5 Business Lessons from Entrepreneur Naomi Simson

5 Business Lessons from Entrepreneur Naomi Simson


Naomi Simson is the Founding Director of online experience gift retailer RedBalloon. She is a highly successful entrepreneur who has previously worked for a number of big corporations including IBM, Ansett Airlines and Apple. This array of experience contributed to her vast business knowledge and has shaped the leader she is today.

Naomi spoke to a number of our students and alumni at our Leadership Masterclass in Sydney this April, where she shared what she has learnt throughout her business journey and what she has found to be the most important lessons for building a thriving business. Here are a few of the business lessons Naomi shared at our event.

1. Learning that can be applied to work is highly valuable

Upon beginning her first corporate role at IBM in New York, Naomi found that she was learning just as much about the business world in her new role as she did during her degree. For Naomi, this highlighted the worth of learning relevant business concepts that can be practically applied to work.

“I think it is really important that one has experience or understands how businesses work whilst studying. Quite frankly when I was at university and they were talking about management concepts, I didn’t even know what management was.”

Today, Naomi’s definition of managers is exceptionally clear:

“A Manager nurtures the uniqueness of an individual towards one cause, whereas a Leader unites everybody towards the cause.”

2. Focus on nurturing learning and sharing knowledge

On making the decision to transition from the corporate world to a business owner, Naomi is very open with the fact she knew little of what would be involved.

“I did not know anything about running a business, but one thing I focused on was just learning. I went to every seminar, every event, and the reason why I started blogging was because I wanted to remember what I had learned.”

As years passed, Naomi became an Influencer and thought leader on the online business network LinkedIn. Her posts on what she had learnt throughout her career and life would often go viral and she found herself achieving noteworthy success in this space.

“At 30,000 words I thought I had a problem. I thought, ‘Now what do I do? I can’t stick all that on LinkedIn.’ “I said to a friend, I have written all this, and she told me to make it a book.”

It is this passion for sharing what she has learned throughout her journey that has allowed Naomi to add ‘author’ to her long list of labels, along with entrepreneur, speaker, director, mother, and blogger.

3. Passion is crucial to your success

Naomi attributes much of her success as an entrepreneur to her passion and has an infectious vitality for what she does that helps to inspire others.

“(Passion) is something you can’t fake. You either love what you do or you don’t. If you do, you don’t have to work another day in your life. When you are driven by passion, it doesn’t occur as work.”

She notes that in her experience, passion is the engaging emotion and energy that is observed when a leader is truly successful. However, on the correlation between money and success, Naomi believes we often misinterpret that money will inadvertently equate to success. Throughout her business journey, this has not been the case.

“Money is very uninspiring unless it enables a deep sense of passion.  Success is a very personal definition. It is in the eye of the beholder.”

The main roadblock when it comes to passion, Naomi notes, is fear of failure and fear of damaging her brand. Upon deciding to feature as a Shark on Network TEN’S “Shark Tank”, Naomi feared it may be detrimental to her personal brand, but decided to take up the opportunity to inspire others to follow their passion.

“But then I would have lost the opportunity of influencing entrepreneurs and start-ups in Australia. I would have lost the opportunity of implementing great workplaces, and imploring people to live the life they love.”

4. Align your people to the grand plan

Naomi first experienced the importance of an aligned team when she worked for Ansett Airlines in the 1980s and 90s. Here, she learnt many invaluable lessons about management and leadership that she would carry with her as an entrepreneur.

“My first lesson of management: you have to give people the tools they need. The second lesson I learned was that you have to make clear to people what they must do. It sounds so obvious now, but I was very frustrated,” she said.

“It’s like rowing: once you are in the boat, you have to be 100% aligned. Everyone has to row exactly the same. There is no best on field, best and fairest, best in boat. Because there is no point.  And think about that as an analogy for your business.”

5. Value your customer feedback

Naomi explains that in the early days of RedBalloon, her purpose came from listening to her customers. This is where she was able to clarify the ‘why’ of her business. To this day, every person who goes on a RedBalloon experience receives a survey that asks them to describe how the experience was for them.

“If ever I needed to readjust what I did, I read a customer’s story. I wanted to find out why I did what I did, because customers tell us. They tell us loud and clear if we are prepared to listen.”

This customer feedback is critical to RedBalloon. In the beginning, Naomi would read each and every survey herself to identify what worked and what could be improved. To this day, it remains important to RedBalloon that each survey a customer has taken the time to complete, is valued.

Naomi also attributes the trust that has been built for her brand to the effort which has been made to listen to her customers.

“I started going out and meeting people. I started doing trade shows. I did this to create trust for the brand.”

Naomi had so much to share about her journey from corporate employee and new business owner to highly successful entrepreneur and national television personality. We hope all attendees enjoyed learning from Naomi’s unique experience. Were you at the event? What important lessons did you take away from Naomi’s presentation? Let us know in the comments below for the chance to win an autographed copy of Naomi’s book “Live What You Love!”

This article was written by Megan Baker on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB.

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