Soulaima Gourani is a motivational speaker and philanthropist who does approximately 200 public talks per year around the world. She is an advisor to major companies on customer loyalty, strategic networking, change management, employee motivation and future of business. She has worked as an advisor and/or speaker for clients such as Samsung, DuPont, LEGO, McKinsey, DELL, Microsoft, Stanford University, BMW, Cisco, and many more.
In March 2012 Soulaima was selected as one of the 192 management leaders in 2012-2017 by the World Economic Forum. In 2016 Soulaima was appointed by TED Talks as a mentor to the speakers. For more information on Soulaima, please visit: www.soulaima.com.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Currently, I dedicate my life to improving the lives of others. I make people and companies brave, shine and bold by helping them unleash their enormous potential and find their real talents, purpose, and passions. I was fired from my job when my husband and I were expecting our first child back in 2007. I was three months pregnant at the time and noticed no one wanted to hire pregnant women. I therefore, had no choice, but to start my first business, because I was the breadwinner.
I also started my own business because of my need for personal and professional freedom. I needed to create a sense of control over my own life. I never wanted to get fired again and have another organization take control of my life. I’ve also always hated organizations that are too “structured.” As a result that led me to co-write the bestseller, “Unboss”, because I felt like there was a need for organizations that were more independent and “free spirited”.
I never, ever give up. So starting my own business was the right choice for me. My first gig was speaking on topics I know a lot about (strategic sales, global and strategic networking, customer service, SCM, supplier relationships and change management). That became the foundation of my two companies Tradeconductor and GetcapitalAid. I then started writing books began speaking more. Today, I am a global keynote speaker.
My career and personal life have been all about having the courage and the ability to seize the opportunities that I run into. I dislike boxes and titles. I love my freedom. I can work and live in any country I like. I only need a Wi-Fi connection and access to an airport – I do not need a boss! Today I live a fascinating life and travel about four days a week. This obviously comes with a price, but this setup also offers incredible benefits for my family. I have worked in more than 33 countries all over the world. I believe that people can decide to become successful and reach essential goals through hard work.
Start small. The good thing about being a “solo-preneur” like I was for the first years was my flexibility. I had a few stable clients with whom I worked with two days a week, and it gave me three days of flexibility to be home, go to speaking arrangements, and write my books. After I gave birth, I could have easily landed a new corporate job, but I did not, I knew that I would be able to provide for my family as a speaker, writer, and advisor.
Today, I can say I worked a lot more than I ever did with hardly any vacations – but it does not feel so bad, simply because I am my own boss. You can look for a job or do, as I did, and design the life you desire.
Tell us about your business.
I founded TradeConductor.com, and I am the CEO of the lending platform GetCapitalAid, which has its headquarters in Copenhagen. It helps small businesses grow through strategic growth loans based on company performance. I am also the co-founder of PresidentSpeak.com. In short; I am a writer, speaker, and advisor.
I enjoy my fate as an inspirational provocateur and debater working with some of the largest and most demanding companies, leaders and politicians in the world. I am a business owner and thrive on being the highest authority in my own life, and I love to give back to my community via all my NGO positions. I am a Global Dignity ambassador a UN Women advisor for the UN Women Foundation. I am also a TED mentor.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
- Rising Star Award (2004)
- Talent 100 Award (2012)
- Young Global Leader (2012)
- World Economic Forum (2012)
- Top 100 Women (2012)
- FEMINA (2012)
- Denmark (2012)
- Nordic Thinkers (2013)
- “40 under 40” (2014)
- UN Woman Ambassador Advisor (2016)
- Inspiring Fifty (2016)
- MBA CBS (2005-2007)
- Executive education – Yale University (USA), Stanford University (USA), HKS (USA), ISB India, INCAE (Costa Rica).
- Have been teaching at HULT University (Dubai), CBS/Copenhagen University, Århus University, RUC (DK) & Harvard Kennedy University (USA), INCAE Business school and many other universities.
Where is your business based?
Worldwide. Main office in Copenhagen and Austin, Texas.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
- Start speaking
- Hired Public Relations Person
- Got a radio business show (Denmark)
- Had people speak highly about me (in otherwise received good word of mouth)
- Hired Talented Young People
- Invest personally in myself and my business (don’t buy expensive shoes too early in the process).
- Got a mentor
- Became great good at networking
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
- Happy clients
- Writing books
- Getting on TV
- Taking the “stage” and speaking
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
To combine a global career alongside raising a family, I am often asked, how do I do it? I can be a good mother despite being busy, ambitious and always traveling because, to be honest, the decision to have children will impact your capacity for work. The big question is how much and how.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Choose people carefully. You become like those you surround yourself with. Therefore, you must choose your friends, girlfriends, partners, and (potential) bosses with care. Get someone who will challenge and support you.
Choose the people in your life with care. In the end, they can make your life miserable, and you do not wish for that to happen. Know who supports you and who doesn’t. Also, demand your surroundings to help you. When you cry and are just about to give up, your surroundings have to remind you of how far you have come and where you were heading. You do not need anyone who helps you give up, pities you, or deep inside enjoys your weakness in these days, months, or years.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
My tribe. My employees. My clients. My family. My vision.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Do I have competitors? I never compare myself to others. I do not benchmark. I will rather spend time on doing my job well.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Have someone in your life authorized to raise the red flag every time you are on a downward path. As an entrepreneur, you need to know your limits (it is easier said than done).
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Follow what you are good at, something aligned with your values and passions. Do not lose yourself and don’t give away your dignity. Be loyal to your core values. My advice to you is also to handle your money, time and energy very carefully. You have to find the balance between enjoying life, using your resources and contributing to keep your head in the game, while securing yourself and your future.
The best advice I can give is to make smart choices about where you invest your time and money. A friend once told me that you only become “rich” the moment you can live the way you are living right now for a whole year without earning a penny. For me, a life without purpose, content, stimulation, and influence is unthinkable. Examine your values. Live accordingly to them.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Social media is great. I use LinkedIn a lot too. It is a way for me to keep track of my relationships. I know when they change positions, get new jobs, move to other countries, etc. and I like to send them flowers and greetings. I spend a lot of time nurturing my existing network.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I love the book written by one of my favorite Harvard professors “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.”
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I need to grow my online membership community. I am about to onboard 25.000 members in the USA. It is now active in Scandinavia (“Life design Formula”).
It is an exhilarating adventure. Finally, I can inspire and impact and scale my tools and expertise because more and more people are looking for a better life-design. The way they work is not working for them anymore. There isn’t just one life design or master plan that fits everyone. Therefore, you will need to relate to many different ways of “going to or being at work.”
I teach this at Harvard Kennedy University and INCAE University, and we are only just seeing the beginning! LIFE DESIGN is here to stay. You will hear about it, and you will use the term yourself. I help people design their life through my online university.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I have a lot of speaking engagements. I will be on a very long speaking tour around the world in a few weeks. So I want to stay healthy, sharp and committed. As a speaker, October through December are hectic months for me. It is conference season, you can say.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
- Facebook @soulaimagourani
- Instagram @soulaimagourani
- Twitter @soulaimagourani
- Linkedin @soulaimagourani
I encourage you to visit www.soulaima.com to learn more about the important work I am doing.