Story 11: Friends, Family, and Fools

Cameron Laird

Cameron Laird

Published on: 14 February, 2022

Updated: 28 February, 2022

Ally Muller

Friends, Family & Fools

Oh man, our last episode of The Chirp was one for the books! If you missed it, definitely check out Story 10: That Time I Got A Lawnmower Loan. In it, we talked about everything from lawnmowers, to the Miami high life, to NFTs, family loans, and so much more. Before you do anything else today, check out that episode, you won't regret it.

This week, we welcomed a face from across the sea and down under. Yes, we got our first Aussie on the show! We sat down with Ally Muller, startup investor, director at GOYA Consulting, and long-time believer in the power of investing not just your money into people but your time as well.

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This Episode In A Nutshell

Time is money. It's a saying that we've all heard before and one that Ally Muller takes literally. Director of GOYA Consulting, Ally dedicates her time to building and crafting her relationships in the world of startups. One relationship at a time, each connection molded, Ally walks us through all the things she's learned throughout her career that have led her to succeed in the world of investing. Listen as we talk with Ally about how innovation can be sparked in the world of business by nothing more than an initial push from a friend, family member, or fool.

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Have a story to tell and want to be on our podcast? Let us know by sending an email to claird@pigeonloans.io.

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Audio Transcript of Story 11: Friends, Family, and Fools

Opening Monologue

Investing in people. It's something I remember hearing from a previous employer many moons ago. He said I see potential and I want to invest in you. At the time I wasn’t really sure what it meant. Did he want to buy me courses to up my skill set? Did he want to send me to college? Was I getting a new Mac?!

Now I realize it meant he was on his own journey and he wanted to help me along with mine. Teach me and help me along my own path using the tools and resources he had learnt and acquired and, in the corporate world, it definitely feels like it was an act of kindness. A statement of camaraderie and an opportunity to improve myself under the guidance of someone else more experienced. 

Now it didn’t end up like that. He was part of a sales team of complete cowboys who didn't pay me my commission and I left shortly after, but the words “I want to invest in you” always stuck with me.

Because it applies to lending between friends and family. In our last episode with Chris Daniels, his Dad lent him increasing amounts of money as he grew older because Chris always paid him back. And that’s great and his Dad saw that as a worthwhile investment of his money, but what I want to explore is, what is a worthwhile investment of time?

My friend recently asked me would I be interested in going to a soccer game next week and I said yes that of course that would be a lot of fun. He lent me the money to buy my ticket (or rather he bought them and said pay me back whenever) and, not tooting my own horn or anything, but what a valuable investment of time it is for him too. Having such sterling conversation at this football game as well. 

But in a more serious way, my previous “sales guru” employer, who really wasn’t a bad guy, wanted to invest his time in me. He wanted to train me up and give me his time to do so. 

My next guest, Ally Muller, talks a lot about this. She has invested in companies, but she is not the type of investor to sit back and see what happens. She likes to get involved. 

She is the Director at GOYA Consulting. GOYA helps companies implement innovation and digital transformation strategies to get them to achieve their vision and their goals. Ally talks about how she got started, how she invests her money and her time, and when is the right time to walk away from a project before you start seeing a loss on these investments.

Listening to my interview with Ally, I invite you to think about, when you lend someone money, is it the type of loan where you’re doing the borrower a favor, or can it be something that can benefit both the borrower and the lender? Like a fun evening at a soccer game!

Enjoy the interview.

Cameron Laird

Thank you so much for joining me today on the Chirp. It's a pleasure talking to you. You're joining me from Brisbane. Is that correct?

Ally Muller

Yes. Thanks for having me, Cameron. Yes, I am joining you from Brisbane, Australia.

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. From Barcelona to Brisbane! What time difference? Time difference, where is your sting! Eh lovely to have you, I’m quite keen to get into this. I was doing a bit of research on you. I know you're with GOYA Consulting and I'd love to hear about what your role is there and what kind of work you do there. So what's your role now?

Ally Muller

So I'm the Managing Director. So I started GOYA consulting based off a number of years of experience of consulting and investment banking and working with entrepreneurs and startups in my own businesses. And really just feeding the need to organizations that were saying, “How do we get that corporate innovation inside our own business? Tell us what we need to do to get a better innovation program inside our businesses, actually make it work and not pretend that we're startups, but do something that will make money, not just tick the box to say that we've got an innovation program.”

So, I set up this organization to do that. And we work across a number of businesses and, at the moment, we're working across technology streams, we're working across the film industry, which is super exciting and a little different. We've been working in healthcare, in downstream food manufacturing, people industries. Lots of different organizations have picked us up and started to work with our framework, which is super, super exciting.

Cameron Laird

And the work you do itself. I listened to a couple of podcasts that you were on and the work that you do and how you tackle it, but could you tell our listeners, what is a high-level overview of your framework? How do you tackle these strategies and this transformation within these companies? What's your step-by-step and how do you execute this?

Ally Muller

Well, what we do is we actually start by setting up a culture of innovation, and I know that sounds like a lot of people will go and do that, but what we really need to do is, we go and we debunk the myths. So we get rid of all the things that are holding you back. All the things that you might have in your head as an organization or a group of leaders to say, are we innovating? Is this truly innovation? What does this really look like? And we get rid of that right from the get-go. So we pride ourselves on almost streamlining the crap out of the business from an innovation perspective. It really is! And I hate to say it really is an overused word. It's an overused value in organizations and it feels like something that everybody is saying.

“This is innovative. This is innovative. This is innovative.” But what we really need to do is just pull that back to its bare bones and say, “What truly is innovation to this organization? What is the mandate that we're going to live with, and what does that mean?” So that we can end up saying, “Look, that is a new piece of technology or a new piece of software that someone else developed.”

That's a great thing for the business, but that doesn't belong in our innovation portfolio. So that we can get people working on truly solving the problems to be truly innovative and creative in that space rather than tick the box. We adopted something new in innovation!

Cameron Laird

Yeah. So it definitely sounds like there's a science to it, but what's kind of fascinating to me is the psychology about it. And you touched on it there with your emphasis on the people. And I know that's one of your company's values as well. You pride yourselves on your people that are a part of your team and the psychology around it. How important are people and relationships in transformations and strategies like these, and can you touch on or talk a bit about how you incorporate that into your strategy. You say things can go wrong. How do you work with people?

Ally Muller

People are everything in innovation. And it's really because I truly believe that people are the lifeblood of any innovation program inside an organization. So it is what we're doing to manage that. Not only from the top, because yes, we need to have the decisions being made at the top because they're probably going to fund it.

They're going to make the decisions, but also from the bottom up, because that's where I truly believe it comes from. How do we have the right processes inside the organization, the right frameworks and decision-making capability? And that's something that's really important. I just wanna say that again, decision-making capabilities.

So something that we see that goes wrong every time and really pulls people out of the psychology of innovation is inconsistent decision-making around what they're doing. So one day it's really decided, “We're going to do this. And then the next day we're going to do that.” Innovation just doesn't work that way.

We have to keep plugging away at something. So it might take us 15 goes or what if it's like Edison said, “It's the 10,000 times I got it wrong to understand how the 10,001st time I got to get it right.” So we need to manage those processes as well and allow people to manage. But in terms of the people in psychology, one of the things that we really focus on, and it is a core part of the framework that we deliver inside of organizations. Our term is getting your band of misfits together, but it's actually about getting the type of people inside the different innovation teams.

Once you've actually understood what I do, you would like to play with it and really start to think about that differently. So I know with a lot of organizations, we understand how to do that. Black hat thinking. We might even understand how to put the red team in how to come in there and really criticize everything, but what we want to do in my opinion, and what I've seen work very, very well, I call it, “Pulling all the parts together”, because we need to think about all the different ways to make this work. And this isn't about people being naysayers on the project. Although we do need them. These are the people that are just looking to do it differently. They are biding their time to just do something really crazy and different.

They've got all these ideas and they really do follow the mission of the organization because they want to see it succeed. And this is how we're going to get that really different and out there thinking, and it's putting these different types of people together. That will question each other.

They will challenge each other. They will push each other to the limits and they may not be the people that we think about from a day-to-day basis normally. And that's actually what makes it really work because one of the things we ask our leaders not to do when we work with them is they tend to give every fun project to the star player and the top performer. And that's wonderful! We definitely need them inside the team, but that shouldn't be the whole entire team.

And the reason for that is they're not prepared for it, because value doesn't work for them inside the organization. That certainly hasn't been that career path. They're all about consistent strong standards delivery. That's great for delivering on the process. That's great for delivering nice growth mechanisms for standardized processes in the organization, but that's not great for innovation.

We need somebody who is really prepared to push it to the limits. Understanding that failure is part of the growth of these projects and what we can learn from failure, and failure isn't bad. You know, we all talk about it inside of organizations. We talk about learning and we talk about failing forward and failing fast.

In the scheme of things where we see some problems is that people are still really, really, really afraid to fail because they feel that it will reflect negatively on the career performance inside the organizations. They do actually wonder what it will mean for them when it comes into their performance review and what if they haven't made all the budget and key performance indicator requirements that they were looking for.

Cameron Laird

Your personal brand is damaged.

Ally Muller

Yes, and we need to move past that. So if we do want to actually change, develop, grow, and truly innovate, we do have to allow people to get past that and understand when that's appropriate and when it's not.

Cameron Laird

Very interesting. And not something you often hear in the corporate world or from corporate leaders talking about, so very refreshing. During the span of your career, you say you've worked with startups. I'm sure you've worked with enterprises as well. Going through all of your roles and the people that you've dealt with. How do money and relationships fit into what you've seen in the corporate world or in business in general? Have you any stories where it's gone wrong or have you seen someone that's doing it right?

Ally Muller

Yeah, I think, particularly in the startup world, it goes wrong all the time for a number of different reasons. I've had my own fair share of ones that have gone right and ones that have gone wrong. And I think that's all part of the learning process, but where I see it go really wrong in a lot of instances is we get too caught up in the hype of what we believe the startup world should look like. And we get into that whole hype and hustle, and we need to raise money too quickly. And I'm sure you've heard this before and a lot of people with their ideas go straight to those three F's - The friends, family, and fools - to try and raise money and they do it in ways that are very unstructured.

And people genuinely do believe if they're going to give money. But I don't understand what's going to happen to them. How are they going to get their money back? What does that look like? What are the terms that I'm giving you the money on? What is the timeframe that I'm expecting to see a return on?

We don't see enough of that being structured. So I see a lot of people getting burned in that space and then therefore being very hesitant to reinvest in different types of startup models. And I think I've had my wins and my losses on that one as well. I think we learn very early in that one.

But I've also had some great success where I have been fortunate enough to work with some startups. And I'm very picky and selective on that one. I have my own criteria and how I work with them and being able to invest some money, in that. And then with that comes my time. I have found that I'm not somebody that can just hand over money and say, “Go for it. Let me know how it goes” 

In the startup world, with that comes my time and my expertise. And over time, I've actually been able to cash out on a couple of those startups as they've gone through their growth stages and it's been really lucrative for me. I'm very cautious at the same time. It's not easy. 

Cameron Laird

Diving a bit into more of your stories and even your wins. Can you give me an example of when it did work out and what were the steps that you follow to ensure that it was a success and you weren’t going to lose out or anything like that?

Ally Muller

I've just been really lucky as well. I'll tell you a story. Sometimes you just get a bit of luck, right? So one of my first entrepreneurial... When I was launching out a little bit from the corporate world, when I was a lot younger, I wanted to have a fitness brand. I'm really into fitness. It's a huge hobby of mine. And I wanted to have one of those active play brands. And I was just really at the front end of that athleisure with trends. So I was really right on it. And I was fortunate enough to recognize a couple of different brands and I was able to buy the license rights of those brands to sell them in the Asia Pacific region down here.

But it was just little old me and I was like, “Oh, okay.” I was getting my Instagram profile. And back then Facebook was a lot bigger than what it was in those types of markets and things like TikTok didn't exist. But I still couldn't help but get gazumped by the much bigger player.

So those international rights were sold to a much bigger player and they would have then also had the opportunity to gazump me. I was just fortunate enough to get on the front foot of that and have those conversations really early and find out where they wanted to go and let them buy me out of those licenses.

So the way I saw it was I lost money on one side of the business because I couldn't sell all of it. But then because they bought me out of those IP rights and those licenses, I made enough money to counteract that. So you learn very quickly that sometimes when that 900-pound elephant comes into the room, you have to listen to them and find out if you can actually play against them, or is it better to sell out early? And for me, I was happy. I was wise that I sold out early. I didn't try and play them. I didn't think I had the skills and the smarts in that space because I was still getting to know the industry. Whereas I see mistakes in other startups all the time. They think, “Oh no, we're going to do this week. We can be the underdog. We can do this.” And sometimes the underdog wins, but sometimes they lose as well.

Cameron Laird

Absolutely but it's good that was a great win. Going back to GOYA, is part of your strategy and your transformation in these projects… Do you ever work internally? As in like the team, in terms of their payment and how they look after their staff. Is that going to be something that you cover or is it more a project based service that you offer?

Ally Muller

A lot of the businesses and the companies that we work with are ASX listed companies so they say that they're on the share market. They don't actually really do that, but we have worked with a couple of smaller companies where we have allowed people the opportunity to earn shares in the company through the work that they do. So that's been an opportunity, but no, not so much, but definitely more on the startup phase. We don't do a lot of consulting to the startups, I do all that. That's something I do personally. It’s usually when they're in rural startups, so they don't have a lot of money to spend on consultants, do they? That's a labor of love and investment that some of my staff members as well do individually.

But what I do encourage them to do is the people that work for me, if they have a passion, if they have something that they love and they have something that they are just burning to go and do, they've got to go on and do it. We have to be able to walk our talk by actually delivering on the work that we do by not only understanding it ourselves but by sharing our learnings with organizations as we go through.

As well, I'm hugely passionate about film and film production, and I've been learning more and more about that as part of, especially that it's the second part of my career and on film production company. So I'm working with that. So we're working with a number of different films and a few different distribution studios around the world.

So yes, I'm walking my talk with that as well. I think it's really important that we're not just theoretical practitioners, that we are also understanding how this is evolving in the market, and we can bring those learnings on a day-to-day basis to everyone that we were. 

Cameron Laird

I adore film as well. And I'm quite keen to talk to you about that. Where are you fitting in there, is my broad question? Obviously, they’re businesses, they're huge businesses! And it's great to hear that you're involved in numerous films, but is this something you're doing personally or is this a GOYA client that you have? Where do you guys fit in?

Ally Muller

It’s a bit of both. So something I'm doing personally is that I've personally invested in a film production company. So I'm working with them and where we've got some indie films that are coming through. And that's really exciting. Where we're coming at it from a GOYA perspective is we've also built our framework into software so that we can implement the framework inside organizations.

And what I've been looking at as I've come across some of these films, is that sometimes not always, but sometimes there is unbelievable amounts of chaos, and I'm not sure how those projects get made. And so I was looking at it. I was thinking we can adjust some of our frameworks and some of our software, and we're trialing that on a film that we're going to start shooting later this year.

So that's where I come from the innovation space. And then also we've been helping a client who's been developing new forms of robots. For certain types of animation in film. So we've been helping them through that innovation model in that space which has been amazing and fun and challenging and really different and really on that cutting edge piece of innovation. So hopefully we can see that coming through in future films in the future.

Cameron Laird

That's fantastic. So is film a deep passion of yours already before you even started your corporate career?

Ally Muller

It really is. It really was. That's something I've always loved. I suppose it's something that I thought I'd never find myself in because I never saw myself as creative and going through school and university and all those different things.

It was just a natural progression to go down that finance path, math, and all those different things that came super simple to me. So I felt like you follow that traditional career path. No, that's the good thing to do.

Cameron Laird

Better financial incentive as well, I'm sure, instead of going into film!

Ally Muller

Yeah, and also, I must admit, I'm not trying to sound terrible, but in Australia, we didn't have the same type of film education programs that we see in other countries in the world. So from my perspective, I didn't want to be. I didn't want to be a director. I didn't want to be someone who's looking after the camera or anything like that, that just definitely is not my skill set.

And I think inside that executive production type of role, where I'm starting to find myself is it's much more suited because not only does it take into consideration all the finance and the investment. But we're looking at managing all those different creative elements to do something new. And then there's all those project management pieces as well.

And it takes a lot of people and a huge amount of different brains to make a film. So I'm just one of many and I'm really enjoying that. 

Cameron Laird

That's fantastic. It's great how people can acquire transferable skills over the years. To be able to do something that you've become such an expert at, and actually go back to another one of your passions and be able to meld them together is fantastic. And I'm very happy that you're able to do this.

Ally Muller

Because you also get to be bad at something, right? You have to be prepared to be a little bit bad at something too. And that's a good thing to do because when you're bad at something you go, “Right, I'm going to open up all those holes in the gaps. Where's my knowledge, and what am I going to do? What am I going to learn? And who am I going to shadow?” And all those different things. So yeah, it's really good to really learn something new again like that.

Cameron Laird

Yeah, like learning a new language. I'm just learning Spanish at the moment. And I've never felt more stupid, but time will tell!

That's fantastic. It sounds like there's a lot of exciting things on the horizon and, for people listening. If they want to get in touch, learn more about GOYA or even chat to you, what's the best way to find you or to even book your services with GOYA?

Ally Muller

Yeah. Just send me an email on ally@goyaconsultiung.com. If you're super interested and you want to learn more, I did actually write this book called Corporate Innovation so they can grab my book on Amazon. Got my nonsense framework in there. And I talked about all the culture pieces and how to get those myths outside of your thinking and your organization and get rid of them and really start afresh to be truly innovative. So if someone's keen that can get that focus well.

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. And those nine steps, you're using them in corporations. Are you using it in film projects as well? Is it going to the same skeleton of steps?

Ally Muller

Absolutely it works. This is something that works across industries. This is for me, this works. I don't care whether you're manufacturing, whether we're making a film or whether we're gonna try and build a new, different type of road, which we've actually done with some infrastructure projects. But these nine steps work. These are the all thinking frameworks. And then obviously the work that you need to do in each project will be a little different inside those steps. But these are the thinking frameworks that you need to go through. And it truly works. And I'm using it in all my new industries.

Cameron Laird

That's good. That's good. Well, listen, thank you so much for joining me, Ally. I'll be sure to put the link to your book below in the description. And it was great chatting to you and I wish you the best luck and best luck with pulling all of your passions together and enjoying what you do and loving what you do.

Ally Muller

Excellent. Thank you so much for having me on Cameron. It has been a great chat.

Outro Monologue

A wise outlook from Ally there on the importance of lending for people starting out in business, where to look for money and ensuring that repayments are done properly! I really enjoyed Allys 3 F’s for getting money - Friends, family and fools. That was good.

I also liked how Ally said that she has often invested in startups but isn’t the type of investor to give the money and leave them at it. She likes to invest her time as well in whatever she invests money in. If she believes in something she wants to give it her all and not watch from the sidelines or check in every once in a while. 

And that was also evident in her combining her passions by investing in film production. I'm a huge film buff myself and it was great to see Ally making the leap and being new at something that she knows she loves and can find success in. I'm very excited for her. 

But what I want to end this episode on is, what can borrowers do to go the extra mile for those lending them money? Aside from an interest rate and a diligent repayment plan, how can one show appreciation? 

Daniel Cruz said in episode #1, “Lending is part of who we are”. Loans between loved ones aren’t formal transactions with horrid consequences. It’s helping each other out. So let’s always be a bit conscious that loans can be just as much an investment of time as it can be money. 

A Dad lending his daughter money to start her first business is that same daughter taking her eldery dad to Hawaii for a retirement holiday. A guy lending his friend money to go to a soccer game with him can look forward to fun conversations and, no doubt, some free beers too. There can be other outcomes aside from just financial transactions.

See you all in 2 weeks for another episode. I hope all you lovebirds have a wonderful Valentine's Day tomorrow. Take care!