WHETHER YOU KNOW HER for her work on Channel 10’s entrepreneurial show Shark Tank or for being the founder of RedBalloon, Naomi Simson is one of Australia’s greatest tech success stories: an entrepreneur herself, a speaker, director, chair, mother, author, blogger, innovator and TV personality.
Naomi was recently ranked second on the Business Insider’s list of Australia’s biggest tech influences and has received numerous awards throughout her career. She is known to be an entertaining speaker on entrepreneurship, motivation, reward and recognition; she is passionate about her own life and career, and in helping others to create their own success. She runs one of Australia’s top 15 best business blogs, has written a bestseller, Live What You Love (2015) and has a new book, Ready to Soar, set for release in May 2016.
Simson took time out of her busy schedule to chat with EPMs Samantha McLean about her career highlights, what it takes to be a leader in today’s society and what LPMA attendees can expect from her at this year’s event in April.
What was your first job, and what did it teach you?
My first paid job was at a toy shop. I worked three hours on a Friday night, and four hours on a Saturday morning. My first pay cheque was $5.03, for seven hours of work. It came in a little white envelope. I was still very proud.
After work on the Friday my colleagues asked me to go out for something to eat. I chose the cheapest thing on the menu, which was still more than what I got paid for the seven hours. I learned the value of money and about effort returns. It’s like, ‘Wow, I worked seven hours for effectively a plate of spaghetti bolognese.’ That’s not a good return on time.
You often speak about making choices to live a ‘life you love’. If you are unsure of what you should be doing, how do you figure it out?
Ask a lot of questions, and be fundamentally curious. Sometimes people just don’t know the answer. If you don’t know the answer, then what is your question? Be curious in everything and anything. When you are curious, asking questions, meeting people, going to diverse conferences and seminars, or looking at TED talks, whatever… There’s so much content and information available. Something will pique your interest that you want to find more about, and more about, and more about. You become passionate about it.
What are the most important qualities needed for leaders to be successful?
What we don’t want is a leader who changes like the wind. You want someone who sets the course. You might have to adjust your tactics along the way on how to get there based on what people say. Ultimately great leaders listen. They’re also effective communicators. Effective communicators have two ears and one mouth.
You’re recognised for being incredibly productive – if someone were to ask you what is the one thing they could do to improve their productivity, what would it be?
It would be to choose just one thing. It’s funny that you say I’m productive. I’m not; I’m just focused. What that means is you set the course of what you want to achieve in the day which is going to deliver to the overall, ‘Where am I going?’ Then it’s not hard to choose.
Most people are unproductive because they don’t know what to work on. They’ve got so much to do. Do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Focus is focus. It’s like, ‘What is the overall gain? What am I working on?’ Often they will rush to other people’s urgency for the sake of their own importance. Because somebody else has said ‘I need this! I need this! I want this!’ They have to keep reminding themselves what they’re going to do today.
What do you think your own greatest strength is in business?
I feel very fortunate I was given the ‘gift of the gab’. I write the way I speak, and people quite like what I write for that reason. They think they’re having a conversation with me. Because I don’t get lost in jargon or the vernacular, it means I can bring people with me. I speak simply. I write simply.
On the path to success, if there was one thing you could do more quickly, what would it be?
That’s the funny thing; it would be the opposite of that. Everything was urgent before I even started a business. Even when I was working in corporate and sales, I was always in a hurry, always trying to get things done. Push, push, push. I learned the lesson that there will always be another Christmas. I was always working to a deadline. I think the older I’ve gotten, instead of waiting for the end results, [I’ve learned] to enjoy it along the way. There is no end, except when one day I’ll be put in a box.
You’re never ‘there’. People say ‘I’m getting there’. Where are you getting to? There is no ‘there’. You’d better just have a good time, and a few laughs, and have great friends and some great family around you. Because that’s all there is. Being successful makes me laugh, because success is my own pulse. For me success is trust over time, because time is the only resource you really have. How you choose to use those minutes is very important.
What are some of the best pieces of advice that you’ve ever been given?
I’m a gatherer by nature, and it’s funny how information comes to me when I need it – often a little piece of gold. Somebody was talking about responsibility and I read this quote that said ‘If it’s meant to be it’s up to me.’ That has served me so well. I take responsibility; that means that I can live without blaming other people. It’s such a great way to live. I’m responsible for my own destiny. If I’m late to work I didn’t leave early enough.
What are some of the messages you will be delivering to the LPMA attendees this year?
I think most people, when they hear me speak, are left with a sense of possibility. They realise the person who gets in their way the most is themselves. When they come and hear me speak, they’ll have a good time. People can be assured we’ll have a giggle-rama.
But they’ll be left knowing that they can create what they want to create, and that they should get on to it. The first thing they’ve got to do is see it, and believe in it. Belief is a very important part.