Small business tip: get a sponsor

8:29 AM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) --  October is National Women's Small Business month.  Throughout the rest of the month we're focusing on women who have started their own thriving small businesses. These successful women are also going to share some of the secrets of their success.

Jessica Doyle sat down for a conversation with an author, economist and entrepreneur with a lesson for us all.

If you have talent and experience, but your new business or your career has been stalling out, know you are not alone. Research shows you may be missing one key tool for getting ahead: a sponsor.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of "(Forget A Mentor) Find a Sponsor" and the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, explained that a sponsor "is someone who is powerful, who has some chips, and what this person does, very different from a mentor, is first off, they believe in you, in the value of your idea or what you bring to the table."

"Secondly, they are really willing to advocate for you to publicly say, that is the woman who needs the funding or the woman who will get the job. They allow you to take some risks. They're in your corner, they have your back. "

"In our data, it's shown that it is often said that women are risk adverse. Well, not true. They are simply not suicidal. Unless you have a champion, that sponsor person, if you take a big risk, you will actually fall flat on your face and women don't tend to do that."

How do you go out and find the right sponsor for you?

"There are three things that win it. First off, performance. Secondly, trustworthiness. You have to show you are worth taking a bet on, that you're reliable, that you are loyal to the company, to the team, to the person. Finally, what is your currency? What do you bring to the table that is very special?" said Sylvia.

How did Sylvia go out and find sponsorship that got her business moving forward at critical periods of time? 

"It was a start up ten years ago. They need folks to put seed money in right? So I dusted off what was then my Rolodex and I called in some favors. And I went out in the world and said how can I deliver value for you, that will allow you to contribute to my new venture? You are delivering value, perhaps to folks you have known for awhile. How do you get on their radar? Well, you give before you get. I think that this is really the cardinal rule here," said Sylvia.

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