Archives For Learning

Foreword

I have a confession to make: I get extremely excited every time I come across a creative person, or a person that holds within them such exuberance that it often manifests itself in a delicious cacophony of quirky character traits, unique stylistic choices, tangential thought patterns and behaviors, and an uncanny knack for seeing the world in a way that most do not, that when all combined, I find equally intoxicating and endearing.

For me, it’s the creatives that push the boundaries of what we collectively believe is possible. They dare to imagine, dare to dream, dare to believe, and in their own process of creation, create the world as they see it.

In this editorial series, I reach out to a curated list of creators who not only live and breathe the art of creation but undertake to pass on their learnings to the next generation of creatives. I find this combination of creativity and education noble, and use this editorial series as a way to delve deeper into these minds in the hopes that we too, can get a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of such noble creatives. Who knows, perhaps we will learn something along the way too.

How did your classes and workshops come to be? Why do you teach?

I started teaching these techniques initially to my own trainees, then in TAFE and University courses then in my small Fitzroy studio as a way to pass on the important things I had learnt. Now, three decades later, and having established Slow Clay Centre nine years ago, I am still teaching these techniques!

Jane Sawyer, Founder at Slow Clay Centre. Melbourne, Australia.

Slow Clay Centre is known for teaching the Japanese techniques of wheel throwing and that’s because I trained, in part, in Japan and really want others to learn the benefits of these wonderful techniques!

I trained to become a potter straight after finishing an art teaching degree where I majored in ceramics. I was introduced to Japanese techniques during a traditional 3‑year studio training with the wonderful potter, Andrew Halford, in Sydney and he then formally introduced me to fabulous pottery in Japan called Shussai Gama where I spent a further two years in hand-made production of studio pottery.

I also learned wood firing in a massive kiln, natural rock, and ash glazes, and mixing bespoke clays from local materials.

When I came back to Australia in 1990 I was surprised that no one was teaching the Japanese methods of wheel throwing because they are so wonderful! The methods enable a lovely workflow and have the added benefit of ergonomic positions.

So I started teaching these techniques initially to my own trainees, then in TAFE and University courses then in my small Fitzroy studio as a way to pass on the important things I had learnt. Now, three decades later, and having established Slow Clay Centre nine years ago, I am still teaching these techniques!

Over the years by using my educational background, I have been able to package what I have learnt into a logical and refined method. I have trained many, many potters over the decades in these techniques and since Slow Clay Centre started I have also trained others to teach these techniques under the Slow Clay name.

The lovely thing about it is you can see the difference in the pottery! The pots are immediately fresher and more expressive whilst also allowing for refinement as the student develops their skills.

I was screaming out for a creative outlet and became really interested in the art of taxidermy when I found out that you had not been able to learn it in Australia since the 1970s

Natalie Delaney-John, Founder at Rest in Pieces. Melbourne, Australia.

When I first decided that I wanted to learn taxidermy it came from the simplest of curiosities. I was screaming out for a creative outlet and became really interested in the art of taxidermy when I found out that you had not been able to learn it in Australia since the 1970s.

In order to get involved in the industry I harassed a mentor for 3 months until he took me on. I then spent every weekend there for 3 years to pick up some basic skills and also travelled to Spain where I was fortunate enough to help build some works for a museum on the history of hunting.

Upon my return to Australia, I wondered if there was anyone else like me that might want to learn. That is how Rest in Pieces (RIP) was born.

We believe that wine-course education and events is a great way to increase our database and connect with people who really want to delve into fine wine (our main offering) as well as have participants understand our passion and commitment towards our vocation

Phil Hude, Founder at Armadale Cellars. Perth, Australia.

I met Demi and Kym soon after the formation of WeTeachMe after seeing the concept raised in the press and straightway thought, “This is the new version of the “Centre for Adult Education”!” The Centre for Adult Education is an old-time paper version of education that was released bi-annually and hosted many courses in Melbourne city center for decades, and where wine courses, amongst many others, were sold to the general public. I thought the WeTeachMe concept was a great way to offer wine classes and workshops to the world.

We are first and foremost wine merchants/retailers. As part of the “marketing mix and offering” we believe that wine-course education and events is a great way to increase our database and connect with people who really want to delve into fine wine (our main offering) as well as have participants understand our passion and commitment towards our vocation. During COVID-19, wine Zoom tastings (6 x 187 ml wine bottles) became a reality and were incredibly popular adding another style of forum that we believe is now here to stay!

We found our classes grew from not only for teaching the basics, but for creating classes for advanced decorators wanting to upskill and learn how to use new cake tools in the market

Rachel Gilbert, National Retail Manager at Bake Boss. Sydney, Australia.

With the first Bake Boss retail store opening over 9 years ago, there was a very high demand for cake decorating classes to teach beginners the tips, tricks, and techniques required to master the basics for decorating cakes, cupcakes, and even cookies.

We found our classes grew from not only for teaching the basics but for creating classes for advanced decorators wanting to upskill and learn how to use new cake tools in the market.

We also introduced kids classes for the young creative generation, with the skills taught setting them up to become advanced cake masters later in life!

As it turns out, cake decorating is not only skillful but super fun for all ages!

I never wanted to be a teacher but on the set of an ABC TV production in 1993, an actor said to me, “You direct in a different way to other directors. I want to learn how you do that.”

Richard Sarell, Director and Creator of The Rehearsal Room (Acting Process). Melbourne, Australia.

I never wanted to be a teacher but on the set of an ABC TV production in 1993, an actor said to me, “You direct in a different way to other directors. I want to learn how you do that.”

I cautiously took up the offer to run an acting class.

Seven years later that hesitant step had turned into a full-time job and I had discovered that I was a good teacher. Now I am about to publish my first book on a new and uniquely practical acting technique.

An offer rejected is an opportunity missed. Say “yes”!

We use our gelato classes as an educational tool so that people understand our product, can meet the people being the scenes who make the gelato, and so people get a special insight into how we do things at Gelato Messina

Sian Bishop, Brand and Marketing Manager at Gelato Messina. Melbourne Australia.

Messina has been running gelato classes for over 10 years now! We started them as we put so much effort into making our product the best we can, and we wanted to show people what goes on behind the scenes.

We use our gelato classes as an educational tool so that people understand our product, can meet the people being the scenes who make the gelato, and so people get a special insight into how we do things at Gelato Messina.

We also can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning than indulging in a gelato class!

Working with clay is like mediation in a way, it’s a beautiful way to center the mind from this fast pace life a lot of us live. My studio is a sanctuary for students to enjoy, to be inspired, and to create.

Sarah Schembri, Director of Sarah Schembri Ceramics. Melbourne, Australia.

I’ve been teaching for approximately 10 years at other studios. It wasn’t until I moved into my new larger studio in Fitzroy, Melbourne 4 years ago that I fully appreciated just what I could offer and certainly, never envisioned my classes would be in such demand as they are.

I really love teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences. Seeing student development each week and learning new skills–and knowing I had a part in this–is very rewarding to me.

Working with clay is like mediation in a way, it’s a beautiful way to centre the mind from this fast pace life a lot of us live. My studio is a sanctuary for students to enjoy, to be inspired, and create.

I love that I’m not “just” a music teacher. My tiny students learn real-life skills such as sharing, turn-taking, motor control, and their parents concurrently gain an insight into how their children learn.

Sophie Maxwell, Founder, and Teacher at Leaning Note. Melbourne, Australia.

I had been a violin and viola teacher for 7 years when I had the experience of teaching a 2‑year-old viola. Whilst the experience was one that I consider successful, and whilst the 2‑year-old still learns from me 8 years later, I thought that there had to be an easier way to teach younger students.

I was lost at a Suzuki music conference one rainy day and stumbled across a baby and toddler class, and was immediately hooked! I couldn’t believe how involved those tiny children were, and what they were achieving.

I love that I’m not “just” a music teacher. My tiny students learn real-life skills such as sharing, turn-taking, motor control, and their parents concurrently gain an insight into how their children learn.

It’s an amazing process to be a part of, and after 8 years, I’m still enthralled by it!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no blame. Only learning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose your business partner like you choose your life partner

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your business partner can either lift you or suppress you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two inherent problems:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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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.

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this show are linked websites that are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With thanks to

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

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

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this show are linked websites that are not necessarily endorsed by the publisher.

Question of the day

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