Zion is co-founder of Alyka (alyka.com.au) – Western Australia’s largest in-house digital marketing agency.
Zion started the business from his home and grew it 854% over a 5 year period.
Alyka is now a multimillion dollar business with 42 in-house staff, 2 offices worldwide and has been recognised as a 3 time AFR Fast 100 Starter and Telstra business winner. Zion is also a Western Australia 40 under 40 winner.
Zion loves 3 things – business, marketing and technology; And he even has his own podcast (AskAlyka) which talks about these 3 loves.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
I’ve written a book that can answer pretty much all your questions “So You Want to Start a Business” and you can download the first 20 pages at www.thestartupsteps.com
15 years of experience working with start up businesses are condensed into this book.
It’s your step by step guide to launch your business smarter and faster and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you and can’t wait to hear about your progress.
Are you ready to grab your excerpt? Click here www.thestartupsteps.com
Now here is the transcript of the podcast.
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Zion Ong. Hello, good afternoon, good morning Zion.
Zion: Ingrid, how’re you going? Thank for having me.
Ingrid: Great. Welcome and thanks so much for your time today.
So let’s start with, what is your business? What is the business that you are in?
Zion: Cool. So I have a digital marketing agency. So we help businesses get leads, we help build businesses online brands and I’ve had this for about 10 years now, and I started it from my bedroom and built it all the way up to having now 42 staff and yeah, absolutely love what we do.
Ingrid: That’s fantastic. So 10 years ago, cause my next question is when. So why did you start this business? Ten years ago, what drove you to make a start?
Zion: So I’ve always wanted to do business, even as a kid, and I remember one day, like I did business in university but you know personally I didn’t really learn a lot from it. It wasn’t really much hands on learning, I wasn’t really good academically, I hated looking at textbooks, and so what I did was I got into a grad programme at the bank and I did corporate banking for a couple of years. It was a good career path but I absolutely hated it. And I remember one day sitting at my office cubicle desk and I think I was like 22, 23 at the time, and I remember looking at one of my managers and he just looked really depressed, like he looked really sad. And he was talking to a client on the phone and he was actually yawning at the same time. He didn’t look very impressed with the conversation and I remember looking at him thinking, that is totally not inspiring and I don’t want to be 45 years old and in that position. That’s not going to be me in 20 years.
And so, at that point I thought, yep I’ve got to do my own thing. I don’t know what, whether it’s selling rubbish bins or selling pens or digital marketing, don’t know what it is but I’m going to start my own business. So, at that point I thought, I’ve got to do it, and then I was on a plane with my brother and he said, why don’t you get into web design and online marketing, it seems to be a trendy kind of field. And I thought, you know what, I think it’s going to really take off in the next decade, so yeah. I knew nothing about coding, knew nothing about websites, knew nothing about online marketing really, and I just taught myself and hustled and started my own business.
Ingrid: Fantastic. So the why, the what there have kind of wrapped up together. So what you wanted from the business it sounds like the kind of freedom to do what you wanted to do and something interesting.
Zion: Yeah like I do think I’m a creative person and I think every entrepreneur or every business person has an element of creativity. And so, you know and I’m not trying to be pretentious when I say that, but you know I just felt really restricted working for someone else and look some people love it, right? But for me, I didn’t. I didn’t love it at all. And also working in a bank, like banks can be very compliance heavy, very restrictive, very tick-a-box. Wasn’t my personality, wasn’t my character. I do think I’m very creative by nature and I wanted to do my own thing, so you know, that was a big drive. Just wanting to be able to be creative.
I remember I was in the bank one day and, this is quite an interesting story, and I thought, oh there’s got to be a better way to do this spreadsheet. There was like this spreadsheet template which helped you to calculate some figures. And I remember thinking, man like this is such a clunky spreadsheet, so whoever created it like I wish I could just change it, improve it and then let everyone else benefit from that. And so I spent a couple of hours, you know creating my own spreadsheet and it worked a lot better right. And then I remember submitting it to the manager at the time and he’s like, oh yeah it’s really good, it’s a lot better but I need to get approval with my manager. So then it went up a level and then that manager said, oh I need to get approval from another manager. It went up, and then two months later I went, what’s going on with this? Can we just implement it so it’s easier for everyone, including me? And then they said, oh now we’ve got to bring it back to like the whole department and do a survey and see if they like it.
And at that point I just thought, this is just, I can’t keep going like this. You know if it was my own business, I would have done it in the first day. I would have fixed it and moved on. It’s just that impracticality really upset me to be honest.
Ingrid: I’m sure there’s people listening that can absolutely relate to that. And I’m sure we’ve all got one of those spreadsheet stories somewhere in our corporate world.
Zion: Oh yeah. I think everyone has at least one.
Ingrid: At least one. So Zion let’s move into the business, and when did you realise you were in business? When did it feel real? At what point was that?
Zion: Yeah, when I went full-time it felt real and scary and exciting all at the same time. And I went full time 2009 and it was scary and real all at the same time because my wife was pregnant with our first child, I’d just taken on my first or sorry second home mortgage, the global financial crisis was you know, happened around that time. And I remember my dad even saying to me, he’s like don’t do it, don’t go into business, cause he’s a very traditional 9-5 guy, and he was worried for me cause he cares about me. And so, at that point when I made the push to go full-time and realised, wow I’ve got to take a massive pay cut and I’ve got to generate sales very quickly to get cash into the business so that I can survive and support my wife and incoming baby. That’s when it felt, wow this is real, you know it’s not games anymore, it’s not a hobby, it’s not something on the side. So really the first day that I went full-time was when it really all hit me at once.
And I remember, even though it was exciting and I did get some quick wins, I had a few kind of semi panic attacks. Like I remember you know 1:00am at night, I’d wake up at 1:00am at night or 2:00am at night and I’d just be thinking about the mortgage, thinking about incoming baby, thinking about am I going to be able to do this? And not being able to sleep, and for couple of months I would wake up with this kind of panic attacks. So year it was an interesting time. But I don’t regret it.
Ingrid: Not at all, not at all. And I think that moment where it goes from being a side hustle or an interest or something you’re kind of toying with or experimenting with, and as you say with double mortgages, people dependent on you. Yeah it’s a huge, that’s real. It becomes very real.
Zion: Yeah, really crazy.
Ingrid: Yeah. So Zion how did you know that the business is viable? How do you know that customers wanted this internet, this website, this media, cause 10 years ago some of the things that exist today hadn’t even really taken off had they? How did you know people wanted this?
Zion: Yeah well I knew just from common sense, like looking around the industry. I like to look at people’s behaviour, and I like to look at my own behaviour and I like to look at my wife, cause I look at her as like the ultimate consumer but she’s not interested in business. She will do things and I will just observe and so you know back in those days I just saw how everyone was just Googling everything. You know, you want to go to a restaurant? Google. You want to buy something? Google. You want a plumber? Google. So that was part of the first hint as to what was to come and what was happening, and then I saw kind of how social media was starting to take over and I thought, geesorama, like there is real demand for this already and it’s only going to get crazier, and I was right about it.
So I think I picked an industry that was really good. Some of it was luck. And then I remember when we started getting some really good results in people, that’s when it really hit me that wow this thing’s here to stay. And for example you know a client where, as an example could be an accountant right, and not getting anything from their website because the website’s terrible and they’re not on Google, making a few tweaks on the site, getting them up on Google you know within a six month period, bang they start getting leads and they’re coming to me saying, wow this is crazy. We’ve never gotten a lead from the website before and all of a sudden, you know.
So when we started getting results from people, for our clients, that’s when I thought, wow this is here to stay. And it’s only going to get crazier.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. That’s true. So it’s very insightful to be able to see that 10 years ago, and there’s still room for everybody now isn’t there? Cause it just continues to get bigger and crazier as you say.
So those early days, the money, so how did you fund those early days? I mean you had mortgages, you had to take a pay cut, where, specifically or not specifically, where did money come from? Or how did you fund yourself?
Zion: Yeah, so fortunately I was in a business that didn’t require a lot of capital, cause it’s a service based business, so you know we’re selling time. And there’s pros and cons to that, but certainly at the start of a business venture, if you’re in a professional services industry, you don’t have to put in a bunch of capital. So it was really just paying the $200 ASIC fee, whatever it was at the time, to start a business and then onboarding clients, getting a deposit, getting cash in, and then doing the work as you go, getting to pay milestones. So we didn’t have to put up a lot of capital but we did have to do was we had to sell. So I always say to people, like you know yes you do have to have a good product, yes you have to get your operations right, but if you’re not selling, then you’ve already failed. So fortunately we understood that from a very young age and myself and my business partner, we just sold like crazy, you know. And we were good at selling, fortunately. We taught ourselves, we learnt off YouTube, we learnt off people, we invested in sales training, and I always say to people sell, sell, sell, yes product needs to be good but just get the cash in.
Ingrid: Get the cash in. So how do you find customers? So in terms of selling and that process of getting customers, where do they come from? Or in those early days, I guess there’s two questions there isn’t there? It’s early days and it’s probably different now, but in those early days where did those new customers come from?
Zion: So in the early days, like on the first day what I did was I created a spreadsheet of every complimentary business around the area that I was in, which is Subiaco in Perth. So I created a spreadsheet of all the businesses that could compliment mine and that mine could compliment – not competitors. Like for example a copywriter or a traditional marketing agency or a PR agency, and I would cold call them and introduce myself, and I’d say let’s form a partnerships, can I meet you? And so out of say, I think it was 80 businesses that I had on the spreadsheet, I think I managed to get coffees with eight of them, and out of eight of them I managed to get two partnerships that were really good for me, you know, that were partners for a very long time, and we would cross refer.
So that was the first thing I did to get business, and then what I would is just myself and my business partner, we always believed in multiple streams of income, so if you’re too reliant on one thing that’s not good, so we would go to a lot of networking functions. I met up with a lot of people, especially early on, like even my family members, I’d meet them for a coffee and say hey do you know anyone? Or are you interested in something? I didn’t really care. Friends, family, started with that, my inner circle, then expanded out, networking functions and also invested from very early on into our own SEO, into our own Google ranking for our own website, and so probably a couple of years after we started making that investment we started getting some really good returns. So even to today, we still get leads that come because of our SEO, and then we also get, and these days I’m getting a lot from LinkedIn. So I’ve made a really big LinkedIn push the last year, which has been phenomenal. And I’m only going to ramp that up because I’m a big believer in social media.
So you’ve really got all angles, and you want the seven to eight income streams. Oh and the other thing is having advocates selling for us. Sounds really corny, but having like four or five partners that actually are out there that trust us, selling for us. And so, yeah all those things really make sure we don’t ever go into a lull where we can’t survive.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. And those advocates, that word-of-mouth referrals, people being your salespeople for you, is really, really powerful isn’t it? Can I just go back to the numbers just really quickly. So a spreadsheet that had 80 aligned businesses.
Ingrid: You phoned them all, you got eight coffee meetings, so that’s …
Ingrid: Ten percent …
Zion: About ten percent.
Ingrid: That’s pretty fantastic really. And out of that you got two. So the two out of 80 is not a very big percentage. So I think for people listening, I think that’s a very powerful, I mean numbers tell a terrific story don’t they?
Ingrid: And I think that when you think about 80 phone calls and you end up with two people that you work with, and that would have taken a long period of time. You know, it didn’t just happen today. You didn’t make 80 phone calls today, two coffee meetings tomorrow and then … you know, there’s a time span for that as well, isn’t there?
Zion: There is, and also, I mean I did that very quickly, like the phone calls, but in terms of booking the coffee meetings, forming the relationship, getting the trust, so really the first deal that came out of that was probably four months after I started the process. That’s probably the thing that people don’t understand, it does take time. And the thing is, that wasn’t the only thing I was doing, you know, you can’t put all your nest eggs into one basket. So I was networking, I was catching up with people, I was doing other cold calls. That was just one small part of the pie. It ended up giving me the biggest return, yes, for that period of time. But I was doing a lot of activity. And I always say to people, yeah it’s a numbers game, so if you ever feel yourself in a lull it’s because you’re just not, well firstly it’s because you’re probably not doing enough activity, and secondly if you’re doing a lot of activity and not getting a lot of action, maybe you need to tweak your, you know what you’re actually doing, how you’re going about things.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. Yeah, no, thank you for sharing those very specific numbers because I think that’s very powerful for people listening, thinking about getting started. You know they make a couple of phone calls and wonder why the money’s not rolling in.
So just talking about money and pricing, in the early days and you know now, what have you learned about setting a pricing strategy? Because that’s one of the things that comes up over and over, is how particularly for a service-based, how much do we charge, how do we know how much to charge? How did you figure out how much to charge? I’m more interested in the process than the actual dollars.
Zion: Haha. Yeah. So the process was knowing roughly what other people were charging and knowing where you stand in the market. For example, if you’re, you know like the bigger guys who have bigger companies that have in-house staff, that have big brands under their belt, of course they’re going to charge like five times what a smaller boutique agency will charge. A boutique agency will charge five times less, a solo entrepreneur might charge even less, so you’ve got to know, so we very quickly understood where we were in the market. When we first started, it was a two-man band, you know so we knew we couldn’t start at the bigger end of town. We knew that was our aspiration, but we knew we couldn’t start there.
So very quickly we knew where we stood but we were also very good not to discount all the time or really under-appreciate ourselves, because we knew we were good. And you know we weren’t afraid to say, look this is the price, we’re good, do you want it or not? Like let’s not waste each other’s time. So there’s a kind of like very polite cockiness to the whole process, where you’re very polite, you’re very giving, you’re not arrogant – arrogance is a killer, but you’re not timid. There’s a fine line. So I think from very early on we knew that we had to be confident. And that’s the thing I see with a lot of new entrepreneurs and business people, even business people who have done it for years, it’s like a lot of times there’s this timidity that really shoots them in the foot and they just keep discounting and discounting and discounting and they make nothing.
On the flip side of that, you have the ones that are extremely arrogant, and I find this in the creative industry and they’re like, no no no you do my way or the highway. No flexibility whatsoever, which is the flip side of things. Which is also not good. So I’m not saying I’m perfect, but just trying to find that good balance is really important.
Ingrid: Yeah, and do you mind me asking, given that you’ve been in business for this length of time, how have you managed to put up your prices? Like at different times obviously at the early stage as you said you were a two-man band, there was a particular price point for that. Now you’ve got a team of 42 people, you’re an agency, what happens as you go through that journey and you’ve got more experience, you’ve got more costs, you want to start charging more. How do you manage that, Zion?
Zion: Yeah so one thing that we really worked on, and this is more in the last five years, is understanding our own costs in the business, which is how much are we taking to build a website? How much are we taking to do SEO for someone or social media management? How many hours does it take? What’s the cost of the staff member that’s actually working on these services? Right? And actually spreadsheeting out these numbers and checking it every week and every month, going through it with a fine tooth comb so you know first of all what is the actual hard cost, right. What is the proper margin you want to add to make up for that cost, and is what you’re doing actually good in the market? Like you might be spending a lot of time on something and okay sure enough you should be charging for that, but is what you’re producing really any good compared to what everyone else is doing, alright? So you know every time we think, oh you know what we’re pumping out some pretty average stuff, we straight away go into R&D mode and we make sure we’re ahead of the game, right?
So we’ve got to stay ahead in terms of the quality, so always looking to do better, and at the same time we’re always measuring our costs. So then that really gives us an idea of how much we can and should charge. And look sometimes you might charge a bit of a discount because you know that you’re going to get more out of it in the long term, so I do look at the long term as well. So yeah, those are the three factors – cost structure; is what you doing actually good compared to others; and what was the other thing, the long term relationship as well.
Ingrid: And as you say, feel confident about asking for that price, because that’s what it is.
Zion: I think regardless, cause you’re never going to get it right 100%, 100% of the time, it’s just being confident regardless. Like I think just being confident every day, every minute of the day no matter what. When you’re wrong, when you’re right, when you don’t know, just be confident. I’m a really big believer of that in business and in life. I’m always very optimistic, I’m always very confident. Not perfect. I’m a big believer in optimism and confidence. You have to be …
Ingrid: Ooh, we’ll keep those two for our, we’ve got a question coming up about that a bit later. So an exit strategy? Have you thought about what happens, does it end, does it, what happens?
Zion: Yeah I mean people ask me that all the time and in the past I’ve thought about that pretty seriously. But I always come back to what am I going to do? What am I going to do? When I was younger and things were really tough in the business, you know cause you’re burning so many hours and it’s so tough, I did at one stage get into the trap of the grass is always greener, I should just flog it and spend some time drinking martinis on a beach and then do something else. But I really think I’d get bored, I’ll be perfectly honest. And I’ve come to the realisation that life isn’t about drinking a martini on the beach, you know, I think we were created to do work and to be creative and to produce. I really think we are, and I’ve come to the realisation that I really enjoy it. And if I’m having a bad week, that’s just the week, that’s not every single day for my life. And I find so much enjoyment in work that I don’t know if I could ever sell the business because I’d be like, I don’t know, I’d just be at home and then I’d be thinking what do I do next?
Ingrid: You’d be finding something else, you would, you’d have to start again.
Zion: Yeah do I really want to start again? Like even though you might have a big cash injection you still got to start again in a way. So at the moment I’m really happy running a business. I enjoy things that probably a lot of people don’t enjoy. A lot of people that I talk to hate managing staff and they see it as a chore and oh my staff whine and blah blah blah. I enjoy dealing with staff. I enjoy, you know, sometimes when staff get moody and you’ve got to deal with that and you know some of the nitty-gritty, I actually enjoy it. So yeah, I don’t know if I could ever put it away.
Ingrid: That’s okay. That sounds good. I get you totally. So let’s look back, so people listening are people predominantly thinking about getting started in business and you know maybe in those early stages, so what’s something that you wish you had done differently at the beginning? Let’s not talk about mistakes or failures, but is there something you wish you’d done a bit differently?
Zion: Yeah there’s a lot, there’s heaps. And I’m just trying to remember some of the key ones. So I’m a big believer in working very fast every single day. You’ve got to work fast, especially in the smaller details, and quickly move on. So that’s something I learnt very quickly on. But what I didn’t learn quickly enough was being patient with bigger decisions. Like for example, picking the right office, onboarding a staff member, business partners, you know. Like I think those bigger decisions you need to really think about it and you need to really list the pros and cons and not rush into those things. So in the early days, we made a lot of bad decisions because we were just in a rush, you know, and I don’t know what it was, whether it was stress or whether it was our personalities. A lot of it was personality because I like to just get things done.
You know that set us, like if I hadn’t made those mistakes, then I would be a few years ahead by now. But you know, it’s a learning experience right?
Ingrid: Yeah totally.
Zion: But yeah, being more patient …
Ingrid: That’s very insightful. Very, very insightful. Because that was one of your key frustrations at the bank, was how long it took to make decisions because your character and your desire is to make decisions quickly, and so that played out in your business and yeah, that’s a very, very insightful answer. Thank you for that.
This is a slightly different question but very similar, is there something you wish you’d known at the start? So sort of some information that you could have had or something that you didn’t have at the beginning. It’s kind of the same, but a little bit different. And maybe there isn’t anything different.
Zion: Yeah look we have a board adviser now, who’s been really good for us. And I’m not saying that board advisers or mentors are for everyone, because they’re not. But I do wish that I had found someone like him earlier on, because I felt like we were doing a lot by ourselves, and we had kind of surrounded ourselves with people around our age and yes we had clients that were older and things like that, but if I was able to find one or two or three older people, men or women that were really good in business, been there done that and did something similar to our industry, I think that would’ve really helped.
So we didn’t have that for you know probably the first seven years of the business. Sorry six years. And we only kind of had that in the last kind of four to five years. I think that’s so valuable. I really think …
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. That’s great. That’s a terrific answer, thank you. So maybe that’s the answer to this next question, so apart from yourself and perhaps your business partner, who has been of the greatest assistance to you and the business?
Zion: Yeah there’s been a few people. My dad’s always been really helpful from a spiritual and even a business point of view as well. So he’s been really good for me. He’s been a good support, especially when times were tough. I find my board adviser, you know really good. His name’s Derek Gerrard, he’s been awesome for us. Because he’s about probably seven years older than us and he was in the tech world for quite a while, and not just that, he was also in consulting as well, so he understands tech and he understands the service aspect of our business. So he was really able to help us with understanding our cost structures and also understanding how to sell a tech product, how to bill your time. Things like that, things that we wouldn’t think about, he was able to talk to us about. And right now he owns an investment fund right now, so he invests in tech companies, so he understands how to pick good businesses and bad businesses in the tech world. So that whole world, that investment world and the tech funnel world is pretty new to me, so you know, just gleaning from that knowledge is so good.
So I would say those two are really good, and also I learnt a lot from podcasts from stuff like this. And you’ve got a really good podcast by the way, I’ve listened to some of your stuff.
Zion: And so podcast, books, YouTube, people like Gary Vaynerchuk who I don’t know personally but I’ve learnt so much from. I’m a really big learner. Timothy Ferriss, yeah.
Ingrid: That just learning and just absorbing everything wherever you can yeah.
Ingrid: So who gives you good feedback, Zion? I mean here you are, you’re the head of a business with 40 something people and obviously turning over reasonable amounts of money. Who gives you good feedback? Where do you get your feedback from?
Zion: Probably my wife is the biggest one, and I’m sorry I need to backtrack. My wife has probably been the best kind of mentor/support for me in a way because she’s very different from me, and a lot of her strengths are my weaknesses. So for example when I started the business I was very disorganised. I was always a disorganised person, as growing up I didn’t have a structured kind of routine in my life. So she sorted me out. She helped me to become organised and things like that. So in terms of that question there, feedback, she’s brutally honest you know …
Ingrid: That’s handy.
Zion: Yeah it’s really handy, and she just won’t hold back you know. And cause she does understand things from a very deep point of view, she’s got that gift. She can say to me, Zion I sense that you’ve become arrogant in the past two weeks, you actually have come into a state where you look on your staff, you think you’re better because you’re a business owner. Which is what happened recently. And it caught me off guard, I was like oh my gosh, and I thought about it more and I’m like, you’re right. And she said, yeah the way you talk about them is as if you’re better and of course that’s going to affect your relationship with them and of course that’s going to affect their productivity because then they’re going to feel bitter about it, and then they’re going to be fearful blah blah blah. And so even just little nuggets like that are just so important. And so she’s not afraid to give me that feedback. So I think she is the number one for me, in terms of feedback.
Ingrid: Yeah. And Zion can I just say, it’s fabulous that you’re able to take something like that on board. That you trust each other, cause that’s the thing about feedback. Feedback has to come from somebody that you trust enough to know that what they’re saying is for everybody’s wellbeing or betterment or …
Zion: Oh yeah.
Ingrid: Yeah, it’s for the good of all. It’s not about just having a nitpick or picking out things. It’s absolutely for the good of all.
So, three key characteristics that you think you have that make you successful. Now you mentioned them earlier, maybe they’re the same ones. But what do you think, now you talked about confidence, like what are those characteristics that have made you successful?
Zion: Yeah so I would say that number one, I’ve thought about this a lot, is, I mean it is to do with confidence, but self-esteem is really important and I didn’t have a very high self-esteem growing up because I went to a school that was quite racist. I was like one of five Asians in a school of 1000, I never felt like I fit in, my family was going through some stuff for a few years, personal stuff, growing up, and so even though my parents were wonderful, school really did kind of stuff me up I felt for a period of time. So my self-esteem was pretty low when I was in my teenage years going into my probably 19, 20.
And what I did, I remember doing like a bit of a counselling session with my father, which was really good. And he said, look I think you should really talk into the mirror every day. And so I actually took that on and I talked into the mirror, and I just kept saying good things about myself right. And within probably six months I actually felt a lot better about myself. It actually worked and it actually helped my career in the bank at the time, and then in business. And I did that for years, I would actually speak into the mirror like I was the most awesome thing alive. Obviously, you’ve got to balance that out, you don’t want to become arrogant.
So, number one, my self-esteem right now is so high it’s ridiculous, but at the same time I try not to be arrogant, so I’ve got a good support around me that keeps me grounded. The second thing is, I feel that I’m really good at selling, and like I said before, if you can bring cash into the business that’s number one. And you know I do think I’m flamboyant by nature, but I train myself. And I also train myself not to be full of c-r-a-p. You know I train myself to actually try to always speak with the truth no matter what, not to over-exaggerate things. So I really believe I’m good at selling and I think the last thing I’d say is resilience. So I don’t know, I think I was born with good resilience. Cause even when I was going through all that stuff in high school or whatever, I always just felt like I needed to prove myself and stand up. Like I never wanted to be bullied and remain on the floor. I wasn’t that person. So I think that’s something you are born with. It is something that you can build up for sure. I don’t have the answer to how I got that, but I think resilience has always been a strength.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. It’s interesting you say that about the way you were treated at school because sometimes that is part of building the resilience, the ability to be able to take things on and continue to walk on, to pick yourself up. I meant that’s part of how you develop it. It’s like a muscle, you can lift more weight because you lift more weight. You can be more resilient because you have more things to be resilient about.
Zion: Yes. Without a doubt.
Ingrid: If you’re a sugar plum fairy and you’re always wrapped up in cotton wool, then you always need to be wrapped up in cotton wool. So I think resilience builds itself.
Zion: Yes, yes.
Ingrid: And I just love what you said about everything being tempered with not having arrogance around it. Because I think arrogance is such an ugly quality in people, and there’s a lot of business people …
Zion: It’s terrible, it’s probably the worst. I always try to check myself.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm. That’s terrific. Okay, so what would you say, so people listening to this are people thinking about starting a business, so what would you say to someone? They come up to you and they say, Zion look at what you’ve done, what would you say to them?
Zion: Yeah so what I would say is a few things. I’d say, okay if you want to be an entrepreneur, be self-aware. Is it for you? Are you romanticising the idea? So first I’d say, are you actually good at it? Talk to some people around you, people that you trust right, that have a brain, not just anyone, and ask them do you think I have it in me? Do you think you see these skills? And you might be surprised with what they say right. Talk to your partner if you have one. So that’s number one.
And then self analyse – am I actually good at this or do I just like the idea of getting into business? So if it ends up being a yes, the support around me is saying yes, I’m analysing myself and I feel that yes objectively I am good for it, then the second thing I would say is whatever you’re going to get into, make sure there’s market for it. And again, don’t romanticise it. Emotion can be really, really, bad emotion when it’s not tempered can be really damaging. And I’m an emotional guy and I really suffered through this. So I would say, test the market, validate it, is the demand there? Do a survey, talk to people, if it’s not there think about something else. If that’s a yes, then the next thing I would say is okay, as I said before, you need to learn how to sell before you master your product even.
So train yourself, invest in training, pay thousands of dollars if you have to for training. Go to YouTube and practise cold calling, practise presentations, practise public speaking, you know. So those would be the first few things that I would say.
And then the last thing I would say is expect it to be really, really, really, really, really hard. You know, as hard as keeping your marriage together even, if not harder. So I’d say expect it to be hard, don’t romanticise the process, and yeah if they succeed well awesome.
Ingrid: Yeah. And be clear about what that success is, because it’s different things for different people isn’t it?
Ingrid: You know there’s people who want to build something like you, there’s others who want to have a lifestyle business, people who want to you know use what they do and do it nicely, like there’s such a spectrum of what success means, so yeah.
Zion: Oh that is so true and also that’s right, like if you want to earn 30 grand a year and you’re happy and that fits your goals, awesome do that. You just see too many people who, they look at Zuckerberg who’s a billionaire and they go, I want to be like that. But that’s not for everyone. That’s for the .00001%. Like you might be miserable on that journey to become him. So yeah you’re right. It depends on what you want.
Ingrid: Yeah. And he’s had to work really, really, really hard to be a billionaire. Like billionaires don’t just, unless somebody dies and leaves it to you. But yeah billionaires don’t just happen do they? It comes from diligence and lots of other building blocks together.
Zion thank you so much for your time today. Just before we go, is there anything else that I haven’t covered, something you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Zion: Ah no, only I’d love for you guys to check out, I’m going to be interviewing Ingrid as well, but I’d love for you guys to check out my podcast. It’s called Ask Alyka, A-s-k A-l-y-k-a, podcast. We talk about business, marketing and technology. People can ask us questions and we’ll answer them. I also interview awesome amazing business people like Ingrid, so yeah check us out.
Ingrid: Thank you. And I would highly recommend, because if there’s not at least one or two really good take aways from every podcast episode of yours, then people aren’t listening properly.
Zion: Yeah, thank you.
Ingrid: Yeah, there’s real nuggets of gold in every episode, so anyway I thank you for your time today and I really appreciate the thoughtfulness that’s gone into the questions. And I know the audience does too. Thanks.
Zion: Thanks Ingrid.