Small business: Women entrepreneurs - Sandy Burgham

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Executive coach Sandy Burgham. Photo / Supplied
Executive coach Sandy Burgham. Photo / Supplied

Executive coach Sandy Burgham, Sandy Burgham & Associates talks to Gill South about women entrepreneurs.

She spoke at last week's Co.OfWomen summit in Auckland, a group designed for women who work for themselves or have some level of entrepreneurial spirit. Burgham has been marketing director of Max Fashions, a board member of Barkers Menswear Company, and founding director of The Providence Report.

What drives NZ women to succeed and create their own businesses?

My observation first up is that it is the same things that drive men to do it: wanting the autonomy and being master of their own destiny, and in a country like NZ, there is capacity to do this. I am an optimist. Sir Ray Avery in his book The Power of Us talks about the New Zealanders daring to dream. Nothing is stopping us, we go for it.

However for women there is another dynamic. The truth is that their circumstances at home might make working for themselves more attractive. So many corporates have simply no idea how to retain top female talent coming through the pipeline. A lot of planets have to align for women to make it all work. Not only in their personal lives but also at work. Companies don't really understand their drivers, and the issues that affect them.

Sure, women themselves get in their own way by often not backing their abilities in the workplace however they are also often happy NOT progressing right through to the top, they value other things.

I also want to point out that women (and maybe men too) don't often start out to "be an entrepreneur". They simply start a business, it gets successful and soon they are dubbed an entrepreneur. Once they do one business, they have the confidence and expansiveness of thinking to do another.

Why do we hear about the same handful of female entrepreneurs in the press? Probably because profile raising/ being famous is not the key driver for women. Often it is about 'making a difference' which is a far more compelling driver. So many cannot see the benefit of raising their own profile, preferring to raise that of the company's. When your name is above the door - for example fashion labels or even (fund manager) Carmel Fisher, then raising your profile helps the business. It's logical really.

What did you talk about at the Co.OfWomen summit?

I talked about personal branding and really understanding who you are, and being able to articulate this. Having been a brand strategist in the commercial world, the process is relatively similar. Trying to get to the truth of the person and how this resonates with others. It is all about the questions you ask yourself.

I talked about the journey (sounds twee but we are all on one) and our reinvention/encore careers and the world of open brands we live in. There's no point trying to hide, people will find you! So to be clear about who you are and what you stand for is important. I think we live in exciting times as not only are we not wanting to be just defined by our jobs but we have the opportunity to be a little entrepreneurial on the side and do a number of things.

If you read Marci Alboher's "One Person Multiple Careers?" it's not just about transitioning from one thing to another. I am on to my fourth 'career" having been in advertising, social insights research, retail and now executive coaching but also being able to do something slash something else. I like saying that I am an executive coach/brand strategist/speaker/writer. Because I can. It's the next step after multi-tasking and I think women are particularly good at it!

Everyone thinks they can design a boardgame. There are some actually doing it and achieving some success here and overseas.
Tell us your stories - email me, Gill South here.

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