9 Ways to Get Ahead as an Entrepreneur

Embracing a collaborative approach to success

When I started my career, being nice was synonymous with being a doormat – at least that’s what people told me. But I’ve learned that being nice can be powerful, game-changing even. Success is not a zero-sum game and generosity can be a direct route to success for you and those around you.

FriendshipsAdam Grant, Wharton professor and organizational psychologist, says success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. From his book “Give and Take,” he writes: “Givers reverse the popular plan of succeeding first and giving back later, raising the possibility that those who give first are often best positioned for success later. What’s more, givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

To test out this theory, we reached to some entrepreneurs we admire and asked them their success strategy. We didn’t ask them about collaboration, sharing or networking but their one best tip for someone beginning their entrepreneur journey.

Turns out, being a successful entrepreneur may be about giving first.


Energize your efforts and achieve success

1. Volunteer

Help with initiatives outside your company and then go above and beyond expectations to make life easier for others who serve. When I launched SocialNorth, I baked in give-back time to my workload, supporting organizations I believed in, such as WithIt.org, WPTGlobal, 140 Conference and the Rotary Club. When I graduated high school, the Rotary Club awarded me a scholarship that bankrolled my first semester in University. I received the money for the number of volunteer initiatives I dedicated my time to while in school.

Betty-Ann HeggieMy friend, Betty-Ann Heggie (who also happens to be a member of one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women) says, “Whether in business or at home women need to “give to get”. Start by doing something for others before you ask for help. Earn the relationship!”


2. Listen first

Elle Pyke“As an entrepreneur, in the initial stages of creating a company, there’s a thin line between success and failure,” says Elle Pyke, Director of marketing and communications SalesEvolve.com. “The best advice I was given, was to lead by listening. Listen to your employees, your customers, your competition and your trusted mentors. Everyone loves the sound of their own voice, but entrepreneurs that want to succeed must be expert listeners. Quick to listen. Slow to speak.”

3. Look at problem solving differently

Molly Cantrel Kraig“Solutions sometimes come in packages we don’t foresee and it’s important to be open to multiple ways to reach your goals, while being firm in your commitment to the end result,” says Molly Cantrell-Kraig, founder of WomenWitheDrive.org. “Personally speaking, I had to release my control over what the finished product would look like as long as it solved the problem we started with at the beginning.”


4. Collaborate and share with trustworthy competitors

Kira Vermond“At the beginning of my freelance career, I buddied up with another writer,” says Kira Vermond, freelance writer, author and columnist. “Whenever she landed a new client, she would give me the contact information or introduce us. I did the same. Our client base grew along with our friendship. Now, 15 years later, we’re still prolific and have made a good living doing what we love. We were competitors, but never saw ourselves that way. I wanted her to succeed and she wanted me to succeed. I truly believed in her work and she believed in mine. Ultimately, we trusted each other.”

5. Be curious, connect

Pam Ross“I have found that the connections I’ve made simply through reaching out and being genuinely curious about people – what they do, what they love, what their challenges are – has helped to form great relationships, support and even referrals and business opportunities,” says Pam Ross cofounder of Impact99.


6. Share resources

Kiersten Hathcock“When I started out in 2007, I was coming from a place of needing immediate income which meant I had nothing to invest in startup costs like web design, logo design and product photography,” says Kiersten Hathcock, founder and president of ModMomFurniture.com. “I learned quickly how to do a lot the marketing and web design by myself.  For example, I designed a logo in Powerpoint and saved it as a jpeg. Initially, I bartered web design with an art director dad who was in need of kids furniture and did the same for photography by putting an ad in Craigslist. I got beautiful product shots and in return, she got a custom toy box. I still do much of my own design/marketing work and have found a few great sites that cost nothing and help tremendously:

7. Say yes to more

Laura Berg“We tend to shoot ourselves in the foot because we over-analyze things and as a result we miss opportunities,” president and founder, Laura Berg of MySmartHands.com. “Even if something goes wrong because you said ‘yes’ it is still a learning experience that will teach you something important. When you say ‘no’ you close the door and end conversations. So take chances! Say yes!”


8. Tap into local resources

Elizabeth Monier-Williams“If you live near an innovation hub (Toronto, Waterloo, New York, Boston, San Francisco, etc.) there may be networks you can access to find mentors and flesh out the less developed areas of your skill set (few people are good or experienced at everything),” says Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager for Mars Innovation. “In Toronto, MaRS’ Entrepreneurship 101 free series is available both in person and online.”

9. Attend conferences and events

Leigh MitchellAs a small business owner, conferences provide me a smorgasbord of opportunities to nurture business opportunities, acquire skills and grow your community – both professional and personal. Nothing will ever replace a handshake and getting out there and meeting people is the single most important activity small business owners can engage in. Read more at WomeninBizNetwork.com.

Are you a small business owner? Maybe it’s time to become a featured WIBN blogger. Check out our guidelines and let’s talk!

I’d love to hear how you feel about roadblocks and how you turn them into speed bumps. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (whichever one works best for you) or leave a comment below.

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  1. What a great post Julia! I always enjoy reading other entrepreneurs' insights. So valuable!

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