Tuesday 15 October 2019

Gina London: Be a cut above: loving what you do brings real success

Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005
Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005

Gina London

Two years after doctors discovered a tumour in the pancreas of Apple founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs, he gave a commencement address at Stanford University.

He didn't speak there because he had graduated from Stanford. In fact, he hadn't graduated from any college at all - dropping out of Oregon's Reed College after about two years.

Although he was a good presenter, it really wasn't his thing to give public speeches. Apple's current CEO Tim Cook points out: "If you look closely at how he spent his time, you'll see that he hardly ever travelled and he did none of the conferences and get-togethers that so many CEOs attended."

But, I imagine that amidst his struggle with cancer, Jobs had become intensely focused on imparting what he'd learned in life to the next generation and that Stanford event offered a great opportunity.

One of the most famous lines from his address remains relevant for us today. Jobs said: "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.

"And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

Today, I'll be addressing The Irish Beauty Show at Dublin's RDS. In a global industry that is expected to garner more than €349bn by 2022 and which Goldman Sachs noted is growing at more than twice the rate of the developed world's GDP, it's a great time to become a beauty entrepreneur. If you love it.

1 Love what you do

As an example, Sean Taaffe has grown his hair and beauty business from a single salon in Killorglin back in 1989 to six more locations across Ireland with scores of employees. He's also won several competitions including a national salon of the year award. Like Steve Jobs in at least one way, Sean dropped out of school after only two years to pursue what he describes as his passion.

"From the age of seven or eight years old, I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser," says Sean. "There was never a doubt in mind. Even as a child I loved going to the hairdressing salon with my mother, seeing the creations happen and the buzz and atmosphere of the salon had an energy that appealed to me.

"So, when the opportunity presented itself before my 14th birthday, I jumped at the chance."

Okay, for Sean it was school and not university. But he knew what he loved. What do you love? Are you working in that field? If not, why not? I know a woman who worked in corporate banking for years, only to decide she wasn't happy in what she labelled its ultra-competitive atmosphere. She's now the very happy administrator of a primary school.

2 Expect challenges

You've heard the expression, "nothing worth having comes easy"? It's true. How are you going to sell yourself or your ideas?

How will you convince others to believe in you?

For Sean, even though he had landed a job in a salon, his tender age presented an obvious hurdle.

"I was very young when I started which meant I had to prove myself even more so. It is one thing having a trainee doing your hair, and it's another when they look 12! Rejections only made me even more determined to prove myself, to be as good or better, than my older counterparts.

"At the beginning, I also felt that being a male in a female-dominated work environment was a bit difficult. I've since learned however, that it can even be an advantage and within the salon environment it's good to have a balance."

How determined are you? You must realistically prepare for difficulties.

3 Communicate to overcome

Sean explains that his business was built solely on word-of-mouth. Friends telling their friends, who then told their mothers, sisters, aunts and so on.

"In my business, you're only as good as your last client looks. It means you have to keep sharp, no matter what may be going on in your own life.

"Once you walk through the salon door, you concentrate fully on making people look and feel amazing, and confident in how they look and see themselves."

Becoming a strategic communicator means being able to concentrate more attention on your audience than on yourself. In Sean's case, his client. In your case, it could also be a prospect, a co-worker or your employees. It's whomever you're with at the moment.

As I tell my young daughter, "Beauty is as beauty does".

Attracting people to your service or product will be improved if you are properly trained to be confident and poised when you communicate about it.

It will take time and practice to actively switch yourself to the 'on' position, but it is essential. Communications are not soft skills, they are critical skills.

As Sean, who built his beauty business from a one-man (boy?) show to a multi-salon empire, stresses: "If a dream is to be achieved, it takes more hard work than you can ever imagined at the beginning.

"There will be sleepless nights and tears, but if you are committed, it will all be worth it in the long run."

No matter what industry you may be in. Don't settle.


Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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