack of this trait.

The mark of a great leader is that they instill and bring out the best in the team they lead. In times of high pressure, that's an easy thing to forget as leaders revert to the mode of "the CEO will just charge in and fix it." That's a mode of operation that shortchanges both you and your team.

The ability to be quiet and listen is a marvelous attribute. Perhaps the most powerful lesson I've learned is when to not talk, but just listen. Especially when situations get heated, it's valuable to remember it's the person who is not speaking who is generally holding 90 percent of the cards.

Never make a key decision in the heat of emotion. The ability to wait, think and consider options before responding allows you to consider what it is you want to happen and whether what you're about to do is the best way to arrive at that goal. In that light, chewing somebody out or reacting in anger will almost never make a situation better and will generally make the outcome much worse.

I thank each of these women for sharing their lessons. Our business world includes many more like them, and it needs many more. Who are the women entrepreneurs you admire and what are the traits they exemplify? I welcome your thoughts.

This article originally appeared in Alan's Forbes column.

Alan E. Hall is a cofounding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.

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