Entrepreneur Steve Hui talks all about the 'high' life

Mark Phillips

“The Points Whisperer” has taken to entrepreneurship like a duck to water – and learned some important lessons along the way.

Steve Hui is founder and chief executive of one of the most innovative Australian start-ups in recent history.

He established iFLYflat in 2012, but was planning it years before. He’s still learning, but is always ready to share what’s he’s learned with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Hui – aka “The Points Whisperer” – turned his financial acumen and love of travel into a company that helps businesses and individuals extract maximum value from loyalty and frequent flyer programs, in many cases allowing them to fly business or first class for little more than economy.

“The idea makes up 0.1 per cent of the entrepreneurial journey,” he insists. “The rest is about effort and execution.

“Having a unique selling proposition [USP] is vital. Think about what makes you different, and the skills and attitudes you can bring to problem-solving.” 

Although Hui has successfully transitioned from a well-paying job at Macquarie Bank to entrepreneur, he adds: “The key is to have the confidence to approach anyone for a chat, whether they’re CEOs, actors, accountants or the janitor. You can learn from everyone.”

Decisions, decisions…

Hui admits to sometimes suffering “decision paralysis”, but has overcome it by instead relying on feedback from his target market. The only way forward, he says, is to test your assumptions and see which stick. Don’t worry about getting something wrong, because mistakes are inevitable. Trust yourself and be grateful you don’t need to consult a committee.

“I'm not worried about failure or regret, but if you are slow at decision-making, you will kill your business,” he warns.  “Much of it comes down to expenses versus growth, but it’s better to make a decision than keep thinking about it. That only clogs your brain and impacts your confidence.”

“There is no hierarchy. You’re not somehow inferior to the likes of Richard Branson, because money is not the defining factor. You’re at the top of your own tree."

What work-life balance?

Needless to say, doing this can put work-life balance at risk.

“It’s very hard,” Hui acknowledges. “Exercise helps in that it forces me to take my mind and body away from work. Also, having the ability to set your own calendar means you can make time to meet friends, attend events, or travel. Even so, you always feel you’re in a race to build your business before a competitor does. I’m in constant work mode, and because of that it’s important to reassess why I’m on this journey.”

In other words, take time to smell the roses, because if you don’t, there will come a day when you might be financially secure but, as Hui puts it, “the roses have died”.

More pros than cons

For Hui, the upside of being an entrepreneur will always outweigh the downside.

“I’m not only helping people, but mixing on equal terms with other entrepreneurs and CEOs,” he says. “There is no hierarchy. You’re not somehow inferior to the likes of Richard Branson, because money is not the defining factor. You’re at the top of your own tree, whereas in a corporate environment there will always be a boss. The satisfaction that comes from being an entrepreneur is way out of that world.”

So are the hours.

“I hear people say they’re sick of working 45-hour weeks,” Hui says. “Try entrepreneurship, where I work 8am to 10pm and never stop thinking about business. There’s no one to complain to and the buck always stops with you – regardless of whether you succeed or fail.”

But having tested the entrepreneurial waters, he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips is a freelance business writer based in Australia and SE Asia with experience across a range of titles including INTHEBLACK, Marketing Magazine, and Franchising Magazine. Mark has extensive features writing experience with an SME and entrepreneurial focus.  

Image: iflyflat.com.au