Nigel Collin, Business Lessons from Regional Australia

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A successful businessman, consultant and public speaker, Nigel Collin has written several books – the latest of which, “The Game of Inches: Why Small Change Wins Big Results” – is the result of his travels around Australia, interviewing ingenious and innovative individuals who have all achieved business success. Nigel’s book offers insight into how to be successful in business, as he explains the concept of the “Game of Inches” …

Hi Nigel. First, a little about yourself … How did you come across the Hastings area, and what led you to settle here?

My wife is a native Port Macquarian, and so for over 20 years Port has been my second home. Although I grew up in Sydney, I spent much of my youth out Bathurst way; both of us wanted to move to country NSW, and last year decided to make the move.

Your business background is very extensive. My understanding is you established your first business at the age of 20 … What are the most valuable lessons you learned from that startup enterprise?

Looking back, the most valuable lesson was to find a gap in the market. Along with a mate, I started a rehearsal studio for local bands on the North Shore in Sydney. At the time I was in a band and every time we wanted to rehearse, we had to pack up our gear and head halfway across town, because there were no practice studios nearby. So we thought, “Hey, why don’t we open one ourselves locally?” Because there were other bands nearby with the same issue, it worked really well.

Too often you see business ideas that don’t solve problems or exploit opportunities and as a result, they fail. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, we found a gap in the “local band” market and offered a solution. So, be a gap hunter – not an idea hunter.

You were also the brains behind the creation of Absurd Entertainment – a business that was heavily involved with entertainment at the 2000 Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and many large corporate events. When you sold this business in 2004, what was the impetus for you to move into the world of consulting and public speaking? That’s quite a change in direction…

Strangely enough, it was a very natural progression. As creative director of Absurd, I spent a lot of time working with clients on how to design entertainment and conference programmes that would meet their needs and their business objectives. The role was very consultative and collaborative. On top of that, I mentored and helped many entertainers bring their ideas to life commercially. Growing up in the world of entertainment and business events, I learned early on that I was a good communicator. So the move was a perfect fit.

What was the outcome of your travels around Australia (by motorbike) in 2013, when you met many ingenious Australians? What did you learn from these travels?

What started out as a simple project to interview and share stories of clever Australians turned out to be so much more. Firstly, that regional Australia is laced with extraordinary people doing incredibly ingenious things.

I was also amazed at how innovation thrives throughout Australia, especially in remote and regional areas. Be it scarcity, lack or resources or simple necessity, there are people all over this great country who are incredibly resourceful. I like that, because it means you don’t need to be a leviathan of industry, a tech start-up, or a celebrity entrepreneur to be successful and build a large profitable business. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it’s possible – because it’s common.

You’ve written several books, the latest of which is The Game of Inches: Why Small Change Wins Big Results. Describe the process of writing and researching this book, and the many entrepreneurs you met along the way …

The book evolved really, firstly from the stories and people I met as I travelled around regional Australia. I started seeing patterns in what they do and how they do it. In addition, as an ambassador of Startup Australia, (a not-for-profit to help businesses in the start-up phase), I had the opportunity of interviewing over 50 of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs, and the patterns continued to emerge. At that point I remember saying to one of my business mentors, “I should write a book on this”.

So the book was born from the advice, wisdom and experience of all the people I’ve been lucky enough to interview over the years and what they revealed, rather than having a theory or business hypothesis and then finding case-studies to suit it.

What is the overarching message you wish to convey in The Game of Inches?

The main thing is to shift people’s mindset from success being an instant, explosive moment, to one of understanding that success happens by making small consistent changes and improvements. There’s a myth out there that to be successful you need to come up with the next iPhone or the next paradigm shift in an industry, but that simply isn’t true. Success in any endeavour is a game of inches, which of course is where the title of the book came from.

The other thing that struck me as I interviewed these entrepreneurs and business leaders was a commonality in actions they take and the behaviours they adopt. Which is great, because it means success is not about who you are – but rather about what you do and how you do it.

How do you feel your book will be able to assist business owners?

The book offers a system for successfully building a business based on four actions and three behaviours common to many successful entrepreneurs and leaders. The book explores each of these through real world stories and examples.

It was also really important for me to help people apply the information and insights learned into their own workplace and business, so each chapter contains a number of practical steps and finishes with a call to action.

Where can people purchase a copy of The Game of Inches, or find out more about you?

You can get a copy through all good book stores, as well as online book sellers. You can also go to the website at www.gameofinchescom.au

Thanks Nigel.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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