As CEO of legendary ad agency N.W. Ayer in New York, Mary Lou Quinlan had it all. “A huge office, a fantastic view, my own bathroom, hundreds of people reporting to me, galas left and right. I succeeded on anybody’s ranking of success in advertising,” she told me. She’s a cheerful redhead with a warm laugh and boundless energy. Maybe you’ve seen her as a judge on the reality show American Inventor or as a regular contributor on the CBS program The Early Show, or perhaps you’ve read her books on marketing and the workplace, including Just Ask a Woman and Time Off for Good Behavior.
But even this amazingly successful woman felt the traditional corporate world wasn’t working for her somehow. She didn’t have enough time with her husband and she spent more time at her office than in her Manhattan apartment. “Between your own fear of failure and the way your boundaries get narrower,” she says, “you can narrow yourself into this version of you that has nothing to do with who you really are.”
Quinlan had achieved so much, but she hadn’t created a life that let her truly be herself and shape her world in her own, unique way. In the three stages of financial awareness model [survival, independence, influence], I’d say she had reached independence but hadn’t reached economic influence — the ability to use her financial resources to make her mark on the world.
In 1998, she stepped away from the pinnacle of corporate success to start her own company, called Just Ask a Woman, a five-person firm focused on marketing to women. Since then, she has written books, magazine articles and columns, and has appeared often on television. Today, still running Just Ask a Woman, she says, “I don’t have to be somebody else’s version of me.”
Quinlan was able to reach the stage of economic influence only because she’d moved through the earlier stages. She rose through the ranks of advertising on her own merits and used her growing financial confidence to save and invest until she had the financial freedom to break out on her own. She also approached the move cautiously, testing the waters, taking a sabbatical from her job to write and think about her next steps, then moving ahead. Ultimately, her well-established financial security and confidence gave her the freedom to launch her business.
“My resources and planning put me in a place where money did not have to be the No. 1 driver,” she says. “I see a lot of women who say they feel stuck and want to follow a dream, but they’re not doing what they need to do to get into that position — putting money aside, putting their toes in the water; the dream is more likely if you don’t just leap off the bridge hoping to get it. Women are great at starting their own businesses, but they need to go about it with a straight business head on their shoulders, understanding what the risks are and what they can tolerate.”
Quinlan waited until she was in her mid-40s to make the leap, but many younger women aren’t waiting that long. Aliza Freud was 35, a marketing executive at American Express, when she decided to start SheSpeaks, a social network marketing firm. “In my last job at American Express, my responsibilities were global and there was a lot of travel. It was a dream job in many ways, but it was not a dream when I was sitting jet-lagged in Japan with my husband and two children at home,” she says.
Most corporate jobs today are still set up on the assumption that somebody else, like a wife, is at home taking care of the kids. Freud also felt restricted by the narrow requirements of the corporate world: They didn’t fit her real self.
“Senior female executives often have this feeling that somebody is going to tap them on the shoulder and say, ‘We just figured out you stink and you’re not talented,’ ” she says. “They call it the ‘impostor’s theory.’ I felt like that was happening to me and my female colleagues at all levels.” The impostor’s theory, first identified by two women psychologists in 1978, argues that many high-achieving women attribute their success not to their own smarts, experience and positive personal qualities, but to dumb luck, good timing and other factors.
As these women rack up more and more achievements and promotions, their fear of being “found out” intensifies. One possible explanation for this fear of being caught is that traditional (male) definitions of success and the trappings that come with them just don’t feel quite right for women. That was certainly the case for Freud and Quinlan.
Another factor: To a certain extent and at certain companies, women are impostors, trying hard to play by men’s rules in an environment created by and for men. As long as she felt like an impostor, Aliza’s professional and financial success wasn’t enough to let her project her authentic self into the world, to make an impact in her own way.
Certainly, not all women feel this way, and many have done stunningly well in corporate positions. Being a woman at Ogilvy & Mather in the 1970s, for instance, “was fabulous,” says Shelly Lazarus, who rose through the ranks to become chairman of the company. “If you can’t be brilliant, be memorable. If there were 15 people in the room, I tended to be remembered because I was the only woman there. There would come the inevitable moment when everyone turned to me and said, ‘Well, Shelly, what do women think?’ ”
She says she always felt the freedom to manage in her style, to wear what she wanted and to be herself. “Part of that was because David Ogilvy had an amazing instinct for putting people in positions where they would be successful. It was a true meritocracy.” It certainly helped that her husband, a pediatrician, had more flexibility than she did, and that their combined earnings gave them the financial ability to hire a nanny and outsource work that would once have been done by a stay-at-home wife — giving Shelly the freedom to work “like a man.”
Still, for every Shelly, there are dozens of Mary Lous and Alizas, leaving to launch their own businesses. And they’re not just influencing their own careers: They’re changing our economy for the better. Consider: Nearly half (47 percent) of all nongovernment employees work for small companies, and 60 percent to 80 percent of new jobs in the past decade were created by small firms. In 2008, at a time when big companies were filing for bankruptcy, closing their doors and laying off thousands of people, small businesses were adding jobs. Example: In July 2008, medium and large companies laid off 41,000 people. But small companies — those with 50 workers or less — were actually hiring. Not just a few employees, either. Small companies added 50,000 new jobs that June — enough to hire all those fired by big companies that month, and then some. The trend was strong enough to prompt Nell Merlino, the founder of the Make Mine a Million initiative, to write in a blog on the Huffington Post: “Women will lead the country out of this recession.”
Savvy Business Sale Spells New Life
With woman’s month nearly at the end- take some inspiration from business woman, Sue Kiley. Who discusses, how selling her business paved a way for bigger and better opportunities for her to re-invent herself and how Andrew Bahlmann’s professional guidance, was pivotal in making this business transaction – a “Savvy Business Sale”.
Breaking up is hard to do – even if you have made a rational decision that the time has come to sell the business you built up, the exit process is never easy, says businesswoman Sue Kiley. But she feels that since she and business partner Gordon Slater sold Johannesburg-based boiler company Dryden Combustion, she has been freed her to reinvent herself.
Kiley had joined Industrial Plant and Machinery, Dryden’s parent, in 1981, working her way up from receptionist/secretary to running Dryden by 1988. She and Slater, who had joined Dryden in 1989, were both given minority shareholdings by owner George Roberts in 1991. In 1997, Roberts sold his remaining interest to them.
“We poured our hearts and souls into growing the business for two decades, then it slowly dawned on us that it was our turn to consider whether we were ready to go through another round of expansion or whether we would sell on,” says Kiley. “It felt daunting and frightening but we are sure that both we – and ultimately our buyers – benefited extensively from the professional guidance we received from acquisitions expert Andrew Bahlmann.
“Selling up can be like a messy divorce or a death in the family with everyone squabbling over access to assets. Instead, it was a savvy and controlled negotiation leading to a well-managed handover.”
Kiley and Slater had built Dryden into a thriving business, increasing staff from nine to more than 70, for instance. Both recognised that their business had “hit some ceilings” and certain departments needed the benefits of substantial expansion.
“We realised that we had reached our limit and did not really want to change how we worked by bringing in new partners, doubling staff and substantially increasing factory capacity, even though this was what both the company and our staff needed,” says Kiley.
They opted for Bahlmann’s professional and hands-on sales offering because they wanted to avoid the more perfunctory way in which some business brokers simply post their portfolio of businesses for sale on the internet.
“We assumed that our business would go to our opposition but Andrew pointed out we were selling future business potential to a buyer that wanted to expand into our sector,” says Kiley. “We ended up with international offers on the table from India, Belgium and Pakistan, as well as South Africa.”
Kiley and Slater chose the offer from Cape Town’s Energy Partners, part of the PSG Group, not because it was the highest but because it made such a good fit with Dryden. Recognising and working with the intense emotional aspects of selling your business was an important aspect of Bahlmann’s guidance, says Kiley.
“Your company is your life and opening up our floor and our books to strangers made us feel very exposed,” she recalls. “Andrew ensured we were well prepared and fortunately I have always been a stickler for proper governance.
“This ensured that everything had been recorded and referenced, making the company far more saleable than if its history and processes are just in the owner’s memory. In fact, we accomplished due diligence in four days instead of at least six weeks.”
Preparing to part ways with the business and staff was inevitably emotional, especially as many employees had been with the company for at least 10 years. Kiley and Slater were as transparent as possible, sharing with staff the fact that the business would be sold as soon as they had engaged with Bahlmann.
“It was pivotal to us that Energy Partners wanted to retain our staff,” says Kiley. “Becoming part of a larger company and group also gave staff opportunities for career growth that would not have happened with us.”
Dryden’s staff were not the only ones to enjoy career growth. After a handover year as semi-employees at Energy Partners, Kiley semigrated to Knysna where she is currently launching a completely different new business – collaborating with a young designer on the Roze Collection, a fashion label for plus-size women with sales run online.
“Selling Dryden was the right decision for all of us,” says Kiley. “The new owners are taking the company to exciting new levels that we would never have undertaken and our former staff are really happy and thriving on this.
“Gordon felt ready to retire and is enjoying it. I didn’t want to look for a new business partner but still wanted to have an exciting reason to wake up in the morning, something to plan and strategise about.”
Kiley believes selling Dryden enabled them both to move on completely and she is delighted with her opportunity to reinvent herself.
“I have always loved fabrics and fashion so I have a fresh start working with a lifetime passion,” she says. “Those around me comment on how the change has completely re-energised me. I am having the time of my life and selling up made this possible.”
How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape
Chanelle Segerius-Bruce of www.Segeriusbrucecoaching.com talks through how she does business with a world-wide audience of entrepreneurs from her home in a rural part of the Eastern Cape.
We’re so lucky to live in this era where the world has become a very small place.
With the right set of skills and IT infrastructure behind them, I believe anyone can set up to work from literally anywhere, including the South African beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay where I have been working with a varying international client base since the beginning of 2016.
Whether it’s a virtual assistant, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting or translation work, I have seen a mass of companies starting up that don’t require regular face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings are almost outdated with Skype and Zoom being so successful in bringing teams together.
After doing a year-long coaching programme with one of the top multi seven-figure earning coaches from the USA, I now have the confidence to charge in USD $ so that I can leverage the currency conversion which works out nicely for me in South Africa. I’ve been able to help people do the same thing too.
One of my clients is a branding and website designer based in Knysna and she’s able to work with clients globally too. When she lost her house last year in the big fires, she was able to save her laptop and backup drive and therefore save her livelihood even though her entire home burnt down! Imagine what would have happened if she lost her laptop too.
The first thing I did when I looked at our beachfront property to rent was check the Internet line speed. To run an online business, you need to have the best Internet connection available. We have a 10 Meg uncapped ADSL line and I believe they’ll be installing fibre optic soon. Don’t skimp on this technology.
The way I attract international clients is by giving value-led video training sessions using live streaming such as Facebook Live. This is the fastest way to show people you know what you’re talking about and they can decide if they want to connect with you.
Build a community
I have a thriving Facebook group, with over 2,000 members, where people feel safe to ask questions about their business and everyone’s able to get to know each other. By having your own Facebook group and being seen as a leader you automatically gain authority.
Become an influencer
Use Instagram and Facebook to show behind the scenes, share where you travel to, what you like and share your unique perspective. Create a personal brand online, be visible, show up and stand out. Although some people have an issue with becoming more visible online, my coaching skills do come into play when I’m helping people with confidence issues or impostor syndrome. They key is to give practical marketing, social media and personal branding advice.
Work on your money mindset
As South Africans, many of us grew up being told “money doesn’t grow on trees” and many of you may have a mentality that needs to be changed, especially when it comes to having the confidence to charge your worth and even charge in USD $.
Finally, outsource as much as you can as fast as you can
Ask yourself “Who else could be doing this task?” Keep in your “Zone of Genius” and get a virtual assistant, web developer, bookkeeper and a cleaner to help you with all the things that take up your time. Stick to the things that only you can do in your business, like creating content, showing up on video and planning out your bigger picture plan.
Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate
To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.
The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.
At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.
1. Prepare your mind
Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.
When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:
“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”
So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.
2. Create shared value
Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.
Most successful organisations would never have been launched if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.
Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.
According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.
Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.
3. Get stuff done
When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.
Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.
The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.
In her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.
Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.
The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.
Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Focus on learning new stuff
FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.
Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:
“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”
Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.
Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
- The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
- Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.