Insights into why I started my own business – Part 1

Insights into why I started my own business – Part 1

Recently, I was invited to be a part of the judging panel of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Victoria Young Business Hustler competition 2015. The program is designed to give young business entrepreneurs the chance to further develop their capabilities and their businesses.

As part of this initiative and as an entrepreneur myself, the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award chapter interviewed me about how I started my own business and what continues to drive and inspire me today.

Interviewer: You completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Monash University, but have now ended up founding one of Australia’s leading sales consulting firms. How long did it take you to find your purpose in life?

Sue: I am very analytical and creative. I see the world in patterns and love working out puzzles and solving problems. I originally wanted to be a doctor but didn’t get the marks to study medicine so I did a science degree in medical subjects i.e. biochemistry, physiology, immunology, pharmacology. During and post my degree I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career at such a young age.

At the time, my then boyfriend’s father was a GP and said I would make a good pharmaceutical sales rep and that is how my professional career in selling started. Unfortunately, I learned how not to sell in the pharmaceutical industry and hated being in sales, so I left and fell into the recruitment industry (pre the internet) recruiting medical, scientific, industrial and technical salespeople. 

However, the irony is that as a recruiter you need to be a really good salesperson and so my career took an interesting turn where I discovered how to sell well for myself and also interviewed around 8000 people in sales, which piqued my curiosity about what is ‘good’ selling. Long story short, I have become a behavioural scientist by default, observing the intricacies of selling in all its forms. If there had been a behavioural sciences degree at uni when I was studying, and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have studied behavioural sciences.

I knew about the age of 33 what I wanted to start doing and knew by the age of 45 that I was on the right path. Business is more than just making money, in my view.

The world of selling is fascinating at a business level, a personal level, at a professional level. Many people are scared of selling or have negative views of salespeople. I now know better. Most people in sales want to do the right thing by their clients; they love helping them and being rewarded for doing so. 

At Barrett, we live by the philosophy that selling is everybody’s business and everybody lives by selling something. Selling is a life skill and good selling is about the fair exchange of value between buyer and seller. I am on a mission to show people what good selling is and how to be very effective when we find ourselves in a selling situation.

Interviewer: You are admired in the sales and marketing world for your strong leadership. We see young people undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award develop their leadership skills every day. Do you think there is one key quality that every great leader should possess?

Sue: A clear sense of purpose (vision) about how you can contribute positively to the world; how you can use your talents to leave the world in a better way than when you arrived in it; underpinned by the humility, courage and determination to bring your purpose to life.

Interviewer: You’ve previously worked in recruiting. Was there one key skill you valued highly when hiring young people?

Sue: I looked for initiative and open mindedness and the ability to really listen and ask thoughtful intelligent questions so as to seek to understand and be understood.

Part 2 next week

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform


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