Gloria Robbins has a simple recipe for business success: hard work.
That's the main ingredient, insists the founder and CEO of SMS, an Irvine, California-based direct-response marketing and fulfillment company. "Success doesn't come easy. As we grew, I was putting in 20-hour days. You have to put in time to keep your business growing successfully."
Robbins was one of three panelists who disclosed their secrets of success to members of the Orange County chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners on January 8. Business consultant and NAWBO-OC President Barri Carian moderated the panel. All three panelists, honored as Remarkable Women by NAWBO-OC in 2007, gave up high-level corporate positions to become entrepreneurs.
Robbins believes it's important for entrepreneurs to show employees their dedication to the business. "You have to make sure they know you're willing to do the same things they are willing to do," she said.
Coralee Newman, founder and CEO ofGovernment Solutions, said she's been successful because she refuses to accept the word "no." Government Solutions is a governmental relations firm specializing in development projects that require government approval and residential acceptance. Newman said persistence can change "no" to "maybe," to "I'll think about it" and then to "yes." She insists on pushing against rules and regulations that set unnecessary roadblocks in her path.
Sue Parks said relationships spurred her new company,Walkstyles, to a fast start. Networking helped open doors for her brainchild, a company that provides products and services that help people incorporate walking into their daily lives.
Among the questions posed to the threesome:
Have you ever had an "aha" moment when you realized that you were the obstacle to your company's continued growth?
Newman said she had to alter her attitude when she became a CEO. "When you're the leader in an organization, there are people looking up to you. They expect you to show up as a leader. I realized, I'm leading an organization, I'm not just doing a job."
Robbins struggles with control issues. "There are a lot of people out there smarter in certain areas than I am. I have to take the steps to hire them--and then I need to let them do their jobs."
How do you achieve balance between your work and your home life?
Robbins is unequivocal. "There is no life-work balance when you are a business owner."
Newman has achieved a balance by focusing on work and family. "If you do want to have it all, some of the social stuff has to go," she said.
Parks more easily incorporates balance into her business lifestyle. "I walk for balance," said the woman who turned her passion for walking into an entrepreneurial enterprise.
All three take risks to achieve their goals. When Parks has a decision to make, she asks herself, "What is the worst thing that can happen?"
Robbins agreed. "I always ask myself, 'What's the worst-case scenario, and can I live with it?' If I can, then I do it." Robbins said she likes to go with her gut, rather than wait three weeks while her staff balances the pros and cons.
Newman has a unique way to put the consequences of a decision into perspective. She remembers the advice of her uncle when she was upset about the possibility of losing a corporate promotion. He asked her, "If you don't get this promotion, is there really anything that will keep you from feeding your children?"
What's the most important thing an entrepreneur can do for her company?
"Show up," said Newman. Leadership is all about "being there, being genuine and being real."