Three tips for entrepreneurs on moves that foster success:

  • Know that cultivating business contacts early in one’s career can turn out to be helpful down the road — even if they may not appear so at first.
  • As business finances can be complicated, budding entrepreneurs would be wise to surround themselves with people equipped to help them navigate financial challenges.
  • Entrepreneurs should boldly seek out advice from industry veterans they look up to in the business world, as they are often willing to help.

Strategies for success in the business world include staying in touch with contacts over time, educating yourself about finances, reaching out to successful executives for advice, and developing close relationships with trusted coworkers, according to leaders from four very different companies: hair care and beauty startup Mielle Organics, financial services firm UBS, job board Indeed, and social network Twitter.

The leaders spoke at Yelp’s recent 2022 Black in Business Summit, which was headlined by producer, actor, and musician Wayne Brady, attended by CO—. Following are four takeaways from the event:

 Headshot of Monique Rodriguez, founder of Mielle Organics.
Monique Rodriguez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mielle Organics. — Mielle Organics

Mielle Organics: Nourish your contacts over time ‘so it’s a reciprocal relationship’

Monique Rodriguez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Young business leaders might not see the value of maintaining contacts with everyone they meet, but sometimes those contacts can end up playing a valuable role at some point down the road, said Monique Rodriguez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mielle Organics, the hair care and beauty brand.

She recalled how she met entrepreneur and investor Richelieu Dennis when he owned Shea Moisture and was a competitor to Mielle.

“But I never looked at him as a competitor,” said Rodriguez. “I looked at him as someone I looked up to and admired.”

She stayed in touch, and three years later, when another potential investor backed out of investing in Mielle, she called Dennis, who then became one of the company’s first investors.

“That was so meaningful for me, because it was a relationship that happened so long ago,” said Rodriguez.

She said she maintains relationships with contacts by sending out inspirational quotes every Monday.

“I want people to know that I care about you as a person, I care about your well-being, I care about your mental health,” said Rodriguez.

She also always seeks to ensure that her relationships are not one-sided, “so it’s a reciprocal relationship, and I’m not the one who’s always taking from that person,” she said.

[Read: How 4 Buzzy Minority-Owned Startups Scored Funding Windfalls]

 Headshot of Wale Ogunleye, Head of Sports and Entertainment, UBS.
Wale Ogunleye, Head of Sports and Entertainment, UBS. — UBS

UBS: Educate yourself on financial matters: ‘A lot of times passion without knowledge leads to disaster’

Wale Ogunleye, Head of Sports and Entertainment

Financial jargon can be difficult for young entrepreneurs to understand, but they should not hesitate to either ask questions, or to take a step back and do some research on things they don’t understand, said Wale Ogunleye, Head of Sports and Entertainment at UBS.

“Sometimes people are afraid to push back on things they don’t know,” he said.

People should not be afraid to admit they don’t understand something, and be ready with a statement such as, “I didn’t understand what you just said. I need to go back and do some research,” Ogunleye said.

Often, he said young entrepreneurs believe very strongly in their mission and their brand, but they don’t have the knowledge they need to drive success, he said.

“A lot of times passion without knowledge leads to disaster,” he said.

In addition, young entrepreneurs should surround themselves with people who can help them navigate financial challenges, Ogunleye said. That includes people at local banks who specialize in financing startup businesses.

“Get to know the people at your bank that can help you, so when it comes time to get a loan, they know you and can trust you,” he said.

[Read: Executives From TikTok to Glossier and Twitter Share Insider Business Tips for Entrepreneurs and Startups]

 Headshot of Javid Louis, Senior Brand Strategist, Twitter.
Javid Louis, Senior Brand Strategist, Twitter. — Twitter

Twitter: Be aggressive in asking for advice: ‘Don’t discount the willingness’ of industry veterans to offer guidance

Javid Louis, Senior Brand Strategist

Many experienced executives are willing to share their time and insights for young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs, said Javid Louis, Senior Brand Strategist, Twitter.

“Don’t discount the willingness of senior folks to help,” he said.

Young entrepreneurs should not be afraid to reach out with an email or a direct message on social media to industry veterans who might be able to provide advice, said Louis.

Most people who are at a decent point in their career don’t mind when people reach out to them and say, ‘How did you get here? I would love to spend time with you,’” Louis said. “My experience is that almost all executives will find time to have that conversation, whether it’s email or verbally with someone.

He frequently tells students at Rutgers University, where he is often a guest speaker, that they can never be too pushy when they are trying to open up opportunities for themselves.

“Most people who are at a decent point in their career don’t mind when people reach out to them and say, ‘How did you get here? I would love to spend time with you,’” Louis said. “My experience is that almost all executives will find time to have that conversation, whether it’s email or verbally with someone.”

 Headshot of Misty Gaither, Senior Director and Global Head of DEI at Indeed.
Misty Gaither, Senior Director and Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Indeed. — Indeed

Indeed.com: Cultivate an inner circle of ‘trusted advisors’ to tell you when you need a break

Misty Gaither, Senior Director and Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Often entrepreneurs put in long hours building their businesses, but they need to make sure they are taking time for themselves so that they are functioning at the top of their game, according to panelists at the Yelp event.

Misty Gaither, Senior Director and Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Indeed, said she establishes close relationships with coworkers who recognize signs of burnout and tell her when she needs to take some time off.

She said she can feel herself getting off-kilter when her patience gets short and she’s taking too long to process simple tasks, or having difficulty concentrating, but she also depends on others to notice those things in her.

“While I can recognize all those things on my own, it’s important to actually have some trusted advisors, both personally and professionally, that can also recognize those signs,” said Gaither.

She said she makes it known that the people around her should be comfortable having that conversation with her.

“I think that is a healthy dynamic no matter what the environment is,” she said.

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Finalists Announced for the 2022 Dream Big Awards!

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Published September 21, 2022