Koori Mail: The business of success

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By Kirstie Parker

GOOGLE Janice Bryant Howroyd and the results are undeniably impressive. The founder and CEO of American company Act•1 Personnel Services is feted on numerous websites and touted by Forbes magazine as having a family fortune of $250 million.

When Ms Bryant Howroyd visited Australia earlier this month and addressed the AIMSC Connect 2012 conference, business opportunity fair and trade show in Sydney, the buzz was that she was the second wealthiest black woman in America after Oprah.

Clearly, the 60-year-old entrepreneur, mother-of-two and author of a book The Art of Work – How to make work, work for you is doing all right.

But, for all of that, she insists that measuring success by money alone is for fools.

“I’ve been asked many times, ‘What did it feel like when you became successful?’” she told the Koori Mail. “But I have never lived a day that I was not successful. I was very blessed to be born to parents who really taught us about who we are and where we can go in life so I don’t know about not being successful.

“If you start to measure yourself by money, you’re going to be playing a fool’s game. You don’t get to dictate what the value of money is on any given day. And in business, one day you can be up and another day you can be down so don’t let money be the measurement; let it be a tool.

“For me, the real richness that I enjoy is the ability to do what I love... We’re doing business in many countries and we’re helping companies
as well as people who look for jobs and careers.

“For me, what that means collectively is that we’re helping people where it really matters and that’s how I become enriched. At the end of the day, how enriched I am is far more important than whether or not I have money.”

Ms Bryant Howroyd’s advice to delegates at the AIMSC conference to be true to themselves and ‘who they say they’ll be’ struck a chord with many.

She spoke of the Australian Government’s 2008 apology to Australia’s Indigenous people, especially the Stolen Generations, seeing it as a strong foundation for ‘brilliant’ opportunity.

“I see so much opportunity for the Aboriginal people of Australia in terms of the ability to grow businesses here that may, in some ways, be better than the opportunities that I have seen from some of the programs in the US,” she told the Koori Mail afterwards.

The key differentiators, she said, were the vigour with which AIMSC and its members and suppliers were developing those opportunities and the comparatively small numbers of Indigenous Australian businesses primed to take them up. But this didn’t mean anything was ‘a given’.

“It’s not; there’s a lot of work that has to be done,” Ms Bryant Howroyd said.

“Strategically, companies that are Aboriginal owned and corporations have to work together to determine ‘how do we create this result?’ And that’s where the grind is going to be.

“I think that a lot of education, a lot of rethinking of procurement practices and a lot of metrics of measurement, are going to have to be in place to make sure that everybody ends up happy at the end of the day.”

Ms Bryant Howroyd said the fact that many Australian Indigenous businesses were fledgling was not necessarily a bad thing.