Archives For Growth

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 is the best business advice you have received?

The best way out is always through

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

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

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!

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

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

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

Sales fix everything

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

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

Inspect what you expect

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

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

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

Be unrelenting

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

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

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

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

Business is hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is more stable than depending on yourself?

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My business and I are two separate things

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never mess with someone’s paycheck

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

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

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

Done is better than perfect

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

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

What do you think?

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

Call to action 

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

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

Foreword

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

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

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

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

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

Is entrepreneurship a lonely journey?

Is this person willing to make sacrifices for me, and am I willing to make sacrifices for this person?”

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

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! I have been blessed with having a great co-founder that is both supportive, and strong where I am weak, and weak where I am strong.

Finding a good co-founder that you can trust, has high moral standards, and is ethical. The question I asked myself was, “Is this person willing to make sacrifices for me, and am I willing to make sacrifices for this person?” This question is important because a business partner should be there for both the good and the bad.

There are things you can do to make sure you’re not alone

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

Becoming part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) was one of the best decisions that I have ever made to make sure that I wasn’t alone.

The opportunity to meet personally (or virtually in 2020) with a group of trusted entrepreneurs who run a variety of businesses, to be able to share experiences, and to be able to learn from each other in a safe and trusted environment is second-to-none.

EO has given me so many educational opportunities that have been: (1) worth their weight in gold; and (2) perfect for spending time with people who are “in the same boat”.

The entrepreneurial journey doesn’t need to be lonely

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

I don’t believe the entrepreneurial journey needs to be lonely. In fact, I believe it to be the opposite.

One of my core aims in business is to build a fantastic team of players that I am constantly surrounded by, and that team needs a captain and a coach.

I find that the fulfillment of both captain and coach roles provides a level of connectedness with my business, and the people in my business.

There is a unique, solitary, and undeniable burden that comes with being an entrepreneur

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

Entrepreneurship has been a complex journey for me. Although a profound sense of togetherness, support, and connectedness have been part of my journey, there is also a unique, solitary, and undeniable burden that comes with being an entrepreneur; a certain “loneliness”.

Psychologically you will experience pressures that very few others fully grasp, while practically speaking you will have less time for you to spend with your closest friends. That is the choice you make when embarking on such a journey, yet, I posit that it is a sacrifice worth making; a price worth paying, to pursue bold ideas that have the power to create positive change in our world.

The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” — Hugh MacLeod

The stress amplified to the point that I could no longer laugh

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.

The answer depends on the individual, their unique personality, and their approach to business.

Most of my closest friends are people that I met as clients, peers, or through my entrepreneurial journey.

The first 15 years was incredibly isolating. Not only did the struggles of entrepreneurship take away almost all of my free time, the stress I felt amplified to the point that I could no longer laugh.

Finding Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), my Forum, a global village of other entrepreneurs changed my life, and having intentionality has to the type of life I want to experience has changed my path from one of loneliness, to one of connection and joy.

If life is lived not by accident but with intention, one can experience a life that is more profound, more intense, more rich, and one can experience a life that is deeply joyous and fulfilling

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

Business, in and of itself, is hard. In a study of 28 million businesses in the US, 96% fail before they reach the $1M/year revenue turnover. Out of the 28 million businesses, 99.6% will fail before they reach the $10M/year revenue turnover. That stark statistic illustrates the tide the entrepreneur wades against in their efforts to create a viable business.

Now let’s layer on the stresses and pressures that come with starting and scaling a business, and the time, relationship, and life sacrifices that is required. At one point in my journey, I had locked myself away in an upstairs bedroom whilst my friends celebrated a birthday downstairs. I recall thinking, “I need to finish onboarding this new customer,” and the feeling of wanting to isolate myself and being alone. When I reflect on this experience, I am not surprised that a common phrase I hear is “entrepreneurship is a lonely journey”.

Now let’s layer on the incredibly steep learning curve that an entrepreneur must endure. For example, every entrepreneur must learn the four key decisions that all high-growth companies have mastered: (1) how do I make sure that there is enough cash in my business? [cash]; (2) how do I make sure that I can drive top-line revenue growth? [strategy]; (3) how do I make sure that I have the right people in the right seats performing the right functions in my “bus”? [people]; and (4) how do I make sure I convert top-line revenue efficiently into bottom-line profit? [execution]

Now let’s layer on the “divergent paths” or “growth divergence” dilemma entrepreneurs experience with friends and family who haven’t lived and breathed what it feels like to be an entrepreneur, and who often give unsolicited advice that is, albeit with good intentions, bad. The emotional energy required to navigate this dilemma is incredibly taxing, and difficult to navigate, for the entrepreneur.

Now let’s layer on the discovery that as the entrepreneur’s life path and experience has diverged from the norm, the entrepreneur starts discovering that conversation and points of interest increasingly diverge. And suddenly there is less to connect with, less in common, and conversations different.

The life of an entrepreneur brings with it multiple demands: (1) physical; (2) mental; (3) psychological; and (4) emotional. All these demands need to be juggled evenly, and at all times. Is it therefore surprising that many find the path of entrepreneurship lonely?

In spite of this, I also believe that we have agency and that if life is lived not by accident but with intention, one can experience a life that is more profound, more intense, more rich, and one can experience a life that is deeply joyous and fulfilling. The entrepreneurial journey was initially lonely for me, but is now filled with deep connections, life-changing friendships, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, lots of laughter, and lots of joy, and of most importance to me, endless opportunity to live a life that is aligned with my life goal of making a lasting and positive contribution to this world.

Lee Munro. CEO at Munro Footwear Group.
Melbourne, Australia.

Like almost everything in life, it doesn’t have to be this way

Many people I talk to find entrepreneurship isolating and lonely. There are constant pressures that an entrepreneur feels: (1) sales; (2) marketing; (3) branding; (4) hiring; (5) firing; (6) culture; (7) values; (8) compliance; (9) finance; and (10) cash flow etc. Ultimately, the success of the business is the responsibility of the entrepreneur.

Some people internalise the myriad of pressures and that alone can make one feel lonely. But like almost everything in life, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Entrepreneurs have options and choice. This road has been well-traveled, and filled with people who are generously willing to share their learnings and experiences.

Some options of note:

  1. Find a mentor who is generously willing to share their learnings and experiences.
  2. Find a networking group of like-minded entrepreneurs.
  3. Share inside one’s own organisation and use the team as support. Brene Brown is a pioneer in the field of “vulnerable leadership” and her research suggests that this leadership methodology is great for both the entrepreneur and the business.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t need to be

Namgyal Sherpa. Managing Director at Thamserku. Kathmandu, Nepal.

When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, I was obsessed with the idea of success, and I had a hunger to get things done at any cost even if it meant I had to do the heavy lifting myself. I didn’t trust and didn’t have the confidence to delegate, which consequently left me micromanaging most of the work.

This unhealthy approach lead to burnout, and as I had ignored other aspects of my life that are important to me such as family and care of self, this unhealthy approach also lead to loneliness. Relationships were one of the most important things in life, and it starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.

I started meditating, reflecting, and learning from other like-minded people, and discovered that by having an understanding of who I am, and accepting who I am, I was able to understand and appreciate others. This alone has had a transformative effect in both my personal and professional life.

I now feel more connected to myself, my purpose, my family, and my team.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t need to be. We can always learn, improve, grow, and move forward.

95% of the population will never understand why we do it

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

Entrepreneurship can be both lonely and depressing; sometimes at the same time. It comprises of constant dark clouds and filled with daily heartbreak, and it is lonely because 95% of the population will never understand why we do it given all the pressures and stress that comes with it.

It can feels especially awful after you have had a particularly difficult day, and you come home and try your best to describe it to your loved ones only to be met with “stop doing it and get a job so you don’t have to suffer”.

Entrepreneurs are different to others; they do what they do for a purpose and for a higher vision, and any quest to realise the vision is filled with an army of challenges and sometimes well-intentioned people who try and stop them.

I had a great group of people, and new friends, with me but none of my old friends where there

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 time I heard the idea that “entrepreneurship is a lonely journey” was in my late twenties. I was running my security company and I had an Advisory Board. One of my Board Members–after our meeting–said, “Ron, I think you are going to do exceptionally well in business, but you will find that it can be very lonely journey.”

It wasn’t until my 30th birthday–when I organized a trip to Montreal, Canada–that this statement came to life for me. I had approximately 15 friends meet me, none of which were the friends that I had grown up with; most of the latter unfortunately could not afford the trip. Of course, I had a great group of people, and new friends, with me but I was sad that none of my old friends were there.

The feeling of loneliness has appeared multiple times during the journey, especially during very stressful times in business where I felt I had no one to lean on.

In 2007 I came across Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). Immediately after joining, I felt a sense of belonging. To be immersed, locally and internationally, with other business owners from different businesses, cultures, races, beliefs and experiences provided me with the support and push to learn and grow. I haven’t felt lonely since!

How wonderful is it that one’s mind can jump from idea to idea without disturbance from others?

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

There are times on the entrepreneurial journey when the entrepreneur may feel lonely, but if a person feels entrepreneurship is a lonely journey overall, perhaps they are better off working for someone else.

In my experience, entrepreneurship is the most sociable and engaging activity that an entrepreneur can ever undertake. Sometimes the entrepreneurship game is played alone, but how wonderful is it that one’s mind can jump from idea to idea without disturbance from others, and that at other times you get to play the game of business with a whole team against a lively opposition?

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.

Revenue sounds great but being profitable is a lot more difficult. You’ve got to understand the details and the reality is that if you are in a business, or starting a business, you really need to understand the backend of things. It can’t just be just about turning over a lot of revenue and thinking, “I turned over $4M and that means I’m great.” No, it’s not like that at all.” — Jeffrey Gore

People have fantastic brand ideas or business idea, but don’t put in a lot of commercial thinking. This is where people get caught out; they’re in that fun phase of launching an idea and seeing it come to life, but then quickly discover that they have to think about cash flow. We’re the first to admit that we fell into that trap.” — Mia Klitsas

You need to understand the things you’re not good at and the things that you don’t know, then don’t try to do those things. Find people who know that stuff and talk to them the best way you can, or hire them if you can. It took us a long time to figure out. There are certain things that we are not good at yet we try to do them because we’re the boss and we try to do everything. However, it’s not our core skill set and it is better to pay someone to do it.” — Jeffrey Gore

As a tradesman, you don’t know anything about online marketing or websites. Once I reached out to a company to build for the business a website. We burned $90,000 that year and it nearly sent the business bankrupt.” — Tom Harley

Sometimes you just have to go out and learn things. Now I know more about digital marketing now than most people and now have an in-house digital marketing team.” — Tom Harley

Doors started to open once I reached out to other people; people who have their own businesses; accountants and friends whom I went to school with. What we need to know is not in here, it’s out there.” — Tom Harley

It was once just three of us; my dad, my brother and myself. Once I started collecting knowledge from others, doors started to open. After my first business coaching class, I went home and sat in front of the computer and just wrote for three hours. Twelve months later we have 15 staff and are doubling year-on-year.” — Tom Harley

I use to throw $5,000 at a marketing initiative and would sit back and hope that it worked. But testing and measuring is smarter. If you put $200 on something and the leads come in, you must log where the leads are coming in from and find out what the leads cost. What does it cost to acquire a customer? Once you get good at testing and measuring, everything opens because you know with certainty which customer acquisition channels work.” — Tom Harley

I started as a student and I really knew nothing. Arguably now, 13 years in, I still know nothing. I’m good with that because it means that I am constantly pushing myself and challenging myself. I don’t for a second think that I know everything because the minute that you get into that headspace, disruptors come in.” — Mia Klitsas

I am always learning and believe that you can learn from anyone and everyone. Just be open because learning is everywhere.” — Mia Klitsas

With thanks to

Mia Klitsas & Jeff Gore are co-founders of the feminine hygiene brand Moxie. While they have solved the problems of tampons getting lost in handbags, they have created a few challenges for themselves that have been difficult to overcome. Mia and Jeff point out the importance of profit over revenue and focus on what’s important.

Tom Harley is the co-founder of Harley & Sons Roofing. After rounding up his plumbing brothers to work with his dad, Tom has led the way in developing a business that is doubling in size each year. Tom says if you don’t know something you have to get out there and learn it.

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.

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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.