I run a podcast that is meant to help business owners have a successful exit that keeps their needs, post-exit, in mind. When I met Lisa Schiffman, I was amazed by the type of work she and her business partners are focused on doing for women in business — particularly because this is a male-dominated industry and the stats these ladies are putting out regarding the improvements they’re making across the board are impressive.
Lisa and others at Ernst and Young are running a program called “Winning Women” which offers financial support and backing for female entrepreneurs who wish to grow both financially and professionally with their business, whether that means market research, product innovation or another aspect of the business that they wish to grow.
They did a study on the program for their 10-year anniversary because they wanted to celebrate the successes they’ve had and spread the word about the wonderful work Winning Women is doing in the business world.
The Ripple Effect
We all know the saying about fishing, which is roughly this: gives someone a fish and they eat for one day; teach someone to fish, and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Well, this organization is teaching female entrepreneurs how to fish — and these ladies are reeling in the big fish!
Winning Women recently had a study done of the impact of their business for their 10th anniversary. The results of that study showed that 83% of Winning Women say they benefited from the advice and mentorship of their peers available to them in this program. A common issue in the business world for female entrepreneurs is finding an appropriate role model or mentor; Winning Women has 430 entrepreneurs in 50 countries around the world available to be a mentor. This is a huge well of ability and knowledge that is unmatched anywhere else in the industry.
On top of that, almost every woman in the program (96% of them!) has said that she feels a unique responsibility to support other women. They do this by hiring or advancing women within their business (90%), being a role model (94%), mentoring women outside of the organization (90%) or even opening a new business with other Winning Women in the program (21%). That is remarkable networking and the best pay-it-forward model I have seen in a mentorship program.
Are There Real (Financial) Results?
If the mentorship aspect isn’t compelling enough, stats relating directly to the health and success of the businesses themselves were positively impacted as well. For example, Winning Women increased their headcounts by 166% in the last 10 years and also grew their return on average compound annual growth rate (CCAGR) by 35%.
Transactions done by these women have improved, as well. Looking into this year alone, 53% say they are planning to undertake a strategic transaction (43% of them for the first time!) through alliance (47%), merger (18%), acquisition (16%) or an IPO (5%). For those seeking external financing for these transactions (53%) in the next twelve months, 51% are still thinking about doing traditional bank loans while 16% say angel investors, 11% say venture capitalists and 2% say private equity. Winning Women looks to improve industry knowledge in this financing area for these women so that they can be more competitive in the market and garner greater success.
Direct from their website, here are some other fun stats to know: Individual participants average 20% revenue growth annually; in the second year of participation, however, their companies have been known to grow up to 50%. Winners also report increases in entrepreneurial confidence, growth goals, networks and media visibility, to name a few.
How Can I Become a Winning Woman?
You need to be a female-founded company with 51% ownership being female. You need to have revenue of two million dollars for two years running (in North America). Then you go through an evaluation about accomplishments to date, done by a panel, and then about your prospects and goals for the future. They ask you to prove you are an ongoing concern with lots of opportunity ahead, a solid business model behind you and knowledge of your market as well as how unique your product or idea is for that market.
What Is Involved in Mentorship?
Once you are accepted, Winning Women will train you on all aspects of business. Your mentor and yourself (or you and your mentee) will look over the business as a whole and discuss methods to improve it. Conversations regarding capital and where to find it, improvements on the business model itself, finding other or better ways to improve efficiencies and even start discussions about gradually pulling yourself out of the business by hiring a good operational manager who will allow you to focus more on business expansion rather than the day-to-day operations.
Through mentorship, Winning Women helps you figure out your social and online presence so you can build a strong brand for yourself and establish your industry expertise to make you more of a contender in your market. Mentors have been carefully selected and have a wealth of knowledge to share with you that has been hard-won over the years and improved upon by the multitudes of women who have gainfully used this program to improve their business model.
My own experience with these women was remarkable. I saw a group of women who were dedicated to improving each other, building trust, and trying to give before they took. The feeling of validation these women achieved by being accepted into the Winning Women group was palpable; and that feeling was perpetuated by each woman boosting up the other and building unique networks that accelerated growth for these businesses at a level that was previously unattainable.
If you want to be part of a group of women for women in business, check out EY’s Winning Women group here.