By the time Arlene Dickinson was 30, she was divorced with four kids, had no savings and a high school diploma. Today, she's one of the country's most influential entrepreneurial leaders. Here's how the Dragons' Den co-star and CEO of Venture Communications used the art of persuasion to achieve success (and how you can, too).
How has persuasion helped you?
It's helped me significantly. You can't do anything on your own. At the end of the day, you do need support and need somebody to take a leap of fate with you. Sometimes, because you have a vision, it doesn't mean you're going to get anything done. For me, persuasion has helped me to get people to follow my vision, to believe in me and my efforts. It's been a critical part of my life.
What tips do you have for women who want to get ahead in business?
To try to not play the feminist role. I always say I'm not a woman in business, but I'm a person in business who happens to be a woman. Emotion is not a dirty word. Instead of making excuses or trying to quell the emotional capacity we have, we should be embracing it and utilizing it in a positive manner and not making excuses for who we are.
Everybody shows emotion in some way and the truth of the matter is nobody will ever do anything for you in business unless they're emotionally connected to you -- and women do that better than anyone.
What is your advice for the younger generation of women interested in business?
They have to be confident and be able to illustrate why they deserve a place at the boardroom table. Women fought that fight 50 years ago to get into the workforce and for equality -- now we need to show up and bring value to the boardroom table.
I think young women in particular need to realize their career will likely take a different path than men's will, they have to embrace that too. They might have kids, they might get married or move cities; those are things most women deal with and not men.
Story continues below. Here are some books that can help you balance your career and personal life.
In You Have To Cry, Go Outside By: Kelly Cutrone PR powerhouse Kelly Curtone offers women how to make it in one of the most competitive industries in the world. She shares personal and professional stories and shares some of her secrets for success without selling out. If You Have To Cry Go Outside, $13. Available at www.chapters.indigo.ca
The Smart Cookies' Guide To Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed A Money Club, And Took Control Of Their Finances By: Andrea Baxter In this book, the Canadian Cookies show women of all ages how to achieve financial security. They share personal stories, easy-to-follow steps, and provide simple plans for meeting your financial goals. The Smart Cookies' Guide To Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed A Money Club, And Took Control Of Their Finances, $2. Available at www.chapters.indigo.ca
The Boss Of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business By: Emira Mears and Lauren Bacon Entrepreneurs Emira Mears and Lauren Bacon offer insight into creating and sustaining small businesses from a female perspective. They include stories from experienced women, who share the do's and don'ts of becoming successful and how to have balance at work and home. The Boss Of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business, $16. Available at www.chapters.indigo.ca
Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom By: Lisa Blekin Author and recent senior columnist for The Huffington Post, Lisa Blekin shares her stories working from home surrounded by two young children, meeting deadlines and everyday household chores. Her book offers a reality check for women wanting to balance their careers with family life. Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom, $21. Available at www.chapters.indigo.ca
Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers By Lois P. Frankel The doctor is in the house. Lois Frankel reveals why some women get ahead in their careers while others fall behind. She offers ways to eliminate common mistakes that could be holding you back from your goals, and how to make the most out of your business and social skills. Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, $14. Available at www.chapters.indigo.ca
Why did you decide to write Persuasion?
[Dragon's Den] is very popular and I get asked a lot about what my secret to success is and what that path has been. It felt like the right time in my life to take a look back at what's led me to where I am and to help illustrate to people there's no one secret to success -- it's rather a series of things, allowing yourself to make mistakes, learning from those mistakes and growing as a person. It's also about not comparing yourself to other people and being the best person you can be.
Do you think you were able to give all your advice in this book or did you leave anything out?
I think I have another couple of books on the way (laughs). As I was writing I was kind of creating other topics that had come up -- you can’t put it all into one book, right?
A few weeks ago, we wrote feature story on how Canada is failing its female leaders. What do you think about the future of women leaders in this country?
I think incremental change can be very frustrating to everybody. I don't condone the fact some women don't make the same amount of money as men do or that some women don't have the same opportunities. But I can tell you there are more opportunities for women in this country -- especially when compared to other countries in the world. What we do with that opportunity is going to define success. To young women I would say: stand up, stand out, don't be afraid and make a change.
What's next for you?
I can't predict what's going to happen, but I am going to focus on financial literacy and a resource fund for women. I think women will change the world when they have control of over how money is earned and spent. And that means they have to take control over their own financial freedom.