Interview with Luke Lazarus – Grooming New Startups for Success

May 21, 2019 - By 
Luke Lazarus photo

About Luke Lazarus

Luke Lazarus has become one of Australia’s top business consultants. In his more than a decade of startup and small-business consulting, he has helped dozens of companies to streamline operations and develop the vision, human resources and attractive qualities to venture capital that they need to take things to the next level.

In this interview, Lazarus reveals some of the proven techniques that he uses to help startups make themselves attractive to investors, planning marketing strategies, as well as how to make dreams a reality.

Stephen Callahan: Hi there Luke. I’d first like to know, what do the words “business essentials” mean to you?

Luke Lazarus: The first thing is education. That’s why I went to Melbourne Business School to get my Master of Business Administration. I didn’t waste any time, so I graduated at age 24. I was inspired by my education and I wanted to start purchasing companies right away. I bought four and sold them all in less than 10 years. My experience starting my own businesses gave me what I need to help other businesses succeed whether they are doing well or not.

I could make the choice to focus on helping others because I didn’t need to make another $20 million. After I sold my four companies, I was financially independent, and I didn’t need to make any more money. After I started to help other entrepreneurs realize their goals, I realized that I found what I needed. I discovered solutions to some of the problems that many people are having with their companies, and I wanted to give those people my proven and tested strategies.

SC: What do you do to build a business plan that will be successful?

LL: I believe that anything that I do needs a business plan because a business plan clearly states my vision for my businesses and shines a light on the limitations. It’s also necessary to have a financial model to support the idea. I know that the business plan is a success when it can let investors, partners, employees and customers know what they need to know about the company. I have found that your product or your brand will succeed when you create a story around it, and the story will grow with the product if it is kept within the business plan.

Also, if clients are shying away from social media, this isn’t the best plan. Social media is necessary in the business world these days, and those who avoid it will be left behind. The fact is that consumers are very selective about where they will spend their dollars. It is becoming more difficult for businesses to communicate with their customers, but companies seem to have found a way to break through this impasse.

Some companies are actually starting to employ influencers to help them engage in social media, but it is too early to tell whether or not this strategy is going to be worthwhile or not. For now, it looks as if it will be very profitable for the companies that employ it.

SC: How would you advise people to present their ideas and business plans to investors?

LL: I communicate with potential investors with my storytelling, and I used it in meetings with several businesses. The stories explain why we need financial support, and I present them with illustrations that allow members of the board to identify with them.

I help startups present their messages, their books and their operations in a manner that will appeal to venture capitalists and angel investors. It seems that new entrepreneurs are not thinking correctly about the way that venture capital works, and it is the main reason that investors are not ready to buy.

You see, entrepreneurs are under the wrong impression that all they need to do to impress investors is set up a couple of meetings and show a few PowerPoint presentations. Entrepreneurs who do this about 20 times without receiving a hearing decide that venture capital isn’t for them. The truth is that entrepreneurs need capital in order to create multinational companies or even midsized companies. If they do not have enough money, they are not going to be in business for very long. Startups have to grow or else they will not survive.

One example comes from Shift Technologies. This company obtained $180 million in funding and then it created a new technology platform that revolutionized the way people are buying and selling used cars. People need to purchase used cars because of the necessity, so Shift Technology made the process as easy and accessible as possible.

SC: How do you perform marketing research?

LL: I study market segments and the factors that influence them on a daily basis, and this makes it possible for me to give my clients advice on any critically important variables that present themselves before we take a venture or a product to the market. I am fully aware of how e-commerce influences scalable business models, and this knowledge helps me let my clients know how they can expect their customers and their competitors to act.

SC: What preparations do you make before you present a plan to the marketplace?

LL: My clients receive my coordinated and cost-effective strategies, and they are outlines that introduce marketing plans that lead to organized sales. I stand by my clients as they set and abide by their timelines and budgets from the beginning of the concept until we develop a marketing strategy.

Entrepreneurs know their companies better than anyone else, so startups can actually market themselves. It’s important for them to take control of their marketing campaigns, and one thing that they can do is digital marketing. One strategy that I teach startup companies that have more than one partner is for each partner to learn one element of marketing. Then, they can bring their ideas together to communicate their brand’s identity.

I tell founders to determine what their marketing identity will be before they market the company. Whenever they release the company’s communications, they need to make sure that the communications are reflecting their brand identity and why it is different from everyone else. Another thing that startups need to have is a thought leader, and this job should be reserved for one of the founders.

thought leader is the person the media will consult for quotes or opinions. The thought leader also writes articles about the industry and will be the one to give the interviews. If a company is unfamiliar with this type of thing, the thought leader can submit a written interview to various publications. He or she can also record podcasts, and these will help people find them on the internet.

SC: How do you manage to be as productive as you can possibly be?

LL: I begin each day with a 15-minute session of meditation. Then, I need to ensure that not one minute of the day is wasted by multitasking and keeping an eye on the clock. I find out if a client needs eight hours in a day or shorter segments, and I make sure that we are productive in that time. I do everything that I planned to do in a day by writing notes, and these notes give me something different to do each day.

SC: How do you make your ideas real?

LL: I use how I handled my personal problems as a model for how I help my clients with their problems. First, I consider the story behind the product or venture, and I use it to create solutions for the issues that are causing a business not to succeed in the marketplace. As I said before, a product has to have a story to be a success, so I go out of my way to make the story and the product interchangeable. This concept is so new that it allows my clients to find a niche so that they can create a need and then fill that need.

SC: What would you have advised yourself to do when you were younger?

LL: I always thought that I was going to do big things, but I worried a lot about that. The one thing that I regret about my younger days is my tendency to be overly anxious, so I pushed myself to finish my education as quickly as possible. I would tell my younger self to relax because I had the will to succeed. I think I wouldn’t have had as many headaches if I had been able to do that because I would have been confident in my abilities.

SC: How do you move past failure?

LL: Early in my entrepreneurial career, I failed when I went into business with a partner. The failure was from a lack of planning, but I learned a lot from the experience. The most important thing you can do is believe that you can succeed. You will feel apprehensive about every project, and you will be concerned about whether or not you will fail. Accept that and then know that having confidence in yourself means more than anything you are worried about. I make a bet with myself that I will win each time, and it makes all the difference in the world.


Connect with Luke Lazarus @LukeLazarus5 and LinkedIn




Venture Capitalist Shervin Pishevar on Patience in Investing

May 15, 2019 - By 

According to the highly successful investor and entrepreneur, Shervin Pishevar, your investment strategy should be a long game. In his own words on Twitter, “Patient capital is the best capital. Founders and companies need time to till their gardens.” read more


Stephen Schueler’s Career and Application For Company Growth

April 29, 2019 - By 

Stephen Schueler was inspired to set big goals at a young age when he had the opportunity to hear Lou Holtz, a famous American Football Coach, speak. Holtz’s speech told the story of how he was fired from his first job, and decided to write a list of 100 goals he wanted to accomplish before he died. Holtz went on to be a huge success and achieved all of his goals including winning the national championship for Football through this roadmap. read more


Earth Day 2019: Restoring Wild At Grace Farms

April 23, 2019 - By 

The serene landscapes of rolling vistas, surprising natural wonders at every turn, and scenic backdrops of nature’s gifts all provide a masterful natural experience at Grace Farms. Set throughout over eighty acres of preserved natural lands, the thoroughly modern cultural oasis aims to inspire thoughtful introspection, insightful conversation, garner unexpected outcomes, and bring individuals together from various backgrounds. Through thoughtful programming, the expert staff creates opportunities for education, inspiration, activity, and community engagement. Within Grace Farms’ Nature initiative, Earth Day programming remains an annual highlight, and this year’s swiftly approaching Earth Day celebration aims to encapsulate the importance of restoring wilderness, developing sustainable environments for wildlife to thrive, and maintaining ecosystems and infrastructures necessary for native species to return to their previously abandoned homes.

Earth Day 2019 at Grace Farms will see a collaborative effort with The Nature Conservancy, wherein all individuals will be invited to participate in expert-led discussions and informational sessions, family friendly activities, and other special programming designed to celebrate Earth Day. On Saturday, April 27th, Grace Farms will welcome all visitors to participate within these special adventures, from 10:00AM until 6:00PM. An annual tradition at Grace Farms, Earth Day celebrations are revered by all visitors, and staff alike. During last year’s Earth Day programming, Grace Farms Foundation’s Nature Initiative Director Mark Fowler stated that “the future of conservation is all about private land and open space being preserved for wildlife habitats. Open space and access to nature are leveling factors that bring a quality of life for all people. Nature connects us to something real that grounds us and lifts our spirits.” With such importance placed on humanity’s interaction with nature, as well as the importance of restoring nature, Earth Day at Grace Farms is a tradition to look forward to, amidst the already-existing exuberant nature-based programming.

The celebrations will kick off at Interactive Meadows Plaza, featuring family friendly activities, various native plants, and an important demonstration from Pollinator Pathway, which will focus on the importance of sustainable ecosystems for pollinators. Within the structure of Grace Farms’ Nature incentive, extensive programming related to the power of pollination in terms of reviving natural splendors is already in motion, with events focusing on the revival of indigenous plants and wildlife.

Morning activities will continue with Habitats and Home, a facilitated workshop set in Grace Farms’ art studio and outdoors. The workshop is intended for families with children from three to ten years old, and will encourage children to learn about animal communities, and the manner in which animals build homes, through various interactive activities. Throughout the year, Grace Farms offers open time for families within the arts studio, as well as structured programming that inspires insightful conversation, and new revelations through aesthetic creation.

A recognized birding enclave, Grace Farms is home to over 75 species of birds. As part of this year’s Earth Day programming, Grace Farms will be offering guided Native Bird Walks, led by Master Birder Frank Mantlik. Set within Grace Farms’ walking trails, the Native Bird Walks are an exciting way to enjoy an outdoor activity and take in the sights and sounds of native birds in the preserved wetlands, ponds, and grasslands that make up Grace Farms. Following the conclusion of the walks, Grace Farms will once again welcome Master Falconer Brian Bradley, who will engross his audience with a live falconry demonstration, scheduled for 12:00PM, and 2:00PM. Previously enjoyed throughout prior Earth Day celebrations at Grace Farms, the Falconry demonstration will provide insights into the behavior, mannerisms, life, and grace of the falcon.

Other diverse programming will include various conversations with industry experts, ranging in topics, and designed to inspire conversation, consideration, and appreciation for the entwined relationships between nature, mankind, and the world around us. The first conversational programming will be titled “The Benefits of Rewilding”, led by the Director of Land Management at The Nature Conservancy, Dave Gumbart. This informational session will focus on the vital symbiotic relationship between native plants, and the birds and insects that rely on them for food and shelter. This topic is especially important for Grace Farms, as their Nature initiative strives to develop hospitable conditions that have already fostered the successful return of many native species of animals and hopes to provide sustainable conditions within the future. The second informational session will be titled “Restoring Native Meadows” and will feature a conversation with the Founder of Pennington Grey, Penn Marchael. This session will revolve around planting and the long-term importance of maintaining meadows.

Welcoming to all visitors, of all ages, from all backgrounds, Earth Day celebrations at Grace Farms inspire the face-to-face communication that is often lost within the hustle and bustle of the modern world. By taking time to celebrate the natural wonders amongst Grace Farms’ 80-plus acres and yearning to experience the personal growth associated with learning about nature, patrons will undoubtedly participate in a memorable day. As the largest expanse of natural land in Fairfield County, Grace Farms serves as the perfect backdrop for Earth Day, and the daily celebration of nature.

Grace Farms Foundation’s President and Founder, Sharon Prince recently spent time sharing her thoughts about thoughtful space via the Grace Farms Blog. Prince related ways in which hopeful spaces can incite real change in the world, propelling education, insight, and conversation through thoughtful design, relationship with nature, and a symbiotic flow. In this case, she continued, Grace Farms’ “open architecture, embedded into an 80-acre expanse, and the pathways that extend out to a faraway Cattail Pond, cue discovery. Meanwhile, nature—the 10 different restored native habitats, meadows, roaming pollinators, 80+ sighted birds—can inspire a sense of awe. This intentional relationship between indoors and outdoors, complemented by our intention to cultivate a peaceful, welcoming environment for all, can stimulate new perspectives.” Grace Farms continues to serve as a shining beacon of a hopeful space and urges all patrons to participate in its wonders. Earth Day programming is the springboard for a season of exploration, education, and growth.

For more information visit the Grace Farms website.


Alec Sellem: The Social License of Responsible Gold Mining

April 12, 2019 - By 

Respect for local societies and human rights are of particular importance for responsible gold-mining companies. The draft Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), promulgated by the UK-based World Gold Council, a market development organization for the gold industry that provides information about responsible gold mining practices in addition to industry data, research, are a new framework that sets out clear expectations for investors, downstream gold supply chain participants and other stakeholders as to what constitutes responsible gold mining. A broad range of stakeholders including governments, international organizations, investors, NGOs, academics, IGOs and supply chain participants have contributed to the guidelines. Once the consultation is completed and the draft is finalized, member companies will be expected to comply with the principles.

One leader in this field is Alec Sellem, CEO and founder of Sellem Industries LLC, based in London, England.  Sellem has spearheaded the strategic vision of the company and established strong partnerships with energy conservation and business-minded professionals.  Throughout his career, Sellem’s primary focus has been on security strategies and technology, which led him to several successful startups before founding Sellem Industries.

Along with contributing to the RGMPs, Sellem recently joined a panel of mining specialist industry leaders at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  The primary focus as energy laws in Africa, and the objective is to assess the overall effectiveness of the current energy law in Africa that is under construction and propose solutions to better the outcome. The safety and wellbeing of employees, contractors and local communities is a fundamental concern of responsible gold-mining companies. Responsibly undertaken, gold mining and its associated activities can have a transformative effect on socio-economic development in countries where gold is found.  Sellem intends to pen the social license to guide the change.

More specifically, gold mining has the potential to make a significant, positive impact on the economies of the countries in which gold mining takes place and on the lives of the citizens of those countries.   It has the most substantial impact on growth and wealth creation in developing countries. Gold mining is a major economic driver for many countries across the world. In addition to supporting the needs of a gold mine, these improvements to roads, water and electricity supplies are a long-term benefit to businesses and communities across the area, that outlives the production years of a gold mine. Many invest in social infrastructure, including schools, colleges and health care centers that improve the opportunities and wellbeing of local people. Companies often work with community-based organizations or non-government organizations to plan and implement these programs.

Responsible gold mining also means addressing concerns that resources could fund unlawful activity, particularly when operating in areas affected by armed conflict, such as civil war or militia activity. According to the World Gold Council, amongst the top 30 gold producing countries, over 60% are low or lower-middle income countries with substantial socio-economic development needs.  Mine worker salaries are consistently higher than the national average. In many countries with limited employment opportunities, these mining jobs often support many dependents.

Not surprisingly, given that reliance on foreign aid is an inherently vulnerable position for any impoverished country, it is notable that the economic value directly and indirectly created by the gold mining industry globally has exceeded the global total value of development assistance every year since 2010.  This is all good news to for Alec Sellem and his efforts toward advancing responsible gold mining.


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