The best advice I ever got: Paula Lishman

Written by Susanne Ruder

Xchange asks Canada’s leading businesswomen to share their most meaningful business lessons. Each issue brings you the advice that has helped shape the lives and companies of these winning businesswomen.

Paula Lishman is president of Paula Lishman Ltd. (PLL), a Woodstock, Ont. designer and manufacturer of knit-fur clothing. PLL’s exports to the U.S. and Japan account for 87% of revenue, which reached $4.5 million in 2004, placing Lishman 74th on PROFIT’s 2005 list of Canada’s Top Women Entrepreneurs.

BEST ADVICE: “Hire people to compensate for your weaknesses”

Back in 1979, a financier recommended that Lishman hire a consultant to mentor her fledgling firm. The advisor’s key advice: hire the right skill sets to compensate for her weaknesses.

“I love making things, I’m enthusiastic and I can sell them, so sales, marketing, designing and production were all part of my set of skills,” says Lishman. “But the financial end of things just isn’t my strength. And to succeed, you have to fill in where your strengths aren’t.”

So Lishman hired a good bookkeeper to ensure that all the financial bases were covered. It’s not about relinquishing control. “I’m ultimately still responsible for making sure that sales are made and money’s coming in,” says Lishman. “Money’s the oil that keeps all the gears moving in a company.”

Shouldering company finances without adequate skills and knowledge could lead to disastrous results, including errors and regulatory non-compliance. Entrepreneurs only have so much time, says Lishman. You need to focus on your strengths. “If my strength isn’t a balance sheet, I would rather have someone else do that than me spend my time struggling to do it.”

© 2006 Susanne Ruder

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com