An entrepreneur's milking success

Have you ever wondered why so many people work so hard and honestly, without ever achieving anything in particular, and why others don’t seem to work, yet seem to get everything? They seem to have the “magic touch.” Thanks to the help of a mentor, I have practised the four things that all highly successful businesses and people do:

1. They’re very clear about what they want

2. They have an active (say effective) imagination

3. They have an extreme amount of passion

4. They set very clear goals, knowing exactly what steps will deliver on what they want

From my early teens, I dreamed of building a successful business from scratch that would stretch me in a field I was passionate about. While I was never very excited about formal education (although I survived almost two years at University,) I have found most of my real education has come from mentors and on-the-job-training, After working for a large company, and being mightily frustrated, I took a leap of faith and joined the self-employed. Today, I own my own company at the heart of an expanding industry that provides the key to consumer behaviour in all its complexity.

As a young girl, growing up on a small dairy farm in country Victoria, I experienced firsthand the harsh rigors of life. When I was out there in the mornings, early before dawn, to round up and milk the cows, I would think, “Why is it that we work so hard, and we’re still not rich?” I remember at the age of 10, when my dad was sick and I was busy milking the cows in the morning, thinking, “I’m not going to go to school, I need to run this farm.” Yet, at the same time, there was a young entrepreneur starting to develop inside me. I would think to myself, “What can I do to become successful?” I mean, I felt really sad that we were not rich, but it wasn’t always about the money. It was more so the question of why we were struggling if we were working so hard, and whether that was what I was going to do with my life.

We didn’t have holidays. We were working seven days a week, and every morning while milking the cows before school, I would stare out over the Pyrenees Mountains and imagine, “What’s behind those mountains? What is beyond those boundaries?”

Maybe some of you are thinking the same thing; “What is beyond our limitations. What is beyond our fears of stepping outside our comfort zone?” When I met my mentor, he told me the first thing I needed – imagination.

Some people call it vision for yourself or your company, but imagination is like seeing something that’s possible, something that’s out there. One of the best definitions I have found is, “If your vision doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.” A vision is something that will help you create the future, but if you can’t imagine it, you will never create it.

As the CEO of the company I created, I assume overall responsibility for the business’ performance, its success, and its growth strategy. I have developed, in my ‘2020 vision plan,’ – a five year growth plan for what the business will look like in 2020 – setting it on a path that will ensure it is recognized as Australia’s leading ‘customer engagement’ company. In pursuit of this goal, I have developed a culture of flat management so that we are operations-focused, with a real focus on client satisfaction. We offer tailored marketing solutions to businesses that demand a quick response. Our performance is assisted by my conscious rejection of a bureaucratic culture, an attribute frequently commented upon. We have an open plan office, and ‘my door is always open.’ Not having a door helps!

The second thing I learnt was you needed to be passionate about what you did. I discovered this at a time when I was working for a very large corporation, and I’d realized I absolutely loved the science of what we did. I loved the results that we were getting from people who were understanding the data, analyzing it, and ultimately, (for me, anyway) talking to me, saying something.

When asked ‘what I am great at,’ I seem to have an intuitive understanding of customer behaviour, as tracked through complex data drawn from a mass of transactions. We identify what and why people purchase, then group similar customers into segments and market to them in a personalized format. People ask about my passion and fascination with the subject; it goes back to my childhood. When I was growing up on the farm, I would round up the cows for milking. I noticed some cows always took the same path, while others were more ‘individualistic.’ That observation stayed with me. While human behaviour is far more complex, the fact is that on some issues, our behaviour is remarkably similar to that of my cows and the paths they chose. I call it ‘Moo-ology,’ the study of why cows and people behave the way they do, and the degree of similarity.

When it comes to passion, some people have passion about flowers, about different things; like Steve Irwin was about crocodiles - that’s what keeps people going; you have to absolutely have a passion. I mean, Steve Jobs had this passion for creating technology, and to be the front leader with Apple, and they did because it was their passion. When everything was against them, they kept going, and what happens with passion is it will rub off on people.

 People will get behind you, and start sharing in your passion, if you are really passionate in the way you communicate, the way you deliver, your work ethics, and the way you talk to people and explain certain things to them. Passion is something that’s internal, but the external factor is sometimes going to come up. Things are going to go wrong. If your start a business, or if you start running a business, it’s going to come up. But I became so passionate that I realized I absolutely love this industry and the science behind it, and that’s what drove me to step out of that comfort zone of working for another company, and realize “Man, I have got a vision, I have got this imagination to work for myself, and I believe it.” The one thing about passion is, you have to back yourself. If you feel like you can’t back yourself, your passion is not strong enough; that should be a big red flag for you.

So, what is your passion? You need to think about your passion. Is it the current industry that you are in? If not, that’s probably why you’re not so successful. Having passion is understanding and following your dream, so when it comes to the third thing I learnt that all these successful people and companies have – it’s clear defined goals. And I quickly learned about goal setting. “Well,” I told my mentor, “I can’t even think that big.” But I want to share with you this quote from Goethe that says, “The way you see yourself is the way that you are going to treat yourself, and the way you treat yourself is how you are going to be and who you’ll become.” I had to start to see myself as being the owner of this company. By setting up the goals, I was given direction towards my destination. As my mentor explained to me, “Have you ever noticed that a person who becomes successful tends to continue to become more successful? And, on the other hand, have you noticed how someone who’s a failure tends to continue to fail?”

The difference is goals. People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. It’s that simple. Failures, on the other hand, believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances, by things that happen to them by exterior forces.

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take – it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.

Now, let’s take another ship – just like the first – only let’s not a put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach – a derelict. It can’t go anywhere, because it no destination or guidance.

Now, if someone would’ve said to me, “Pat, you’re going to create a multimillion dollar company, 20 million dollars,” while I was working for that company, or while I was on the farm, or while I was on that boat, I wouldn’t have believed him. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible, I wouldn’t have thought that was me. And maybe some of you are sitting here today thinking, “We’re barely trying to get to 5000,000 dollars, or to 1 million dollars,” and of the challenges you are experiencing in your industry and your company, but I definitely want to tell you this: If you can have the imagination - by stretching, and opening up, and seeing beyond, and not being like a racehorse, just looking forward and looking at what needs to be done day in and day out, but really having the imagination – you will get inspired. And then you will have the passion from really backing yourself and saying “I want to do it,” and setting very clear goals.

Whether crucial to business success or not, I put great stock in one’s obligation to others, the wider community, and our country. Conscious of life’s fickleness, I also take seriously my personal development, both mental and physical. Reflecting on my farming childhood, I start my day with enthusiasm and clear goals, while all the juggling family, children, and day-to-day chores. Busy schedule or not, I can never forget my responsibilities, primarily to my husband and our six year old son, Billy, and then to my staff and clients.

I have always believed in the conventional wisdom that ‘a leader must lead by example.’ I am very mindful of how I behave, and what behaviour I tolerate. At every opportunity, I try to thread my ‘2020 Vision’ into conversations with staff so that they have a clear understanding of where we are going and how the work they do contributes to that vision being realized. Drawing on my own life experience, I also believe one of the best ways to manage is through mentoring on a regular basis. I like to discuss with staff their own personal and work goals, and help them stretch themselves. I work with staff to position them for success. I see my role as leader to be remaining clear-headed (and sometimes passionate) about where the company is going, and to effectively convey that understanding to my staff.

I think my values are those of an Australian country girl who has travelled a very long way in that proverbial journey through life, and emerged a better person for it. While trying not to be platitudinous, I firmly believe in the love of family and friends; abiding by the golden rule in one’s relations with others, with an ambition to make a positive difference to the world - through my work, my company, and my personal life. All of those qualities and aspirations involve, at one stage or another, a loyalty to one’s country and community. I believe I demonstrated that loyalty by being an honest person, committed to the obligation to assist individuals in need of help and understanding, and by being committed to the values of the wonderful, open society we are all a part of.

On reflection of my own journey, from a lonely farm girl with very little going for her but big ambitions to a solo entrepreneur who has finally proved to herself that if you are determined enough, almost anything is possible, I am inspired to share this message. I would like to spread it to schools and colleges and business groups and country associations; to children, to women’s groups, and to those who might feel they have been left behind, as I once did, and need some encouragement to at least ‘have a go.’

I have long believed that the individual who has a dream and wants it badly enough can overcome almost any man-made limitation. Currently, I am writing a book titled ‘The Fortunate Novice,’ directed to anyone who has a dream but lacks the confidence to grasp it, to work for it, to sweat for it, and to pursue it until it becomes a reality, an achievement of true distinction.

Written by Pat Dalton
Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker


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