Women CEOs Dish: 4 Secrets to Fast Growth

Supercharged growth is all in your mind. Four women explain how changing your mindset can change your growth potential.

If you want to be a winner, watch the moves of big winners. To find winning women entrepreneurs, a good place to start is Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurial Winning Women. These women entrepreneurs had already reached the $1 million revenue mark and had the potential to ratchet that up even further.

Revenues of the participating companies have grown almost 50% each year on average, with a corresponding average annual job growth rate of more than 25%, according Thinking Big: How to Accelerate the Growth of Women-Owned Companies, an independent impact assessment directed by the Babson College Center for Women's Leadership.

Several of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women achieved annual revenue and job growth into the triple digits--which is extraordinary given the tough economic times in which they're operating, 2008 to 2011. No. 1 on the list of success factors is "think big and be bold." Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Just aim high. If you're already at a million, you must be thinking kinda big. The trick is getting into a really big, bold mindset.

We spoke with four female founders and CEOs to learn their best tips for attaining fast growth. And, guess what? They agree with the study's findings: A lot of it is in your head.

Forget about the "job."

A business stays small when the founder fails to take the leap from doing a job to running a business.

"That is the great leap," says Gayle Brandel, CEO of Professionals for Nonprofits. "When you take it, that's when you become an entrepreneur. Otherwise, you have a job you own."

You may start a business so you can be your own boss. That's OK, but it's not the mindset that will make you the CEO of a high-growth company. "I don't have a job. I'm not a recruiter or a sales person. I manage policy," Brandel says. "Those entrepreneurs who want to grow large have to step back, and they have to bring on employees."

Never be content.

If you push only to the edges of your comfort zone and are content with what you have, your growth may be stifled.

"If you have your mind on growth and success, that will flow to your employees and support team," says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, a document filing services company based in Calabasas, California.

"Engaged leaders who think big and are passionate about business growth are far more likely to see growth and success than those who are merely content."

Keep moving the target.

Whenever Dareth Colburn reaches a goal, she sets a higher one. The founder of USABride, which is based in Beverly, Massachusetts, and sells wedding accessories online, used to think that making $1 million was an impossible dream. After all, she'd started with five veils and five tiaras, $30,000 in debt and working out of her apartment. But when the first $1 million came, she moved her target to $3 million, then to $5 million.

Don't be afraid to lose.

"Entrepreneurs who made it really big also lost really big," says Gloria Larkin, president of TargetGov, which helps companies sell to government agencies, and is based in Columbia, Maryland. Women are uncomfortable with losing but unless you're willing to risk it all, you can win it all.

Or, as Woody Allen said, "If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative."

Where's your head at? If it's on micro-managing, being the only one who knows what's going on, complacent about your business, and settled into your comfort zone, then your business probably isn't going anyplace fast.

Geri Stengel, Ventureneer.com, created Guiding Women Entrepreneurs to help women power-up their businesses. It pulls together – in one place – information that will inspire and enlighten. Content is drawn from top-notch sources, from Inc. to Forbes, from Women 2.0 to the Kauffman Foundation.

As a women business owner, Kauffman FastTrac GrowthVenture facilitator, former adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, and past board member of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Business Women Owners, she understands the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face when growing their beyond $1 million.

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