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10 things we can learn from Oprah about business

Last week saw the end of an era. Oprah Winfrey stepped down from her throne as Queen of Daytime TV in the US after 25 years of dominating the airwaves. Spending my formative years in Canada, I grew up watching Oprah as a teenager and always found her shows to be interesting, inspiring and uplifting. Unfortunately, here in the UK, her show was relegated to one of the lost channels in the 200’s on Sky so she was never able to spread her magic as effectively here.

Oprah Winfrey is an amazing woman as anyone who is familiar with her story will already know. After being taken from the safe care of her grandmother, she was molested repeatedly as a child, denied refuge from social services and finally moved in with her father when she was a teenager, where she found a place to thrive.

I was moved to write this blog post today, because in her final show, Oprah shared many inspiring messages, including this one, which I think is particularly relevant to all of us entrepreneurs…

 

10 things we can learn from Oprah as a small business owner

1. Find your true calling.

In her closing moments Oprah stated “Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.”  As entrepreneurs, we have an advantage over others, as we have already made the difficult decision to go it alone.  Some of you will already be following your heart, others, not so much.  The thing is, once you are truly connected to your purpose in life, the business becomes easy.  It’s easy to make choices, it’s easy to know what to do next (though not always so easy to get up the guts to do it!) and it’s easy to keep your energy focused on your business.  Are you following your true calling?

Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart, and success will come to you.” Oprah

2. Inspiration sells.

Given a choice between Oprah and Trisha, I know who I would choose.  Oprah had a genius for keeping her show all about the positive.  She never got stuck in the mire like other talk show hosts and dedicated her life to using her platform to inspire and educate others.   You’ll often find experienced marketers tell you to find your customers pain (and to turn the knife a bit!) … apparently people don’t buy feeling good.  Oprah proves this wrong, and shows us that feeling good can sell too!  Does your marketing and content make people feel good about themselves?

“Let your light shine. Shine within you so that it can shine on someone else. Let your light shine” Oprah

3. Be true to yourself.

Oprah was constantly barraged with opportunities that did not meet with her focus and objectives for the show.  She was approached by numerous people wanting to get on her show.  But she was very clear on what did and did not constitute an Oprah show and only did the shows that reflected her values and her brand.  By staying true to herself and her show’s values, she was able to keep the quality of the show high.  Are you making compromises in your business that don’t feel right?

“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That’s the lesson. That lesson alone, will save you a lot of grief. Even doubt means don’t.” Oprah

4. Use multiple channels

While we may not all have Oprah’s budget and reach, we can use the channels that are available to us to spread our good word and work.  Oprah used TV, Radio, her website, Y0uTube, Twitter and her magazine O very powerfully to spread her message.  The great thing about this, is that if one way wasn’t available or didn’t fit with our schedules, there were a multitude of others that would.  So, while I didn’t watch her TV show here, I was able to read her fabulous magazine O to get my dose of good old Inspiration every month.  What other channels could you be using to market your business?

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” Oprah

5. Act quickly when something isn’t working

Oprah was warm and engaging on stage, but make no mistake, she was an incredibly savvy business woman and she was quick to make a change when something wasn’t working in one of her businesses. Earlier this year, Oprah launched OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, a television in partnership with Discovery Networks.  When network ratings were slow, the  Network head Christina Norman left rather abruptly after only 4 months in the job.   Do  you make hard decisions quickly in your business?

“Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” Oprah

6. Put YOU into your business

The reason that Oprah had such a long and successful show on TV was because she was real and relatable.  She was true to herself in everything that she did and made herself very approachable through her warmth and connection with her audience.  She was not afraid to show who she was and this made her more endearing to those who watched her.  Everyone who watched her show felt like they knew her, like she was their friend.  And in many respects she was.  How can you put more of yourself into your business?  How can you make your clients and colleagues feel like they know the real you?

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Oprah

7.  Work hard

There is no doubt that Oprah worked hard.  In 25 years of taping, she never missed a show, not once!   Everyday, she would show up at 6:00am, no matter what.  It is reported that her executive assistant clocked up over 800 hours of overtime between January and April one year, that’s a 12.5 hour work day!  If her assistant was putting in this kind of time, you can bet Oprah was putting in more.   In the preparation video that Oprah shares on her site, she shares how grateful she is to be able to go out and buy herself a coffee before her meeting that day, and how she is looking forward to spending some time with her friends.  In 25 years, Oprah was consumed by her work and it is clear that she would not have achieved the level of success that she did without that dedication to her craft.  Could you be putting more into your business?

The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” Oprah

8. Keep on keeping on

This is the other side of acting quickly when something isn’t working.  Oprah never sat back and left her fate to the gods.  She lived through an atrocious childhood, faced racism and sexism early in her career and yet still she prevailed.  She never gave us up on dreams. Success does not happen overnight (much as we might wish it did!), it takes time, effort and showing up.  It was these challenges that made Oprah the woman that she is today.  These challenges gave her the strength of character, self determination and resilience that she is known for.  Are there areas in your business that could use more focus and persistence (moxie anyone?)

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” Oprah

9. Be Bold

Oprah committed to everything she did 100%, whether she knew it was going to work or not.  One of her great philosophies is that we miss out on life if we don’t take risks and she is doing exactly this by leaving her show to focus on her new OWN network.  Make no mistake, even for someone of  Oprah’s stature this is an enormous risk.  But exciting for her as well and I am sure that she is looking forward to the challenge that this new venture is giving her.

“Devote today to something so daring even you can’t believe you’re doing it.” Oprah

10. Leave them wanting more

Oprah retired from her show at the top of her game.  She easily could have continued for years, very successfully, but instead she decided to leave while her show is still the number 1 daytime talk show in the USA.  Oprah knew her time had come and decided to step down while she was still at the top.   This allows her to now focus on her other ventures and move onto the next stage in her life.  By making herself less available on regular TV, I’m sure she will use her new channel to maintain her presence in people’s lives.

I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” Oprah

If you enjoyed these 10 things, please feel free to share it on Twitter or Facebook and tell us what memories you have about Oprah in the quotes below.

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

About Julie Hall

Hi, I'm Julie Hall, the founder of Women Unlimited. Which is my 4th business. I've had a business as a headhunter, a consultant, a new media agency and now finally Women Unlimited. I've learned lots of lessons - many of which could have been avoided. I hope you find the articles and stories on this website useful, and feel free to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

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6 comments

  1. I have followed OPRAH for as long as I can remember, she has has always been my inspiration, along with my beautiful mother who I sadly lost 9 years ago. I absolutely loved reading this article, as a SME sometimes you need to step back and re-focus and remember why you set up in Business in the first place. I am using my life to share with the world and I believe without a doubt this is my calling, I love what I do and certainly do what I love! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hi Julie. I really like this article. Even though I didn’t watch Oprah regularly, I admired what she did and the grand scale on which she performed it. She is quite an amazing women. It was very smart going out at the top; whilst her popularity is still at a high she knows that all the people who have followed her up until this point will continue to do so in her new venture. All the best to her!

  3. I love Oprah! She is truly one of the most inspiring women out there today and has left an amazing legacy

  4. I absolutely adore Oprah. I spent a little bit of time here and there in the States and loved to see her show. She has a wonderful talent of seeing the best in everything and everybody. She’s full of compassion and wisdom and the pursuit of personal goals and achievement. An awesome, truly inspirational woman.

  5. Hi Julie, Thank you for the information regarding Oprah. I admire her and would love to be like her one day. And also you are doing such a great job for Woman unlimited and I would like to meet you in person on one of the work shop one day and tell you something good to be published on your website.

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