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Life Lessons

Successful women offer several life lessons that could be useful to you in your business.
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Recently TLC, the cable channel, has begun offering a line of Precious Moments®-like collectible figurines called "Life Lessons." Each statuette depicts situations that illustrate the observation that as we move through life, there's always something new to learn. There's a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone to TLC's advice, which includes bon mots like "Merlot and email don't mix." (We knew that.) and "Know when not to do it yourself" (Life Lesson #92, and a mantra for entrepreneurial success if we ever heard one!).

Their product launch got us thinking about a piece of advice we heard a while back from Nora Holzwart (president of NEP, a document management solutions company) who we interviewed for our very first column ("Back to the Future," June 2005). She told us that her mother had always said, "You're never going to live long enough to make all the mistakes you need to know the results from." So in the spirit of fast-tracking to the good results--and hopefully avoiding costly errors--we thought it would be interesting to poll other successful women to see what life lessons they had to offer that could be useful to us in business. Here's what they had to say.

Marianne Bez, a museum consultant, says that the insight, "You are not the customer," has guided her for a number of years. Experience has taught Marianne that personal bias and instinctive thinking can influence how we package, price and sell our products--sometimes to our disadvantage. She told us the story of a sales associate in an expensive boutique that discouraged a potential purchase by apologizing for the price of an item. The clerk reflexively used her own economic framework when selling and assumed that price was a factor. In reality, the customer had a very different perspective on money and was willing to spend a lot for something he really wanted.

Takeaway life lesson? Don't use your own frame of reference when dealing with your customers, since it can limit your vision of what's possible and cost you money!

Elaine's father used to tell her: "Measure twice, cut once." He took this advice literally, and always carried a tape measure in his back pocket. Elaine now carries his tape measure in her purse as a reminder her that her father's insight can be used philosophically in every decision and action.

Takeaway life lesson? Do thorough due diligence before taking action.

Christie Hefner, chairman & CEO of Playboy Enterprises, told us this: "The most valuable lesson I can share is that having women in leadership roles makes good business sense." Surprisingly, despite Playboy's male lifestyle image, 40% of Playboy's executives are female. Christie feels that the company's ability to attract strong women has been instrumental to Playboy's success.

Takeaway life lesson? Think beyond the obvious and go outside of the box when looking for talent.

Marianne Hovivian, president of Rialto Furniture, has this quote from Albert Camus tacked up on a board where she can see it every day: "In the midst of winter, we finally learned that there was in us an invincible summer." Keeping this philosophy front-and-center has helped her weather many difficult storms in her business.

Takeaway life lesson? Tough situations always contain something positive at their core.

On how to maintain a positive attitude despite challenging circumstances, executive coach Sandye Brown, co-author of The Inspired Journey: A Woman's Blueprint for Spirit-Filled Living, says this: "No matter what is happening in your life, always keep smiling." There is, in fact, a scientific basis to Sandye's advice: studies have shown that the physical act of smiling can cause a measurable elevation in mood.

Takeaway life lesson? Smiling, even when you don't feel like it, actually helps.

Managing change was another area where we heard some interesting advice. Teryl Brown, vice president of ad sales for TV Land & Nick @ Nite lives by this quote: "Stepping outside of your comfort zone is amazing because it serves to make your comfort zone bigger." Promise Phelon, president & CEO of The Phelon Group, a consulting firm that helps companies maximize their customer relationships, has this to say: "I've often found that we must be willing to be flexible and adjust to the downside of change so that we can reap the benefits. Anything that throws the status quo out the window will require a deep breath."

Takeaway life lesson for both: If you want to have something new in your life, you must be willing to be uncomfortable.

From the results of our poll we think Nora's mom was on to something, especially in light of this final bit of counsel from Sylvie Anapol Vaccari, president of Max Custom Media. She echoed TLC's Life Lesson #92 when she told us: "Learn to delegate. Come to terms with the fact that there are things other people do better and you should let them do it!"

Our takeaway life lesson from Sylvie's advice? When it comes to women in business, no wiser words were ever spoken!

What life lessons have you learned in business? Tell us at ElainePamela@gmail.com!

Last updated: Jul 1, 2006




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