This is an edited extract of an article that first appeared 5 November 2012.
Entrepreneur Imelda Roche AO has only ever had one mentor (her grandma), and worked on achieving her personal ambitions along the lines of one key motto: If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
For a woman making her mark as an entrepreneur at a time when women did not go into business with their husbands, let alone take the helm of an organisation, the “it’s up to me” was a mantra that left no room for excuses, nor for settling on society’s expectations of what and who a woman should be.
“If I think about my generation, we were always the secretaries or the tea ladies,” says Roche. “Nobody would ever think you’d be a decision maker.”
Roche founded the local arm of Nutrimetics with her husband Bill in 1968, and went on to acquire the worldwide interests of Nutrimetics International in 1991. The couple later turned their attention to property development and investment and have since regularly appeared on the BRW Rich List. Roche was named NSW Champion of Entrepreneurship by Ernst & Young in August, and was once recognised as one of the world’s 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs.
Roche shared her eight words of motivation during a roundtable of leading entrepreneurs with Women’s Agenda following an afternoon seminar and networking event for female entrepreneurs hosted by EY in Sydney.
Women entrepreneurs have it a little easier than Roche did in the early stages of her career — especially with a number of resources at their disposal including networking groups, mentoring, opportunities to pitch to investors, and more respect from the banks.
But with women entrepreneurs still facing plenty of challenges, including a lack of start-up capital when compared to their male counterparts, a little bit of “it’s up to me” goes a long way in reaffirming the personal responsibility we can take for our own careers, businesses and overall success. Even when having to work harder for something seems a little unfair.
Roche picked up the advice off her grandma whom she lived with from the age of two to five.
“She was the only person I could ever put into that category of being a mentor,” says Roche. “[She taught me] you can do whatever you want to do if you really are focussed and dedicated enough. That little focus I shared with everyone today: If it’s to be, it’s up to me. It’s not for somebody else to do it for you. You’re in charge of your own life.”
When it comes to career and business success, part of “it’s up to me” also includes identifying priorities, and determining which domestic responsibilities really matter, and which can be outsourced.
“The priority is not doing the cleaning,” says Roche, advising that women shouldn’t be afraid to pay for help. “Just as long as they know that you’re there for the events that are important.”
And as long as you know what you can afford: “You don’t go into debt for help. And if you really have to work longer hours then do it,” says Roche.
Taking personal responsibility for our own success is also, I believe, about determining our own personal definition of what success actually means, and not relying on an explanation from somebody else. If Roche had settled on the expectations of others, she may have been left disappointed given what a lot of people thought “success” meant for a woman when she was starting out: “All my Aunts thought I’d have delinquent children!” she says.
I also believe it’s about working hard to achieve small, reachable ambitions, and doing what needs to be done to shoot for the larger and long-term goals. It’s appreciating the lessons in failure, and not feeling defeated when we inevitably miss some of the goals we target. If it’s to be, it’s up to me. But if it’s NOT to be, that’s ok. We learn. We move on. We work at something else.
Eight simple words. Now get on with it. Destiny’s counting on you.