Richard Con­way shares some of his top take­aways from the re­cent Un­fil­tered Live 2018 event: How to Win in Busi­ness. Fast.

Ihave been in­volved with Un­fil­tered for a few years, first as an in­ter­vie­wee and sub­se­quently as a com­mer­cial part­ner. The third an­nual Un­fil­tered Live event was held on Tues­day May 22 at Shed 10 on Auck­land’s wa­ter­front. Hosted by former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO and Un­fil­tered chair Kevin Roberts, the event saw speak­ers and pan­el­lists who have reached high lev­els of achieve­ment in the en­tre­pre­neur­ial space de­liver en­gag­ing lessons to a cap­ti­vated au­di­ence on at­tain­ing busi­ness suc­cess.

The ti­tle of this year’s event was “How to Win in Busi­ness. Fast” – and the theme of win­ning quickly couldn’t have been more present through­out the day, as the ten speak­ers all shared not just their own suc­cess sto­ries, but each pro­vided five ideas for en­tre­pre­neur­ial suc­cess within their al­lot­ted 20 min­utes.

From fash­ion de­signer Karen Walker to Par­a­lympic gold medal­list Liam Malone, to Anna Mow­bray from the sib­ling­driven toy man­u­fac­turer Zuru, we heard from a di­verse range of per­son­al­i­ties who all had in­sight into the en­tre­pre­neur­ial mind­set – that rare com­bi­na­tion of qual­i­ties that drives some­one to start busi­nesses and seek suc­cess.


A com­mon thread at Un­fil­tered Live 2018 was the in­cred­i­ble achieve­ments of the New Zealan­ders who spoke. Phi­lan­thropist Sir Eion Edgar said dur­ing one of the day’s pan­els that the benchmark now for Kiwi en­trepreneurs is not just to be world class, but to be world-beat­ing in what­ever di­rec­tion you ap­ply your­self.

More amaz­ing still was the fact that the vast ma­jor­ity of the Kiwi speak­ers we heard from through­out the day were fe­male, show­ing the ex­tent of the ac­com­plish­ments that Kiwi women in busi­ness have achieved.

We heard from Linda Jenk­in­son, the first New Zealand woman to take a com­pany pub­lic on the NAS­DAQ, as well as Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion co-founder and mem­ber of Forbes Asia’s ‘30 Un­der 30’ list Shan­dre Kushor, and the afore­men­tioned in­ter­na­tional fash­ion icon Karen Walker, among many oth­ers.


With­out doubt one of the most en­gag­ing speak­ers on the day was Bren­dan Lind­say, the founder of New Zealand plas­tic

con­tainer busi­ness Sis­tema. Bren­dan spoke about his in­cred­i­ble jour­ney which took him from mak­ing plas­tic coat-hang­ers in his garage at home in Cam­bridge, Waikato, to sell­ing plas­tic stor­age con­tain­ers across more than 90 coun­tries, and even­tu­ally in 2016 sell­ing Sis­tema to US con­glom­er­ate Newell for a cool $660 mil­lion.

We heard hi­lar­i­ous and cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ries about the time Bren­dan spent sleep­ing in his car while grow­ing his busi­ness around New Zealand, as well as the com­mit­ment he made to pre­sent­ing him­self pro­fes­sion­ally and how that helped him to break into su­per­mar­kets in Aus­tralia ahead of his young and cocky Aussie com­pe­ti­tion.

Woven into his anec­dotes were lessons and ideas about the power of sto­ry­telling in busi­ness and the im­por­tance of not ex­pos­ing your­self to un­nec­es­sary risk, and how loy­alty is crit­i­cal. In ne­go­ti­at­ing the sale of Sis­tema, Bren­dan was able to guar­an­tee 20 more years of man­u­fac­tur­ing in New Zealand and en­sure that his most loyal em­ploy­ees were as­sured jobs for life.

Bren­dan ended his talk with prob­a­bly the sim­plest and best-re­ceived ad­vice of the day: “don’t be a ‘can’t’,” – a tes­ta­ment to the im­por­tance of a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude when start­ing a busi­ness, and per­haps an even deeper mes­sage for some of us!


An­other high­light of the day was Un­fil­tered’s Jake Mil­lar in­ter­view­ing Brian Wong, the 27-year-old en­tre­pre­neur and founder of Kiip, who at the age of 19 was able to raise $300,000 in Sil­i­con Val­ley fund­ing.

Amaz­ingly en­thu­si­as­tic for some­one who had only just flown in from the US, Brian gave in­spi­ra­tional and in­for­ma­tive an­swers to ques­tions about his suc­cess and philoso­phies, fram­ing his ideas in terms of gam­ing cheat codes that can help young peo­ple get ahead in life.

Brian’s key ‘cheat code’ for as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs was to know your superpower – the thing that makes you stand out from ev­ery­body else in the room – and har­ness it to your ad­van­tage, as it gives you a com­pet­i­tive edge that can’t be recre­ated.

He also iden­ti­fied that the habit of putting your­self into un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tions is key to seiz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and urged us to not only ask per­sis­tently for what­ever you need, but also to treat ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion you have as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand and grow your busi­ness.

Fi­nally, he stressed the im­por­tance of sub­servient lead­er­ship; en­cour­ag­ing lead­ers to give enough con­trol and au­ton­omy to their em­ploy­ees to the point where they can sit back and fo­cus on sup­port­ing them and meet­ing their needs – rather than let­ting de­ci­sion-mak­ing power ac­crue at the top level and stunt­ing em­ploy­ees’ abil­ity to take charge of their work.


Com­ing out of Un­fil­tered Live 2018, a first les­son present in many of the speak­ers’ sto­ries was the im­por­tance of learn­ing, and con­tin­u­ing to learn re­gard­less of your age and level of suc­cess. This kind of learn­ing can come not just from read­ing or events such as Un­fil­tered Live, but also from men­tors (some­thing that has been hugely in­flu­en­tial for me per­son­ally).

Many of the younger speak­ers high­lighted the value that they re­ceived from find­ing ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness men­tors and us­ing them as a tool of knowl­edge to bet­ter their own busi­ness.

When it came to the work­place, speak­ers touched again and again on the im­por­tance of cul­ture both within your team and be­tween you and your cus­tomers, as well as the need for ‘lead­ers’ rather than ‘man­agers’.

We heard that the hands-off lead­er­ship style cham­pi­oned by Brian Wong is in­stru­men­tal in suc­cess­fully man­ag­ing mil­len­ni­als, who now make up the ma­jor­ity of the work­force.

It would be im­pos­si­ble to list all the lessons that were passed along from speak­ers to the at­ten­dees over the course of the day, and that goes to show the value of events such as Un­fil­tered Live.

Ev­ery sin­gle per­son who at­tends picks up on dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of the speak­ers’ lessons. How­ever, they all leave with one thing in com­mon: in­spi­ra­tion.

With this in mind, the value of the en­vi­ron­ment that was cre­ated again this year by Jake Mil­lar and Un­fil­tered is crys­tal clear – hear­ing and learn­ing from busi­ness ex­perts will al­ways in­spire peo­ple to ‘find their superpower’, aim it at a pur­pose, and most im­por­tantly, as we heard from Liam Malone, “just start”.

“Know your superpower – the thing that makes you stand out from ev­ery­body else in the room – and har­ness it to your ad­van­tage.”

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