Business Masterclass with Elena Gosse - video transcript

The following is a transcript of the video of Elena Gosse, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Innovative Systems speaking at the Lord Mayor's Business Forum on Wednesday 28 October 2015 forum at Morningside about thinking big in small business.

Elena Gosse: Good evening. My name is Elena Gosse. 21 years ago I immigrated to Australia from Russia. This was the start of my thinking big journey, both personally and professionally. Although I had a very successful entertainment industry career in Russia, after visiting Australia back in 1993, I knew that key to my success both personally and professionally lie here in Brisbane. The city and its people welcomed me and provided me with many opportunities and especially with the one like this tonight, the chance to speak with you tonight. Today I am the CEO of an amazing company, Australian Innovative Systems, or AIS.

AIS is a multi-award winning Australian owned leader in design, production and supply of residential and commercial chlorine generators and water disinfection technology. Our technology is very unique and is used for many applications in different industries, but our main focus is on leisure market. We export our technology to more than 55 countries worldwide and our systems protect people from water borne disease in home swimming pools, aquatic facilities, hotel resorts, public swimming pools and gigantic water parks.

My business started with three people and now we employ more than 50 and enjoy multimillion dollar turnover. I wouldn't reach this level of success by thinking small. Tonight I am going to share a few tips on what I've learnt about thinking big in small business. I am going to start by sharing with you [unclear 02.09] words from writer Carlos Castaneda from his books which record Castaneda's account of studying under Don Juan, an Indian Sharman.

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that warrior takes everything as a challenge and an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse. You must push yourself beyond the limit all the time. The only possible course that a warrior has to act consistently without reservations. You know enough about - of the warriors' way to act accordingly. But your old habits and routines stand in your way. I assume each of you here is a warrior as most of you have chosen the path of being a small business owner.

I am [unclear] warrior and a fearless one, but I wasn't always like that. As a successful business owner, I'm often asked, what do the owners of the extraordinary businesses know that the rest of us don't? Well, I don't know what the others know, but I can tell you what I know. The moment you choose to start a small business, you choose to play a much bigger game than any game you have played before. From my experience the people who are exceptionally good in business, aren't good because of what they know. We can always learn from [unclear] people who can do things we don't know.

The people who are successfully successful in business are good, because they want to learn and because they want to know more. They are dreaming big. They act big. They are greedy for personal development and learning. They are avoid dream stealers. Businesses start and finish in Australia at a frightening rate. Every year over one million people start a business of some sort. But the end of their first year, at least 25 per cent of those businesses have closed. Within five years, more than 50 per cent have failed and for those who manage to survive five years, more will fall in the second five years.

Why? To help understand why and how to avoid fiasco, I would like to refer to one of the greatest book I've ever read about small businesses, it's called The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What To Do About It by Michael Gerber. I recommend this book to all the small businesses owners I mentor. In a really easy way, this book it helps to explain the difference between working on your business and working in the business. It helped to understand why it is important to dream big and step outside of your comfort zone.

The author divides all small business owners into three groups. The entrepreneur, the manager and the technician. Everybody who goes into the small business is actually a combination of all of these people and this is where the problem starts. It is a constant battle between the three personalities for balance and success. The entrepreneurial personality turns challenges into opportunities. The entrepreneur is the creative visionary in us, the dreamer. It creates possibilities, our probabilities, it lives in the future. It readily lives in the present and never lives in the past.

The manager is practical. Without the manager, there wouldn't be no order, no planning, no productivity. While the entrepreneur craves for the vision of the future, the manager craves order. The manager builds a house and lives in it forever. The entrepreneur is already planning the next one. The manager likes to live in the past. The technician is a doer. The technician isn't interested in ideas, it is interested of how to do it. The technician believe that if you want something to be done, it's better to do it yourself and while the entrepreneur lives in the future, and the manager lives in the past, the technician lives at the present.

You probably recognise which personality is most dominant in your own business. Unfortunately the typical small business owner is 10 per cent entrepreneur, 20 per cent manager and 70 per cent of technician. Can you see the problem here? These people are working in the business, not on the business. They are not dreaming or thinking big or planning for success, because they are too busy working in the business. Businesses like people are supposed to grow. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a technician, but there is something really wrong about a technician turned business owner, because your focus is upside down.

If you are a technician you have a job, not a business. While you're doing your job, the work you are not doing, the entrepreneurial thinking is not being done and your business is not going forward. Your business model is not the business that works, but it's just another work. You need to step outside of your comfort zone, let your inner technician have a break and bring the manager and entrepreneur to the table. You have to have a plan, a vision and once you have a vision it is important to avoid dream takers. They are everywhere.

So beware, and who are the dream takers? They are the people who constantly telling us, so we cannot do things and we should be careful not to fail. It doesn’t mean that you should hide yourself away or that you shouldn't share your dreams, sharing dreams is an important part of making them real. It just means that you have to care about your dreams and try to find dream builders, positive, successful people to surround yourself with, to employ, to learn from. This includes employment nurturing your staff who believe in your vision, outsourcing or finding experts to do things that you cannot or don't want to do. Especially the things that might be keeping you in the technician mode.

At AIS our success is built on the fact that we are company that focusses on innovation. When we had three staff our thinking was entrepreneurial. With 50 plus staff, it still is. We have many awards for innovation, in fact earlier this year we won the BRW Award for the most innovative culture. As a small business owner and CEO, my primary focus is on dreaming, on thinking big, on innovating. I'm not actually making chlorine generators, I am in the technician mode. I am an entrepreneur. I am dreaming of the ways of better, faster, greener ways of water disinfection and bringing everybody, my staff, my community, government leaders, our suppliers and other stakeholders along for the ride.

I speak at major events, conferences and meetings, educating people about my vision for the future, where everyone can swim in clean bacteria free water and where [unclear] and dangerous chemical transport, storage and handling is a thing of the past. I even had an opportunity to speak about this topic at the 2015 Asia Pacific [Cities Summit] and Mayor's conference here in Brisbane. It's another story what sort of business we pick up from this summit [laughs]. You see as an entrepreneur I am focussed on the future. I am dreaming of the ways our industry operates. I believe in collaboration not in competition.

AIS is partnering with organisations such as Swim Australia and other industry professionals in realising our vision, our big dream, that is to educate, to protect public health and to give people choices about - when it comes to water disinfection. We are not only thinking big, we are acting big and working to achieve our vision every day. I network like a woman possessed. I share my vision for my business with everyone. I empower, encourage and motivate my staff to be innovative thinkers. I am always looking for ways to grow, learn and give back to the community.

I take creative turns and do things that align to my personal belief system as well as my company values. For instance, in April 2016, I will swap the boardroom for the City Hall dancefloor to compete in Dancing CEOs event, to support vital work of Women's Legal Service in delivering free legal and welfare assistance to Queensland women and their children affected by domestic violence. I chose this event as it is an innovative way of raising funds and the organisers are thinking big, trying to educate domestic violence.

I say yes to things like being a board member of Access Community Services, the organisation that helps migrants and refugees to settle and gain employment and training in our community. I am part of the Queensland Government Red Tape Advisory Council, helping to provide ideas to cut red tape, so we can all get on with the business of actually doing business and that is all part of surrounding myself and my company with dream builders. People that can support my entrepreneurial vision. The real secret to being successful in small business is not about being small, it is about thinking big and that is the absolute joy, simplicity and beauty of it. Thank you.

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08 June 2018