Let’s talk: Aspiration



Featured | Leadership | Let's Talk

By Loren Webb

Who is your business icon, or what model do you base your business on and why?

In today’s Let’s Talk, this is the question that we asked the industry experts. As business leaders, owners and entrepreneurs it’s imperative to have passion and drive, and it would be very rare to find a successful entrepreneur who didn’t have very clear aspirations and a model that they have built their business from. 

Last week we discussed whether the term “entrepreneur” itself is used to loosely, and in regards to defining the term, there were several references to the models businesses are built from. Iconic names such as Branson, Bezos and Jobs were dropped frequently in the discussion. Although opinion differed, there was some feeling that entrepreneurship is driven by ingenuity and innovation, and business models should reflect that.

Today, we hear about what has inspired business leaders first-hand, whether it’s their icon or the way they decided to model their business.


Tara Commerford, Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy ANZ

I have a range of business role models in different sectors who come from fundamentally different backgrounds. Having a broad spectrum of people around you can help create balance and diversity in the way you think, make decisions, participate in industry dialogue and effect industry change and transformation. One of those close to me works in the cabin crew of a major Australian airline. It’s been inspiring to partner with him and watch how one person can impact incredible transformation by seeing their job as a vocation. On layovers to the Philippines, he devotes his time to those experiencing poverty, after seeing the living conditions of communities around Manila Airport. He’s worked to set up an organisation called Poverty No More and now uses his extra baggage allowance to supply food, clothing, vitamins, water purifiers and other practical goods to local families.

Alex Zaccaria, Co-Founder of Linktree 

What Shopify has achieved in e-commerce is super cool.

It’s model as a whole – the way that it has completely simplified e-commerce and created a space where users can sell products easily, breaking down the copious barriers to entry is really empowering. The core principles aren’t dissimilar to what we are doing with Linktree, enabling users to easily collate the full range of their online content and have their own destination on the internet.

Financially, Shopify’s business model and the multiple revenue streams that it’s built-in are genius. It’s taken a simple, cloud-based platform and consistently found new ways to drive revenue. Beyond monthly subscriptions, there are the app subscriptions and add-ons, which can all be built into the monthly cost. Its tremendous growth and continued expansion are inspirational.

Sankar Narayan, CEO at SiteMinder

I’ve witnessed the great, the bad and the very ugly in business and can say that there isn’t any one person who embodies absolutely everything I could ever hope to be. I prefer to admire attributes of business leaders and my ideal combination comprises about four people who I’ve always looked up to in some way, for the individual strengths they brought to their people and the organisation they led.

I admire the vision and ingenuity of Steve Jobs, who was ahead of his time and fearless in thinking about the future. However, Bill Gates tops my list when it comes to business acumen. I love the care and measured approach of Satya Nadella, and how he’s rallied his company, transformed it and made it his own. And, I remain ignited by the passion that Rod Drury brought to Xero.

Ken Kencevski, CEO and Founder of Devika

During my time in the US I came across Richard Branson’s book Screw It, Let’s Do It. Everything Branson spoke about made sense to me: his focus on creating a strong, positive brand, his desire to give back to the community, and his unwavering commitment to people. He made me understand that a truly successful business was not just one that can turn a profit, but also provide a great culture for their employees, give back to their community and be environmentally sustainable.

Branson’s dedication to progress and his desire to go beyond what is believed to be possible is what Inspired me when I founded Devika. It is also the meaning behind the name. Coming from a Macedonian background, I decided to choose the name ‘Devika’ as it is the Macedonian phrase for ‘Virgin’. This name also pays tribute to the fact that I am venturing into a relatively unexplored industry – emerging technology. Branson’s philosophy continues to influence me in the way I run Devika as a meaningful business and our commitment to building experiences that place equal importance on the people, the planet, pushing boundaries and prosperity.

Ross Kemp, cofounder and CMO of The Burger Collective

It’s important when you’re in the trenches running your own business to have someone to look up to. For me this person is Joe Rogan. To me he is someone that exemplifies the adage of “be yourself” and “do what makes you happy”. Rogan has multiple businesses and professional roles from supplement company owner, to sports commentator to entertainer and comedian. His unrelenting drive to succeed while having fun and remaining true to what he believes is something that drives me everyday.

Dipra Ray, CEO and managing director of mPort

I have a few business role models as each of them has achieved an excellence in an area that I’m personally interested in. In terms of building a global brand in a competitive environment, Richard Branson & Tony Fernandes stand out, having taken on tough industries and established a global long lasting business. In terms of building global technology businesses, I’m inspired by how Google was built and the ethos that drove it (albeit that is significantly different today). Beyond this, as I get older, my biggest role models are the people who lead businesses that have been built with no outside capital and no real unfair advantage. Having seen my own father build a business from the ground up with no capital, I know how tough it is to do this. It’s something I personally aspire to do, though to date, all the businesses I’ve been involved with so far have been fortunate to have been able to raise capital.

Simon and Yetta Rawadi, Founders of Slyletica

We were running a fairly successful fashion label (B2C) when we realised it didn’t play well to our strengths. I’m naturally more of the Sales person and my wife, Yetta, is great at Operations. For us going from our corporate jobs to trying to sell one garment at a time just wasn’t right. I was used to closing bigger deals and working directly with people face-to-face. We realised it was a better business model – both personally and professionally – to be setting others up for success and building long-term relationships. So we pivoted into a B2B model which allowed us to work with people who wanted to start an activewear brand. We now have over 100+ brands so I guess we were right!

Batoul Peters, General Manager at Global Story Network

I cannot pinpoint just one person as my role model. My network of friends and colleagues inspire me in different ways and have shaped who I am as a business woman. Inspiring qualities that I have seen in others that have significantly influenced me include having tenacity and grit to pursue opportunities, discipline to remain consistent in my approach, an ability to think beyond the status quo, the importance of authenticity, and finally being fearless in facing the unknown.

Out of all the characteristics that I have learnt from others, the single most valuable thing I have learnt was from the business gangster herself Cardi B! If there is anything you need to do in business it is hustle! And Cardi B’s hustle game is next level. You have to hustle for new opportunities and new ideas. You have to hustle to achieve your goals and to get through challenging times when others try to wear you down! When your hustle game is strong you are unapologetic and stand in your truth. While Cardi B may not be a typical business woman you can’t deny that in the last 18 months she has taken the world by storm and become one of the best artists of our time. The other thing I’ve learnt from her is to never ever underestimate the ability of others because whatever you think about their talent, their will to pursue may be greater than yours (ahem Nicki Minaj).

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