From Kitchen Hand to CEO: 8 Things I Learnt on My Rollercoaster to Launch

From Kitchen Hand to CEO: 8 Things I Learnt on My Rollercoaster to Launch

My first job was at Taco Bell. I was a kitchen hand scrubbing pots and pans in a dish-pit. I’d work until my fingers throbbed and I’d come home afterwards reeking of sour guac.

I had no idea that I’d be CEO of a company then, I was 15 years old and I’d just dropped out of high school. As far as I knew, I’d pick up a trade when I was old enough; I’d become a motor mechanic and fix cars for a living. Hell, I would have been happy with that.

Things turned out differently for me but I will never forget what it was like to scrub dishes for eight hours a day. I will never forget how tiring it was; how unappreciated I felt or how much I loathed walking in those doors at 8am every morning.

That background was probably a little different from others in my position but I don’t regret it; it’s an understanding I appreciate; an experience that shifts my corporate objectives.

You see, it’s not just about external influence and economic growth anymore. It’s about a team who feel energised at work, who know they are valued and who love what they do.

Here are a few things to help you out on the rollercoaster to launch:

  •  Be clear about the industry you are servicing. Learn what their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are and make sure your products offer a solution. If it isn’t making a difference, it isn’t worth engineering.


  • Take every lost client personally, get feedback on why they bailed and make sure the fault doesn’t repeat itself. You should be innovating to improve your product constantly. There is always going to be someone coming along with something better.


  • Create a unique culture that you love and a brand that reflects who you are. People respond to authenticity so if you don’t want to wear a suit, don’t.


  • The most important part of that culture is the people within it. Handpick team-members with talent and turn them into champions of your product; people who believe in your vision and work as hard as you do to pull it off.


  • Take notice of their work and give them credit for it. People who feel appreciated will always do more than is expected and those who want to work will always work harder.


  • Maintain intellectual humility. It’s easy to get tunnel visioned with your objectives but it’s important to give your employees an opportunity to input. Their feedback should always be welcome, who knows their ideas may be genius!


  • Make your goals and targets incremental rather than inconceivable. There is nothing worse than working towards a progress point that is so far in the distance you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.


  • Make it fun and get everyone involved. Whether it’s a futsal table in the lunch-room or trivia on Wednesdays, put some laughter in the office. It’s team building that confirms each person belongs, that motivates them to band together and get some serious shit done.

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Ashley Farrugia
Ashley Farrugia
Ash began his career as a motor mechanic and converted an LP gas fitting business into a national franchise. He is now co-founder and CEO of ActivePipe – a marketing automation and data discovery platform for real estate. He attributes his success to taking risks, making decisions quickly and having faith in the people he employs. When he isn’t busy building a global company, Ash enjoys fishing, camping and flying aeroplanes.