Foreword

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

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

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

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

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

What was your first entrepreneurial project? What was your biggest learning?

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge

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

The first entrepreneurial project was becoming a tour guide in Italy. Italy was a country that was not my own, I was taking exams in a language that was not my own, there was non-stop paperwork, complex protocols, and never-ending answers that were not set in stone or black or white.

Back then, I wanted everyone to work in a way that was aligned with my brain and work methodologies. Experience in the field taught me that accepting other people’s way of work can bring the same, if not better, results.

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut

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

My first entrepreneurial project was one that I was unaware would take me on a 23-year journey.

I, and my business partner, saw an opportunity to secure a distribution agreement for a product and service that we are passionate about, and we pursued the international headquarters located in the United States for 5 months before receiving the horrible fax message (yes a fax) that the idea of us being a distributor was no longer being entertained. They thanked us for our time and recommended that we continue our purchases through the normal distributor.

We were devastated because we were near-obsessed, and had formulated a clear plan on how we could make this venture work. I woke up at 11.30 pm one evening, went to a 24-hour printing business known as Kinko’s Printing, and I sat there with my 1 GB laptop and wrote my first business plan. I subsequently printed it, bound it, and by 11 am that same morning my sister (who was travelling to the United States) had it in her hand to present to Headquarters.

One thing I learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut; the knowledge of what we could achieve together.

My sister—naturally we did not present her as my sister—presented the case on behalf of our company, said that they needed to consider this business plan, and that we are not taking “no” for an answer. Headquarters agreed to a face-to-face meeting and subsequent training but with no promises. For the next 6 weeks while we prepared to go to the Los Angeles-based Headquarters, we borrowed $120,000 (23 years ago) against my parents house so that we could make the launch of this in Australia as big as we possibly could.

In that 6 weeks, we expanded on the business plan, hired the staff that we did not have, and invested in the infrastructure and resources that we also did not have. The preparedness that we put into the plan, combined with the enthusiasm and passion, enabled us to pull the entire thing off.

After coming back from our training in the United States, we executed on the $120,000 launch. We spent the entirety of the money in 7 days with not one guaranteed account on our books. We had media, we had PR, we had celebrities attend our launch, and within the next 18 months we opened 118 accounts with a 3‑staff business.

Fast forward 23 years and we now have nearly 300 high functioning accounts, a team of 40, and we have undertaken some amazing initiatives that allow our company to be one of the leaders within our industry. I look back at the lessons learned and know that if I knew all the things that were ahead, I may not have enthusiastically jumped into. However, the knowledge and passion we had for something that we felt was underdone was enough to fuel the creation of a team, a following, and an amazing client base, and a business.

I look back with a smile and a warm heart when I recognise the saying “fake it till you make it” has so much more relevance than what people give (with a caveat). Our moves were well-calculated, we knew our numbers, and we threw our inhibitions to the air and recruited like-minded, passionate people.

Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there

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

I left school at the age of 15 to pursue the running of my own small business. I created custom PCs for consumers, built networks for small businesses, and developed websites for anyone that needed one.

I learnt two key things in those early years of business. The first lesson, unsurprisingly, is that focus is essential. Spreading myself too thin meant a lack of specialisation and a lack of ability to effectively market myself as a credible expert, given the breadth of services being offered.

The second lesson was a reinforcement of the need to shed offerings that I didn’t love: while you may be good at something without loving it, you’ll never be truly great at it unless you do. Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there.

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power

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

I was 8, and there was a girl in school who always had extra pocket money to buy treats at the canteen for herself and all her friends; Sunnyboys that was a gift from heaven on a hot day, frozen oranges cut in half that felt like the first taste of water after a long day exposed to the desert sun and heat, salt and vinegar crisps that we would squash into crumbs so that they would last longer as our fingers grew tainted with salt and grease, Red Skins that would glue your teeth shut and colour your tongue a velvet red, and addictive sherbert lolly bags known as Wizz Fizz and would send you to the highest happiness peaks known to children aged 6–8. Oh how I envied the power she yielded every time she walked around the school yard with those golden $1 and $2 coins!

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power.

I discovered at home towers of paper; white, beige, granulated and patterned, and spent my recesses and lunchtimes selling these sheets of paper to my classmates at 50c — $1 a pop depending on the perceived rarity of the paper in question. This venture lasted just under 1 week and I had secured enough funds that would make me king of the playground indefinitely, until I was called into the Principal’s office; to which promptly brought an end to “Kym & Associates Paper Co.”.

I learned a few things:

  1. Your world changes when you have resources at your disposal i.e. the $1 or $2 coin, and sometimes, the resource is a lot closer within reach than we think it is (it didn’t take long to acquire $1 and $2)
  2. People purchase based on relationships and whether or not they like you, even if the product is widely available
  3. The sale comes from the ability to market the product in a way that makes it interesting and unique
  4. Business longevity is a concern when the business is built on foundations that are contrary to rules and regulations #outlawlogic

The acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice

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

I was 14 years old and my first entrepreneurial project involved selling cookies, that my mum baked, at school. Years earlier my parents separated, and the income that dad supported us with was really never enough. So I told my mum that I wanted to help.

Selling cookies in school wasn’t easy. My friends didn’t really have enough money to buy an entire box, so my teachers bought the cookies in support. Knowing that I couldn’t rely on just my teachers’ support, I floated the idea that my friends could buy an entire box if they pooled their funds.

Unfortunately, soliciting sales at school was frowned upon, and I was called up to the Headmaster’s office a total of 5 times. I consider myself blessed to be left off the proverbial hook with warnings in what I can only assume is the understanding of the Headmaster, who understood my intent behind this venture.

There were 3 key lessons here: the first being that the acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice. It’s during times of crisis that we are pushed to move. And so we move.

The second being that if you have a way for people to get what they want and make it easier for people to get what they want, they will buy. My friends could not afford an entire box of cookies, and if I had fixated on my go-to-market strategy, I would never have sold any boxes of cookies. It was when I educated my potential customers that they could pool their funds, the deal was done.

Finally, if you ever get caught selling cookies at school, a good story will help.

Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity

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

The first entrepreneurial venture I did pertains to when my mom used to take us skiing in the United States. On these trips I purchased baseball hats bring back to Canada. I learned that I could sell them for the same price that I bought them, for but with the United States/Canadian exchange rate, I would make 30% profit. This was my first lesson in arbitrage.

On reflection, the key lessons I learned from this venture are:

  1. Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity
  2. There are advantages in being able to provide products to people that they cannot normally get their hands on themselves
  3. Store your inventory in a safe place; a hard lesson I learned when my dog stumbled upon my baseball hat collection and bit the tops off all of them

Even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice

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

Maybe not my first entrepreneurial project, but certainly my first entrepreneurial real business.

I was working for Polaroid as a Finance Manager, and was amazed at the cost an agency charged for placing employees. So I thought I would start a personnel agency, but stay at Polaroid until the new business was making enough money to employ me.

I hired 2 mature sales ladies who had experience selling medical insurance and had the attitude I was looking for, and I called the business “Vogue Personelle”. I’m quite proud of the branding; I utilised the French tricolour in my logo, and placed Vogue magazines at reception.

We had been in operation for 2 months, and I was thinking in another month I would hand in my notice to Polaroid, but then I got offered the job as General Manager which effectively would make me the youngest General Manager in the Polaroid empire. I decided to sell the business fast, and I got screwed by another larger agency, who not only got the business for virtually nothing, but also took the incoming fees from the placements my team had made.

My learning: even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice.

What do you think?

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

Call to action 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the best business advice you have received?

The best way out is always through

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

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

If I outgrow you, I will fire you!

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

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

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

Sales fix everything

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

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

Inspect what you expect

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

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

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

Be unrelenting

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

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

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

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

Business is hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is more stable than depending on yourself?

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My business and I are two separate things

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never mess with someone’s paycheck

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

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

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

Done is better than perfect

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

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

What do you think?

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

Call to action 

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

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

Foreword

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

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

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

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

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

How important are values? How do you bring them alive in your business?

Never underestimate the power of simple words, and simple ideas

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

I don’t believe in business partnerships but I do believe in business values. When I first took over a family business at the age of 25, my father’s advice to me were these three ideas: (1) honesty; (2) hard work; and (3) integrity. These 3 values were so simple, and at that time, I considered them “not profound” due to their simplicity.

However, I find myself referring to, and using, them when I conduct staff interviews as they encapsulate the qualities we look for in our team members. Those who don’t conform to these values aren’t a natural fit, and leave accordingly. These values are our guiding principles and I discovered that as time progressed, they become embodied in our mission statement.

Never underestimate the power of simple words and simple ideas.

Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction

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

At the end of the day, values are what I refer too whenever I have a question in need of an answer (whether for personal or for business). Asking whether the situation or matter-in-question is aligned with my values has more often than not answered questions that otherwise I was unable to answer with complete conviction.

When I first learned about the importance of values in the workplace, and how to use them, I often thought that it was OK if a decision ticked 3 out of the 5 values boxes. It did not take me long to learn that if something does not get all 5 boxes ticked (assuming that one has 5 values), then the answer is no; no matter how attractive it may seem and/or how many people try to convince me otherwise.

Every now and then, my team pass by my office and ask for my opinion on a decision. Now I simply look up from my desk and raise my eyebrows in the direction of our values poster (which are on every office wall). My team know how to move forward from there.

The importance of values is a lesson for which I will be forever grateful.

Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

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

Outside of people, the number one asset to any business are the company values. Flowing from this is the way in which values are upheld, displayed, lived and breathed so that they are naturally and authentically part of the everyday business.

Rather than create values and force already-existing people to conform, I believe we need to recruit: (1) people who believe in what we believe in; (2) people who want to join in on the journey of achieving the vision of the business; and (3) people who are genuinely enthusiastic.

Values should not just be 3 to 5 words, they should also be underlying beliefs, behaviors, and attributes/markers that make it specific to your business. This is important so that people feel and understand how those values are interpreted and adopted within the business.

Hire based on the values. Fire based on a misalignment of values. And most importantly, progress with business relationships that have a values alignment with your business. These clients will understand and believe what you believe in. If a relationship is hard at the start because you don’t see “eye-to-eye” this usually means that all parties concerned are on separate pages when it comes to values. These relationships typically end in disaster.

As leaders, we need to interlace values in our people plan, and in our one-to-three-year vision that we share with our team. Values need to be at the forefront of decision-making around business relationships, opportunities, and—most importantly—values need to feel real and authentic.

Making sure values are lived and breathed is one of the most difficult things to consistently deliver on as one needs to be unwaveringly dedicated to the commitment of living and breathing the values in each and every aspect of the business. It needs to start at the top and it needs to be felt on every level throughout the business with both staff and your customers.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business

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

Values, and how we choose to act according to them, are incredibly important.

Being home for the last 12+ months due to COVID-19-related lockdown, my children have had the opportunity to see how their dad works. Through proximity, they listen to my calls, how I speak with others, how I listen to others, and how I treat people. It is therefore important to me that how I am with people is how I am with my family i.e. that I treat those with respect and in accordance with my values.

How you act in business should extend to how you act outside of your business.

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

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

Without companywide alignment on values, the consequence is almost always an eventual splintering of motivation, of expectation, and of course, of outcome.

I’ve found that in all businesses I’ve been involved in, from startup to blue chip, that the best way to ensure that a company’s values do not wane is to embed them in the company’s messaging at every opportunity, from staff handbooks to investor reports.

Reminders about who we are and why we do what we do must be at the core of how we talk about what we do. It’s all too easy for a company’s catalyzing values to fall by the wayside as business-as-usual takes over.

Like an airliner in constant operation, without regular preservative oiling, the very pieces that keep it flying will corrode.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

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.

Knowledge of “core values”, “authenticity”, and “being impeccable with your word” are the three most important traits I look for in business and personal relationships.

Values need to be known and embraced by everyone within the business. A great litmus test is to call the business reception and see if the person answering the phone can share what the values are, and what they mean.

At Zenman, we use our core values as a filter when hiring new team members, and as a reference when conducting quarterly reviews.

A business with clear values is a business with decision-making filters for everyone within the business.

One cannot build a castle with a weak foundation and weak scaffolding

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

I consider values to be the foundation in business and in life, and when one has lack of clarity or a lack of awareness in their values (a weak foundation), one cannot build a castle.

Pinpointing what my values are was a process that took many years and in my experience, I found that I gravitated towards positive-sounding words that although sounded great, never really quite hit the mark. It wasn’t until my 5th attempt at discovering my values that I stumbled upon a framework that worked: Reflect back on all the times you have been incredibly incensed or infuriated, and consider why you felt this way. It will hint at a core value that was infringed.

Where values can be considered the foundation on which one builds their castle, ensuring that values are lived and breathed can be considered the scaffolding on which one builds their castle. In other words, , knowing what one’s values are is only 50% of the equation. Ensuring that they are alive is the other 50% and requires continuous effort and intention.

I ensure values are alive by employing them in the following scenarios:

  1. Hiring employees, Does the candidate share the same values?
  2. Decision-making, What decision-path do our values hint at?
  3. Performance reviews, Are the wins and behaviors linked to our values?
  4. Coaching, Are we teaching values-based decision-making?
  5. Firing employees, What value did the employee infringe? Do we communicate this with the team so that others are aware?
  6. Recognizing when someone lives and breathes a value, Are we shouting these stories at the top of our lungs? Are we circulating them? Are we compiling them into our own book as our own legends?
  7. Rewards programs, Are we sharing and rewarding the behaviors that align with our values?
  8. Communications, Do we include our values in our internal and external comms across all channels?

Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner

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

It was 2012, I had hired a COO for the business. Mark (named changed to protect the identity) had the drive, the qualification, and the history to prove that he was the best person for the job. He was also a friend.

Within the first month, two of my better people resigned. In the next 3 months, another two of my best people resigned. In the 1 year that Mark had taken charge, the business environment and culture lost its mojo. It was highly strung and the team was deeply unhappy. Something just didn’t click and what I learned was that Mark’s values were misaligned with the values of the business. This caused a whirlwind of destruction. It was the classic case of right skills and wrong values.

Values are the first, and primary, alignment that every business must find. When values are aligned, a sense of belonging surfaces. When that happens, people feel they can be themselves, and they do their best work. Because of this, values cannot just be a poster on the wall. Values need to be practiced daily within the business, and it starts with the business owner.

In every decision that we make, we always ask this question first, “What do our core values say?”. When we make decisions this way, it provides us a guiding principal in which we can make good decisions, and consequently it makes decision-making easier.

Values provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone can be successful

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.

Values are the foundation of our businesses, and provide a guide as to how we expect individuals to behave with each other so that everyone (employees, customers and the business) can be successful.

Our values are brought to life by:

  1. Screening people for our values so that our hires are values-based
  2. Onboarding people with our values
  3. Celebrating when people live our values
  4. Coaching people in real-time when they don’t live our values

A great tool we use in making sure our values are brought to life is to keep track of all stories that are aligned with our values, and to share them far and wide in our businesses.

Values are the basis of any business

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

Values are the basis of any business. Our values are not that inspiring (“fun”, “integrity”, “respect”, “service”, “trust first”), but they are known and practiced by all staff.

I have a saying: “If you are not in business for fun and profit, what the hell are you doing there?” So basically, as a value, we try and ensure that employees enjoy their surroundings and the people they work with, but we also expect them to do a fair day’s work so that we make a profit. The same saying goes slightly differently for the employee: “If you are not in a role that you enjoy and learn, what the hell are you doing there?”

The value that is the backbone of all our values is “respect”. At a new employee’s induction, we stress this value, and generally this is the value we quote when firing an employee. For example, if an employee steals from the company, it is not showing respect for the company. If an employee hits another employee, it is not showing respect for a fellow employee. If an employee swears at a supplier, it is not showing respect for the supplier.

Values are the basis of any business.

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.

Call to action 

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

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

The word “entrepreneur” actually sucks. Being an entrepreneur is not cool. Building something successful is cool.” — Alex Louey

Being an entrepreneur is hard. You have no money and it’s a struggle. It’s hard but if you continue, and you persevere, and you keep on pushing to find different angles, you will succeed. With your ideas, don’t be precious about them. The reason why my business partner, Nick, and I work together well is because we are not precious about our ideas. In business, there is no place for egos.” — Alex Louey

Culture and values are actually the most important part of our hiring process. If we have two candidates and Candidate B is less skilled but has an awesome personality, will be a benefit to the culture and there is drive, we’ll go with Candidate B, even if Candidate A is a superstar. The team doesn’t win with one person.” — Alex Louey

Just because a customer says, “I want this done,” or “I want it by then,” doesn’t mean we say “yes”. If we can’t achieve what the customer wants, then we can’t create the desired experience, and so we need to make our expectations clear. The hardest thing to do is to actually say “no”. For too long I was surrounded by people who said, “Yes, Shan,” and that didn’t help. It may stroke your ego temporarily but it won’t help. I now look for people who say, “You know what? It’s not gonna fly. Not today. Maybe next week but not today.”” — Shan Manickham

Putting together a bunch of core values, that’s a piece of cake. Get a whiteboard, get everyone to put up their concepts and ideas, pick the most popular, put a few emojis up, and bang you’re done. That’s easy. The next thing you need to do is believe in them and get them instilled so that they are being used on a daily basis to make a decision within your business. And once that happens, things become a lot easier.” — Shan Manickham

A key thing is believing in the people that work for you. If you’ve selected the right people, you got to believe in them. You’ve got to be able to hand over reigns. It probably feels like you don’t want to hand over the reigns and you probably feel like you can do a better job but at some point, you have got to be able to say, “I’m gonna hand this over. I’m gonna believe in you. I’m gonna put the right measures in place.” So you’re going to trust and verify, but you’ve got to start with the trust first. Verifications come later.” — Shan Manickham

I don’t think you will ever know if it’s the right move, but I think you can make it the right move. You can sit there and do a lot of research, it all tells you the right stuff but if you can’t execute on it, all that research means nothing. Did I know the moment? Absolutely, not.” — Alex Louey

With thanks to

Alex Louey is the founder of Appscore, the team behind Yarra Tram’s famous Tram Tracker app. Alex knew nothing about building apps when he went into business, but he knew all about project management. He recommends working with your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who can do things that you can’t.

Shan Manickam is the MD and owner of warehouse solutions business Cross Docks Australia. Shan tried to go into the business through a management buyout which failed, but it pushed up the price for the buyer, so they sacked him. That was enough to put a fire in his belly to form his own company. He recommends hiring for culture rather than skills.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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

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Question of the day

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