Publican and investor Stephen J Hunt says building the right relationships and having the courage to ask questions are among the keys to success when innovating.
“It’s not a weakness to ask for help” – that’s a favourite quote of award-winning hospitality innovator, because he believes asking, or being asked questions, is crucial for building impactful personal connections.
Stephen experienced this for himself in his successful business endeavours, as the founder of Hunt Hospitality and also a private fund manager with over $100 million under management.
He told KnowHow founder Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast that mentors and teammates are the most important factors when it comes to turning great ideas into a profitable reality.
Stephen said it starts by putting yourself in the right room with the right mentors. He explained this by referring to his own experiences with undertaking courses at Harvard Business School.
“I’ve always said and learned this over the years – you have to put yourself in the right room. And I ended up at Harvard a couple of times, did a few courses over there … but it didn’t just come randomly. So that came about through initially joining my local Chamber of Commerce, which costs nothing,” he said.
“And then I actually joined the industry associations with Secretary of the Australian Hotels Association for a number of years for the Hunter sub-branch, which is the largest in New South Wales. So then again I met more people.
“I’ve had some great teachers over the years. One of the guys who I met at Harvard, we had a five minute discussion and I think that helped me raise 2 million bucks. So every way you need to look at, it can just be a discussion with someone that you pick up an idea on. So that’s like a very cheap way of mentoring and having a mentor. The suggestion is you don’t have to have all the money in the world to have a good mentor and to put yourself in the right room.”
But there’s more to it when it comes to following your passions and developing your innovations. Stephen has developed a three step process of ‘Find’, ‘Build’ and ‘Sell’ to achieve success.
The first stage, Find, is about discovering your passions and having the courage to ask for help with reaching your desired goals.
“It’s really finding what you’re truly passionate about. And that’s crucial. You want a job which you enjoy each day. There’s always challenges, there’s no such thing as a perfect job, but as soon as you realise that and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, then that’s step one,” Stephen said.
“And look, maybe it’s with the same people you work with. You never know the opportunities that might be there if you say to your boss, ‘look I want to get involved with this part of the business’. So you don’t have to really end up being your own boss.”
The next step of ‘Build’ focuses on growing your confidence and developing the best profile.
“And then you build on that. So you work out how to pitch yourself as the right person for that job, or pitching to customers or to investors. So that’s the building, and it’s also the confidence. You’re building your confidence and you’re thinking about your successes,” Stephen said.
“So sometimes it’s that leap of faith of just asking the questions and then your confidence grows with every little win. It sort of rolls you onto the next win and next win. So you’ve got to have humble confidence, I think.”
The ‘Sell’ is then about pitching yourself to others and working hard to build these connections and reach your targets.
“Then the ‘Sell’ component is actually being able to go to your boss and say, ‘I’m ready. I’ve done this, I’ve studied marketing (for example), and I really believe I can contribute to this marketing team’. And if you’re like me, I just say to that particular team member, ‘show me what you got’,” Stephen said.
“And as for the bricks and mortar, it’s presenting your business in such a way that it’s sellable to as many people as possible. So you find what you’re good at, you build on that through study and putting yourself in the right room, and then you’re actually able to sell yourself or sell your business all in the same way.”
Finally, to ensure your success is sustainable in the long-term, Stephen encouraged people to surround themselves with a strong, resilient team where you can become the mentor. A ‘bullet-proof’ culture with lasting loyalty is also important.
“It’s about having the right people around you. [As a business owner or manager], ensure that you have young people around you who are smart, so that you can mentor them and keep that sustainability going. We don’t employ rock stars, we’ve just got a very resilient team who just dig in when it’s tough and that’s certainly helped us with COVID,” he said.
Listen to the full interview here.
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