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Maureen Houssein-Mustafa OAM

When you’re in business, time flies and you can often forget to take a moment to contemplate how far you’ve come. I’ve used my milestone of having been in business for twenty years to take the time and list seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my career.

1. Have a back-up plan
The unexpected will happen. Rather than burying your head in the sand hoping it won’t, have a plan B. You never know when you might need to change your tack and direction and if you don’t, you risk being left behind.

Be in a position to respond to market changes. Change your business model if necessary. In our industry, we have seen huge industry, regulatory and legislative changes occur, however, we have been able to grow our business each year. Always respond to change with flexibility and nimbleness. Think outside the square.

2. Manage expectations
Never promise things you can’t provide. In my experience, it’s always best to under-promise and over-deliver. This is a core value that I encourage my team to respect each and every day. It has been, and continues to be, a vital component of our success.

We are in constant communication with the industry that we train our graduates to enter. Through these alliances and a strong involvement with industry, Government and the Skills Councils, we have developed a leadership role in industry and are seen as a thought leader in the continuing development of education across both vocational and higher education streams. We maintain these relationships by managing expectations and in most cases, exceeding these.

3. Grow with your business
This isn’t something that is generally talked about, but it is essential that you invest in your own professional development just as you would in the development of your business.

4. Toughen up
If you want to survive in business, you need to build resilience. This can be difficult as when you first start out, you often treat your business as your ‘baby’, so any criticism can feel like a personal attack, but without it, your business simply won’t grow.

5. Move with the times
So many things have changed over the last 20 years, social media being the biggest! You must embrace change in order to stay successful, no matter how stuck in your ways or how challenging it may be.

6. Look after yourself
Without your health, you are useless to the company. We look after our business, our cars, our gardens, we entertain and look after guests but when it comes to ourselves we suddenly do not have the time. Make the time!

7. Surround yourself with the right staff
The most qualified person is not always the right person. Ensure that employees are people who share your vision and ethics. Invest in those staff who do, and you will strengthen your brand. Hire people who can think their way around roadblocks.

Never build a position around a person. Just because you like someone or someone has asked you to help out a contact of theirs by giving them a job, it is never worth creating a position to fit that individual. I’ve experienced this firsthand and learned from my mistakes. It is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than hurrying and unbalancing your team.

Starting a business can be the most enriching and exciting experience of your life, so do as I did – take a minute and reflect on where you are, how far you’ve come and where you’re headed.

About the Author

Maureen Houssein-Mustafa OAM, is the founder and chairman of The Australasian College Broadway. Visit www.tac.edu.au for more information.

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