September 1st 2010
September 1st 2010 was a Wednesday. It was also the first day of my full time career as an entrepreneur. Full of enthusiasm and optimism I caught the bus into town and went to the Wellington Library. I remember feeling a sense of pride on the bus, hoping someone throughout the day would ask me what I do for a job. I was a business owner.
I made my way to the Wellington Library and sat down on the 2nd story looking out over Civic Square. It was the first day of Spring and a beautiful day, for Wellington standards. I opened up my green Dell laptop and created a word document. At the top I wrote the words "Business Plan".
I can't cover my whole journey in this short article. There are so many stories worth sharing, much of them involving people that have either helped along the way or shafted me big time. Each helping hand or shafting has developed me to become a better entrepreneur and stronger leader. In this article I'd like to describe three lessons I've learnt along the way.
The first and biggest lesson is Scalability. This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Brent Spicer from Collect Rewards first introduced the concept of scalability to me in 2013. I was trying to figure out a way to grow our implementation business and Spice kept explaining to me that a consulting business is not scalable unless you can automate with technology.
Despite this advice, I proceeded with my plan and joined a mentoring program in Auckland who encouraged me to grow the business with the franchise model I had developed. I sold them the idea without them looking deep into my business and recognising the lack of processes and strategy. I brought on 9 franchises and within 12 months I burnt through another $40,000 and all the franchises eventually folded.
Looking back on the experience I have really come to appreciate the scalability of a business. To make things clear, just because a business does not scale well does not mean it is a bad business. When run well it can provide great profits and lifestyle, but attempting to scale the wrong business, quickly, will result in disaster. This is something that took me three attempts to fully comprehend.
Seek Criticism, Not Praise
This experience leads very nicely into my second lesson I want to share. Seek criticism, not praise. A problem I always had until recently is I would always seek the advice I wanted to hear. Spice always gave me advice I didn't want to hear, so regretfully I didn't listen to him very often.
My Dad can certainly vouch for that. When I was 22, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing and when my Dad tried to slow me down I'd ignore or argue with him. I much preferred the $1.8m turnover forecast that I wrote up with my first mentor, so Dad's advice to slow down just got in the way of my "inevitable success".
Dad could see the train wreck up ahead but I was too drunk on optimism and confidence. I'm so grateful he and Mum were there to pick up the piece of the train smash while everyone else ran for the hills. Despite my know-it-all attitude, they borrowed $60,000 against their house to consolidate all my debt. Thanks Mum and Dad, and sorry for being a dick.
These days when I have an idea, I run it past a few select people and wait for it to be picked to bits. This is why I now have Mark Greer as my business mentor. He has the ability to ask the right questions with any idea I have to make sure everything I do is carefully planned out and documented. If I met Mark in my younger years, I sure I would have fired him on day one because I wouldn't have liked his advice. I'm so grateful I have him today and that I have leant to appreciate critical feedback rather than chasing praises from people.
Great Customer Service
My last lesson I want to share has made the biggest difference to my business and to my overall happiness and fulfillment in life. Great customer service. Last year I got obsessed with reading business books. In no particular order, here are my top 5 of all time:
Each of these books represent a different time in my life and each one has had a significant impact on my development as an entrepreneur. For example, Retire Young, Retire Rich I read when I was 16 and it changed my mindset on life completely. Of all these books, Delivering Happiness is my all time favourite and is the reason Link Solutions is now successful and I love getting up each day.
Tony Hesih taught me to not chase the money, but to focus on making your customers have a best experience possible when dealing with your company. Because of his influence I have learnt to be proud of my company and love my customers. Tony has taught me to focus on creating a company I'd love to work for and I believe I have done this. Keep an eye out for my next article on customer service and how it is the key to a successful business.
1st of September 2015
Today, on the 1 st of September 2015, life is good. I have created a company I am proud to work for and have a fantastic team that are as passionate about the dream as I am. We have a clear strategy to grow the consulting business at a sustainable rate, while investing in the development of subscription based cloud products to fulfil opportunities we see in the market.
I have also started a company with my brother and Dad called HypoPak, which is a product designed for treating hypoglycemia for diabetics. We have just landed a contract to supply Australia and New Zealand.
Tonight my girlfriend Katelyn and I are taking my Mum and Dad out for dinner to celebrate 5 years in business. I am looking forward to telling them I have finally cleared the loan against their house.
Here's to the next 5 years.