Everyone has those days. You’re running late to the office. Your phone is out of power and when you finally make it in, your computer refuses to load. It’s only 9:30 in the morning…eight more hours to go. For some entrepreneurs, when getting a new venture up and running, there are often more bad days than good ones.
But, in my 20 years of owning small businesses, I’ve found that the difference between success and failure can be boiled down to how small business owners respond in times of stress. Do they dust themselves off and march forward or do they accept defeat without fighting back? Do they learn from their mistakes or do they wallow in them?
It’s not easy to choose the former over the latter. But in the past when I’ve been in the middle of ‘one of those days’, I’ve found strength in the female entrepreneurs that came before me. Here are a few female role models I admire that have gone from zero to sixty.
Oprah Winfrey: Believe in yourself
Born into poverty in rural Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey had to rely on herself from an early age. Moving back-and-forth between her grandmother, mother and father throughout her childhood, Winfrey never had a stable upbringing. But this rough start didn’t stop her from shattering glass ceilings and reaching new heights.
Small Business owners can learn a lot from the “queen of all media”. Through hard work, determination and belief in herself, Winfrey overcame life’s obstacles to become a top-rated daytime talk show host, broadway producer, author and magazine editor. Winfrey should be an example to all small business owners that only you know your true potential and that you can do anything you put your mind to, no matter the hand life has dealt. After all, per Oprah, “The only courage you ever need is the courage to fulfill the dreams of your own life”.
Barbara Corcoran: Hard work pays off
Barbara Corcoran, best known as a “Shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank, epitomizes the saying that hard work pays off. A one-time waitress who borrowed $1,000 to start her own company, Corcoran did whatever was necessary to grow her business. To attract press attention in the early years, she launched The Corcoran Report, a biannual examination of New York City real estate statistics and trends. Per Corcoran, “Reporters depend on statics for stories. I figured if I could dole them out, I’d always get quoted.” The result of such efforts? A smash TV show and a real estate empire.
The most valuable lesson small business owners can learn from Corcoran’s story: work for what you want; others won’t do it for you. Whether that means wearing multiple hats or filling various roles in your business when required—from CFO to HR manager and sales clerk—the blood, sweat and tears that comes from hard work is what makes your business dream a successful reality.
Angelina Jolie: Purpose drives passion
For more than a decade, Angelina Jolie has lent her name and voice to the plight of refugees from around the world. But before becoming a celebrated humanitarian who has logged countless hours representing the rights of refugees, Jolie was best known for her Hollywood films.
Jolie certainly exemplifies what it means to stand up for the underprivileged. But for small business owners, there is another lesson to be learned: find your purpose. For Jolie, that meant pursuing a cause she deeply cared about, as underscored by her adoption of three children from underdeveloped countries. The same goes for small business owners. Without purpose, it is hard to maintain passion. If you lose sight of what excites you, your business and customers will feel it. It’s okay to pivot and adjust, or even transform, if it means maintaining that spark. Not having one could be the difference between small business success and failure.
J.K. Rowling: Build from the ground up
Author of the world’s most famous children’s book series, J.K. Rowling first had her inspiration for Harry Potter while on a train. But in the years between her initial idea and her first book, life wasn’t always easy. During this time, Rowling was a single mother and living on welfare.
Fast forward more than a decade and Rowling is a beloved author. She’s sold hundreds of millions of books, parlayed her manuscripts into movie scripts and was even awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth. Rowling’s story demonstrates that success is predicted on a single good idea, not on who or what you know. You don’t need anything or anyone else to get ahead. Even if others have a lack of faith at the start–Rowling was rejected by twelve publishing houses when she first pitched the idea–stay strong in your beliefs. Your ideas have the power to change the world.
Learn from those around you
Fifty seven percent of women participate in the labor force. That’s millions of good ideas and lessons learned that small business owners can leverage. Whether it be the power of passion or understanding all you need is your own two feet to succeed, learn from those that have blazed the trail before you. As the saying goes, we have to learn from the past in order to power our future.
Amy will be hosting a Women in Business Breakfast at this year’s Xerocon. Join Amy and other like-minded professionals in San Francisco to discuss the challenges professional women face in 2016. Secure your spot today.
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