by Heather K. Terry | Featured Contributor
If you’ve ever found yourself doubting your business sense because you don’t have any real “experience,” give yourself a tiny little smack.
I know this now, but I didn’t when I first became an entrepreneur.
When I first ended up in the boardroom, I thought that because I was an actress and had spent the past fifteen years working in restaurants, I shouldn’t have an equal say in business decisions.
I was wrong. I underestimated my life experiences.
Your prior work experiences add up, and you take them all with you to your future endeavors.
When I was a waitress, for instance, I learned about customer service. I learned how to ensure that a customer left feeling good about our establishment. As a waitress, bartender, or retail clerk, you are face-to-face with customers, and you get immediate feedback. You have to learn how to handle negative experiences on the fly. So, you have to get very good at thinking on your feet and doing whatever you have to do (within reason!) to keep a customer happy, whether they’re being turfed because they’ve had too much to drink, or because they received a crappy meal. You don’t want either person going home and writing flaming reviews online.
These experiences give you the ability to respond to all sorts of situations with diplomacy.
As the owner of a chocolate company, I get all kinds of feedback. I almost always know exactly what to say to please a customer, thanks to all of those years working in customer service.
I know how to handle any scenario with enough finesse to make sure the customer leaves happy. For instance, we get a few emails a year from customers concerned that NibMor chocolate bars contain soy lecithin.
We tell these customers that we do use GMO-free soy lecithin in our chocolate, and if they are concerned about the use of soy lecithin that XYZ brand chocolate bars do not contain any. By the way, our drinking chocolate does not contain soy lecithin—would you like us to send you a sample?
I learned from our brilliant events manager at the restaurant I managed just by watching him in action. He knew how to make any space an experience for a patron. I took him with me when it came to setting up for trade shows and demos. (In my head, not physically.)
I learned business lessons as an actress, too. The most valuable thing, though, that I took from my acting career was a good thick skin. When 800 doors slam in your face in a year and only 20 open for you, you have to learn to get tough. When you’re an actor, you are your product, so it stings quite a bit when you’re rejected.
All of those experiences made it easier for me to have doors slam in my face with NibMor. Make no mistake about it, I did take the rejection personally in the beginning. I was insecure about our product and my ability to run a company, so every “no” was a little gut punch. But, had it not been for the rejection I had grown to know as an actress, it would have been much worse.
As an actress, I also learned the art of collaboration. How to network and schmooze.
I could keep going. But my point is that all of your work and life experiences are applicable to your business.
Sit down and think about the experiences you’ve had and how they may relate to what it is you’re doing now, as a business owner. I have a feeling you will surprise yourself. So whether you worked at Subway, The Gap, or Goldman Sachs, no experience is a waste.
Celebrated health coach, cooking instructor, yogi, and author of the forthcoming book “My Life In Chocolate”, Heather K. Terry, is a true health aficionado. CEO of NibMor Chocolate, co-founder of the Gluten Free Sugar Cleanse, and a strong advocate of eating real, simply prepared, organic foods and avoiding genetically modified, highly-processed food-like objects. A graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and The French Culinary Institute of Manhattan, Heather’s passion for food and nutrition are palpable.www.heatherkterry.com