JOHANNESBURG – Nominated for two Gender Awards in the categories of Inclusive Leader: Entrepreneur and Positive Role Models, Shelley Walters is one of sales’ leading female voices in South Africa.
She has transcended her circumstances to become a leader in business and is now an inspiration to anyone looking for entrepreneurial success.
Her journey to a successful entrepreneur and small business owner has been one filled with hurdles, but still, despite the odds, has built a formidable career intent on inspiring others.
Now, she teaches all who wish to strive for more how to overcome their circumstances by offering them the keys to entrepreneurial success.
Walters hopes to bring about better lives for all, but particularly mothers, sisters and daughters who, for reasons still deeply entrenched in our society, struggle to step-up and become the entrepreneurs they were always meant to be.
According to Stats SA, the rate of unemployment amongst women is 7.5% higher than in men, and where they are employed, are generally paid less regardless of skill and race.
Walters said, "Corporates cannot fix Africa on their own, working with small businesses and investing in entrepreneurial growth is far more beneficial for all concerned. We need corporates to invest in the skills that nurture our entrepreneurs, and to look beyond limiting their investment to goal-based initiatives that bring on limited improvement within the real lives of the women who need it most. Although applauded and appreciated, we don’t need shoes in Africa, we need the skills to learn how to make them. Entrepreneurs need to be able to negotiate deals for the best-priced leather. Essentially, how can we turn shoes into profit? For food on the table. For a roof on a home. For education for our children."
Walters says that her powerful attitude has driven her from the humble beginnings of a wet-behind-the-ears 16-year-old saleswoman to the person she is today: Founder of the highly successful sales enablement firm – The Sales Counsel, – who inspires confident, honest an effective sales staff both here and abroad.
By extension, her journey has bred the Gender Awards-nominated female entrepreneur in picture – Shelley Walters herself – who is now renowned for a being a leader in sales and a no-nonsense businesswoman.
It is these very skills that she intends to pass along to all entrepreneurs because, she explains frankly, “Where some entrepreneurs are more powerful as pioneers of an economy rather than employees, other entrepreneurs are just downright unemployable:
“It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like. It doesn’t matter what colour you are or the level of education you have or don’t have, you need grit and drive and a teachable attitude – it’s the only way you can follow your passion and stick to it.”
“A high-level of self-awareness is essential. What can you do and what can’t you? Grow at what you’re good at. Listen to those around you, but also trust your instinct. Surround yourself with people who will support you, but who are unafraid to challenge you. These are some of the umbrella traits that will knit together the fabric of your business and be the fuel that keeps it going.”
“There have been times I have lost my authenticity. Times I’ve associated myself with people who seek to bring me down. Advice? Drop them! Times I haven’t finished what matters, haven’t focused on what’s at hand. You can’t always do everything, but you can always do many things well.”
A strong support network has kept her feet on the ground and her faith in herself and others drives her forward.
“Part of being an effective leader and entrepreneur is learning to let those you trust make key decisions. When hiring them, you’ve made a key decision doing so and, if your selection process was thorough enough and you hired not only on skills, but on character too, those around you should always be trustworthy. Include them in your decisions and be patient with them as they grow.”
While she is reluctant to make special provisions for female entrepreneurs, it has been her experience that women are judged harshly on their emotions compared to their male counterparts.
“Don’t play into it. If you are a small business owner, you are the business so step back and be bigger than your business. Make every effort not to let your emotions impact your employees or clients. They will judge you more harshly for it because you’re a woman. It will make it harder for you.”
As an entrepreneur, she insists that the discipline of “finishing what you started” is particularly important – getting to the end is paramount.
“The hill might be a little steeper, but it means that we are a little fitter for climbing it. Don’t be fooled, there are very few handouts in life and if they come, they are few and far between. Finish what you do – accomplish what you set out to accomplish, bit by bit, one step at a time, head strong and determined.”
Being an entrepreneur is exceptionally difficult – make no mistake insists Walters.
“It’s tough out there and I look to inspire as many people as possible on my own daily path. But the choices you make in business, as a businessperson, woman or man, are yours and yours to live with. Try make the right ones and adapt quickly when you don’t. Never give up. Your business is built as much on failure as it is on success.”
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