Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman jurist on the U.S. Supreme Court, once explained that her success was in large part due to others: “We don't accomplish anything in this world alone,” O’Connor said, “and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.”
The tapestry woven by America’s women leaders continues to grow and become ever more vibrant. Nationally, women are ascending to the highest levels of management in both business and government. On a local level, women own two of every five businesses, the Harvard Business Review reports, and their businesses are growing at twice the rate of U.S. firms as a whole.
But as Justice O’Connor pointed out, no one succeeds on her own. Each success story is stitched together strand by strand, both personally and professionally. If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur or at any other endeavor, it helps to call on every resource at your disposal.
- Some of those resources are personal. There is no substitute for having a mentor or mentors who can help you find the footholds and avoid slipping on the rocks as you climb steadily upward on your career or business path. Take full advantage of your network of peers, colleagues and others who have gone before you. Continually take care to feed your network, nurture it and maintain it. And don’t forget to reach back to others who may be following you.
- Other resources are educational and instructional. Whether you are striving for an advanced degree or simply expanding your skills at a local adult education program, it’s important to continue learning. Opportunities for individual growth can be found all around you, including your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and community groups.
You’ll find that women are increasingly joining and leading professional associations and industry organizations. A big reason why is that women are rising in the professional ranks, accounting for a third of engineers (35.9 percent), lawyers and judges (36.5 percent), nearly a third of physicians and surgeons (31.8 percent), and two in five managers (38.2 percent), according to the Shriver Report.
- Some resources are available from business and government entities. Many corporations who serve small-business owners have created tools and educational materials on a wide range of business topics. For instance, The Hartford, which serves more than one million small business owners, developed a financial guide for entrepreneurs called the Business Owner’s Playbook (www.thehartford.com/businessowner).
Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration offers rich information on starting
and running a business and recently announced a new program that sets aside
certain federal contracts for women-owned small businesses
- There is no substitute for professional advice, an invaluable resource. As your business grows, so will your need for advice about how to protect yourself against financial pitfalls and how to take advantage of financial opportunities. Establish working relationships with a trusted financial advisor, insurance agent, lawyer, accountant and others that can provide you with expertise you may not have.
They will help you secure the investments that you’ve made in your business,
guard against liability from things you can anticipate and things you can’t, and
provide benefits that will help you attract and retain top talent.
All of these experiences and more will help you continue to advance along your entrepreneurial journey, strand by strand. It’s especially true of the friends, colleagues and business contacts you make along the way because they all will help you in ways that may be immediately obvious and not-so-obvious.
Justice O’Connor’s path to the height of American jurisprudence was atypical. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. After graduating Stanford Law, the only corporate job offer she received was as a legal secretary. Undaunted, she blazed a path of her own until she retired from the Supreme Court in 2006.
All of Justice O’Connor’s experiences – both positive and negative – contributed in some way to her success. She built her career strand by strand and so can you. Reach out to others and take advantage of as many resources as you can while you build your business and create a rich tapestry of your own.
Courtney Kunzelmann is assistant vice president of wealth management strategy of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and is co-leader of The Hartford’s Professional Women’s Network. The PWN promotes the advancement of women to professional and leadership positions in The Hartford, and provides opportunities for mentoring, education, career and personal development.