Sure you can study business in school, but some of the best lessons come from experience. Here are a few lessons learned by small business owners:
• Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams, owner and publisher of New York Trend and New York Trendnyc.com and one of Network Journal's 25 Most Influential Women for 2009: "The most valuable business lesson I have learned in over three decades of being an entrepreneur is to be flexible. I have reinvented the focus of my business several times to adjust to the changes in my industry. As owner and publisher of New York Trendnyc, I have watched the publishing industry, especially for niche ethnic and historically Black newspapers lose readershhip and as a result also lose major advertising support. As we have evolved into the social media and digital forms of communication, I have attempted to adapt New York Trendnyc by developing an online version of the hard copy newspaper, launched a Facebook page, twitter account and website. My philosophy is if you don't bend you will break. Flexibility is the key."
• Adrienne Graham, founder and CEO of Empower Me! Corporation, a media, publishing and professional and entrepreneurial development firm, and author of Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter on Using Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy: "Networking has been the catalyst for everything I've done to date. Had I not learned to network, I don't think I would be as successful as I am today. It took a lot for a shy girl from the projects to learn how to connect with power players and realize I was just as worthy. I'm also thankful that I learned how to keep my brand relevant. I did a good job in keeping my expertise and knowledge relevant pre-Internet, but technology, social media and Internet have allowed me to grow my brand even bigger than I ever imagined. Instead of using it as a self-promotion opportunity, I have been able to help others by giving advice and encouragement, as well as sharing my expertise. Social media has enabled me to reach people I would have never been able to connect with, help more people, and align with powerful thought leaders to enhance my own knowledge (and yes, it leads back to networking).
• Derrick A. Mack, Sr., Owner/Creator and Host of Release Your Inner MC TV Show: "The career lesson that I'm most thankful for is finally coming to the conclusion that in order to be truly successful, I would have to learn how to recruit people who possessed skills and talents that would complement my own talents. For me, this was a moment of great introspection and self-discovery because I always thought (wrongly) that in order to be successful, I would have to do it, be it, and make it happen myself. During this self-discovery, I learned that building a powerful team was one of the keys to success.
• Amy J. Andrieux, founder of TheStarklife.com, a digital cultural magazine and a portal for global youth: "Companies are built in iterations. They are never perfect from the beginning; it's always a process of destroy (recognizing what's not working and learning from it) and rebuild (building upon the things that do work). I'm super-thankful for that lesson because I'm somewhat of an overachiever and perfectionist. It's so easy for me to get trapped in the "perfecting process". I've learned to just let it go, because it's not worth the stress on my mind or body. Besides, Egypt wasn't built in a day."
• Cornell "Corey" Summers, founder and CEO of Doebotz Clothing Company: "I know this may sound so cliche, but the lesson I was taught and am always reminded of is "what you put in, is what you get out." This lesson applies to everything in life, including business. If you are always honest with others, you should be showered with honesty as well. If you bust your butt to accomplish a set out goal without giving much thought on what reward you will receive upon completion, and just ride the wave of your passion while doing your best, you will indeed receive your reward/blessing in one form or another. It’s just universal law. If you want something, anything, you must go get it... It will not come to you."