As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryll Burgin-Doyle, a strategic advisor and entrepreneur that has spent the last 30 years growing businesses across Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Asia and the United Kingdom. She has worked with and grown almost every kind of business imaginable, from startups to SME’s, to corporate enterprises (one of them being a $1B company). Furthermore, she founded and lead a nonprofit called stepUP Foundation that helped 19,000 adolescents, many of whom were underprivileged or at-risk.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you for having me, and of course!
After university, I was incredibly committed to finding and winning what I thought would be my dream job. I held out working as a babysitter, bartender and laborer so that I didn’t just take any job. As a result, I was incredibly lucky to win a role with an incredible organization that trained and mentored me to start consulting with a huge variety of businesses at the ripe old age of 21. My role was to grow up to 20 businesses, then later 120 businesses per year via focusing on their sales and marketing, mentoring the business owners to implement new strategies and tactics to produce growth in revenues and profits. From that time on, I was absolutely hooked! My passion since has been growing my own or other people’s businesses and this is my 30th year doing just that.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
In 1973, my mother started her first business with very little funds, a lot of tenacity and ingenuity. At that time, I was just 3 and her closest girlfriend, a mother to two boys, was her business partner. Of course, back then there simply weren’t the structures that exist now to support working families. To solve the challenges, one woman would stay at home and look after the 3 of us for 3 days a week, while the other would run the shop and then they’d swap for the other 2 and half days of the week. Looking back, I have always found that to be extraordinary and entrepreneurial, so I would say my Mother was my greatest inspiration to get into business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In that first ever very real job, I was often dealing with business owners, most of whom were men, two and three times my age. After trying to rally against the pushback that would come sometimes with no luck, after all who wants to listen to a 21-year-old graduate! Instead, I just started focusing on the results. Turns out, the more results I got the more they listened! That’s been true in every business, every role I’ve ever had, in fact it’s served me in life overall!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have been incredibly blessed with many amazing mentors — starting with my favorite teacher Mr. Marrinan, from 7th grade! He saw something in me and nurtured my abilities to lead, to communicate, and to do well at the things I was passionate about. I think that ability to grow and develop someone’s confidence makes all the difference, as it absolutely did for me. In my career, here in Australia, Paul Dunn and Chris Newtown were instrumental and through them also getting the opportunity to meet and work with people like Michael E. Gerber, Robert Kiyosaki, Blair Singer, Dame Doria (DC) Cordova, Jay Abraham and more, was an absolute blessing to my life.
Later, as a CEO, I was mentored by one of the highest profile female CEO’s and that was invaluable. Every single one of these people impacted the direction of my life and entrepreneurial journey ever since. I would also say that EVERY client I have ever worked with, and every business I have ever been a part of, have had a massive impact on me. From gaining skills, strategies and of course, leadership abilities.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting any business is tough. Starting a business with no capital is even tougher, especially if that business grows quickly! In my first business, we were successful, growing constantly and very, very quickly. But since I had started it with just $1,100, we were always strapped for cash. When that was happening, I remember my thought process was “okay well, we just have to sell more” so off I’d go and do that and yet we’d still end up tight for cash! It was maddening. I remember once getting a loan for a car and instead of getting the car, I ended up tipping that cash into the business! I realized later that at that time, I simply didn’t understand the dynamics of the financials well enough. It was a roller coaster — we were so clearly succeeding but felt like I was failing a lot of the time. Of course, eventually, we had a proven track record and secured a line of credit that helped us continue to grow.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were hard?
Anyone committed to producing results for an extended period (like 30 years), with lots of different people and enterprises, things are definitely going to be hard sometimes. At those times, I keep myself focused on results, and that keeps me going. Also, I have always felt accountable to my family, to my networks, to my future, and to the people I work with to make it happen, whatever it may be. Even when I’ve failed, I’ve kept moving forward. Being an entrepreneur means being unstoppable, there’s not really a choice about that. You just have to keep going. If your passion, your reason for being in the game in the first place is big enough, in my experience, you will always find a way to keep going.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Right now, one of my businesses runs live, experiential world-class events. Of course, during 2020 we were simply unable to operate, other than offering support services to our clients. So, speaking frankly, 2020 was a very tough year there. To go from growing and flourishing, to coming to an immediate stop was tough. I surveyed hundreds of business owners and a staggering 68% said that COVID had negatively impacted their revenues and we were no different. And yet at the same time, it also created new opportunities, new ways of doing business, new clients, even new online programs, and more! I don’t believe you can succeed in business without that grit and resilience (especially not in times like these). My determination and “bounce back” factor as my husband calls it, has meant we have done just that and will continue to thrive in 2021!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Having several businesses ranging from private advisory, technology, entrepreneurial education, and personal transformation, what makes each of them stand out is 3-fold:
- First, we are exemplary at what we do (even market leading).
- Second, each has a very clear intention that is about being of service to others and making a transformative difference in their field for those we serve. This intention is personal to each business and inspiring for everyone involved. This is what drives us every day.
- And third, each has a culture of personal mastery including compassion for self and others, commitment to excellence, and more. Alongside personal responsibility, results, celebration and team.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In 2018, I discovered something unheard of…a long weekend! What I mean by that is, we worked very, very hard in 2017 and didn’t take time off to rest, recover, or celebrate our wins. In 2018 we committed to having 4-day weekends every 10 weeks or so and the difference was astounding. We felt better, we performed better, and ultimately brought back a fun work culture to the businesses. We’ve continued to do that regularly ever since. So, my message is simple, TAKE SOME TIME OFF! Do it regularly not once or twice a year.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In 2002, I created a non-profit called stepUP Foundation to inspire young people about what was possible in business and in life. stepUP was designed to have 14 to 18-year-old teenagers, some from the toughest of backgrounds, grasp what was possible if they were willing to commit themselves and think entrepreneurially. Our larger intention was to professionally shift the future of humanity in a single generation.
Some 19,000 teens graduated our 2-day program across three countries. 96% of participants said it was the “most empowering experience of my life.” The ripple effect has been massive. I still meet entrepreneurs today that say “I was at stepUP in such and such a city on this date as a 15-year-old and now my business is thriving.” Beyond that, we partner and give through an incredible platform called www.b1g1.com.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Your business and results will never outstrip you.
Very early in my career I noticed that the businesses I was working with were a reflection of the Founder. Without question all the Founder’s “stuff”, the good, the bad and the ugly would show up in the business, including mine stuff in my businesses! To that end, if you want incredible results, you HAVE to keep developing, keep learning, keep transforming yourself first as a leader, as an entrepreneur and as a human being.
2. It will all work out, even when it looks like it won’t, it always does eventually!
Whatever the calamity is that you may be facing today, it will be resolved. Fast forward 10 years and really think about whether you will remember this moment in time then? Will this moment of stress be something you remember as a landmark moment? if not, focus on finding a way through, a solution that works for all and move on to greater priorities quickly!
3. There is plenty of people and capital available for growth, you just need to know where to find it.
There is always money around! There are investors right now looking for great business opportunities even in the world we find ourselves in today. You can have everything you want, but you have to be willing to play a bigger game. If you are dreaming of more but struggling with your current circumstances in business, chances are you need to look at the bigger picture and focus on bigger things and how to achieve those than what your current goals are.
4. The first sale is always to yourself.
If you wouldn’t buy that idea, that story, that reasoning, that product, or service, no-one else, team, supplier, partner or client, will either. If you would, then commit and add value to others and the sale. Whether of an idea or actual sales — it will come.
5. Love your team, they are the lifeblood of your business.
When I was coming up, it was the era of “the customer is always right”. I discovered that’s not actually true all the time. That thought process is great from a service perspective, but backing your team is incredibly important as well. Now, we will not work with people who are team does not enjoy their company.
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
All my businesses are a reflection of all the things I’ve learned over the course of my career. While no way perfect, the lessons earned along the way are woven into why, what, and how we do what we do. For me, leadership is about empowering other leaders. For me, a great leader has leaders around them. In our businesses, we have a philosophy that “everyone leads”. We each lead our roles, our lives, our contribution to the business itself, to our clients, and to our culture. Everyone leads.
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
I fully subscribe to the notion of experiential learning. In fact, it is a cornerstone of what differentiates our entrepreneurial programs. These programs are not stuffy seminars, instead, we play games and have learning activities so that people have an immersive and very real and tangible experience. And from that experience, a very personal transformation takes place. Experience, whether in that kind of setting, business, or life, has absolutely been where I have gained the most traction and expansion of my personal capacity. For me, I see it like this:
You can read about riding a bike. You can watch someone else ride a bike, or someone can tell you how riding a bike works.
However, until you have actually ridden a bike and experienced balance, for yourself, you will never know riding a bike.
So yes, I subscribe to that, and I think you can build on that with actual study of subject matter to build technical expertise, you can learn from mentors who will drive your confidence up…all of that, with experience builds what’s possible for each of us in my view.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
We have just begun working on what we call “The Ripple Project”. This is a place where we share incredible projects in the world that are doing great work to answer futurist and genius Buckminster Fuller’s question: “how do we make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone?”
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me at www.ryllburgindoyle.com,
And be sure to keep an eye out for the Ripple Project on Facebook — coming soon!