Archives For Failure

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 did your business come to be?

Old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen

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

My entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 25 where I worked in one of my family businesses; a trading business which had no family members running it but only hired people. Thrown in to the deep end, it was a steep learning curve. In spite of the little experience I had, slowly but surely I increased sales 30% year-on-year.

After 12 years running the business, our Singaporean business partner started meddling and telling us “what to do”. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for us to reach the point where we could not see eye-to-eye.

Not wanting to cause more stress to my father–who was Chairman at the time, I offered the Malaysian Managing Director position to the Singaporean partner, and gave him 3 years to prove himself (as he claimed he could increase the business turnover). I then embarked on my new interior design business which took off swiftly.

Fast forward 3 years, the Singaporean partner did not manage to meet targets, and I was asked to return. By that stage, I was too entrenched with my growing interior design business to return to run the trading business.

A negative experience sometimes happens for a good reason. In other words, old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen. In this case, despite my dissatisfaction towards the Singaporean partner, I have him to thank for the better opportunity to start my new business.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe

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

My business was created out of my love and passion for all things Italy and travel.

When my company was founded back in 1999, it was a great opportunity to live the life I wanted to live, that is, improving the lives of others through travel and all things Italy. This gave me opportunity to enjoy not only all that this beautiful country has to offer but be able to share the best of it with those from afar.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe.

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times

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

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times.

My business partner and I almost gave up on our efforts to create a business for ourselves after struggling in our very early days with a variety of other businesses.

Sticking “with it” and having the courage to persevere led us to opportunities in industries we knew nothing about. Isn’t life funny?

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career

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

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career. I focus intensely on the things that I’m interested in, then keep an open mind about the opportunities that present themselves without deliberate planning. In the case of my most recent project, Trax, it came to be on these same familiar terms.

Trax combines esports, cryptocurrency, and digital product to capitalize on a gap in the market; each of which I have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge in during past years.

I deeply admire specialization yet having a “broad T” has enabled me to combine knowledge sets to identify and seize opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. I imagine this is how many of my future businesses will come to be, as the effects of a broad T only continue to compound positively over time.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

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

WeTeachMe was born from: (1) a chance encounter between strangers at a weekend hackathon; (2) the sharing of an idea that the strangers believed in and could get behind; (3) a bag full of enthusiasm and dreams; (4) a sprinkling of youthful optimism and nativity; and (5) a willingness to throw caution to the wind and give things a good go.

The following years saw these strangers: (1) bond over weekly meetings at local cafés eating complimentary biscuits and cake the staff brought over; (2) spend their days, evenings and weekends hunched over dimly lit computer screens obsessing over the business, the strategy, and the product; (3) chatter excitedly about grandiose ideas and what the future could bring; and (4) experience joy as their vision came to life before their very eyes.

What these strangers didn’t anticipate, however, was: (1) the many hard lessons that would need to be learned; (2) the overwhelming stress would at times cripple one another and cause burnout; and (3) the difficult challenges that would need to be navigated as part and parcel of the journey.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

The learning curve for me was steep… but life-changing. The relationships and friendships I had were tested… but the ones that survived will last a lifetime. The experiences tested me… but have changed me for the better. All these things are things that no amount of money can buy.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I just started walking and just continued walking.

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

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I started selling cookies when I was 14 to help the family, and a lot of the “entrepreneurial spirit” was learnt along the way.

In my working life, I could somehow never hold on to a job for more than a year. I would join a company, work to improve the systems and efficiency, and once achieved would get bored. After some years of this, I went into self-employment and established myself as an IT trainer. I started off by teaching Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint.

After some years of this, a friend coaxed me into starting a business of my own and said that he would invest in me. I jumped on this opportunity and have never looked back.

Did I plan it all? Did I have a grand vision? Not at all. I just started walking and just continued walking.

Sometimes we’re hard on ourselves in regarding to having a plan. But do we even have enough knowledge to even have a plan? As a young 24-year-old, I did not possess the knowledge of business, and did not have enough life experience to create a grand vision. Is that wrong?

Perhaps it is more important to not stand still, and to take steps forward until one day you can see what your grand vision is.

My business came to be by asking myself one big question

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.

My business—VIDA Living—exists to revolutionize affordable communities, and came to be by asking myself this one big question: “What if I had to restart the affordable housing industry? What would it look like?”

From there the second question was born: “What if we treated tenants like customers?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

My company was purchased for $1 and now has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1.

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

I once worked for a publicly listed company, and started a division to rent out fax machines. The public company went into receivership, and I purchased the fax division for $1.

From renting faxes, we moved to water coolers, water delivery, ventilation systems, Solatube and hot water cylinders.

Just Life Group is now a public listed company in its own right and has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1. (And I still own/control 80% of the company.)

My business started on a bet

Tui Cordemans. Co-Founder at Koh Living. Melbourne, Australia.

For some reason, I expect people to have serious and purposeful responses as to why and how they started a business. For me, it started on a bet. I was an unemployable twenty-something-year-old and wanting to live my highest values (travel and fun).

During my twenties, I left a business behind in Germany and when I moved to Australia, I had to get a job. 3 short-term jobs later, I decided I was not made for the employment market.

During that time, my best friend (now business partner) were planning our holidays. She wanted to go to Vietnam but didn’t have the funds. I offered to give her some to which she responded that she would only accept if I started a business when I came back from my 3‑month stint travelling Nepal and south-east Asia. With that at the back of our minds, off we went on our travels.

Towards the end of our respective trips, we reunited in Bangkok. Sitting outside an Israeli restaurant, we drank ice-cold beers and shared photos of our holidays. We were bent over with laughter, so much so that a lady approached us and asked if she could join us. She was curious as to why we were laughing so much you see.

As fate would have it, we ended up having way too many beers and started talking about business. This lady turned out to own a distribution company in Melbourne, Australia selling homewares. She had been travelling around the world sourcing new products and was on her way home.

We both thought that this sounded amazing, and sounded like the best job in the world.

After this encounter, my friend went home and I was left with the task of finding product. On a budget, I trawled the Chatuchak market and came across some colorful unique candles. Not having ever bought a candle in my life, I put $1,000 worth of candles on a credit card and my friend went about trying to work out how to get them to Australia.

We don’t sell those candles anymore, but a lifetime later, we have one of the most recognizable tourist brands in Australia. And true to form, our business continues to fulfill our highest values of travel and fun!

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.

What was your first entrepreneurial project? What was your biggest learning?

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge

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

The first entrepreneurial project was becoming a tour guide in Italy. Italy was a country that was not my own, I was taking exams in a language that was not my own, there was non-stop paperwork, complex protocols, and never-ending answers that were not set in stone or black or white.

Back then, I wanted everyone to work in a way that was aligned with my brain and work methodologies. Experience in the field taught me that accepting other people’s way of work can bring the same, if not better, results.

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut

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

My first entrepreneurial project was one that I was unaware would take me on a 23-year journey.

I, and my business partner, saw an opportunity to secure a distribution agreement for a product and service that we are passionate about, and we pursued the international headquarters located in the United States for 5 months before receiving the horrible fax message (yes a fax) that the idea of us being a distributor was no longer being entertained. They thanked us for our time and recommended that we continue our purchases through the normal distributor.

We were devastated because we were near-obsessed, and had formulated a clear plan on how we could make this venture work. I woke up at 11.30 pm one evening, went to a 24-hour printing business known as Kinko’s Printing, and I sat there with my 1 GB laptop and wrote my first business plan. I subsequently printed it, bound it, and by 11 am that same morning my sister (who was travelling to the United States) had it in her hand to present to Headquarters.

One thing I learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut; the knowledge of what we could achieve together.

My sister—naturally we did not present her as my sister—presented the case on behalf of our company, said that they needed to consider this business plan, and that we are not taking “no” for an answer. Headquarters agreed to a face-to-face meeting and subsequent training but with no promises. For the next 6 weeks while we prepared to go to the Los Angeles-based Headquarters, we borrowed $120,000 (23 years ago) against my parents house so that we could make the launch of this in Australia as big as we possibly could.

In that 6 weeks, we expanded on the business plan, hired the staff that we did not have, and invested in the infrastructure and resources that we also did not have. The preparedness that we put into the plan, combined with the enthusiasm and passion, enabled us to pull the entire thing off.

After coming back from our training in the United States, we executed on the $120,000 launch. We spent the entirety of the money in 7 days with not one guaranteed account on our books. We had media, we had PR, we had celebrities attend our launch, and within the next 18 months we opened 118 accounts with a 3‑staff business.

Fast forward 23 years and we now have nearly 300 high functioning accounts, a team of 40, and we have undertaken some amazing initiatives that allow our company to be one of the leaders within our industry. I look back at the lessons learned and know that if I knew all the things that were ahead, I may not have enthusiastically jumped into. However, the knowledge and passion we had for something that we felt was underdone was enough to fuel the creation of a team, a following, and an amazing client base, and a business.

I look back with a smile and a warm heart when I recognise the saying “fake it till you make it” has so much more relevance than what people give (with a caveat). Our moves were well-calculated, we knew our numbers, and we threw our inhibitions to the air and recruited like-minded, passionate people.

Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there

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

I left school at the age of 15 to pursue the running of my own small business. I created custom PCs for consumers, built networks for small businesses, and developed websites for anyone that needed one.

I learnt two key things in those early years of business. The first lesson, unsurprisingly, is that focus is essential. Spreading myself too thin meant a lack of specialisation and a lack of ability to effectively market myself as a credible expert, given the breadth of services being offered.

The second lesson was a reinforcement of the need to shed offerings that I didn’t love: while you may be good at something without loving it, you’ll never be truly great at it unless you do. Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there.

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power

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

I was 8, and there was a girl in school who always had extra pocket money to buy treats at the canteen for herself and all her friends; Sunnyboys that was a gift from heaven on a hot day, frozen oranges cut in half that felt like the first taste of water after a long day exposed to the desert sun and heat, salt and vinegar crisps that we would squash into crumbs so that they would last longer as our fingers grew tainted with salt and grease, Red Skins that would glue your teeth shut and colour your tongue a velvet red, and addictive sherbert lolly bags known as Wizz Fizz and would send you to the highest happiness peaks known to children aged 6–8. Oh how I envied the power she yielded every time she walked around the school yard with those golden $1 and $2 coins!

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power.

I discovered at home towers of paper; white, beige, granulated and patterned, and spent my recesses and lunchtimes selling these sheets of paper to my classmates at 50c — $1 a pop depending on the perceived rarity of the paper in question. This venture lasted just under 1 week and I had secured enough funds that would make me king of the playground indefinitely, until I was called into the Principal’s office; to which promptly brought an end to “Kym & Associates Paper Co.”.

I learned a few things:

  1. Your world changes when you have resources at your disposal i.e. the $1 or $2 coin, and sometimes, the resource is a lot closer within reach than we think it is (it didn’t take long to acquire $1 and $2)
  2. People purchase based on relationships and whether or not they like you, even if the product is widely available
  3. The sale comes from the ability to market the product in a way that makes it interesting and unique
  4. Business longevity is a concern when the business is built on foundations that are contrary to rules and regulations #outlawlogic

The acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice

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

I was 14 years old and my first entrepreneurial project involved selling cookies, that my mum baked, at school. Years earlier my parents separated, and the income that dad supported us with was really never enough. So I told my mum that I wanted to help.

Selling cookies in school wasn’t easy. My friends didn’t really have enough money to buy an entire box, so my teachers bought the cookies in support. Knowing that I couldn’t rely on just my teachers’ support, I floated the idea that my friends could buy an entire box if they pooled their funds.

Unfortunately, soliciting sales at school was frowned upon, and I was called up to the Headmaster’s office a total of 5 times. I consider myself blessed to be left off the proverbial hook with warnings in what I can only assume is the understanding of the Headmaster, who understood my intent behind this venture.

There were 3 key lessons here: the first being that the acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice. It’s during times of crisis that we are pushed to move. And so we move.

The second being that if you have a way for people to get what they want and make it easier for people to get what they want, they will buy. My friends could not afford an entire box of cookies, and if I had fixated on my go-to-market strategy, I would never have sold any boxes of cookies. It was when I educated my potential customers that they could pool their funds, the deal was done.

Finally, if you ever get caught selling cookies at school, a good story will help.

Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity

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.

The first entrepreneurial venture I did pertains to when my mom used to take us skiing in the United States. On these trips I purchased baseball hats bring back to Canada. I learned that I could sell them for the same price that I bought them, for but with the United States/Canadian exchange rate, I would make 30% profit. This was my first lesson in arbitrage.

On reflection, the key lessons I learned from this venture are:

  1. Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity
  2. There are advantages in being able to provide products to people that they cannot normally get their hands on themselves
  3. Store your inventory in a safe place; a hard lesson I learned when my dog stumbled upon my baseball hat collection and bit the tops off all of them

Even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice

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

Maybe not my first entrepreneurial project, but certainly my first entrepreneurial real business.

I was working for Polaroid as a Finance Manager, and was amazed at the cost an agency charged for placing employees. So I thought I would start a personnel agency, but stay at Polaroid until the new business was making enough money to employ me.

I hired 2 mature sales ladies who had experience selling medical insurance and had the attitude I was looking for, and I called the business “Vogue Personelle”. I’m quite proud of the branding; I utilised the French tricolour in my logo, and placed Vogue magazines at reception.

We had been in operation for 2 months, and I was thinking in another month I would hand in my notice to Polaroid, but then I got offered the job as General Manager which effectively would make me the youngest General Manager in the Polaroid empire. I decided to sell the business fast, and I got screwed by another larger agency, who not only got the business for virtually nothing, but also took the incoming fees from the placements my team had made.

My learning: even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice.

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.

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 have been your best or worst business partnerships? What did you learn?

See the silver lining or the positive. It allows us to forgive and to not feel victimized.

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

I inherited a nightmare of a business partner in my last family business, and this inspired me to start my new business.

What I have learned is that there is a silver lining in every cloud. I now thank them for what I have today (although they don’t know it), and that, due to circumstance, I embarked on what I am truly passionate about.

See the silver lining or the positive; it allows us to forgive and to not feel victimized.

There is no blame. Only learning.

Alex Louey. Founder and Managing Director at Appscore. Melbourne, Australia.

Nick Bell and I have been business partners for 10 years, and friends for much longer. The key to our success is that our friendship is stronger than our business partnership.

We’ve had our disagreements but we are: (1) prepared to not let our ego drive our decisions; (2) prepared to let the other take the lead; and (3) if one is wrong or fails, we consider it just part of the journey. There is no blame; only learning.

There are always going to be ups and downs, and sometimes when things are down they can really be down. To know that you are working with someone that “has your back” strengthens and bolsters you, makes you brave, and makes it easier to overcome the inevitable challenges. Business is like a sport and a champion team will always beat a team of champions.

The worst business partnership I have witnessed occurred when greed, ego and jealousy overshadowed the goal of creating a great business where both partners are successful. The result? One business partner walked away because they decided the negativity in their life wasn’t worth a few million dollars.

When I was presented with an opportunity to walk away, I did. It was the best thing I ever did.

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

A few years ago, despite having some previous negative experience with the same business partner, I went against my gut feeling and agreed to a new joint partnership that on paper was: (1) a match made in heaven; and (2) an easy way into companies from both a commercial and positioning point-of-view.

This joint partnership, and what was sold to me, did not match reality, so when I was presented with an opportunity to walk away, I did, and it was the best thing I ever did.

When your gut tells you to walk away, do it, no matter how attractive the situation or how many people tell you otherwise.

Partnerships that are based on shared values and mutual trust are what I admire and strive for

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

Partnerships that are based on shared values and mutual trust are what I admire and strive for.

Every good supplier or customer relationship that I have experienced has been one that was mutually beneficial; where both parties are heading in the same direction with the same goals, and a desire for each other to be successful. Both parties must understand each other’s values, both desire the same outcomes, and understand what success looks like for each party.

A trick to noticing and recognizing an unsuccessful partnership or business relationship is when you feel that the other partner is working against you or is not sharing and practicing the same values that you believe in. In these two scenarios, the business relationship is not mutually beneficial, and the partnership will not be successful.

The importance of living and breathing the values cannot be understated, and one should never steer off the concept of values-based decision making.

The best partnerships are where both parties spend the time to help one another succeed

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

Partnerships are like marriages; they start with the best intentions but after time the spark that once started the relationship can wear off. That’s when things start to break down. Like a good marriage, partnerships require work from both sides.

Whenever I have experienced a partnership break down, it was due to one side always asking and taking without giving. Over time you start to feel used and then you despise the relationship.

The best partnerships are where both parties spend the time to help one another succeed. It takes work and takes time but like all great long-lasting partnerships, it can be worth it.

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

A business partnership that works well can make the journey of entrepreneurship easier and more fun, and a business partnership that doesn’t work well can make the journey of entrepreneurship destructive and filled with issues both personally and professionally. I have had the luck, and the misfortune, to have experienced both.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with partners that believed in, and stood with, me whilst I grew personally and professionally. Working with them made me feel understood, and in turn, helped me push myself beyond what I thought possible, and dare to be brave. These partnerships were marked with many moments of comfort, a psychological safety that helped me navigate failure, and joy in the celebrations of victories both big and small.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with partners that were misaligned in values. Having different values does not mean a person is “bad” per se, but it does mean that the lens in which each person views the world is different. In this partnership, I felt “useless”, was blamed and shamed for failure, and my ideas were discounted for not being “good enough”. The negativity detracted from the moments of happiness and made me feel like an imposter. It took a long time for me to draw a line in the sand, decide that “enough is enough”, and stand up for both myself and others. I wish I had done this sooner.

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner. There will be moments of joy, and there will be moments of challenge. There will be many issues and problems to navigate, and to learn from, together. You will both grow, change and evolve. Stay united and support one another, and never let trust and respect between you both be compromised.

When the time comes that I take another of my own to market, I’ll be certain to make sure I am the person who takes it there

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

Your business partner can either lift you or suppress you.

Having founded a startup–based on a multi-year commitment to devising and building the tech that underpinned it— I willingly agreed to the appointment of another individual to take the helm as CEO. In hindsight, despite my reservations, agreeing to this was born out of a then-insecurity about my own ability to run the company.

It was a tough lesson—one that cost the business gravely—and it left me bitterly vindicated and more ready than I ever was to trust myself in the future. While most of my recent years have been spent working on the ideas of others, when the time comes that I take another of my own to market, I’ll be certain to make sure I am the person who takes it there.

The success, or failure, of business partnerships starts and ends with values

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

The success, or failure, of business partnerships starts and ends with values.

When there is an alignment of values, there is a strong foundation of trust and respect, an environment with ample opportunity for building deeper bonds, and as a result, a resilience for weathering the inevitable storms that will come.

Building a business, when there is a misalignment of values, is akin to building a fortress, that is perched on top of a haphazard rickety wooden stand, on an ever-changing sandy shoreline. Communication becomes more difficult, and this breeds an environment where anger and resentment festers. In this scenario, nobody wins.

When I assess potential business partnerships, the questions I ask myself are:

  1. Are the lens in which I, and my potential business partner, look at the world the same?
  2. Are the rules by which I, and my potential business partner, live and experience life the same?
  3. Are the methods in which I, and my potential business partner, make decisions, guided by a similar set of values?
  4. Do I, and my potential business partner, live and breathe a similar set of values?
  5. What are the differences between my values and that of my potential business partner? Can these difference in values peacefully coexist?
  6. What are the things I admire and don’t admire, about my potential business partner? If I dig deeper, what values do they hint at or uncover? Are the differences cogent with my values?

Building a business requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. Shared values are critical, and form the foundation of what one builds. If I am to make the decision to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy, to ensure that they do not go to waste, I’ll make sure to get the foundations (values) right first and foremost.

Every partnership must start with an aligned set of values. From these values, we align direction, and from this direction, we align our respective roles

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

I found the business partner for my second business in a drinking buddy. Over our shared time, he encouraged me to start the business; he was to contribute the capital and I was to contribute the blood, sweat, and tears. We defined our roles clearly whereby I would take care of sales and be the face of the company whilst he would take care of administration and finance. It sounded like the perfect plan.

The years went by and the business did not perform to expectation. There was a lot of naming, blaming, and shaming: (1) “You should run the department faster!”; (2) “We are not getting paid and cash flow is tight because you are not invoicing fast enough.”; (3) “You should push more sales!; and (4) “You are spending too much and not getting enough in!” The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred when he believed that we should “give incentives” to our customers to get deals. I was firmly against this idea.

Unfortunately what started out as a great friendship ended in a broken business partnership. We no longer talk and this saddens me greatly.

My greatest lesson in partnership is that every partnership must start with an aligned set of values. From these values, we align direction, and from this direction, we align our respective roles.

I am inclined to suggest that business partnerships are more delicate than marriages in the sense that in marriage when things don’t go according to plan, both parties have love to fall back on. In a business partnership, it is WORK and requires digging deeper. It is not enough to say, “That’s a great idea. Let’s do it together!” I believe the lack of digging deeper here is the reason why so many business partnerships fail.

I now employ a “dating period” whereby all partners agree to a 1 year period where we work on the business with no shares in the company. The person who creates the idea holds 100% during the first year, and a contract is drawn up that stipulates after 1 year, an evaluation is done; and if values, directions, and roles are still aligned–and all parties feel happy moving forward–shares are allocated.

The best business partnership for me occurred when partnering with people that had completely opposite skill sets

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.

The best business partnership for me occurred when partnering with people that had completely opposite skill sets.

I previously owned a construction company and my partner focused on construction, margins, operations, and the management of suppliers whereas I focused on strategy, business development, HR, and finance. This worked so well. I’ll never partner with someone who has a similar set of skills to me.

The worst partnerships I have experienced were due to not flushing out our long-term vision (exit strategy etc.) and not turning our eyes to our values from day dot. These have caused breakups for me within the first twelve months.

Plan as though it will fail as the odds are you will be right

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

Many business partnerships are formed because your partner is your friend. Being a friend at 21, prior to family and kids, the odds are against the partnership surviving.

There are two inherent problems:

  • If you both have the same skills, what have you achieved? You just have two payrolls to cover rather than one.
  • Between the ages of 20–30, your life is full of changes. What you dream of when you are 21 is completely different to when you are 30.

Once you have obligations such as a lifelong partner or children, you cannot afford to be living off the smell of an oily rag. In contrast, your business partner might be quite happy proceeding that way.

I am personally against business partnerships, even at any age. It just becomes another hurdle to jump over, and you are always compromising, otherwise, you end up with resentment and as enemies.

If you must get into a business partnership, the most important clause is the “exit” clause. Plan as though it will fail as the odds are you will be right.

The most powerful gift my business partner gave me was the experience of depth rather than breadth

Tui Cordemans. Founder at Koh Living. Melbourne, Australia.

The most powerful gift my business partnership gave me was the experience of depth rather than breadth.

Because I had someone who both relied on me and gave me much, I did not have the option to jump ship whenever I wanted a new experience.

This partnership taught me that one gains the most out of life when one goes deep and some of my learnings from this (resilience and how to live a life of meaning) is priceless.

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.

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People need to stop overthinking. People come to me and have this big 12-month project that they have been working on and I think, “Why not try the market with a scrappy version, or why not build a basic website so you can test the idea?” People just get caught up in this bullshit idea that it’s got to be perfect before the world sees it.” — Kristen Holden

Just get out there and do something! Don’t think about it too much. Build small versions you can and test out, start a Meetup group, get 20 people to give you feedback. Just test something and learn something.” — Kristen Holden

The most important lessons I’ve learned come from things I’ve screwed up.” — Kristen Holden

Own up to your mistakes. Admit that you screwed up. Put your hand up and say, “That was me.” Don’t be depressed or down about it; people screw up; it happens. No matter how big the failure is, it doesn’t matter. Just tell someone and have someone to talk to about it like a mentor, your partner, or your parents to talk it through. You’re not alone.” — Kristen Holden

With thanks to

Kristen Holden is the Startup Manager at MYOB where he helps founders to skill-up before they scale-up. He cut his teeth in digital marketing in the late 1990s before spamming was frowned upon and the holder of the most domain names controlled web traffic. Kristen explains the mistakes he made in his early career and describes his hopes for a new wave of startups.

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.

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.