Lady bosses are making serious moves with nearly 36 percent of businesses now being owned by women, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. These 9.1 million firms owned by females employ nearly 7.9 million people and generate trillions (yes, trillions) of dollars in sales. How badass is that? But as anyone who’s managed anything before—be it a team project, special event or even a lemonade stand—knows, it can be challenging to run the ship, so to speak. That’s why we asked some of the female business owners we admire most how they manage being the boss.
Create a priority list every morning
Starting out the day hammering away at the tasks that are most important is how Ulli Haslacher, founder of Pour Moi skincare, makes sure she gets through her to-do list. “Time management is one the most important aspects of being your own boss,” she says. “You don’t have anyone to help maximize your time—it’s actually the other way around in the sense that everybody wants time from you.” In other words, being disciplined about priorities is key. “Because you are also the final decision maker in the company, you must ensure you have the all the information needed and hire a trusted adviser for each aspect of the business—financially, legally and operationally,” she adds. This helps ensure you are spending your time being the boss, not the micro-manager.
Stay healthy and active
As a long-time student of yoga, it was Kim Anenberg Cavallo’s passion for health (both for the body and mind) that lead her to create lilspace, an app that allows you to disconnect by sending automated responses to anyone trying to reach you while you’re “unwinding.” Staying as physically healthy and emotionally balanced as possible is what continues to help her run a company. “For me, this means waking up early to meditate, focusing on gratitude, and prioritizing exercise,” she says. “I have found that a daily self-care practice is essential to maintaining the right attitude with work.” Also, tools like her whiteboard, Google calendar and Prosperworks all help keep her organized and in “boss mode.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When Brooklyn-based, corporate-branding-professional-turned-baker began experimenting with cookies and sweet treats in her kitchen, Jennifer Taylor-Miller had no idea it would become a full-time business. But once FattyCakesNY was born, there was no stopping its growth. She inevitably chose to bring on a partner to help with the workloads and growing demands of her customers. “I’m slowly figuring out that the key to success in managing your own business is bringing people who are different from you on to the team,” she says. “It can definitely be a struggle, however, this is how you grow both as an individual and as a business. I’m the captain of my own ship, but I’m smart enough to know I can’t do it all on my own.”
Identify your “super-skills”
Figuring out her special skillset and what came most naturally to her is what gave Beate Chelette the courage to launch The Growth Architect, a successful blueprint for other business owners to follow to help grow, build, and scale their own businesses. “My key to managing is to hire many freelance people who have superskills in one defined, niche category,” she says. “That keeps my business safe and doesn’t allow one person to know everything.” Not only does this help protect her from someone else stealing her business (which she fell victim to in the past!), but it also fosters the acts of diversifying and outsourcing.
Don’t be scared of failure
Megan Driscoll, founder of the PR firm EvolveMKD, learned early on in her career that much having to do with business and life was out of her control. Directly before starting EvolveMKD, she was a partner at a boutique agency that didn’t make it off the ground. “That experience really gave me the push I needed to be brave and start my own agency,” she tells us. “To be honest, without that experience, I am not sure I would have had the guts to go for it!” Now, as her own boss, she knows she can’t control most things, so her policy is to do the best at what you can control and let the rest unfold. “Some things you can’t force your way—they have to unfold naturally,” she says. “As the boss, your job is to stay mentally, physically, and energetically healthy, and keep your team and clients happy.”
Never stop learning
To keep up with a constantly changing industry, Ericka Perry, founder of The Stork Bag, a subscription service for pregnant and postpartum women, attends as many conferences as possible and reads about other women in business books. “As cliché as it sounds, in order to become successful at what you do, you have to study the best, whether its people or techniques,” she says. She’s also super disciplined with her time and straddles the work-life balance as best she can. “I’m sure everyone has heard that entrepreneurs don’t have set 9 to 5 schedules—we literally work around the clock, but with a family, it’s not as easy to do that and maintain sanity.”
Believe in yourself
It might sound simple, but self-respect, trust, and faith in oneself are the guiding principles by which Denise Vitola runs her two businesses, marketing agency Vitola Strategies and health coaching business Vitola Well. “I have to believe in myself in order to be successful,” she says. “I wake up daily with thoughts of positivity that I often write down and read out loud. When I say it and believe in it, it happens.” Maintaining this positive mindset, coupled with an undying passion for what she does, is how she manages to run dual businesses at the same time.
Outsource your weaknesses
By nature, Kylie Carlson, founder and CEO of International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning, is motivated, so she’s never found it hard to whittle down her daily to-do list task by task. But one area of business she claims to be lacking is in number crunching of any kind. “I hate selling—numbers send me crazy and admin just makes me want to run and hide.” One of the best things she did for her business was to hire a team of people capable of handling the areas where she felt she needed help. “My team can do certain things so much better than me and in a fraction of the time,” she says. “This frees me up to do what I’m good at: ruling my empire!”
Never boss people around
Founder of Ta-Ta Towels, the towel solution for boob sweat, Erin Robertson spent 13 years as a personal assistant before tossing in the towel (had to) to start her own business. One key lesson she learned after taking orders from people in thankless jobs most of her adult life is to never “boss” people around. “I see my team as an extension of me and do everything in my power to not take them for granted,” she says. “I’m passionate about what I’m doing for a living, which is something I have always wanted, but never thought I would be able to do, so I don’t take that for granted either.”
Always remember “why”
Running your own company comes with its own bag of stress and emotions, but this is especially true for those managing a nonprofit that raises awareness and funds for pediatric cancer. Brittany Hebert, CEO and founder of Sky High for Kids, contributes her success to building the right relationships and possessing the passion and determination to not take “no” for an answer, as often as she may hear it. “At the end of the day, children fighting cancer are depending on me to lead our team and conquer our fundraising goals and although the management portion can be challenging and quite stressful, I cannot give up on our mission,” she says. “I use our mission and passion to manage being my own boss, but I am also held accountable by our Board of Directors so there are healthy checks and balances.”
Know that it’s not easy
Founder of Entrepreneur Moms Club, Karla Campos, built her entire business around her life as a mother and business woman. Much like motherhood, business was no walk in the park. She says it’s a constant struggle to balance the day-to-day of work and home life. “There is a loneliness and lack of understanding that comes with the territory. Your business becomes your baby and you are the person who is going to be disappointed if you don’t achieve something,” she explains. “You are responsible for everything and care the most, so it’s hard not to get emotional.” This, she says, is the challenge, but what helps keep her on track is hiring a great team. “There is nothing like a co-worker who reminds you about things you are supposed to be doing while hundreds of people are fighting for your attention!”
Surround yourself with a support system
Irish-born founder of the apparel company Wildfang, Emma McIlroy says that having a solid support network around her, who can help pick her up when she falls or give her a hug after a hard day, is what enables her to run her own business. “I try to ensure I have an amazing team around me. They are each awesome at what they do, so I just try to keep them motivated and stay out of their way unless they need me.” She also leans on mentors a ton. “I am doing so many things for the first time, so I try to lean on people with much more experience than I have and bounce tough questions off them,” she says. “I’m so lucky to have a great group of people who want to help coach and mentor me.”
Remember to care for yourself
“Self-care is incredibly crucial because when you are your own boss you don’t have someone monitoring you, telling you to slow down, eat, relax, nap… you have to care for you the way that you are caring for your business,” says Vanessa Santos, co-founder and CEO of Modern Diversity Records and founder and chief blogger of La Vida Glamour. “Sometimes you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day and you need to get it all done at that moment. That’s when you need to have a pep talk with yourself and ask, will this person actually read my email at 3am?”
Plan the big projects first
Marianne Szymanski, founder and president of Toy Tips Inc, understands the stress constraints that come with being on a time crunch very well, which is why she never starts her day with the little stuff. “You’ll never get your biggest project done that way. I break my day up in chunks. If I need a break, then I tackle one of the little tasks on my list. Maybe it is a quick social post, writing a thank you note or mailing an invoice. But all those kinds of projects I usually plan to end my day, not start it.”
Always remain flexible
For Dasha Minina, CEO & Founder of Maxus Nails, the key to being successful is being fluid. “Having a flexible schedule and being able to work out of my bed in my PJs is amazing, but work is always on your mind,” she says. The valuable lesson that she holds dear when it comes to running her own business is not to dwell on setbacks and never to guilt herself if she’s feeling like she’s not being devoted enough to work. “I always joke that being an entrepreneur is like being a masochist. On some level, you have to enjoy the pain and suffering to keep going.”