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January 18, 2010

10 Career Tips for 2010

Four Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets for Success

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Photo Credit: DowJonesIND

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The start of the New Year is often a time to reassess goals and accomplishments from the previous year and make fresh resolutions to achieve.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week, the New York Stock Exchange and The Kauffman Foundation sponsored a business event that brought together well-known entrepreneurs like Snoop Dogg and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes to inspire young entrepreneurs.

Over 200 college students attended a panel discussion which included Snoop Dogg, Mycoskie, Stephen Hanson of B.R. Guest Restaurant Group and Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital Group. Moderated by Maria Bartiromo, news anchor for CNBC, the event included discussion on turning points in their careers, business plan development, best practices and pitfalls.

Compiled below are the day’s 10 most prevalent tips along with anecdotes from the entrepreneurs themselves. Heed their advice and start 2010 off right!

1. Follow your passion
A recurring theme throughout each entrepreneur’s discussion was the advice to follow your passion. “Too many people think of entrepreneurship as a career path. Whenever you ask an entrepreneur, it’s never about money or a business plan – that’s the biggest mistake,” Mycoskie said. “The most important thing is to follow your passion.”

2. Be authentic
No one can state this better than Snoop Dogg himself. When asked what his best advice was, he said, “Be original. There are so many things in life people need. Make something no one can compete with.” He used 50 Cent as an example. “50 Cent took Vitamin Water and put the money he made back into the company. Take something very small and make it original.”

3. Study
All of the panelists agreed on the importance of completing college to achieve one’s greatest potential. “You make it easier for yourself if you finish your education because you network and make connections,” Sternlicht said.

4. Don’t lose humility
“People lose fortunes when they lose their intellectual humility,” Sternlicht stated. “Nobody knows everything. Be patient, don’t rush. Don’t be so arrogant. See the potholes in your business. Always have a plan B and think, how can it go wrong?”

5. Fake it ‘til you make it
Before founding TOMS Shoes, Mycoskie started EZ Laundry, a door-to-door laundry service aimed at fellow college students at Southern Methodist University. When he first launched his service no one wanted to give him their laundry, so for 3-4 weeks he and a friend would drive around campus and pretend they were picking up and delivering laundry. Once students became more familiar with the business and thought others were using it, they put their trust in Mycoskie and EZ Laundry took off.

6. Some rules are not made to be broken
When first starting TOMS Shoes, Mycoskie had no experience in shoes or design. He decided to sell shoes out of canvas bags instead of the typical boxes stacked in department stores. Canvas bags created havoc in storing the shoes, eventually leading Nordstrom to discontinue selling the shoes. “There are reasons boxes in stock rooms exist,” he told students.

7. Hustle
“If you had no capital, how did you start TOMS Shoes?” Maria Bartiromo asked. “We just hustled,” Mycoskie said. “Employees can be part of the cause. Our original team was me and three interns I recruited on Craigslist.” There are tremendous amounts of grants and funding for young entrepreneurs, especially if there is a social component, you just have to go out and find it, he stated.

8. Dedication
Stephen Hansen, founder and president of B.R. Guest Restaurants was asked the reasons behind his success to which he joked, “not being married so you can devote all your time to the restaurant.” It takes a huge amount of dedication and staying true to yourself, he said. The restaurant business runs seven days a week, often 18 hours a day and the trick is “not taking your eye off the ball.”

9. Stay on top of your market
Hansen explained that competition is also a great motivator. “I always stay on top of the market. The Internet and social networking are always morphing businesses. Stay with the curve or ahead of the curve and be perceptive. You can’t think what you built will sustain forever, there are always slight changes. Know your business.”

10. Don’t think about failure
One of the world’s leading hotel and leisure companies, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., is known for its innovation and global appeal. Chairman, president and CEO Barry Sternlicht helped with Starwood’s ongoing success and is one of the most respected leaders in the industry. “I never thought about failure. I thought about success. Failure wasn’t an option. I never looked backwards, I kept looking forward,” Sternlicht said.


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