The Fundamentals of Business – According to Established Female Leaders
As intimidating as the road ahead may seem for the prospective entrepreneur or industry newbie, it has been traveled before. The same challenges have been triumphed by countless women over the years, many of whom have become world renowned for their businesses and the strategies they took to overcome the market. Although the secrets of business profitability do not come with a guidebook, it would be foolish to ignore the words of those who have already faced some of the most common professional barriers.
Television personality and chef, Rachel Ray, turned her passion for cooking into a Food Network television show and successfully branded product line. Although now well known in media and the business world, she once sought a way to break into the field as well. Perhaps the most daunting of any phase in one’s professional life, the start is the most important. "You have to be open-minded when those early opportunities present themselves," says Rachel Ray, "take advantage of them whether they’re going to make you a lot of money or not." Beginning a new line of work or entering the workforce for the first time, don’t be afraid to start at the very bottom. With hard work, one will eventually be able to reach the heights one seeks.
Remaining committed to the industry one feels drawn to is the next step. Estee Lauder, the co-founder of the eponymous cosmetics company, has stated, "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard." Such passion and dedication to furthering one’s business is fundamental to its growth. Without a strong leader behind its operations, it may lack the motivation it needs to flourish. Along the same lines, it may not thrive without the same commitment to quality. "Doing a job badly and then getting someone in to sort it out can be much more expensive than getting someone in to do the job properly in the first place," explains Sarah Beeny, British property developer and the presenter of numerous property-related television shows. Fervor for one’s occupation is necessary not only in the execution of its practices, but also in ensuring the resulting high-caliber service or product.
Even as the economic climate fluctuates and businesses begin working against greater challenges, the same practices must be maintained. Of course, certain adjustments may need to be made, but business will continue much the same way as before. Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and present CEO of Hewlett-Packard, explains that despite changes in the economy, the rules for any company remain aligned with the marketplace: "People ask me, how is managing in the New Economy different from managing in the Old Economy? Actually, it's a lot the same. It's about the financial discipline of the bottom line, understanding your customers, segmenting your customers by their needs, and building a world-class management team." Once a professional becomes established in the industry and recognizes that quality execution is a basic necessity, she must cater her work to meet the demands of the market. Her company must be founded on reaching its customer base, and all that it does hinges on its success in this arena.
Whitman touches upon the fact that the group of professionals leading corporate operations plays a significant role in a successful outcome. Mary Kay Ash, the founder of the global direct-selling cosmetics company, backs up this idea. "People are definitely a company’s greatest asset," she affirms, "It doesn't make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps." The management team responsible for making final business decisions, as well as those representing the company before consumers, impact its sales, the administration of its mission, and the customer experience. The business ethics and beliefs perpetuated by an enterprise’s owner, manager, president or CEO are only partially to credit for the execution of operations. The other half of the business is upheld by the efforts of its many directors and its most basic workers.
With this in mind, a business leader should ensure that it hires the right individuals across the board and throughout the ranks. However, she should also harness the resources to which she opens herself. Anita Roddick understood this concept and applied it to the management of her own company, The Body Shop. She has articulated the following: "It is a critical job of any entrepreneur to maximize creativity, and to build the kind of atmosphere around you that encourages people to have ideas. That means open structures, so that accepted thinking can be challenged."
Encouraging a proactive workplace breeds invention and dissolves obsolete, outdated practices that no longer facilitate growth. The people behind a business venture understand the way it works at the most basic levels, and therefore, recognize its flaws and shortcomings. An intuitive business leader will take advantage of those under her charge to reorganize processes and build upon the fresh ideas put forth. A leader is only as influential as those standing behind her, and when hiring practices aim to accept only the best, those supporting her work are equally adept in navigating their own fields.
Just as a successful business leader once embarked on her own career, she must recognize the talent in those that she hires as they complete their own professional sojourns. One’s ascent to the top may take many years and around-the-clock devotion, but it depends on those she is surrounded by, whether they are supervisors leading by example, or employees sharing their opinions for surging ahead.
- Sarah Faup