My greatest failure as an entrepreneur was really just a failure to trust my own instincts as a leader.
Renowned for her unmatched business development prowess, Caroline Thompson has only continued to add to an already lengthy list of impressive professional accomplishments. In her current role as the business development manager with Ask Bongo, Ms. Thompson frequently draws on her extensive experience as an executive with the goal of ensuring the Australia-based company continues to grow as the country’s largest SMS information service.
A resident of Bondi Beach and a graduate of the University of New South Wales, Ms. Thompson played a central role in developing the persona of Bongo, the super-intelligent and insatiably curious monkey responsible for answering the questions posed by users of the SMS information service. Ms. Thompson also applied her business development acumen to the more technical aspects of Ask Bongo, ensuring that the company provides its users with exceptional service thanks to a massive database, highly sophisticated software application, and an impressive team of professional researchers.
While many executives would feel a sense of contentment upon achieving so much in such a relatively brief period of time, Ms. Thompson remains deeply motivated by the new possibilities available through her role as Ask Bongo’s business development manager. After achieving a key business development goal when Ask Bongo became the largest SMS information service in Australia, Ms. Thompson immediately shifted her focus on the development of a strategic plan designed to achieve a new set of ambitious business development goals.
Where did the idea for Ask Bongo come from?
The initial idea was the product of a casual remark made by one of our founders, who, while trying to verify a hard-to-believe assertion about a historical figure — Genghis Khan, if I remember correctly. While struggling to quickly find such a specific piece of information, he said something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just text this question to a history prof or some omniscient monkey?”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I prefer to keep my days organized using relatively flexible blocks of time, with each block devoted to a specific task associated with one of my many professional responsibilities. The length of each block varies, but the order hardly ever changes unless there is something that demands my immediate attention.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to draw on my own experiences to bring ideas to life, but only as a starting point featuring an endless combination of possibilities.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
There’s a lot to be excited about, but I’m most excited about Ask Bongo’s future, both in Australia and abroad.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A lot of my success is the product of a willingness to take calculated risks. Of course, I should point out that I have always placed the greater emphasis on the calculation rather than the risk, which is probably so many have paid off throughout my career.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
After graduating from UNSW, I took an executive-level position that I believed offered an opportunity for relatively rapid advancement. Right from the start, I had to deal with micromanaging colleagues and felt so stifled by the environment that had to leave the company. Fortunately, I learned why it is so important to empower employees with opportunities to succeed and grow as professionals.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have aimed higher during that initial job search after earning my degree from UNSW.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I believe in setting short- and long-term business development goals, and I am constantly recalibrating our existing goals while adding new goals to ensure we continue to grow and ultimately maximize our company’s potential.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We’ve relied on a balanced approach for stimulating business growth, which has allowed us to expand so quickly without any adverse effect on the quality of our service offerings.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest failure as an entrepreneur was really just a failure to trust my own instincts as a leader. Since that initial setback, I’ve made a point to trust my own instincts as well as the instincts of the team members I’m responsible for leading.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As businesses continue to turn to automated practices with an eye on reducing costs and increasing efficiency, consumers are placing greater value on personal interactions and customer service. Any software application that injects its automated services with an air of personalization can benefit from combining the best of both worlds.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently moved into a beachfront property, so I took a kite-surfing lesson a few weekends ago and decided to get all the equipment needed to take it seriously.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Obviously, we all love the software application that allows Ask Bongo to be so effective in answering the questions asked by our users, not to mention the database that houses what seems like an unlimited amount of information.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. Everyone should understand the thinking processes that influence the decisions we make, but this is especially true for entrepreneurs.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My thinking, at least most recently, has been influenced by Karen Stocks and Naomi Simson.
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