Archives For People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With thanks to

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

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

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

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

Question of the day

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

It’s very really important that you feel your business, that you have an understanding of [yourself], your community, and network, and that you create your own network. For me, I’m a media person and I come from an events background, and that’s why I talk about my promoting; it’s because I learned how to hustle doing events. And then whilst studying media I learned the value of an audience and of a community, and how to commercialise that.” — Francesco Nazzari

[On decision making and the fear of the regret of making a wrong decision], we’re always going to have regrets; I have heaps! But the commitment to a decision, and the making of a decision in itself is really powerful. Whether the decision is right or wrong, to learn from the decision is what’s really important. Don’t sit and stew or get stuck. Make the decision.” — Francesco Nazzari

I failed accounting twice in university, and now I am responsible for all the finance in the business. Numbers drive the business’ action and strategy. I look at the numbers every single day; it’s what I need to look at to determine how the business performs, and my job is to decipher the numbers so that it tells a story. For example: Your cost of goods are running at 35%; what does that tell you? There is an inefficiency somewhere and you then start to dig deeper into those problems to answer questions like: (1) where are the inefficiencies?; (2) what is happening here?; and (3) could it be a problem caused by a supplier? Numbers drive everything.” — Thin Neu

Pay for good advice early on. Sometimes you cheap out on advice, and it costs you more mistakes and more money in the future. For example: If I didn’t have a good lawyer helping me at the very beginning (who happens to be my best mate now), I’d be paying 10–20% more on my leases, and I would not know about fit-out contributions (where shopping centres give you money to help you build stores). Other examples include: (1) how do you reduce bank guarantees; and (2) how do you get your employment contracts right. Get good advice early on even if you need to pay a little bit more for it because it will save you more in the long run.” — Thin Neu

One of my biggest personal drivers was borrowing that money from my parents. Once I did this, there was no possibility of failure in my head because there was no way I was going to lose the money. If you have to wake up at 4 am to do your job, you go do it. If you have to find innovative ways to draw more markets into your business, you go do that. Work on that higher purpose; it helps motivates you to get out of bed every single day, helps you take that next step, and helps take away the fear.” — Thin Neu

I spend a lot of time with staff. Having a business is challenging in so many areas, but you have to dedicate time to work with the people in your business. You have to sit down and invest your time in your people because they are the one who help you run your business. I spend a lot of time with my staff and finding out what it is that they want, and what it is that they want to achieve, and then I find a way to help them achieve their goals and dreams. Hopefully those goals and dreams align with Cupcake Central.” — Thin Neu

With thanks to

Francesco Nazzari is the founder of Rooftop Cinema on the top of Curtin House in Melbourne’s CBD. Since 2003 Rooftop has been showing movies under the stars with the best views in town. Frunch shudders when he thinks about the moment in his mid-twenties that he called the city council to get a permit to show movies on the roof.

Thin Neu is the Co-Director of Cupcake Central, building a business is a bit like following a recipe. His advice is to have the right people in place to help you and never cheap out on getting good advice.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

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

Question of the day

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

Nothing in my last 7 years has been one major step. Everything has been tiny, tiny steps.” — Ben Cohn

Starting a business with the view as to who will buy that business, or what industry is going to buy that business, is a really important point. This shapes the way you will to develop the business so that it eventually has a buyer.” — Ben Cohn

The first-year and a half or two years were quite easy for me because I knew I only had to work really hard, and that it was just dependant on myself and my business partner. As the business grew, we got staff, we operated in 3 cities, and now we’ve got 49 full-time team members. People have things going on all the time in their lives, and you cannot carry all of that load. The interpersonal stuff that happens when dealing with people and work dynamics, I find it challenging.” — Ben Cohn

As time goes on, the odds and the stakes are much, much higher. To be frank, I don’t find that it gets easier with time.” — Ben Cohn

I’ve seen clients come in with a great idea and I desperately try to convince them to go and try to talk to their market. And they come back and say that they have talked to their market. And what they actually did was go to five people, who already like them, and said, “I’ve got a great idea. It’s going to be awesome. Do you like it?” and those people didn’t want to hurt their feelings and so the feedback they got was just rubbish. What the problem interview does is that it forces you to not show anything. It forces you to literally go to a group of people and just classify and prioritise the problem and just get a real sense of what is causing pain. If there is not pain in the market, it’s really hard to sell to.” — Ben Stickland

Go and talk to people. Don’t just say, “I’ve got a great idea, I know my market, and I’m going to be determined.” That little phrase is highly correlated to losing lots of money. (Just on my experience and my observation.) Get out of the building. Talk to five customers with problem-solution interviews and in most cases, it will change your idea.” — Ben Stickland

Really trust your gut instinct. We all have a very strong feeling in our gut as to who we really are and what we want to do in life. We get clouded by the expectation of what we should and shouldn’t do. Being in touch with your gut feeling as to what your calling is, and what you need to do, is a very powerful thing; it’s a very hard thing to do because there is so much noise around us.” — Ben Cohn

I hire on culture; I do not hire on skill. In our business, we feel we can train anyone up. I hire for culture, and skill is secondary. There has to be an interpersonal connection.” — Ben Cohn

The highest rate of success in tech startups is two people, not one, not three; and it’s people who have known each other for a lot of years, not people who have just met. Because when you know someone for years, you actually go into it knowing their faults and you don’t have unresolved expectations of them.” — Ben Stickland

With thanks to

Ben Cohn in a Co-Founder of TAXIBOX, the mobile self-storage solution that brings yellow cubes of joy to your front door. Ben did a lot of on-the-ground research to jumpstart his business. He explains his approach to making sure TAXIBOX customers always have a remarkable experience.

Ben Stickland is the Founder of Alliance Software and has spent a lot of time and money in the startup space. Ben says the first three years of business are like walking up a see-saw, then things start to level out and become a bit easier. He says he loves running experiments to see what’s going to work in his business.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

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

Question of the day

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

Foreword

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

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

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

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

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

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

Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.

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

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

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

Ensure that your cash position is not skinny

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

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

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

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

Have a plan for the worst-case scenario

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

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

Some questions to consider are:

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

Embrace remote teams and cloud-based technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transition completely to virtual and focus on profit vs. revenue

Keith Roberts. Founder, Author and Speaker at OAKJournal, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, President at Entrepreneur’s Organization, Founder and Creative Director at Zenman. Denver, Colorado.

There are two main things I would have focused on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On discipline, the questions I ask myself are:

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

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

The importance of time, and the importance of people

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

Call to action 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With thanks to

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

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

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

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

Subscribe to show

Show brought to you by

Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe.

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

Our media partners: Startup Victoria and Digital Marketers Australia.

Our content partners: Written & Recorded.

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

Question of the day

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