Using Communication As A Superpower
She is as humorous as she is capable and is an award-winning leader with a knack for building effective teams and maximising technology and innovation to raise big money for women’s causes. I caught up with Lucy recently for what has become the first @philhsc Founder Story for 2017.
1. You’re a serial founder and keynote speaker whose journey has spanned Ethiopia, Cambodia and Australia. How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
My dad was an entrepreneur most of his life so creating my own projects was just a family tradition, I guess. My parents brought us to Australia from Africa and we had to start all over again financially. Dad slogged it out as a locomotive engineer with his own manufacturing and export company and put four kids through school and the good life in Australia. I’ll always love his guts for doing that. When I first left school I worked for an ad agency and had only been there for eight glorious months when I had a massive motorcycle accident. After that I had to work for myself as a creative, while I recovered from 14 reconstructive operations. That’s what first nudged me into life as an entrepreneur. I’ve always been an ideas machine and I love making them happen. Entrepreneur life suits me.
2. Let’s talk about the brilliant Beer + Bubs. For the uninitiated it’s a one-night session at the pub where men facing fatherhood learn how to support their partner through birth. What’s the origin of this idea and did it pan out as you expected?
It is a bit brilliant. Beer + Bubs was an idea I had when I noticed that men were being left out of the conversation when it came to childbirth. I’m a communicator and the communication around childbirth was all wrong for men who play a crucial role in the births of their babies. If they screw it up, men can make birth slower and more painful for their partner. Someone had to tell them how to support their partner in a way that spoke to them. So I created a one night session at the pub in man-speak. It was fun, fast and informative. I ran the sessions myself for six years before I franchised the model nationally and now it is run in pubs all over Australia. I also wrote a book called Cheers to Childbirth. That book still sells like mad because people keep breeding and the dudes need to know what they are doing. I sold the business in 2013 and it is still going strong. It feels like a baby who grew up and left home.
3. Social impact is a big part of your contribution to the world. You just completed a 13-month contract as the CEO of Sunrise Cambodia. What were your big takeaways from this gig?
This contract was a brutal lesson in fast-paced change-management. Sunrise was a small admin function in Adelaide and needed to be remodelled as a fundraising machine. That was quite a challenge in HR and in IT. All the acronyms were kicking my ass! It is always so much easier to create something brand new than to fix something antiquated. But we got there: a new skilled team, new fundraising strategy, new digital platforms, new policy and procedures and new financial controls. Proper governance is next.
I also learned in this role that the media can be vicious when online news is all about click bait. I had to handle some difficult media when Fairfax took on the founder of Sunrise, the old-school orphanage model and the fundraising appeal I had developed with my team. I learned that the expat community in Cambodia is not as welcoming as Ethiopia, that’s for sure. I also learned that you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. My creative strategy raised $420K which was $300K more than the year before but it was still slammed as “poverty porn.” I grew thicker skin and kept moving.
4. What’s your next move in your entrepreneur journey?
I’ll be sharing my entrepreneur adventures in my second book published by HarperCollins and will publish that in 2017. Communication is my super power so in the year ahead I will shop out my comms schizzle to causes and start-ups that I can really help. First up is New Humans of Australia. This is a story telling platform which is changing attitudes towards migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. It’s only about a year old and in that time New Humans of Australia has researched and written the stories of 80+ newcomers who call Australia home. Some of these stories reach more than a million people and 70% of users say it has positively changed their attitudes to new comers. How cool is that? With boundless plains to share, we have some work to do to change attitudes to people who can enrich Australia. This year I will also hit the speaker’s trail because I really enjoy using the stage to share different ways of thinking and doing business.
5. You meet with a soon-to-be, first-time founder and over coffee she asks “If I had to develop three habits to be a successful founder, what are they?” what would you say?
Don’t let the bastards get you down but most of all, have fun. Here’s a speech I gave on the chemistry of fun and how important it is to success. If you and your team, your customers and stakeholders are not having fun, what’s the point?
If you’d like to continue the conversation with Lucy, you can contact her here.