Ep.37 Bernadette Schwerdt - Secrets of Online EntrepreneursToday on the Cloud Stories podcast I’m talking with Bernadette Schwerdt. Bernadette is the author of Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs: How Australia’s Online Mavericks, Innovators and Disruptors Built Their Businesses … And How You Can Too. Bernadette and I are both authors with Wiley Publishing. We publish books with real pages! Every month Wiley sends authors a newsletter about what other authors are doing and I when I read Bernadette had written a book on the topic of successful entrepreneurs – I thought it would be of interest to listeners of this podcast.

Subscribe to Episode 37 of Cloud Stories on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/cloud-stories-heather-smith/id908333807

So I approached her and she kindly agreed. We then played calendar games for a few months and finally I’m excited to share with you that she’s on the show!

What I learnt from my conversation with Bernadette is that you don’t need a team of expert in what your business does e.g. if you sell wine you don’t need a sommelier, what you need is a hacker and a hustler.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot. In episode 11 of Cloud Stories I spoke with Tejaswi Raghurama at Pipemonk and his job title was Growth Hacker. I need to speak with someone and explore the growth hacker phenomena.

Bernadette also shared that she learnt through her interviews that businesses needed to operate quickly and on a boot string. If they were to fail they needed to fail forward.  Failing forward essentially means you turn your mistakes into stepping stones that move you forward.

I hope that hearing about how other successful entrepreneurs have succeeded may help you in your own business.

Bernadette is the director of The Australian School of Copywriting, an online training company specialising in the science and art of content marketing. She is the author of the best-selling manual “Writing for Profit” and of the new book “Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs” by Wiley Publishing.

She is a columnist with the magazine Inside Small Business, an Ambassador Blogger for Australia Post, a lecturer in marketing and communications at leading universities around Australia and is in demand as a speaker on leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing.

When she’s not working in marketing, she moonlights as an actor and appears regularly on TV in iconic shows such as Neighbours, Winners and Losers, Jack Irish and others.

In fact I was watching Jack Irish the other night and a lawyer appeared who sounded exactly like Bernadette and I checked the credits and it was her! Jack Irish is a great Australian drama on the ABC at the moment – if you have the chance to watch it.

Bernadette’s business The Australian School of Copywriting was formed in 2001, and has trained thousands of students in the art of copywriting. Specialising in providing real-world, practical techniques, students learn how copywriting can not only benefit their small business, but how it can become a main source of income.

Here’s an extract from Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs – that I read during the podcast:

Morris’s top 10 trends to watch: Lawyers/accountants/service industry

Statutory paperwork and routine regulatory forms will all be completed digitally by 2025, leaving service providers to earn their fees, by selling their wisdom, intuition and feelings.

As the sea of data rises and possibilities exponentially grow, we will be crying out for wise people to make sense and purpose out of all of it for us. We’ll be searching for experts who can let us know – in advance of use even knowing we need to know it – what to do about it or with it. That’s tomorrow’s service industry’s goldmine.

That’s all about understanding and accessing accurate timely big data interpret it, analyse it and communicate it. That’s one of the reasons I invited Geni Whitehouse to be a guest on the show – episode 36 of Cloud Stories – to speak about the importance of communicating in everyday language that small business people understand.

Today’s episode is kindly sponsored by Spotlight Reporting. I wanted to share with you a conversation I had during the week. I was speaking with a bookkeeper who had many freelance professionals from the same industry all on Xero. I explained to her that she could use the Spotlight Multi product and she could suck in all of the Xero organisations, and doing that she could rank them, visualise them, benchmark and consolidate them. Breaking that down, she could see the comparisons between revenue earned against cost of sales whether they were in line with the other business and potentially whether there were exceptions that needed further investigation.

Using a tool like Spotlight Multi can help you sell your wisdom, your intuition and your feelings. You can graphically look at something and quickly see exceptions that can lead you to understand and react to trends in the business. This in turns improves your ability to manage the business.

[Tweet “Laugh like a drain – Bernadette Schwerdt aka @copyschool via #CloudStoriesPodcast “]

In this episode I talk to Bernadette about:

  • Mad Men television series
  • What is copywriting
  • E-books vs books with real pages
  • Importance of all employees to have an online presence which incorporates what they want to be known for
  • How to develop high quality content and re-purpose it across platforms
  • When an online business needs a copywriter
  • How should a business engage a copywriter
  • 7 steps to create a successful online business: purpose, people, planning, profit, positioning, profile, promotion
  • Critical to understand the actual business you are in
  • How Malcolm Turnbull made his millions – it may surprise you!
  • The two people every online business needs is a hacker and a hustler
  • Don’t be obsessed with perfection
  • Fast and quick, think fast and fail forward

Resources mentioned in this interview

Connect with Bernadette Schwerdt

 

Heather: So you went into advertising after watching Bewitched so I’ve got to assume you love the Mad Men series.

Bernadette: I do. It’s a wonderful take on what advertising was like in the beginning and I think a lot of people get inspiration from that and they think that would be a job for me but it’s a tough industry and it’s not getting any easier I have to say.

Heather: So do you have a favourite memory from the Mad Men series?

Bernadette: Oh look Jon Hamm’s always a good memory, whatever Jon’s doing. No, but I just loved Peggy, the young copywriter coming through the ranks and what a trailblazer she is. It’s a terrific show.

Heather: Yes Peggy is amazing and it’s actually a really good representation of what the female had to go through in those times working which it doesn’t showcase that but it does just make you live through it.

Bernadette: Well it brings you back, they were the days you know, the smoking and the drinking and the women were just there as ornaments. It’s an interesting memory. You know I wasn’t part of that era but it’s interesting to look back and see that’s how it began.

Heather: Oh absolutely. So you run a copywriting school amongst the many, many things that you do. Can you explain to our listeners what copywriting actually is?

Bernadette: I can. It’s actually a question I get asked a lot and most times when I say I’m a copywriter they say, what’s that? Or they say that’s like trademark and intellectual property and they start to tell me their idea that they want me to protect and I go, I’ve got to stop you there. I don’t do trademarks, but what we do is we write copy, which is marketing materials for all businesses. So we help people promote themselves more effectively, we help them write their web content, so that they can be the best of what they be and the best at what they do. So it’s a really important role, a lot of people don’t know it exists, but when they create their websites or their blogs and they don’t get the traction and they don’t get the customers clicking through generally it’s because the content on their website is not engaging, it’s not positioning themselves in a way that makes the customer go, I want you. So that’s what we do, we make people look great.

Heather: Absolutely. I always say to people, because I’ve written seven books now, and so people think I’m this amazing person when it comes to English and I always say to people it’s actually like building a house. When I build the house, someone else comes in and makes it beautiful and it’s the editor and the copywriter that will do that to a large extent.

Bernadette: It is. It’s a collaborative process if you’re working with editors. Generally with copywriters we work alone and we’re responsible for taking the brief and then for writing the content and then editing and then proofing. So generally that’s what we do. But I also think that a lot of people struggle, particularly accountants, people are very methodical in the way they think which is a great thing, we need people like that. That’s not me. What’s interesting is when I have students who come through my course who are from the financial world they struggle with the sense of the generalisations we make. We exaggerate a little bit, within the truth of course, but it’s all about selling and promoting and they say but we’ve got to be very specific so I have students who are academics, lawyers, accountants often struggle with the concept of that vagueness that we work in, because it is a blend of science and creativity.

Heather: Absolutely and bringing the language back from the technical language that they speak in to a language that the person in the street actually understands.

Bernadette: Exactly.

Heather: I always know that when I deal with someone they come and ask me a question and they say this is their problem and I’m like, okay you’re using those words but I don’t think that’s actually your problem. Let’s try and work out what you actually think your problem is because the words you use might not actually be correct.

Bernadette: Yes, yes. But everybody needs copywriting, even if they do it themselves. I think it’s really important for people to recognise that they are a copywriter because when I do my workshops one of the things I open with is, who here is a copywriter and no one puts there hand up. So I say well who just wrote an email this week or who wrote a report or who wrote a little blog or updated their website and they all go yes and I say well you’re copywriters. So I try and get people to identify with that because then they can take on the confidence of saying, oh well if I have to write copy let me pretend to be a copywriter. Let me act as if I’m one because confidence is everything with copywriting. If you think you can write you tend to be a better writer.

Heather: You’ve just published a book called “Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs”. It might have been out for a little while actually. Many of our listeners fall into the category of being online entrepreneurs themselves so I’m sure they’re going to be interested in hearing some of your secrets. But before I ask you to disclose those secrets I did have one question for you. You have an online business selling eBooks. So why did you want to venture into a publishing partnership with Wiley and sell a book with real pages?

Bernadette: That’s a great question. I think like a lot of writers I’ve always had an ambition to write a book and there’s eBooks which are great and I’ve written loads of them, but there’s something about a hard copy book that is just priceless and that was always an inherent design. But number 2 was it was an accidental joy really, Heather, because I was doing a lot of events on the topic of entrepreneurship, I was getting a lot of entrepreneurs on the stage, I was interviewing them for local councils and various organisations and I’d been doing interviews with entrepreneurs as well for a TV show that I created for Fairfax, so I had a whole bunch of content and a whole bunch of contacts in this world and I thought people want to know the summation of these interviews. They want to know what are they all like. Is it born or is bred and how do they begin their businesses and how do they get one customer and how do they get 300,000 customers. So all these questions kept coming at me through these events so I thought, I think there’s a need here. How to build an online business that is practical. Not just the inspiration and the mindset but really practical details of how do they come up with the idea, how do they do this and that and that’s when I thought why don’t I write that book, because I’m passionate and I sell online courses and I was thinking wouldn’t it be great to ask people who’ve had enormous success on how they did it. So really it was coming from me as a genuine desire to learn so I created the series, the TV series, and the event and that’s where Wiley and I connected at one of these events and they said we think that’s a really good topic and I said that’s great because I’d love to write a book about that. So that’s how it really came about. The desire for me to find a book that I couldn’t’ find on how to build an online business and that’s what they saw as well so that’s how the hard copy came around.

Heather: Absolutely and going through the book what I like about it is it does have go and do this right now. Like it says as you’re reading it, go and get the URL for your name right now and so you do have that opportunity to bookmark pages, to write in pages, to make notes to yourself as you’re going through. It does interest me, everyone’s telling us people don’t like books but then people come and tell me they really like books and it’s interesting this world we’re living in and evolving when it comes to books.

Bernadette: It’s a real {0:13:34.5} I was just reading in the paper today about the issues with parallel importing books and how it’s going to kill the Australian publishing industry and that’s true also, but books will not die. I’ve talked to the people at Wiley about sales, eBooks versus hard and they say we thought eBooks would overtake hard but they’re not. So I think there’s still a very strong cohort of readers out there who love hard and I’m one of them, but there’s also equally a lot of people who travel a lot, they’ve just got it on their kindle, so I think there’s room for both. I think there’s still room for both.

Heather: So one of the things you talk about in your book is that it’s important, not only for the founder, but the people within the business to have their own online presence. Why do you think this is important and how should they go about doing that?

Bernadette: So Heather what you’re asking is that I’m saying to everybody, whether an employee or the founder of the company, be it an entrepreneur or just a regular pay-as-you-go income earner, and I guess by way of example…I was consulting to a client who is very senior in the financial services industry funny enough, and we were sitting across from the table from each other and I said so what’s your ambition? He said, well I don’t think I’m going to be at this company forever. I said, what then? He said, well I want to move on to go to the next level. And I said, so when you leave this company you’re sort of credibility, if you like when you’re on the open market is being significantly reduced because you don’t have that brand behind you, and I said if you have been on the open market with another candidate for a top level job they’re going to look for you on Google and if they can’t find an online footprint about you and what you represent and your thought leadership and the way you present in the world, they’re going to overlook you for somebody who has. Because everyone needs to be connected, particularly in senior management. So he kind of got the gist of like, right you know, he’d been protected within this organisation for 15 years but when you’re on the open market, and anybody can be on the open market at any time no matter how good you are, and he realised right, I’ve got to build my own profile, I’ve got to get an identity in terms of the topics I want to be known for, thought leadership aspects I’d like to be known for, so it gave him an understanding that you need to protect yourself, you need to be a brand and people really resist that concept of being a brand, but I do too, but I think it’s sink or swim. I don’t want to have to spend my time building a profile. I’d rather be at home with my children. But it’s a survival mechanism. When people are comparing you online if one person’s got 15 blogs with a leading online journal and you don’t, they’re going to read those blogs and learn more about that person and they’re going to be more akin to choosing them as their provider.

Heather: Yes absolutely and I think especially in the online world we want to work with people we know that at the other end there’s a real person with a real family, a real dog and have that connection there as well, as well as having the thought leadership and the knowledge and the intelligence behind it. It’s not that they just want money off us.

Bernadette: Absolutely, I think that’s the more the case than ever before and it’s really, I mean we’ve always said to do business with people we like, that’s always been a truism, but more than ever I think when we don’t get to see the person behind the screen or behind the business, if we can get a sense of their personality, what drives them, why they do what they do and especially financial services. I was just presenting last week for a major financial services organisation and I talked about when that financial advisor walks across your door step into your lounge room or vice versa you come into theirs, what the client is thinking is, why do you do what you do? Even accountants you don’t necessarily have that same things that a financial advisor, even though it’s in the same world, but it’s still very personal. You’re dealing with people’s money and they, I know when I’m talking to a financial adviser of any persuasion who’s got access to my history, I want to know, are you here just for the money or do you actually care and even if you don’t really care I need you to pretend that you’re caring. You know, we’re humans and we want to have that connection with the person who knows our inner most secrets which is what our finances really are.

Heather: Absolutely, people forget how intimate it is dealing with a financial person and I kind of align it with, it’s kind of like the gynaecologist or someone like that, that you are completely exposing yourself to them and you have to be from my side, as the advisors side, extremely respectful of them because you don’t’ know how sensitive they are and people have told me they lie in bed awake at night just worrying about their finances and if we can help them through that it’s really important.

Bernadette: I don’t think there’s any other topic, other than gynaecology, it’s more personal than money. Even relationships. People are much more open about relationships with strangers and counsellors than they are about their money. So yes, it’s a unique relationship that their client has with their financial advisor, be it an accountant, bookkeeper, financial planner whoever it is.

Heather: I was talking to a lady who does implementation for doctors and she says she cannot move them to the cloud if she just says talk to them about the money because they find money dirty. It’s dirty and if it saves them money they’re not interested. If it saves them in the process and makes their clients life easier then they are interested, which I thought was really interesting.

Bernadette: Yes, really interesting.

Heather: So you talk about the importance of creating high quality content in your book. Could you give some examples of how an online entrepreneur can provide their audience with this sort of high quality content?

Bernadette: Yes I can. The way I go about this with my clients is I say to them, you are just as though you’re getting the same questions from your prospect and your clients all the time and it might be just in broad terms; how much do you charge, how long will it take, what happens if I don’t like, how will I get my money back or how long… just general questions on any topic. So I say record those questions. Note them and then provide an answer to them, even in text, like an FAQ (frequently asked questions) document and then you create what I call the base level material and it’s all the content that people ask about your business and then also your differentiation. People say why should I choose you over this person? Well there’s reasons why they should choose you. Write them down. Keep your story clear, is what I’m saying and then when you have that content that can be created into an email campaign, into tweets, into Facebook posts, into a blog, it might be topics people ask you about. It might be what’s the ruling on SMSFs at the moment or how much do I need to retire on. Quite broad questions, quite specific questions. Just get them to really think about what clients need to know and then you write the answers to that and there’s your content. It’s not going out on a limb and being something you’re not, it’s taking the questions you’re already getting and providing people with those answers in a really well written way and that could be a video, it could be a blog, it could be a podcast, whatever medium suits you. Some people are better at speaking, some people are better at writing, so I think to start with people are and what information they want from you.

Heather: Do you agree, this is kind of what I do whether you agree with it or not, is I’ll take that content and I’ll actually repurpose it across the platforms so I’ll make a video, I’ll make a little podcast, I’ll talk about it, I’ll put it in LinkedIn in a snippet if appropriate, I’ll put it on the blog etc.

Bernadette: Absolutely I’m very time-efficient when it comes to business, what I say to my clients, especially financial type people generally don’t like writing, that has been my experience, they’re numbers people, and interestingly people pick up my book like the accountant and go no grass and they put it back. I laugh like a drain when I see that because I pick up books and go, eww grass and put it back so everyone’s different. So I’ve been completely overgeneralising when I say that financial people generally feel they’d rather be doing the numbers than words. So the point being I would {0:22:28.7} would run a webinar with them and I’d give them the question and I’d have them prepare the answers as well as they can. We’d record the webinar and get the webinar transcribed and then from there I’d break it into content. So it’s newsletters and it’s Tweets and posts and blogs and because they’ve given me the information it’s been very structured in the way I’ve questioned them. We’ve created a whole bunch of content in about two hours.

Heather: Absolutely. That’s amazing.

Bernadette: And it’s a really cost effective time-efficient way because I’ve got good content, I’m not making it up, they’re giving it to me, I’ve given them questions that I think are relevant to the audience so it just creates oodles of content and that’s a very cost effective way of doing it.

Heather: Fantastic, I love that you use the phrase “laugh like a drain”. I have never heard that phrase before.

Bernadette: Oh yes, just some things make me laugh when I see them. This one accountant I’m referring to the guy who picked up my book, and this talks about culture as well, like I was talking last week as this conference on what do you value as a financial advisor, or accountant or whatever you do and he was saying that his little thing, when he staples his documents they’ve got to be 2mm down from the top of the page, 2mm to the left and it must be horizontal and anyone in his office who has it at an angle god help them and I guess that’s the kind of way from what do you do and why do you do it. You know he is meticulous in the way he presents his material to his clients and I talk a long about that with my financial clients about how do you want to be seen in the marketplace? You’ve got to identify what those words are. For him it’s meticulous, it’s organised, it’s almost OCD and for me as an accountant that’s great. That’s exactly what I want in an accountant. In a copywriter? Not so much. Those {0:24:18.4} are not that valuable. So I think in terms of people working out their content and the way they want to be seen and how their google footprint looks, identify values that you think are important to you and to your clients and then try and make your business fit that in the way you answer the phone, the way your office is organised. Like I went to a financial planners office not long ago and to be fair it looked like they were really doing business because this office, it was like an apartment and it was like a mental asylum. There was nothing in it. It was like white, everything was white and there was not an ounce of personality and I remember thinking I almost distrust them this. It feels like they’ve just landed and they’re about to move on. That wasn’t the case and they are absolutely upstanding citizens but from a client perspective I would have loved to have seen some pictures on the wall, some books, some evidence of life about what they represented. It’s a small thing but clients are looking for information to make assessments about you when they’re in your office. So give them what you want them to see.

Heather: So we get interior design and copywriting info here.

Bernadette: Look I’m across everything here. No topic is beyond me.

Heather: I completely agree. I remember going into my dentist office and every year they had a big photo of the whole team for every year for like a decade at ski fields, at scuba diving and I thought that’s beautiful, I’m paying them too much because they can afford to do that, but that’s beautiful and I like that. So it was that kind of double thing but it was that nice…you can’t fake those team bonding things and you want to, personally I want to pay someone so that they can have a good life themselves. I’m not here to cheat anyone and many people are like that. So how should an online business engage with a copywriter?

Bernadette: Okay the process is reasonably straight forward. How I work is they’ll identify what they want done, or I’ll help them identify what they’d like done, because often they don’t, I need something but I don’t know what. So we generally have a session, like a discovery session, and that’s a reasonably low cost session where we sit on Skype together depending on where they are, I look at their website, I look at their material and question them. I talk about the things that I’m talking about now; how you want to be seen, what’s your ambition, do I be big, do I just want to be a 2 person operation. What’s your goal? Because the goals determine everything because if they want to be the Bell Potter or a massive financial advisory firm like Dixon Advisory, then you do things differently. You write differently. It’s not I this it’s we. So everything changes so that’s kind of the starting point is just a discovery session where we spend a couple of hours together talking and then from there on work out what material needs to be created in consultation with them. I give them a quote on that, we go to work, we present them with the copy, there’s two sets of revisions involved because we don’t assume we’ll get it right the first time. Often people don’t know what they want until they see it. Or they don’t know what they don’t want until they see it. So then we go back to the books if necessary, revise, present and generally we get it done within one set of revisions and then we want to work with a web developer. They’ll say this is the why frame, we’ve got these 60 words here, 100 words there, 500 words here, so we look at the why frame and we write to the spec so instead of just writing randomly, we actually write to the space that’s accommodating the content, we might work with a graphic designer or we give them one. We say look, you don’t have one but you really need one because you need to look good so we work with other suppliers as well. So basically we can be a full service agency in some respects. If people want us to do a full marketing plan, SEO, web building, web design, I don’t do that but I have contacts who do and then it becomes a cost effective way to build a business because instead of going to a marketing agency where you’re paying 4 people to do things you maybe don’t need done, we quote you on exactly on what you need done with no bells and whistles.

Heather: I’ve been so entranced listening to you talk about copywriting I’ve probably asked you too much about copywriting-

Bernadette: -no that’s fine-

Heather: -I’m sure people would like to know some of your secrets of online entrepreneur success. So in your book you talk about seven steps to creating a successful online business and you outline them as purpose, people, planning, profit, positioning, profile and promotion. Would you like to elaborate on those?

Bernadette: How long have you got Heather?

Heather: Well would you like to share some secrets that you think were…things that you didn’t expect to find out during your interviews or what you put down in your book?

Bernadette: Yes and look there’s a lot of Ps going on there and I know it’s a bit bamboozling but the reason I did that was because when most people are starting a business, especially an online…look let’s face it, we’re all online. Just some are more online than others. But for those who really do want to understand the online world it’s when you begin. I often think people have got a little idea bubbling away in addition to their business and they just don’t know how to bring it to life and it might be an ad, it might be hobby, it might be a passion whatever it is. So I try to get them to tap into that. What is their idea and then I’d start to say well passion, for example, that’s Step 1. Do you have a desire to do this because you’re passionate about it or you have an absolute desire to make a bunch of money from it? It might be both but if you know what you want from the outset you’ll do things differently. I’ll give you an example. There’s a company called Temple & Webster, they’re an online homewares company that have had enormous growth. They’ve just listed on the stock exchange actually and they’re fabulous guys, but these four guys when they got together they were ex-Microsoft, ex-EBay, you know serious corporate type who understood data and they looked at the figures from EBay and from ABS and from other sources and thought there’s a market here for homewares for an upmarket homewares online store. So they went very methodically into this thinking we’re going to ideally list, we’re going to invest very quickly, we’re going to get investors, you know we’re going to grow quick. That is very different to someone like Jodie Fox who was the co-founder of Shoes at Prey which is an online shoe design company and her ex-husband or husband at the time was in, I’m not sure if it was Google, but there was a guy from Google and somebody else in the trio but they were the kind of techy guys and she was the creative but she had this passion for shoes and she couldn’t get shoes that would fit, she wasn’t going to get them modified so that was her passion was beautiful shoes. So she went to Bali, found the supplier and then kind of got her on the track of wouldn’t it be great if we could get our shoes designed from scratch and that’s kind of her idea merged with those two guys who brought the technical element and then it just grew, but it was Jodie’s passion that got the idea up. So the point I’m making there Heather, when you understand what you want from the business if you can at the beginning is going to dictate how you {0:31:47.5}. So this is one thing that really stuck with me as when I’ve got ideas and start up aspirations as I do, I’m almost now thinking of it completely differently. This is not my passion but there’s a need and I want to build it. So I go about it very differently.

Heather: I love that when you referenced Temple & Webster which is a homely site you said, they looked at the data and that’s where they came from and as businesses we now have access to so much big data to make those decisions. Jodie who is quite a bit younger than me but a fellow Alumni of Griffith University, but I don’t know here at all. She’s just a bit younger than me but she’s just got a beautiful story. It’s such a beautiful story and it’s so memorable.

Bernadette: I think it’s also asking the question of what business are we in. I think this where listeners of this podcast everybody has to question what business they’re in because if you think you’re in this business…for example Australia Post was my client many, many years ago and they thought they were in the letters business. I’m talking early 90s and they weren’t in the letter business at all they were in the transmission of information business and not understanding that difference back then has led to the problems they’re in today. Now they’re still my clients and I’m not disrespecting them I’m just saying they’re acknowledging the issues but what happened 20 odd years ago is impossible to change but someone that did recognise the difference back then was Malcolm Turnbull funnily enough. Malcolm was presented with the opportunity to invest in a little company called OzEmail and that was the company that {0:33:34.0} who was the founder of a magazine called Australian PC. Very geeky kind of guy but he had this idea, he presented it to Malcolm, Malcolm understood the business that he was in which was the transmission of information. He did say we’re an email with this, he said no it’s the future. So he invested $500,000 in 1994 and he walked away with a $55 million investment five years later.

Heather: Wow!

Bernadette: So people say that is the basis of Malcolm’s ability to have more freedom in his career. He’s had an enormous career in all sorts of worlds but so it happens he has this big, big early win, when you make that kind of money in five years it gives you freedom to pursue whatever you want. So he knew, he’s a smart guy obviously he’s running the country now, the point being he understood the business of what he was in and that was information and that’s when I interview all these incredible entrepreneurs like Matt Barrie from Freelancer and John William from Appliances Online and Ruslan Kogan, all these guys and women, and I ask them what business are you in and they say the data business. We happen to sell wine. We happen to sell footwear. We happen to sell creative services. So when they know that they do things differently and one guy that really resonated with me was Andre Eikmeier who runs Vinomofo, which is an online wine company, but when he got into business he didn’t ask that question he thought we’re in the wine business and hired wine experts and after a while of losing money and not getting sales he realised you know what, I answered that question incorrectly, because we are in the internet business. We happen to sell wine. It’s good he made that distinction. Suddenly he thought there’s two people we need to hire. We need a hacker and we’ll need a hustler. The hacker is the website guy who could build a website, the backend, the coding the programming, the ordering, we need a hustler who can go out there and sell the idea, build the relationship and get the sales coming in. He said if I’d known they’re the two people any online business needs at the very outset I would have saved myself hundreds of thousands of dollars. So I tell that story because when you know what business you’re in it affects your hiring, it affects the way you create your content, the way you build your website. So I love that story because it affects what I do now. Every time I have a new idea or entrepreneurial activity I go what business am I in, and everything changes.

Heather: That was so profound. I loved that, the hacker and the hustler. That’s what you need in business and identifying them. Excellent. So what are some common mistakes that the online businesses told you they made and perhaps rectified?

Bernadette: I think a lot of them said they didn’t act fast enough. They didn’t go hard quick enough and so they might have drifted along and made it a part time business and they dabbled here and there and in retrospect they said we should have just gone for it. Really invested in it. Hired people. Found investors. So that’s one thing that they say and I don’t think they all realise is important, some of them did this and others said they could have done it better was not being obsessed with perfection, in terms of getting the website up. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe there’s glitches. Yep, you’ll make mistakes. But live with those and amend them quickly rather than wait for it to be perfect then launch and I think the purpose behind that is they think well fail forward, just fail, but fail quickly because they see failure not as a mistake but they see it as feedback and I think that was a really big lesson for me and a lot of writers are perfectionists and they don’t like things to go out without them being perfect, but now I’ll, not so much about the writing but more about ideas and websites. I think get it out there, get it up, so we can see it, other people can see it, people can give us feedback, good or bad, but at least people can talk as if there’s nothing to see people can’t buy and even with an idea, get it into a brochure, build a little app, do a little Facebook page, do something that people can look at rather than saying I’ve got this idea about this and that. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is everything. So if you can at least get something visual for people to show, prototype or something in the online world that is visible, you have a lot more success more quickly.

Heather: If following that philosophy, if you move fast and quickly, isn’t there also the potential to lose a lot of money fast and quickly?

Bernadette: Well I think that’s always a risk. The other thing I learnt too Heather was they boot strap. They don’t invest a lot of bucks until they know they’ve got a market, until they’ve got a product, until there’s been validated and the way they do that is they know quick and cheap tools to build websites. That is a real eye opener for me. It’s like wow, you used those people, those people, those people because you don’t want to…I’ll give you an example. Simon Griffiths built a company called Who Gives a Crap, it’s a terrific name and they sell toilet paper, environmentally friendly toilet paper and part proceeds or significant proceeds go to developing nations to build sanitation projects. So it is a social enterprise and Simon came from a corporate background but he was lacking the heart, he felt that these companies required of him so he set up his own business. The point being he didn’t want to build a factory, didn’t want to go to the toilet paper business until he was certain people would buy toilet paper online, that they were buying environmentally friendly paper and they’d buy toilet paper that had a purpose in terms of helping other nations. So he built a shopify website, really cheap, he went out and brought toilet paper from the supermarket, bought cardboard boxes, packed it himself, created some paper clip campaigns that drove traffic to the site, just to test if people would buy it online in bulk. They did. So he sent it out via Australia Post, cost him a fortune in shipping and time, but what he learnt from bootstrapping the business was firstly the ideas got merit, people will buy, there’s friction points when you send out cardboard boxes filled with toilet paper and it gets wet the bottom of the cardboard box falls out. You know, little things like that he learnt really quickly about how not to do it. Things like put a reorder thing at the end of the toilet paper. You’re about to run out, order now. People often bring their phones believe it or not into the loo so it’s a perfect place for people to actually order their toilet paper while they’re sitting on the toilet with their phone in their hand. So little things like that he learnt by doing it and then he thought now we’re ready to ramp up. Let’s get some production facilities, let do crowd funding, let’s get our first $50,000 in orders through Crowd funding on the back of a 3 minute video which went viral and that launched the company. So you don’t have to lose money and I think in this day and age you can get a website for $100 from {0:40:52.4} a web developer doing it for maybe $500 compared to the old days, I’m talking 3 years ago, 5 years ago it cost you $5000 / $10000 for what cost you $500 now. There is no need to invest big until you’re certain.

Heather: Excellent. So fast and quick, bootstrap and fail forward. I think that sums it up very good. And I think a lot about what you were talking about there first of all he is the taller ecommerce king isn’t he. Well your book you were talking about there and hopefully our listeners can go and grab your book in their local book store sort of sums it up in the TedEx talk you gave in Melbourne which wast how to bumble your way to success in that they didn’t’ have meticulous plan and they tried things out.

Bernadette: Yes that talk was really interesting perspective for a lot of people, they all thought why on earth would you willingly and happily reveal yourself to be a bumbler and the reason I did that was because I am a bumbler and it’s an evocative term but what it means is I don’t know what I’m doing a lot of the time in terms of business, in terms of relationships, in terms of ideas, even when you travel some people are meticulous the way they turn up in the country. I don’t, I turn up and I get lost and I get happily lost so it’s very much a personality thing but what I was trying to say is if we expect our children to know exactly what career they want when they’re 10 or 19, that’s going to put them in boxes that they can’t get out of, or they going to do things they don’t want to do, so what I’m trying to say is give people, staff and your children and your relationships time to fumble, to bumble, to work its way into some formation that makes sense to you. But if we expect it instantly we’re going to be disappointed and we’re end up with a lot of stress. So I was just thinking in the day and the age where there’s a lot of content and knowledge available, the expectation of how we should  move through this world is overrated and there’s high expectations of we should understand everything instantly, even if we’re knew to something. I’m just trying to give people a little bit of slack to say let’s cut ourselves and our fellow travellers a little bit of slack to say we don’t know what we’re doing right now but I’ll get there. Just give me some time.

Heather: Yes I absolutely agree. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much Bernadette for speaking to us today. How can our listeners get in touch with you?     

Bernadette: They can email me  info@copyschool.com or they can look up www.copyschool.com or they can just look at www.BernadetteSchwert.com.au  That’s my personal branding site. That’s what I was talking about earlier, get your name reserved, build your little profile out there so people can find you. So there’s a couple of ways they can get in touch.

Heather: Thank you so much. I lost my URL, I don’t have the URL to my name because my name is also the name of a famous playboy bunny and a famous writer about cow health. So-

Bernadette: -you wouldn’t read about that would you. In fact just before we finish I was listening to Ashton Kutcher, you know the movie star talk, he’s got a new baby and he said he has bought her name URL the minute she was born because I do not want my daughter have a porn star website in her name without her knowing. So it’s actually very practical and you’ve just tapped into it right there. So go and get the names of your children if you haven’t already.

Heather: thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Bernadette: Thank you Heather.

End of Transcript