Annette Presley credits her business success to a few simple rules. Spend a short time with her and you may want to adopt them yourself. One that constantly recurs is written on a dog-eared post-it above her computer. It reads…’feel the fear’. Says Annette: “It’s my reminder to myself of what it takes to achieve your dreams.” I briefly wonder if I should write it down for myself given what Annette has achieved in her life.
The story of how you started and progressed through business has been well documented but what lies behind your personal motivation?
Annette: Oh gosh, what drives me? There are so many factors that motivate me but first and foremost has to be self-belief. It’s amazing what can happen if you believe in yourself and stick to your morals, values and integrity.
It takes some courage to have such strong self-belief.
Annette: Of course it does, but it’s what you need to get what you believe in. It’s matter of being brave, courageous and hanging on in there when things get tough. And you know what’s essential? Having total commitment and not having a lifeline. That sounds scary but if you’ve got a safety net and the going gets really tough… you’ll use it.
You are driven by self-belief and facing down your fears. What else is important to your motivation?
Annette: I’ve got a quick answer to this one… dreams. I tell everyone… dare to dream. My dreams have been a hugely potent force throughout my life. No dream is ever too big or small - if you believe in it, you’ll make it happen.
I have to ask you then, what was your dream?
Annette: Well that’s easy to remember because it came true! My teenage dream was to start my own company before I was 25, have financial freedom, choices and to make a difference. I achieved it all in 10 years, and things even I had never dreamed of in another 10. Believe me though, I made mistakes and failed along the way! But I persevered and found something I was good at and that’s what everyone needs to do. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do it well and maybe you’ll be the best.
In other words... chase your dreams to find your passion.
Annette: People are good at things they’re passionate about so if you follow your dreams passion, success and a lot of fun will follow. But you know, I can’t overestimate how important it is to have the right people on your side.
When I was 19, I was hired to sell computers. It sounds ridiculous now but back then it was a bold move by the computer company to hire a young female to sell. But I had a boss who believed in me, a naive 19-year-old girl with huge dreams and a passion for life. He became a great mentor and that’s what we all need: people who believe in us no matter what. It’s why I support Lightning Lab XX by mentoring women launching start-ups and it’s why I am passionate about getting to those young girls early through Elicit.
I have a dream for their futures - of leadership and changing the world. I want them to see they can have that dream too and, more importantly, that they have within themselves the tools to make it happen.
The striking thing about a conversation with Annette is how easy she makes everything sound. She doesn’t credit her success to anything unattainable. Instead, she puts it down to a few simple rules that feature the words belief and dreams and passion, and others that involve feeling fear and being courageous and true to yourself. She makes huge dreams feel achievable.
We’ve all had fears, but the desire to build your dream, to live it and breathe it, is what drives you.
- annette presley
Started her first company, the IT recruitment firm Stratum, in 1987 at 24. She co-founded several successful telecommunications and information technology companies in New Zealand and Australia, including Call Australia, CallPlus and i4free. The CallPlus organisation includes Slingshot, Orcon and 2talk, and became New Zealand’s third largest telecommunications and broadband provider during her leadership. She was a leader in driving the unbundling of the local loop in New Zealand, which brought pricing down more than 50 percent and created competition. She works hard to encourage the next generation of women technology entrepreneurs, and is an investor and dedicated mentor to Creative HQ’s Lightning Lab XX programme that supports start-up businesses that have at least one female co-founder. She is also a philanthropist and was patron of the charity StepUP which gives business inspiration to teenagers, and has been actively involved in supporting other charities such as Dress for Success, Shine and Kidz First Children’s Hospital in South Auckland. In 2015 Ms Presley established her own charity Elicit – the dream catchers, a camp to inspire teenagers to strive for their dreams, a programme which she has already run in schools for ten years.