Archives For Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no blame. Only learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your business partner can either lift you or suppress you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two inherent problems:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With thanks to

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

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

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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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.

Knowing what you know now, how would you have better prepared for COVID-19?

Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.

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

Had I known back then what I know today, I would:

  1. Declutter all aspects of my life and lead a much leaner life both professionally and personally
  2. Appreciate the simple things in life and appreciate the difference they can make to the day
  3. Take more time to fully think things through
  4. Juggle less balls
  5. Remove the “fat” from all aspects of my business

Ensure that your cash position is not skinny

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

Ensure the balance sheet is in good condition, and the cashflow and cash reserves can support the business closing for X period of time (without the assistance of government subsidies and laying off staff). Ensuring that your cash position is not skinny going into a pandemic is the greatest business relief.

Also ensure that supplier agreements allow special dispensation in times of a pandemic.

Ensure your staff stay informed. It’s an enormous advantageous for people to not have uncertainty as to what is next.

Have a plan for the worst-case scenario

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

Have a plan for the worst-case scenario. For example, what if your business had no revenue for 12 months?

Some questions to consider are:

  • If my business had no revenue for 12 months, what does this reality look like?
  • What actions need to take place so that my business survives?
  • How fast do I need to act?
  • What does my business need to look like so that it can survive 12 months without revenue

Embrace remote teams and cloud-based technology

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

I’ve had the privilege of building distributed teams and working almost exclusively with cloud-based systems for about a decade now; often with no office, no on-premise IT infrastructure, and have been a user of Zoom for more than half of that period.

The picture looks very similar within my current business, which has left me — let alone the entire company — in the fortunate position of frictionless transition into a COVID-19 world.

You could call this lucky; no one could have predicted this pandemic (although Bill Gates came close), but I’ve long been a believer in the stark benefits that flexible working environments enable. It felt inevitable that the world would follow suit.

However I did not expect that our hands would be forced in this manner, leading to an incredible acceleration of decentralised workforces and processes.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, summarised this new reality with a startling yet unsurprising remark on the company’s recent quarterly earnings call: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

Transition completely to virtual and focus on profit vs. revenue

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.

There are two main things I would have focused on:

(1) Transition completely to a virtual workplace. COVID-19 has shown us that we can be productive and can collaborate effectively in a remote environment.

(2) Have laser-focus on profit vs. revenue. Put more in the coffers for rainy days, and operate as lean as possible whilst still producing exceptional work.

It’s what you do before the storm comes that most determines how you look after the storm passes

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

I subscribe to the adage “fortune favours the prepared” (and the disciplined). The application of this idea in my life reveals itself in the strategic decision that I only enter battles that have been won before the fighting starts.

On being prepared, the main question I ask myself is: “Have we built disciplines in our personal, family and business that we live and breathe during both times of good and bad?”

On discipline, the questions I ask myself are:

  1. Business: Are the meeting rhythms set in stone, diarised, communicated and running like clockwork? (Daily huddle/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly.) Personal: Have I scheduled in regular check-ins with myself? Family: Have I scheduled in regularly touch-points with my family?
  2. Business: Do we have a regular communications cadence? (During bad times, increase the communications cadence.)
  3. Business/Personal/Family: Do we have cash buffers and reserves? (How long can my business/myself/my family survive without external assistance? How many months/years do we/I need so that we/I feel safe?) Is my business, my family and I maintaining the discipline of regularly setting aside a portion of the income in a difficult-to-access savings account?
  4. Are my key relationships strong? Cash and capital is oxygen, but the best kind of capital are my relationships. Business: Do I regularly check-in and cultivate the relationships with people and businesses that have a vested interest in my/my businesses’ survival and success? Personal/Family: Am I cultivating the relationships with the people most important in my life?

COVID-19 is not the first global pandemic and it won’t be the last global pandemic. We know with 100% certainty that there will be more, we just don’t know what they will look like and when they will appear. So when the inevitable storm hits, maintaining my discipline, and protecting the things that keep me disciplined, keeps me in good form.

The importance of time, and the importance of people

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

Time is a resource that once taken, cannot be returned. However, how many of us really shape our lives around this? COVID-19 taught me that there may not be a tomorrow so I like to do things now.

I also look into who I invest my time with, who I invite to join me on my life journey, and what I need to engineer in my environment so that I achieve my goals in structured and date-stamped manner (rest and relaxation included).

On people, I have taken the time given back to me during COVID-19 to be more honest with myself and really consider the people around me as they have an indelible influence on the shape of my life.

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.