3 Timeless Business Lessons from a Real Life Superwoman

My Mother is 86 and doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile. But if she ever did, her headline would read something like… “Former ingenue, entrepreneur, dreamer, and the rest is none of your damn business, honey.” But to those who’ve had the privilege to know her over the decades her mantra has always been, quite simply, to treat everybody with dignity!

Here are 3 timeless business lessons she’s taught me to go along with that mantra.

3. The worst “they” can say is “no.” – Opportunities were not exactly flowing in depression-era Los Angeles, but that didn’t stop one young lady from putting herself out there. She helped my father through chiropractic school by working long hours as a Hollywood extra throughout the 50’s and 60’s. Though never quite achieving stardom she knocked on enough doors to get a lot of work, save some seed money and establish relationships that would eventually transform her life. Mom leveraged her new, tough shell to find opportunities, sell her strengths and laugh off rejection.  “It’s no big deal,” she constantly told me as a kid. At the end of the day you should never be afraid to ask for what you want because the absolute worst “they” can say is no. And you still get to keep your dignity.

2. Get everything in writing. – Unurprisingly, Mom had to learn this lesson like most of us… the hard way. This was the mid-century after all and commonplace to make agreements on a handshake. But it only took a few rotten deals for her to realize that keeping good records was key to helping a business stay on track and prospering. Putting it in writing lets the other person know that you need to be, and you will be, treated with dignity.

1. Don’t burn your bridges. – The keyword in the old adage that you can’t make a lot of money without making a few enemies is few. Just as one door opens and another closes, Mom never wanted to find herself in a new room with an old enemy. By treating everybody with dignity she managed to avoid burning many bridges. And for every bridge she burned, she’s probably built a thousand more. When a job or a deal doesn’t go your way, take the high road and don’t make it personal. You never know what the future brings or who might be bringing it.

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Mom’s success, not just in business, but among the people she calls colleagues, friends and family is based on dignity. And while there were many times in her life where she was unfairly treated, put at a disadvantage and rejected, she never forgot that. I guess that’s why I never had much of a problem following the 5th Commandment. Anybody remember that one?