Lessons in compromise from five successful entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs often start their business with a grand plan of how their operation will kick off, then evolve. But sometimes the best laid plans need to be torn up and drawn again as market forces, budget constraints and even unrealistic personal expectations come into play.

Compromise, it seems, is inevitable, whether it’s about income, personal life balance or ditching an idea you love because it just won’t work.

Here, five successful entrepreneurs explain the kinds of compromises they have encountered.

It’s all about the work

Soren Trampedach, founder of Work Club, which has working spaces in Sydney and Melbourne, says being a successful entrepreneur is all about persistence – working your way through roadblocks and keeping your end goal in mind. Therein lies the key – work.

While Trampedach says he doesn’t think of his job as ‘work’ per se, he admits he probably does a bit too much of it, and has sacrificed family and social life.

“Regarding work-life balance the first years, there is no balance,” he says. “The lines between work and life do not exist, it is all the same and in some ways it always will be when it is your own business – it is your baby as much as your ‘real babies’.

“Shutting off and being with the family is an art form and often the hardest thing to do.”

For the love, not the money

Many entrepreneurs leave corporate life to start their business because of a personal passion – which can sometimes mean a significant drop in earnings.

Suzy Spoon, owner of Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher, said personal income has been her greatest compromise.

“I left a good job at Channel 7 to start Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher and for the first few years of the business I wasn’t able to pay myself anything – it all had to go back into the business,” she told StartupSmart.

“Things are slightly better now but I’m still doing it for the ‘glory’ and don’t earn anything like my old wage.”

Wave bye bye to a great idea

Another tricky situation is an aspect of your business that adds a nice touch, but is ultimately unprofitable or laborious.

Nicolle Sullivan, founder of luxury homewares brand CULTIVER has had to re-think the more laborious aspects of her customer service model.

“Some details of our early interactions with customers – hand-written notes in orders for example – were not scalable, so we’ve had to find different ways to convey our care and appreciation of our customers.”

Sullivan also says she had to compromise her own personality in order to be more productive.

“Against my somewhat perfectionist nature, I have had to learn to accept perfecting tasks will come at the expense of getting them done, which can hold the business back.”

Know when to hand over the reins

Alyce Tran, director of online monogrammed accessories store The Daily Edited, said she was so used to controlling certain aspects of her business, it was hard to let go. Tran has only recently stopped personally running the company’s online customer service, where she would be answering queries up until 10pm each night and on weekends.

“A friend said I was crazy focusing on this stuff when I needed to be working on strategic things for the business,” she said. “I had already let go of customer interactions in store, given we have seven stores nationwide, but I had to accept that I can’t be in charge of every interaction with a customer.

“Now I am overseeing our customer service team and retail team and do regular audits of our staff responses to customers.”

When to stand firm against compromise

Jackie Ruddock is CEO of The Social Outfit, an ethical fashion social enterprise that produces garments in Sydney through the work of new migrants and refugees.

As a registered charity with a profitable business model, Ruddock acknowledges there are times when she and her team have had to refocus their energies in order to survive, but there are also no-go zones.

“Everyone involved makes compromises to get a startup off the ground – the hours and effort are long,” she said. “But we also know there are some lines we won’t cross.

“Our people are the heart and soul of our work. Our talented staff, students and community are what make The Social Outfit so unique to our customers, and our broader goals. People come first here, and so far, this model is working for mutual benefit to individuals and our brand.”


city of sydney
City of Sydney

This event is part of the Visiting Entrepreneur Program produced by the City of Sydney. The June 2020 program will focus on the intersection of technology, environmental sustainability, and the green economy featuring three high-profile international entrepreneurs Robyn Denholm, Board Chair, Tesla; Danny Kennedy, CEO, New Energy Nexus; and Shama Sukul Lee, Founder & CEO, Sunfed.

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