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Grow A Small Business Podcast

Apr 26, 2020

In this episode, I interview Phaedon Stough, the Co-Founder of Innovation Bay, the longest-running networking group for tech founders, startups, and investors in Australia. He’s also the founder and non-executive director of MitchelLake Global Executive Search and Talent Acquisition, an executive recruitment firm he started back in 2001 with a fellow university friend, focusing on the tech startup space.

Surviving a tech crack within their first year and the global financial crisis in 2008, it was the second global recession which formed the foundation for their fast growth. From 2 full-time employees in 2001 to more than 90 within fifteen years, and $80 Million in annual revenues across six cities in Australia, UK, Singapore, and the USA, Phaedon admits that they grew their number of international offices too quickly. Apart from an investor’s $50,000 then another small injection for growth from their new chairperson, they have so far grown organically from profits.

Phaedon exited the business operationally a few years ago but he’s still a shareholder. They had a big focus on mental and professional development, helping them learn corners of the business they weren’t strong in. He says he wouldn’t go back into the industry or any other service-based business, and would instead begin a recurring revenue model like a software as a service (SaaS) product. Phaedon believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is finding product-market fit, and the advice he would give himself on day one is, “Keep it simple”, and pricing before anything else. Stay tuned to find out more about his fascinating entrepreneurial journey.

This Cast Covers:

  • Starting and growing MitchelLake global executive search and talent acquisition.
  • How focusing on their core clients helped them navigate the tech wreck in 2001-2002.
  • From two full-time employees to 90 within a fifteen-year period, and 6 offices in different geographical locations.
  • Making money, building a team, and getting approached by clients. 
  • Being able to pick projects to do and receiving referral clients from the top five VC firms.
  • How they raised startup funding and achieved organic financial growth.
  • Avoiding service businesses and going more into a SaaS business.
  • The stresses of having to downsize the business and focus on cash during the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • Their quick expansion into different international markets and how he would have done it differently.
  • The interesting challenge of managing people and his struggles with financials.
  • The importance of an entrepreneur understanding why they want to go into a certain business.
  • The impact of keeping really close to the customer and working with them.
  • The difficulty for recruitment companies in recruiting their own staff.
  • Building a kickass culture for all their six locations.
  • The golden rule of startup businesses and how Phaedon invested in his own personal development.
  • How he exited the business and the advice he would give anyone who is looking to exit their business.
  • The value in using a project management platform and keeping it simple when starting a small business.

Additional Resources:

Music from "Cold Funk" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (