Every time I see a successful female entrepreneur, I cheer. I’m thrilled by her success in doing business her way. But I’m also appalled, wondering: which company was it that lost this one? Many of this 2005 Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs could have done for their corporations what, in the end, they’ve done for themselves. Their employers could have had all that energy, insight, intel-ligence, drive and capability – if they’d known how to spot it, nurture it and reward it.
Karen Sandford, who built 4Com into a £8.9m business, walked out the door to do for herself pretty much what her former employer did. Holly Bellingham opened up an insurance market when she realised that her generalist firm would never give her the autonomy and freedom to do so. Both could have grown vast businesses inside their firms if, instead of seeing a future of pregnancies and school plays, their managers had seen ambition and talent.
Recruitment entrepreneur Penny Streeter’s business success could be attributed almost entirely to her ability to see problems from her customers’ point of view. “If nursing homes need extra staff, they need it now – not when the weekend is over. Most companies in my field, if you called them, your call would get diverted to some one making dinner and then they’d say “no’. So I knew that giving full service to our customers meant being 100 per cent responsive twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”
Click here to read Margaret Heffernan’s powerful case for why women make such strong entrepreneurs.
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