Continuing with our interview series on entrepreneurship, we reached out to two Kiwi entrepreneurs – Samantha Gadd and Tony Falkenstein – to get their perspectives on what makes for a successful business.
Samantha Gadd is the Founder and Managing Director of Humankind, an innovative and future-focused consulting business that provides expert employee experience and HR advice to organisations and government agencies across New Zealand. Humankind was named fastest growing services business in Wellington and the Lower North Island in the 2015 Deloitte Fast 50 awards, and was also placed 35th in the 2015 50 fastest growing businesses in the country.
1. What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
Back yourself, be ambitious and be prepared to work really hard to execute your idea – a great business doesn’t come easy!
2. Entrepreneurs often have to deal with setbacks or failures. How do you cope with this?
I remember that every moment will soon pass. Realising that a low will only last for a moment in time, and the same goes for a high, means I try to live in the moment but not get too overwhelmed as it is all part of the journey. Of course, this has got a lot easier as I gain more experience!
3. What are the top 3 challenges you’ve faced as a business owner, and how are you overcoming them?
- Finding and retaining top talent: I ‘eat my own dog food’ in this respect – focusing on my leadership and the experiences we are providing our team.
- My own ambition: I have worked so hard my whole career but particularly since starting Humankind and often at the sacrifice of other things like personal health and family. I am very focused on 2018 being the year when I can achieve a different blend (I don’t believe in balance!).
- So much to learn: Building a business means building skills in finance, brand, leadership, legal, relationships and the list goes on. I am learning every single day, which often means I have done something I wouldn’t do again – being okay with failure and moving on (failing fast) is part of the journey.
4. What is the best way for an aspiring entrepreneur to raise capital?
My experience has been to bootstrap – but there are so many avenues now so I would suggest to reach out to networks and do your research.
5. Do you think there’s a recipe for success in business, and if so, what is it?
Purpose, passion and hard work. I believe you have to be wired to make a difference, and this means something different to everyone.
6. Which industries do you think are the most ripe for disruption?
Professional services (which is where I play)!
7. Which entrepreneur, or entrepreneurs, do you admire the most?
I admire the entrepreneurs I meet every day; every person has a story and if they are more than a few years in has had to overcome significant challenges. To stick with your business and achieve growth is testament to strong character.
8. What sets a good business idea apart from a bad business idea?
Everyone has great ideas – execution is everything.
9. What do you think are the top 3 qualities of a good leader?
Ability to connect: Understand that one-size-fits-one and truly care about the individual.
Trust: I don’t believe people have to earn trust, I believe people want to do a good job and you have to provide them with the right tools and environment to succeed.
Vulnerability: Admitting you don’t have all the answers and are prepared to fail – providing a safe environment for people to learn and grow.
10. How do you attract and retain talent?
We are a purpose-driven organisation with a high trust workplace. Flexibility and autonomy are a large part of everyone’s role. We ensure our team have meaningful and challenging work and a great environment. We focus on leadership and the overall employee experience!
Tony Falkenstein is Director at Just Water International Limited, a business he founded in 1989 which was listed on the NZX in 2005. An entrepreneur who has started more than 50 businesses, he is passionate about Business Education being the key to economic prosperity. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Pure SEO.
1. What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
Think what the opposition is doing, and do you have a difference that will make it more beneficial for customers, and do you have the ability to spread your message? For IT entrepreneurs, recognise that software developers in India and Philippines are paid US$10,000 per annum, have fantastic networks in the USA and Government funding.
2. What are the top 3 challenges you’ve faced as a business owner, and how are you overcoming them?
- Cash flow is the biggest challenge initially – it will cost double the amount you think it will, so be prepared.
- Not everybody is as honest and trusting as you, so be prepared for disappointment with staff and suppliers.
- Accounting – get the best financial advice you can. It might be expensive but pays for itself.
3. What’s the best way for an aspiring entrepreneur to raise capital?
If the aspiring entrepreneur has an idea, he needs some money to prove it, so bootstrap; don’t think too big if you have no money behind you, or you will become a minor shareholder, and risk losing your business.
4. Do you think there’s a recipe for success in business, and if so, what is it?
Focus, passion and ability.
5. Which entrepreneur, or entrepreneurs, do you admire the most?
Steve Jobs and others who started global companies, but had the foresight to bring in experts to make them big.
6. What sets a good business idea apart from a bad business idea?
A good business distinguishes itself from its competition; a mediocre business does what everyone else is doing.
7. What do you think are the top 3 qualities of a good leader?
High EQ, good listener, ready to act quickly.