From Bikini To Boardroom: 4 Secrets From Kathy Ireland
Don’t mess with Ireland.
Seriously. Behind that pretty face is a woman with strength, tenacity and gritty determination. As Founder and CEO of kathy ireland worldwide, she has risen from the pages of Sports Illustrated where she was an iconic swimsuit model to the visionary behind a $2 billion enterprise. Yes — you read correctly. Swimsuit model to $2 billion.
Given the privilege to listen and watch Ireland answering questions asked by our very ownMoira Forbes on stage at EY’s Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, I came away with four secrets to her success. And yes — you might want to take notes:
1. You Need A Big Vision & Clear Purpose
You might think Ireland had dreams of being the next Farrah Fawcett, but you’d be dead wrong. Her dreams were always focused on becoming a wildly successful business owner.
“The modeling industry was not part of my path or my plan. In fact, the entire time I worked in the modeling industry, I tried and failed at many businesses. By the time we started kathy ireland worldwide, I was an aging, pregnant model at my kitchen table. I always knew I belonged on the other side of the lens because I was more interested in designing the red carpet than walking on it.”
Take-Away: Ireland clung to a bigger vision and purpose for her life. And even with all the failed attempts, and prolonged career as a model, she never let go of her dream. So, do you have a grand vision for yourself and your business? A bigger purpose for both?
2. It Takes Tenacity & Determination
Yes — Ireland is blessed with looks. And yes — she used her natural born gifts to establish her ‘name’ in the world of modeling. But if you really think about it, her success as a swimsuit model actually worked against her in a monstrous way in business. She spoke many times of how people did not take her seriously as a business woman. In the male dominated (which is slowly changing) world of business, I can imagine her being gawked at, snickered at behind her back and probably much worse. What does it take to overcome that kind of garbage? Tenacity. Plain and simple.
“I’ll never forget one time early in my business. A gentleman whom we were meeting with would not make eye contact with me. He was making eye contact with a person on my team and told him; ‘She’s not really interested in this, is she? She just wants to stay home and make babies, so why don’t you and I talk about this?’”
Take-Away: Wow. What can you say to that except having the tenacity to keep going makes all the difference. Ireland slams the door shut with this piece of advice; “Don’t let anyone’s opinion of you or your circumstances define or destroy you. Don’t let anyone put you in a box. Ever.”
3. Kindness Is Key (People Over Profits)
One of the things readily apparent about Ireland is her care for others. Not just blowing smoke, she genuinely cares and her kindness towards others oozes from her smile. So why does this matter in the realm of big business? Because those who are truly successful have nailed a key secret: the power of people and relationships.
“How people are treated has always been at the forefront of my mind. Some have criticized me and said; ‘You say people over profits. What does that mean?’. That’s exactly what it means. It means how people are treated is much more important than the green stuff in the bank. It’s considering others as more important than yourself, and it works.”
Take-Away: I watch many entrepreneurs fail miserably in this area. The result? Their business and personal life suffer just as miserably — but then they wonder why they’re not successful. As Ireland proves with her simple tweet to me below, caring about and putting others first is a choice. You can make the same one.
4. You Must Be Bold and Unwilling To Fold To Failure
My recent story about Kurt Theobald, a guy who gave us 9 Lessons From A 10-Time Startup Failure could have very easily been written about Ireland. She’s a poster child for failed businesses. But guess who’s also adorning the ‘act bold and never quit’ poster? Yes — same mug shot.
“At one point, we had 37 team members dependent upon one retailer (Kmart) and it didn’t feel secure. You realize you’re vulnerable. But when I wanted to make a bold change, people said I was crazy. They said what I wanted to do had never been done. But it’s never been done does not mean it can’t be done. That’s just noise. And in order to succeed in life and business, I believe you’ve got to turn down that noise of negativity. Those days were pretty grim. We were in debt and starting all over. You’ve got payroll and the money’s not coming in, but you have a choice. You get inspired and innovate, or you give up. The choice is yours.”
Take-Away: You can never quit on yourself. True — not every move you make is going to be a winner. But so what? Pick yourself up, learn from it and press on. Ireland did and now she heads a $2 billion business and is a role model for millions of entrepreneurs worldwide.
Here’s the rub: Ireland started out no different than you. She has struggled mightily in her quest to reach her childhood dream, and so the lessons and wisdom she so graciously provides are 100% relevant for you right now, today. Grab them, cling to them and live them. Who knows — perhaps one day this article will be about you.