Quitting my secure job to pursue my start up dream
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Bilal Alwan. I was born in Iraq. I spent half of my life in Iraq, then moved to Australia to finish off high school and attend university to do human resources management. During my university days, I had my first entrepreneurial venture. I was working on a project, which involved import and export of some goods to a family in Dubai who ran a multi-million dollar business, however my venture was unsuccessful and I ended up losing some money. I also published some poems in the Middle East but this too didn’t go on as well as expected.
Once I graduated, I worked for a few years as a Human Resources Assistant and the week I got promoted to Human Resources Manager, I quit. The job I had was cushioning, comfortable and secure, and I earned over 80,000 dollars a year. But I always knew something was missing in my professional life. One night an old friend came to my house and introduced me to a new business concept that I resinated with and just clicked in my head, I still continued working as a HR assistant while working on several the other businesses. When those other ventures kicked off successfully which happened to be during the week I got my promotion, I decided to quit in order to focus more time and effort on these businesses. Currently I am working on Worldventures, Vantagiato Sale Agency, Bubble Fun SA and a new venture called Upsocial.
“I quit because I knew I had to make a short term sacrifice for a long term gain. This was the only way that would motivate me to push myself as hard as I could to make my vision a reality.”
Having a blast at World Venture Training camp with my business partner Ivan Vantagiato
What business concept are you working on at the moment?
Well, I started working with Ivan on a concept involving the travelling industry. This concept is called ‘Dream Trips’. Dream Trips is basically is a product of the worlds largest travel club “Worldventures We partnered with them because they operate in the network marketing industry and the travel industry. Basically we are the ones representing the company in our field so in a way it’s like being a sole contractor were we represent ourselves and the club. We built up the personal brand The Travelling Gentlemen, and we sell the club membership. At the moment, I am also working on other projects such as Vantagiato sale agency, Bubble Fun SA and Upsocial.
“The fear of remaining the same is always bigger than the fear of failure. Failure is not the end of the world. It is a stepping stone. You have to fail, to succeed.”
Was your transition from working 9-5 to become an entrepreneur difficult?
At that time I could no longer see myself working for someone else, which is why I made the decision to switch. When I switched from working 9-5 to becoming an entrepreneur, I had to put myself in a mental state which allowed me to spend so much energy and effort on personal development and entrepreneurial thinking and not feel drained or disbalanced. I didn’t make this huge change for financial reasons. In fact, financially I was making a lot less on my own than what I was getting paid at my job. I quit because I knew I had to make a short term sacrifice for a long term gain. This was the only way that would motivate me to push myself as hard as I could to make my vision a reality and achieve what I wanted to. I had to work very hard to get my skill set to the standard level of a leader in the business world.
Hanging out with Adelaide World Venture crew at Melbourne
What did you do to develop your skill and entrepreneurial mindset further?
I read a lot of business books and attended a number of seminars. I had probably gone to at least 10 seminars, some of them were half-day long, and some lasted for 2-3 days. Some cost over $10,000. I had to view it as an investment because I knew that the right seminar might cost me $10,000 but its value can help me make $100,000 or more. First of all, do not listen to anybody who just talks and does nothing, instead, listen to those who implement these skills they are talking about. You research and analyse who is the best in what you want to do and whether they are actually walking the talk. Then you track them down and find out what they’re doing.
“I see 10,000 other people all writing notes, probably the same or even better notes than mine. However rarely any of them implements these teachings. It is the implementation and practice of the knowledge you gain from a book that is actually going to make a difference.”
Off the top of my head I remember reading at least 30 books which is more than the total amount of books I have ever read back in primary, secondary school and university. These books were on leadership, entrepreneurship, marketing and sales. A lot of people just read books for the sake of reading and forget the useful knowledge these books offer. In the last 6-7 months I discovered a good way of retaining the knowledge from a book. I see 10,000 other people all writing notes, probably the same or even better than mine. However, rarely any of them implements these teachings. It is the implementation and practice of the knowledge you gain from books that is actually going to make a difference. There is a reason why you see some authors continuously going out and reteaching their book’s methods. I also reteach people in my travel team what I’ve learnt and helping it stick to their minds, it stuck even more to my own. I also do consultations for business leaders in similar fields and speak at events around South Australia.
Come join our fun bubble soccer game at http://bubblefunsa.com.au/
Was it difficult learning how to sell?
A lot of people get into the sales game with the wrong mindset. They think that making a sale is the most important thing. The right mindset is striving to get better and never give up. In the end I may have not sold anything but at least I’ve understood how to get better, and that helps me keep going. As a result, I keep getting better. Since I’m a business partner now I ask my sales employees to teach me how to sell and I will go out to the field and do it myself. I got hundreds and hundreds of ‘No’ and ‘I’m not interested’ as answers. Lots of people hate selling because they take it personally. They are not saying ‘No’ to you, they are saying ‘No’ to the product because they either don’t need it at the time or they don’t understand it.
Was it difficult to transit from the HR background to being an entrepreneur with a stronger emphasis on sales?
Back then I made over $80,000 a year and when I got into sales, I spent $5000 without making a single sale within 5 months. I tried selling with no knowledge first but it didn’t work out, so I took a step back, spent some time on personal development then came back again. This helped me improve my mindset and level of confidence. My sales rate increased but it was not where I wanted it to be at and so I went again for further personal development until I was satisfied with the results. . It take a great bunch of practice to get it right.
“A lot of people get into the sales game with the wrong mindset, they think making a sale is the most important thing. The right mindset is getting better and never giving up.”
Can’t wait for the 2015 eChallenge Final Award night.
What is the number one most important skill you believe an entrepreneur should have?
I realised that when you are an entrepreneur, you must know how to sell. Entrepreneurs have to sell and they should love selling. The thing is 95% of people don’t like selling. Robert Kiosaki or Warren Buffet all sell. Regardless of what field your business is in, as an entrepreneur, you have to know how to sell and do it with passion. The problem with a lot of young people trying to become entrepreneurs is that they have an idea but got no idea how to sell it. Successful entrepreneurs learn to sell at the same time as they work on their concept. In order to improve your selling skills, you have to love it or learn to love it. You can do a lot of training, both plain sales techniques and psychological sale training.
Since my business partner was already working on his sales agency, I asked him to put me on the field so I can practise and get better. I started out with door knocking and then moved on to online marketing, interaction marketing and social media. Eventually, I got really good at Instagram marketing, which lead to the creation of another venture called ‘Upsocial’.
“Do not listen to anybody who just talks, listen to those who implement these skills they are talking about.”
Most people have this mindset of being the boss and they are reluctant to learn from their employees. What are your thoughts on that?
When I was working on my personal development, I realised that there was a huge difference between a leader and a boss. A leader is in front of everyone doing the work. A boss is the one who shouts and gives orders for others to follow. I knew I wanted to be a leader. Everything I was taught in university focused on managing others instead of leading them. There wasn’t any opportunity for me to lead others in my company. So now when I see that my employees know how to do something better than me I just ask them to teach me so I can get better at it.
Were you scared of failing your business and losing all your investment money?
There’s always the fear of failure, but there is more to failure than just being scared of it. Entrepreneurs always understand that the fear of remaining the same is definitely bigger than the fear of failure. Failure is not the end of the world. It is a stepping stone. You will most probably have to fail, to succeed. I meet a lot of people who make mistakes, and fail, yet they never look back to learn from it, then they make the same mistakes all over again in different aspects of business and life. Only those who are teachable, who accept their failure and learn from it can become better and achieve higher.
Check out Bilal’s other venture at http://www.upsocial.com.au/
We would love to hear whether you would quit your secured job to pursue your business dream?