As part of a new online interview series we’ve created for the Fairfax TV network, I’ve had the very good fortune to be interviewing some of Australia’s hottest, most successful online entrepreneurs.
Some of those entrepreneurs include
- Naomi Simson – Founder, Red Balloon.com
- Matt Barrie – Founder and CEO, Freelancer.com.
- Simon Griffiths – founder of ‘Who Gives A Crap’ and Shebeen, Australia’s first not-for-profit bar
- Chris Adams – Ex-Facebook, Amazon, co-producer of films An Inconvenient Truth, Syriana and more
- Dave Slutzkin – Co-director 99 Designs, one of the world’s leading outsourcing companies for logo and graphic design
- …to name just a few.
To sit and hear these entrepreneurs speak at length about their success (and failures) was akin to being subjected to a crash course in entrepreneurialism at the “University of Life”.
I counted up the number of cumulative years of business experience my guests possessed, and conservatively speaking, I was the lucky recipient of over 200 years of business wisdom condensed into just a couple of days. You can’t experience that intensity of knowledge without walking away learning a thing or two about online business and life in general.
So here’s a condensed version of what they said: (these are not direct quotes but an amalgamation of the common themes):
1. “I wouldn’t have had a sense of so much urgency. I felt I rushed everything in the beginning as if everything had to be done yesterday. But looking back, I would have taken it a bit easier and trusted that it would all get done.”
2. “Avoid being sued. At all costs. If you make a mistake, say ‘sorry,’ quickly and repeatedly. Even if you’re not sorry, just say it and make the situation disappear. Litigation is costly and stressful and you should avoid it at all costs. Even if you have to swallow your pride and say sorry for something you didn’t do and/or don’t regret, do it. I lost my house because I was too proud to say sorry”.
3. “Get up to speed with search engine optimisation (SEO) so that you can get your site ranked. This will define the businesses that succeed and the ones that get left behind. If your site is not on page one of Google, you can forget it.”
4. “Don’t be secretive with your business ideas. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues what you’re doing, what you’re planning, and how the product or service will work. Sharing your ideas not only helps you clarify what you’re doing, but it also provides an indication of whether other people think it’s a good idea or not.”
5. “The fear that ‘someone will steal my idea’ is long gone. It takes so much effort, time, money and enthusiasm to launch an online business idea that the likelihood of someone else running off and doing it just because they heard you talk about it is remote.”
6. “Get started. Don’t worry about big, fancy, expensive websites, logos, whiz-bang shopping carts etc. Just get something up and running so that you can start to get some feedback on what you’re doing. That’s not to say don’t put your heart and soul into it from the outset, but don’t procrastinate launching your business by getting hung up on minor details. Getting out to the marketplace will teach you more than any number of tweaks to your logo or business name will.”
7. “If a serious investor wants to talk to you about investing in your business, get on a plane and go!”
Having been privy to the stories of how so many exceptional business owners got started and how they kept going in the face of hardship, stress, debt, litigation and other slings and arrows, the one trait they all shared was this: ‘fearlessness’. I don’t know if you can learn to develop that trait but the first online entrepreneur who can find a way to bottle that will have the world on their doorstep.