Archives For Focus

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.

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.

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’s something you wish people knew about what it’s like being an entrepreneur?

There’s more to being an entrepreneur than drinking champagne

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

I wish people could understand that being an entrepreneur truly means being 360°. In other words, it’s not all drinking champagne, being surrounded by amazing people, and having a team of people working “for you”.

The amount of energy that is required, the number of sleepless nights one endures, the constant questions that inhibit our minds, the constant search to improve and to do better, and the sense of responsibility that an entrepreneur carries on their shoulders are aspects that most people do not see nor understand.

Entrepreneurs top most health statistics on the wrong side

Ben Ridler. Founder at RESULTS.com. Auckland, New Zealand.

Being an entrepreneur is a privilege which affords us a lifestyle that most people think they would love. What many don’t understand is the personal cost.

Entrepreneurs top most health statistics on the wrong side; particularly for mental health where our numbers are appalling. Two thirds are diagnosed with a diagnosed mental health condition, and nearly half diagnosed with with two mental health conditions. We also have higher rates of heart attacks and cancer than most of the people who work for us.

Stress and diet are the two biggest contributors to the state of health in the western world, and as entrepreneurs, we need to be cognisant of the impact of stress, and do everything that we can to offset it. This ranges from diet to mindfulness, and exercise to knowing how to switch off. The way I see it, there is no point in being successful financially, and not having good health.

Having been in this game for a long time now, learning to manage stress and understand the role it plays in health has been a big part of my journey. Full disclosure, I thought I was handling it OK, and by OK I thought that drinking a bottle of wine each night and having a “blow out” on the weekends was “business as usual”.

After exiting my last venture, I decided to focus on health and relationships before rushing into my next venture. In that time, I changed my relationship with health, money and ultimately myself. Learning why we need release valves and choosing ones that were better for my health was a big move. Moving away from alcohol also made me learn to deal with emotions instead of charging on and ignoring them.

Learning about sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and how to not stay in a stressed state for long periods was also lifesaving; my way of operating was not sustainable.

The sad fact is that few entrepreneurs have long careers because it’s a brutal, life-shortening role and comes with huge cost. For example, with COVID-19, many entrepreneurs have to let people go, and making those tough calls isn’t something we do without it taking a huge toll on ourselves (as well as the people it impacts).

Ultimately, redefining success and creating a vision for myself that was not about what I could attain but who I could become, and the values that I will live, has been a journey. As I head back into the world of business, I’m excited about testing this new approach to managing energy and health as part of my journey to be the best that I can be.

The mind of an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse

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

I wish people understood the sheer amount of thought pattern processes and activity in the mind of an entrepreneur, and the way they see opportunities when other don’t. It’s the gift, and at the same time the curse, of an entrepreneur.

There are approximately 70,000–80,000 thoughts that adult humans have each day. I often feel that there are 140,000 thoughts that go through my mind before lunchtime, so I think the biggest thing is how to understand and harness that the energy and enthusiasm of an entrepreneur who often don’t put time against capabilities and abilities to perform tasks in that time i.e. they often overcommit and often complete things up to 75%.

The mind is more flighty, and definitely more scattered, but the part of the brain that triggers fear around risk is often more relaxed in an entrepreneur and, although they will be calculated, they are still stronger risk-takers than others.

You’re working 80+ hours a week for yourself so that you avoid working 40 or so hours for someone else

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

Being an entrepreneur means you’re basically working 80+ hours a week for yourself so that you avoid working 40 or so hours for someone else.

So whatever you’re doing, make sure you really care about the problem you’re solving because you’re going to be tested many times throughout your journey.

What distinguishes entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs is their appetite for risk

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

People often believe that entrepreneurs are more ruthless, or more creative, or more driven, or more intelligent, or are otherwise “ideas people”. Yet, the key difference between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is simply their appetite for risk. What are you willing to risk to become your own boss? To pursue a new idea?

After all, your endeavour may fail. It will in fact fail 9 out of 10 times. The odds are stacked against you.

In the meantime, you’ve sacrificed time with friends, job security, perhaps even the stability of your marriage. So, is what you’re passionate about worth that sacrifice, even if it all ends up failing? That is what it means to an entrepreneur, and that is what separates everyone else from them.

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

If you change the way you look at the world, your world will change

Being an entrepreneur gives you countless opportunities to practice making conscious and intentional choices in: (1) keeping things simple; and (2) choosing how we approach problems/reach to events.

I’m in constant amazement with: (1) how prone people are to making things more complicated than they need be; and (2) how quickly people get bogged down with the little details i.e. things that won’t matter in 10 years’ time.

On simplicity: The act of keeping things simple, is complex (and dare-I-say the ultimate sophistication). Simple problems require simple solutions. Complex problems require even simpler solutions. This type of thinking is rare.

On how we look at problems: The idea–that things that can signal the end of the world to one person and can result in what I call “analysis paralysis” or “constipation via contemplation” can be inconsequential to another–is an intriguing one, and speaks to the idea that how one looks at the world is how one experiences the world. For example, where one sees obstacles and problems, another sees opportunities for learning and growth. In the former, life is a struggle. In the latter, life is a journey of learning, expansion and growth.

How you look at the world is how you experience the world. In other words, if you change the way you look at the world, your world will change.

No one sees the grind, the long nights at the dining room table while the partner and children sleep, and the hours glued to the computer screen while friends are out having fun

Matt Woods. President at Coastal Mountain Excavation. Whistler, Canada.

As an entrepreneur, you have a blank canvas to build your future. You have the freedom to create a lifestyle and business you’ve always dreamed of, and once you’ve been at it for a while, you really get to see what you’re made of.

Having a normal job and being an employee for some people is enough i.e. working 9–5 and going home to the family at the end of the day and leaving your work behind is enough. For an entrepreneur, however, it’s never enough. The thrill of the hunt, and working and grinding like you’ve never known possible is so ultimately satisfying that it makes all the long days and nights worth the struggle.

For me any challenge or roadblock is just another opportunity to buckle down, problem solve, and work my way through any situation that in the past I would have considered impossible. It’s the ultimate opportunity to prove to yourself who you really are, show yourself what you’re made of and what you’re capable of.

The sense of accomplishment, of self-satisfaction, of gaining confidence, of leading people, and of building something together is incredibly rewarding. It’s not the destination that matters at all, it’s the journey and the lessons learned along the way that really teach you what the human brain and body can endure for an extended period of time.

There is also no such thing as an overnight success. Most people think entrepreneurs have a great idea and somehow, boom, overnight, they’re incredible wealthy and successful. No one sees the grind, the long nights at the dining room table while the partner and children sleep, and the hours glued to the computer screen while friends are out having fun.

It’s all the toiling, the will and the fight that entrepreneurship gifts you. Sometimes it’s really hard to appreciate it, but you need the experience, the wins, the losses, the grit, and the determination to see it through to completion that allow you to look back and be extremely proud of yourself.

Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones

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

Many people start their entrepreneurial journey reading about someone successful in a magazine article or Facebook post, and think to themselves, “I want to be rich and time-free like him/her”. And then once the business starts, reality hits EXTREMELY HARD because they discover that the two things they don’t have are: (1) money; and (2) time. Ironic isn’t it.

And then there are some that start their business because they have a different driver, motive or purpose, and no matter how hard things get, they keep on keeping on.

Steve Jobs once said: “Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones. The ones who push the boundaries. Who don’t say no. Who never seem to die.”

Entrepreneurship is tough! On many days most of us will say, “This is not worth it,” because it affects not only ourselves but everything and everyone around us. But those of us who are successful push forward because in some way, we want to change the world; even just a little bit.

We work 16 hours a day so we don’t have to work 8 hours a day

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.

We work 16 hours a day so we don’t have to work 8 hours a day.

Entrepreneurs can see the future well before others

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

One estimate is that non-entrepreneurs make up 92% of the population. Even if it is a little less or a little more, the fact is that most people are non-entrepreneurs, and think very much the same way. Non-entrepreneurs do not realise that entrepreneurs think so differently.

Entrepreneurs can see the future, well before others even start the process. So, entrepreneurs see the end result and go backwards to the start position, while non-entrepreneurs start at the beginning and work through a process.

The entrepreneur’s mind is like a computer insofar as it does the analysis so quick that it arrives at the end result within seconds. Once non-entrepreneurs understand this, they can go through the process from the beginning, as a check on the entrepreneur’s end result (when they work together).

I’ll caveat this with stating that the entrepreneur’s end result is not always right, so the non-entrepreneur’s check is important, but it shouldn’t slow down the entrepreneur moving forward.

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 the best business advice you have received?

Agonise over whether or not you need business partners

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

Agonise over whether or not you need business partners. Alternatively, if you can afford it, don’t have business partners. 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs I know have long-term pain with theirs. The 10th entrepreneur without the headache is usually the one without a business partner. For me, not having a business partner is one less problem.

During my journey, people have asked me if I want to partner with them; usually because they know that I know how to work hard. I have held back because I place more value on the relationship.

Always look for the angles

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

The best business advice I have received is “always look for the angles”. For example, if you’re pitching, selling, or proposing a partnership, you want to find out what will spark the other person’s interest so that they can’t help but want to work with you.

The act of “doing business” is a lot like dating; everyone likes something different. Your job is to find where the other person’s sweet spots are.

If their response is “no”, it’s not because they don’t want to use your product(s)/service(s). It’s because you just haven’t pitched your product(s)/service(s) to solve their problem(s).

Listen to your gut

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

Warren Rustand taught me the value of listening to my gut, and so I share with you the following: Always listen to your gut or your intuition.

Even if every single person in the room believes otherwise–and that room is filled with people who you believe are more experienced, more intelligent, and more prepared than you are–do what your instincts tell you you do. Listen to the point of view of others but go with your gut. It will never fail you.

Whenever I made a decision that was contrary to my gut or intuition, whether it be because I wanted to people please or I capitulated under the pressure of being surrounded by–in my opinion–people who were more intelligent, experienced or qualified than I was, those decisions have always turned out to be the wrong decision. Conversely, whenever I made a decision that honoured what with my gut or intuition was telling me, it was the right decision.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but laugh. My dear friend Alonso (who has a tendency to analyse everything to the nth degree) becomes incredibly flustered by the “moments”.

Measure Twice. Cut Once.

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

Ironically, what I now know is some of the best business advice I was given was in my year ten woodwork class by my then teacher, who was teaching woodwork to boys that were both frivolous and quick to make decisions on cutting into beautiful pieces of timber.

His message to me then–which has since stuck with me and I believe I still say it ten times a week to my current staff–is“measure twice cut once”. The reason this is so important is that often people are quick to make decisions or take actions, only to have to later use twice the time to fix any mistakes that could have been avoided.

Measure twice cut once” ensures that that we do things properly, and prior to delivering, executing or starting, we ensure that all the checks and measures are taken to ensure our chances increase for a successful deployment or implementation.

Being the son of a builder, this adage is one of my favourites.

Do the most important thing at the start of the day

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

Spend your first two hours of your work day doing the most important thing so that if you did nothing else, you would be happy. This is an idea that has been drummed into me over time by various mentors and business people. I find that I–and many people I know–have a tendency to get caught up in “doing things” that we forget, or worse, neglect the things that should be done to help move our businesses forward.

Never give someone else permission to treat you in a way that is contrary to your values, principles, and beliefs

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

The best advice I have ever received came from one of my mentors from the US. It’s an amazing life lesson, and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

During one of our regular catchups, I was complaining about how I felt helpless while dealing with a co-worker that was being a bully. I remember vividly how I went on and on about how much I disliked the way my co-worker treated people, and the detrimental effect that this behaviour was having on the workplace culture.

I confessed how I constantly felt unhappy, stressed and unappreciated; how nothing was ever good enough; and how this co-worker had an uncanny ability to find the negative in just about everything.

After I finished unloading, my mentor looked at me in the eye and said, “I don’t feel sorry for you. I apologise if this sounds insensitive, but you are only allowing yourself and others to be bullied. Stand up for yourself. Build yourself up so that you will be able to handle situations like this. You have the power to call this co-worker out, and to tell them to shut up. If you, don’t have the ability to stand up for yourself, how are you going to stand up for, and support, others?”

My learning is that to be an effective leader, one that can both protect and elevate others, starts from being able to lead yourself. It starts from having the courage to stand up for your values, your principles, and your beliefs, and never ever give permission to anyone else to treat you in a way that is contrary to your values, principles and beliefs.

Find the puzzle pieces

Emma Welsh. Founder at Emma & Tom’s. Melbourne, Australia.

Talk to as many experienced people as you can. Each person that you talk to will have one small piece of the puzzle, and not the entire puzzle.

Your job, as an entrepreneur, is to find as many pieces of the puzzle as you can, from as many different, experienced people as possible, and then to construct your own version of that puzzle as best as you can.

Skills can be learned. Values cannot.

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

I didn’t have the luxury of mentors at my disposal as a young entrepreneur, so most of the business advice I garnered was done so at arms length as I closely watched those succeeding on the global stage (as well as those who were making mistakes).

One of the earliest meaningful pieces of advice I remember paying attention to was Richard Branson’s “most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality”.

Alas, some lessons need to be learnt first hand. In spite of Richard’s words, I still fell into the trap of hiring based on credentials instead of cultural compatibility at one critical juncture in the past. It’s not a mistake I’ve made since as a hiring manager and it’s also a learning I’ve carried over into my investments: I back entrepreneurs first and foremost and not their CVs; that distinction is critical.

Life is too short to learn everything through experience

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.

This idea was taught to me by a gentleman by the name of James Webb. James and I couldn’t be more opposite in our personal life, but throughout the years we have become lifetime friends: The idea that “life is too short to learn everything through experience” applies to my business, my personal, and my family life. It seems like common sense, but when applied to all facets of your life, it can have a significant impact through: (1) avoiding pitfalls; and (2) identifying possibilities.

It means that you can avoid potential hardships by learning from what others have done or experienced before. The practice of looking into the past also reveals opportunities that may have previously gone unseen. Don’t make mistakes or miss the chance to capitalize on trends that are visible by looking at historical/competitor data.

Be unrelenting

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, 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.

Let people go if you cannot serve them

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

I used to hate letting non-performers go because I had this strange thought in the back of my mind that said, “If you let them go, you will destroy their life.”

This little voice was challenged one day when I was asked, “If this person continues working for you, am I right to say he will never progress in his career?”

To this question I responded, “Yes”, to which they replied, “So why are you destroying this person’s career when you could let them go somewhere else where they can be a superstar?”

It was at this point that I finally understood the meaning of “letting someone go”. This is something that I have carried with me since.

The riches are in the niches

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.

Verne Harnish shared an idea that I carry with me, and that idea is about focus: (1) take an industry and break it into sectors; (2) pick 10% of the overall sector where you think you have the most opportunity and can beat the competition; and (3) double down and completely focus there. Own 70% of that 10%!

In my last business (security guarding) we were focused on a model but not a market segment (customer). If I could go back and do things again, I would have put a lot more of my energies into focusing, and I believe that I would have built a much larger business as a result.

If you are in a crisis, committees of 1 make the best decisions

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

In this time of COVID-19, I reflect on the advice from John Fernyhough, who was a very successful lawyer and entrepreneur in New Zealand. One of his great lines is “as a lawyer I will tell you what the legal position is, but then we decide what the commercial action is; that’s the fun part”!

John’s advice in a crisis is “take absolute control; you are like the pilot of a plane, you get paid the big money for when you are in trouble so forget discussions and meetings; just take the action you think is right, and execute fast”.

I became CEO of a long established family company that had gone public; it had millions of dollars of obsolete stock, it had no good processes, controls or reporting, it rented a building that it didn’t need, and every Executive had an Executive Assistant. The son of the Founder was the Production Manager, the Board had monthly catered meetings with drinks and yet the Company was insolvent. The Directors hadn’t realised it. Nobody had.

I drew big red crosses through the management team, including the Founder’s son, rented out the excess building, found a creative way we could use the stock, put a customer service person who had a “just do it” attitude into credit control, and found a new major revenue product. I went to the bank who had the company ‘under watch’, told them what had been done, and said they could put us in receivership now, or lend us more money.

All this happened within one month from joining. We then developed the new management team from existing staff who stepped up to the plate.

The result? The company’s share price moved from 48 cents to over $13 in 3 years. The big learning: First impressions are generally right, so if you are in a crisis, committees of 1 make the best decisions.

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 

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