Advice from Bethenny Frankel to Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs
By Moira Forbes
“The only real successes are ones with blood, sweat, tears and grit,” says best-selling author, producer and philanthropist Bethenny Frankel, speaking about her unconventional rise from reality TV star to self-made businesswoman and serial entrepreneur. Frankel is sharing hard-won lessons in building a brand empire in her first-ever business-focused book, “Business Is Personal: The Truth About What it Takes to Be Successful While Staying True to Yourself,” which she calls “a toolbox for anyone who wants to succeed.”
Having translated her The Real Housewives of New York City success into the multi-million-dollar Skinnygirl cocktail brand that landed her on the cover of Forbes in 2011, Frankel credits her authenticity and reputation for telling hard truths as being key to fueling her expansive career. “Being authentic takes you so far, and it’s something that people will always remember you for,” she says. “I’m not liked by everybody, but I’m believed and trusted by most.”
Frankel brings her signature brutal honesty to her new book, opening up about the truth behind her biggest victories and downfalls, along with the lessons she’s learned along the way. I recently spoke with Frankel about the key takeaways from “Business Is Personal”, how she’s evolved as a businesswoman, and her best advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who are hoping to follow in her path. “It’s possible for anyone to be successful,” she says. “Absolutely anyone.”
So many people say that business isn’t personal, which you obviously disagree with. Why did you choose that sentiment as the title of your new book?
“Every aspect of business is personal, because it’s something that you take your time to spend away from your family doing. Sometimes it’s something that takes every inch of you, and you lose sleep over it, and you have to be passionate about it to be successful. So it is personal, and how you are in your personal life should bleed into how you are in your professional life.”
Why is staying true to yourself so critical to your business success?
“You have to be comfortable with just telling the truth, because you’ll find so many other interesting ways to inspire and connect through that. It could be a real estate deal where you’re now taken seriously, because they know that you’ve negotiated with them before and you really are straight up. Or if someone’s coming on my podcast, a big name celebrity, they know they’re not getting ratted out because I have a reputation for not feeding things to the press.
“I show up on time, I am very deliberate, I care, I’m grateful. You develop these relationships and people remember this for years to come. People probably think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe she just said that. That she was fearless, that she would say that.’ Because sometimes I say things that other people are afraid to say, but that also makes them realize that only a person who was being authentic would say.”
How have you learned to bounce back faster from the inevitable setbacks that every entrepreneur faces?
“The first day you learn how to snowboard you get bruised up, because you’re tense and you’re tight and you feel so achy the first time you learn how to do anything. But then the more you do it, as you improve, you’re a little more relaxed and you don’t take as big of a hit. And business is sort of like that. I remember going on the Today Show for the first time, years ago, doing a segment with Hoda Kotb and, I don’t even sleep ever, but collapsing after it. I had cards for it and I prepared for it. It was just a couple of minutes, and it depleted me. And now, I do that with my eyes closed. You could throw me anywhere. So the muscle gets stronger, and you are just more equipped to deal with things, and you just don’t get so activated by everything.”
What advice can you share on coping with criticism? How do you know when to listen to critics and when to silence them?
“I like to hear what people think. If someone character assassinates, then I don’t hear it. If someone says something mean to me on social media, I don’t hear it. If someone says something in a constructive way, I can always hear. And I love to crowdsource, and I like to hear what other people think about different things. It’s sort of like you’re going to someone’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner and you ask five different people for the stuffing recipe, and then you make your own. You have your idea, you listen to other people and what they like, and then you ultimately cook the combination of that you decided to make. So that’s how I decide when I do crowdsource. I have a good idea of what I want to do, but I still run it by a couple people, to make sure I didn’t miss anything.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs looking to launch a new venture right now, how do you believe the pandemic has created new business opportunities and leveled the playing field?
“Industries have changed, travel patterns, office styles, everything’s changed. Everything is slightly different, in some ways, and very different in others. And when there’s disruption like that, there are openings. You just have to figure out where the fish are, but you have to be prepared for when the fish come, for when the luck comes.”
For newly minted college graduates who are heading into this shaky job market, what advice would you give?
“Whoever started this whole thing that everybody needed to be on the right track the minute that they graduate, is ill-advised and guiding people in the wrong direction. You’re not supposed to know what you’re doing with the rest of your life at that age. You’re supposed to go with your gut and your passion.
“But every job I had is part of my life now. Every assistant job for Lorne Michaels and for Jerry Bruckheimer and for Kathy Hilton. Slinging chopped salads at La Scala in Beverly Hills. =Being a hostess. Driving my Ford Probe and driving Paris and Nicky Hilton. Organizing people’s antiques and stuffing envelopes. All this stuff I did all those years, it’s part of who I am now, it’s why I’m so successful. Who the hell knows what road you’re supposed to be on? Get on a road. Be on a road, whatever road that is, you do the best you possibly can. You put your all into that road, or don’t do it. And then if you have to switch lanes, switch lanes.”
What do you believe is the biggest misconception about what it takes to be successful?
“I feel that the only real successes are the ones with blood, sweat, and tears, and grit. It could be shiny and look like it’s all about Instagram and social media, but there’s a lot that goes on behind that. Even if you see someone walking a red carpet, at Fashion Week, and that seems superficial and they’re big and famous. What it took on that day, for them to get there and to do that.
“All these little things, in every industry, in every facet, take a lot. It takes a lot of energy. It takes time away from your family and your kids. And to do things right, to protect your own brand, and to really stick to it and work hard, it takes a lot of time, you have to have the bandwidth. I haven’t really seen that many shortcuts. Short of the lottery or an inheritance or something, I haven’t seen that.”