There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Eldonna Lewis Fernandez, a retired Air Force veteran with 23 years of honorable military service. She is a negotiation and contracts expert with more than 30 years of leadership, contracts management and negotiation experience, who has negotiated contracts from $1 million to over $100 million both in the U.S. and internationally. Eldonna was deployed to the Middle East after 9/11 and has years of experience in foreign acquisition. She holds a Top Secret security clearance and has been a trusted agent of the U.S. government for 30 years.
Eldonna is the CEO of Dynamic Vision International Inc., a training and consulting firm. She specializes in training people how to think like a negotiator by creating win-win results and understanding what pitfalls to avoid. She is an international award-winning speaker and author.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez: I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, especially horses, and wanted to take care of them.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Lewis Fernandez: I started speaking for a nonprofit that helps women in crisis by sharing my story of victory over domestic violence. I realized how much I loved speaking, training and helping people, so I decided to start a speaking and training business.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Lewis Fernandez: There have been and continue to be many pivotal moments. Probably one of the biggest was when I realized how many more people I could help by teaching my expertise in negotiation. That’s when my business really started to shift.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Lewis Fernandez: Get as much education as you can. Verify what people tell you. People want to give you advice and tell you what you should do and how you should do it. Get coaching from people who have been successful in the area you want to build your business in. Make sure you verify and do your research before making a decision to invest in programs or anything for your business. Avoid the “bright shiny object syndrome.”
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Lewis Fernandez: Learning good negotiation skills. No matter what line of business you are in, you need to have great negotiation skills.
Negotiation is basically a discussion to agree on a deal, and creating win-win results in negotiation is the way to go. Successful business owners use win-win as a strategy and best practice by ensuring that discussions are fair and both sides feel they got great value and are satisfied with the deal.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2015 small business prediction?
Lewis Fernandez: 2015 will be a banner year for small business success. More and more businesses are starting up every year and I believe 2015 will see more small businesses being successful.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Lewis Fernandez: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Lewis Fernandez: “Everyone wears an invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ ”—Mary Kay Ash
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.