Lessons From Ten Years in Business – #1 Take Risks



What I Learned in Ten Years of Business

Hard to believe, but this is the tenth year of Aptus Personnel. Milestones make people reflective – and I’m no exception. I’ve been looking back over what I’ve learned on that ten year journey and I’ve decided to share it in a series of short videos.

There’s plenty that I wish I’d known back at the start. Who knows, maybe I had to go through the experience to really learn these lessons for myself? But listening to the experience of other business people is always valuable. Sometimes it can confirm what you believe. More often it gives you a different take on how to build a successful enterprise.

Some of the lessons have been learned the hard way. Good news for the rest of you, I’ve already made the mistakes so you don’t have to…

The Right People Around You


The most fundamental thing is to build your team in the right way. You don’t want copies of yourself. You do want people with complementary skills. When you start small you definitely need people who will share some of the ambition and desire to succeed, otherwise you’ll find yourself walking a lonely road.

I’ve also learned that if you’re not prepared to take risks, you might be better looking for a job than trying to start a business.

In March 2010, I arrived in Melbourne after a year in the UK. I decided to set up Aptus Personnel Australia. Getting started from scratch when nobody knows who the hell you are is tough. Business isn’t going to come to you. You have to get off your proverbial backside, get out there, get known, and be prepared to hustle. And sometimes you have to grasp opportunities without knowing exactly how you’re going to deliver.

Our first office was a room above a factory in Heidelberg. Far from glamorous but it did the job. Fast forward 9 years, Aptus’ home is on the 22nd floor of the HWT building on Southbank. It feels like the kind of business I set out to create. There’s no way we’d be here without taking a few risks.

Risk taking separates entrepreneurs from the average business owner. Taking risks is fundamental to being an exciting leader, scaling up a business and creating diversity in revenue streams. Since I was young I always dreamed and did what I wanted. My parents repeatedly said “he’ll go far as he won’t give up until he gets what he wants.”

As I got a bit older and wiser I learned to balance risk with reward to make better decisions. I’m not going to say the right decision – that would mean that we did something we couldn’t possibly have done better. There’s always a lesson to learn, but if you don’t take the risk you never get to learn it!

If the risk outweighs the reward , maybe take a different path. But you can’t know or predict everything. Sometimes you have to back your judgement and hold your nerve. Don’t wait for perfect information because it never arrives soon enough (if at all).

So lesson one from my journey is that you have to take risks to get anywhere.

In the coming videos I’m going to look at why the work environment is key, how to remain true to yourself and your values, as well as observations on how to achieve better empowerment and engagement. I’m also going to talk about why you must reward yourself as the owner, praise good work, and (this is a biggie) always know how and when you’re going to get paid.

What it all builds to is a picture of what I believe the purpose of leadership to be. That lesson was ten years in the making and I’d love to share it with you.