Ryan Leslie is a Principal Consultant at Aerium, a Gippsland-based business consultancy that assists entrepreneurs and business managers to commercialise their ideas, build scalable brands, and increase their profitability. With over 20 years’ experience in business development and transformation, Ryan is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and business managers succeed. With a background in LEANSTACK continuous innovation, LEAN startup, marketing, brand development, product development, engineering, and intellectual property protection, he delivers practical, no-nonsense advice. We sat down with Ryan to find out more about his entrepreneurship story.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Like most of us, I was looking for a way to exercise my ideas and passion. My wife, Jane, started Aerium 10 years ago, and prior to joining her, I was managing an engineering firm which was expanding internationally and would require frequent travel. I made a family decision then and there to join Aerium as a business consultant. While initially this was going to be temporary as I figured out where to go next, I loved the challenge, variety, and continuous learning so much that I decided to stay.
Do you consider yourself entrepreneurial?
I believe a true entrepreneur has the ability to turn ideas into profitable businesses. Within Aerium and other ventures, I am always looking to find new ways to commercialise ideas, and helping my clients do the same. The most stimulating part of my work with people is helping them turn their novel ideas into sustainable, profitable businesses.
What do you think makes an entrepreneur successful?
I believe that everyone can be entrepreneurial in spirit, but it takes courage and ability to execute your ideas and turn them into businesses. There are a lot of ingredients required to achieve success. You must love to learn, enjoy a challenge, be prepared to back yourself, have passion, and understand the uniqueness of your product or offering. True entrepreneurs come up with the ideas which best solve problems and have a clear point of difference. The world changes quickly too, so it’s crucial to be able to pivot and evolve.
What’s one myth about entrepreneurship that you think should be busted?
Entrepreneurship is more than just having an idea — it has to be turned into dollars. True entrepreneurs seldom come up with just one idea or venture. Instead, they take their learnings from one venture to the next. Another myth that probably needs to be busted is that it’s quick dollars. You need creativity, innovation, and smarts to succeed and profit from your ideas.
What’s been the best thing about your adventure so far?
My favourite part is the learning. We never stop learning. I’m fortunate to work in an environment where there are no constraints to my learning curve. My learning curve is as steep as it can be, and I learn as much from my clients as they do from me. As the world adapts so quickly, I can use these lessons to continue to adapt and improve.
Have you had any failures along the way where you’ve learned a valuable lesson?
Absolutely! There’s a quote from an old mentor of mine which I’m always reminded of:
“I’ve learnt so much from my mistakes, i think I’ll make some more.”
While it’s extremely important to make mistakes, you shouldn’t repeat them. While it’s natural for an entrepreneur to become a risk taker, there’s a distinct difference between irresponsible risk and managed risk. But unless you stretch yourself and make some mistakes along the way, you won’t reach the level you need to in business.
What advice would you give to someone considering entrepreneurship and self-employment?
It’s really important, even before developing a plan, to talk to someone who’s been there, done that. By seeking advice from other business owners, you can gain feedback which is honest and marketable, and short circuit your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice; however, you need to learn who you can trust. Even some of the best ideas can be knocked back by one person, so seek validation from a number of people who are credible and trustworthy. And when it comes to your ideas which are particularly innovative or novel, be very careful of who you share them with. The sooner you close the gap of the unknown, the quicker your confidence and capability will rise. You don’t have to guess; it’s important to ask questions. There is a lot of information and help available to take the guesswork and anxiety out of starting your own business. Understand that you’re not going to get anywhere by yourself, so be open to learning from the experience of others.
If you’d like to learn more about Ryan and his business, Aerium, you can find more information here.