Many studies show that while Millennials are a generation of entrepreneurs, Gen Z will be even more entrepreneurial than any other cohort. This is a shift from the typical 9-5 at a corporate company to people wanting to work for themselves, create their own hours and even work remotely from anywhere in the world.
A quote I really think showcases the why people are aspiring to be their own boss is from Jeffrey Gitomer. He says “When you’re in business for yourself, you write your own history, you write your own success story, you write your own legacy and most important, you write your own paycheck. Being in business for yourself gives you the opportunity to work your heart out for something you love.”
Successful entrepreneurs are usually inspired by other successful entrepreneurs. I am motivated by women leaders so I am choosing to interview 2 women in the hospitality industry who own their own companies. Included in this interview is Louise Silberman, CMM who owns Summits of Chicago conference centers and Stacey Hanke of Stacey Hanke, Inc a consulting company.
SS: How did you decide you wanted to work for yourself and how did you get the idea or concept for your business?
LAS: Honestly I fell into it. I came from a family where my father owned a business and my oldest brother was groomed to take over, but my career was with a large company. I worked at Hyatt Regency Chicago for 10 years before moving over to KPMG Center for Leadership Development. KPMG was a client at Hyatt and I was very familiar with their conference center. I only intended to work there for 12-24 months, “while I figured out my next steps in my career”. Luck is certainly a big party of my story, but I also worked hard while I was there and when the opportunity arose to buy the non-residential conference center concept I grabbed it. I was one of the original pioneers of independent urban meeting spaces and now it’s the fastest growing concept for The International Association of Conference Centers, IACC.
SH: Earlier in my career I hired professional speakers at the company I worked for. I asked them to coach me early in my career because I had a burning desire to do what they did. I suddenly received requests from clients asking me to present at their conferences. The demand grew to help me take the step into the entrepreneurial world. The business has evolved to where it is today because of client feedback and demand. We continue to listen very closely to our clients to be innovative and to provide services that meet their specific expectations.
SS: To what do you attribute your success?
LAS: To a dedicated team that truly knows our customers and therefore provides great service. Our growth is hugely based upon internal referrals and clients moving from one company to another and taking ‘The Summit” with them.
SH: 1st, my parents work ethic that is part of my DNA. 2nd, my team that continues to push me to be the best I can be. 3rd, my coaches. Without my coaches this journey would be impossible.
SS: What advice can you give for someone aspiring to open their own company?
LAS: I took over an existing business, but with the knowledge that we would be losing our largest client, over 60% of the business. From the start we knew we had to diversify our account base and not be so reliant on one customer. The biggest challenge is knowing that you are the steward of people’s livelihood. It can be daunting at times but is also the most rewarding.
SH: Never stop networking and marketing you, your brand and company. Never give up nor listen to the naysayers. Stay focused and disciplined. Fail fast and don’t step on the same land mines.
SS: What do you wish you would have known before starting your own business?
LAS: I don’t think anyone can be truly prepared for the unexpected. 9/11 occurred within a few years of opening Summit Executive Centre. The fall is one of our busiest seasons and you could shoot a cannon down our halls for the remainder of 2001. We lost over 40% of our anticipated revenue. I have always been fiscally conservative and run my business from the bottom line up to some point, but it’s a fine line between wisely investing back in your company and building your reserves.
SH: Some days this list can be long (smile). Attend more educational courses/training sessions offered through the company’s I worked for prior to starting my own business. Take more risks early on.
SS: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
LAS: That I was able to weather the economic downturn of 2008/2009 and most importantly, without laying off any staff. We had just completed an expansion and our fixed expenses increased by 50% while our revenues decreased by the same. It was a scary time. But I had built a reserve fund over the years. Between staff attrition and the team collectively reducing their hours, we were able to survive the bleak years. I take great pride in that fact as many small businesses were not as fortunate. And most amazingly, within four years we were able to open Summit West.
SH: Building the team we have today- especially having my sisters on-board, our client list and book #2.
SS: What are the current risks you are facing?
LAS: Trying to manage and maintain our standards and service levels with so many new employees and new clients with their own unique needs at separate locations. Growth is good but not always easy. I took certain expectations for granted.
SH: Running a business has risks every day. That’s what drives an entrepreneur. Some risks are heavier than others. The daily risks that immediately come to mind are;
- Introducing a new product or service to our clients “hoping” it’s a hit!
- Sharing my thoughts via social media knowing we take the risks of our followers disagreeing or taking offensive to our stand on influence.
- The day to day grind of making a sale.
Whether you have a genius idea or are just great at your craft and want to work for yourself I hope these successful entrepreneurs give you some inspiration to jump in and get started!