5 Important Business Lessons You Can Learn From Billionaire Oprah Winfrey

Oprah isn't just a T.V. personality -- she's a businesswoman who grew her brand and worth over decades.

learn more about Carol Roth

By Carol Roth

Sunday Times | Getty Images
American talkshow host Oprah Winfrey.

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There's no doubt that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most inspirational figures in business, and, while not everyone can have Oprah's success, there are some very tangible business lessons that you can learn from her multiple decades of business endeavors.

Here are five of my favorite.

Success takes time.

Many entrepreneurs go into business thinking that they have raised enough money to launch the business. But, the foundation of a business doesn't happen overnight. It typically takes two or three years to build a solid foundation and ensure the business is on steady ground.

I use a phrase that I call "TGFO" (Thank God For Oprah), because when she started the Oprah Winfrey Network, it took her just about three years to get her foundation settled. Now, I have that to point to as a benchmark.

If it takes Oprah, who had every business resource in the world at her disposal -- capital, fans, a great brand and more -- around three years to have a solid business foundation, that means it will likely take you the same. Make sure you have planned not just for the launch of the business, but to support it -- and yourself -- financially or otherwise for up to three years before you know if the business will work.

Related: 9 Wildly Successful Brands Born From TV Fame

Promote yourself.

Self-promoters often get a bad rap. As someone who often gets accused of this myself, I retort, "Well, if I don't promote myself, who will?"

Oprah is a noted champion of this strategy. She has built her brand around being her, even making herself the cover model to every edition of her magazine.

This keeps her brand very consistent, and clearly, her promoting works, because just about everyone on the planet knows who she is. Take the lead from Oprah here and be willing to promote yourself, your business and your products and services consistently.

Work with great talent.

While Oprah has mastered the art of self-promotion, she's also surrounded herself with great people. She not only hires the best-of-the-best internally, like Adam Glassman, her creative director for The Oprah Magazine, but she has also launched the careers of designer Nate Berkus, self-help guru Dr. Phil, personal finance whiz Suze Orman and many more.

By working with this great pool of talent, she has been able to broaden what she gives her customer in terms of content and products. Make sure you look for the best talent -- either to hire or to collaborate with -- to take your business to the next level.

Related: 8 Hugely Successful People Who Didn't Graduate College

Craft a great deal.

Oprah has always been a master of the deal. When she became a top TV personality, instead of renegotiating her salary, she renegotiated ownership of the program, as well as the studio where it was produced and a stake in its distributor. That's what helped her become a billionaire.

When she decided to become a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, she also bought a stake in the company, and the stock has recently risen as her weight has fallen.

Creating a good deal has been a hallmark from Oprah that you can learn from. See where you can improve your deal-making to amp up the long-term value of your business and your overall wealth.

Related: 13 Big-Time Business Leaders Share the Best Advice They Ever Got

Give to get.

You can't think of Oprah without thinking of her giveaways. "You get a car!" endures as a favorite internet meme years after it happened on her show. Her giveaway strategy created a ton of excitement, not just with the people who benefitted, but with everyone who heard about it after the fact.

While you are probably not going to be giving away free cars or even a full slew of your "favorite things," perhaps you can give away some free samples of new products and services to existing clients. Or, start with a free consultation to entice new customers.

Whatever you might give away, just make sure you're creating excitement -- for your clients, for your company and for your brand.

Carol Roth

Entrepreneur, TV host and small business expert

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. A small business expert, Roth has worked with companies of all sizes on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to raising capital. She’s been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies, as well.

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