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What it takes to ‘rule’ the business world

Martha Stewart offers advice to entrepreneurs and business professionals in her new book, “The Martha Rules.”  Read an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

In her new book, “The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Grow, or Manage a Business,” Martha Stewart shares her business knowledge and advice. Tapping into her years of experience, Stewart helps readers identify their own entrepreneurial voice and channel their skills and passions into a successful business venture. Stewart was invited on the “Today” show to discuss the book. Here's an excerpt:

In 2004, I entered a federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia. There, amidst a thousand or so women, were hundreds of young, middle-aged, and older women who had dreams of starting a business when they were released. Many of them came to me to express their passion, their hopes, and their ideas. They were so like the myriad people who write to me with

their ideas, seeking guidance, advice, hard facts, and a road map to a successful business.

Two very young women called me over to a picnic table one warm spring evening — there were metal picnic tables with benches at which we sat to talk, to plan, to read, and to eat the few “home-cooked” meals some of us concocted in the microwave ovens. Spread out before them were pages and pages of writing, drawings, calculations; this was their vision statement, their business plan, and the sketches of what their Big Idea would really look like once they were free to build their dream. I studied the plans. They wanted to create and operate a unisex hair salon combined with a café, salad bar, and soul food restaurant in a warehouse district of a large southern city.

Neither had much experience, neither was really a chef or a hairdresser, and neither had any experience running a business. I was astonished at the complexity of the idea, stunned at the expansiveness of the plan, and really pleased that two young dreamers wanted to set out on such an adventure. They were asking for advice, however, and I felt that as the experienced mentor, the entrepreneur with concrete success, I was required to be fair, circumspect, critical, and even blunt. I did not want to dampen their spirits; both still had a long while to spend confined in Alderson. So I wrote down the outline of this book and arranged to give a talk about starting a business, right there in the speakers’ room, underneath the chapel. Using the young women’s idea as an example, I spoke about dreams and passion and vision statements and business plans. I encouraged planning, investing, partnering, and careful, thoughtful research.

Expressing my concern that their plan was too ambitious, too expansive, too difficult, too expensive, and maybe even too old-fashioned, I explained that in New York and other metropolitan areas, hair salons were chic havens for beauty, health, personal care, and skin and nail care. Women did not want to eat where they had their hair cut — a fine cappuccino, maybe; a glass of iced tea and a sandwich on the run, okay. I encouraged them to divide the business in two: a restaurant, and a hair salon that catered to male and female customers. This was a better plan — the one-stop shopping plan that many retailers are now starting to develop. I told them which trade journals to read, what fashion magazines to study, and which books to gather to do their research.

When I returned home from Alderson, I had five months of home confinement, and I watched lots of late-night movies. One such movie was Barbershop, perhaps the inspiration for the young women’s plan. I know that inspiration can be found in many different places. So did the girls.

Their Big Idea reminded me so much of a plan that I had proposed to a group of astute and experienced venture capitalists about five years ago, a group that had helped nurture and finance companies like Netscape, Google, Intuit, and many others. I was so enthusiastic about my idea, so talkative and effusive about its possibilities and its potentially wonderful impact on the world of homemakers. In return, I was stared at and discouraged with words and phrases such as, “It’s too ambitious”; “It’s too early for such an idea”; “It’s too big”; “You’re not focused.” I used the criticisms and comments to reformulate the idea of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and we are still working on it, still passionate about it.

Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but it is exciting, fun, and amazingly interesting and challenging. As you will read in the following chapters, being an entrepreneur requires a person to do more than just “go to work,” much more than just “do a job.” It requires eyes in the back of one’s head; constant learning; curiosity; unflagging energy; good health, or at least a strong constitution that will ward off illnesses; and even the strength and desire to put up with sleep deprivation and long hours of intense concentration. To many, these characteristics might sound rather daunting, but among successful entrepreneurs, these are common traits.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. I see evidence of that fact each and every day. And because so many budding entrepreneurs have so many questions about how to take an idea and make it happen, I decided to write The Martha Rules as a practical and inspiring manual. My hope is that you will use it as a recipe book to make your own success.

What’s passion got to do with it? Martha’s Rule
Build your business success around something that you love — something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you.

It is great to love one’s work. Doing work that you enjoy gives you energy. You are imbued with enthusiasm. Your senses seem sharper. You wake up with new ideas every day and with solutions to conquer the challenges that cropped up the day before. You are always confident that goals are attainable, that creativity and ingenuity and hard work and passion for the work will make “it” all come together. This “passion” for one’s work is just like an all-consuming love affair — something that all of us crave to experience but encounter only once or twice in a lifetime if we are lucky.

Knowing your passion, working hard to keep it alive, enjoying it every minute of every day, even when the going gets difficult — these are the hallmarks of an entrepreneurial enterprise that you build and develop and maintain and evolve. You expend this extraordinary energy so that others may benefit from it, may learn from it, and may even profit from it.

I have always found it extremely difficult to differentiate between what others might consider my life and my business. For me they are inextricably intertwined. That is because I have the same passion for both. Simply stated, my life is my work and my work is my life. As a result, I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I am excited every day: I love waking up; I love getting to work; I love focusing on a new initiative.

I am not alone with this passion for my work, for my life. Other entrepreneurs that I know have the same type of passion, and their excitement for their work and for their lives is electric and palpable. Whether they work for a large company, run their own business, are raising a family, or are organizing a fund-raising event for a charity, they are tuned into anything and anyone that can help them make their plans unfold and their dreams come true. They are positive and optimistic. They always find a way to get the job done better, faster, and more energetically than those around them.

Passion is the first and most essential ingredient for planning and beginning a business or for starting and satisfactorily completing any worthwhile project. Without passion, work is just work, a chore. Without passion, quality, the cornerstone of all businesses, is simply about minimum standards. Without passion, the people who will benefit directly from your efforts — the customers — seem incidental.

It was my passion for teaching and for easing the challenges of the homemaker’s everyday life that helped me turn my homegrown catering business into a successful omnimedia company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and with hundreds of similarly creative and driven employees designing and producing thousands of exciting and useful products for America’s homemakers.

When work is based in passion, it does not feel like work — it feels fulfilling and empowering, far more about creating, building, devising, initiating, leading, and serving than about simply moving through one task and on to another. I often use the following example: For me, planting and maintaining a garden is not, is never, working in the garden. Instead, it is gardening. I never have to do housework. I have furniture to polish, I have vacuuming to do, I have ironing to finish.

Excerpted from “The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Grow, or Manage a Business” by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2005, Martha Stewart. All rights reserved. Published by . No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.