How I open my doors
At the end of the year we all do the review: did we achieve what we wanted? Did we do the best we could? We know it is time to check the list, reflect on the past and enjoy the present. This interview with Sharon Lechter was just at the right time for me to help with my reflections and make a clearer list for the next year. It is a kind of conversation that you can feel very near with the character, because she is so real, so authentic and charming. I personally resonated with many parts of her story, and being a woman who speaks with her heart I am sure many others will find synergies while reading her interview. You may have read one or more of her books, and if you have, I am sure they have impacted a lot on the meaning of your life, but her words here are very touching and I am very honoured to share this exclusive interview with you.
By Mirela Sula
You are invited as a keynote speaker at the ‘Events of Champions’ – what will be the main theme that you will deliver at this event?
We are all CEOs of our own lives. The Champions will be the attendees who are seeking to secure and expand their financial foundation, either personally or through their entrepreneurial endeavors. The event will focus on proven tools and strategies that will assist business owners to strengthen their business platforms and marketing efforts to attract more qualified prospects and convert them into satisfied and loyal customers.
You have achieved great things in life and many women would love to follow your path – can you tell us about your route to success?
I started my career as a CPA, Certified Public Accountant. At the ripe old age of 25 I thought I knew everything and decided if I was going to work as hard as I was working then why shouldn’t it be for myself? So I became an entrepreneur. My philosophy became, “Why not?” Why not try something new? Why not choose the path less travelled? And I still follow that philosophy today.
From there, I started my own tax practice which I maintained while starting and building several other companies. First I started a woman’s magazine in Wisconsin. Then through my charity work I met and became friends with the inventor of the first talking children’s book and joined forces with him to build the talking book industry globally. After four years of exponential growth the company was purchased by a large publisher.
My family relocated to Arizona in 1991 and our oldest son left for his first year of college in September of 1992. At Christmas, he came home and shared that he was $2,500 in credit card debt. I was angry…but more at myself than at my son. I thought I had taught him about money but soon realized that he was with me when I used my credit cards – not when I paid them off each month. That was December of 1992 and I dedicated the rest of my professional career to financial literacy and education.
Several years later, in 1997, I co-wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad and co-founded the Rich Dad Company and built the Rich Dad brand to a global powerhouse in the field of financial self-empowerment. Ten years later, in 2007, and after co-authoring 15 books in the Rich Dad series and spreading the brand into over 100 countries and 51 languages, I made the decision to leave the company. We were at the height of our success, but the direction my partner wanted to take the company was not aligned with my personal message.
It was a tough…but right decision. I formed my current company ‘Pay Your Family First’ and focused on my personal mission. I focus on creating educational tools and programs that help people take control of their financial lives. You are either a master of your money or a slave to it. I focus on three main areas: entrepreneurship, women and teens.
They say sometimes you have to close one door for another door to open for you. This is exactly what happened for me.
They say sometimes you have to close one door for another door to open for you. This is exactly what happened for me. A few months after I left the Rich Dad Company I was asked to serve on the first President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy by President Bush. I served both Presidents Bush and Obama and was then asked to become a national spokesperson with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants on the topic of financial literacy, a position I still hold today. Those opportunities would not have come my way if I had still been with the Rich Dad Company. (This is where I ask my audiences what door needs to be closed in their lives for other doors of opportunity to open for them.)
I also received a call from the CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. He had learned about my departure from Rich Dad and reached out asking me to help reinvigorate the teachings of Napoleon Hill, another incredible honour and opportunity. I had read Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ at 19 and its teachings are as relevant today as when it was originally published in 1937. I have now published 3 bestselling books with the Foundation, ‘Three Feet from Gold’, ‘Outwitting the Devil’ and ‘Think and Grow Rich for Women’, and I am currently working on two more.
As I have built ‘Pay Your Family First’, I have had many other opportunities to support financial literacy efforts around the globe.
As I have built ‘Pay Your Family First’, I have had many other opportunities to support financial literacy efforts around the globe. I have taught women entrepreneurs globally through the Artemis and Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiatives with the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Very recently part of my company was purchased by EBW2020, (Empowering a Billion Women by 2020) and I have become its ‘Chief Abundance Officer’. I am also creating financial and entrepreneurial education for women entrepreneurs that can be accessed online through ‘MintHER Money’, offered through EBW2020.
You asked about my journey to success, and my answer is long, but it proves that as long as you focus on your personal mission and ask yourself, “why not?” you can achieve anything!
Business strategist, mentor, elite entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist, international speaker, licensed CPA, Chartered Global Management Accountant and, most importantly a mother and grandmother – which of these roles do you feel is your favourite?
Grandmother of course! I often tell my audiences that I now realise the only reason to be a parent is so one day you can become a grandparent!
How difficult has it been for you to manage being between your career and family? How can a woman be successful in both?
In Chapter 15 of ‘Think and Grow Rich for Women’ I specifically address this issue. Too many women struggle trying to achieve “work-life balance.” This just wastes precious time today feeling guilt, shame or worry about what happened yesterday. Each of us has physical, financial, spiritual, business, family and personal relationships components to our lives. They all work together to create who we are. Instead of striving for work-life balance, strive for living ONE BIG LIFE. If you get up in the morning and realise you didn’t spend enough time with your kids the day before, make a different decision for today.
In 2008 you were appointed to the first President of the United States Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, where you served both President Bush and President Obama. How did it happen for you to achieve this and how would you describe your experience from working with presidents?
When I chose to leave the Rich Dad Company, I knew I needed to build my personal brand and expertise outside of Rich Dad. With my passion for financial education for all, I wanted to become a change-maker. The opportunity to become a presidential advisor was a huge honour and allowed me to create that credibility and reputation.
Like all government initiatives there is a ton of red-tape and procedures to be followed so it is important to focus on results. The Credit Card Act was passed in 2009, while I was on the Council, and included a provision prohibiting credit card companies from soliciting college students on campus. I cannot take credit for that bill, but I can say I was a very loud voice for the need to address this issue.
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
I am inspired by everyone I see taking control of their own financial lives. We have far too many victim mentality people who want to blame others for their lack of financial resources. Those people who become victors instead of victims inspire others to take control of their lives.
Can you tell us about your childhood and the impact that your parents had on you?
My father was my hero! While considered lower middle class, my parents were very entrepreneurial and worked very hard for everything they achieved. That work ethic taught me to be responsible and to strive for success. My sister and I were the first generation in our family to attend and graduate college. Our parents taught us that we could achieve anything we wanted if we worked hard enough for it.
Growing up my father would tuck me in and ask me if I had added value to someone’s life that day. Even though I lost my dad almost 10 years ago, I still ask myself that question each night.
What is the darkest moment in your life and how did you get through that?
Both the biggest challenge and the darkest moment of my life were on December 14th, 2012 when we lost our youngest son. Words cannot express the impact or the grief of losing a child. My husband and I have been blessed with tremendous and heart-warming support from family and friends. While the loss will always be there, we cherish our memories and our time with our son. The work I do with my Dedicated Entrepreneurs and Master Mentors has helped fill part of the void in my heart. I cherish them all.
What makes you happy and how would you define happiness?
I define happiness and success by how you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror. Do you like, and are you proud of the person you see looking back at you? Happiness isn’t achieved as a destination it is comes to us along the journey of life. It comes from choosing to enjoy the journey.
I love being at the ocean…it is food for my soul. So a sunset over the ocean spent with good friends and family is the picture of happiness for me. (A little champagne helps too!)
How hard is it nowadays for women to find happiness and balance in life?
Happiness and balance are the results of the choices we make along the way. Many women allow self-doubt and a lack of confidence to derail their happiness. Acknowledge if that describes you and choose to surround yourself with people who are your champions while your own self-confidence grows. You can choose to live ONE BIG LIFE and choose each day to do what makes you happy.
In your view how fast is the world changing and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
The world is changing dramatically and I focus on three main areas of change: demographics of the market, how to best communicate to the market, and the impact of the changes in the global economy.
As a business owner we must recognise the changing demographics of our marketplace with the rise of women leaders as well as the ever increasing influence of millennials. With the increase of millennials in the marketplace as our customers of the future, it is even more important to communicate with them how and where they want to be communicated with. If you are a baby-boomer like I am it is very important to have someone on your team help drive this initiative. With all the changes in the global economy it is important to focus on your business mission. The greatest businesses either solve a problem or serve a need.
If you focus your efforts on serving your customers’ needs and solving their problems you can ensure the success of your business.
You also co-authored the international best seller ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, along with many other books in the Rich Dad series. What makes your books so successful?
I have been honoured to author or co-author 21 books. The success of any book depends not only on its message but the business around the book. That means you must develop a platform that will spread the news of your book, bring in the customers, and provide ongoing support to them so they become a part of your loyal community. There is a lot of mis-information out there about publishing selling specifics products or programs in publishing. I got so frustrated by the lack of education around the options in publishing I created the ‘Speak, Serve and Sell’ event which provides the latest in successful publishing options, as well as how to build and engage the business platform to support your publishing efforts. We also teach you how to sharpen your skills as a speaker, both as a stage speaker and on various forms of media. To become a media magnet you must learn not only how to get media interviews but more importantly how to become the “go to expert” and achieve on-going media opportunities.
To have a successful book, you must focus on perfecting your message, building your platform and fine-tuning your ability to communicate effectively with the media and your audiences.
You will be in London soon and many women will join the ‘Event of Champions’ to learn from you – what would be your message for those that are planning to attend?
First, I can’t wait to meet you!
Second, I am thrilled by the line-up of true experts who are volunteering to be there to share their brilliance with you. I look forward to learning from each and every one of them. And finally, you have my sincere promise and commitment that you will leave the event with specific actionable steps to move your business and financial life to the next level in 2016. Taking action and registering for the Event of Champions is your first step toward that success. Please step into your power and claim your success.
Sharon Lechter CPA CGMA
Chief Abundance Officer of EBW2020
CEO of Pay Your Family First
Author of International Bestsellers: ‘Think and Grow Rich for Women’, Co-author of ‘Outwitting the Devil, Three Feet from Gold’, ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and 14 other Rich Dad books.