I didn’t really consider myself an ‘entrepreneur’ when I first opened my fairly niche rehab counselling private practice about 7 years ago. I didn’t even consider myself one when I conceived my second business almost 3 years ago. But apparently that’s what the cool kids are called now. Entrepreneurs.

But I don’t feel like a cool kid. In fact a lot of the time, I feel a bit like a lost puppy, struggling to keep my nose of the water in the swimming pool that I’ve somehow fallen into. But no, I’m going to give into the old ‘imposter syndrome’ analogy here…

You see, I’d dreamed of working for myself for many years, though wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to achieve this or how I was going to manage pivotal aspects of business like cash flow, IT, and marketing – none of which are key areas of strength for me (my family would argue that I suck at all three of these areas). But nonetheless, I knew that it would eventually happen.

I’d enjoyed a great career through my twenties, and had many experiences that I never thought I would have (cue the counselling of the guy who was on his way out of gaol for “you know, a bit of a brawl with my sister….I had a machete”). I just never thought that I would make the leap into my own venture until I was older and wiser. But my life had to change drastically when I became incredibly sick with a life-changing autoimmune disease, as the disease made it virtually impossible for me to continue doing what I was doing. And thank goodness it did – because it forced me to take action and kick-started my entrepreneurial streak.

Like many, I’m somebody that naturally feels more comfortable when I have mastered a skill than when I am learning it, but being your own boss means a LOT of learning. And believe me, the last seven years have been a HUGE learning curve. A huge effing learning curve. Every. Single. Day.

But the funny thing is, that no matter how much time or space in my mind that these questions and learning curves take up (today I learned a new IT trick….WITHOUT TEARS!). I have never questioned whether I want to continue down this path. In fact, in a strange and almost counter-intuitive way the struggles that I have faced have actually reinforced that this is MY path.

And in an even stranger phenomenon, those around me who love me and have had the ‘pleasure’ of hearing my complaints along the journey actually keep encouraging me to keep going. Even those who have been forced to listen me bang on about the evils of BAS. Or worse, my very dear and usually kind friend Sheela who famously said to me with a smirk on her face, “I don’t know how many more computer crises I can sit through with you, Lauren.”

So would I change a thing? HELL NO!

But I have some advice for you brave sisters who are looking at “doing it for themselves”.

Get comfortable with NOT being the expert

That’s right. Don’t expect to feel like the expert in MANY areas. Sure, you ARE an expert in your chosen field – that’s probably why you’re planning on going out on your own. But there are many areas that you will need to accept help in. And you’ll need to learn to get comfortable with …wait for it… asking for help in areas that you are not the expert! This can be confronting, but without a bit of insight and humility, you can’t succeed on your own. As John Donne once posed “no man is an island”. Well, neither is a woman, which brings me to recommendation two…

Find your tribe

Now I’m not usually one who goes in for the platitudes of modern ‘gurus’ but this one rings really true. Your support network should ideally include at least of the following: someone who loves you unconditionally; someone who challenges you to punch above your weight; someone who isn’t afraid to tell you when you need expert help (see recommendation one); and someone who can switch off when you repeat yourself….which you will.

Get OK with regularly redefining your goals

Getting a good understanding of the difference between immediate, short term and long term goals is essential. Simon Sinek talks about the importance of finding your ‘why’, which is generally the reason you decide to do the hard yards and tread the road less travelled and your long term goal, but it’s also really important to understand that your immediate and short term goals are likely to change, and you need to be malleable and resilient enough to change with them.

Get ready to shine baby

You’ve made the decision to go into business for yourself because you’re passionate. You need to get ready to shine and show yourself to the world! This one sounds simple enough, but the reality of shining means getting better at networking, being comfortable telling your story, and deciding whether you’re going to be the ‘face’ of your business. All of this can be confronting, and you need to be ready for it.

And the rest of it

Read the fine print. Get a hobby outside of your work. Stay true to yourself. Never feel pressured into saying ‘yes’. Remember that it’s ok to take on employment as well as unemployment. Even during those periods where you feel like a failure (and there will be those times) remember that YOU AREN’T – you are a woman brave enough to take on the business world… and you ARE an entrepreneur!


Lauren Maxwell is an expert in women’s career development and an active ‘mojo seeker’. Her dream is to empower women everywhere to live the life they want, and develop confidence in their career and themselves. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a writer, speaker, and a chronic over-thinker.


Nataša Bajić

Our interview begins, on this unusually warm September morning, with the bold clacking sound of a pair of black stilettos. We are about to meet Milica Dobrenov and Nataša Bajić, the co-founders of Four Dots, a multinational inbound marketing company, who walk into their office premises at 8 o’clock on the dot.

At the very first glance, they seem like an unlikely pair: one of them the epitome of sporty elegance, the other opting for a dress code straight from the pages of Vogue. Nevertheless, both have the same determined look in their eyes and a great big smile on their face, motivated to tackle a new workday. Without a moment to spare, we dive straight into the question and answer portion of our program.

You both look very fresh and awake, could you tell us your secret? Do you have an established pre-work morning routine?

Nataša: I have a one-year-old boy at home, who runs like a Swiss watch – he is up every morning at 6 a.m. sharp! He takes after me in that sense, as I, too, am an early riser. We never skip breakfast in our home, and since my husband somehow manages to get up even before I do, I have a meal waiting on the table. The three of us always get the chance to eat together in the morning and go through our schedules. The babysitting timetable, work, playtime – everything needs to run smoothly. I am happy to say that we function like a well-oiled machine.


Milica Dobrenov

Milica: As I always say to my son, the early bird catches the worm. My family also gets up pretty early, one of the reasons being that I love helping my son get ready for kindergarten. My husband and I have a rule, we never let him leave the house before he finishes his breakfast. Even though I love preparing one for him, for me, that first cup of coffee is what gets me going. I sip it slowly, while picking out my clothes, ironing and helping my son pack. I always drive him to kindergarten since it is on my way to work. There’s an amazing little bakery next door, which sells the most amazing bagels, so I make it a point to stop by. That way I arrive at the office a little before 8 and have my breakfast in the office while I go through my to-do list.

Was it challenging so far being a successful woman in the digital marketing industry?

Nataša: It’s interesting that you ask that. We haven’t really paid much attention to it, but when you come to think of it, it seems that a lot of new and emerging IT-related industries are in fact founded by men. Digital marketing is no different. Most influencers in our line of work are men, but we hope to see this change in the future.

Milica: …and we hope to be a big part of that change! Digital marketing is all about creativity and finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems – I don’t see why women wouldn’t be involved in the process. It’s no longer a man’s world out there, just look around – the CEOs of some of the most successful startups are women. And I think that I speak for both of us when I say that we love our job, and strive towards finding a good team of people who will be equally driven to contribute to our company’s stellar success.

Nataša: What we’re trying to say is that there aren’t any industry-specific challenges. It is something people encounter across all fields of business. We did have quite a few obstacles to overcome, but luckily, that’s all in the past. Our company has experienced a significant growth, so significant that we kept employing new teams of people at such short intervals that we were unable to predict the size of the office space we needed. As a result, we had to move a couple of times, which wasn’t an ideal situation, but the key is to stay calm and take it one day at a time. Every problem has a solution, you just have to be crafty enough to get there.

Was it difficult building such a successful startup in a country where digital marketing has not yet taken off?

Milica: Yes and no. On the plus side, it has enabled us to literally start our business from scratch. Also, there is one more fact many often forget to take into consideration – hard-working people!

Nataša: Definitely, I couldn’t be more proud of our team. But when it comes to attracting our first clients, we were focused on the the international market, as at the time, doing local SEO would have been quite risky and maybe we wouldn’t have had such a great success. For this reason, we decided to open offices around the world that would help us attract more international clients.

Milica: We are also doing our best to educate local companies on the importance of inbound marketing, hoping that in the future we can help more local businesses grow and achieve international success. That’s what we love about SEO – we’re able to help aspiring entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries. Serbia is still a developing country and is fairly unfamiliar with the concept of startups, but as we have already mentioned, we are hoping to see a change for the better.

We understand that your company is multinational – how do you cope with clients from different cultural backgrounds?

Milica: In business, the client comes first. That was our motto from the beginning and like in any other line of business, working with people has its challenges, but I would say that in our niche it’s definitely a bit more difficult to handle the variety of demands.

Nataša: I agree! We devise individual strategies for every new client, taking into consideration a number of things: the industry they operate in, the audience they are targeting, their country of origin and all of their specific requests.

Milica: Research is key. In order to achieve global success, it is important to acquire… Well, global knowledge. Familiarize yourself with different cultures, their customs, paying special attention to different markets and customer profiles. For example, a campaign that is hugely successful in the U.S. would not necessarily achieve the same level of success in Australia, or anywhere in Europe.

Nataša: Exactly, that’s why we always concentrate on accommodating our client’s individual needs. The fact is, we learn as we go and do our best to always be prepared for anything our clients throw our way. That is one of the secrets of our success we are happy to share.

Is it possible to find balance between your personal and professional life? When do you draw the line and say that you’ve done enough for the day and it is time to focus on your family?

Milica: That’s a tough one. When you are at the head of a startup, it can at times be quite hard to find the ideal work/personal life balance. However, going into this venture, I made the decision that no matter what – family comes first.

Nataša: I couldn’t agree more. We were really young when our careers began and we knew from the start what it takes to succeed, but at the same time I am not willing to sacrifice being a mother in the process. I knew I could do both and… well, I was right!

Milica: Luckily, we founded our company with two colleagues, Radomir Basta and Goran Bogunović, who have not only proven to be highly supportive of our plans for the future, but have always been fully dedicated to making all of our plans a reality. Hence the name Four Dots. Thanks to the strong relationships we have and a huge amount of understanding on all sides, we were able to take some time off when we had our boys, without having to worry whether our company will continue to thrive. You know, at the end of the day, it feels good to just get out of these heels and under the blanket, to spend an entire evening watching The Lion King for the 42nd time.

Any tips for women who are embarking on a startup journey? What were some of the major obstacles that you had to tackle?

Nataša: Don’t overthink it and don’t doubt yourself – just have faith in your idea and go for it. If you start all negative and think about all the possible obstacles, there’s never going to be “the right time”.

Milica: Trust us, there’s no right time! It’s only natural to be afraid of how it’s going to affect your family life, because, let’s face it, it is more difficult for women to incorporate a family into their career path than it is for men to do the same.

Nataša: Finances are always one of the most common challenges. But no matter how often we hear it raised as an excuse, people keep forgetting that success doesn’t happen overnight! You wouldn’t believe the size of the apartment we started our company in (both laugh). I believe it was smaller than the office we are in right now!

As 9 o’clock approaches, the offices are filled with the sound of clanking coffee mugs and subtle keyboard tapping – another successful day at Four Dots has begun.


Sarah.Green is a tech journalist and blogger covering the latest trends in the world of technology and business. Interested in startups, business innovation and entrepreneurial ideas, Sarah looks for the writing inspiration in the great work of tech industry professionals.

I hate that ‘elevator in the morning’ feeling. That feeling you have when you get in that lift ride going to work thinking, ‘here we are’. I hated that feeling when I was in a normal working environment and I knew that’s the thing I wanted to break away from as a culture and a business. I never want myself or anyone working for me to get that sinking feeling when they’re coming to work and I don’t think it breeds innovative thinking.


A self-confessed ‘multipotentialite’, Petrina’s role in her businesses highlights her diverse career background and passion for empathetic creativity. From a background in business development and marketing, Petrina Buckley applies her multi-skilled background to designing training and development courses through Magneto Communications and Credosity. Magneto Communications is a live online and classroom based business-writing organisation taking copyrighting psychology and applying it to business writing training. Credosity meets busy professionals’ demand for just in time learning through real-time analysis of your writing and tailored tips on structure, logic, audience engagement and persuasiveness.

Petrina gives us an overview of how she has built her successful career and the challenges and rewards of having your own business.

Tell us the Petrina story. How did you get to where you are today?

I think about this all the time. There’s a whole language around being an artist versus being an entrepreneur. I think those two worlds are very close to each other and my mind was centred more on being an artist but I’ve always had a big passion for business. I was unfortunately born into a house that didn’t understand what business was and there was no role models but it was something that I clearly had an interest in.

I found my way via art because that was the world I hung out in throughout my 20s with artists, filmmakers and people doing the unconventional. What emerged for me was that I liked to be more in control of the outcome so artistry became entrepreneurialism. After being in the art world you realise how much easier it is to operate in the business world. In the art and entrepreneurial world ambiguity is everywhere. You have theories, passions, interests and intent but the outcome has more ambiguity than you could ever imagine.

I started out in events marketing for nightclubs and that sort of space, which is hilarious given I am the biggest health junkie on earth. I don’t know how I ended up there but quickly went ‘that’s not for me’. I did learn in that space there’s a lot of hustlers. If you want to hang out with a lot of hustlers, go and hang out in the nightclubs space. This was in my early, early 20s. Just hanging around them I learnt a lot about business because I would have to work with the founder, as they’d open up new nightclubs or new hotels that were pretty big scale projects. You saw first hand what it was taking [to build] from the ground up so it was a good learning curve and I think that’s why I hung around because it was so fast paced.

As soon as you’re in hospitality you learn a very fast cadence of delivery on everything. Every night that restaurant is open breakfast, lunch and dinner and there’s events on all the time – there’s no stopping, it’s 24/7 every day of the year, it just keeps rolling and you learn to keep rolling no matter what. As much as I look back at it and go ‘cringe’ at the same time I can get the lessons were around delivery. You had to consistently crank out something new and stepping it up to the next level. It always had to be layer upon layer.

How did you and Paul get the idea to start Magneto Communications?

Magneto started about ten years ago [in] 2005. Paul [Jones] and I had known each other for years but came together when he had a client who booked a training course in three weeks time and Paul hadn’t built the IP yet to deliver the training course but he’d already got the cheque. Paul said ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t put it together’ and I said ‘I can put it together, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing- I know I can do this. I’ll help you build that first program’. Paul been working for the Australian Institute of Management so it’s not like he hadn’t done it before, he just hadn’t done it for himself though so he hadn’t built his own version.

I remember just lots of pieces of paper out on the unit floor just frantic all night really running up against time and we put it together in the three weeks. The client had already paid, the feedback was fantastic and we went ‘maybe we’ve got a business here’ and really that was it. That’s the exact way you should build a services business – sell first, build the marketing… the one-pager ‘here’s what you’re going to get on the day’ and then build the business. Paul was doing copyrighting at the time and I was doing all sorts of projects – a lot of values exploration workshops for Diabetes Australia and corporate clients so we both kept the day jobs and kept [building] up the business.

Paul also had another business at the time called the Last Thursday Club, a networking group in Sydney and that was just starting to take off as well so I came in and started shaping that into a business. So that’s usually what I do is I come in and create the order and the systems and I’m a bit of an all rounder. We took [the Last Thursday Club] up to the next level over two years. Then we sold it because Magneto had built up. We’d got some great corporate clients, the promise was there and we needed to focus. We got out of the events game but took that learning into our corporate training business.

The 7-year itch…

Fast-forward to 2013/2014…the business had grown and we had a really strong corporate client base. It was a year where we had definitely got the 7-year itch with the business. I think it’s a real thing in relationships and business. It usually comes at 7 or 10 years they say and I think we got it at 7. We went look ‘it’s renovate or detonate’. We knew we wanted to step up to the next level.

We had dabbled in e-learning and online learning and all of it was great but it wasn’t sticking, not just because the business wasn’t sticking but I believed more in just-in-time learning where you work alongside the habit that people already have. That’s how we ended up building Credosity for Microsoft Word because our clients were clearly enterprise and government. That’s who had the pain – managers inside those businesses having to review other peoples’ work or having to just be embarrassed by what was going out on behalf of the business. That’s why they [corporate clients] would come to us to get the training. It was about rethinking learning, identifying existing habits and creating a better learning experience for those existing habits when clients were back at their desks.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Being a non-technical founder in a technology company, it’s been a disadvantage and an advantage. The disadvantage is you are reliant on getting incredible people around you that know the technology and you can trust to make incredibly built to last decisions.

Enterprise software is tough,anyone will say that. Getting that right and developing it in a way that is built to last that can keep up in very rapidly changing landscape [is challenging]. It’s never been a better time to be building on Microsoft.

Rewind two years ago and people would say ‘Microsoft? There’s so many other cool options out there’. Now I think those people have very rapidly been proven wrong because Microsoft has an incredible pace to it now that was never there two and a half to three years ago. The disadvantage is making sure you understand the technology and you’re focused in the right way. I now know more about enterprise deployment than I ever thought.

The upside is I’m more people focused than technology focused; it’s a huge advantage because smart human software cannot be developed without the empathy piece, without the people piece. That’s what we found, a lot of the solutions out there we would look at them and go ‘that’s just developed by developers for developers and no human could look at this and make sense of it’. It was either too much or too technical and it didn’t have the type of design thinking I can appreciate. I was just seeing something that your average user in a corporate, the type of person we’re trying to help, would open it and go ‘this is not for me’. It was overwhelming and confusing.

We wanted to use the people side as being the advantage of having no idea about the tech. I now know things I never thought I would know or needed to know but apparently I know way more than I thought I could ever imagine about enterprise deployment. You want people to be using it so you have to work through all the roadblocks and build your own knowledge until you understand it so it was a huge learning curve.

And the Rewards…

Many many many! Financial reward is the one that people think ‘that’s going to be the reward’ and it will fix nothing. I’ve had some extreme first hand experience of that not fixing a thing for a friend who has got plenty of it. I can think of two guys who I’ve been particularly close with, one was someone I worked with and the other a close friend. I just got some up close and personal experience with the hell they were in thinking that was going to be the important one. I had the benefit of learning from their mistakes and I know not to pursue that. I shift that [focus] in my head and we’re always making investments so I want a healthy profitable business and I never want that to change because I think that’s what’s sustainable.

Beyond that what I think you get as the biggest reward has been the personal learning and the opportunity and freedom when you get an idea and you can actually implement that idea. You go ‘I actually think we should go do this’ and you don’t have to check that off with anybody else or I don’t have to write a board paper. There’s no red tape, there’s just go, and I love that freedom. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge that as much as I should and go ‘that’s pretty cool’. There’s no handbrake I hate handbrakes and I hate people who are handbrakes too, unless it’s sensible. I don’t like the emotional handbrake or the real world handbrake and I think that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you too. I go ‘we’ve got to step on the gas over here and even if I slam into the wall that’s okay, I’ll own it.’

How do you stay focused?

The biggest thing I ever did and this was a long time ago, probably 12 years ago, I got really clear about my values and articulated those. They’ve changed a few times as I’ve understood myself better. Working that out and actually knowing for you ‘these are my unshakable, don’t mess with me, don’t cross the line parts of my life’ will help make and shape your decisions.

My three fundamental values that I keep coming back to are health, family and business in that order. If things are wobbly, you have to come back to the moment and assess where your core values are at seeing if you’ve let anything ago and being able to turn that into action the next day. I’ll ask myself have I exercised this week? Are we having enough family time? Where are we at? What do we need to do?

And being clear that business is number three and keeping that in perspective. I’m borderline workaholic and I love to work.

What is the future for Magneto and Credosity?

That Magneto becomes the enterprise communication standard and we are a model that is best practice. When someone sits down to write something important or wants to evolve their communication skills, they turn to Credosity as a source of learning and trusted advisor to help them.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

  1. Don’t wait for permission.
  2. Follow and trust your instinct.
  3. Don’t worry about what everyone else says.
  4. Worry about what’s right for you, not what is right for the rest of the world.
  5. Hurry up!
  6. Know yourself; know that you’re worth it.
  7. Get going and don’t look back.

Thanks to Petrina for sharing her insights with Leaders in Heels!

Images via Petrina Buckley.

Nicola Smith

Nicola Smith is a research and policy analyst with experience in the property and technology industries. Nicola is eager to learn and thrives on intellectual challenge ensuring this translates into informative content for Leaders in Heels’ readers. Her goal- to create the informative career content that you’re grateful to receive from a mentor, colleague or friend.

As the founder of a social enterprise, I have found there still seems to be some confusion about what exactly a social enterprise is. Many individuals often confuse social enterprise with a non-profit organisation.

So what exactly is a social enterprise?

According to The Centre for Social Enterprise:

“A social enterprise is a revenue-generating business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders and owners.”

Contrary to popular belief, social enterprises are not a new phenomena. In fact, this type of business has been around for ages, but it’s only in recent times that it has acquired the name it is currently known by. Back in the day, social enterprises were known as ‘cooperatives’ in the UK or ‘philanthropic organisations’ in the United States .

Over the last decade, social enterprises have gained some traction in the marketplace, partly fuelled by the success of similar ventures. Here are a few reasons why Social Enterprises (SEs) are on the rise.

Baby boomers scarcity mentality

One of the main reasons why social enterprises are taking off is partly due to the scarcity mentality of the baby boomers during the 80’s. These individuals’ fear of not having enough created a deep desire within them to create wealth and hang on to it at all costs. Back then, corporates were only interested in profit and so the planet suffered, people suffered. That’s why many corporations have gone now or are experiencing great hardship. This has cleared the way for altruistic entrepreneurs with a drive to promote change in society. It’s not longer all about the money.

The need to connect

Humans have an innate need to connect with each other and this fact is becoming more evident with the continuous upsurge of social enterprises not just in Australia, but the rest of the world. Sociological studies have proven that social connection improves one’s psychological health and physical well being. In fact, one study showed that social connection strengthens the immune system and increases the chances of longevity by 50 per cent.

Is it then any wonder that more and more entrepreneurs are yielding to the call of connecting and helping humanity and society in general?

The massive impact

On a world wide scale, social enterprises employ up to six percent of the working population and contribute to GDP in the region of hundreds of billions. In Britain, SEs contribute more than £24 billion to the economy and employ approximately one million people. In the USA, these enterprises employ more than 10 million people and account for more that $500 billion in revenue.

According to a 2010 report published by Findings Australia Social Enterprises Sector (FASEs), there were approximately 20,000 social enterprises in Australia which employed approximately 56,000 people. There is, however, no doubt that the number has grown since that time and the economic impact has strengthened.

The multi-billionaire’s tip

There’s an old adage that says, “Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself if you give it way to others.” This year, multi-billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, dished out some advice to fellow entrepreneurs. Branson said that entrepreneurs should “not focus too much on money”. He added that only businesses with a purpose beyond profit will succeed. This one tip may have contributed to the increase of social enterprises and even renewed the zeal of entrepreneurs to do more to benefit society.

More successful than SMEs

Although making a profit is not the primary objective of social enterprises, there are staggering statistics to prove that starting a social enterprise is much more profitable than a Small or Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). A survey conducted in the UK showed that 38 per cent of social enterprises experienced an increase in turnover compared to 29 per cent of small and medium sized enterprises. This statistics give credence to Richard Branson’s statement that “only those businesses with a purpose beyond benefit will be successful.”

Businesses are getting back into the heart and soul

Famous children’s author, Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” More and more businesses are getting back to the basics of helping society and its people. This can be attributed to the increasing dissatisfaction with just making a profit. Social enterprises, like my own, all over the world are helping to create change that is leading to positive outcomes for the less fortunate among us. In addition, people appreciate generosity and businesses who are charitable earn a lot of respect and support from consumers.

With the massive impact of social enterprises, there seems to be no end to their continuous growth. And who would want to stifle such a movement that is generating good will and giving purpose to so many people? I, for one, will never stop trying to make a difference to those who need it most through my own businesses and hope to see the rise in SEs continue.

Do you know of other inspiring social enterprise – share them with us in the comments below!

Kathy Wong
Kathy-Wong-Leaders-in-Heels-MoelocoKathy Wong, founder of Soul Republic and Moeloco, has a burning passion to inspire a community of individuals, encourage them to hope, to live their dreams, to create change and take meaningful action in the world around them. After many years running her own highly successful design business, Kathy felt unfulfilled and knew that she needed to reassess her daily work and life.

Through her social enterprise, Moeloco, Kathy is not just inspiring others to make a difference in the world, she is facilitating it through her ‘buy one, give one’ business model. Every product sold by Moeloco directly benefits a child in need through the Hope Foundation. Visit www.moeloco.com for more details and inspiration.

Naysayers are inevitable.

When are you going to get a real job?

How are you going to make money doing that?

Are you completely mad?!

Hearing these kinds of comments when we already feel challenged can be particularly confronting and force us to question: Exactly what am I doing?!

Things that others say are all too easy to believe when they resonate with what we secretly think might be true.

I mean, how exactly am I going to make a living doing this?!

But don’t despair.

There are a couple of reasons why the naysayers in our life are an important driving force:

1. They give us an opportunity to re-affirm and re-commit to our purpose. Regularly.

It’s all too easy to fall into habit and routine, even when we’ve found our thing.

The drudgery of starting up (admin, operations, endless email) can plunge us into default mode where we’re just chasing our tail. These questions prompt fresh thought about what we’re doing and how to create the business part.

It might even empower us to jump out of business maintenance mode and into business development mode. (That’s the mode where momentum and expansion occur).

Next time someone questions the sustainability and profitability of your idea, use it as an opportunity to focus on the sustainability and profitability of your idea. Sit down and study/ meditate – it might stimulate some fresh thinking around an existing challenge.

2. They give us an opportunity to re-assess our community, decide who we want in it, and how we communicate with them.

A supportive and open-minded community is essential when starting something new. We all need people in our lives who are relatable, and if everyone in our community is still in the same job they’ve had for the last 5 years and think we’re insane for giving up the accoutrements of salaried life while we launch our idea, it’s going to be pretty tough going.

Friends and family love us. But if they are not 110% supportive of our choices and direction, they might not be the best people to share our experience with. Tell them the good stuff so they can focus on the progress you’re making, and save the challenges and request for advice/ feedback with a like-minded community of peers.

To start with, create a list of the 10 people you spend the most time with and tick them if they are 110% supportive of your choices and direction. If not, you can either spend less time with them {at least for the time being}, share only the good stuff or lovingly communicate your greatest WHY and ask for their support in lieu of a gagging order.

You can also spend more time with people who inspire you through their books, podcasts, blogs, webinars and live events. My go-to is an hour with John Demartini on my iPod. It never fails to lift me back up to where I should be.

You might also consider a coach or mentor who can keep you on track and accountable to the goals you set. These are the people who can help you turn your challenges into opportunities (not a reason to give up and go back to what you were doing before).

There are also a couple of reasons why they naysayers in your life can be a creative force:

3. It’s an encouraging prompt to throw ourself into the things that we love that fill us with a vision of the future.

When we do what we love we are happier, healthier, and free-er. And in this state we are more easily able to live in our vision of the future.

Anything to do with personal and professional development are life affirming and invigorating. I always have a professional course on the go (business or marketing stuff), as well as some more esoteric/ holistic stuff and some books that stimulate new ideas. Immersing yourself in study and progress in your passions will advance you in the direction you want to go and quiet the lizard brain that defaults to fear and sabotage.

When the naysayers chime in I fire up the laptop, watch the latest videos in the module I’m up to and very soon again feel passionate and excited about what I’m doing. Because it fills me up with a vision of the future.

This kind stuff gets us back on our path.

4. It’s also a chance to fully immerse ourself in our art; that thing we do.

That thing that you want to share with the world right now? Spend time immersed in the thinking, action or behaviours required to master it, evolve it, take it to the next level. It’s the core of a sustainable, profitable and impactful business.

Whether a product or service, the offer we create around your art is more game-changing and more revolutionary the more time we’ve spent honing, sculpting, and shaping it.

So get stuck in and spend time with that.

Naysayers are a blessing. The curse comes only if we let them side track us.

Featured Photo Credit: Vermin Inc via Compfight cc

Stephanie Holland - Leaders in Heels Guest writerStephanie Holland is a business strategist at StepanieHolland.co, delivering pre-business strategy for more ease, more vision and more likelihood of success. She’s on a mission to empower aspiring entrepreneurs with perspective shifts and strategic frameworks that slice through the bullshit, smash upper limits, and minimise guesswork. Grab a free copy of Plan F to get started generating ideas, impact and profit on your own terms.

Innovation is something all businesses want to do, and do better.

Whether it’s incremental advancements or fresh, disruptive innovation, all businesses are searching for the ideas that will help deliver great services and products to customers, and of course, greater returns over time.

In my experience, innovation in the business world works best when it is nurtured and embedded within a company and the way it works. This means that – whether you’re a leader or part of the team – you need to have the ability and freedom to experiment and create.

The benefits of making innovation part of your business are wide-ranging but a few of the most compelling are:

  1. Improved decision making processes with experimentation allowing choice of direction based on results, not theory
  2. Increased staff engagement by involving team members on all levels to trial key ideas
  3. Surprising insights which will come as a result of increasing market testing

We have a ‘start-up’ mentality and the tools we use are applicable across different business types and sectors.

So here are my top five tips for fostering a culture of experimentation and innovation in your business, no matter what size you are.

1. Embed innovation in the organisation

Take the time to define where experimentation fits within your company’s culture and work to incorporate this vision into every aspect of the business – embed it within your organisation.

2. Think like a newbie

It doesn’t matter how big you are or how long you’ve been in business, you can still think like a start-up. Challenge not just your team, but yourself, to generate new ideas and solutions related to a range of challenges, like sales strategy and product development.

At Intuit, we have 8000 employees, yet we put key product decisions in the hands of small teams. This allows us to be fast and nimble so that we can consistently generate new ideas – try using small groups and experiment with putting people from different functions together as part of the process.

3. Design for success

One innovation process which guides our work at Intuit we call Design for Delight. This philosophy involves truly understanding how a customer does their job to see how you can improve their experience.

Here you need to talk to and observe your customers and the way they work in the real world. Then try to uncover those insights that will help you exceed their expectations in the product or service you deliver.

Test your ideas with them and ask for feedback – you’ll soon find out works and what doesn’t, then you just need to adapt your approach until you nail it.

Some recent research we conducted with Australian small businesses has confirmed how effective our Design for Delight philosophy has been for ensuring our product delivers a great experience.

4. Experiment, measure & showcase success

I love experiments but to be sustainable as an everyday business practice, they can’t always be huge or to take weeks to develop. Using quick, easy to implement experiments is often a better use of resources because they allow you to test your ideas and get feedback (valuable data!) before investing huge amounts of time and energy on a project.

Here, making sure you get insights from experiments is crucial because it is this that will help you improve your service, product or experience next time. Your initial hypotheses may prove to be wrong – and this is a good thing. The trick is to savour the surprises and use that data to improve your offering.

5. Make everyone an entrepreneur!

Hierarchy shouldn’t determine who has the opportunity to pursue new discoveries or ideas. Decisions should be made by those with the most creative insights or those who are closest to the customers. You need to create- or rally for- opportunities for every employee to ask questions and have their ideas heard for experimentation.

So there you have it – five ideas on how to engage your employees, develop your offerings, delight your customers with innovations and grow your business.

Have other ideas on how to embed innovation within the workplace or daily life? Share them in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter @ngmaury and @QuickBooksAU.

Image via Flickr

Nicolette Maury - Intuit AustraliaNicolette Maury is managing director of Intuit Australia, the company behind the world’s number one cloud-based accounting software for small businesses, accountants and bookkeepers, QuickBooks Online. Responsible for leading Intuit’s rapidly expanding Australian presence, Nicolette heads a fast-growing team to deliver dynamic business management solutions and world class customer support. Nicolette brings more than 11 years’ experience in ICT to Intuit and prior to this role, she spent eight years at eBay in a number of key positions.In 2013 Nicolette won the AFR Boss Young Executive of the Year Award and in 2014, was recognised by the CPA as a Young Business Leader of the Year.