Today I was humbled and honored to receive the UVEF Entrepreneur of the Year Award. At the awards lunch they asked me to share a few words about the things that I would like to pass on to other Entrepreneurs from the lessons I have learned from my own journey. I struggled deciding what lessons would be most important to share given that there were only 5 minutes or so to fit them in, so I wanted to be sure and share those that could be most impactful. On the drive down to the event I jotted a few thoughts down on a paper, but when it came time for me to accept the award I found myself sharing some things I hadn’t planned on.
On my paper I had written 3 things:
One – The importance of surrounding yourself with the very best team of people possible.
I shared that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or even the person who knows the most to be successful, you just have to wise enough to surround yourself with people who are far smarter and know tons more than you do. Doing that work wonders for me. It is a good team of individuals with common values and a shared vision that together can change the world.
Two- Never be afraid to fail.
Trying and failing is how we learn. It is how we grow and improve and figure things out. We had a rule at my company and that was that you could make any mistake once, so long as you didn’t repeat that same mistake again. A different mistake was fine to make, as long as it wasn’t repeated, and so on. By allowing yourself as the leader to be human and make mistakes yourself, you set the example for your team that its okay for them to make mistakes and grow as well. It is NEVER a failure if you get back up and keep going. The only time you fail is when you don’t try or when you don’t get back up again, that’s it.
Three – There is only one area in life you never want to make a mistake and that is with your integrity.
Life will present a million opportunities to take shortcuts and cut corners or to do something shady. And sadly you will watch many others take those chances and you will see that it allows them to get ahead or even win and that is hard to reconcile. But the fact is that no opportunity in life will ever be worth trading your integrity for. We kept a sign on my office wall that read “Do what is right, let the consequence follow” – that sign served as a reminder to all of us to never get sucked into doing the wrong thing, even when it could be said it was for the right reason. Do the right thing and feel good about it, no matter what outcome it produces. And never forget that success will come and go, but integrity is forever.
Those were my three points but I found myself wanting to share why my passion for entrepreneurship is so strong and why I started a charity to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs. I was a single mom for a very long time and I had to support my family on my own. For me the path of entrepreneurship became a road to self-reliance and self-respect. It allowed me to put food on my table and a roof over my kid’s heads. It allowed me to create a future for my family. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t become an entrepreneur. I hadn’t finished college because I had my kids and couldn’t afford the tuition and needed to work full-time. But the field of entrepreneurship didn’t fault me for that. It didn’t pass judgment that I wasn’t someone with a degree. It allowed me to take my talents and abilities and turn them into an amazing business that accomplished amazing things and employed amazing people. It allowed me the ability to try and fail, to get back up, to try and fail again, and to get back up again, over and over again. It allowed me to put aside my self-doubts and shoot for the impossible because the worst case was failure, and in my mind as long as I got back up every time I fell down then I would never be a failure, so I knew that I could control never being a failure by simply standing up and moving forward. Entrepreneurship allowed me to become self-reliant, a gift I am forever grateful for. That is why I love being an entrepreneur and that is why I decided that after selling my company I would dedicate my time and my talents and my resources to help educate and encourage others to become entrepreneurs, especially our young people who might be like I once was…scared, uncertain, and unsure of what they can become in life. I want them to see that they can become anything they choose…anything!