Those who know me well would describe me as a very driven person. I have been like that ever since I was a child. In running a business, that drive translated into a certain intensity about my own performance and the performance of my team.

Our goals were being met and the company was thriving, but over the years I realized that toning down my intensity was important to becoming even more successful. I had to work hard at not just WHAT I was communicating to others but HOW I was doing it. Being softer in my approach did not mean that I was being any less demanding about the outcomes I was driving, but I noticed that by being less intense I could relate better to my team, and they performed better as a result.

One of the most satisfying roles for me in the last couple of years has been that of mentor to a few key people in my company.

On Getting People to Know Who You Are and What You Can Do
I am not afraid to admit that there are many things I don’t know, and that I have a fantastic group of smart and successful people I rely upon for advice. Some of these people I’ve known since before I started my company 20 years ago; others I met just in the last year or two.

I believe that being able to listen to and digest business advice from those I trust, rather than always doing what I think is right, allows me to make better decisions for my company. In my view, flexibility is key in staying successful over a long period of time, and an entrepreneur’s business flexibility comes from developing a flexible mind.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Success depends on knowing what you’re great at and staying focused on becoming even better in those areas. I believe that if we try to be everything to every customer, we risk becoming mediocre across the board.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I came to the US from Russia when I was 18 years old. My first job in the first year was selling art at a Russian art gallery in Laguna Beach, California. One day, an older couple walked in and we had a lovely conversation about my life growing up in the Soviet Union, my schoolwork, and life experiences up to that point. When they left, they told me that they saw me as a very successful young woman, and that I would do great things in my career and my life. I did not have those convictions and beliefs about myself yet, but from that point forward, whenever I had self-doubts or difficult moments, I repeated in my head the words of encouragement I heard from the two people who have since become my lifelong friends.

On Facing Challenges
When we had fewer than 30 employees, it was easy to maintain the “family feel” of the company. It became much harder to do as we grew. So we decided to define what we wanted our corporate culture to be and how we would go about sustaining it.

Inna’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
For those with entrepreneurial spirit, don’t wait for the perfect time to start your business, as it may never come. Do it when you’re young! You can work 12-hour days and not feel guilty about it when your new business is your “baby.” Work really hard at making your company successful. That way, if you decide to have children, your business has operational and financial stability to allow you to focus more on your family.