What I did in a fit of new year delusion

VK Boxing - Fri 18 January 2013

Some of you know that around 1 January last year, I decided to write a book. That became Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business.

This year, for something completely different (and in a fit of new year delusion), I decided to wanted to train in kickboxing with a national champion. Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s safe to say that when you meet me for the first time, chances are that you won’t immediately think “cage fighting machine” or even “kickboxing demon”. Even I can’t quite explain the attraction to this activity. But possibly the names of my pets provide some hints to my penchant … Kitty Rocky secured his name because he came into my life the year Rocky Balboa (the sixth in the series) was released, and little doggie Rambo was named the year Rambo (fourth in the series) hit the big screens.

But kickboxing?
Perhaps the heatwave that was passing through the Yarra Valley around the new year touched my brain (in all the wrong ways) as I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me … But somehow I found myself placing a call with the aforementioned champ and, before I knew it, I was booked into a session with her (yes, her).

I’ve had several one-on-one sessions with the trainer now – set against a visually appropriate backdrop of a well-used fighting ring in a tin shed that sometimes feels like its 30 degrees – and the conversations have gone something like this: [...]

Finalist in Smarter Business Ideas Top Blogger competition

Smarter business ideas logo

This week, I received the news that I’m a finalist in the Smarter Business Ideas Top Blogger competition. Needless to say, I’m thrilled at being included as one of the top 25 small business bloggers in Australia.

I’ve been reading the blogs of some of the finalists for years – is it’s wonderful to be in such great company.

There are 2 categories:
1. People’s Choice (determined by votes) and
2. Overall Winner (as nominated by the magazine and online editors).

I just love blogging about small business and startup life. It’s an area I’ve been passionate about forever. I know this may be hard to believe – but it’s the truth. And I know that this may reveal unparalleled levels of geekdom but … I guess that’s just me! When I was little, my mother used to bring The Daily Mirror (a Sydney newspaper that was around at the time) home on the train. [...]

And my theme for 2013 is …

VK Post Power Stories Rambo

I’ve decided on my theme for 2013. And it can be summarised in one word: kaizen.

No I haven’t decided to learn a new language. I’m not about to move to a new country. In fact, I’m actually not going to do a lot that’s “new”.

This might sound a tad boring, considering that the new year is usually filled in new resolutions, new visions – and bold statements about achieving them.

I should know. That was what happened to be exactly one year ago. In the first week of 2012, I made big plans for the year ahead. I decided that it was time to:

* writing and publish a book
* expand my business nationally
* rebrand the entire company
* invest in a technology startup

The consequences of dreaming big
On the plus side, these goals were achieved. However, getting there took an effort of epic proportions. I’m talking the kind of effort that means: [...]

My life in a minute: It’s been a big year!

Life in a Minute Christmas

Well, 2012 has been a big year and it looks like next year will be even bigger. So what are the highlights?

SXSW: South by South West in Austin, Texas is always a mind trip and this year was no different. It’s five days of ideas, ideas and then some more ideas. If you want to go somewhere with great speakers, lots of food trucks, HEAPS of parties, and the opportunity to make connections with some amazing people, this is the place to be.

Let’s Talk Business seminar series: I love working with the City of Sydney on the Let’s Talk Business seminar series for entrepreneurs. The City of Sydney and the team from The Events Agency are a pleasure to deal with and I get the chance to help so many innovative entrepreneurs tell their stories to the crowd. I’m thrilled to say that I’m coming back next year for another round. See you there!

Inspired by: Our students at the Australian Writers’ Centre. They continue to kick goals, get book deals, and make huge strides in their writing goals. One of the biggest wins this year was Jessica Shirvington’s news that Steven Spielberg’s production company is turning her books into a TV series next year. When I get news like this, it’s makes all the hard work we put into the Centre and our students worthwhile.

But Jessica is just one of our success stories. Thank you to all our students in the community – you truly inspire me every day! [...]

The four biggest challenges in business

Four biggest challenges POST

This year has been one of highs, lows, challenges and triumphs. I’ve spoken to A LOT of business owners throughout the year and have heard stories ranging from heartbreak to victory. While some aspects of business never change, the world is evolving at a fast pace. That includes customer expectations, technology and so on. That inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

It’s that time of year again – the silly season. The time when everything cranks up because every man and their respective dogs need to have all their projects “done before Christmas”. Where your team is tired, hanging for the holidays and your customers freely tell you they’re not going to purchase right now because they’re waiting until your products go on sale in the new year.

‘Tis the season when you close your doors on Christmas Eve, brave the crowds for some last minute gift shopping, and head home to eat too much ham and turkey. Then you collapse for a short break and attempt to catch up on some much-needed sleep. You swear that you’re not going to work so hard next year and decide to use the break to get on top of your ever-growing “to do” list. And you commit to never letting your cash flow get to a state where you’re forced to cut your salary to the point where you are the lowest paid person in the business.

Sound familiar? Every year, I have the same conversations with small business owners. And I expect that these themes are still going to be prevalent this year. While many businesses have thrived in 2012, I’ve also been speaking to many business owners who have found the year nothing short of challenging.

What have been the biggest challenges I’ve seen this year and how can you overcome them?

3 business books that changed my life: Collis Ta’eed, co-founder and CEO of Envato

Collis Ta'eed POST

Establishing and successfully running a business takes a great deal of effort, and in the early years at least, doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for much else.

But Collis Ta’eed, co-founder (along with his wife Cyan) and CEO of Envato, which is one of the world’s most successful digital marketplaces and creative educational networks, firmly believes it’s important to devote some of that leftover time to learning from other entrepreneurs who have gone before you.

He credits reading these business books as being instrumental, at least in part, in his business success, and we’re delighted he’s chosen to share the three business books that changed his life with us.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink
As Envato has grown over the years from a couple of people working from home, to an office stacked with people, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand how people work. Before Envato I’d only ever worked in very small businesses. So learning about people stuff has been one of the biggest learning curves I’ve had as an entrepreneur.

I originally came across Dan Pink through an amazing TED talk (are there any other kind?) he had given in 2009. So when one of my team handed me a copy of Drive, my curiosity was already piqued.

Pink’s main thesis is that businesses should pay attention to, and encourage basic motivators for people to succeed at their jobs such as the need to achieve mastery over their roles, to have work that has purpose and to be given as much autonomy as possible. These ideas are intuitive in many ways, but contrary to a lot of conventional thinking.

The book has been very influential for me, particularly as we’ve worked to create a great work culture at Envato. [...]

Are you playing The Email Game?

Email Game POST

So I’ve been playing a little game with myself. It’s been going on for a while and I thought it was time I shared it with you.

It’s called The Email Game.

This isn’t a euphemism for anything. It’s an actual game. About email. That you play with yourself.

If you have an inbox of exploding proportions like mine, any help to slay it is most welcome. Until now, I’ve tried a range of strategies ranging from setting rules, only checking at certain times of day, being ruthless about deleting and so on.

But none of these have ever left me feeling anything less than overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails I receive.

I’ll admit, I don’t answer them all. That would be impossible.

Within those gazillion emails are legitimate queries that require legitimate responses. But trying to conquer them can sometimes feel like trying to climb Everest.

Until The Email Game came along. [...]

Big goals, big numbers, Bigcommerce

Enterprise 13 December 2012 POST

As you know, I love hearing about (and telling) stories about the challenges and triumphs faced by entrepreneurs. Whether you’re starting a business from your shed, or trying to conquer the universe with a team of 200 people, I find it fascinating to hear about these journeys. This week, I chatted to Eddie Machaalani and Mitch Harper, who first met in an internet chat room before launching their business Bigcommerce. They inspired this week’s post on Enterprise.

A chance meeting in an online chat room may lead to what Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper both hope will one day become a billion dollar company. The pair are co-founders and co-CEOs of Bigcommerce, an online platform that helps small businesses create online stores.

It was 2002 when Machaalani and Harper met in a chat room about computer programming. Ten years later they are business partners of an organisation that powers nearly 30,000 online stores and has processed more than $1.2 billion worth of sales in its first two-and-a-half years.

For Machaalani, 34 and Harper, 30, the chat room meeting was serendipitous. Discovering they had common interests and similar desires to be their own boss, the pair founded Interspire in 2003. It offered different products for small businesses to create an online presence. According to Machaalani, they were able to double their revenue every year. By 2009, they had 15 staff.

But this success came at a price. Both co-founders were working 14 to 15-hour days, often seven days a week. They achieved this growth not only through sheer hard work but also by bootstrapping the business. However, they knew they wanted to grow bigger. Much bigger. [...]

New name, new look – welcome to the Australian Writers’ Centre

Welcome to the Australian Writers' Centre POST VK

Changing your name is no easy task. But that’s exactly what we did this week. And let me tell you … it’s freaking exhausting.

In case you missed it, we changed our name to Australian Writers’ Centre. For the past seven years, we’ve been building the Sydney Writers’ Centre brand and business. Through lots of hard work and, yes, some sleepless nights, it’s a brand that has gained recognition, established a good reputation and become a favourite among many students who learn with us. So the decision to evolve our name hasn’t been easy.

Over the past couple of years I’ve wrestled with the idea of changing our name. Canvassing the possibility resulted in a range of responses:

“But you’ll lose your SEO.”
“Oh I like the word ‘Sydney’.”
“That’s a really bad idea.”
“Go for it!”
“Have you bought your new URL yet?”

For some time, I almost convinced myself that keeping the word “Sydney” could work. We could run the “Sydney Writers’ Centre” in Melbourne, right? Ummmm, no. Well, not without a great deal of difficulty and ensuing confusion anyway.

I knew in my heart that the name had to change. And once I made the decision to rebrand to the Australian Writers’ Centre, I just knew it was the the right thing to do. [...]

Naked ambition: baring all for small business

Work in the Nude Day POST

When my friend Robert Gerrish told me that he was going to work in the nude as a celebration of the freedom he has thanks to his life as a solopreneur, I thought … “Good Lord. Robert’s gone nuts.” Well, it turns out he won’t be the only one in the nuddy.Many other members of the Flying Solo community have also pledged to follow suit in their respective birthday suits. “Work in the Nude Day” inspired this week’s Enterprise post. [...]