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Business ownership can bring great risk and great rewards. As a small-business owner, you are faced with a lot of challenges, which include how to lead your teams, whom to seek out for mentoring, and in what places and people to find daily inspiration. We interviewed small-business owners and found that inspiration comes from many places and in many different ways.

Be Authentic and True to Yourself

Lucas Davis, leadership growth expert and CEO of Make It Matter, LLC, says that one of the best pieces of leadership advice he's received was from a professor in graduate school who quoted Albert Einstein's statement, "Be a voice, not an echo."

Davis advises that it's important to be authentic at your core, and "to speak with conviction about things you believe in and can stand behind." The other piece of this equation is to remain open to advice, feedback, and criticism from your subordinates, peers, and even mentors (if you have any).

Authenticity is the word of choice these days in the entrepreneurial world, but the simple secret behind it is to be yourself at all times. Michael Elkins, an employment law attorney at Bryant Miller Olive, practices the behavioral mechanism of being his authentic self in his work and personal life. "Whenever I feel the urge to change who I am to please someone else, or because I want someone to approve of me, I always remember to be myself and I repeat to myself that the only person who needs to approve of me is me."

Overcome Failure and Challenges

Sagette Van Embden, owner and CEO of SVE Productions, states that her favorite pieces of leadership advice that she's received include "There is no such thing as 'I can't'" and "Failure is not an option." Owning a business requires you to consistently look forward and concentrate on making something happen that is solution-based. Since her business is focused on capturing major life events and rites of passage like weddings, Van Embden says this determined outlook keeps her from seeing challenges as the end-all-be-all: "If something doesn't go according to plan, you just keep going and don't quit."

Focus on Things You Can Control

Zeroing in on the things in your everyday life that you have control over is a key piece of solid leadership advice that Elkins has received through reading books by author Ryan Holiday. Elkins focuses on controlling his reaction to external factors, rather than allowing the external factors to dictate how he reacts. As he says, "I am a big believer in the notion that no one can 'make' you feel anything, as you have a choice over how you feel and how you react." Thus, it is imperative to focus on the internal locus of control.

Have an Arsenal of Mentors and Influencers

When it comes to pinpointing a single mentor or key influencer, small-business owners note there are different types of mentors, and different ways to achieve help from these mentors. Van Embden points out that sometimes the mentor who has most shaped your business mind or provided you with the best leadership advice is the one you have watched your entire life do it first-hand. "I'm incredibly lucky to be able to call my mom my mentor and coach. She has taught me to never give up despite personal or business obstacles, give my absolute all, and put in the hours."

Elkins stresses the importance of building relationships with local leaders who might serve as mentors by providing a role model for "constant learning and growth" as well as "a sounding board for various leadership and business issues."

Elkins advises the importance of building relationships with local leaders to become mentors as they serve as a "constant learning and growth process as well as a sounding board for various leadership and business issues."

Davis suggests that because we live in a diverse global community, we should look to people and things around us to inspire, motivate, and educate. He also acknowledges that it's acceptable to even be "the mentor you may not have had." Therefore, it may not be necessary today to have just one mentor or inspiration in running your business. Another item of influence is listening to podcasts, keynote speeches, or even TED talks from successful entrepreneurs and business people.

At the end of the day, these small-business owners agree that the best advice for all small-business owners is to go at our own pace, trust our internal instincts, and take risks.


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