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Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Spotlight Interview: Lin O’Neill

My spotlight guest is Lin O’Neill, who after a very varied corporate career starting as a flight attendant and ending up as a HR manager of a Fortune 100 manufacturing company, is now is the lead faculty in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Initiative.

Marcia Zidle: Tell me how you became involved in the Goldman Sachs Program and what it’s about.

Lin O’Neill: Although I loved all my corporate jobs and had tremendous opportunities, I did not see eye to eye with my last boss. I remember him saying to me: “O’neill (he always called me by my last name) you do such fine work. I would make you a Director or Vice President, but you’re not a man.” That’s when I knew I needed to move on.

Also, at the time, I was dealing with a cancer diagnosis and several surgeries. That certainly changes your perspective on life. So, I decided to go out on my own and started a consulting business. As I got known, I was asked to teach courses on Entrepreneurship for The Small Business Administration, the Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Texas Women’s College.

What I realized is that I LOVE working with entrepreneurs. They’re a unique and interesting group of people who think and act differently. And, most importantly, they are the backbone and drivers of economic growth. So when Gold Sachs was starting their national initiative in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I got on board. The program helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing access to education, capital and business support services.

Marcia Zidle: Being in the second half of life, how had that been a benefit in your business journey? Has it also been a disadvantage at times?

Lin O’Neill: It has served me well! What I found is that I have enough street smarts to go up against anybody or anything. It makes one fearless and gives you the confidence to deal with all the stuff that’s thrown at you. 

Also, I’ve worked really hard staying relevant all my life. In the assessment Strengthsfinder, my #1 trait is being a learner. I’m grateful for that because it’s been saving grace all these years. I love learning about new things. For example, I’m a technology fanatic. I love it and work hard to keep up.

In my experience, age is not a barrier. It’s only been a disadvantage when I let it lead me. I refuse to let it be a determent. If you look backward vs looking forward, it’s a lost cause.

Marcia Zidle: What are some lessons learned so far in your journey building a business?

Lin O’Neill: First and foremost focus your energy. Focus may well be the chief trait for business success. Do what you’re best at doing and hire people who have the skill sets you don’t excel in or don’t like to do.

Second, a hard lesson I learned was I did not know my numbers well enough. What I would do over is construct a dashboard that would allow me to evaluate my finances. I found out that it makes the difference in the degree of profitability.

Third, have more fun! I love what I do and I wake up every morning thanking the lord for the opportunities that have been given to me at this point in my life. And yes, some people may call me a workaholic with my very busy schedule. However, I do have symphony tickets; attend art exhibits; take my dogs on long walks. I also build in fun time with friends and colleagues.

Marcia Zidle: What about your legacy?

Lin O’Neill: Success to me is leaving the world in a better place for one being in it. Because I have taught and worked with about 500 entrepreneurs in the last eight years, I feel I’m making a better world for them by helping them build and manage their businesses better. That is very satisfying at this point in my life.

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