The ups, downs and importance of cronies in my ride to being a Telstra Finalist

One week ago I opened a email that made my heart race and my soul rejoice. It conjured up a feelings akin to reaching the top of a long climb after cycling up the long windy roads in the Dandenongs. The hard work paid off! Telstra officially announced that I am a finalist in the Telstra Women’s Business Awards (TBWA), Small Business division!

Opportunity to reflect

The whole process has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect. The TBWA journey consists of a very comprehensive written submission, then being announced as a shortlisted candidate, an interview (which I spent days preparing for), learning very quickly what it means to be a part of the incredibly supportive alumni and sharing the celebrations with my team and our community.

Now that I think about it, my business journey is strangely similar to my many bike rides in the “nongs” in a number of ways. If you’ve never cycled or driven around the Dandenongs: it’s absolutely beautiful with the road surrounded by forest. Our regular loop consists of many tough climbs and fun-filled descents, stunning views and is best enjoyed chatting with friends who encourage you the whole way. The descents are an incredible rush: with the wind in your face you feel like you can conquer the the world. But you spend most of your time out there climbing, so it’s really important to enjoy that part too.

Cycling in the hills of the Dandenongs is not for everyone. It takes skill, determination, nerves of steel, preparation and a drive to ‘show up’ in the first place. Those who enjoy this past time and repeat the challenge over and over again are even more rare. In order to love a hilly bike ride one must possess ‘a love for the grind’: the slow, sometimes thankless leg churning work that seems never ending, often with a very distant goal in mind (see where I’m going with this now?). The temptation to stop hovers over your rear tyre the entire journey, but you know that if you give in, starting again will be that much harder, so you keep churning. You live for the flats, take corners where you can, dread the incline ahead, forever picking your line and hoping for relief around the corner.

“You spend most of your time out there climbing, so it’s really important to enjoy that part too”

Fiona White

But then comes the first big break; the top of the first hill when you feel both accomplished and exhausted. The elation is overwhelming and soon you and your friends agree that you should continue, finding the next hill to get you higher and higher for your final descent that day. Small successes give us the confidence we can achieve what we set out to, then makes us hungry for more.

Importance of support system

Friends and supporters have been beyond essential in my business (and cycling) career. What’s that saying about surrounding yourself with positive people? Something like “You are an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”? I agree to some extent, however for me I try to take inspiration from as many people as possible. I started cycling because some of my friends were doing it. I started my business because some of my friends had started their own too. In both cases, they seemed to be having fun and I had what kids these days would call ‘FOMO’ (or is that term is already outdated?). In both cases, my friends were enjoying what they were doing so much that they wanted to share the experience and gave me a helping hand to join them. They let me ask the dumb questions (What do the gears mean? What’s an ABN?), coached me on the harder questions (Should I buy clip in shoes? How do I design a website?) and pointed me in the direction of specialists to help me when I was ready to spread my wings. Along the way I’d spend time with and learn from other cyclists, business owners, speakers, coaches and LinkedIn posters. Luckily it wasn’t long before I learnt to swiftly put down the ‘tips’ which weren’t useful or relevant to myself (your Lycra has to match!) or Own Body (it’s a looooong list).

And just like cycling, as you grow and improve the wider community will have a good balance or reactions. There are a few haters, those in awe, many who are much better cyclists (who either leave you for dust or choose to invest time and energy into helping you improve) and those who you, in turn, inspire and introduce into the business/cycling world.

The 5 tips in entrepreneurship

So in summary, what I can share from my journey is the following:

  • If you want the highs you need to work for it
  • Surround yourself with the right people. People who make you want to do stuff, support you to start and get better at stuff and celebrate with you when you do good stuff
  • Share the love; give back and help others get involved
  • Love the climb; that’s where you spend most of your time
  • Enjoy the ride!

PS. In order to improve you need to measure, compare, strategise and execute. (If it wasn’t on Strava it didn’t happen).

PPS. Have I drawn out this analogy out for all it’s worth? Comment below if you have more!