Here are three really good pieces of news for business bankers. One, more and more women are starting or are involved in running small businesses. Two, they are actively looking for financial guidance on how to grow their businesses. And three, if they have their personal account with your bank, you have a better chance of getting their business accounts as well.
There’s a huge opportunity here. Women are starting companies at a record pace. According to a recent study by American Express, between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. rose by 68 percent, twice the growth rate for men. Women are starting an estimated 1,288 companies each day. You can see the data here.
So how can banks win the business of this rapidly growing group? The key to winning with women business owners is to understand the differences between male and female business owners, know where the opportunities lie and know when and how to talk to them about their credit/financing options.
What are the differences between men and women business owners?
There are far more similarities than differences in male and female business owners. But there are some differences, in general, in how they grow their businesses.
One of the top differences is how men and women think about financing. Men tend to look at financing as a necessary investment. Women can look at financing as an unnecessary expense, especially early on. Men are focused on growing their business as quickly as possible. Women also want to grow their businesses. But they often focus on growing their business more organically, focusing on getting it right over growing it too fast. This may be a result of traditional differences in how men and women manage financial risk.
More differences surfaced when Bank of the West conducted an online survey in 2014 which you can read here. The survey found that women did more due diligence, asked for more professional advice and were more prepared than male business owners. Yet male business owners were better funded. That data is available here.
We’ll explore why that is shortly.
Mixing business and personal
The really good news about women business owners is that if they have their personal account with you, there’s a high likelihood they would like to have their business accounts with you as well. A MasterCard study found that 80% of women prefer to have most or all of their accounts at one bank. You can read more here.
Men can be more compartmentalized in their thinking. “I have my personal accounts here, and my business accounts over there.” Women may prefer the convenience of having all their accounts with one bank, and with one point person who understands their whole financial situation.
Another opportunity is to identify women who are running their business out of their personal accounts. If she starts her business on the side, she may not set up a separate business account. An immediate win is to share the benefits of opening a separate business checking account as well as separate business credit and debit cards. What a difference that makes at tax time!
Business credit opportunities
Talking to women business owners about credit opportunities is key. As reported earlier, women owned businesses may not be as well funded as other businesses.
Linda Gonzalez is the Chapter Chair of South Florida’s Women Presidents Organization. She has some thoughts on why women businesses aren’t better funded. “Women business owners tend to use self- financing and family financing. It slows down the growth of their business. But reaching out for financing can be intimidating. Women want to understand the process and do some prep work. It’s important for bankers to build a relationship before you sit down and say, ‘Let’s talk about a loan.’”
Are you having conversations with your business owner clients about their credit opportunities? What are their opportunities? What do they need to qualify? When is the right and wrong time to reach out for a loan? These are conversations women business owners would like to have.
Mary McCarthy, President of the Women’s Small Business Accelerator in Westerville, Ohio says, “Women need to think about and plan for their future growth and how they are going to fund it. Even if they’re not ready at the moment, they need to start the conversation with their bank. Then their banker can be a partner and look at her credit, business and personal debt and make sure she has everything in line so when she does apply she’s more likely to qualify.”
All of this spells a big opportunity for banks to talk to women business owners about credit, whether it’s opening up a business credit card account or applying for a loan.
Women are starting businesses at a record pace. They are doing their due diligence. And yet there is still a concern that they will not qualify for credit. So be their trusted resource.
Ask your female customers if they are running or helping to run a business. Reach out to local women business groups. Ask them what questions they have about the right and wrong time to reach out for credit. Then be their trusted resource, providing answers and helping them grow their businesses. That’s something every business owner is interested in.
Holly Buchanan is the author of Selling Financial Services to Women – What Men Need to Know and Even Women Will Be Surprised to Learn. She is the co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth.