Survive or Dive: Facing the Challenging Market
By Karen Dry and Linda Hebert
The first in a series about the tough choices business owners may have to make to survive the housing downturn. The article is an excerpt from Building Women magazine and addresses current market issues and offers real solutions to hard questions.
The Women’s Council is taking the taboo out of talking about the large, pink elephant that stands in the center of all the industry turmoil. That elephant of course is that many of us may not make it through this downturn.
Perhaps the scariest thing in this downturn is not what it does to you personally, but the ripple effect it has on those in your life.
When you own your business, you not only feel responsible for your own family, but the families of your employees, customers, vendors and subcontractors as well. You can deal with cutting back when it comes to your own needs, but not being able to provide for those who have been supportive to you can be heart-wrenching.
In the United States, 73% of women who own their own businesses founded them on their own ― as opposed to buying or inheriting them ― compared to 59% of men. Still, when we think of women-owned businesses, we often envision small, mostly sole, home-based proprietorships.
However, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR), 3% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more, compared with 6% of men-owned firms. In the building industry, while the number of sole, women-owned businesses is below the national average, these businesses make up about 18% of the NAHB registered member companies, reporting sales on average of $2.5 million every year. That’s not exactly small business, is it?
Whether a business is women-owned, small or home-based — the reality is that it faces a building industry in a cyclical decline with a challenging future. That's why many women in the building industry are now confronting significant obstacles to their financial well-being — both personally and professionally.
As with every challenge, today’s market brings opportunity as well. The economic clout that women have — and the depth of knowledge they bring to clients and cohorts — are vital to the building industry. This simple fact is important because it means any woman in the building industry can survive, re-tool and gracefully weather this industry downturn.
The best offense is to take advantage of available resources, and CWBR reports that women business owners are on the right track, as women owners of firms with $1 million or more in revenue are more likely to belong to formal business organizations, associations or networks like NAHB and the Women’s Council than other women business owners — 81% to 61%.
The key is creating relationships with people in all types of industry. Jobs come and go; relationships do not. Look for employees who bring more to the table. No company will let go of a team member who is bringing in substantial contacts or revenue stream. Job security is directly proportional to the people who you know and know you.
A healthy dose of mind over matter also helps.
Tom Reilly, author of “How to Sell and Manage in Tough Times and Tough Markets” said, “You can thrive, but it doesn’t happen by accident. It starts with attitude, since attitude drives behavior, and we become what we believe. You must get yourself in the right frame of mind.”
Michelle Roberts, founder and CEO of Chatham Hill Residential Design and Build, LLC and Ecohealth Homes of Boston, said she has had many doors open despite the market outlook. Face-to-face networking, she said, is critical to building and maintaining a business.
“I believe if everyone was busy, and making money, people would not be looking at my company or its business model,” said Roberts. “I think my advantage is that I am a woman-owned company, I am well versed in safe and healthy housing and my professional background is in sales and marketing.”
According to Reilly, 70% of companies will survive today's tough times, 25% of businesses will fail and 5% will actually grow and thrive during this period.
To ensure that your company lands in the first category, you must go back to business management basics.
You need to do your research — and these slower times are the perfect excuse to find some quiet time and reflect on your realities.
NAHB Women’s Council Vice Chair Karen Dry is president of Garrett Interiors, Inc., an interior design company based in Westlake Village, Calif. specializing in model home merchandising along with residential, commercial and hospitality interior design. For more information, e-mail Dry, or call her at 818-991-3487.
Linda Hebert is the chair of the Women’s Council communications subcommittee and president of Diversified Marketing & Communications, of Pleasanton, Calif. For more information, e-mail Hebert, or call her at 925-577-5300.
Next: The authors explore the basics — five key questions to consider when evaluating how your business fits into the market.