Advice for overcoming challenges to build a successful business

Shelf the self-pity

Many small business owners have become successful despite personal obstacles. And maybe even because of them they became familiar with overcoming challenges. For example, breast cancer survivor and fashion designer Dana Donofree decided to take her experience as a designer — and cancer survivor — to create the Ana Ono lingerie line of garments that fit and assist women post-op. “[My goal] is to help women heal in beauty and in dignity after their surgery,” she says.

In a similar way, entrepreneur and Shark Tank judge Barbara Corcoran has had to overcome personal challenges in her own life — and she came out stronger for it. She writes:

“Everyone has personal challenges to overcome, and I’ve had my fair share of challenges, too.

As a kid, I was convinced I was stupid because I couldn’t learn to read or write in school due to my dyslexia. But my lack of confidence made me overcompensate and over-prepare for everything I do in the business world.

When my business partner and boyfriend left me to marry my secretary, he told me, ‘You’ll never succeed without me!’ By saying that, he handed me the greatest gift of all, an insult, which gave me the motivation to get back on my feet and the determination to prove him wrong. I’ve found that the key to getting back up is not to feel sorry for yourself. I’ve noticed the common ground of every successful person I’ve known is they don’t feel sorry for themselves.”

Overcoming challenges is a trait most of the small business owners I’ve met over the years seem to have in common. They’re always looking for a way over, under, around or through a problem or challenge — despite any personal struggles or setbacks they may face.

In addition to taking obstacles in stride, there are a few other traits that small business owners share, enabling them to shrug off challenges and build successful businesses:

1. They are creative problem solvers

I don’t know many small business owners who feel like they have all the capital or all the resources they need to make building their business easy. What they do have is the ability to look at what they’ve got and creatively find solutions for overcoming challenges. I’m convinced this is one of the most important skills any entrepreneur needs to build a healthy and thriving business.

Overcoming Challenges Problem Solver

2. They are resilient in overcoming challenges

“I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Let’s face it: There’s nothing easy about running a small business. It’s not for the faint of heart. All of the small business owners I know have a toughness and resilience that motivates them despite the challenges they face.

3. They don’t let their weakness get in the way — they leverage their strengths

It’s pretty common — particularly in business — for people to focus on strengthening their weaknesses. But most of the successful people I know tend to focus on exploiting their strengths. They recognize it’s their strengths that set them apart and don’t let their weaknesses get in the way of accomplishing their goals. They’re also good at leveraging the strengths of others to complement their own.

4. They understand the value of a team

In other words, instead of trying to go it alone, they build a team around them to maximize their efforts. They’re not afraid to seek help in those areas where they might perceive a weakness or lack of experience. Sometimes they might turn to a partner who has expertise they don’t have, or they might hire key employees to fill those roles where they might not have as much strength or experience.

5. They recognize and seek professional help and advice

They don’t allow physical limitations to get in the way of objectives. Instead, they seek out medical advice to find ways to overcome their physical limitations (handicap access, for example). They don’t let their pride get in the way of getting the help they need.

Barbara’s determination in the face of her challenges, and the way Dana Donofree leveraged her struggle with cancer, has allowed them both to build thriving businesses. Despite what it might look like from the outside looking in, we all face challenges. The ability to overcome them is what sets great people and great businesses apart from the rest of the crowd.

Ty Kiisel is a contributing author focusing on small business financing at OnDeck, a technology company solving small business’s biggest challenge: access to capital. With over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business, Ty shares personal experiences and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible. You can also find OnDeck on Facebook and Twitter.