Have we been lied to about what it takes to succeed at work?


Business Chicks founder Emma Isaacs believes COVID has ended the need to hustle - a view she sets out in her new book, The New Hustle. Instead, we've had plenty of time to think about the way we want to work in the future, whether it is remotely, or part-time, or in our own businesses.

She's living her best life in LA with her husband and six children, and through Business Chicks (a networking company for women) has played host to speakers such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Lee Furness, Elizabeth Gilbert, Seth Godin and Arianna Huffington.

Isaacs bought Business Chicks after she attended one of its events and discovered it was for sale. At the time it was just a website and a database of members. Today it has 500,000 members globally, aged from 14 to 82.

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What was your first job?
I always wanted to work the minute I was able to. I had a neighbour who owned a restaurant at the top of the street, and I'd constantly ask if I could work there but was told that it wasn't allowed until I was 14 and 9 months.

The day I turned 14 and 9 months, I started in the restaurant as a waitress, taking every shift I could through high school and uni.

I bought my first car at 15 even though I wasn't able to drive. I wanted to be successful and independent from a young age and wanted to know how money could change lives.

You became a business owner at 18. How did that happen?

I did six months of uni and dropped out. I met a woman who owned a recruitment company when I was out one weekend. She had started the business a few months earlier with an uncle.

They were in the business a short time before he wanted to leave and he said to her, if you want to offer anyone equity I'd offer it to that kid over there [me]. We built the team, won awards and were profitable.

You really got your big break with Business Chicks at 25. How did you know you could do it?

One of the things I am good at is networking and trying to get out there and meet as many people as possible. A friend invited me to an event called Business Chicks and I came back and told my business partner we needed to go.

We went, and I found the business was for sale and so I bought it. I exited from recruitment and sold my half of the business to my business partner.

Business Chicks is now a global brand. How did that happen?

Really there is no secret sauce. It is working on relationships and making sure we are providing value to members. A number of members have been with us for 14-15 years. A lot of success is financial acumen, knowing where to invest and where not to invest.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?

My grandfather was great with money. He was my first mentor and remains my biggest mentor. He didn't earn much, he was a shipwright by trade, but he invested all his money from an early age.

He bought the family home and walked into CBA and paid the mortgage with cash every fortnight. He invested in bluechips from an early age and would never sell, he just reinvested the dividends.

He was a massive role model for looking at what can be created from not much at all.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Starting out young gave me a great headstart, but I bought our commercial headquarters in Sydney maybe eight or nine years ago and that was a really good investment before the Sydney commercial property market increased in value.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

I would say, probably starting other businesses while Business Chicks was my main source of income. Being distracted and spending money elsewhere when trying to run one business.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

I'm not someone who buys a lot of expensive things. I suppose I splurge on family holidays. I like to buy real estate and property and plants, but I'm very careful with my money.

If you had $10,000 right now where would you invest it?

In the stockmarket. I trade every single day. Over here, in the US, there are a million financial platforms you can invest in, and some exciting tech companies I would invest that money in, in a heartbeat.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I think I would pour myself a cup of hot tea and make a plan and strip it back to basics: how I'm spending money, how I got to that situation, what I could liquidate and how I could make revenue as quickly as possible.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

I think about this all the time. I was raised in a beautiful family but didn't have a lot of money, and I love that I was taught the value of money from an early age. But my children are growing up in a different environment.

What's been your best money-making career move?

Buying my current business and I think also teaching myself to trade the stockmarket. 
I think it also comes back to understanding that you have the power to change things and I've tried to be self led, educating myself.

Do you hope that people change the way they look at money post-COVID?

I really do. I've heard a lot of stories of success, how people's money has set them up for different circumstances during the pandemic, and I think that Covid has made a lot of business owners think about how much they need as a safety buffer. Some only have enough to last one or two payrolls and that's really not enough. There was a lot of financial hardship that came through this and we can only hope to see more financial acumen come to the fore.

Finish this sentence: money makes you think about how you can make a bigger impact.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.