Sometimes all it takes is a short bit of wisdom … to give you confidence, to get you through the bad times, to inspire you to greater heights.
Earlier this month I attended the latest American Express OPEN Forum in New York. All of the Forums have been excellent, but this one stands out.
Why? Because I walked away with so many small yet powerful bits of wisdom that I simply can’t stop thinking about.
Like the last Forum, this particular event was kicked off by Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN. The moderator was financial columnist and author Jean Chatzky. The featured entrepreneurs in this event were: famous chef Mario Batali, the three founders of the Blue Man Group (Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton), and maternity fashion designer Liz Lange.
Let me share the top ten bits of wisdom that I picked up from this American Express OPEN Forum, based on my notes during the event. Here they are:
“To be successful in business you don’t just need a great idea — you have to sell it. Don’t be afraid to sell. Don’t think of yourself as anything but a marketer.” (Susan Sobbott) — My Take: For some this comes naturally. But for others, especially those who do not have a sales or marketing background, this can seem like the hardest thing in the world. However, most owners of successful businesses will tell you that they were their company’s main sales representative, certainly in the beginning. You have to be able to sell and market your business — don’t expect to delegate this to someone else.
“Every brand isn’t for everybody, and everybody isn’t for every brand.” (Liz Lange) — My Take : In other words, do what small businesses do best and focus on a niche — and then own that niche. Be at the top.
“The Web puts an exponential twist on the whole word of mouth thing, because word of mouth is now happening virally.” (Blue Man) — My Take: the Web is a megaphone. It gives you leverage and dramatically increases the spread of any talk about your business. The Web makes it easier for word of mouth to spread, and spread more quickly and more widely.
“An inner quality that many entrepreneurs say helps them survive is optimism.” (Jean Chatzky) — My Take: optimism is the number one essential characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. There are so many things that can go wrong when you own your own business, especially in the early years. Every single day is littered with stumbling blocks and reasons to call it quits. You have to be driven by a belief that things will work out well in the end.
“If you had to choose an address, it would be on the corner of Art and Commerce.” (Mario Batali) — My Take: This is perhaps the single most unique quote of the event. It means, turn your business into an art form. Being creative is at the core of successful businesses.
“A little personality goes a long way.” (Jean Chatzky) — My Take: The theme of this Forum is “standing out from the crowd.” Letting your personality show through is a way to make your business stand out. People remember you and thus your business. Instead of trying to be a corporate clone, be different. For instance, Mario Batali lets his personality show through by always wearing shorts and orange clogs. Maybe we don’t all want to go that far, but ….
“Be aggressive in getting media coverage.” (Liz Lange) — My Take: Media coverage is free, which is a very attractive price tag for most small businesses. But media coverage usually is not an accident. You have to take it in your own hands to get coverage. And as Liz’s experience illustrated, you have to be creative in order to get media coverage. For instance, Liz sent maternity clothes to celebrities. The media were more likely to cover a celebrity wearing Liz’s maternity clothes, than to write an ordinary article about maternity clothing.
“Follow your bliss.” (Blue Man) — My Take: In a way this is like the old saying, do what you love and money will follow. Of course the reason it is an OLD saying is that there is truth to it. When we are passionate about what we do our passion gets translated into creativity, into the amount of effort we devote to the business, and into many other factors big and small.
“We are all competing against mediocrity.” (Blue Man) — My Take: Instead of focusing on the competition, strive for a higher level of creativity. To create a great business create something extraordinary, instead of falling into a rut and settling for average.
“Everyone talks about growing the business, but what you don’t hear enough about is the importance of not growing the business too fast.” (Blue Man) — My Take: Growth can bring on its own set of challenges and problems. Grow the business at the pace that feels right to you to manage and handle. If you are comfortable with fast change, then grow it fast. Otherwise, keep the business smaller and more manageable for you. Not everyone wants to grow their business.
Some of the above quotes are paraphrased slightly. They are taken from my notes of the event.
Cultivating Resilience in Business: Lessons for Entrepreneurs
Resilience is an essential trait for entrepreneurs, helping them navigate challenges and setbacks. Here are key takeaways on building resilience from the American Express OPEN Forum:
Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity: Rather than viewing failure as a roadblock, see it as a stepping stone toward growth and improvement.
Stay True to Your Passion: Focusing on what you love and believe in can provide the inner strength needed to persevere through tough times.
Adaptability is Key: The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot when necessary is crucial for long-term success.
Seek Mentorship and Support: Surround yourself with mentors and a support network that can provide guidance and encouragement during difficult moments.
Mindset Matters: Cultivate a positive and growth-oriented mindset that enables you to see opportunities within challenges.
Balance Growth and Stability: While growth is essential, it’s equally important to maintain stability and ensure that your business is sustainable in the long run.
Embrace Failure as a Learning OpportunitySee failure as a stepping stone for growth and improvement.
Stay True to Your PassionFocus on what you love and believe in to find inner strength during tough times.
Adaptability is KeyBe ready to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot when necessary for long-term success.
Seek Mentorship and SupportSurround yourself with mentors and a support network for guidance and encouragement in difficult times.
Mindset MattersCultivate a positive, growth-oriented mindset to uncover opportunities within challenges.
Balance Growth and StabilityWhile growth is vital, ensure business stability for long-term sustainability.
The Role of Networking in Entrepreneurship
Networking plays a vital role in the journey of entrepreneurship, as highlighted by the insights shared at the American Express OPEN Forum:
Expand Your Horizons: Networking exposes entrepreneurs to diverse perspectives, ideas, and opportunities that they may not encounter within their immediate circles.
Leverage Connections: Building strong professional relationships can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and access to resources that can fuel business growth.
Learn from Others: Interacting with fellow entrepreneurs and industry experts allows you to gain insights from their experiences, successes, and failures.
Build a Support System: Networking provides a support system of like-minded individuals who understand the challenges of entrepreneurship and can offer advice and encouragement.
Stay Informed: Through networking events, conferences, and discussions, entrepreneurs can stay updated on industry trends, market developments, and emerging technologies.
Pitch and Promote: Networking opportunities often involve pitching your business or idea to potential investors, customers, or partners, helping you refine your pitch and gain exposure.
Roles of Networking in EntrepreneurshipDescription
Expand Your HorizonsExposes entrepreneurs to diverse perspectives, ideas, and opportunities beyond their immediate circles.
Leverage ConnectionsBuilding strong professional relationships can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and resources.
Learn from OthersInteraction with fellow entrepreneurs and experts provides insights from their experiences and lessons.
Build a Support SystemNetworking creates a support system of like-minded individuals who understand entrepreneurship’s challenges.
Stay InformedNetworking events help entrepreneurs stay updated on industry trends, market developments, and technologies.
Pitch and PromoteNetworking opportunities often involve pitching to potential investors, customers, or partners for exposure.
The Importance of Adaptability in Entrepreneurship
In the ever-changing landscape of entrepreneurship, adaptability is a key attribute that successful entrepreneurs possess. The American Express OPEN Forum offered valuable lessons on this aspect of entrepreneurship:
Embrace Change: Entrepreneurship is often marked by uncertainty and unforeseen challenges. Being adaptable means you’re open to change and can quickly adjust your strategies when circumstances shift.
Learn from Failure: Failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship. Adaptable entrepreneurs view failure as a stepping stone to success, learning from their mistakes and pivoting when necessary.
Stay Relevant: Industries evolve, and consumer preferences change. Entrepreneurs who adapt to market trends and evolving customer needs are more likely to thrive.
Innovate Continuously: Adaptability goes hand-in-hand with innovation. Entrepreneurs who are willing to experiment with new ideas and technologies can stay ahead of the competition.
Flexibility in Business Models: Successful entrepreneurs recognize that their initial business models may need adjustment. Being adaptable allows them to refine their offerings and business strategies based on feedback and market dynamics.
Crisis Management: Adaptable entrepreneurs are better equipped to navigate crises, such as economic downturns or unexpected disruptions, by quickly reassessing their plans and making necessary changes.
Customer-Centric Approach: Entrepreneurs who prioritize adaptability are more likely to listen to customer feedback and make improvements based on their preferences, ultimately building stronger customer relationships.
Agility in Decision-Making: Quick decision-making is a hallmark of adaptable entrepreneurs. They can evaluate situations rapidly, make informed choices, and adjust their course as needed.
Nurturing Innovation in Your Business
Innovation is often the driving force behind entrepreneurial success. The American Express OPEN Forum shed light on fostering innovation within your business:
Create a Culture of Innovation: Encourage your team to think creatively and embrace new ideas. Make innovation a core value of your company culture.
Continuous Learning: Invest in training and development for your employees to keep them updated with the latest trends and technologies.
Empower Employees: Give your team the autonomy and resources to experiment and innovate. Empowered employees are more likely to generate fresh ideas.
Customer-Centric Innovation: Innovate with the customer in mind. Understand their needs and pain points to develop products or services that truly resonate.
Collaboration: Collaborate with partners, customers, and even competitors to spark innovation. Sometimes, breakthroughs come from unexpected sources.
Risk-Taking: Encourage calculated risk-taking within your organization. Understand that not all innovation attempts will succeed, but each failure can lead to valuable lessons.
Iterate and Improve: Innovation is an ongoing process. Continuously iterate on your products or services based on feedback and market insights.
Measure and Assess: Establish metrics to track the impact of your innovation efforts. Regularly assess the results and adjust your strategy as needed.
Celebrate Success: Recognize and reward innovative contributions from your team. Celebrating successes reinforces the importance of innovation in your business.
Stay Inquisitive: Keep asking questions, challenging assumptions, and exploring new possibilities. Curiosity is a driving force behind innovation.
Many thanks to American Express OPEN whose advertising support of this site made it possible for me to attend.
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