When Naomi Simson dishes out advice for would-be entrepreneurs, it pays to listen.
The founder and creator of experience gift retailer RedBalloon has more business awards than we can list, and more than one million devotees on LinkedIn who hang on every word.
Her profile, of course, is even higher these days thanks to her star-turn as the indomitable panellist who helps decide the fate of wide-eyed business hopefuls on Ten’s hit series Shark Tank.
But now you don’t need to go under the glare of TV lights to benefit from Naomi’s guidance with the release of her latest book, Ready To Soar: Turn Your Brilliant Ideas Into A Business You Love.
The Carousel sat down with mother-of-two Naomi to find out what drives her – and how you too can benefit from her sought-after mentoring skills.
Everyone starts with a dream. What was your lightbulb moment?
My first light bulb moment came with the realisation that I couldn’t stay in corporate life and have a flexible role. I wanted to make a contribution and being a nine-to-fiver wasn’t working. The need for this meant I started looking for alternatives. There was a lot of excitement about the dot com world back then but this was prior to the 2001 dot com crash. I had worked for IBM and Apple. The great thing is I wasn’t scared of technology. There’s a difference between being a techie and a marketer. I was curious and interested and not scared of technology. A lot of what I talk about in my book is giving up fear. Fear stops us.
Take responsibility. Don’t blame circumstances or other people. Ask what was missing. It’s a very liberating way to work. Your future is created by you. Janine Allis (Boost Juice founder and fellow Shark Tank star) is very strong on this. Her rule number one is ‘take responsibility’.
How do you get on with all the other people on Network Ten’s Shark Tank?
We all get on really well. We are like siblings and squabble over our toys like children.
Tell us your personal highlights on Shark Tank
I feel really humbled when people come and share their dreams with you. It’s a real privilege. They bare their soles and share their innovations. I’m really looking forward to the next season.
What are the qualities you need to make the step to become an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. There is a difference between entrepreneurship and being a small business owner. It’s important to choose yourself and play your own strengths and appetite for risk and success.
I want people to be comfortable and stop comparing themselves to everyone else.
How can women feel more confidant about starting up their own business?
There are as many women as men who register businesses in Australia. So I’m more curious about why more women don’t run large businesses. I think it’s about control. Once they get to a certain size they can’t control everything. It takes just as much energy to run a big business as a small one.
What insights will people get from reading your new book Ready To Soar?
A lot of people have ideas to start a business but don’t know what to do with it. I don’t talk about how to write a business plan; there is plenty of information out there about that. I focus on the head space people don’t talk about. Have you got the resources, the capacity and what do you want your future to be? Do you own your business or does it own you? How can you make it a business you love?
Tell us about what it takes to being a good mentor
People ask me all the time to be a mentor. I’d be a crap mentor so I wrote it all down so everything is in this book. Great mentors ask great questions. I don’t have all the answers; there is no magic wand or quick fix.
Sometimes I’ve got gold from people who don’t realise they are giving it. That’s why it’s important to be an intent listener.
Who are your mentors or people who have inspired you?
My mother was a great inspiration to me, as was my father who supported her from home.
What are your op tips for balancing work and personal life
I believe the work-life balance is a crock. It’s a label. All of us are given 24 hours a day. It’s up to us how we choose to make the day.
I do yoga every day. I must look after myself or I can’t drag people with me. Anne Sherry (CEO of Carnival Australia) once said to me that if we achieve a lot then it’s our job to drag other people with us. And, I feel very privileged that I have at my finger tips the ability to encourage innovation.
What have been the business mistakes that cost you dearly but you turned into a positive?
There are so many when you start a business because it’s not linear. Being a realist is very important. It might have been an expensive lesson but get a lesson from it. You might be gutted but think what could have done differently. A level of self-reflection and accountability is required. Maybe you didn’t do enough research? Once we did a direct mail campaign at Union Post and no one took it up. It was driven by the wrong regions. Now we test and target first.
I’m quite open about about making mistakes. I also have black days and dark days but still pick myself up. I don’t take things personally. People will always have a crack at you. I had no idea I laughed too loud. I found that out when I appeared on Shark Tank.
I’m far from perfect and I’m completely comfortable with that. We can overthink things to the point we can’t move. Once you give up perfect, it’s fine.
There are some fabulous fun facts in your new book. What is your favourite fun fact?
We are a nation of innovators. Even before white man came here. And it’s a point I make in the first chapter. Take the boomerang. This thing flies. Then it comes back to you.
The most delightful thing is we have always been a nation of innovators. We just didn’t put a label on it. Even Australians who are not born here come here to prosper and so they innovate. It’s what unites us.
Naomi Simson’s book Ready To Soar Turn Your Brilliant Idea Into A Business You Love is published by Harlequin, RRP $29.99 and will be released in May.
For more inspiration from entrepreneur Naomi Simson, check out her website www.naomisimson.com