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Overwhelmed? Overworked? In over your head? If this is the way you feel, don’t fret — you’re far from alone. The road to success is said to be permanently under construction and no one knows this more than someone knee-deep in small business! Yes, you will have good days and you’ll have bad days, but it’s important to keep the faith.

To do this, my tip is to look to those who have been there, done that — look to those at the top end of town who have not just survived the tough times but thrived because of them.

Success stories are the kind of tale that are told and retold — they’re the stories that arm you with practical steps to make sure your own story is a successful one. They’ll give you the hope to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.

One woman who’s a great inspiration is Sarina Russo. From often-sacked legal secretary to the eponymous Sarina Russo Group —an international organisation employing upwards of 1000 — Russo is, and has been for the last 30 years, one of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs. On her way to the top, she’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bill Clinton and made quite a mark in the recruitment game.

But it hasn’t been an easy rise to the top.

Russo started her own business out of necessity — she simply couldn’t hold down a nine to five job.

“I’d been fired from every legal job and finally I decided I had to find my own financial independence,” Russo says.

“In 1979, I was a legal secretary and a typing teacher at night… After being fired several times and then fired from my evening job — and [then] reinstated because the students wanted me back — I realised that I was good at something. That was the start of my life, where I am today. It’s an extraordinary journey, and I would like to think that I would inspire someone today who’s just been fired or made redundant to do the same thing.”

I love the irony in this story — the woman who couldn’t keep a job grew a business out of finding others employment when her typing school turned to recruitment!

The reasons for such a move, Russo says, were simple.

“You can’t train unless it’s going to lead to something — the job outcome is really what it’s all about. So I was determined that I would not only train, but help people get jobs.”

And this is precisely what the Sarina Russo brand has done for “tens and tens and tens of thousands of students and jobseekers”.

Russo also places great stock in the importance of mentors.

Their advice, coupled with self-belief — “You’ve got to have self belief” — will help you overcome any obstacles, she says.

And she adds that obstacles are a matter of when, not if.

“Honestly, obstacles happen when you start a business, obstacles happen in life; but it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it,” Russo says.

And age and experience are no barrier — things can be thrown in your way at any point in your career.

“I mean, this year, my 30th year, I thought that life was really great and there I was tendering for a massive Job Network contract and I didn’t get what I wanted.”

The setback, says Russo, was a rough $50 million which, under normal circumstances, would have spelled cuts — namely, her executives and 150 staff.

“You’ve got to be able to do is embrace certainty with uncertainty and always be ready to reengineer yourself. All of a sudden, this tsunami hit, the lifejacket wasn’t on and I thought, what am I going to do?” recalls Russo. “I challenged the status quo.”

She kept her staff on and, in a matter of weeks, they won more work and kicked off their UK operations.

“We reengineered our company,” says Russo, adding that she was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

In this sense, Russo turns threats into opportunities — this, she assured me, is part of her business philosophy.

“But it’s more than that,” she says. “You’ve got to dance with fear. Fear exists all the time, but it’s how you embrace your vision and the only thing that limits you is limiting your imagination. So what I say is, you must allow your imagination to expand and be able to have that vision and take your team with you, because that’s really the secret to success.”

She says it’s self-belief that allows you to tap into your full potential. This includes taking risks.

“Think of the greatness you can create by giving it a go. A lot of people are afraid of making decisions, because they’re afraid to fail. My advice is to go out there, it’s better to give it a go than never to have given it a go [where] you could have succeeded.”

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


Published on: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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