Inspirational Interview: Follow Your Dreams, Never Give Up with Gen George
At 21 Gen George launched her business OneShift on the back of a free blog and nothing but posters, duct tape and an iPad. That was 2012 and within the space of 3.5 years, OneShift now has over 650,000 users, 39,000 businesses across Australia / NZ and received $5 million of investment.
Gen also works with Government, Boston Consulting Group, Council of Small Business Australia and co-leads several women in business and tech initiatives, including ‘Women In Tech Australia‘ and the international Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW); a group for entrepreneurial women which has grown to over 2000 members in all Australian cities in less than 6 months, and now expanding globally.
With the type of success that most only dream about, we sat down with Gen to talk about what it’s like to make your dreams come true:
You’ve created a great success with OneShift. Where did the idea come from and how did you get started?
I spent some time in a hostel with many other hospitality professionals while backpacking in my 20’s. I proposed to the owner of the hostel café that guests work shifts, and he agreed. This allowed us to minimize our food costs and earn money while waiting for more stable work.
When I returned to Australia I built on that idea, starting a blog to connect uni students looking for part time work. Within the first month 300 students and a number of local bars and clubs had signed up. Seeing an opportunity, I left my full time job and launched OneShift as a website in 2012 and we’ve steadily grown since then.
Having your business be such a success, and that success recognized with industry awards, must be a dream come true. Have you always dreamed this big?
To be honest I don’t think I dream big enough. Often when the idea of how to do something better, bigger or differently, or a new opportunity hits me, I wonder how I’d overlooked it up to that point.
We always judge ourselves on why we aren’t moving fast enough and that’s definitely something I do everyday. I’m constantly asking my team how we can do something better. I’m pretty sure it drives them crazy but we’ve had some of greatest ideas from laying down the challenge to dream bigger.
What does a day in the life of Gen George look like?
Every day is different for me. I’m always working towards a new goal, learning as I go, reflecting on where we are now and how we’re moving forward. This brings up new ideas, which can change the path, or the direction, entirely.
All this means a lot of meetings, and working through new ideas. Work in a number of tech, start up and women in business groups, means at night I’m usually mentoring other talented young women, speaking at events or working in the start up community at groups like LMBDW or Women in Tech.
They can be long days but they are always varied, and it’s rewarding and stimulating to be an active member of the community.
What has been your number one lesson on the journey so far?
One of our values at OneShift is “Test, fail, learn”. We want our team to propose new ideas and concepts, and just give them a go. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail, but it’s about embracing the idea with no fear and learning from the experience.
Not everything is going to work but you’ll never grow, and you’ll never know, unless you try. Some of our greatest innovations and projects have started from the team taking on an idea with little more than a basic plan, agreed boundaries and bravery.
What do you think are the magic ingredients to success?
I believe we should always innovate, look for next challenge – and solution, push our boundaries, reflect, learn and be constantly setting new objectives to reach. To me, constant evolution and growth is the secret to success.
You’re the one driving your idea, success is getting out of bed, doing the work and making it happen. No one else is going to do that for you, and you shouldn’t want them to.
Have you always been this motivated and focused and had that leadership edge? I have this vision of you at as the Straight A School Captain, or taking the reigns in group assignments at uni.
Some people are passionate about their hobbies – like, say, surfing. They get up at 5am, paddle out to the break and catch as many waves as they can. It’s part of their lifestyle, something they love doing, and would probably do it all day if they could.
The passion to try something new, or do something differently is what motivates me. Whether it’s a piece of code, an idea, or a business, I want to see how changing or developing one thing affects something else, and I’m really interested in seeing what evolves from that change. Innovation, challenge, improvement, learning, ideas and development – that’s my surfing.
We know that success isn’t always a smooth ride, and you must have had some challenging “laugh or cry” moments along the way. Can you share your most memorable one – what happened, how did you fix it and what did you learn?
I was very fortunate in that I had someone that I adore and respect as my mentor – my dad. The best piece of advice he gave me was to deal with issues as they arose, not to wait – that’s how small issues build into big issues. Deal with problems while they are still small, that way you’ll never have any of those big, scary, stressful “laugh or cry” moments.
You’ll also feel much more in control.
How do you keep your creativity, innovative thinking, inspiration and focus alive and fresh?
Stepping outside of your own box and industry to see what others are doing is great for sparking your creativity. If you’re a recruiter for example, you might look for inspiration in how Uber has disrupted and revolutionized the taxi industry. If you’re a marketer, you could find inspiration in how music emotionally affects us.
I think they key to creative thinking, staying fresh and innovation is to have a great curiousity in what else is out there, and what can be learned and applied from exploring the world outside of your everyday bubble.
What advice would you give to young women working to fulfill their own dreams?
When I’m mentoring young women in any of the start up groups I’m part of, I do my best to encourage these behaviours: Find and follow your passion, start talking to people, go to start up events, listen to and soak up the experience of others, learn how to pitch, try things out, make mistakes, have successes, trust your network and the ecosystem, find a mentor – and remember that your idea or business doesn’t need to be perfect to start – there will, and should always be, ways to make your product or service better.
Gather the knowledge, trust yourself and just start.
What’s your next dream?
You mean apart from global domination?
Honestly though, I know the challenges I had when I was starting my business. My dream is leave a lasting impact on the start up space, sharing what I’ve learned and my experiences, making it easier for the next person looking for global domination.
The easier we make it, the more people will want to be involved. Increased diversity, competition and experience would create an even richer and more exciting start up landscape, globally and locally.
Finally… you’re only allowed one book to read, one artist or playlist to listen to and one TED talk to watch. What are they and why?
The hard things about hard things by Ben Horowitz is great for learning from someone who did it the hard way. It’s the journey of a business that didn’t deal with the hard things as they happened and the impact that had.
When it comes to music its Biggie Smalls, every time. The man is a rapping poet.
My favourite Ted Talk is Simon Sinek’s – The Why . Every time you watch this talk about inspirational leadership it sparks something new. If you’ve not watched it, do it now. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again.
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