Letter to Lisa – about big job titles, nuts & disappointing toasties

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Morning Lisa,

Happy Friday to you. I’m currently sitting on my delayed Jetstar flight (bless them) looking forward only to the ham & cheese toastie to discover they’ve changed the product – by adding relish and rye bread. Devastated. Customers don’t like change, unless it’s for the better. This is a terrible start to the day. However…as I purchase, those around me appear confused. I’m sure they’re thinking, “She’s not a carb eater, she’s blonde and wearing heals. She’s not deserving of that toastie – she won’t do it justice. She’ll take two bites and be full”. Don’t judge a book peeps – just join me shoulder to shoulder in the pursuit for carb contentment – I even eat the crusts.

My point being…I’m now half way into the flight from Gold Coast to Melbourne as I embark on my weekly commute from Byron Bay (where we relocated our young family in January this year for a sea change). I’m up to page 051 reading the article “Off the Grid” in the July publication of The Collective (thank you @lisamessinger)…I’m only three editions behind, busy few months.


Quick background – eight years ago I founded an International Executive Search & Advisory firm, initially funded through private equity (my entrepreneurial brother) and a core team of partners I’d worked with previously for some years.

So, I’m an Entrepreneur. Oh yes I am.

Because who doesn’t love a good job title?

“Hi Hayley, nice to meet you. What do you do?


Note the unnecessary use of capitals. Please. 

The thing is – sarcasm aside – I actually don’t believe in job titles but still feel the need to print something on my business card and email signature for comfort. But what ever happened to the element of surprise? Or perhaps just some plain and simple communication. You know, that face to face thing we do less and less these days. Do executives of today really need to limit themselves by 12 letter job titles? 

The upside, it can be helpful for decision making and often necessary in a sea of stakeholders to determine who actually does what. However with the rise of start-ups, we’re also seeing the rise of the new leader – the entrepreneurial leader. However to me, there seems to be a sense of self–pride attached to naming it – perhaps the need for recognition from others that we’ve made it. Or started it. Is it about the recognition or is it about the brand following and street cred that comes with being labeled an ‘entrepreneur’? Or perhaps the coaching and teaching power that resonates for its followers. Perhaps it’s marketing 101.

My point to all this is…it’s less about the word and more about the bravery. Whether you’ve made it or not – an entrepreneur is someone who has a risk appetite but more importantly, is brave enough to actually put their ideas out there, test the waters and whether the tides carry them forward or not, they remain focused on the shoreline. They have the staying power to make it happen, something happen. Success or failure is irrelevant. No one wants to fail, everyone wants to succeed so it’s not about that. It’s about proving that an idea, your idea, can be executed to your vision – even if that vision requires change and reshaping. That’s the thing – a decisive, flexible and nimble mindset carries the ability to change, to shift direction to accommodate demand. 

An entrepreneur allows themselves the space to operate with a degree of freedom – free from the constraints of big corporate structures that enforce a certain set of processes and behaviours that may not be aligned to your personal values…or that of your customers and communities. Freedom of vision, thought, execution and result. If it works, I’ll be a really famous ‘entrepreneur’ and people will want to write stories about me to inspire others. Lisa will definitely want to interview me for her loyal Collective Hub readership. But is that the benchmark?

Of course not…although a lovely gesture and honour to share in the story telling. This isn’t about PR-ing ourselves within an inch of our social media lives. Starting and running businesses, big or small, is about executing that crazy or sometimes very sound idea of yours – seeing through a clear vision, a customer strategy that you passionately believe will spark a sense of emotion, to create a compelling feeling to act through need or desire and then executing your brand truth consistently and authentically every time, every touch point. It’s about creating an act to change through inspired learning and thinking. And it’s also about the commercials. Let’s not pretend that we are only doing this to help the world and our respective communities move toward the rainbow. We absolutely hope that this is the genuine bi-product and we have more power and flexibility to be socially responsible without the red tape. We choose our alliances and support networks so our belief system is authentic and our values are aligned to our greater cause and purpose beyond delighting our customers. However we are also doing this to create financially profitable businesses, yes – authentic and values aligned businesses, built for its customers, people and communities – but profitable. So then, isn’t that the measure of success? Not in its entirety but it certainly helps keep the wheels turning! 

There is always a personal story to tell. That’s what makes the world such an eclectic and interesting place. The sum of many – our ‘collective’ experiences that enable our collective growth. And Lisa, I’ve watched yours with interest and no doubt like many women in business, or anyone in a start-up scenario, have journeyed in many of the experiences you’ve shared. I agree with many of your business and leadership views yet challenge others.

Through capital raising, capital spending (!!), forecasting and P&L-ing, we’ve all had those moments of sheer horror, gut-wrenching anxiety fueled moments of doubt where the walls appear to be closing in. But the entrepreneur doesn’t accept that. They see it simply as another challenge, almost deliberately thrown their way to test their resilience. And the tribulation makes for a better story. Success can’t come that easily. There is standing room only around a true entrepreneur and I don’t mean in terms of crowds. I mean standing tall, empowered and strong in the face of adversity, change and risk. With so much riding on the late night vision you had some time ago that you’ve now invested in beyond the point of return. And meanwhile everyone is watching on. So we let them watch. Some will take great delight in seeing us stumble but they’ll be irritated when we never fall. Most will just be inspired by our ability to push through – by giving it a crack. When the walls go up, the strides just need to be bigger but they’re often the same strides, just of different scale.

There is so much brilliance in the world – in work and life. So much creativity, colour, light, diversity, tragedy, hope and triumph. For me, entrepreneurs simply help us all unlock our own spirit – our own little piece of brilliance for the world to share in or for your own aspirations to glow in. That’s it really. It’s about leading and inspiring others to learn, have a go, create experiences that you will never be worse off for – how could you be, the worst case scenario is learning.

So Lisa, we find ourselves in a world of constant change, technology and the greatest opportunity for global connectivity we’ve ever seen. You are creating brilliance through communication – across all your channels – by telling the interesting and powerful stories of great business leaders, new business start-ups and those who are simply striving to live a fulfilled life. Credos to you and here’s to penning a new job title – everyone seems to be an entrepreneur…or life coach…these days. I think we need to shift a gear.

Our new job titles are on their way. For me, I’m rather liking ‘Luxury Nut Farmer’. It had me at ‘Luxury’. But really it just should be ‘Nut Farmer’. Just a little side venture that took us to Byron Bay from the lights and corporate pace of Collins Street in inner city Melbourne. My husband loves his blue tractor – it was just what he’d always wanted when I text him the photo after secretly purchasing a 100 acre macadamia plantation in the Byron Bay hinterland. He was thrilled?! “We NEED to talk” was his reply. Talk, talk, talk…so much talking and communicating these days. Thought it best to just act. Probably in some form of collaboration might have helped matters but we all have development areas. Let’s save that for chapter 2.

I digress, our revised job titles…I’m on it.

Hayley James

Luxury nut farmer aka nut farmer


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