You may not know her name, but Pernille Spiers-Lopez knows a thing or two about design. She served in executive-level roles at furniture company IKEA for more than a decade, namely as CEO for IKEA North America and later as global chief human resource officer. Today, though, her design passion is something entirely different — helping entrepreneurs to design their lives and businesses in a way where they can plan for the kind of success that suits them.
While you may subscribe to the old adage that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, you may not realize that you have more control over how you set up the plan to coincide with the goals and objectives you value the most.
As a personal friend and mentor of mine, I asked Spiers-Lopez — who also serves on boards as a corporate and non-profit director in both the U.S. and Europe for Save the Children, Meijer Corporation and Coop DK– if she could share some of her best lessons for entrepreneurs from her new book, Design Your Life, so that you can design your own life and business for the kind of success that you desire. Some of her top tips are recounted below.
Take on big challenges.
Pushing yourself to take on challenges that you think sound impossible is a critical component for success, says Spiers-Lopez. “We learn the most — and grow the most — in challenging situations that stretch us beyond what we think our limits are. Often, it’s our own mindset that limits us.” Not only do the big challenges and goals create energy, passion and interest for you, but for those around you, such as team members and investors.
To accomplish the big ideas, Spiers-Lopez advises, “Have a mindful, long-term plan that you can break down into small, achievable steps or milestones to make execution possible, while keeping your eye on the bigger picture.”
Focus on your strengths rather than what you lack.
Spiers-Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially women, is overcoming our own negative thoughts. She shares, “I find that, women in particular, we talk ourselves down. I have been the only woman in the board room and even found myself doing this. For example, I remember thinking ‘Why is nobody listening to my ideas?’ Instead of talking myself into being small or not good enough, I turned it around to see how I could change my communication. I asked myself why I wasn’t being heard and how I could reframe or change my communication so that it would be heard.”
She advises that instead of focusing on what you lack or what’s going wrong, emphasize your strengths, whether you are selling to capital providers, customers, team members or otherwise.
Diverse perspectives are a leading asset.
Further, Spiers-Lopez recounts that her favorite phrase for businesses is one that she heard from a friend: “Great minds think unalike.” Entrepreneurs and businesses get into jeopardy when groupthink takes over. The businesses that embrace diversity in perspectives and a 360 degree view can make sure that they see not just what’s in front of them, but what could lie ahead.
Use elimination to make choices, especially overwhelming ones.
Whether a new entrepreneur is deciding which business to pursue or an existing entrepreneur is deciding between directions to grow the business, choices can be overwhelming. Spiers-Lopez suggests that instead of making your head spin wondering “What do I want to do?” to instead focus on “What do I not want to do?”
Being clear about what doesn’t interest you, what doesn’t align with your core values, core business, and what you are not good at can help you see the forest through the trees as you clear away the unwanted foliage.
Build a strong, supportive network.
“Success in life means being successful personally as well as professionally,” says Spiers-Lopez. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for surrounding myself with the right people. At home, this is having the right partner in my husband, who is supportive so that we both can put our time, energy and resources where they need to be when they need to be there.” She advocates that having the right life partner, where your choices are viewed as supporting mutual goals vs. sacrifices is a big part of business success.
On the business front, Spiers-Lopez also says to surround yourself with a variety of supporters, including those with more experience and a variety of skills that you can learn from. Even better, she advises that entrepreneurs create a formal advisory board and make sure that it is filled with people who are willing to challenge you and ask “are you crazy”? Having “yes men” (or women) around won’t help you to get to the next level.
“Success takes time,” says Spiers-Lopez . “Be patient and don’t panic during the journey. It’s a long ride and those that make bad choices borne out of impatience or panic are the ones who won’t be successful.”
While she acknowledges that there are some overnight successes, Spiers-Lopez says that they aren’t the norm and that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t the next Snapchat. “It would be like hearing that someone made $200,000 at the racetrack and then being upset because you went there and didn’t. It’s not normal and it certainly shouldn’t be your plan.”