The Award Speech I Would Have Given 1200X700 1 The Awards Speech I Would Have Given...

The Awards Speech I Would Have Given…

As you might know, Kayak was recently nominated as a finalist for two small business awards by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. Ultimately, we weren’t chosen for either, but the experience did give me a bit of time to reflect on just how far our little company has come, what the success we have had really means, and what lessons I could share with the world about it.

I had decided that, should we win, my short speech would focus on three simple words: Tenacity, Perseverance, and Passion.

These aren’t just concepts to go on motivational pictures – they are absolutely necessary qualities for any entrepreneur… or just anyone who wants to make the most of their life. This is something I learned firsthand during my battle with stage IV cancer. At a moment like that in your life, you figure out what it’s like to really have your back against the wall, to fight for everything, and to find a sense of what truly matters in this life.

The lessons I learned from that experience are ones I try to never forget, and make up the guiding principles behind the launch of Kayak Online Marketing. Those were the thoughts that were already swirling in my head when I attended a luncheon for Opportunity International yesterday.

The charitable organization provides micro-loans to women entrepreneurs in developing countries, and the guest speaker at the luncheon was an incredibly inspiring woman from Honduras who had grown her small business out of poverty from nothing more than pure willpower and a $120 micro-loan. Over time, she developed a profitable company that flourished to the point where she was able to purchase a small building and provide jobs to the majority of her family and friends. Hearing from her was like having a brochure for the entrepreneurial dream come to life.

Unfortunately, success wasn’t a one-way street for her. In 2009, the North American recession virtually eliminated tourist traffic to her region. Sales dried up, bills piled up, and she was forced to lay her staff, which included all of those relatives and loved ones. She admits embarrassingly, that at this point, she “asked God to take her.” Just thinking about the kind of stress and anguish that must have been with her at a time like that moved me to tears.

Rather than simply giving up, however, the charity altered the terms of her financing, and helped her to keep pushing ahead. She was able to get her business back to where had been in the past, and learned from the experience.

As she ended her story, she thanked God for not taking her.

I couldn’t help but come back to those three all-important words again: Tenacity, Perseverance, and Passion. They are at the heart and soul of every small business, every entrepreneur who stays up at night worrying about his or her employees and their paychecks, and every business owner who struggles against the odds to turn their idea into a successful enterprise.

Without these qualities, we have nothing. Without them, poverty can’t be overcome, men and women can’t transform into leaders, and small businesses can’t grow into the bigger brands we are all familiar with. Every step we make as entrepreneurs takes sacrifice, and there’s never any guarantee those sacrifices are going to pay off.

And so, my message to anyone reading this is what it would have been to all the other business owners who were in attendance yesterday: embrace tenacity, perseverance, and passion. Be excited about what you do, and focused on what you want to achieve, because having those convictions will give you the strength you need to make it through the tough times (and everyone runs into tough times at some point).

Foster those qualities and make them a part of your everyday life, not only because they are critical to the success of your business, but because they’ll make whatever you do achieve that much more special and enjoyable. And just as importantly, foster them in your team and your heirs.

I didn’t get to give an awards speech last night, but I feel incredibly proud to be part of our community. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, or have been in business for years. Whether you’re here in Calgary trying to get past the flood damage, or in poverty working against the realities of a developing economy – we are all in this together, so never give up, don’t forget to encourage one another, and celebrate all the successes we enjoy every day… even if they don’t come with plaques and trophies.

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