Don't let your quirks get in the way of business

Margaret Paton

Do your personality quirks get in the way of business? Does your stomach turn over at the thought of public speaking or networking, but know your success depends on it? Success doesn't rest on whether you do or don’t have a few shortcomings, or how many you have – no one is clean – it’s about how you stop them getting in the way. So here’s how some real entrepreneurs are dealing with theirs.  

Matt Hoggett, co-founder of Prezzee

Hoggett agrees you can’t waste time letting your inner gremlins run amok.

“We all have shortcomings or gremlins and for me, keeping those gremlins at bay is paramount in both work and personal life. It’s about keeping it real and staying on top of the work load, plus leaving my ego at the door.

“My over-arching strategy is to acknowledge gremlins with a strong sense of detachment and get on with what's important.”

Sarah Willmott, founder of Feel Better Box

Her biggest ‘internal gremlin’?

“If I shouted from the rooftops, across all my social media, then everyone will know about my business venture. But, then everyone will be sitting front row if it fails. As someone who hardly participated in posting on Facebook or drawing any kind of attention to myself, the prospect was almost horrifying and sleepless. But if I was going to back myself and my business, how on earth could I not post it on Facebook and tell the world?”

Her start-up recently took out second prize in the Spotcap Australian Small Business Competition, nabbing her $2000 to further grow her business.

Rechelle Coombes, founder of Socielle

Coombes has no issue with pitching over the phone, face-to-face one-on-one introductions, even presenting before an audience; it’s the elevator pitch that curses her every time.

“When it comes to giving my ‘elevator pitch’ in front of a group of people (say three or more), I suddenly get squeamish and uneasy. My palms get sweaty, my voice shaky, and I seem to splurge verbal diahorrea that has no real direction.

“I forget for those few minutes my perfected and practiced elevator pitch, I forget that I’m an extrovert and I forget who I am for a few godawful seconds and even doubt myself … I never seem to do myself or my business justice.”

Luckily for her, if she gets a chance to chat one-on-one after that kind of intro, she’s able to turn things around quickly.

Jennifer Holmes, founder of WasteConnects

Public speaking is a major hassle for Holmes. With her husband, Stewart, she ran the largest privately owned liquid waste transport company in NSW for more than 30 years before selling to a national waste company in 2009.

“You would think that having previously been in business we would have most of the answers and all the confidence to forge ahead with a new start-up,” she says.

“Our last business was built on reputation, quality service, word of mouth and a large yellow pages ad, (prior to the internet). We've now decided to enter into the wonderful world of innovation and technology and are currently creating a marketplace for the waste industry, which will change the way businesses purchase waste collection contracts forever.”

“We need to explain our business model to a world of 'techy' people and investors who have no idea what an issue and how difficult it is for business owners to organise and manage waste contracts.”

She says she’s confident one-on-one, but terrified about public speaking.

“I know my topic inside out, but to stand up with a pre-prepared pitch with all eyes on me is terrifying.

The first pitch I ever did was for a Chinese TV program and I spent heaps of time preparing a pitch deck only to lose it as I was leaving home for the appointment.

“… then I decided, what do I have to lose? Nothing, at all. Except the opportunity to get up in front of people and practice.”

Now based at creative space Fishburners, she occasionally puts her hat in the ring for Friday night’s ‘pitch night’ with her “scariest audience – other entrepreneurs and techies”, which gives her great constructive feedback and questions.

“I am improving each time. It’s just mind over matter. I have had a lot of help and … practice will eventually make me perfect.”

Tim Lea, founder and CEO of

Lea admits he’s not only impatient, but wants his big picture idea out there yesterday.

“This is why, despite having over 20 years financial services’ experience, I could never have a Fintech start-up. Fintech is not funtech. As a start-up you have to be flexible and drive things forward and if the market determines you need to change you change. However, in Fintech, you need to go through to the regulators.

“I have to taper my expectations in terms of what it takes to code and to get things absolutely right. Not being a coder, I get easily frustrated by the length of time it can take, so have had to get advisers on board to help.” launched on 5 August a new cryptographic protection and distribution platform to protect creatives’ scripts and manuscripts against theft and piracy. 

Margaret Paton

Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.