Ania Rodriguez is CEO of Key Lime Interactive. She has served as a user experience advisor to Fortune 1000 companies around the world for nearly the past two decades on the topics of User Interface Design, Product Design, and User Research.
I come from a family of persistent people. My father was a well-educated and successful VP in Cuba but fled the country when Fidel Castro came to power. He went from having a secure office job to having nothing. So, once he arrived in America, he had to completely reinvent himself.
He became an entrepreneur and began working 15-hour days to make ends meet. It was tough seeing so little of him, but during this time, one of my teachers told me, "Where there is a will, there is a way." It put things into perspective. If you want something and you work really hard -- you will get it. My father worked hard because he wanted the best for us. And, because of his strong will to succeed, he did succeed.
Fast forward to January 2009, and this advice rang true for me. I'd recently been laid off from my job, right after having my first child, and I wasn't sure where I'd get my next source of income.
I attended a conference determined to find a new job, but I never expected what was to come of it. Halfway through the day, the festivities ground to a halt as everyone watched President Obama's inauguration on a big screen. The moment filled me with inspiration, and I decided to forge my own path and start my own business. I immediately called my husband, and together we came up with the concept and the company name we have today -- Key Lime Interactive. I even had business cards printed up later that day and spent the rest of the conference introducing myself as president and CEO of my own company.
In the blink of an eye, I went from being an unemployed mother to being a business leader -- and without my strong will to succeed, none of this would have been possible. My persistence paid off and set the wheels in motion, but I knew my success would be short-lived if I didn't instill a strong-willed culture throughout my entire company.
Here are the three main ways I went about doing that:
1. Hire persistent people with grit.
When interviewing candidates for my new company, I realized two types of people exist: those who let life happen to them and those who drive the direction, pace and outcome of their days. During the initial interview process, I looked for something in particular in my potential employees, and you should too: intellectual curiosity. As candidates answered my questions, I listened for the following: Did they offer forward-thinking, solution-oriented perspectives? Did they show creativity in their responses that demonstrated a genuine desire to learn and grow? These questions immediately identify which candidates see business as something personal and special.
Naturally, a company filled with go-getters ends up being much more productive, innovative and successful. For instance, we recently ran a study in Australia. To make sure all of the details were taken care of before we arrived, we went into a coffee shop and simulated the experience. This required a lot of attention to detail, as well as intense drive and persistence to set it up properly. Because I had a team of natural innovators and go-getters, everything went smoothly.
2. Go after the big fish.
Set the bar high, give yourself a lofty goal to work toward and tirelessly pursue it. This is how my company snagged ESPN as our first client, and this is how we've formed more than 50 partnerships with Fortune 500 companies since then that include Office Depot, Citi and GE Healthcare. Hooking these big fish boils down to making those calls as soon as possible. I can usually tell when businesses have taken it more slowly; there's no reason to limit yourself. If you have a service or product you believe in, don't wait. As long as you feel you're delivering a high-quality product that could positively impact customers, address the pain point. There's no reason you can't call and speak to the marketing executives of your dream clients. If you have a will for it, you can make it happen.
3. Find the opportunity in conflict.
It doesn't matter if you're running a $2 million business or a $20 billion business--your skills and book smarts can only take you so far. Another essential part of being a leader is having the ability to survive the darkest times. When the road ahead seems gloomy, willpower will be your high beams, illuminating your route to a successful future.
In Key Lime Interactive's case, finding strong salespeople always seems to be a pain point. Many people try to perform in sales roles but aren't necessarily the best fit. It's important to arrive at creative ways to move past this. Look to use the skill sets of the people you have, and look for solutions to get over the hump. When you know where you want your company to go, no amount of obstacles can stop you. My entire family is living proof of this, as are so many other successful entrepreneurs.
With a strong will to succeed, I truly believe all entrepreneurs can find ways to make their business dreams come true. On top of that, your devotion will be highly impactful on your loved ones--especially your children. I saw it in my father, I live it in my own life, and--no joke--my 7-year-old daughter was just named the "most persistent" student in her class.