Owning a business is no easy task. Take it from Jennifer, president of J.O. and serial entrepreneur.
In her 21+ years of running this creative agency, Jennifer has lept over hurdles and overcome countless challenges, learning and growing from each one. And now, Jennifer is sharing tips and tricks she’s personally learned—and ones she’s picked up from other successful businesspeople along the way.
There’s a reason small businesses are the backbone of America. It’s not only because small businesses employ 60 percent of the country’s workforce. Owning a small business takes grit. It takes resiliency and learning from failure. It takes humility. It takes consistency and perseverance. Above all, it takes creative problem-solving.
Creativity is the ability to find solutions in the novel linking of disparate things. But it’s more than that. Creativity is recognizing the challenge at hand, and finding a fitting, imaginative solution. To grow and be successful, it’s up to all small business owners to creatively overcome challenges they face.
A steward of my own small business and the local economy, I’m always looking for new ways to problem-solve creatively in my own businesses, to do so for my clients and to hone my own professional skills. So, in 2018 when I found myself—one of the 6,700 program graduates nationwide—at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit: The Big Power of Small Business in Washington, D.C., I knew this was an opportunity to learn from some of the best business minds in the world.
As one of only nine Fort Worth business owners in attendance, I felt compelled to share inspiration from the many business leaders who spoke at the Summit. Here are a few of their takeaways.
They Make Themselves Known Strategically.
Getting your business off the ground is an exercise in perseverance and creativity. Some success is achieved by sheer luck, but most is through well-planned strategy.
When first starting her fragrance business, Jo Malone, MBE, founder and creative director of Jo Loves, took a more creative approach to spreading awareness of her products. She purchased 100 branded, empty bags and gave them to people to carry as they walked around London. This caught the attention of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury retailer that carried her product line and eventually earned Jo $1 million in her first year of business.
Another Summit speaker, Adam Grant of Wharton, recounted how a Shark Tank contestant “put his worst foot forward.” Rufus Griscom, owner of the blog Babble, discovered that people became more trusting when he was transparent about the flaws of his business. Using this strategy in his sales pitches to investment companies, including Disney, Rufus openly detailed “5 reasons why you shouldn’t invest in my company.”
The result? Rufus landed $3 million in investments and later sold his company for $45 million. Adam Grant advised making your story memorable by practicing transparency—to always initiate your narrative with an honest evaluation of its problems.
I’ve failed. I admit it. Being a small business owner is no easy task, but I have been fortunate enough to fail over and over again in the past 20 years. Because a failure is only a failure if you do not learn from it.
It was comforting, then, that throughout the Summit, I heard one self-made businessperson after another talk about the merits of failure—something we can all relate to.
Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX, was actually encouraged to fail as a child. Now, she has a unique perspective on the matter, which has undoubtedly contributed to her success: “My dad asked us kids every week what we failed at. It helped me to redefine failure.”
Actor, filmmaker and founder of his own production studio, Tyler Perry, emphasized the importance of recognizing that failure is a chance to grow. “I thought I was failing, but all along the way I was learning.”
They Find a Way.
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, told the story of Rose Blumkin. Rose was a Russian immigrant who started her furniture business, Nebraska Furniture Mart, with the motto “sell cheap and tell the truth.” With only $2,500 in her pocket to invest and having never learned to read or write, Rose sold Nebraska Furniture to Berkshire Hathaway for $60 million. She worked there until age 103.
Each of these Summit speakers—some of the most successful businesspeople and leaders of our time—has faced adversity during the course of his or her business ventures (or misadventures), and they will continue to face new, different roadblocks every day. No one is exempt. But, they know the best way to keep going, to get things done, is to face each challenge as a problem to be solved.