Advice that changed my life
Good advice that you just have to take… six entrepreneurs share the words of wisdom that helped them turn their ideas into thriving businesses.
“Find a mentor you connect with”
This is advice that’s worked for me during two decades of owning and running various ventures. I’m fortunate that my mentor is very close to home – he’s my dad. He’s a management accountant who had a tree change back in the ’80s, before it became fashionable. After years of working for an accounting firm at the big end of town he bought a caravan park at Bairnsdale and moved the family to country Victoria when I was eight years old. Dad’s a very smart businessman; I’ve always admired him for his hard work and his astute brain and the way he thinks through commercial issues. We’ve owned The Riversleigh together since 2015 and I’m still listening and learning.
Co-owner, The Riversleigh
“Don’t compromise your values”
During my first month in business, I began dealing with a gentleman who owned a commodity trading company and that was something he told me that really stuck. “What you do behind closed doors is what really matters” was the mantra he lived by. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what he meant but as my business grew, it made more and more sense. He was talking about making sound ethical choices in the way you manage your business and deal with customers. Fast forward seven years and I actually started a new company that I called Integrity Food Co, in large part as a result of that advice. It’s one of the best things anyone’s ever said to me. Behaving ethically is a long-term thing, it’s not a short game play, and sometimes doing things the right way is the hardest way. In manufacturing in particular, there are lots of ways you can potentially cut corners – but you can also fall on your sword if that’s the way you operate.
Founder, Protein Supplies Australia
“Keep going – persistence is key”
This advice has really stuck with me in the seven years since I launched MyDeal, mainly because it reminded me of a famous quote by Winston Churchill. He said success was the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm. This is incredibly true when it comes to start-ups and building a company from scratch. You can’t possibly predict all the issues that might arise, and your business model or product could end up being very different from what you imagined in the beginning. One of the biggest challenges I faced was having to self-fund MyDeal for the first five years because I couldn’t get venture capital backing. In the long run, it’s been a major positive because I learnt some valuable lessons about keeping overheads low and making the most of every dollar. It’s the ability to take setbacks in your stride and keep moving forward that makes the difference.
“You have one life. Go for it!”
This was the best advice for me when I was preparing to found a business back in 1999. My company, JTA International, began with the goal of delivering a rural health program in Papua New Guinea and within a decade it had grown into a social enterprise that administered aid projects all over the Asia Pacific region. Of course, I had fears – who doesn’t when they’re jumping head first into the unknown! – but if you don’t overcome them and take the risk, you’ll never know what could have been.
Dr Jane Thomason
CEO, Blockchain Quantum Impact
“Be passionate. And trust your gut”
This advice from a mentor I really respect has helped me stay motivated over the years. A lot of people are quick to tell you that you can’t do something, that it’s not the right time or that it’s too hard. Sure, it’s good to listen to advice and opinions but at the end of the day if you have real passion to succeed and you back yourself, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.
Co-founder Ambisie.com and Recommendr.com
“Know where you’re going, and stick to the plan”
Hands down, this is the best advice I’ve ever been given about going out on your own. When I started Mexia in 2008, I was very clear that I was founding a Microsoft-centric systems integration consultancy that, one day in the future, I would be able to sell. This meant that, from day one, I was focused on growing a business that someone else would want to buy.
Without this clarity of vision and approach, it’s very difficult to move forward, especially in the early days. I see other business owners who are confused about whether and how to scale up; they’re not sure whether to reinvest profits and double down on growth or take money out and pay off their mortgage. This is a key decision that you need to make relatively early in the life of your business because it influences who you hire, the customers you seek to work with, the partnerships you cultivate and what you become known for. It takes confidence to turn work down because it doesn’t fit with your strategy so unless you have a ‘north star’ to navigate by, there’s a danger you’ll wander around in the wilderness and the business won’t achieve its potential.
This article was originally published in Business View magazine, Issue 26.