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Karen’s 5 Rules for Building a Successful Business

Moore’s CEO mentors emerging leaders using 30 years of leadership experience

At Moore, we are gearing up to celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2023. This milestone moment has me recalling our growth from a one-room cottage office in Tallahassee to multiple locations across three time zones.

When I founded our company in 1992, the head of Florida State University’s school of business cautioned me that 90 percent of small businesses fail in the first year. “And you’re young, Southern and blonde,” he said, “so you are going to have an even more difficult time being successful.” And he was right.

I didn’t know another female CEO at the time, let alone one in the communications field, so I chose virtual mentors — Oprah Winfrey for her strategy, Mother Teresa for how she lived her values. With no one to teach me how to frame a 401k plan or create internal policy manuals, I learned the hard way — but I learned.

Below are five guiding principles that helped me grow a successful business. It doesn’t always feel comfortable to live into these self-imposed rules, or, in times of doubt, to trust that they still hold true — but with 30 years to reflect, I can assure you they have never led me astray. I hope you find them helpful.

Rule 1: Be Honest.

About both the hard roads and the easy streets. Be open with your team about where you are and where you’re going.

Rule 2: Share Success.

Don’t just share the good news. Share the rewards of a good year with the people who helped make it happen.

Rule 3: Give Back.

Be a mentor. Be a community steward. Be a good human. You didn’t get where you are without a little help along the way, so find ways to help others in their journey.

Rule 4: Fail Forward.

Failure is inevitable, so see it as a beginning, not an end. Failure is the realization that one way isn’t the only way.

Rule 5: Swim Upstream.

Anyone can go with the current. You can’t be just anyone If you want to be No. 1, it takes grind, guts and grit.

Which of these simple truths are embedded in the history of your own success story? Take a moment to think about it, and I’ll bet you can find some defining examples. And the next time you’re facing a difficult decision, I would encourage you to hold it up to the light of these guiding principles.

Karen Moore is founder and CEO of Moore. You can reach her at [email protected].

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