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Secrets of Success: Denise O’Berry

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Denise O’Berry, a small business and cash flow expert and author, also known as the “action lady.”

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Denise O’Berry: A kindergarten teacher. I am in awe of the little ones at that age. They are so full of life and curiosity about all things in the world. Sadly, as they grow up, a lot of that is lost. Some regain it as adults, but for many it remains hidden and lost forever.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

O’Berry: I worked in the corporate world for over 20 years. I had fabulous opportunities and a great career, but it felt like something was missing. The company I worked for, a huge Fortune 500 company, managed by downsizing. At the end of every year, they “reorganized and pruned.” I started my business two years before I left and worked my way right out of a job at just the right time.

My passion has always been to help small business owners so they can have the business they really want to give them the life they love. I knew my skills and knowledge could help them do that.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

O’Berry: Yes, actually two.

I started my first blog in 2004. I really thought I was “late to the blogging game,” but discovered there were still a lot of people who had not yet embraced the concept. I did a lot of writing about cash flow issues and how small business owners can manage sales and operations to improve. Then, one day out of the blue, an editor from Wiley contacted me to see if I was interested in writing a book on cash flow. My book Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success was published in 2006. It’s an evergreen book and still does well today. The main lesson I learned is that in the world of the “interwebs” you never know who is watching or listening to what you have to say. It’s a really important lesson for everyone to remember. It can help you, as it did me, or hurt you.

My second moment was last year when my husband passed away after a short illness. Having a loss so close to your heart changes your entire life. He wasn’t an official part of my business, but was my biggest supporter and the best sounding board. I was grateful that I had systems and processes established in my business so it could survive as I recover. I look at business a bit differently now and am even more passionate about helping other small business owners have the same safety net I did so a personal emergency or life-changing event doesn’t destroy the business they’ve worked so hard to build.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

O’Berry: I got this advice early on in my business and continue to pass it on to any small business owner who will listen. Hire an accountant and an attorney way before you need them because you will [need them] at some point in time. When you’re in the middle of a big issue, with emotion running high, it’s not the right time to make such important decisions about trusted advisors.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

O’Berry: Systematize your business and make sure your business processes are documented. Yes—even if you are a company of one. Small business owners who don’t embrace these concepts waste so much time, effort and ultimately money.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?

O’Berry: The amazing technology geeks of the world (whom I love!) will crank out tools to help small business owners run their businesses better at a faster rate than we have ever seen before.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

O’Berry: There are so many wonderful books on the market that it’s hard to pick just one. But I do have a favorite movie that’s been a part of my daily mantra for my entire life. That’s The Wizard of Oz. Its key message—you have the power, you just have to be willing to use it—is a belief that small business owners around the world can embrace.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

O’Berry: “Absolutely nothing. That’s exactly what will happen if you don’t turn your great ideas into action.” —Denise O’Berry

This quote is one I created years ago and the tag line for my business. It’s a good reminder for me and all small business owners that business isn’t magic, but consistent action will get you where you want to go.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.