Inger with five of her kids. She has three biological children and 11 from an orphanage.

Courtesy of Inger Ellen Nicolaisen

I’m a self-made entrepreneur, and the founder of Nikita Hair Salons, one of Europe’s largest, leading hair salon chains. My journey to success was far from easy. I started from humble beginnings, and was raised in a small town in Norway, in a household where my father was an alcoholic. After becoming a mother at the age of 15, I struggled with homelessness and was driven to develop the skills required to succeed in the business world.

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 I launched Nikita Hair in 1984, the name inspired by Elton John’s hit “Nikita,” with minimal experience in the beauty industry, and quickly developed the company into Europe’s most profitable hair salon chain with over 150 locations. We recently launched the Nikita Hair franchise opportunity in the United States, and have developed plans to expand nationwide through strategic franchise partnerships.

While I remain a driven businesswoman, I’ve also raised 14 children—three of my own and 11 from a children’s orphanage in Eastern Europe—and founded A Hand to Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children. While it’s been a challenging journey, I’ve successfully balanced being a businesswoman, philanthropist and mother for over 45 years. Here are the guidelines I’ve practiced in my career to achieve success.

1. Remember: It’s not impossible to balance work and motherhood.

Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for a working mother to face guilt when advancing her career or business while fulfilling her responsibilities at home. I’ve definitely experienced that uneasiness when I’m away from my children. But I’ve always been a solution seeker, and my experience has taught me that a healthy balance between work and motherhood begins with a clear conscience and positive attitude. I achieve both by waking up early, and delegating as much as I can at both work and home. Additionally, I dedicate every Sunday to spending time at home with my kids. At work, I stay connected with them via phone, even when I’m traveling. I’ll also bring them with me on business trips when possible.

2. Prioritize properly.

We all live the same 24 hours, 7 days a week. But, in that same 24 hours, some people will accomplish a lot, some will accomplish very little, and others will accomplish nothing at all. Our ability to manage our priorities determines how successful we are. As a solution seeker, my prioritization method is centered on problem-solving. I dedicate 20 percent of my time on identifying a problem facing my business and 80 percent on devising a solution to that problem. In addition, I’m constantly setting new goals for myself, with an action plan to achieve them. I also make an active effort to remove myself from any distractions and interruptions to solely focus on my to-do list. Finally, I always look to learn from others. Remember, it’s OK to learn from your own mistakes, but less costly to learn from others’ mistakes and achievements.

3. Cultivate a culture of teamwork at home.

Success in the workplace starts with teamwork at home. Women should encourage their partners to play an equal role at home, and take on a share of household responsibilities—from kid activities to the day-to-day chores. For this reason, it’s important to choose a partner who is willing to work with you in terms of complete equality in the household, and to discuss this topic before jumping into a serious relationship.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Working moms wear many hats, juggle multiple responsibilities and constantly strive to complete tasks efficiently. In an effort to make sure that everything is done perfectly, it can be hard to remember to delegate key responsibilities at times. Despite the stigma, don’t feel afraid or ashamed to rely on a babysitter, nanny or your partner to ensure that everything runs properly at home. My experience has taught me that asking for helping doesn’t make you any less of a mother, but rather proves that you are committed to achieving success—at work and home.