I had the privilege of attending the American Express OPEN for Women: CEO BootCamp, an all-day event where women business leaders including Tory Burch, Angie Hicks, Robin Chase, Jean Chatzky and Melinda Emerson provided insight, advice, inspiration and lessons on becoming successful women business owners.
There were several common themes shared by these successful women leaders that serve as guiding principles for aspiring female entrepreneurs:
1. Confidence, confidence, confidence.
Every speaker reiterated the importance of confidence in your idea, your vision and how you convey yourself to the business community. Many also reinforced exuding this confidence whether you have it or not. Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, discussed how even if you don't know how to do something, show confidence in your ability to do the task and then go back and learn it. One of the most amusing yet poignant quotes from the day came from Mally Roncal, founder of Mally Beauty, who exclaimed, "Fake it until you make it!" Mally affirmed how exuding confidence even when you are uncertain can go a long way towards achieving your goals.
2. Persistence is critical to success.
Almost every one of these successful leaders shared a time when they were told "no," but continued to follow their vision anyway. All reiterated the importance of perseverance and persistence. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, advised, "be focused, be persistent, be committed. The worst thing they will tell you is 'no.'" Tory Burch, designer and founder of her own lifestyle brand, discussed how many doubted her branding, her original product offering and her desire to include social responsibility as part of her original business plan but she "stayed the course and didn't listen to others' opinions."
3. You don't have to have an original idea to be successful.
Several successful female entrepreneurs including Angie Hicks and Robin Chase reiterated this surprising anthem. Many potential entrepreneurs are deterred from pursuing a business because they don't believe their idea is original or differentiated enough. Both Angie and Robin reinforced that it is less about the originality of the idea and more about how you execute it. When these entrepreneurs launched their companies there were others in the marketplace with similar offerings. However, what set them apart was their vision, execution strategy and persistence.
4. Know your exit strategy before you start your business
Financial experts Jean Chatzky and Valerie Coleman discussed the importance of knowing the plan for exiting your business in the early stages of building. Having an exit plan will help you to build both your short-term and long-term business strategy as well as guide financial decisions.
5. Focus on making the right connections
Every leader asserted that building relationships is one of the secrets to success. Tory Burch summed up her advice as "it is not a personal journey, it is about a team." Many also reinforced that building relationships with other women and business leaders is critical. Angie Hicks stated "don't view each other as competitors, view each other as partners."
The CEO BootCamp provided an excellent illustration of this last guiding principle. It was a great opportunity to learn not only from high profile, successful business leaders, but also from the many impressive, motivated entrepreneurs who attended the event. All the leaders reiterated how women business owners should strive to help one another in each other's entrepreneurial endeavors. Which leads me to my own guiding principle -- collaboration and hard work are the keys to any successful business. After all, there's always room at the top for women who are willing to build their own ladders!
Check out The Modern Mompreneur website for seven inspirational quotes from successful women business leaders who spoke at the American Express CEO Bootcamp.