There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Christina Thompson, founder and owner of Golf4Her, an online boutique selling women’s golf apparel and accessories. Believing “golf isn’t simply a game—it’s a lifestyle,” Christina sells products from top designers and luxury brands. By partnering with the golf industry’s top designers, Golf4Her.com, which launched in 2009, provides women easy access to a collection of apparel and accessories in the latest styles, newest fabrics and hottest trends in women’s golf fashion.
Christina is very involved in social media. You can follow her and Golf4Her on Facebook: facebook.com/Golf4Her, Twitter: twitter.com/Golf4Her_LLC, Instagram: instagram.com/Golf4Her and Pinterest: pinterest.com/Golf4Her.
Christina is a two-time cancer survivor.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Christina Thompson: I’m still trying to figure it out! When I was 13, I wanted to be two things: an architect or a professional field hockey player. My parents bought me a drafting table and graph paper, and I would spend hours drawing floor plans. I loved creating and building something beautiful from scratch. As for field hockey, I loved competitive sports!
Unfortunately, once I got into high school, I realized math was not my strong point and my high school didn’t have a field hockey program, so all that went out the window.
But it wasn’t long until I realized it was the creative element I loved about being an architect, which led me to marketing and fashion. Both [are] competitive fields where I think my love of sports benefited me.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Thompson: For starters, everyone in my family was a business owner, so it’s all I ever knew to do. It just took awhile to figure out what exactly it was that I wanted to do. My first job out of college was with a small business and I lasted there 13 years. It was fantastic–exposed me to every element of running a business. I started answering phones and left as VP of Marketing. The most recent job I had was for a big pharma, Fortune 25 company, which exposed me to the large-scale corporate culture. I knew the career I wanted was someplace in the middle—and I wanted to be the boss.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Thompson: Yes, for sure. Following the economic crash of 2008, the division of the company I was working for was dissolved and I was laid off. What appeared at the time to be a major setback turned out to be the catalyst to starting my dream job. I had been thinking about starting a business like Golf4Her.com for years but there was never a good time to give it the serious attention needed to start a new venture. The unexpected layoff gave me that opportunity and the rest is, well, history!
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Thompson: I have received some great advice, but the advice that sticks with me is: Stay focused on your core business; be passionate about what you do; it’s OK to make mistakes as long as they are small ones; and surround yourself with great people who compliment your weaknesses.
The best advice I’ve been told that I have given is “Go with your gut.” It’s one of my favorites.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Thompson: I know you asked for one, but I have two. The first is, stay focused on your core business and grow at pace. Most entrepreneurs are passionate, big-brush-stroke kind of thinkers, which is great. But this can cause you to go off track very fast because the little things that are necessary to sustain any business are not being tended to.
The other best practice small business owners should think about is having a plan for when life is interrupted by illness. Whether it be a succession plan or ensuring you have the right team in place to keep things running while you are unable to, a plan is needed.
For me it happened twice. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2011, 18 months after launching Golf4Her, then again with endometrial cancer in December 2014. As entrepreneurs, we have so much invested in our businesses, so the last thing you want to worry about while being “off the grid” is the health and sustainability of your company. Fortunately, both the business and I are stronger and better than ever.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2015 small business prediction?
Thompson: I think people are realizing the economic benefits of supporting small business (both online and brick-and-mortar). The Small Business Administration (SBA) says 2014 was a banner year for women-owned small business, and I expect that trend to continue. Today, women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of new businesses in our economy. I regularly participate in networking and mentoring events for women, and the number of women that show up is astonishing!
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Thompson: I like nerdy books about socioeconomic issues and trends. Some of my favorite books are Trading Up (Michael J. Silverstein), The World is Flat (Thomas L. Friedman), Tipping Point and Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (Tony Hsieh, Zappos). The next book I plan to read is #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Thompson: Yes, it’s a quote someone wrote in my mother’s high school yearbook: “Good. Better. Best./Never let it rest/Until the good is better and the better is best.” This pretty much sums up what motivates me in life and business.
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Photo: Bob Karp/Staff photo, Daily Record
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.