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What Oprah Can Teach Us About Running a Small Business

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What Oprah Can Teach Us About Running a Small Business

Oprah Winfrey – I’m sure that there are few in the western world who have not heard her name, even if they’re not entirely sure who she is.  Born into poverty and now reportedly worth over $3 billion (USD), she is regarded by many as the most influential woman in the world.  So what, as entrepreneurs, can we learn from the great woman herself?

Don’t believe what the “experts” tell you

Oprah’s first boss told her that she was too emotional and not right for television.  Had she listened to these words, it is likely that she would not be the billionaire philanthropist that she is now.   I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t listen to any experts, as there are many who know what they are doing and how to best help and support you.  I would however suggest, that if you are as passionate about something as Oprah was about being on television, that you find a way to make it work. 

Have you been told by someone that you can’t do something? Did it deter you or spur you on? How could you turn a negative into a positive?

Fine tune your relationships with others

Many people come and go in our lifetimes and often we find that we have people in our lives that are perpetually negative or critical of us and others.  Oprah has made a conscious choice to only surround herself with the very best of people – mentors, coaches, healers, spiritual guides and some of the world’s most influential people. 

Do you know which values in others you most expect and/or admire? Have you looked at the people around you to see if they align with these qualities? How do you deal with relationships where the values of others are in conflict with yourself?

Look for coaches and mentors

Oprah didn’t come into this world knowing what to do and how to do it.  As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, she has aligned herself with some of the world’s best.  She was coached by Tony Robbins on how to turn her fear into power, Maya Angelou on how to develop her spirit, Bob Greene on how to nurture her body and many others along the way.  Each of these people brought something different to the table and each of them had a unique relationship with Oprah. 

Do you have a coach or mentor in your business? If not, is it something that you could explore? Doyou understand the difference between the two? Do you already have people in your network that could fulfil these roles? If not, how could you go about finding the right people for you and your business?

Be interested in the world around you

Oprah believes that her purpose is to lift people up, to help them love who they are, to have self-belief and to help them “live their best life”. This is evident in everything she does. She is genuinely interested in other people and this is evident in every interview she does. Oprah wants to know what drives people, what motivates and inspires them and what purpose they have for their life.

In your business, are you focused on your customer’s needs or on what you want to sell them? When meeting a new client, do you take time to discover their objectives and motivations so that you can better serve them? How could you better show your interest in others?

Be an authentic storyteller

Oprah is comfortable talking about her weight issues, her relationship challenges, her childhood and her spiritual beliefs, so as consumers we feel comfortable in our relationship with her, even if we’ve never met her in person. People buy from people – however good a product might be, if the person selling it is lacking in values, honesty or transparency, their business will never be as successful as it could be. One of our primary needs as human beings is connection and we can only get this through authentic communication. If we are pretending to be a huge company when really it’s just us in our pyjamas in our home office, then we are not telling our story authentically.

How could you be more authentic in your business? Do you use storytelling as part of your sales technique? What about your journey and purpose could you share with potential clients to further enhance your relationship?

Give back

Oprah is renowned for her philanthropy and it is evident in all areas of her life. In her “Oprah” show, she has given away millions of dollars, cars, holidays and even houses to deserving recipients. Her “Favourite things” episodes were a joy to watch, as every audience member would receive Oprah’s favourite things of the season. She gives in many areas, but education is clearly one of her passions, with millions of dollars going to funding schools, projects and scholarships around the world.

How could you give back to society or to your community? It may not be millions, or even hundreds of dollars – it could be an hour or two of your time each month. What are you passionate about in terms of fundraising or charity? How could you introduce some form or philanthropy into your business.

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