Who Is Your Hero?

Throughout life, we are touched by significant figures, who cross our paths in big and small ways. When it comes to business, we all need heroes to motivate, drive, inspire, and lean on from time to time. I love to hear stories from entrepreneurs who have been dramatically impacted by someone special, so last week I asked,

“What single person has had the greatest impact on your business success to date, and why?”

I’m am thrilled to share the responses from 24 business owners. Their heroes include family members, business coaches, famous authors, and some of history’s legends. Enjoy reading how each respondent was driven to reach new heights in business and life by the special heroes and mentors they’ve encountered. If you would like to give a shout-out to your hero, please leave a comment below.

1. Cynthia Levesque – ”To date, my boyfriend Jason has had the greatest impact on my business success. Maybe it is because I talk to him the most about my trials and tribulations, but he has taught me to take my emotions out of it; to not let my feelings get hurt if a client decides to turn to another graphic designer, etc. As a business owner himself, he has also taught me how to ask for the deposit and work towards the payment, hold myself accountable for my mistakes and misunderstandings, and to be stronger overall.”
Founder of CynthiaLevesque.com

2. Robin McCoy Ramirez (@rmccoy1234) – “My husband has had the greatest impact on my business success because without him I don’t think I would have taken the dive into starting a business while pregnant with our first daughter.  He has supported me through the tough days when I feel like throwing in the towel.  Because I am a stay-at-home, trying to balance starting a business with raising our 6 month old, has been challenging.  There are days that I can only spend a couple of hours working on the business, as she is either fussy, teething, or will not let me get work done.  Then, there are days, that my husband comes home from a long day at work, to help by watching our daughter, so I can make phone calls, respond to emails, and handle the day-to-day tasks of a business.  Without his full support and help with watching our daughter, I would not have received the Huggies MomInspired grant, secured vendors for my product, or been able to get the SoothEaze blanket from idea, to prototype to product.  He has helped make my company a success, and I am truly thankful.”
Owner/Inventor of SoothEaze

3. Lauren MacEwen (@laurencubed) – ”My mom.  She is an entrepreneur. I grew up talking about business strategy at the dinner table. Business was just a part of my life.  My mom went into the oil industry and made her way, an industry that is not known for being friendly to women.  She showed me that perseverance is key to success. Failure is ok but giving up is not.”
Primary Strategist and Creator of SM Cubed Consulting

4. Erno Hannink (@ernohannink) – ”This would be Laura Babeliowsky. She helped me to give me focus on my products and customers in 2008. From then on everything changed for me. We still work a lot together and organize an event, Social Media Event.
Expert, Author, Speaker – ErnoHannink.com

5. Dean Cyon (@deans_beans) – “For eighteen years as the founder and CEO of my company, my greatest and continuing mentor is Mahatma Gandhi. He showed me that any person can be a significant agent for meaningful social change. Eighteen years ago I decided to use business as a vehicle for social change at the source, and Gandhi has inspired me to look at new ways to do this, while at the same time being profitable.”
Founder and CEO of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company

6. Aaron Ashworth (@aaronashworth) – “Napolean Hill.  By reading his books and learning about his methods and principles of business and public relations, he has really helped me in developing my businesses from nothing.  One of the biggest attributes to Mr. Hill is in his book, “Think and Grow Rich” he mentions building a master dream team.  A team of advisors of people you admire (dead and alive) that you meditate on and have a dreamlined board meeting asking them questions and getting feedback from them.  It sounds crazy, but if you read a lot of business books you will have a lot of references and people you will build your dream team with and their advice plays out through the meditation tactics.  It helps me at least.”
Executive Director of The Destination Place, Inc / Venture Inc.

7. Jodi Sagorin (@jodisagorin) – “Danielle Laporte has had the biggest impact on my business success to date. She has incredible firestarter sessions that provide meaningful money-making ideas; very, very clear priorities, fired up creativity and courage, and useful connections. She has a fresh voice, amazing business sense, and is a joy to talk to. Her session with me changed my course and tripled my coaching business. Definitely check her out! @daniellelaporte”
Founder of If You Never Did

8. Jennifer A. Chiongbian (@JACbroker) – “Business Mentor: Burke Smith – Your Net Coach. He has kicked the door wide open for me in terms of unique and creative marketing strategies; that has not only ramped up my business, but has renewed my passion and excitement for this business! He was the sunshine that I needed to cultivate and grow my business enterprise.
SVP/ Associate Broker of Rutenberg Realty NYC

9. Lisa Manyon (@WriteOnCreative) – “Ali Brown is the most influential mentor I have invested in to date. Her proven strategies, networking connections and personal growth opportunities within her programs (including being a mastermind group leader) have helped me increase my revenue from barely breaking even to five-figure months. She’s an incredible role model for successful, single female entrepreneurs (men are not excluded she simply resonates with women by walking her talk).”
Marketing Consultant and Copywriting Strategist for Write On – Creative Writing Services, LLC.

10. Tom Bentley (@bentguy1) – “My most influential mentor is Seth Godin, whose latest work “Linchpin” truly catalyzes the knowledge that you must do your best work, because you don’t get that many chances, and that being generous and willing to fail are virtues. 

Also, that being open to opportunity and change–and having the courage to act on those things–are motivations you must renew every day. Seth’s got a lot more juicy good stuff in all his books, and though I don’t always embody his powerful precepts, I have gained actionable insight from them.”
Founder of The Write Word

11. Dr. Ric Morgan – “Actually, there was no one person but rather a group of
people through the years at the Small Business Administrations 
SCORE (Senior Corp of Retired Executives) from around the 
country who have helped me in a LOT of ways, in accounting, 
finance, marketing, advertising and sales. These retired 
executives have a vast array of knowledge and volunteer 
their time and expertise to anyone who asks. They are the 
absolute BEST, and I recommend them to anyone who has 
access to an SBA office.”
Founder of SimpleWords Communications

12. Lisa Pike – “I built my transcription business from the ground up, starting in 2000, to its current volume of about $2 million a year. About 3 years ago, I hired a business coach and the impact has been incredible! 

If I was going to have a coach, I had to have the RIGHT coach. I won’t take advice from just anyone. I chose Christopher Flett, founder of Ghost CEO and author of “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business.” I’ve worked with Chris for 3 years, and although every session with him is pure torture, a combination of a punch in the gut and a warm hug, having him by my side has kept me focused, on track, accountable, making smart decisions and smart contacts. Torture or not, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a coach yourself, I’m sure you agree there’s just no substitute for having someone in your corner like that. As CEOs, there are very few people we can bounce ideas off, vent to, ask advice from, or admit insecurities and failures to. Chris is that source for me, and having him by my side allows me to leverage my strengths and be an alpha without turning into a man. 

With Chris’ help, we are on track for reaching $5 million volume in the next year. I could’ve done it alone, but with his help I’m able to do it faster, stronger, and smarter.”
Principal/CEO of ScribeRight Transcription Agency, Inc.

13. Valerie Bennis (@valisleeplady) – “My brother has been my business mentor since I started my company 10 years ago. His business acumen after years of being a company owner plus his natural abilities has been invaluable to me. He has assisted me in making decisions and putting together pricing proposals. Several years ago he encouraged me to target consumers as well as building my wholesale business and helped pay for me to re-vamp my web site to include a shopping cart feature. I am clear, I would not be where I am today without his support, encouragement and belief in me and my product line.”
Owner of Essence of Vali, Inc.

14. Jon Schwartz (@9to5culture) – “If I had to pick one person who had the single greatest impact on my business success it would have to be Paul Graham.  It’s not necessarily for any direct impact he’s had on me, but he started Y Combinator which, in turn, spurred Hacker News.  I learn more on Hacker News every day than I could have learned in 4 years of school.
Co-founder of 9to5Culture

15. Shelley Herman Gillon – “I had been beating my head against a brick wall for close to ten years. I was of the “if you build it they will come–follow your bliss and the money will follow” generation. I’d been following my bliss as a playwright for almost a decade and had nothing to show for it but a local production of one play and a series of readings and concert versions of a couple of others. Granted, the readings had been at the Kennedy Center and the production, though earning me nothing in the way of royalties, got me my Dramatist’s Guild card. Still I longed to earn a sustainable living from what I considered to be my life’s work.

Enter Gay Gooen, a woman of considerable expertise and powers of persuasion. She said, in this economy, if you want a sustainable income you’re going to need to a) put your work out there more b) diversify and c) be open to defining your work in a different way. She also was quite clear that I would need to offer something that people actually had a need for. It was a tough truth to face, but out of all the people I knew personally who were playwrights, only one was making a living at it. The rest worked in various fields to make their monthly nut—teaching, law, journalism or public relations. It took awhile, but Gay prodded me to redefine what my vision for myself was as an earner and how to expand my definition of my “life’s work”.

In August of 2010, Gay mentioned, quite casually, or seemingly so, that I might want to look into tutoring using an online agency to refer clients and do the administrative work. Within two months, I had ten clients in a communication coaching practice helping non-native professionals and academics improve their English written and oral communication. I had already zeroed in on a specialty—accent remediation or reduction. I found something I could do that was beginning to pay the bills and, which gave me a surprising amount of joy and satisfaction. I was actually helping people with something that was critical to their success and well-being.

Now I could put my excellent ear and mimicry skills in the service of others and get paid for it. Last week, I was hired as a dialect coach on a production by one of the nation’s leading regional theater. I’d enter the realm I’d been struggling to enter for ten years—just through a different door. Gay supported me through every phase of this process. She is a rare combination of mentor, earth mother, spiritual guru and role model.”

16. Jill Mikols Etesse – “Tamara Mellon (JImmy CHoo), Marjore Merriweather Post and Katharine Graham, those 3 have had the greatest impact on my career! In the early days after college, it was Merriweather and Graham but in more recent years it has been Tamara Mellon. I started my own business SmartyShortz LLC (App development, 9 employees) a few years ago and write a fashion column for http://www.momstowork.com and sit on several fashion review boards and blogs….these women inspire me to do any and everything! I think, as a mom and wife trying to juggle everything, it is hard to stay focused on a business and do that well and not let the other facets of your life slip…I need these inspirations if nothing more than to say “what would they do” and have their books and bios around to refer to when I need to get out of a rut or simply get a project going!”
Creative Director SmartyShortz LLC

17. Christina Sleeper – “I am a proud, life-long entrepreneur! Since graduating from college I held one management position in corporate america before I embarked on my first solo-venture! 
Currently, I am a food entrepreneur in Los Angeles, sleepersmagicrub.com, with a line of gourmet spice rubs and jams crafted in artisan batches of the finest california herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. As a manufacturer I have had to learn a whole new skill set that goes above and beyond my other endeavors that focused on service and consulting. Through all of these evolutions, I am proud to say that I have had the love and support of my husband, Mark Sleeper! We married in 1986 while I was still in college and he has and does to this day encourage, inspire and motivate me to go for what I want no matter what obstacles present themselves to me! This road of entrepreneurship that I am now in my 21st year of has been the greatest learning experience. Sometimes, it is also the most frustrating experience. Knowing I have complete support from my partner and husband has been priceless!”
COO of Sleeper’s Magic Rub

18. Casey Cease (@caseycease) – “My business mentor, Rod Brace (www.rodbrace.com) has had the greatest influence on me to date. His kindness, patience, straight-talk, and his generosity has had a great impact on myself personally as well as my business. Rod’s day job is with a large hospital system in the Houston, TX area, but he has been involved with many non-profits in leadership roles over the years. On top of being very organized (David Allen disciple), he is also very creative, and courageous with business ideas. He has largely helped to form what Lucid Books is today as well as who I am as a leader.”
CEO of Lucid Books

19. Craig Wolfe (@celebriducks) – “The inspiration for my company has always been Milton Hershey. The man failed again and again and eventually became unbelievably successful. Never gave up. But even more than that, he spent his whole life setting up his business to support one of the largest non-profit schools for orphans in the country in addition to numerous other ventures to help people. He even gave away all his personal wealth while he was still alive in fact and left a trust to ensure the survival of his non-profits forever. It is exactly what I plan to do with my business!”
President of CelebriDucks

20. Megan Elizabeth Morris (@Ideaschema) – Charlie Gilkey‘s enormous impact on my business and working life has come largely as a result of his ability to teach business strategy one-on-one, engage in extremely creative problem-solving, and provide very smart insight into difficult decision-making. His process is incredibly straightforward and he makes his concepts “sticky” — they’re easy to remember and think clearly about, and that has translated directly into smoother success and sustainability for my projects. I wouldn’t give up our weekly sessions for anything!”
Design Strategist & Founder of Ideaschema

21. Michele Benza (@mbenza) – “Pattie Heisser who invited me to join her team of ‘mavens’ on http://www.50fabulous.com. Thanks to becoming 50fab’s style maven, I have had to write a monthly column, something that I had never done before. This monthly column has open so many doors and bring a lot of exposure to my business.”
Founder of MicheleBenza.com

22. Jan Hefferin (@WBOCafe) – “As cliché as it may be, my Father has been my inspiration and has had the greatest impact on my business.  From Day One, he has not only been there as a sounding board but he has also been my motivator, my inspiration and most importantly, my truth.  He doesn’t just tell me what he thinks I want to hear … he speaks the truth no matter how it will make me feel.  For this, he has pushed my limits and enabled me to step outside of my comfort zone.  If it weren’t for him, I would still be talking about my “grandiose” ideas and may never have put any of them in to action.  He makes me face my business fears head on, forces me to accept the truth for what it is and facilitates the process of always taking another step forward.  I truly would not be where I am today in business if it were not for my Dad!”
Founder of WBO Cafe

23. Derrick Hayes (@encouragement4u) – “Ty Howard. We are in the same industry and we talk daily. We live in different areas of the United States so we are not a threat to each other. I give ideas to him as well as get feedback from him. People are not always willing to help you in the same line of work. “
Founder of WOE Enterprises

24. Kym Johnson (@ksjmarketing) – “I knew about Michael Angelo Caruso (www.edisonhouse.com) for about a year. He friended me on Facebook. After checking with a mutual connection I accepted his request. I would read his posts but never did much with them. I finally saw him at an event hosted by the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce. His presentation was on networking (my weakest areas). I was hooked. His various presentations seemed to hit home to some of the things I did not like about how I was working my business. His presentations have given me a lot of valuable information to use. My goal for this year is to be able to afford some coaching sessions with him.”
Owner of KSJ Marketing Communications LLC

My sincere thanks to all our respondents this week! Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

This week’s question is –

If you maintain a blog, you have a commitment to churn out valuable information on a regular basis. On those occasions when your words just won’t flow, what’s your best strategy for breaking free from writer’s block?

Why should I join the discussion?

Because this online forum is a great place for us to exchange ideas, learn from each other and network. My goal is to unite successful women entrepreneurs to share our insights and solutions to the challenges we most commonly face in our businesses.

How do I get involved?

Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response by Saturday, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.
To submit your response CLICK HERE

I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!


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3 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by smarty shortz and Dr. Shannon Reece, Dr. Shannon Reece. Dr. Shannon Reece said: Who Is Your Hero?: http://wp.me/pKJr1-qR […]

  2. By Dr. Shannon Weekly Question — Blog Cubed on January 31, 2011 at 10:14 am

    […] “What single person has had the greatest impact on your business success to date, and why?” See my answer and what the other amazing entrepreneurs had to […]

  3. By 9to5Blog - The voice of the 9to5Culture Crew on January 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

    […] Co-Founder Jon Schwartz was quoted in the article Who is your hero? by Dr Shannon Reece […]

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