Self-Investment and Ongoing Learning Is Key to Entrepreneurial Success

Carolyn Landesman, Successful Entrepreneur and Leader, Shares Her Best Advice

entrepreneurial success

Carolyn Landesman is a successful leader, mentor and entrepreneur from Western Australia. She began her career as a teacher before she started and successfully ran her own small business before ultimately getting into larger corporate and educational roles. Currently, Carolyn is the Director of Innovation and Service at South West Institute of Technology in Western Australia. She has long been a student of business and entrepreneurship. And, she holds her MBA from Murdoch University. Here she shares some of her best advice with Biz zealot.

1.You Have a Background as a Certified Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  Can You Tell Us About What NLP Is and How You Apply It to Your Career/Business?

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an approach to communication and personal development created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s. It’s often used as a coaching and counseling tool. The reason I became an NLP practitioner was to improve my leadership and communication skills in the business environment.

Each of us has a preferred way of communicating and learning. We are either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners and communicators. As a leader, being able to identify the learning and communication preferences of others helps you lead and manage others in a way that resonates with their learning style and communication preferences.

For instance, I had a boss who was very direct and visual. When I communicated with him, my language became very direct and new ideas and proposals were presented visually. On the other hand, I had a direct report who had an auditory communication style. She would respond better to verbal instructions. Another one of my direct reports learned more by doing or showing them the way.

As your business grows, it becomes more and more important to learn to delegate effectively. Using the other person’s communication preferences to delegate improves your success rate.

Using the NLP techniques of matching and mirroring is also a valuable tool for being able to build rapport quickly with new a sales prospect. If you have to present proposals to a group of people, it’s important to use all the communication styles for maximum impact. This is best explained with the following quote.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

2. You Have Spent Most of Your Career in the Education Sector (Campus Living Villages and South West Institute of Technology). What Skills Did You Develop in These Roles That Could Be Applied to Entrepreneurship? 

Interestingly, I began my career as a teacher before expanding into the world of sales and marketing, starting a small business and eventually moving into senior executive roles running multi-million dollar businesses. As I developed my leadership skills throughout the years, I always thought of myself as being a teacher or coach, never a boss. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t care about who gets the credit.

It’s always about developing the people around you. You cannot achieve business goals without people. My leadership style was always adaptive to suit the people I led. Another name for it is servant leadership or situational leadership. These skills were particularly important in change management roles.

As a new entrepreneur, it’s easy to become so wrapped up in your own vision and goals you forget to bring others along with you. Nothing is more empowering for your people than to feel part of the greater vision in a positive working environment. They need to know the score card along the way.

Imagine playing for a sports team with no coach and no one ever tells you the score. You don’t know whether you should change tactics, push harder, work together as a team or take the lead. It all becomes a blur and eventually you don’t know why you were in the game in the first place.

Being an entrepreneur is no different. All leadership and no management creates chaos and all management and no leadership creates stagnation. Getting that balance right can make a big difference to your results.

Regardless of what business you are in, I learned that communication is everything. Most problems in organizations are caused through a lack of communication or poor communication techniques.

Communicate with your team both your successes and your challenges. Be authentic – be human. Allow others to become part of the vision and part of the solution. As an entrepreneur you never have a monopoly on good ideas. Allow your people to have a voice in a safe environment because they will see things from a different perspective. Allow them to take risks and make mistakes without reprisals.

3. Speaking of NLP…What Mindsets Help Make You Successful?

One of the first things that you learn in NLP is to take responsibility for your life. You are either at cause or effect meaning you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s very easy to blame others or circumstances for your failures. The fact is, the only thing that ever holds you back is you, not other people or circumstances. As former US Congressman, Bruce Barton says:

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.”
Bruce Barton

To perform at your best, regardless of whether it’s in business or your personal life, you need to know and understand who you are and why you feel the way you do. Once you understand the forces that have shaped your character, then you can change the habits that don’t serve you well and improve upon the habits that do serve you well.

You are a product of your upbringing however it doesn’t mean you can’t change. If you have low self-esteem and don’t believe in yourself, this is the first place I would start, particularly if you have a desire to become an entrepreneur. If you don’t believe in yourself or the products and services you offer, why should anyone else.

4. You Started Your Blog, Strategez to Help Small Businesses Grow.  Based on Your Interaction With Your Audience, What Is the Single Biggest Obstacle That Small Business Owners Face and How Can They Overcome This?

I started a small business in 1990 from scratch. All I had at the time was a dream and a powerful vision and some really good customer service skills. Not once did I ever believe I could fail. After two years in business I read my first ever book on small business and as I did I went… gulp… Business Plan! gulp… Marketing Plan! gulp …. Financial Plan! Then I realized that statistically 80% of small businesses fail in the first year and another 80% over the following three years.

I comprehended very quickly that I needed to learn more about running a business. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t fail – only because I didn’t know I could fail at the time. If I had read that same book on small business before I started the business, I would have let fear overtake me and would never have continued on.

It’s amazing what a powerful vision and self-belief can do when you first start a business. What I learned from that book was, it’s important to understand how all the functions of a business work together and to have a business plan. You don’t have to work every function of the business yourself, you can hire people to do that for you. But you do need to understand how every function of the business works and manage them accordingly.

I began to read books and learn as much as I could about business and eventually went onto complete an MBA. Looking back at that experience, I know what it’s like to start a business from scratch. You have to be everything; the receptionist, the sales person, the personnel officer, the accountant and even the cleaner. This is a challenge for start-ups, not knowing exactly where you should focus your energies and it’s easy to burn out and lose the passion that got you started in the first place.

A few years later I came across the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber and that’s when the penny really dropped for me. In order to become a successful entrepreneur, you need to lift yourself out of working in the business and work on the business. To me that meant developing leadership, management and in particular, sales skills.

Many entrepreneurs struggle with this concept. To grow their business, they must develop sales skills hence a big focus in the Strategez business. The reason being is, when you first start out, you don’t always have the capital or resources to employ professional sales people. Often entrepreneurs have wonderful ideas and are great technicians but they can’t always sell, nor do they always make the best leaders or managers.

Sales are the lifeblood of any business and you can’t achieve great levels of success without being able to influence and lead others. If you need to raise venture capital or sell your ideas to a bank for a loan, they need to believe in both you and your vision. Knowing how and why people buy, including bankers is critical to the success of selling anything, even if it’s a simple idea of getting your people to cooperate across business functions.

5. What’s Your Favorite Metaphor for Describing Entrepreneurship?  

Get off the dance floor and up onto the balcony.
Carolyn Landesman

 As an entrepreneur you can get so caught up in driving the business you only see what is immediately in front of you or beside you and almost never what’s behind you. When you extract yourself from the dance floor and get up on the balcony, you get see the dance floor in its entirety. This perspective allows you to think more strategically about your business.

By taking a step back and looking at your business from another perspective it enables you to make adjustments along the way. That perspective could be from your customers, your suppliers, your employees and even your investors from their point of view.

I also relate getting up on the balcony to the Leadership Framework of visioning, relating, inventing and sense-making. Visioning is a map of what the future could be. Relating is the ability to develop key relationships and networks. Inventing is about creating new ways to work together and sense-making is making sense of what works and what doesn’t. All skills successful entrepreneurs need.

Getting up on the balcony is something every entrepreneur should do from time to time for it gives you time out to assess where you have been, where you are now and what you need to do differently to achieve your vision for the future. Having a mentor can also fulfil this function.

6. What Was the Best Piece of Advice You Ever Got? The Worst?

The best and worst advice I ever received came from within myself. It’s that little voice inside your head that says you can, you can’t, you can, you can’t! You know the one – your self talk. It’s like a game of ping pong with your negative thoughts constantly battling your positive ones. Fear tolerated is faith contaminated.

Listen to how you talk to yourself. If you aren’t getting the results you want, it’s time to change how you talk to yourself and to other people. Inevitably you are a product of negative or positive thinking. Let’s face it, who wants to invest in, do business with or work for someone who is always negative.

When you believe you can, the how develops.


7. Here at Biz Zealot, We Ask the Folks We Interview for Their Best Piece Of “Takeaway Advice” for Entrepreneurs or Aspiring Entrepreneurs.  Ie., If They Only Read One Thing From This Post, This Would Be the Most Valuable.  What Is Your Takeaway Piece of Advice?

Invest in yourself before you start up a business and keep on investing in yourself. Keep learning. When you do, you will be far better equipped to deal with the challenges that comes with entrepreneurship.

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