A couple of months ago I was privileged to meet Sharon Lechter, probably most recognized as the co-author of the international best-selling book “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” and just recently “Three Feet from Gold.” In reality, she is also an entrepreneur, philanthropist, educator, international speaker, CPA, and member of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.
Marty: Welcome to Startup Professionals interviews. Tell us about your current passion.
Sharon: For a long time I have been a financial literacy advocate. In 1992, my oldest son, Phillip went off to college and got into credit card debt. At the time I became more angry with myself than I was at him…because I thought I had taught him about money. It was at that point that I dedicated my professional life to the cause of financial literacy and the development of tools to help teach financial education. As Founder and CEO of “Pay Your Family First” I strive to create products, like the “ThriveTime for Teens” board game, that educate families and young people on how to become masters of their money…instead of slaves to their money.
Marty: How did you first decide to add entrepreneur to your many accomplishments?
Sharon: My father, with only a third grade formal education, had a successful career in the Navy, and later became an entrepreneur. His goal was for me to receive a college education and have a great career. After three years of a successful career in public accounting with Coopers & Lybrand, the entrepreneurial bug bit me and I have been starting and building companies ever since. When offered the first opportunity to become an equity partner in a company, I asked myself “why not?” Ever since, “why not?” has become my personal motto.
Marty: Have all your business ventures been positive and learning experiences?
Sharon: This answer was written after a good laugh ... No, not all of my business ventures have been positive ... but they have all been positively learning experiences! Napoleon Hill once wrote that the “Greatest Success comes just after the Greatest Failure.” As we quoted Evander Holyfield in my new book “Three Feet From Gold,” “You never feel or remember the blows. You only feel the victory.” Many people allow a business setback to paralyze them while successful entrepreneurs take those setbacks and become even more motivated to succeed with their next business venture.
Marty: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a woman entrepreneur from your perspective?
Sharon: I believe that women are natural entrepreneurs and can achieve great success. The most challenging aspect that I find for women is simply time management. Women are natural multi-taskers but are challenged when they need to focus and concentrate on building a business to the expense of other tasks and responsibilities. This is crucial especially in the early stages of the business. This is the one area where I believe women tend to give up too soon…just before they reach the level of success that will actually give them MORE time. I believe there still exists the “glass ceiling” in corporate America although it is beginning to crack. However, there is no glass ceiling for women entrepreneurs because they are their own bosses and there is no limit to their success!
Marty: How has the business world changed since you first started?
Sharon: When I first entered the business world in the late 70’s entrepreneurs were looked down upon. I remember people referring to small business owners as “drop-outs” from Corporate America jobs. It was truly the age of big business. In contrast, Americans today look down upon big business and have lost trust in Wall Street and corporate executives. As a result of the current economic downturn, I see a new age of entrepreneurship dawning. It was entrepreneurs who helped bring America out of the Great Depression and it will be entrepreneurs again who help get us out of the current economic crisis. There has never been a better opportunity to become a successful entrepreneur!
Marty: What is a key personal attribute you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Sharon: The key attribute that I see is the “why not?” attitude. Successful entrepreneurs challenge the status quo, they are excited by the unknown…by the unchartered territory. The most successful businesses are created when solving a problem, or serving a need. Combine the “why not?” attitude with a “never give up” persistence and you have the core of a successful entrepreneur.
Marty: Any advice you would like to give to someone contemplating a startup?
Sharon: “Why not?” The question is simple...the application a little more difficult. If you have an idea…go for it. Many people try to “go it alone” when truly successful businesses are built by teams. Find your team early and make sure their skill sets compliment yours…which means they are really good in the areas of your weaknesses! Then set goals for yourself. Divide your goals between short-term goals and long-term goals. Don’t forget to celebrate each time you reach a short term goal! This will make the path on the way to your long-term goals a lot more enjoyable. Above all, never give up three feet from gold!
Marty: Sharon, thank you very much for your insights and your role-model leadership for all of us! You can find out more about Sharon’s entrepreneurial activities through her business site (http://www.payyourfamilyfirst/), or you can contact her directly via her personal website (http://www.slechter.com/).