While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.
Here some of today’s smartest, most innovative, highly successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Nellie Akalp, the CEO and founder of CorpNet (disclosure: a client of my company). Nellie and her husband, Philip, started their first incorporation service business in their apartment in 1997 while attending law school. That company, MyCorporation, was acquired by Intuit in 2005, and as Nellie says, they “never had to work again!”
But they hated being “retired” at 30. Nellie says they discovered they were “entrepreneurs” and that “owning and operating a business is the only way they can achieve that true ‘mind, body and soul’ balance that is critical to their happiness.” In 2009 they launched CorpNet.com.
You can find Nellie on Twitter @CorpNetNellie.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nellie Akalp: When I was young, I wanted to be a singer and dancer because I loved performing. As I grew up I started to get more intrigued with law and order type TV shows, and as a young teenager I decided I wanted to become a lawyer and litigate in court.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Akalp: While growing up I held various jobs while in school, both in undergrad and grad school. My experience working for other people just never worked out. I wanted to do things differently and run things another way, but that was not allowed at the places I worked. I realized while in law school that starting a business was something I wanted to pursue.
After graduation, seeing the entry-level salary for graduates, I knew it was that time or never. The timing was right, we had an idea and the market was ripe so my husband and I went for it. We started that first business in our small apartment living room and never looked back.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Akalp: I have experienced many pivotal moments being an entrepreneur. Things are always changing and evolving! However, the biggest moment to date was selling my first company at the age of 30 for $20 million cash in 2005. That changed everything for us—but didn’t end our journey as entrepreneurs since we got back into the game in 2009 with the launch of CorpNet.com.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Akalp: The best small business advice I have always given and still give is that you have to love and have passion for whatever you are embarking on. Doing it just to make money isn’t enough—because you may not make much money at first.
The best small business advice I ever received is that in order to get whatever you want you have to ask—and hunt for it. If you don’t at least try, you will never ever know the answer.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Akalp: For me, it’s all about being genuine and authentic about whatever it is you are trying to achieve in life. Embrace your failures and don’t let ego stand in your way of learning from a mistake.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Akalp: I only see small businesses thriving from here on out. I think our culture, especially for the millennials, is a world of starting your own business and taking your future into your own hands. Whether that’s at a tech startup or a bakery, an online shop or a small boutique, businesses are popping up everywhere and I am thrilled to be a part of it all every day!
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Akalp: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh and Burnt Toast by Terry Hatcher.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Akalp: “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”—Mark Twain