Archives For Mentors

Foreword

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

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

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

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

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

How did your business come to be?

Old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My business came to be by asking myself one big question

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

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

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

The rest, as they say, is history.

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

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

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

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

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

My business started on a bet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

Call to action 

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

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Start tracking your time and see where you are spending your time. You don’t need to do it in a complex way. Just start by bucketing it. Email, admin, bookkeeping, just bucket it and see where time is going. Do it for 1–2 weeks and don’t give up; even if it’s difficult.” — Ben Sze

Taking the leap into my own business was very daunting because I didn’t want to give up the paycheck or a potential career in finance that I enjoyed. I recommend you keep a full-time job if you can, and moonlight on your startup so you can get it started. Doing this also has the benefit of not stressing your cash flow situation. We had a period where we were not paying ourselves and it was very tough.” — Ben Sze

Are we going to give this another crack or are we going go get full-time jobs, work half as much, and most likely earn more? What is the worst-case scenario in anything that we do; what is the worst that can happen? We are very fortunate here in this beautiful country in that we can easily take a chance. And if all fails you can go back and get a job. So the take a chance to go and pursue a passion and to pursue a dream. It’s a privilege that we all have. If you’ve got a dream or you’ve got a burning desire, take that chance because the worst-case scenario ain’t that bad.” — David Fastuca

Surround yourself with people that had been there and done that, and can help guide the way. You will still make a hundred mistakes; we made plenty. I remember in a year, we almost shut shop over 5 times. Then there were moments where is was Sunday, and payroll was Tuesday. Business causes a lot of stress. One of our proudest things throughout the whole Locomote journey was that we were able to fund the company, pay everyone, and never miss a payment even when things were dark. For us, Locomote was our opportunity, we didn’t know if we are going to get this opportunity again, we were not going to let it go.” — David Fastuca

Think of all these lateral sort of ways on how you can get financing. For example you don’t need $5M from day dot; you can start small to begin with until you get to that. Try and think laterally. If you have a gun to your head and couldn’t spend that sort of money, how would you do it? This is important because there will be times when you don’t have that money and you need to think like that.” — Dave Fastuca

Having mentors is important. We have mentors now, and had coffee with one of ours the other day. In that coffee we said, “We want to be cash flow positive in X amount of time,” to which he replied, “Be patient. If you can hold out in the long run and be patient, you can build something a lot bigger and better. It is good you have your goals and want to hit those milestones–we all want that hockey stick curve on that growth graph–but just make sure you have patience because then you can really build something great as well.” — Dave Fastuca

Go out and talk to your potential customers and pretend that you are going to sell them something. Get confidence that way. There’s no harm in speaking to potential customers. Maybe, don’t go speak to your premium, gold clients; go speak to your middle tier clients, and cut your teeth on figuring out how to pitch your business, and figure out if people will actually pay for the product or service you offer.” — Ben Sze

With thanks to

Ben Sze is a Co-Founder of Edrolo, an educational tech company that is creating better outcomes for students. Ben points out several key things that fresh founders should keep an eye on — not least of which is time. There’s a time management practice here that you’ll find invaluable.

David Fastuca is a Co-Founder of Ambisie, a business putting entrepreneurs in front of school students to broaden their horizons. David founded his first business at the age of 14 and it has had many different incarnations since then. He says we live in a lucky country where if all else fails, we can just go get a job — so have a crack at founding your own business.

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.

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.

[Business] is about your learning curve–how quickly you can learn–[and it’s also about] how that data driven can you be. The fine art of bring an entrepreneur is waking up everyday and challenging your biases. You have your vision, your personal and life dreams, and hard data points on whether issues are red flag, yellow flag or green flag i.e. what the issues with your staff, product or service are. Being able to grow and move past them is critical. When I learned how to do that, I saw big changes in my business.” — Georgia Beattie

Dad is really good with wine and with production but the stuff that I was expanding, such as the IP, was different and “out of his house”. So I spent a lot of time with the startup community and had great mentors. The thing about startups is that everyone shares. You ask an entrepreneur, “What did you do in this situation?” or, “Can I have a coffee; I’ve got a problem?” and they will say, “Yep!” and then they will just give a complete download of how they solved a situation that was similar.” — Georgia Beattie

For me it was really about being close to, and being around, the person I find the most inspiring in business; [my father]. My father is my mentor. It means that I can be around someone every day that can teach me so much, and [someone] who willing to teach and not hold back. He knows that I am family and [that] it is worth me knowing [what he knows].” — Penelope Sattler

All the achievement and all the success that comes [to family businesses], you share with your family. And that’s such a huge thing. They are people who are fully invested in what you’re doing, and what they’re doing, and so being able to celebrate together is wonderful.” — Penelope Sattler

I would say things like, “We are doing this!” and, “I’m gonna say this!” and a lot of it was rash. Dad would be my check-in. He’s a little more conservative and he’ll suggest, in a really gentle way, things like, “How about this?” or, “Have you thought about this?” [His] ease and grace was a big learning for me.” — Georgia Beattie

I like pitching things to people and when they give me a funny face, I’ll know that I need to slightly change the pitch. It’s about getting [the idea] out there. You will find someone that has [relevant] experience and you will be able to learn a little bit more.” — Georgia Beattie

The deeper you get into the business, the clearer it will be what your point of difference is.” — Georgia Beattie

Family businesses are such a special thing and not everyone can have a family business because not all families get along. In a family business there’s trust, you know what you need to do, and you communicate in [many] other ways. It is such an amazing and special thing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Bring all your different loves and skillsets into the business to contribute to it rather than just conforming to its past. Make sure you bring your diversity and new-generation ideas into it.” — Georgia Beattie

In terms of the finances of the company–such as where the money comes from, and how cash flow works–there are things where you think you have it under control because you have a degree and you learned about it. But real life, it’s different.” — Penelope Sattler

With thanks to

Penelope Sattler is the General Manager of her family’s golf course — Barnbougle Golf, which has been voted as the Best Australian Golf Resort. Penelope really likes her family and says business rewards are even sweeter when shared with them.

Georgia Beattie got her start in her dad’s winemaking business before studying entrepreneurship and taking on the CEO role at Startup Victoria a few years ago. She’s now running her own business which is bringing startup skills and mentality to big corporate players. Georgia says one of the key benefits of working with family is the transparency and trust in management.

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.

Culture isn’t about one certain element. It is not about having a cool space. I’ve worked with businesses with basketball courts, foosball tables, and drinks every Friday night. No one element creates culture and you cannot fabricate it. If you do not have the right people, the right leadership, and a clear vision, it doesn’t matter how cool you got in the business. These other things are like cherries on top of that which creates culture.” — Lisa Spiden

The fact that you have a business and that you have staff, you’ve got culture. Whether it is a good or a bad culture, you still have a culture that exists. You constantly monitoring and making sure it is where you want it to be. The core thing that influence culture is leadership.” — Lisa Spiden

Choose a model. Choose an idea. Choose something to fall on. I don’t have all the answers. I never have. I never will. But other people have done it. If someone has done it before, learn from them, grow from them.” — Tristan White

I had an interview with Emma Isaacs and I asked her, “What is the one piece of advice you wish you known a long time ago?” She said, “Believe in myself.” As I reflect on that conversation, I think about my own journey, that is one thing that I haven’t done. Believe in yourself. challenge yourself. Learn, grow, stretch, rest, and then do it all again.” — Tristan White

Have amazing people around you that you can bounce ideas off; like mentors, and people you trust that can help guide you. It helps keep you sane.” — Lisa Spiden

Recruitment is a dating process. We will try to decide if we want to spend more time with people. The first date moves on to a longer second date and to another date. And if things go well? You get married and you start working together.” — Tristan White

There are so many things we can learn, and it’ll be great learn them all in advance, but know where you are in that moment in time. Know the biggest challenge or the biggest bottleneck, dive into it head on, and then deal with it before moving on to the next challenge.” — Tristan White

If you want to reach out to someone who has commercial experience that you’ve either seen, know, or know that you will gain valuable experience from them, be straightforward. One sentence is great. Say, “I love your work. I’ve got a specific question. I’d like to ask you about X. Can I please have a small amount of your time?” — Tristan White

With thanks to

Tristan White founded The Physio Co in 2004. 5 years later he had 20 employees and what he calls a great big mess. After addressing his organisation’s culture, Tristan has grown from 20 to 150 happy, engaged and enthusiastic employees in less than a decade.

Lisa Spiden is the Founder and Managing Director of fibreHR and Roster Right. Working in HR in London and Australia, across banking, fast-moving consumer goods, IT and communication, Lisa has seen the best and worst of cultures. With a great culture comes discretionary effort from employees, which Lisa says is the best way for your business to set itself apart from the competition.

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 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.