Entrepreneur Siimon Reynolds has achieved extraordinary success in business and has now turned his attention to mentoring and coaching others. We chatted to Siimon from his Los Angeles base just prior to his late September visit to Coffs Harbour to present for ETC Business Leaders.
You achieved remarkable success in advertising at a young age. Tell us about suddenly being thrust into the limelight with the huge success of the ground-breaking Grim Reaper campaign?
The agency did incredibly well, and we had a multi-million-dollar company by the time I was 24 or 25. The interesting thing is that just before I opened my own advertising agency, I had written the Grim Reaper campaign for another agency, so it was the perfect way to launch it. The campaign really did throw me into the spotlight. Suddenly, I was invited to parties, people wanted to know me and I was being recognised. It was an extraordinary period to go from zero to hero, as they say, and to become known nationally.
What inspired you to move away from running your own business, which you’ve done for almost three decades, to mentoring and coaching with The Fortune Institute?
I’m a co-owner of The Fortune Institute, and what motivated me was that rather than running different marketing companies, I thought I’d step back and do some mentoring. It’s very interesting to mentor entrepreneurs from all over Australia and indeed the world and help them build their businesses. It’s extremely satisfying, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
What might surprise our local business owners about some of the world’s most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs?
In addition to the work I do at The Fortune Institute, I coach a lot of people in America and in other countries too. What may surprise people is how human top CEOs and entrepreneurs are. Not only do they have the same fears as many of us, many of them have greater fears: fears of failure, fears about looking bad, fears about whether their decisions are in their company’s interest are whether those decisions are going to be correct. Yet despite these fears, rather than shy away from confronting them, they jump right into it and have enormous commitment when trying to solve them. So these highly accomplished people are very human, with very human fears.
Much has changed in the world of media and advertising, particularly in the past decade. What’s your perspective on these changes?
I think there are two primary changes. The first is the rise of the ad blockers and watching recordings of TV shows so you can fast forward the ads. That puts a lot of pressure on advertising agencies, and it’s made it even more important to create interesting ads because when someone can fast forward them, why should they listen to them or watch them? The ad needs to be worth watching.
But by far the biggest change of course, is the rise of internet advertising, which for many companies is clearly superior to many types of traditional advertising. You can experiment with low spends, see your results straight away and change your artwork inexpensively. You can also target the people you want very tightly.
As a result, digital advertising has grown so quickly, but the reality is that there are still great opportunities to advertise in newspapers, on radio and on TV. These mediums are not going away and will always be strong.
Your book is about overcoming failure, which you consider part and parcel of achieving success. What are your key messages to people in business for achieving success?
The reality is that it’s a complete myth that there are business people who don’t fail. Generally, the best business people are probably failing more than others – they’re trying more things, they’re failing at a lot of stuff, but perhaps a small amount of it is leading to success. It’s so important to remember that failure is normal, failure is good, as long as we learn from it and move forward. Some of the world’s biggest companies and the world’s richest people in business have failed in the beginning and then changed their strategy.
My advice for business people is that if things aren’t going so well, that’s good; that’s giving you information you can use to change your company and create an even bigger and better company.
One of your past clients is Donald Trump. Any predictions on what November 8 will bring him?
It’s hard to tell with Hillary’s sickness, as it could change the whole course of the election, but my opinion is that even if he gets in, he’s not going to be the wild person that so many people think. I think that in becoming the US President, people adapt to the job accordingly and they become more “presidential”, so I’m not too worried if Donald Trump wins. I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would both do a do a very good job, but do a very different job and in a very different way.
You’re a firm believer in business (and many other things in life) being “learnable”. Tell us about your thirst for knowledge?
I probably have a thousand books on science and art and the success of human achievement in all its forms, and I’m a massive believer in the continuing of learning. I was hopeless at school. I was bored by school, but after school I realised that there are so many exciting books on human potential, and I became totally addicted to reading. Right now, I’ve got a pile of books on my desk that I’m hoping to get to. I find it exciting to learn.
I also think that “readers are leaders”. People who lead society are almost always readers and students, and that really separates the masters from the rest. All the masters of any field behave like students, in that they are constantly open to learning.
What does your work/life balance look like?
It’s pretty good at the moment. I work eight and a half hours a day, five days a week and eighty percent of the things I do are things that I want to do, so I’ve got good work/life balance. I could always exercise a bit more, but generally speaking, at this stage of my life, if I can’t get balance then that’s my own fault. As I grow older, I value and enjoy every day as much as I value getting ahead in my career. I don’t want to continue looking twenty years down the track for some nirvana. I want to make sure that I get pleasure out of each and every day.
Thanks so much for your time, Siimon.