If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

That succinct phrase is one of the most important lessons entrepreneurs learn if they want to be successful.  Alison Winter, the first president of Northern Trust of California, told it to me many years ago when I interviewed her for the first book I put together, Two Years Without Sleep: Working Moms Talk About Having a Baby and a Job.

Northern Trust was based in Chicago, as was Alison, and was planning on opening banks in California.  The first was planned for San Francisco and several executives, all male, were being considered  for the job of launching them.  Alison decided she wanted it, so she asked.  And kept asking.  Guess what?  She got the job.

It turned out to be a lot harder to launch the bank than she thought (isn’t it always!), since all she had to work with when she got to San Francisco was a rented office with one desk, one chair and a phone.  She’d brought along her assistant, and the two of them did the rest.

So whenever I find myself reluctant to ask for something for my business or the SOE Foundation, I remember Alison’s words, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”  After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  The person you are asking says “no.”  Nothing has been lost in process.  But sometimes the person will say yes or can be persuaded to say yes.  And it feels great!

Cathy Feldman


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