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5 secrets for success from the first black woman to build a billion dollar company

Janice Bryant Howroyd gives her best advice for anyone hoping to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of ActOne Group.
Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of ActOne Group.Courtesy of Janice Bryant Howroyd.

When Janice Bryant Howroyd was at the start of her career, she was appalled by the way she was treated when applying for jobs in Los Angeles. “I met with several employment companies, and they had posters on the wall and dollar signs by each applicant’s name,” she recounted to Know Your Value. “It made me feel like a commodity and not a person.”

Bryant Howroyd knew there was a better way to recruit and retain talent. Specifically, she knew there had to be a shift from simply filling a position to focusing on the applicant and making sure they felt satisfied and empowered. “If the employees are placed well and are happy, the companies they work for will do well,” she said.

Taking a $900 loan from her mom and a giant leap of faith, Bryant Howroyd started her own company in 1978. She founded ActOne Group, a global enterprise that provides employment, workforce management and procurement solutions. The company has since grown into a billion-dollar business with more than 17,000 clients and 2,600 employees in 22 countries.

Today, Bryant Howroyd is one of the richest self-made women in America, with a net worth of $390 million, according to Forbes. In her new book, "Acting Up," she shares her insight and offers advice on how people can use their uniqueness to take on the business world.

Below is some of Bryant Howroyd’s best advice for anyone hoping to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Focus on empowerment

“When people feel empowered, they find success,” Byrant Howroyd said. By investing in your employees, building relationships and knowing how to provide them with opportunities to reach new goals, the entire company will benefit. Employees will be happier and in turn, will stay motivated and work harder.

When helping others feel empowered, it’s also important to realize that you don’t have to arrive at your destination in order to give back to others. It’s just as helpful to give back to others throughout your journey, before all of your own dreams are fulfilled, she added.

Nobody wins alone

Byrant Howroyd emphasized that it takes a village to find success. “It’s important to not lose sight of this,” she said. The path can also be winding. “It’s common for people to feel like they are losing if they don’t win the first, second or third time, but if they are learning and understanding the gaps, it sets them up for bigger wins,” she said. “It always takes a team, and even if you are a company of one, there are people contributing to you in dynamic ways that are helping you along your journey.”

“I like to remind others that it took a village for us,” Bryant Howroyd said. “We all contributed to our company’s success, and I’ve got some of the most committed, dedicated, talented and strong people in my organization…”

Ask the right questions and really listen

“When you show up, make sure you not only get there on time, but really show up and make an impact,” Bryant Howroyd said. A big part of this involves clear and concise communication. Take extra steps like preparing questions and presentations. In addition, really listen to the answers you receive. “Keep everyone involved in the communication process, and make sure that everyone understands,” she added.

Never compromise who you are

When Bryant Howroyd mentors young professionals, which is a major passion of hers. She said she continually reminds them about the importance of staying true to your values. “Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally,” she advised.

View education as a lifelong process

“Education is freedom,” Bryant Howroyd said, explaining that her education helped her define herself and rise above any racial barriers or other obstacles that stood in her way.

“It’s also important to recognize that education is a lifelong process,” she said. Continually seek out new opportunities for learning and don’t be afraid to look for new insight in unexpected places. Mentoring others, for example, could broaden your perspective and teach you something new.