As 2009 begins Women-Business Owners are making plans to keep their businesses alive, and hopefully even grow them, during a precarious economic time.

Janet W Christy, author of Capitalizing on Being Woman Owned: Expert Advice for Women Who Have or Are Starting Their Own Business, offers her third annual version of the Top Ten Resolutions for Women Business Owners.

1)Watch government announcements very closely  New for 2009  The government announcements about stimulus packages, incentives and other money related actions can provide information about where they will spend their money and may include clues about if and how Woman Owned Businesses can be involved.

2)Determine if Subcontracting is a good option for my business.  Up from #6.  Many WBEs (Womens Business Enterprises) are missing revenue because they do not pursue opportunities to be a sub-contractor.  Very often government and large business contracts require that the Prime Contractor use Woman/Minority Owned Businesses (W/MBEs) as subcontractors.  The Prime Contractors have trouble finding qualified subcontractors. 

3)Look for outsourcing opportunities.  New for 2009  As businesses and government agencies reduce staff and struggle to maintain services and functions they may outsource functions.  You could be their outsource.  For additional information on outsourcing read my article at http://www.leverageanddevelopment.com/Outsourcing.html

4)Stop looking for grants and no-strings attached money.  Still high on the list. According to the SBA (Small Business Administration) and many other small business organizations, grants are typically used to fund centers or projects for the development of women owned businesses and not for supporting businesses just because they are owned by a female.  Time spent looking for grants would be better spent identifying and qualifying prospects.  “I get calls all the time from people who want to believe that there is free money available,” says Christy.  “But that’s not the case.  There are loans, but not grants.”

5)Take the time to actually identify and qualify your prospects.  Revised from 2008. In tough economic and slow revenue times it is scary to spend time and money on marketing.  But the best antidote for fear and depression is action.  Use this time to identify potential customers/clients and conduct research to actually make sure they qualify as prospects for your business.  If you do this you will not only feel more in control of your business future, you will have a bonafide list of people to market to.

6)Do the Certification paperwork!  Up from #7. Because the opportunities for Woman-Owned Businesses is increasing there are more and more “pretenders” trying to take advantage of the situation.  Because of this most Government Agencies, Education Institutions and Prime Contractors are requiring that WBEs be certified to qualify for opportunities.  There is not usually a reason to be certified if your customers/clients are individuals.  However, if you are trying to sell to government, schools or corporations then a certification has become more of a necessity than a differentiator.

7)Consider new direction or re-packaging of your business.  New for 2009.  The economic sands are shifting and that may mean you need to shift your direction or the way you package/market your business.  I was told in a personalities class I once attended that everyone has an alternate personality – the one that shows itself when you are under stress or backed in a corner.  Many businesses and government agencies have been backed into a corner, or at least stressed, by the economic situation.  That means they are operating in their alternate personality.  You must, therefore, meet their altered or new needs.  Always remember that you are not selling your products or services, you are meeting the needs or solving the problems of your clients/customers.

8)Make your networking pay off.  Retained from 2008. If your networking activities have not paid off or you have limited amount of time for networking then be sure you network with identified, qualified prospects.  Attend the luncheons, meetings, and conferences that your prospects attend.  Do not restrict your networking to groups of other businesswomen or your profession.  Participating in the organizations and meetings that your prospects participate in provides the best (maybe only) access to the people who actually use your products/services.  Also, take advantage of the Groups on the social networking sites, this is the next best thing to being in a meeting with your prospects.

9)Find partners.  Retained from 2007 & 2008 lists because women rarely  use this strategic practice. Government agencies, education institutions and commercial businesses do not always separate projects or purchases into small enough parts for most Woman Owned Businesses to participate.  This is done to save money.  The economic situation will probably increase this trend.  Partnering can provide a solution for this obstacle and will likely save you money and time. 

10)Take advantage of the trend, wisely.  Retained from 2008. The focus on the use of Woman Owned Businesses continues to grow, but its notoriety causes businesses that are not truly Woman Owned to pretend that they are.  It also brings out people who want to separate you from your money by offering “fail-proof” means of getting government and corporate contracts.  Use your advantage, but be careful of those who promise you grants, qualified bid opportunities and magic formulas.  Remember, if it sounds to good to be true – it is.

More detailed information and guidance is provided by Janet W. Christy in her book Capitalizing on Being Woman Owned: Expert Advice for Women Who Have or Are Starting Their Own Business which is available at amazon.com.

Janet W. Christy is the founder and President of Leverage & Development, LLC, a consulting firm that helps Woman and Minority owned businesses use their status to their advantage. Her services include marketing research and planning, certification assistance, sales guidance, and assistance in government bidding. She is based in Greer, South Carolina.  The firm also provides research, project development, program evaluation and other services to government, education and non-profit entities.