Our senior leaders were asked to reflect on that first year in business. Here’s what they have to say on the highs and lows of creating a startup.
What was the biggest personal challenge for you in the first year of operation?
Joe: I really underestimated how lonely it can be starting a new business and a new office. It has really made me appreciate every outstanding person that has joined us on the journey. It has resulted in forming a unique bond, friendships… a family. I spent a long time discovering my why before realising that it was never really about me, it was always about them. I feel humbled to be around them.
Marc: Moving the family from Singapore to a new country and making sure everyone settles into the Melbourne lifestyle and they’re happy. This combined with joining a new company, learning a new market and building a new business – it’s been challenging but rewarding!
Joe – I spent a long time discovering my why before realising that it was never really about me, it was always about the them.
Corin: Balancing the needs of the business i.e. growth, cash flow and new opportunities with employees’ needs is the biggest challenge. Focusing on bridging those areas and creating a sustainable business model. Trusting my instincts, having a confident voice and keeping it real.
Em: Holding my nerve and acting with grace! Learning how to establish a start-up and doing it in such a short time-frame has taken a lot of bravery and confidence. There have been some sleepless nights and moments where I have felt off-centre. So yes, holding my nerve by backing myself and the team and believing we can overcome any obstacle if we tackle it head-on and together.
Richard: It’s been a balancing act between what my head and heart want to achieve versus what my hands need to do in terms of rolling up my sleeves and getting out their talking to our connections.
Sim: Being patient – everything takes longer than you think. Learning to back myself – knowing you have a great idea but wondering if everybody else will think so too. Also cash! Cash is oxygen and you need to manage this carefully.
As a leader, what was the most surprising part of your first year?
Joe: I am happy to share that the journey has not been without moments of terror, sleepless nights, and anxiety. But the experience has shaped me and I am better for it. To say that it has not been an emotional rollercoaster would be disingenuous to what we have achieved in such a short time. The most rewarding part is what I feel most when I look around the office: Pride.
Marc: To be honest, there has not been a lot of surprises in the first year of business from an operational standpoint. However, I have been amazed by the quality of leaders we have managed to attract and the tight knit, high-performing culture that has been born. When a bunch of like-minded individuals come together whose values and purpose align, it results in something pretty special!
Corin: Building a successful team and transferring our (leaders ‘) passion and vision. Having the business believe in the vision and passion so as to make those possibilities a reality, that has been the most rewarding part of the first year.
Em: The most rewarding thing has been customers, talent & our investors believing our vision and purpose, backing us by giving us their business or coming to work for us. Seeing the plan executed in the first 12 months has been amazing whilst never taking our eye off what needs to be achieved next.
Richard: Literally on the first year anniversary; seeing just under 100 people in the business who were all aligning to our purpose – which has been the foundation of this business. Great minds have purpose; others just have wishes. So utilising the minds of these 100 people has significantly helped us shape the business through their insights and their opinions – proving the fact that great minds do not think alike.
Sim: Discovering the power of a purpose and values led business. It’s the future. Ignore it with peril!
When you were really under pressure, what got you through?
Joe: In the past 12 months I have really discovered that focusing on what I believe to be the right thing to do, which is normally the only thing that you can control, is what got me through. We have all made mistakes and will continue to, but I am very lucky to be surrounded by people that are supportive and have a huge level of loyalty to each other, and they are all the strength I need.
Marc: Whenever I am under pressure I take time out to reset myself both physically and mentally. I exercise regularly and like to practice mindfulness routines as often as I can. I also draw on strength from the people who are important to me; my family, friends, colleagues and peers. This helps me keep balanced and puts things into perspective.
Corin: I have been blessed with an amazing family, friends and work colleagues that have been my joy, my support, and my sanity. My children keep me grounded and they give me the strength to overcome every obstacle life places in my way.
Em: Always asking questions and for advice from my support network helps me get through. My husband’s unfaltering support, my children as a healthy distraction and my friends for the shoulder to lean on. Exercise has always been a key part of my life as I believe a healthy body supports a healthy mind. I can’t perform at my best if I don’t feel my best.
Richard: Alcohol. No seriously… jokes aside it’s quite the opposite. I am not someone who has ever enjoyed sport and/or fitness. But over the past 12 months I have discovered my “personal purpose” aligning with my “professional purpose” and the focus on my own health, fitness and mindfulness is happening naturally.
Sim: Three things. A -The leaders and fellow shareholders here, we’re a family. They’re an amazing group of highly talented people with serious sector experience; cool and calm and supportive. Together we can solve anything and we’ve got each other’s backs, 100%. B – the Advisory Board we have at FY have both sector and non-sector backgrounds are wholly available 24/7 and their insight is invaluable. C – There’s two key membership groups of like-minded CEO’s that I connect with every other month; the networking, professional development and mentoring opportunities they offer are extremely important to me.
If you could do something differently, what would it be and how would you do it?
Joe: It’s a great question, but we don’t get the chance to do something differently, do we? Once it’s done, it’s done. Experience is how we learn, and I have learned a lot this year. I believe we are in an inexorable journey forward, but no one has to journey alone. If someone needs support, give it, if you get something wrong, admit it, and remember that every experience adds to you.
Marc: There is a lot I would do differently if I had a second chance and I have learnt many valuable lessons however, I try not to look back as that is not the direction I am heading.
Corin: When I look back and reflect on the past 12 months there are many invaluable lessons to be learned. However preparing for the future and living in the present is how I like to work.
Em: I wouldn’t do anything differently as I know that life never runs in a straight line and I learn the most from challenging experiences. In my life I have chosen to surround myself with the best people because the most extraordinary things are achieved as a team not as an individual.
Richard: Hindsight is a wonderful and powerful thing. If I changed all the things that I have ever got wrong in my life (never mind the past 12 months) then I would never have learnt a thing – which in turn does not help me move forward. Whilst my mistakes over the past 12 months have varied in magnitude – each and every one of them has taught me something different and enabled me to “fail forward” – which in itself is the best form of learning. If you’re not failing, you’re not moving forward.
Sim: Nothing. Not a thing. I’d it all again tomorrow. It’s a practical MBA in business and life!
Join us on LinkedIn for more personal insight from these fine band of leaders.
Front: Emily Wilson, Managing Partner, SL. Simon Meyer, CEO.
Back: Richard Wynn, Managing Partner, SL. Corin Roberts, Managing Partner, SL. Joe Vize, Senior Partner, ML. Marc Richardson, Senior Partner, ML. (SL – Sydney Leaders. ML – Melbourne Leaders)