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In Masters Series we regularly bring you real‐life stories from entrepreneurs and start‐up founders. In this episode we turn the reality up a notch to bring you tales from the edge, with two people who had very different experiences during the GFC.

Jamie Langham is the CEO of Absolute Immigration who help businesses and individuals migrate successfully. Jamie’s business in Melbourne was going well in 2008, so he decided to put on a General Manager, and expand into Brisbane with an office and three staff. The GFC peaked a week later, but that wasn’t the only challenge the universe had in store for him.

Graham Van Damme is the Managing Director of Jag Capital. As a mining engineer, he bought into the business he was working for and began growing profits immediately. In 2008 he sold the business to private equity with the promise of even more ongoing profits. When the GFC hit a few months later, he realised his promise could be a little challenging to deliver!

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to podcast

Podcast brought to you by

Thank you to Jahzzar for the music.

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

The Masters Series podcast is produced by Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this podcast and linked websites are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Data is the key to modern business and there’s so much of it about that the challenge is less about how to get it and more about how to process it all.

Gary Tramer is the Co‐Founder of LeadChat who are responsible for those little pop‐up boxes on websites that ask if you need any help. Gary explains that he’s now taking his experience with data in e‐commerce and applying it to bricks and mortar retail — to provide more information about physical shoppers when they walk into a store.

Simon Mathonnet is Head of Digital Strategy at Splashbox. He’s obsessed with data and digital marketing. Simon shares how he uses data to help startups and long‐running businesses to achieve their goals.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to podcast

Podcast brought to you by

Thank you to Jahzzar for the music.

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

The Masters Series podcast is produced by Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this podcast and linked websites are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

While profit fuels a business, it’s growth that is the real reward.

Every single person, when I was running my business as CEO, every person on the first day I would take them through the vision as the first thing that we did. I wanted to see the light in their eyes; is this something that excites them or is this something they think is hard work. I would say that every people decision in the business is based on our core values and that my job is to get the right people in the business and the wrong people out because we wanted to create a strong culture, an engaged culture, not a negative culture. So highly recommend building a great culture through the use of core values.” — Steve McLeod

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. I see so many businesses that are planning and planning and planning and planning. Sometimes it is better to start, break a few things, and fix it along the way. Set some big goals and start taking action towards it.” — Steve McLeod

One of the numbers that I’m obsessed about in my business is how many current clients or prospective clients [do] my team go and see each week. I know that if we’ve got a team of 12 and they’re in front of 120 existing or prospective clients each week, the business will grow.” — Steve McLeod

I mentored a young woman a few years ago and she had a chocolate business. She said, “I want to sell my business in a few years’ time so that I can go have kids and take a break.” The first question I asked was, “How many hours per week are you spending meeting with prospective clients?” to which she replied, “Two.” I said, “Two is not going to get you the growth you want. I will mentor and help you if it is at least 15 hours every single week; not one week can you be less. In two years her business tripled because we worked out what was the activity we needed to drive, had the relentless discipline to do it week after week after week.” — Steve McLeod

Any business [needs to ask themselves], “How [are we] going to grow? Are we growing from existing customers and selling them more, launching new products to existing customers, or finding new customers?” — Steve McLeod

[Many entrepreneurs] fall in love with their product and service but hate selling. Sales is just going to speaking with someone and talking to them about [why you started your business]; go and tell the story. Sales is actually a really important profession and business owners can love it if they look at why they do what they do and how to connect prospective clients with it. Without [sales] no business can grow.” — Steve McLeod

Steve McLeod established his first company, Fire & Safety Australia in 2007. Today the business has revenues in excess of $10M and employs 150 people across Australia. Steve delivers a masterclass in how to grow your business.

Take nothing out of the business that doesn’t need to be taken out of. Reinvest it back into the company, and not into yourself. Initially in the first 5 years that’s where we got our growth. We were seeing 100% growth year‐on‐year and it was because of that. We kept throwing everything back into marketing and growth.” — Rory Boyle

I can’t recommend enough immersing yourself around entrepreneurs. I didn’t really start to learn until I put myself around people who were ambitious. You rise with the tide.” — Rory Boyle

A good salesperson gets on the phone and does the hardest thing you can do and that is to face potential rejection; but this makes or breaks your business. If you really want to have a successful business you need to have the guts and courage to get out there, contact people, get rejected, and get hurt. Have the courage to sell by getting on the phone and putting yourself out there, and not doing it the easy way by just sending an email. Did the first ten calls go bad? You’ll be better on the 11th. Pick up the phone and do the hard work.” — Rory Boyle

Rory Boyle founded Hampers With Bite with his brother Nick in 2004. It’s actually one of a group of companies that the pair are Directors and Owners of, including Wholesale Promotions, Tastebuds and of course Hampers with Bite. Throughout their growth, the Boyle brothers have held onto the family business feel of their companies and put the customer at the centre of all they do.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to podcast

Podcast brought to you by

Thank you to Jahzzar for the music.

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

The Masters Series podcast is produced by Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this podcast and linked websites are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Getting your idea out there and into business is one thing, but how you take the next step to build it up can be a challenge.

If you have conviction, which is a huge ingredient to starting a business, you can convince your customers that you’re passionate and that you believe in your business, you can convince your employees that you believe in this end‐goal, and you can convince any of the haters, and also your family.” — Hannah Vasicek

Knowing what your brand looks like in the future is essential. That was instrumental in us deciding whether we go down the wholesale route, or the retail route. So that week I winged it and found a place to open a retail store. It was $400 a week, and that’s peanuts in retail these days, but I thought that was huge. I literally opened the doors the following week, put Freedom Australia everywhere and just made do. We opened the door in March 2013 and 18 months on we had opened our huge flagship store. And it was from hustling. I was working a 2‐day law job to ensure I could pay the $400 a week rent, and then working the other 5 days in the store direct with my customers and building this community.” — Hannah Vasicek

Go for it, embrace the fear of failure, and learn from every single mistake. That’s one thing I didn’t enact sooner and it’s something that’s really shaped me.” — Hannah Vasicek

No one wants to talk about failure. It’s not until you talk about it that you actually start learning. Thrive off failure.” — Hannah Vasicek

Hannah Vasicek is the Founder of the designer jewellery label Francesca. When she started selling her handmade designs at Hobart’s Salamanca Market she had an idea that she might like to have her own shop one day. Less than 10 years later Francesca has a shopfront in Hobart and Melbourne with online sales going globally. Hannah explains her bumpy road to building the business and provides a glimpse into what’s next for Francesca.

Surrounding [myself] with [visionaries] and having lunch with people who have wild ideas… really turned me on. It was exhilarating.” — Tobi Skovron

When we scaled the business, I knew how to pick, pack and send. I knew how to dare‐I‐say sweep the floors. I knew how to answer the phones. If I can’t do it myself then there is no way in hell I can get compliance from someone else. I tell my daughter all the time: Leadership is rolling your sleeves up and doing it with the people. Being a boss is someone that tells you what to do and I’m not a boss.” — Tobi Skovron

I’m not sure it’s me that needs to convince you. I think it’s you that needs to convince you. And I need to show you that it will be OK even if you do fall flat on your face.” — Tobi Skovron

Don’t think about money as the barrier. Leverage your community. Leverage your networks. Don’t be a bull but don’t accept no. Just [see] no as a speed bump to get to the next corner, and just keep going. And if you have the heart, it will start to stack up. And let’s talk about ego: If I would have executed Pet Loo the way I thought we were going to execute Pet Loo at day 1, and where it finished 10 years later, I wouldn’t have made it.” — Tobi Skovron

Tobi Skovron is the Founder of co‐working space CreativeCubess.Co. But first he invented the Pet Loo and built a business that he sold after a decade. Tobi describes the challenges of relocating to the US in the middle of the global financial crisis (GFC) and outlines his plan for enabling more entrepreneurs with CreativeCubes.Co.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to podcast

Dreaming big for your business is a good exercise to prepare for that moment your startup takes off. What will be the biggest challenges?

I thought I knew something about business, and [then] went out and [learned that I] didn’t really know anything. [I] had no experience really. If you’re not exposing yourself to outside influences then you’re not growing, and you’re not learning.” — Andrew Hardwick

There has to be some sort of plan that’s founded with a truth about the business, about yourself, that there is something that you have proof points against, [and] to have a brand value proposition that has meaning and substance behind it.” — Andrew Hardwick

Having a story, knowing your why, is so very important not just from an external point of view but from an internal point of view. If you don’t personally engage and relate to what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, you’re probably not going to do very well.” — Andrew Hardwick

When it comes to business sometimes you’re so focused on getting the job done you just expect people to follow you and it doesn’t happen that way.” — Andrew Hardwick

The best way to engage people is to make them feel part of it. Let them have some autonomy. Let them make their mistakes. Let them have their input into our direction and where we’re going. I can categorically say everyone in our business has that ability to do that. And once they realise it, it’s funny the shift in their engagement in what we’re doing.” — Andrew Hardwick

Andrew Hardwick founded strategic creative agency Hard Edge in his home 12 years ago. Today the award‐winning business works with Mercedes Benz, Telstra and the National Road Safety Partnership. Andrew explains how he overcame the challenges in those early days.

The best way to find a solution to a problem is to ask people who have done it before.” — Joe Woodham

When I started out, as weird as it sounds, I went straight to one of my competitors and I got their advice. As weird as that might seem to people, they were open with the information. I’ve always gone and spoken with my competitors, because as much as they are my competitors, they are my biggest allies as well.” — Joe Woodham

At the start I found a niche and I leveraged the shit out of it. I found what no one else was doing and tried to work with that because then I could use it as a branding strategy, a marketing strategy, and to bring in clients. I just find areas that are pain points for the customers that I want to work with, and I leverage them.” — Joe Woodham

Joe Woodham is the founder of Torii Recruitment, specialising in finding the right team members for the IT sector. Joe describes the benefits of working alongside his competitors and how he consults them for advice.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to podcast

Podcast brought to you by

Thank you to Jahzzar for the music.

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

The Masters Series podcast is produced by Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this podcast and linked websites are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.