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Advice from a CEO who did it her way

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Though Maxine Clark was financially successful in her job as president of Payless ShoeSource, her psychic income account was nearly empty. “I later realized that money alone didn’t translate into personal satisfaction if you aren’t doing what you are passionate about,” she says.

So, at age 47, Clark left to start her own business, Build-A-Bear Workshop. The business now has 300 shops worldwide, and she remains motivated and inspired. Lessons she has learned:

Listen to others, but be careful about the advice you take. “Every grown-up that I spoke to about the idea said it wouldn’t work, but every child I spoke to loved it, so I knew it was a winning concept,” she says.

Trust the creative voice within. “Rather than adhering strictly to the traditional ways of doing things, I challenge myself and those I work with to think more creatively.”

Make the most of your mistakes. “I’ve learned many lessons along the way, and I consider mistakes part of the learning process,” she says.

Allow yourself to dream big. “Not dreaming big enough is one of the biggest mistakes you can make; if you can’t see your dream, how do you expect others to?”

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