Top businesswoman shares life lessons

Gillian McAinsh

GET on the bus or get off – because this bus is going places with a driven woman behind the wheel.

That’s the message Businesswomen’s Association corporate category Businesswoman of the Year winner Dawn Rowlands gave her staff when she was appointed chief executive of Aegis Media SSA in 2009. And the bus did travel as Rowlands grew the communications and media firm by 274% in two years.

She addressed a Port Elizabeth BWA audience last week, relating lessons learnt in childhood, having lost her mother when she was 14.

“My father taught me at an early age how to handle problems. Sometimes you need to be kind and sometimes you need to come back really hard. You need to know which to use when,” she said.

The serial entrepreneur has only been in the corporate world for three years and cautioned against apathy replacing passion.

“The biggest detractor from success is apathy: people who stand around and do nothing and blame others. You see it every day in the corporate world.

“A lot of my colleagues say I do everything at a pace but I need to get there, I have somewhere to go.”

She warned against fear of failure or fear itself holding businesswomen back. “We don’t see stumbling blocks, we go around them. You are either wired that way or you are not. Failure is fine. You fall down, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you try again.

“My biggest disappointment has been the people around me who do not see the same level of achievement in themselves as I see.”

Success did come with a price: “Professional jealousy is one of the most despicable things and I’ve had to get used to it … Keep being confident in what you do, stick to your guns.”

She believes in “ruthless focus”: “Put everything into one thing and make it happen”.

And if you are not adding value to her life, then you’d better get off her “bus”. This woman has places to go.

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