This week we celebrated our 6th birthday at the Sydney Writers’ Centre. It’s hard to believe that six years have flown by since I held my first ever course with six students in a small boardroom just around the corner from our current Centre. I’m thrilled to say that I’m still in touch with some of those students.
Back then, there was only one course – and I did everything. Answer the phones, organise the photocopying, teach the class, empty the bins! I was chief cook, receptionist, CEO and bottlewasher all rolled into one. But you can’t grow or succeed without a great team behind you and it’s been such a privilege to find and work with some amazing people over the past six years.
A lot has changed since then and we’ve grown much bigger than I expected, not just with our popular in-person courses, but we’ve moved into new areas like our online courses and international programs in Paris and Bali. We now have more than 30 amazing presenters teaching our courses, including some of Australia’s top journalists, authors, bloggers and business communication specialists. Believe me when I say that it’s such a dynamic place to work!
It was great to get all of our presenters in the same room for our 6th birthday lunch (I’ve included some pics). What a hive of creativity and talent!
I thought I’d share with you some answers to questions that I often ask business owners when I interview them.
1. What has been the highlight of the past six years?
Without a doubt, my highlights are when we get emails and phone calls from students who are so excited because they’ve just had their first article published, or they’ve scored a book contract or they are getting a promotion at work because their writing has improved. I’m thrilled that our Centre has been able to play a small part in that process. It shows that our courses work and that people get results. Not a week goes by without hearing from students with stories like this.
2. What has been the most challenging aspect of the last six years?
Getting everything done. The “to do” list NEVER ends. So the challenge is to prioritise and then find the most efficient way to complete what you have to do. It’s also a challenge to find the right suppliers. Sometimes you have to work with a few suppliers because you find the right fit. It can be time-consuming and costly but it’s worth it when you finally find the right person or organisation to work with. Then you can really move forward.
3. What’s the best advice you’ve received?
“Your network is your net worth.”
It so true. This is not just about “going to networking functions”, which I also think is important. It’s about building genuine friendships with people who:
(a) you admire and who inspire you
(b) you can learn from
(c) you can contribute and add value to
These may or may not be people who you do direct business with. I believe that the spirit of your network should be one of generosity. Give, give, give. I’ve always been a big believer that whatever you sow, you’ll reap back tenfold. And it’s proven to me every day by my amazing network.
I don’t care how skilled or talented you are. If you don’t have a supportive network, you will only go so far. It’s true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – and how you can help them.
4. What would you do differently if you had your time again?
I would have taken my “leaps of faith” earlier and quicker. In business, you sometimes have to take massive leaps of faith when you are trying to move to the next level. Perhaps you need to make a big investment, or you need to really stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, or take your business in a very different direction to what you had anticipated.
When I’ve taken leaps of faith, they have always worked out for the better. And, invariably, in hindsight, that giant leap ends up looking like a tiny step. I remember when we were going to sign a lease on our brand, spanking new harbourside premises. That was years ago and I thought it was such a big step. I was so concerned about whether I was doing the right thing. It was only one training room on the ground floor of our building, but it seemed like a such a huge commitment at the time. Now we occupy half the ground floor of our building and we’re still expanding.
So when it comes to making big decisions to move yourself forward, careful consideration is important, but so is taking quick action. Just leap!
5. How do you get everything done?
It’s funny. I get asked this question every week. I don’t have a secret formula. I do tend to be a night owl and my colleagues and friends have gotten used to getting emails from me during the wee hours. But I’ll admit that I’m trying to change that. I’ve realised that sleep is important.
Ultimately, it boils down to being as productive as possible in a short time. As a journalist, I’m used to deadlines. So when I need to “get stuff done”, I tend to set myself a deadline and give myself an incentive – that is, I reward myself if I achieve what need to by the deadline.
That reward might be going for a workout, heading out for coffee, buying a book, shopping online, getting a new frock – typically the reward is commensurate with the task or project. Works for me!