Michael Malone: Lessons we can learn

Image of Michael Malone

Last night I spent some time listening to Michael Malone, founder and CEO of iiNET.  iiNET and Michael’s story are well chronicled; and it is a good story.  Here’s the official spiel:

..The success of a business that started in Michael Malone’s parents’ garage has been a source of inspiration for budding entrepreneurs and established business professionals alike.

When Michael founded iiNet in 1993, the Internet was only available at university and his biggest concern was losing access upon graduation. With the price of a link to the United States around $25,000 a year, Michael figured he would need 200 customers to cover costs. He installed the equipment in his parents’ garage. Six years later the company had grown to the point that iiNet was publicly listed…

Today, we’ve grown to a $1 billion company with close to one million broadband customers..”

Michael is a smart, smart man. That much is clear from even a few minutes listening to him.   So, it’s probably worth reflecting on a few of the points he made:

  • On good customer service: Michael referenced a lesson from his parents.  Tell people what you are going to do. Do it. Get paid.
  • On communicating with your staff: just because it is important to you (the CEO or other) – doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to be important to your staff, particularly if they have multiple messages coming to them all day every day from multiple sources.
  • There is no “one” way to communicate to staff – you need to overcommunicate using multiple channels until they say “for God’s sake, I get it already” – then you know they’ve heard it.
  • That the only language iiNET communicates in is numbers. They are a highly numerate business. He says – you can convince anyone to change their mind with good data. However, he did go on to say though that there is a place for the gut, for intuition.
  • On making mistakes – he said that iiNET learns from their mistakes : we fail a lot but we analyse, see where we can start to see trends.

To paraphrase:

  • Do what you say you’re going to do;
  • Communicate (properly);
  • Know your business; and
  • Don’t fear failure and mistakes – use them.

Some food for thought for us all.

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