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Women have an edgeWomen are generating small...


Women have an edge

Women are generating small businesses at twice the rate of men and hold a competitive edge over their male counterparts in the battle for overseas markets, business experts agree.

"Women have been very successful in focusing on marketing and on developing the style of their products and services; that's a very powerful adjunct for exporting," said Thomas Gray, chief economist for the Small Business Administration.

While male and female owners of small companies are heading for outside markets at about the same rate, women are bound to benefit from a greater sensitivity for other cultures, the experts say.

"Unlike men, who go into a market and say, 'I'm the best -- you change to suit my products,' a woman will compromise," said Lindsey Johnson, director of the SBA's Office of Women Business Ownership. "She has the ability to look at the joint progress between herself and the foreign firm."

Gillian Rudd, president of Rudd Co., an international consulting company and chairwoman of the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, said: "They're better listeners and are more attuned to the soft sell. In most cultures, that works better than: 'Here's what I have, and do you want to buy it.' "

The SBA estimates that women own more than 20 percent of the 20 million small businesses operating in the United States.

Working with disabled

With the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, employees will be working more frequently and substantively with people who have disabilities.

If you are unaccustomed to working with individuals whose mobility, sight, speech or hearing is impaired, here are a few tips.

* In working with people who are blind or visually impaired, "Identify yourself, for we cannot see who you are, and we may not recognize your voice," said Frank Coppel, the ombudsman with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.

Give specific directions. " 'The box is right over there,' is not very helpful to us," Mr. Coppel said.

Offer to help visually impaired people negotiate a passage, but wait for their acceptance. If they accept, offer your elbow for them to follow. Don't take the disabled person's elbow and push ahead.

Many visually impaired people use guide dogs. They are work dogs and it is better not to pet them.

* Seat hearing-impaired people where they have the best chance of hearing. See that they are seated away from background noise. Speak slowly and distinctly.

* For people with mobility problems, offer to help. Smile, don't stare. Shake hands with either hand. Look into their eyes, not at their wheelchair or artificial limb.

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