Archives For Culture

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What is the best business advice you have received?

The best way out is always through

Adam Massaro, Partner at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP. Denver, Colorado.

The best business advice I received was “the best way out is always through”. Gifted to me by Robert Frost, this idea stuck with me because I have learned that a mounting business challenge will not go away if one ignores it. Confront the challenge head-on. Plow through it. Move on.

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!

Arnie Malham, Founder and President of BetterBookClub.com, Author and Speaker at Worth Doing Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee.

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!” These were the words of one of my first clients in the early days of my advertising agency (cj Advertising). I took these words seriously for myself, and I committed to applying those words to every team member, vendor, and future clients of the agency.

Our advertising agency became very good at “advertising” for our clients, but the real business we were in was “growth”; growth for our team members, growth for our clients, and by default, growth for our business.

Sales fix everything

Finnian Kelly, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Founder at Intentionality, Founder at Wealth Enhancers. Boulder, Colorado

Sales fix everything. This was from a previous mentor of mine Tania Austin, CEO of fashion store Decjuba, and one of the most impressive entrepreneurs I have met. It stuck with me not only because this is something she’s so passionate about but also because I could negate any problem or difficulty I faced with more sales.

Inspect what you expect

Katty Douraghy, President at Artisan Creative, Author at The Butterfly Years. Los Angeles, California.

When I was in retail many years ago, my boss at that time would repeat ad nasuem a simple and clear message: “inspect what you expect”. In practice, she would “walk and talk” the sales floor and inspect all the expectations she had shared the day prior.

This taught me that we all need parameters and that: (1) we need to be clear about our expectations; and (2) our teams work hard to deliver on those expectations. Therefore, we need to revisit them, praise when accomplished or course correct when needed.

Be unrelenting

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I grew up intimately watching, and bearing witness to, the ethos and work ethic of my Mother and my Father.

It is seared into every fibre of my being the unrelenting nature in their extreme work ethic, the strength in their inability to take no for an answer, the bravery in their conviction to stand up for what is right and fair, the audacity in their willingness to bulldoze through insurmountable odds, and the courage in their unrelenting ability to never, ever, give, up.

I cannot remember nor can I imagine a time when the above was not the case.

Business is hard

Marc Gutman, Founder and Brand Strategist at Wildstory. Host at Baby Got Backstory Podcast. Denver, Colorado.

Business is hard. When I started my first business I wanted to do it right and I wanted to succeed. So I went to the most successful entrepreneur I knew at the time, my father-in-law Kimball.

I asked Kimball for the gold nugget. The advice that would set me on a path of entrepreneurial stardom. I wanted the Glengarry Glenross Golden Leads! I wanted the SECRET.

Kimball thought about my question and simply responded, “Business is hard.”

I was crushed and thought I had been robbed. I thought to myself, “What kind of advice and insight is this?”

After nearly 12 years of entrepreneurship, I now realize that THAT was the gold nugget.  That was the SECRET. When you’re doing well business is HARD. When you’re struggling business is HARD.

What I realized is the hard aspect is precisely why I do what I do. I love the challenge and I thrive on the friction. I need business to be HARD because if it wasn’t hard I’d go find something else that was.

What is more stable than depending on yourself?

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

The advice that sticks out most was given to me on an airplane very early on in my career. I was fresh out of college and it was my first business trip as a professional. A seasoned sales professional sat down next to me.

Shortly after takeoff, the man introduced himself and asked what I did for a living. I answered, “I am an Account Executive for a boutique marketing firm in Denver,” to which he replied, “Oh, you’re sales guy. Me too.”

At the time I had not yet come to grips with the idea of being a “sales guy” but I was, in fact, a sales guy. I was the sole salesperson at my firm and, yes, I managed the accounts after the sale but the idea of being a “sales guy” sounded unattractive to me. So I responded with a long-winded description of my job and how sales wasn’t the only part of the picture. He was insightful enough to see what I was doing, he could tell that I did not like the label “salesperson”, and he dug into it more.

We entered into a long conversation about commission structures and I said that being on commission scares me and that the lack of stability gave me anxiety. He then dropped the golden nugget of advice that changed the trajectory of my career; advice I now share with folks early in their career struggling with the idea of sales or teetering on the edge of entrepreneurship: “What is more stable than depending on yourself?”

He elaborated by explaining that sales is the lifeblood of any organization. The jobs of the entire production team rely on the ability of the salesperson to bring in new work. So the folks that thought they had stability are really just relying on sales to create that stability. Sure there are other factors but it all comes down to sales. Also, depending on the commission structure, the earning potential is FAR more than those on the production floor. So, did I want to put my stability and livelihood in the hands of someone else? Heck no!

This concept lead me to never taking a job that didn’t offer a good commission model, and eventually led me to start my own agency 9 years later.

The goal of a CEO is to make themselves redundant from the day-to-day running of the business

Richard J Bryan, Founder at The Bryan Group Inc., Keynote Speaker and Author. Denver, Colorado.

My mentor and business-turnaround-expert Frank once said to me that the goal for me as CEO of my family’s $120M business was to make myself redundant from the day-to-day running of the business by doing two things: (1) building a great leadership team of smart people who had complementary skills to my own rather than hiring in my own image; and (2) doing the things that only I could do in the business.

My business and I are two separate things

Ross Drakes, Founder and Creative Director at Nicework, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Keynote Speaker, Host of One More Question Podcast. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The best piece of advice I got was the idea that my business and I are two separate things.

For many years I saw my business as an extension of myself. It was part of my self-image and my self-worth. When things didn’t go well I would take it very personally. For example, (1) clients not accepting quotes; (2) clients not liking creative work; and (3) teammates leaving to pursue other opportunities. All of these instances left a deep mark on me and I really took it to heart.

This lead to a few different things: (1) I would react emotionally to situations and this would lead to reactions that did not serve me or leave me feeling good; (2) the physical toll on me was worse than it needed to be.

What affected me affected the company and vice-versa. Finally, I stopped enjoying the work. It became a drain on me and my life. This is by far was the hardest part.

The idea that my company is just a company and if it goes away I am still here is a very simple one but very liberating. I am able to approach work in a much more even-tempered way. I make decisions (mostly) much more logically. I recognise that Nicework is where I have poured many hours of thought, love and work into and it provides much of the life I lead. But I choose to spend my time there and could just as easily choose to spend it elsewhere.

Never mess with someone’s paycheck

Steven Ziegler, Founder at Z3 Talent, Founder at ConstructionJobsColorado.com. Denver, Colorado.

I once created a bonus program I was incredibly proud of. I recall showing the spreadsheet I had spent hours creating to my silent partner, and she told me this was way to complicated, and to make commission plans simple and easy to understand. She said, “Never mess with someone’s paycheck.”

This is something that has stuck with me to this day. Being in the recruiting business for 25 years, it’s very common for people to be confused by how their bonus and/or commission programs work. The confusion creates frustration and stress, and ultimate motivates talent to leave an organization.

Done is better than perfect

Steven Ziegler, Founder at Z3 Talent, Founder at ConstructionJobsColorado.com. Denver, Colorado.

Right now, I am trying to embrace the idea that done is better than perfect. I am not sure who first put that tidbit of wisdom into my hands but it continues to stick with me because I suffer (along with many entrepreneurs) from “analysis paralysis” and “constipation via contemplation”. My desire for perfection can leave some things unfinished in a desire to achieve perfection. I’ve been embracing “get it done” as an ethos.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?

Never underestimate the power of simple words, and simple ideas

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I don’t believe in business partnerships but I do believe in business values. When I first took over a family business at the age of 25, my father’s advice to me were these three ideas: (1) honesty; (2) hard work; and (3) integrity. These 3 values were so simple, and at that time, I considered them “not profound” due to their simplicity.

However, I find myself referring to, and using, them when I conduct staff interviews as they encapsulate the qualities we look for in our team members. Those who don’t conform to these values aren’t a natural fit, and leave accordingly. These values are our guiding principles and I discovered that as time progressed, they become embodied in our mission statement.

Never underestimate the power of simple words and simple ideas.

Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

At the end of the day, values are what I refer too whenever I have a question in need of an answer (whether for personal or for business). Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction.

When I first learned about the importance of values in the workplace, and how to use them, I often thought that it was OK if a decision ticked 3 out of the 5 values boxes. It did not take me long to learn that if something does not get all 5 boxes ticked (assuming that one has 5 values), then the answer is no; no matter how attractive it may seem and/or how many people try to convince me otherwise.

Every now and then, my team pass by my office and ask for my opinion on a decision. Now I simply look up from my desk and raise my eyebrows in the direction of our values poster (which are on every office wall). My team know how to move forward from there.

The importance of values is a lesson for which I will be forever grateful.

Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

Outside of people, the number one asset to any business are the company values. Flowing from this is the way in which values are upheld, displayed, lived and breathed so that they are naturally and authentically part of the everyday business.

Rather than create values and force already-existing people to conform, I believe we need to recruit: (1) people who believe in what we believe in; (2) people who want to join in on the journey of achieving the vision of the business; and (3) people who are genuinely enthusiastic.

Values should not just be 3 to 5 words, they should also be underlying beliefs, behaviors, and attributes/markers that make it specific to your business. This is important so that people feel and understand how those values are interpreted and adopted within the business.

Hire based on the values. Fire based on a misalignment of values. And most importantly, progress with business relationships that have a values alignment with your business. These clients will understand and believe what you believe in. If a relationship is hard at the start because you don’t see “eye-to-eye” this usually means that all parties concerned are on separate pages when it comes to values. These relationships typically end in disaster.

As leaders, we need to interlace values in our people plan, and in our one-to-three-year vision that we share with our team. Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Making sure values are lived and breathed is one of the most difficult things to consistently deliver on as one needs to be unwaveringly dedicated to the commitment of living and breathing the values in each and every aspect of the business. It needs to start at the top and it needs to be felt on every level throughout the business with both staff and your customers.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

Values, and how we choose to act according to them, are incredibly important.

Being home for the last 12+ months due to COVID-19-related lockdown, my children have had the opportunity to see how their dad works. Through proximity, they listen to my calls, how I speak with others, how I listen to others, and how I treat people. It is therefore important to me that how I am with people is how I am with my family i.e. that I treat those with respect and in accordance with my values.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

I’ve found that in all businesses I’ve been involved in, from startup to blue chip, that the best way to ensure that a company’s values do not wane is to embed them in the company’s messaging at every opportunity, from staff handbooks to investor reports.

Reminders about who we are and why we do what we do must be at the core of how we talk about what we do. It’s all too easy for a company’s catalyzing values to fall by the wayside as business-as-usual takes over.

Like an airliner in constant operation, without regular preservative oiling, the very pieces that keep it flying will corrode.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

Keith Roberts. Founder, Author and Speaker at OAKJournal, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, President at Entrepreneur’s Organization, Founder and Creative Director at Zenman. Denver, Colorado.

Knowledge of “core values”, “authenticity”, and “being impeccable with your word” are the three most important traits I look for in business and personal relationships.

Values need to be known and embraced by everyone within the business. A great litmus test is to call the business reception and see if the person answering the phone can share what the values are, and what they mean.

At Zenman, we use our core values as a filter when hiring new team members, and as a reference when conducting quarterly reviews.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

One cannot build a castle with a weak foundation and weak scaffolding

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I consider values to be the foundation in business and in life, and when one has lack of clarity or a lack of awareness in their values (a weak foundation), one cannot build a castle.

Pinpointing what my values are was a process that took many years and in my experience, I found that I gravitated towards positive-sounding words that although sounded great, never really quite hit the mark. It wasn’t until my 5th attempt at discovering my values that I stumbled upon a framework that worked: Reflect back on all the times you have been incredibly incensed or infuriated, and consider why you felt this way. It will hint at a core value that was infringed.

Where values can be considered the foundation on which one builds their castle, ensuring that values are lived and breathed can be considered the scaffolding on which one builds their castle. In other words, , knowing what one’s values are is only 50% of the equation. Ensuring that they are alive is the other 50% and requires continuous effort and intention.

I ensure values are alive by employing them in the following scenarios:

  1. Hiring employees, Does the candidate share the same values?
  2. Decision-making, What decision-path do our values hint at?
  3. Performance reviews, Are the wins and behaviors linked to our values?
  4. Coaching, Are we teaching values-based decision-making?
  5. Firing employees, What value did the employee infringe? Do we communicate this with the team so that others are aware?
  6. Recognizing when someone lives and breathes a value, Are we shouting these stories at the top of our lungs? Are we circulating them? Are we compiling them into our own book as our own legends?
  7. Rewards programs, Are we sharing and rewarding the behaviors that align with our values?
  8. Communications, Do we include our values in our internal and external comms across all channels?

Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It was 2012, I had hired a COO for the business. Mark (named changed to protect the identity) had the drive, the qualification, and the history to prove that he was the best person for the job. He was also a friend.

Within the first month, two of my better people resigned. In the next 3 months, another two of my best people resigned. In the 1 year that Mark had taken charge, the business environment and culture lost its mojo. It was highly strung and the team was deeply unhappy. Something just didn’t click and what I learned was that Mark’s values were misaligned with the values of the business. This caused a whirlwind of destruction. It was the classic case of right skills and wrong values.

Values are the first, and primary, alignment that every business must find. When values are aligned, a sense of belonging surfaces. When that happens, people feel they can be themselves, and they do their best work. Because of this, values cannot just be a poster on the wall. Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner.

In every decision that we make, we always ask this question first, “What do our core values say?”. When we make decisions this way, it provides us a guiding principal in which we can make good decisions, and consequently it makes decision-making easier.

Values provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone can be successful

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Values are the foundation of our businesses, and provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone (employees, customers and the business) can be successful.

Our values are brought to life by:

  1. Screening people for our values so that our hires are values-based
  2. Onboarding people with our values
  3. Celebrating when people live our values
  4. Coaching people in real-time when they don’t live our values

A great tool we use in making sure our values are brought to life is to keep track of all stories that are aligned with our values, and to share them far and wide in our businesses.

Values are the basis of any business

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Values are the basis of any business. Our values are not that inspiring (“fun”, “integrity”, “respect”, “service”, “trust first”), but they are known and practiced by all staff.

I have a saying: “If you are not in business for fun and profit, what the hell are you doing there?” So basically, as a value, we try and ensure that employees enjoy their surroundings and the people they work with, but we also expect them to do a fair day’s work so that we make a profit. The same saying goes slightly differently for the employee: “If you are not in a role that you enjoy and learn, what the hell are you doing there?”

The value that is the backbone of all our values is “respect”. At a new employee’s induction, we stress this value, and generally this is the value we quote when firing an employee. For example, if an employee steals from the company, it is not showing respect for the company. If an employee hits another employee, it is not showing respect for a fellow employee. If an employee swears at a supplier, it is not showing respect for the supplier.

Values are the basis of any business.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

The word “entrepreneur” actually sucks. Being an entrepreneur is not cool. Building something successful is cool.” — Alex Louey

Being an entrepreneur is hard. You have no money and it’s a struggle. It’s hard but if you continue, and you persevere, and you keep on pushing to find different angles, you will succeed. With your ideas, don’t be precious about them. The reason why my business partner, Nick, and I work together well is because we are not precious about our ideas. In business, there is no place for egos.” — Alex Louey

Culture and values are actually the most important part of our hiring process. If we have two candidates and Candidate B is less skilled but has an awesome personality, will be a benefit to the culture and there is drive, we’ll go with Candidate B, even if Candidate A is a superstar. The team doesn’t win with one person.” — Alex Louey

Just because a customer says, “I want this done,” or “I want it by then,” doesn’t mean we say “yes”. If we can’t achieve what the customer wants, then we can’t create the desired experience, and so we need to make our expectations clear. The hardest thing to do is to actually say “no”. For too long I was surrounded by people who said, “Yes, Shan,” and that didn’t help. It may stroke your ego temporarily but it won’t help. I now look for people who say, “You know what? It’s not gonna fly. Not today. Maybe next week but not today.”” — Shan Manickham

Putting together a bunch of core values, that’s a piece of cake. Get a whiteboard, get everyone to put up their concepts and ideas, pick the most popular, put a few emojis up, and bang you’re done. That’s easy. The next thing you need to do is believe in them and get them instilled so that they are being used on a daily basis to make a decision within your business. And once that happens, things become a lot easier.” — Shan Manickham

A key thing is believing in the people that work for you. If you’ve selected the right people, you got to believe in them. You’ve got to be able to hand over reigns. It probably feels like you don’t want to hand over the reigns and you probably feel like you can do a better job but at some point, you have got to be able to say, “I’m gonna hand this over. I’m gonna believe in you. I’m gonna put the right measures in place.” So you’re going to trust and verify, but you’ve got to start with the trust first. Verifications come later.” — Shan Manickham

I don’t think you will ever know if it’s the right move, but I think you can make it the right move. You can sit there and do a lot of research, it all tells you the right stuff but if you can’t execute on it, all that research means nothing. Did I know the moment? Absolutely, not.” — Alex Louey

With thanks to

Alex Louey is the founder of Appscore, the team behind Yarra Tram’s famous Tram Tracker app. Alex knew nothing about building apps when he went into business, but he knew all about project management. He recommends working with your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who can do things that you can’t.

Shan Manickam is the MD and owner of warehouse solutions business Cross Docks Australia. Shan tried to go into the business through a management buyout which failed, but it pushed up the price for the buyer, so they sacked him. That was enough to put a fire in his belly to form his own company. He recommends hiring for culture rather than skills.

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Question of the day

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

I put a sign on my door that says “Redundancy in Progress”. I’m working very hard on making sure that I can make myself redundant so the really great people that I have can come through. Another thing that has been fantastic in a learning sense is hiring the right people “for you”. There is hiring people that have the skills, that are smarter than you, and can do the job better than you, but to find people that suit you is very important. Understanding this has taken many years of learning.” — Anou Khanijou

If you put yourself out there, the opportunities come. People say you have to be in the right place at the right time but I say if you take the opportunity, the right place and the right time happens. For example, if I had sat at home and said, “I’m not going to do this today,” I would not have met the right person that said, “Can you help me with my pants?” I say, “I am going to take every opportunity as it comes, and learn. Even if nothing comes from it, I’ve learned, I’ve engaged, and I’ve met somebody that helped me on my journey.” It’s about taking every chance that presents itself, converting them into opportunities.” — Anou Khanijou

We didn’t know anything about anything. I lived in a bubble, did what I studied, and painted within the guidelines. Starting a business was so crazy! For every part of the journey, we didn’t know anything; we just did it. Our first product was a complete failure. But one thing leads on to the next, and on to the next, and opens up to so many more opportunities. And before you know it, you turn around and you think, “I kind of know a thing or two now.” I would have never guessed that I would be where I am now today.” — Carolyn Wong

Small and steady growth is enough. I used to be very caught up in doing things quickly and when someone told me that it would take 10 years o build our business into a successful business, I said “No way. I’m going to do it 3 years, and then I’m gonna retire.” Eight years later, I am still here. There’s no point in putting that much pressure on yourself; just slow and steady. I have learned to appreciate the journey and appreciate the moment because time flies. The whole journey is really beautiful and fulfilling.” — Carolyn Wong

As you’re scaling up, you get to point where you need to get into your business the right people with the right culture, and they are going to do things differently. They won’t do things the way you want them to. They’re going to make you uncomfortable, and if you’re prepared for that and learn to close your eyes and accept that, “Yes I would have done it differently but I accept that he/she will do it their way,” then you can scale up. That is growth.” — Anou Khanijou

If you believe in what you want to do, no age is the wrong age. Any age is correct. If you are not true to that belief, it will never be correct. I have always believed very strongly in what I wanted to do, and I have always set forth to achieve it. If you believe you want to be in business, then be in business.” — Anou Khanijou

Be goal orientated and not task orientated. At the beginning of your journey, you’re a micromanager because you have to cover every aspect of the business. You’re the maker, the packer, the sender, the seller… everything! But it’s about transitioning and stepping out of these things, and it’s difficult because you’re letting go and trusting other people. If you can’t trust your staff to do the right job then there’s a big question mark.” — Carolyn Wong

With thanks to

Anou Khanijou is the Managing Director of Anouconcept, but she created her first business before the age of 18. Starting with a successful Thai restaurant, she then created another restaurant, followed by a nightclub. Then came an almighty failure, one she’s determined to never repeat.

William Du & Carolyn Wong are co-founders of giftware retailers Short Story. Growing from market stalls to department stores, this couple has seen success and failure — often in equal measure. William and Carolyn share are enjoying success, but share their failures in the hope that you won’t suffer the same fate.

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 show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

Our strategic alliance partners: MYOB, SitePoint, and Entrepreneur’s Organization.

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this show are linked websites that 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.

Nothing in my last 7 years has been one major step. Everything has been tiny, tiny steps.” — Ben Cohn

Starting a business with the view as to who will buy that business, or what industry is going to buy that business, is a really important point. This shapes the way you will to develop the business so that it eventually has a buyer.” — Ben Cohn

The first-year and a half or two years were quite easy for me because I knew I only had to work really hard, and that it was just dependant on myself and my business partner. As the business grew, we got staff, we operated in 3 cities, and now we’ve got 49 full-time team members. People have things going on all the time in their lives, and you cannot carry all of that load. The interpersonal stuff that happens when dealing with people and work dynamics, I find it challenging.” — Ben Cohn

As time goes on, the odds and the stakes are much, much higher. To be frank, I don’t find that it gets easier with time.” — Ben Cohn

I’ve seen clients come in with a great idea and I desperately try to convince them to go and try to talk to their market. And they come back and say that they have talked to their market. And what they actually did was go to five people, who already like them, and said, “I’ve got a great idea. It’s going to be awesome. Do you like it?” and those people didn’t want to hurt their feelings and so the feedback they got was just rubbish. What the problem interview does is that it forces you to not show anything. It forces you to literally go to a group of people and just classify and prioritise the problem and just get a real sense of what is causing pain. If there is not pain in the market, it’s really hard to sell to.” — Ben Stickland

Go and talk to people. Don’t just say, “I’ve got a great idea, I know my market, and I’m going to be determined.” That little phrase is highly correlated to losing lots of money. (Just on my experience and my observation.) Get out of the building. Talk to five customers with problem-solution interviews and in most cases, it will change your idea.” — Ben Stickland

Really trust your gut instinct. We all have a very strong feeling in our gut as to who we really are and what we want to do in life. We get clouded by the expectation of what we should and shouldn’t do. Being in touch with your gut feeling as to what your calling is, and what you need to do, is a very powerful thing; it’s a very hard thing to do because there is so much noise around us.” — Ben Cohn

I hire on culture; I do not hire on skill. In our business, we feel we can train anyone up. I hire for culture, and skill is secondary. There has to be an interpersonal connection.” — Ben Cohn

The highest rate of success in tech startups is two people, not one, not three; and it’s people who have known each other for a lot of years, not people who have just met. Because when you know someone for years, you actually go into it knowing their faults and you don’t have unresolved expectations of them.” — Ben Stickland

With thanks to

Ben Cohn in a Co-Founder of TAXIBOX, the mobile self-storage solution that brings yellow cubes of joy to your front door. Ben did a lot of on-the-ground research to jumpstart his business. He explains his approach to making sure TAXIBOX customers always have a remarkable experience.

Ben Stickland is the Founder of Alliance Software and has spent a lot of time and money in the startup space. Ben says the first three years of business are like walking up a see-saw, then things start to level out and become a bit easier. He says he loves running experiments to see what’s going to work in his business.

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 show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

Our strategic alliance partners: MYOB, SitePoint, and Entrepreneur’s Organization.

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this show are linked websites that 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.