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The pros of running your business like a girl

How to turn your unique strengths as a woman into successful business strategies.
Businesswoman Writing in Notepad
Women tend to use three unique strengths more than their male counterparts: trusting their intuition, focusing on relationships, and putting more emphasis on life balance.Simon Taplin / Corbis
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"You throw like a girl."

How many times have you heard something like this? Accusing a person of doing something "like a girl" has become so common that even women are guilty of saying it -- despite the negative connotations it holds toward females.

In her new book, How to Run Your Business Like a Girl, Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin turns the idea of doing something "like a girl" on its head by exploring common female traits and how women entrepreneurs--and all entrepreneurs--can use them to their advantage when running a business.

In her interviews with women business owners she found that women tend to use three unique strengths more than their male counterparts: trusting their intuition, focusing on relationships, and putting more emphasis on life balance.

"The irony of those [traits] is if you're running a business based on those sorts of priorities, then you make decisions that look like really soft business--because you're basing [your decisions on] your gut or something that just feels right. But when you look more closely at all of the women in the book doing things, they turn out to be very smart business [decisions]."

So how can you use these three unique strengths to your advantage? Baskin explains:

Trust your gut
Women are much more likely to make a decision based on a gut feeling, Baskin says. They'll often pull the facts and figures necessary to back up that feeling, but they generally know what they want to do based on intuition. The main area you can use this to your advantage is the hiring process.

"Women pick up on a lot of cues that men might miss, which are more subtle cues. A lot of times somebody will look great on their resume but when they're in your office, you just don't feel like they're the right fit."

Baskin urges women to trust this gut reaction in the hiring process. "There's so much that goes into picking the right person for your team--it's not just a black-and-white resume question. It's also a question of how that person will work with other people and how that person will fit with your clients, the tone of your company, and what you want to project."

Build strong relationships
Men tend to play a friendly one-upmanship game and are much more interested in showing their dominance in and out of the business arena. "Women," she says, "are much more interested in establishing a connection."

So what does that mean? In business, that means women are less interested in proving they're the big tough boss, and more interested in establishing nurturing relationships with their employees, clients and vendors. This is a strong trait to have when building a business, Baskin says, because not only will you develop loyal employees, you'll also make connections with people through your clients and vendors who'll later refer you business.

"On the other hand," Baskin says, "a lot of us grow up as little girls being taught to be nice, and we want everybody to like us. And the fact is, being the boss and always being the most popular just don't go hand in hand."

Baskin advises women entrepreneurs to not be afraid to be the boss--you can be a strong leader without being labeled as "bitchy."

"One way to approach it is to lead with both strength and humility--and I think it comes naturally to women to apologize when you screw up or come down too hard on somebody. All of these things lead back to running a business in a more human way."

You can find a balance between work and life
"A lot of the women I interviewed for this book cited life balance--or quality of life--as their reason for starting a business," Baskin says, pointing to their desire to find a way to juggle family and work.

If having more time for your family is important to you, find a way to work that into your day. "It's not so much how much work you do, but being able to decide when you'll do it," she says.

Baskin cites several business owners she knows: "There's a huge number of parents who are doing this kind of post-bedtime shift; they'll be out of pocket for the afternoon while they're taking the kids to stuff, and then you'll see all these e-mails that come in at midnight and 2 a.m. because they're working late to get stuff done."

Baskin warns though not to buy into the 27/7 hype. "There's no reason you can't build a really strong business working 40 hours a week or less and have life balance. If life balance is important to you, you can build it into your business."

And on a final note, Baskin offers one more piece of advice to women in the early stages of their business:

You don't have to know everything
People tend to look at other successful business owners and assume they have it together and that they've always known what they're doing. That's just not true, Baskin says. "It's amazing how many women say they didn't know anything when they started their business."

Don't be afraid to ask for help--you don't have to be perfect at everything.

"Don't think you have to do it all by yourself. The fun part of being an entrepreneur is you get to run the business by yourself, but that doesn't mean you can't have a huge group to support you. People love to help startups, and you'll only be a startup for so long," she says. "Call people you think won't give you the time of day--heroes in your industry or people who've done things that are meaningful or impressive to you--and ask for help. People like to be the expert and mentor other people."