Venus Williams on the 1 quality everyone she works with must have

Craig Barritt / Getty Images for American Express

Though the name Venus Williams is synonymous with tennis, it should also be equated with entrepreneurial success. In addition to her amazing athletic prowess (21-time Grand Slam winner in singles and doubles combined) Williams is also a business powerhouse. In 2002 she launched interior design firm  V Starr Interiors which has a diverse roster of clients including Williams College and condo complexes. She also has her own clothing line, EleVen, and along with her sister Serena Williams, became a partial owner of the Miami Dolphins in 2009 making them the first female African Americans to have an ownership stake in an NFL franchise. And along the way she earned a degree in fashion design to become a certified interior decorator, as well as a bachelor of science in business administration from Indiana University East.

Clearly she can she has some quality career and business advice to dispense. Ladders caught up with Williams at an American Express Travel event, a long-time partner of Williams’s, to celebrate the top 2020 Trending Destinations.

What do you look for in people you hire or want to work with?

Definitely an entrepreneurial spirit. That is very different then coming from a corporate structure because you wear a lot of hats and you need to deal with change quickly. You are often working in environments where you are creating from the ground up. Also the attitude. You can’t always teach attitude you can work on behaviors and things like that but attitude can be challenging. You need someone who can roll with the punches and can laugh and smile and fit into the environment and really do upbuilding. That is extremely important. I hate if I come to the office and someone is not doing that because that is not the example I have set, to destroy an environment that means so much to me. I want someone who knows how to reach people. That’s a lot! But you can find these folks. It is possible.

You clearly travel a lot for your work. Do you have any great business travel productivity hacks?

Short plane rides are fine but they can even be a problem. With long rides just try to be realistic about your schedule. There’s different things that you can do  in terms of supplements for an energy boost and ways you can figure out, but you can only drink so much coffee before your brain turns into a noodle.

Are you productive on planes?

When I was in school I did so much work on the plane so I was very ahead when I would get to the tournament. I don’t have time for that at a tournament. There were a couple of years where there wasn’t one plane ride where I wasn’t working the whole time, especially on an international flight. I would work until basically i had to go to sleep and then I got to the tournament and it was fine!

What is your best advice for someone starting a business?

Do your research you really need to know your market, know your niche and know your opening. Be well informed because that will make a big difference on whether it works or not. Second is you dont have to take all the risks because you can always test to see what works and what doesnt because then if you fail you fail in a big way. And be ready to pivot becayse sometimes your dream isn’t going to work so be honest with yourself about that and just realize this isn’t working. and then you can pivot.

Do you have any great hacks for focusing?

It’s dfiffernt for everyone. I need alone time. I have to be alone so if I don’t get that then I am frazzled. Everyone has to know what their button is. And everyone has their thing, even self-starters. .Just being aware of why you procrastinated is helpful. Maybe a project is so big you don’t know where to start. Breaking it up into pieces and giving yourself deadlines and being aware of your thoughts of why you are procrastinating helps you to bring it to light. And then ultimately just getting started. Once you get started, the anxiety level goes down.