More than four hundred thousand people tuned in each week to watch Shivani Gupta (pictured) dispense her own unique brand of business coaching on Risking It All, the Australian version of the popular UK TV series that explores what it’s really like setting up your own business. Released to coincide with Risking It All, Shivani’s first book Passion@Work follows her own real-life story as she built her successful and sustainable business from scratch, revealing the many lessons she learned along the way.
Shivani Gupta was born in India and grew up in Australia. A qualified engineer, she completed an MBA in her mid-twenties before working as a senior manager for BHP Billiton. After a life-changing trip to Nepal in 2001, she left the corporate world to follow her passion and create her own business.
Shivani has worked with a range of companies from sole traders to six of Australia’s top ten companies. She has won awards that include ‘Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year’ and is a highly sought after speaker, business coach and workshop facilitator. Based in Newcastle, NSW, Shivani is a columnist for The Newcastle Herald.
When Risking It All debuted on SBS three weeks ago, one TV reviewer called it ‘Gordon Ramsey without the swearing‘. But anyone who has seen Shivani on camera will know that nothing could be further from the truth. She delivers her message rather gently in comparison to the controversial TV chef.
Shivani told Australian Women Online, “My role isn’t to be a Gordon Ramsey. That’s not my style. My job is to let them believe in their dream and guide them to where they want to go.”
And the TV audience appreciates Shivani’s style, inundating the online forum after each episode is aired on Wednesday nights.
Shivani says doing TV wasn’t one of her goals but the TV series did fit in with her vision of helping business owners to succeed. “With 1.7 million small businesses in Australia, it is a really big part of who we are,” she said.
Unfortunately the producers of the Australian series made just four episodes for SBS. But with the show earning the TV network’s highest ratings for its time slot (8pm on Wednesday night) in six years, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Shivani brought back for another season of Risking It All next year.
The companion book for the TV series, Passion@Work was written by Shivani to help fledgling entrepreneurs and established business owners alike. Through the make-or-break first five years, Shivani shows the reality of what it’s like to follow your passion.
“Often people step into owning their own business for the wrong reasons. Eighty-two percent of businesses fail within three years. A lot of people get caught up in just wearing the technical hat and they’re often the people who go under,” she said.
“It’s more than just sales and marketing. It’s also having that bigger vision about what you want to achieve, knowing who to go and speak to and knowing how to deal with the issues that come up. So there is a broader aspect of leadership that those people in start-up businesses are missing.”
Through her own experiences of building a business, Shivani shows you how to:
- stay focused during the early days of the business
- keep balance in your life by making sure there is time for leisure
- be creative about your business
- find mentors and quality advisors
- learn to use your time profitably
In her book, Shivani also talks about the importance of networking, an activity which has brought many opportunities her way, including the TV series Risking It All.
Shivani said, “It’s when we’re out there talking to people generating ideas, not always generating business, helping people in their journey, brainstorming about what you want to do and bouncing that off other people – I find that’s where a lot of the work and exciting projects and opportunities come from because you get out of your comfort zone and go and talk to some people you normally wouldn’t talk to about your business.”
Another topic discussed at length in Passion@Work is women in business and the barriers women face when building a career.
Shivani explains, “Irrespective of how it might appear on TV or in a book, I have my own self-doubts as a person and as a woman. I didn’t think a publisher would pick up the book and I had some doubts about how I would sound and how I would look on TV. We think that if a woman is a CEO or a senior manager that automatically she will have a lot more confidence because she’s made it in the corporate world. But they don’t, they still lack a lot of self belief.”
“When I coach men I find that even if they’re applying for a job that is two or three levels beyond their reach, they still have the attitude that they’ll be able to do it. Whereas women will not have that same level of confidence.”
“The work I do is to help women feel good enough and you do that in a number of ways. One is to get them to look at the bits they’re very good at and they may not even recognise that they do very well. So actually getting them to stop and reflect on things they do very well, things that other people have told them that they do very well and actually giving themselves a pat on the back for it.”
Shivani says awards like the Telstra Business Women’s Awards are a wonderful opportunity for women to increase their confidence as individuals and as a group. “Nominate other women and get yourself nominated because it’s a wonderful way to stop and reflect on what you do well,” she said.
She also recommends women do a lot of affirmation work to change negative thinking.