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lessons from top ceos

Lessons from top CEOs

What can Small Business learn from Big Business CEOs?

We buy from them, we sell to them, and we can learn from them. We have a symbiotic relationship with big business – we are all part of the same eco-system and we need each other. But is life in big business any easier than where we sit?

PwC published it’s global CEO study recentlyRedefining business success in a changing world” – let me look at what might be relevant for us in smaller businesses and start-ups.

“82% of Australian CEOs believe business success in the 21st Century will be redefined by more than financial profit”. We know that cash is king in small business and often our ability to grow is limited by working capital. However, in the world of transparency, authenticity and social media – contribution to the community has become pivotal to success. This is more than just business ethics, it is about being a great employer, supporting the community and ‘giving back’. Having a clear sense of ‘purpose’ and making a difference to others needs to be clearly articulated. Profit alone is not enough – however, if you don’t have the ‘means’ it is very difficult to change the world.

“Threats are up 78%. Australian CEOs see more threats today vs. 3 years ago”. There is no doubt that starting a business, or owning one, has never been more challenging. It does take courage and determination – but competition is coming from places we never saw before. Disruption could be inevitable no matter the size of the business. The relationship will be critical here (see the previous post).

“More than 50% of Australian CEOs believe creating value for wider stakeholders helps them to be profitable”. I see this no matter which business that I turn to, for small business we can only be successful if we also engage with all our stakeholders. Of note are the suppliers – managing, nurturing and understanding the needs of the supplier base is critical to success. No business can operate with the single focus of customers alone. Employees are massively important in the mix. What have you done today to make sure your employees feel valued?

“Australian CEOs believe that key risks and innovation are the top two ways to deliver a more sophisticated approach to measuring success and value for stakeholders”. Innovation for the ideas sake is not sustainable. This is about quickly producing minimum viable product – testing with customers, and forming a go / no go position quickly. Knowing what is important to stakeholders is part of that.

“61% of Australian CEOs believe the government has a role to play in providing a clearly understood, stable and effective tax system”. I have lamented for years that the bigger you grow, the more complex all things compliance becomes – professional advice, of course, is paramount, but each business owner really must take responsibility to understand his or her obligations. There are no excuses. I found doing the AICD company directors course invaluable when it came to governance and compliance.

“86% of Australian CEOs believe technological advances will be the top trend to transform stakeholder expectations in the next 5 years”. We fear it, but we love it – staying abreast of cloud applications and technology can be extremely challenging in small business. The hardest thing to know is ‘who can I trust’ and just because people charge high fees does not mean that they are ‘great’ at what they do. You are clever! Read everything – don’t let tech bamboozle. Keep asking questions until you are comfortable with the answers.

Business has never been more interesting and exciting – what worked last year may or may not be working this year. However, what I do know is the fundamentals of business do stay the same.

Know everything about your industry and know everything about your customer’s aspirations! Relationships grow businesses.

Reader Interactions


  1. I enjoy your post. You are simply great. I wish you from my heart for your success in every steps of life.

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  • Happiness:
Think less, Feel more;
Frown less, Smile more;
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I’d be a squillionaire if I still had my stock options.

I don’t regret it. Here's why:

After 10 years of corporate, I wanted to ‘do my own thing’. I started with freelance marketing.

My strategy? Hard work and build strong brands.

It seemed to work - new clients came from referrals.

But after 18 months, I came to a realisation:

All my clients wanted was “more customers”, not complex branding plans.

SO I thought I’d build a brand of my own. Something to get them “more customers”. RedBalloon was born. The purpose? Give people amazing experiences.

16 years on, RB has delivered 3.8 million customers to 2000 small businesses.

Now, when I give talks, I always get the same question: “How did you build such a strong brand?” Funny how it comes full circle.

I can’t answer that with a time limit.

Though I think I found a way - an online course. “How to Build your Business Brand” - years of experience in one place (link in bio if interested). But, that’s not the point of this post.

If I stayed with Apple I’d be unbelievably wealthy.

Quitting was still the best thing I’ve ever done.

So if you want to take a leap of faith, do it.

All I ask you is this:

Trust yourself and never underestimate the power of brand.
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