Lisa Messenger – Founder CEO Messenger Group, Thought Leader, Author and kick-arse inspiration
Lisa Messenger moves at the speed of light. If she can imagine it, there’s a pretty good chance that she’ll make it happen – and quickly. Definitely living her life out loud and more than happy to take everyone along for the ride, there’s no doubt that Lisa is the ‘Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur’.
There’s no such thing as real honesty in business, that is of course, unless you’re speaking to Lisa Messenger. An open book on all things business, I first met Lisa at a speaking event in 2013. Collective Hub had just launched to accolades and was fast becoming the go-to inspiration for entrepreneurs, business owners and anyone who just wanted some positivity in their lives. Collective, as it later became known, is still one of my all-time favourite magazines; in fact, I bought and still have EVERY copy.
Frustrated that no one was prepared to be honest about their business journey and particularly when it came to the financial side of things, Lisa decided to “shine a light on the real raw things that go on behind the scenes in business”. And so, in one foul swoop Lisa showed all of us not only the hardships of business but gave us the inspiration to push through; use the experiences of others to highlight the issues and provide the solutions. In doing so a generation of would be entrepreneurs had a role model – someone just like them who actually talked about business – honestly.
“I always put myself into situations; learn the lessons and then share the lesson learned” say Lisa. “But I’ve managed to flip my mindset to make it all about what I can share and impart to other people so hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes that I make.”
Getting started and the birth of Collective magazine
It’s October 2001 and Lisa, working in event management and encouraged by her then boss decided to start her first business. Like so many forays into business, Lisa over-serviced, under-charged and lived her life for everyone else.
Eleven years later and running a successful business, Lisa became frustrated; she couldn’t work out how to scale and no longer wanted to feel comfortable in business. So, like any true entrepreneur she decided to go big and as she tells it “stepped into her purpose”. In 2013 Collective Hub was born.
The idea behind Collective was simple, start a print magazine and talk about business and entrepreneurship in an honest, open format; the goal, to help other entrepreneurs. Of course, if you know nothing about launching a print magazine or the magazine business, like Lisa at that time, it can be a little tricky. Undeterred, Lisa hustled and within 18 months Collective Hub was ranging in 37 countries.
Three and a half years later Collective was big business, but start-up is very different to scale up and what happened next wasn’t much fun. “We don’t know what we don’t know” as Lisa put it. “When you know your purpose or your why everything else just follows” says Lisa. “The problem was that I just wasn’t ready. I’m a founder and when any business scales, it’s all about the processes. You need to have systems, strategies and processes in place and worked out if you’re a founder or a CEO; I’m just not great with those things.”
So, in April 2018, Lisa broke what she started and closed the magazine. As Lisa puts it “the title was loved by so many but financially supported by so few”. The lesson learnt, “be able to morph, pivot, iterate, change. It’s not the big who eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow. We have to detach from the outcome or the delivery method and focus on the feeling”.
Lisa’s best business advice
Play to your strengths
Not deterred by the closure of Collective, Lisa took time to recharge and examine the Collective journey. “I spent a lot of time with Sir Richard Branson in Brisbane recently” says Lisa. “He’s been a wonderful mentor over the years. He talked a lot about putting the right people in place and delegating effectively. So, whilst I’m glad that Collective grew across 37 countries and to the size it did, it’s only through that process I’ve realized I’m not a great CEO. I’m a brilliant founder, I’m a great creative, I’m good at doing deals. But when it comes to the operational side, the systems and the processes, I need to put the right people in place.”
Know your why
Lisa is very clear about her why – it’s “to ignite human potential”. In fact, her business philosophy hinges on it. “It’s having precision focus around purpose but then being able to change the way that I actually deliver it” says Lisa. “It keeps it fresh and interesting.”
For those of us who aren’t as clear, I ask Lisa just how she discovered her why. After 11 years “of over-servicing, undercharging and being everything to everyone, but at the same time loving business, I kept asking, what is it that I’m great at? What really juices me up? What makes me want to jump out of bed every day?” “I realized that I love helping people. I love the joy when I can share something about something that I’ve been through in business or life and so many people don’t feel so alone or alienated. So that’s what I always say to people, number one, think about what is it that you just love.”
Lisa suggests that the other thing to look at is what people say about you. “It’s often others that will pin-point your skill-set, identifying your ability before you see it in yourself.”
Get started and fail fast
When it comes to business Lisa’s philosophy is to just get going. “Often people overthink it”, she says, “they write these really complicated business plans and spend all their time, money, and resources on one thing. The reality is you just need a minimum viable product to go to market with and test”.
Lisa suggests using social media as a litmus test for new ideas. “It’s really easy to put something up and ask, are you interested in this? Would you buy it? You can do it and within five minutes see what the response is.”
Whether it’s starting a blog, starting a small brand or working on a side-hustle, Lisa’s advice is to enter the market in a sustainable way with a minimal viable product. “Once you’ve tested the market, if it’s positive, then start to grow; if not, fail, but do it quickly and move on”. The most important question to ask yourself during the process suggests Lisa is “what am I prepared to lose?”. “I think that’s a really important one”, says Lisa “because more often than not in business, you do lose some money; it takes a while to get the market offering right. But if you start in a relatively small way, then you shouldn’t have too much risk.”
“The power of community and belonging will encourage people to help you grow” says Lisa. “Everything is about nurturing relationships because people like working with people they like.”
More than ever, people want a sense of belonging. It’s one of the fundamental parts of human nature, so it makes sense to create a sense of community within your business. If your customers feel like they belong to something and are invested in your success, then your business journey might just me a little smoother.
“I think the power of community is underestimated and undervalued’, says Lisa. “If you create a great product or service and let people feel like they belong to that; that they have a voice and that their opinions are welcomed, then people will carry the message for you.”
“At Collective, we’d never seen anything like it. I put this magazine out and the community almost did the rest because they just fell in love with it; they carried the message and took a sense of ownership. I always say, I never really owned Collective, the community are the ones who told me what they wanted and gave their input.” Lisa listened, then delivered.
Create a value exchange
A big believer in value exchange, Lisa used this philosophy when she launched Collective. The idea, to give things away to grow the magazine.
“What’s the value exchange? Is it cash or is it something else?” were the questions constantly on the table. “It’s how I ran my entire businesses – what’s the value exchange? What’s in it for you? What’s in it for me?” says Lisa. “How can we do things together if cash isn’t the only currency?”
According to Lisa, the easiest way to encourage a value exchange is to find channel partners – corporates or like-minded non-competing partners. She suggests writing down every single company category. Go through and work out who are like minded and what can you offer them that’s not cash; “use your passion and purpose”.
The most important part of the process though, give them the power to say yes. Lisa says that so many people pitch to her but don’t give her the opportunity to say yes. “Offers are often over-complicated or a one-way energy pull and make it impossible for me to get involved.”
As our interview wraps, I’m curious to know what’s next on the agenda for Lisa. As expected the answer isn’t dull. In 2020, Lisa will investigate whether there’s such a thing as a formula for creating a success business. No small task! Naturally, her community will benefit as her open book philosophy will ensure we get the answer to that question and more once the “experiment” is complete.
Lisa shares “whilst running Collective Hub, my writers, my team and I interviewed over 6000 individuals and businesses. There are certain things around ideation, product development, manufacturing, distribution, and funding that are pretty much the same no matter what industry you’re in. I definitely think there’s a formula and in 2020 I’m launching several different businesses in different industries to prove that very point.”
“I really believe that a good entrepreneur or a good business person can traverse multiple industries. In, 2020 I’m putting that to the test. I’ll go into multiple industries and then I’ll share all the lessons learned.”
So, what’s the motivation behind what some would consider a crazy idea? “I am an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs” says Lisa. “So, it’s all very well to have one big global success with Collective Hub, but I really want to prove that a good entrepreneur can do it multiple times across multiple industries. So even if I fail, I’m going to have great content to share and tell people again what not to do.” And that’s exactly why I love this woman!
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