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 the best business advice you have received?

Agonise over whether or not you need business partners

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

Agonise over whether or not you need business partners. Alternatively, if you can afford it, don’t have business partners. 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs I know have long-term pain with theirs. The 10th entrepreneur without the headache is usually the one without a business partner. For me, not having a business partner is one less problem.

During my journey, people have asked me if I want to partner with them; usually because they know that I know how to work hard. I have held back because I place more value on the relationship.

Always look for the angles

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

The best business advice I have received is “always look for the angles”. For example, if you’re pitching, selling, or proposing a partnership, you want to find out what will spark the other person’s interest so that they can’t help but want to work with you.

The act of “doing business” is a lot like dating; everyone likes something different. Your job is to find where the other person’s sweet spots are.

If their response is “no”, it’s not because they don’t want to use your product(s)/service(s). It’s because you just haven’t pitched your product(s)/service(s) to solve their problem(s).

Listen to your gut

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

Warren Rustand taught me the value of listening to my gut, and so I share with you the following: Always listen to your gut or your intuition.

Even if every single person in the room believes otherwise–and that room is filled with people who you believe are more experienced, more intelligent, and more prepared than you are–do what your instincts tell you you do. Listen to the point of view of others but go with your gut. It will never fail you.

Whenever I made a decision that was contrary to my gut or intuition, whether it be because I wanted to people please or I capitulated under the pressure of being surrounded by–in my opinion–people who were more intelligent, experienced or qualified than I was, those decisions have always turned out to be the wrong decision. Conversely, whenever I made a decision that honoured what with my gut or intuition was telling me, it was the right decision.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but laugh. My dear friend Alonso (who has a tendency to analyse everything to the nth degree) becomes incredibly flustered by the “moments”.

Measure Twice. Cut Once.

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

Ironically, what I now know is some of the best business advice I was given was in my year ten woodwork class by my then teacher, who was teaching woodwork to boys that were both frivolous and quick to make decisions on cutting into beautiful pieces of timber.

His message to me then–which has since stuck with me and I believe I still say it ten times a week to my current staff–is“measure twice cut once”. The reason this is so important is that often people are quick to make decisions or take actions, only to have to later use twice the time to fix any mistakes that could have been avoided.

Measure twice cut once” ensures that that we do things properly, and prior to delivering, executing or starting, we ensure that all the checks and measures are taken to ensure our chances increase for a successful deployment or implementation.

Being the son of a builder, this adage is one of my favourites.

Do the most important thing at the start of the day

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

Spend your first two hours of your work day doing the most important thing so that if you did nothing else, you would be happy. This is an idea that has been drummed into me over time by various mentors and business people. I find that I–and many people I know–have a tendency to get caught up in “doing things” that we forget, or worse, neglect the things that should be done to help move our businesses forward.

Never give someone else permission to treat you in a way that is contrary to your values, principles, and beliefs

Demi Markogiannaki. Founder at WeTeachMe. Melbourne, Australia.

The best advice I have ever received came from one of my mentors from the US. It’s an amazing life lesson, and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

During one of our regular catchups, I was complaining about how I felt helpless while dealing with a co-worker that was being a bully. I remember vividly how I went on and on about how much I disliked the way my co-worker treated people, and the detrimental effect that this behaviour was having on the workplace culture.

I confessed how I constantly felt unhappy, stressed and unappreciated; how nothing was ever good enough; and how this co-worker had an uncanny ability to find the negative in just about everything.

After I finished unloading, my mentor looked at me in the eye and said, “I don’t feel sorry for you. I apologise if this sounds insensitive, but you are only allowing yourself and others to be bullied. Stand up for yourself. Build yourself up so that you will be able to handle situations like this. You have the power to call this co-worker out, and to tell them to shut up. If you, don’t have the ability to stand up for yourself, how are you going to stand up for, and support, others?”

My learning is that to be an effective leader, one that can both protect and elevate others, starts from being able to lead yourself. It starts from having the courage to stand up for your values, your principles, and your beliefs, and never ever give permission to anyone else to treat you in a way that is contrary to your values, principles and beliefs.

Find the puzzle pieces

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

Talk to as many experienced people as you can. Each person that you talk to will have one small piece of the puzzle, and not the entire puzzle.

Your job, as an entrepreneur, is to find as many pieces of the puzzle as you can, from as many different, experienced people as possible, and then to construct your own version of that puzzle as best as you can.

Skills can be learned. Values cannot.

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

I didn’t have the luxury of mentors at my disposal as a young entrepreneur, so most of the business advice I garnered was done so at arms length as I closely watched those succeeding on the global stage (as well as those who were making mistakes).

One of the earliest meaningful pieces of advice I remember paying attention to was Richard Branson’s “most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality”.

Alas, some lessons need to be learnt first hand. In spite of Richard’s words, I still fell into the trap of hiring based on credentials instead of cultural compatibility at one critical juncture in the past. It’s not a mistake I’ve made since as a hiring manager and it’s also a learning I’ve carried over into my investments: I back entrepreneurs first and foremost and not their CVs; that distinction is critical.

Life is too short to learn everything through experience

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.

This idea was taught to me by a gentleman by the name of James Webb. James and I couldn’t be more opposite in our personal life, but throughout the years we have become lifetime friends: The idea that “life is too short to learn everything through experience” applies to my business, my personal, and my family life. It seems like common sense, but when applied to all facets of your life, it can have a significant impact through: (1) avoiding pitfalls; and (2) identifying possibilities.

It means that you can avoid potential hardships by learning from what others have done or experienced before. The practice of looking into the past also reveals opportunities that may have previously gone unseen. Don’t make mistakes or miss the chance to capitalize on trends that are visible by looking at historical/competitor data.

Be unrelenting

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, 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.

Let people go if you cannot serve them

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

I used to hate letting non-performers go because I had this strange thought in the back of my mind that said, “If you let them go, you will destroy their life.”

This little voice was challenged one day when I was asked, “If this person continues working for you, am I right to say he will never progress in his career?”

To this question I responded, “Yes”, to which they replied, “So why are you destroying this person’s career when you could let them go somewhere else where they can be a superstar?”

It was at this point that I finally understood the meaning of “letting someone go”. This is something that I have carried with me since.

The riches are in the niches

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.

Verne Harnish shared an idea that I carry with me, and that idea is about focus: (1) take an industry and break it into sectors; (2) pick 10% of the overall sector where you think you have the most opportunity and can beat the competition; and (3) double down and completely focus there. Own 70% of that 10%!

In my last business (security guarding) we were focused on a model but not a market segment (customer). If I could go back and do things again, I would have put a lot more of my energies into focusing, and I believe that I would have built a much larger business as a result.

If you are in a crisis, committees of 1 make the best decisions

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

In this time of COVID-19, I reflect on the advice from John Fernyhough, who was a very successful lawyer and entrepreneur in New Zealand. One of his great lines is “as a lawyer I will tell you what the legal position is, but then we decide what the commercial action is; that’s the fun part”!

John’s advice in a crisis is “take absolute control; you are like the pilot of a plane, you get paid the big money for when you are in trouble so forget discussions and meetings; just take the action you think is right, and execute fast”.

I became CEO of a long established family company that had gone public; it had millions of dollars of obsolete stock, it had no good processes, controls or reporting, it rented a building that it didn’t need, and every Executive had an Executive Assistant. The son of the Founder was the Production Manager, the Board had monthly catered meetings with drinks and yet the Company was insolvent. The Directors hadn’t realised it. Nobody had.

I drew big red crosses through the management team, including the Founder’s son, rented out the excess building, found a creative way we could use the stock, put a customer service person who had a “just do it” attitude into credit control, and found a new major revenue product. I went to the bank who had the company ‘under watch’, told them what had been done, and said they could put us in receivership now, or lend us more money.

All this happened within one month from joining. We then developed the new management team from existing staff who stepped up to the plate.

The result? The company’s share price moved from 48 cents to over $13 in 3 years. The big learning: First impressions are generally right, so if you are in a crisis, committees of 1 make the best decisions.

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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After I launched my business online, I started selling cupcakes at the markets. I set my market-selling date before I registered my home kitchen because I knew that if I set a date, and put down a deposit to sell at a farmers’ market, I would be pushed to tick off all the tasks on my list: (1) create the product line; (2) create the flavours; (3) create a menu; (4) register a business name; and (5) get the food registration, etc. I wanted to work backward with a timeline. If you have a goal and you don’t have set a date, you tend to let things drag it on. That’s how I made myself accountable for making my business work.” — Sheryl Thai

I started thinking about how other entrepreneurs work because I didn’t feel like an entrepreneur. I didn’t think I was an entrepreneur. I knew that I had a “small business owner” mindset because I wanted to do everything and didn’t want to delegate. That realisation was a defining moment. There was a time when I was so tired, I was taking cupcakes out of the oven, and my arms couldn’t live the trays because of how heavy they were. I remember dropping them and I broke down and ran off to the cupboard upstairs. I locked myself in there and cried for an hour. I needed to change and figure out how to be an entrepreneur. That’s when I started finding other people that was doing what I wanted to do and started learning from them.” — Sheryl Thai

I picked up the phone, called up a law firm, and said, “Hi! I can build websites for you.” The lawyer said, “No. You can’t. Good luck.” He hung up on me. I was crushed. After that, I felt like I was a terrible salesperson for a very long time. When I consider sales with WeTeachMe, I find that WeTeachMe touches on who I am and my core values, so I don’t really need to “sell it”. I talk about the “why”. Why am I passionate about WeTeachMe? Why am I passionate about learning? Why am I passionate about education? And why did I start WeTeachMe? I found that our first 100 customers bought into me.” — Kym Huynh

One of the most exciting things about starting your own business is that you get to create the world as you see it. You get to instill it with the values that are important to you. And you get to fill it with people who align with your values.” — Kym Huynh

Our decisions on who we hire, celebrate, or fire is based on values. When your values are clear and simple, they provide a framework for people to make decisions; what to do, and what not to do.” — Kym Huynh

Our lives are so short. Things can happen through no fault of our own. We might be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I do not want to spend an iota of time doing something unless I am incredibly passionate about it.” — Kym Huynh

I believe in this idea that learning is something that you carry with you for the rest of your life, and it’s one of those things that no one can ever take away from you without your consent. In life you can lose your job, your house, the clothes on your back, but you will never lose the knowledge in your head, and with that knowledge you can always start again.” — Kym Huynh

The one you want to listen to is the one that has achieved you want want to achieve. I say to this person, “Teach me everything you know. I’m going to sit, I’m going to absorb, and I’m going to be willing student.” — Kym Huynh

With goal setting, the most amazing thing is when I have clarity in my 10 years goals, and break that down into years 5, 3 and 1. I started achieving my 3 year goal in 1, 5 year goals in 3, and 10 year goals in 5. Every year I reset the 10–5‑3–1. It’s this incredible accelerated pace of achieving goals.” — Kym Huynh

Sometimes you can be your own mentor by reading. I love reading. I listen to podcasts nearly every day. It’s about continual growth. I ask a lot of people what they listen to and what they read. I believe that success leaves clues and so you find people that have done it or created something that you want to create, and you can learn from them. It’s a shortcut.” — Sheryl Thai

Before I was made redundant, I had already starting little things on the side and baking cupcakes for friends and family. When starting a business, sacrificing your Friday nights is just one of those things that you have to live with. I was at home and waking up and thinking about my business way past midnight. Weekends were dedicated to improving my baking skills and to learning as much as possible. I did for that a good year before I was made redundant at my job.” — Sheryl Thai

There really is no concept of “full time”. It’s all encompassing. It’s all I think about, all the time; from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. It’s not segmented 9–5 5 days per week. It’s just… life. Life melts into this big cacophony of everything.” — Kym Huynh

The days are long and the years are short.” — Kym Huynh

What’s really helped me is realising that a lot of entrepreneurs go through the same thing.” — Sheryl Thai

The bigger my businesses is, the more money I make, and the bigger my challenges are. For me, I now see my challenges as a privilege to deal with them because it means that I’m growing. The challenge is a learning for me.” — Sheryl Thai

With thanks to

Sheryl Thai founded Cupcake Central (and League of Extraordinary Women) because guess what — she loves cupcakes! Her passion has risen out of her kitchen to 5 store locations across Melbourne with millions of cupcakes served and just as many diets broken! Sheryl describes how she discovered her passion and what she did to be able to enjoy the sweet taste of success.

Kym Huynh is a Founder at WeTeachMe and the driving force behind Masters Series. Kym discovered his passion for teaching after a bad car accident prompted him to think about what was important to him in this life. He’s now planning to turn his passion into the world’s biggest school without campuses.

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.

I’ve had a number of competitors approach me to buy me out and I just think, “I prefer to compete with you. I believe in where I’m going and what I’m doing, and I believe in our capabilities and our capacity.” If I was 65, 70 or 80… maybe… but running my own show and owning the decisions I make gets me out of bed. It’s on me.” — Jamie Lingham

I’m thankful for every single aspect of all the things that happened because it taught me so much. For example, you trust the people you have, and I’m not saying you can’t trust people, but put systems and processes in place so you can check things. Have robust systems with redundancies in place so that if something goes wrong you’re alerted quickly.” — Jamie Lingham

I ended up spending a week in hospital burned out at the age of 31. I’ve never ever worked those sort of hours again. I choose not to. The business is a vehicle to fund the lifestyle that I want to create for me and my kids.” — Graham Van Damme

Find a mentor. Find someone who has grey hair. Who has done it before. Learn from their experiences. The learning curve is vertical. There are people out there prepared to share their time. Take them for lunch. Take them for coffee. Leverage off their lessons.” — Graham Van Damme

Put 10% away. Pay yourself first. Fight to protect that facility. Put 10% away no matter what.” — Jamie Lingham

With thanks to

Jamie Langham is the CEO of Absolute Immigration who help businesses and individuals migrate successfully. Jamie’s business in Melbourne was going well in 2008, so he decided to put on a General Manager, and expand into Brisbane with an office and three staff. The GFC peaked a week later, but that wasn’t the only challenge the universe had in store for him.

Graham Van Damme is the Managing Director of Jag Capital. As a mining engineer, he bought into the business he was working for and began growing profits immediately. In 2008 he sold the business to private equity with the promise of even more ongoing profits. When the GFC hit a few months later, he realised his promise could be a little challenging to deliver!

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.

When my kids grow up the first thing I will tell them is, “Get a job in door-to-door sales. Do it for a year.” Even though it is really tough, my view is that if you’re in business, if you want to run a business, and you’re non-technical, you have to know how to sell. And by sell I mean you have to be customer facing or understand the process and not fear it. That’s a great lesson because running a business… if you don’t sell you don’t make money.” — Gary Tramer

Use Google Keyword Planner to determine if there is a need for what you are thinking about offering, or a tool called SEMrush to find out if there is a need. If there is nobody looking for what you are offering, maybe it is not a good place to start. And if you are really ballsy like me and trying to do products that aren’t in the market, then I would spend $100 on some Facebook ads to get out to the audience that you think might be interested, and see if anybody even looks or clicks on that ad.” — Gary Gramer

You have limited time to hit your goal. You really want to hit your goal. If you identify that a button on your website is critical to your user conversion, design a test that will be maximum impact. Don’t slightly change the colour one gradient or from blue to light blue, change it from blue to red. Go for maximum impact with your tests, with your results, with everything. Make everything count.” — Simon Mathonnet

If your hypothesis is, “I think that my target market is 25–35 making X amount of money per month, in X target market, and having X interests,” I can design a test for that. I can use Facebook and advertise to that type of demographic. I can create an ad. I can push my product. Did I get new customers by spending $50 or $100 on Facebook ads? Yes or no? That’s a really easy and lean analytics cycle.” — Simon Mathonnet

We were using all those online marketing tools to basically work towards one single goal, and they all interacted with each other, even though [these tools] are so often treated as seperate entities. Having them all work together in a meaningful way was a eureka moment. Sales went completely exponential almost overnight. Just having the funnel really defined, with the right messaging was key. And when it works, when you find something that just works, it’s one of the best feelings ever.” — Simon Mathonnet

You’ll speak to mentors and you’ll speak to advisors that will tell you, “Don’t make this mistake. I did it. Try this.” I think fundamentally that if you don’t make the mistake, viscerally you don’t feel the stress. You don’t get it. The biggest mistake is to try to avoid the mistakes. Screw it up. Lose some money. Stuff it up. Let the business fail. You’ll never, ever learn a lesson like that.” — Gary Tramer

With thanks to

Gary Tramer is the Co-Founder of LeadChat who are responsible for those little pop-up boxes on websites that ask if you need any help. Gary explains that he’s now taking his experience with data in e‑commerce and applying it to bricks and mortar retail to provide more information about physical shoppers when they walk into a store.

Simon Mathonnet is Head of Digital Strategy at Splashbox. He’s obsessed with data and digital marketing. Simon shares how he uses data to help startups and long-running businesses to achieve their goals.

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.


Wouldn’t it be great if you could go back in time to tell yourself the things you know now! If you’re at the beginning of your startup journey, this podcast gives you the benefit of experience from two top founders.

Alex Louey is the founder of Appscore, the team behind Yarra Trams 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 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.

Subscribe to podcast

Podcast brought to you by

Thank you to Jahzzar for the music.

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

The Masters Series podcast is produced by Written & Recorded.

The views expressed by the contributors on this podcast and 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.