Women leaders eye on business expansions

Updated: 2016-07-02 09:35

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai(China Daily)

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Women leaders eye on business expansions

The Shanghai Spring Fitness Festival gathers trainers from gyms all over the city to participate in exercises with fitness enthusiasts. [ Photo by Gao Erqiang / China Daily]

A spiring female entrepreneurs in China are aiming to grow their businesses through diversification and overseas expansion by leveraging resources from external funding and advisory networks, according to a survey by services firm Ernst & Young (EY).

An overwhelming majority of 90 percent of the 143 respondents said that they plan to scale up their business, with 60 percent planning to grow internationally and 16 percent working toward an IPO. Chinese respondents also indicated that they are open to external financing options and are willing to build a key advisory network.

Experts said these strong, growth-driven ambitions mean that female leaders will help grow many opportunities for professional services providers for consultancy, tax, banking and legal matters.

The results of the survey, which polled 143 female entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region, including 53 from China, demonstrate that female entrepreneurs have broken many stereotypes as they become increasingly represented in a wide range of sectors where leadership roles were conventionally dominated by men.

According to EY's research findings, almost 58 percent of those surveyed have explored external financing options. However, 73 percent admitted they found the process intimidating. About 53 percent of respondents lack a clear exit strategy, something most investors want to understand before providing financing, while more than a quarter have yet to replace themselves in operational roles, spending 40 percent of their time working in, rather than on, the business.

"While many female leaders aspire to grow, I also notice that some of them are intimidated by external financing options which they believe will make them lose control over their entities. However, once a trustworthy financing source or partner is found, it may give an enterprise leader a brand new perspective on enterprise governance and help the enterprise to grow more sustainedly and successfully," says Jerry Zhang, executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank (China) Limited.

Uschi Schreiber, global vice-chair for markets and chair of global accounts committed at EY, says that external aids, including new technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, internet connectivity and virtual reality, will bring uncertainties and ambiguities to all business sectors and female leaders will hence need to break through barriers to learn different perspectives through the diversification of their advisory networks.

"It is advisable that female leaders allocate more time resources to work 'on' the business instead of 'in' the business - that is to say, they need to think and work more strategically and not spend too many resources on details," says Schreiber.

Building a key advisory network has also been shown to yield new opportunities and ways of thinking. About 35 percent of respondents have a network of trusted advisors, while the majority (67 percent) said that establishing one is a priority. For those seeking to expand globally, building a public profile has been shown to accelerate growth.

Jan Becker, CEO of Becker Helicopters Pilot Academy, says having a multi-perspective advisory helped grow her enterprise from a small entity in an old shed on the Sunshine Coast to the largest helicopter flight academy in the southern hemisphere.

"In a flight academy, it takes more than one instructor to teach students how to fly a helicopter. In business, it takes more than one perspective to grow the company. Now we have an advisory committee with members coming from all around the world and they offer opinions that truly help the management in marketing, financing and legal affairs," says Becker.