BORN in Australia to migrant parents from Hong Kong and China, they instilled in me the principles of discipline and hard work from a young age.
I now look back fondly on the weekly piano, guitar, cello and saxophone lessons they had me undertake. I wasn't terribly talented - I could probably bust out chopsticks at a stretch - but it did teach me the importance of commitment and effort, values I have stayed true to, even if I haven't always followed the seemingly traditional path to success.
After completing my university degree, I embarked on a corporate career, which had me working with some international firms like Goldman Sachs and BHP Billiton and earning a decent six-figure salary. But by my early thirties I found myself asking, 'what's next?' and started playing with the idea of doing something completely new and starting a business.
In 2010, I co-founded Appscore and we were one of the first mobile-first digital agencies on the scene. Now in our sixth year we are working with the likes of Telstra, Mercedes Benz and NAB, with annual revenue of $15 million and offices in four countries. We hired five new full-time staff in November last year and have followed up with a string of further appointments since. We've engineered more than 300 apps for our clients and more than a million people are accessing our apps every day.
Success hasn't been without its challenges. For the first two years I didn't take a salary.
The Australian tech sector was, and still is, underdeveloped and lacking maturity. There is limited access to capital investment and talented professionals, which makes it difficult to stay and thrive.
We have still managed to make it work. Here are my key tips for business success.
ADAPT FOR ADVANTAGE
Being in business requires adaptability. You need to be quick to act otherwise your competitors will leapfrog ahead.
Timing is everything and it's important to have a strong understanding of the changing market, so that you know if and when it's time to change to a new business model. Change too soon, and you risk losing your existing customer base. Too late, and you risk losing them to your competitors.
This is something Appscore experienced late last year when we made the bold decision to partner with Telstra which is slowly transforming into a digital solutions company.
I say bold because we had always planned to partner with a larger organisation like Telstra and take on the enterprise market, but we had to be confident that the product was ready and the move wouldn't alienate our existing customer base.
We started cold calling Telstra at just the right time and the timing of the move was perfect. Telstra now relies on us to deliver services, like mobile apps, that aren't part of their core business. Demand from bigger clients is rising because often corporates don't have the agility to catch onto the demands of digital and mobile technology.
LOSE A LITTLE CONTROL
Surround yourself with people who are high achievers and people you can learn from. Learn to recognise your own areas of weakness and then find others to take on those roles.
As tempting as it is to control every aspect of your business, it is not viable for long-term growth. You need to step away so you can stop working in the business and start working on growing it.
Twelve months ago, I felt like I was taking on too much in terms of juggling new projects, liaising with clients and making sales. As a result, I witnessed our competitors moving ahead when they really shouldn't have been. I decided to hand over all project delivery to Appscore's technical director. Now I'm in a position to better oversee the business, and because I'm not so caught up in the day-to-day tasks, I'm better placed to make long-term strategic decisions.
DON'T GET CLOSE TO COMFORT
In business, the path to success is never straightforward, and there are no guarantees as to how well you will do.
As soon as you accept this, you'll be less inclined to throw in the towel when things don't go to plan.
Perhaps the best way to counter this is to be accountable to yourself. Only you are responsible for how hard you work and how much effort you put into your business.
I always say that if you are not the smartest person in the room, then make sure that you are the hardest working, because there is more than one path to success. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become, and you'll get better at dealing with unfamiliar situations.
Success is about grit, and rarely the product of one great idea or product anyway.
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