27 Seconds of Courage Plus 9 Other Lessons From Sydney Startups

fishburners' sydney office

Fishburners, Australia's largest startup space, houses over 150 businesses under one roof in Ultimo, Sydney.  Their Open Days bring together a roll call of the Fishburners' founding and current members to share stories and inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs.  

Here are my top 10 take-aways from the entrepreneurs at the Fishburners' Open Day to apply to your own life and side gig:

1. 27 Seconds of Courage

Sometimes all you need is 27 seconds of courage.  Listening to the entrepreneurs it was clear that they had created their own success by stringing together moments of sweaty-palmed, possibly humiliating and gutsy action, over a long period of time. It's a JFDI moment - they felt pure terror and did it anyway -  sent the email, spoke to someone who was out of their league, went to a Silicon Valley meeting pretending to be a cashed up VC or asked for help from the best.

2. Know Thy Self

When you are about to make a change in your life, take the time to answer these three questions:

3. Get Amazing at Communicating

Your results are the result of how you relate and communicate. It doesn't matter if you're pitching a business idea, writing a process, selling a product; you're responsible for the quality of the outcomes.  All the entrepreneurs described having to pitch, present and hustle in the course of growing their business. Practise had resulted in competence, in time competence brought about confidence.  A highlight was the brevity, clarity, simplicity of all the slides and presentations. Succinct and simple is always elegant. Target a reading and comprehension age of eight to ten years old.

4. Don't Be Intimidated

There will always be someone more expert, higher up, or further on down the road than you.  It's likely that the person you look to is following the tail lights of someone more expert, higher up, or further on down the road than them. You're uniquely awesome, you've something special inside you to share and contribute. You do you. Let them do them.  It costs you nothing to ask for help or advice from the best. They may just say yes. They can take 5-10 years off your learning curve.

The secret sauce at Fishburners' seems to be: find likeminded people and people doing what you are doing or want to do, then spend time in that environment, then learn from the best. 

5. Trust Their Dollars Not Their Words

As a product creator and marketer for over 20 years I can verify that folks will tell you what they think they want (or what they think they should say). It's their actions which tell you what they actually want.  Trust their actions, not their words.  The entrepreneurs were adamant, put your resources into what's selling. Even if it isn't your favourite product or service in the business, get over it. Reorientate quickly, follow the money, amplify your returns. If 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers the startups pivot 100% of their business to serve the 20%.  Time and energy are tangible, valuable resources to the entrepreneur. Persisting with a product or project that isn't growing the business today, even one you are emotionally invested, is costing you. Cull it. Morn it not.

6. Become a Productivity Geek

Entrepreneurs have processes. Begin to create a knowledge base, start writing processes today. Get a system for email, to do lists, calendar, banking the works and write a process for each. Improve your own productivity with a well defined system and processes for looking after your stuff. You don't need some fangled tool or app, just work with the tools and apps you already know. It's at this point the entrepreneur outsources well defined work and saves themselves time. Even ten minute tasks, for example checking a website or replying to invitations, are outsourced as quickly as the process and rules can be documented and taught to a Virtual Assistant. They are not just buying back time, they are buying back sanity - when things are in your head they are worrying you. Write a process, get it off your desk, get it out of your head. 

7. Build the Metrics and Reporting into the Workflow

What gets measured gets monitored. Craft your processes with metrics, checkpoints and reporting built in. If you delegate or outsource work and there's an epic failure don't get frustrated with them, you shouldn't have set it up so that they could go so far wrong. If a task is business critical or revenue generating be fastidious when documenting your process, plus add additional checklists, check ins and reporting to optimise workflow and reduce risk. Clear metrics let you know what success looks like, good reporting lets you know where you stand in relation to your goal, and points to the next right action.

8. Send an Email. Reach out.

The simple act of sending a speculative email had opened doors, facilitated meetings and created spontaneous business partnerships.  Fishburners' members have thrown out emails to CEOs, politicians, big names, celebrities and industry leaders out of hope, fatigue, audacity or desperation in to solve a problem or grow their business. Send an email, marvellous, miraculous things can happen. 

9. Persistence

The community of businesses within Fishburners' is dazzling and diverse; they run the gamut from construction to bedding, photography to hotel bookings, but one characteristic was evident in all.  Often with no money, no tech or no clear way forward - a way was forged through sheer persistence.  It was that they kept going when others had given up. The lesson, keep going and never, never, never give up. 

10. You are responsible for your future.  Take control of your life.

When is it going to be your time? You are responsible for every action you do. You are responsible for your future.  Only you can take control of your life, you can step up.   You can start your business today from your current circumstances and do one thing, something or anything to set your business in motion. Imperfect action beats a perfect plan with no action every time. An entrepreneur is a person who creates something out of nothing. However, you do have to be clear and certain about what you want, why you want it,  and what you are willing to sacrifice to help people and the universe co-create and shape a business just for you. 

Fishburners' is a not for profit co­-working space housing a passionate community of startups, based in Ultimo, Sydney. They also have offices in Brisbane and Shanghai.



The Fishburners' Open Day Presenters:


What actions or mindset has lead you to business success?

I would love to know what business ideas lessons and guidance has amplified your results or saved you time and money. Let me know @CreateAllThings so I can collate and credit your suggestions in a new post. Let's make it better together.

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