The best advice I ever got: Laraine Kaminsky

Written by Susanne Baillie

Xchange asked Canada’s top women entrepreneurs to share their most meaningful business lessons. Each issue we’ll bring you the advice that has helped shape the lives and businesses of these winning businesswomen.

Laraine Kaminsky is founder and president of Malkam Consultants Ltd., an Ottawa-based firm specializing in cross-cultural awareness and diversity training. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Kaminsky came to Canada and taught English as a second language to adult immigrants for many years before founding Malkam 14 years ago.

BEST ADVICE: “You make your own luck through hard work.”

Kaminsky received this advice from her father. “He’s an entrepreneur who has had several businesses, and he gave me that advice when I was starting up,” she says. And her experiences have proved him right.

“Many people tell me I’m lucky — I’m lucky that I get to travel a lot and I’m lucky that I get to do such interesting work. Yes, I am lucky,” says Kaminsky, “but that didn’t come without a lot of hard work. Things don’t come easily. It’s not a straight road up.”

Malkam competes in a field that is considered non-essential, says Kaminsky, and that makes the company particularly vulnerable, especially in a turbulent economy. The challenge is convincing customers of the value of her diversity training in good times and bad. Indeed, Nortel Networks was a major client of Malkan’s, says Kaminsky, until two years ago when the telecommunications giant stumbled. Losing the telco was a huge blow, she says. She might have blamed bad luck and faded quietly away, but instead, Kaminsky steeled her resolve to work harder and diversify her firm’s customer base. Today, the firm boasts clients in several sectors, including high tech, manufacturing, retail, health care, government and finance. “The advice about hard work has taught me that there are often disappointments. You have to get up the next morning and say, well I didn’t win that one — let’s try again.”

Her secret? “Constantly reevaluate what you do and the product that you’re delivering and the quality of the product,” she advises. “You’re only as good as your last product.” Above all, “just get out, knock on more doors, and deliver.”

© 2003 Susanne Baillie

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com