Hall of fame businesswoman Wendy Simpson and Wahgunyah winery boss Eliza Brown talk about value of learning from tough times

Words of wisdom: Businesswoman Wendy Simpson with some of the year 11 and 12 Victory Lutheran College students who heard her address. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
Words of wisdom: Businesswoman Wendy Simpson with some of the year 11 and 12 Victory Lutheran College students who heard her address. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

DON’T be embarrassed at failing and speak about your disasters Albury-Wodonga business folk.

That’s advice entrepreneur Wendy Simpson was giving during a visit to Wodonga.

“A number of people have said to me if you live in a big city and you make a failure not everybody knows about it,” the Sydneysider said.

“But in a regional area there’s a sense of ‘I better not try that because if I fail everybody will know and they will actually hold it against me’.

“When we hide all our failures we’re actually holding ourselves back, let’s make it okay and let’s talk about it and have a bit of a laugh about it...so we can learn from other people’s failures.”

Ms Simpson, who is in the Australian Business Women’s Hall of Fame, spoke to the Border Leadership Forum in Wodonga on Wednesday night along with All Saints Winery chief Eliza Brown.

Ms Brown told of taking over the family enterprise at 31 after the death of her father in an accident.

She was spurred by a woman at his funeral suggesting she would get her brother to run the business.

“I thought ‘damn you I’m going to run this business and make it a success,” Ms Brown said.

She said half the family’s risks in business had failed but “just giving it a go is what we do” and having support means a fall feels like landing on a “feather pillow rather than a concrete slab”.

Earlier Ms Simpson spoke to 85 year 11 and 12 students at Wodonga’s Victory Lutheran College.

She told them how she had an epiphany when she travelled to the US and met global executives.

At the time she was earning $36,000 as a school teacher of juvenile delinquents and she realised the high flyers she met were not smarter or working harder.

After returning home, Ms Simpson began studying and eventually became an executive with telco Alcatel overseeing sales in 16 countries.

The MBA believes social media users need to learn from observation rather than comparison when using Facebook and Instagram.

“Yes we’re going to have a group of friends here in Albury-Wodonga, but if they’re the only friends we talk to, we’re at risk of getting replaced by robots,” Ms Simpson said.

“Future leaders are the kind of people who say ‘I actually want to know what is already happening, I want to get these future trends before it’s too late for me to respond’.”