When it comes to women-owned businesses, there’s good news and bad news. Nearly half of all new businesses in the U.S. are launched by women, according to Ernst & Young, yet those started by men are three-and-a-half times more likely to reach $1 million in annual revenue.

According to Kerrie MacPherson, senior partner at accounting firm Ernst & Young, too many women entrepreneurs self-fund their ventures, which can be both costly and constraining. MacPherson notes there are numerous investors out there to help finance a business, but that entrepreneurs have to be in the game in order to have the opportunity to tap them.     

At last month’s Annual EY Strategic Growth Forum and Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program (EWW), top women entrepreneurs from all over North America gathered for an award ceremony to share success stories, lend support and encourage each other to keep driving.

The conference also allows these entrepreneurs the opportunity to talk candidly with each other and discuss what it’s like being an entrepreneur and executive navigating a challenging economy.

To find out more about what drives these successful women, I sat down with three of this year’s award recipients to talk about the role of values, authenticity, and integrity in their success.   Here’s what they had to say:

Values: Values are the core guiding principles you rely on to make decisions, particularly in times of uncertainty. Essentially, they act as your compass and ultimately become the foundation of your organization. Denise Wilson, founder and CEO of Desert Jet is a firm believer in having that personal compass to guide you through the uncertain conditions of the entrepreneurial life. 

“Well, you know, I had a decision early on in the company about what the company was going to be about. And, it’s really not about the profits, it’s about what your life is going to be like. To me, I really want to enjoy walking down the halls of my company and looking at my employees and seeing that everyone is enjoying being there and having a good time. I want to see my clients be happy and really that’s what it’s about. I want to have a happy life, I want to enjoy my job and my work, and that’s really the big determining factor, do we live our values?”    

Authenticity: Being authentic in who you are and how you represent yourself is such an important component to the success of these women entrepreneurs. In my conversation with Raegan Moya-Jones, founder and CEO of aden +anais, she articulated the power of being true to yourself and how that has driven her decisions as an entrepreneur and executive.

“It’s truly just about authenticity. If it doesn’t make sense to me as a mother I’m not going to put it under the brand. There are plenty of products I could add to the aden +anais range at this point and because we’re aden + anais I could sell millions of dollars of them, but I won’t do it because that’s not authentic, that doesn’t make sense to me as mom. I think it’s staying true to the very core of your business and your initial beliefs and values that keeps us doing what we do well.”

Integrity: Phyllis Newhouse, founder and CEO of Xtreme Solutions, talked about how her upbringing and 22 years of military service have influenced her value for integrity as a leader. 

I come from a family of 11 and I always say the first CEO I was ever introduced to was my mother. When you have a family of 11 children and you’re learning how to balance and do conflict resolution between 11 children, really one of the core values I learned as a child was integrity. Integrity in everything that you do. Integrity for yourself and others. When I went into the military [I learned] a leader must have integrity and exemplify integrity. And that’s the same principle I use in business today. Integrity, always operate with integrity… When they see the transparency in leaders with integrity then most often you are going to get people moving in that direction of integrity.    

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.