Louise Broekman: Welcome to the Advisor Insights series. My name is Louise Broekman. I’m the founder and CEO of the Advisory Board Centre. I’m here today with a very special guest Sharyn Csanki from Raedan AI. Ready to share her story. Welcome, Sharyn!
Sharyn Csanki: Hi, I’m really glad to be here. I joined the Advisory Board Center process only about six months ago and I’ve already had great success. So my business is twofold. We are professionals in the data management space, so educators and consultants, and about four years ago, we came across a really special artificial intelligence that had achieved natural language understanding. Now, if you’re in the field, that’s pretty exciting! If you’re not, what it means is this technology actually mimics the way humans read and understand any text that has great implications for robotics and endless business. So we’ve been on the journey to try to promote that software and sell it in Southeast Asia.
Louise Broekman: Very exciting times for you in that whole scaling up of the business. And so when you came to us, what was the scenario that you really were looking now for an independent advisor advisory structure? What was the pivotal point for you?
Sharyn Csanki: Well, I think it’s what drives many, many business owners. We were tired. We had a last push on the business. We’d been going for since 2014 and three years in the software industry. We had great relationships, but we were running out of money. And so I got introduced to the board and we decided to go through and just start to work with an advisor to begin with. And I think the next question allows me to tell you how that sort of turning our situation.
Louise Broekman: Yes. Thank you. So what’s the experience like?
Sharyn Csanki: It’s been really, really good. Lawrence, who we worked with, it’s like he was made for us at that time. He just brought a level of understanding and empathy about our business situation. So he went through a process with us where he first understood our business and then put a little bit of pressure on us to be real about what we really wanted for ourselves. And then we worked through a strategy building process and he egged us along and it was just like it all happened at the right time because I had bought on new skills into the business, which I knew we needed. He enabled me to use those skills really well and they sort of school seeing other people, not in myself. The thing that I liked is that we had intensive sessions for half a day with my business partner and myself.
We would drain at the end of them. Andrew often sort of drifted off in the last hour, but each session was really productive and I was able to go away and put together a strategy, which we took to the owner of the software expert AI, and they said, looks good, looks good. However, we want you to make a sale. And we’re all at work. Yeah. We know we need to make a sale, but what that did is give us the car, gave me the personal confidence to really push harder on myself, but also bring that team together to focus the team on the strategy.
It’s that journey, isn’t it of scaling your business at the ups and downs with the pushing forward and maintaining that confidence in what you’re doing.
Louise Broekman: Yes, the ups and down – let’s focus on the ups. Sharyn, you loved the Advisory Board structure so much that you became Certified Chair™ yourself and that’s the thing. It gives the advisor concierge service as that free service to be able to scope out what is it that you were looking for and then being able to create an expression of interest that goes out to the Advisory Board. Sharyn, what was that experience like and how did that help you? I guess it’s different to what you were doing previously.
Sharyn Csanki: Yeah. I’ll look through the actual scoping off the need was a breeze. It was just too easy because I worked with you Louise and you put together an outline that I think I made two or three changes to it. And then it bought back four different advisors that I could work with. They were all different and I ended up meeting all of them and had a connection with each of them in different parts of the business. So in terms of expanding, my network was wonderful. Then actually having that background in going through the chair process, I could understand where Lawrence was coming from and it helped. And so I truly recommend just going with the process when you started – what it was, what was it like? It’s quite exciting and much, much easier than I thought it was going to be.
We did not focus on the financials of the company because that’s not what it’s about at the moment where we’re in that. We’ve got a swing. I think we would call it in the industry ‘selling a turnaround’. But we haven’t got to the punchline of the story yet. So what happened is we got that feedback that this is really great. We’re happy to talk about this at the C’s in the C suite, however, you need to make the sale. Now I kept working on the strategy for three months and was implementing we were spending money, but it was on the right things through serendipity. I ended up with the conversation of the global OEM manager of expert AI.
He actually picked my name out of a form I just filled in randomly saying, ‘Oh, well wonder what’s behind this.’ And he saw my contacts in Australia. We set up a meeting and he asked me what my business plans were. I presented the strategy that I’d put together with Lawrence and he’s now investing in our business, it’s very exciting. So over the next six months, we’ll have substantial money put into the business by the parent company. He sees that value. We are the only representatives in the Southern hemisphere for their business. We are the red dot that gives them a global reach and coverage. And one of the things that are turning out to be absolutely wonderful is when we achieve this goal, Lawrence said, ‘Well, I’m done with you,’ and we’ve just sent out another expression of interest. And I’m about to start working with another chair who is very, very suited to our next stage of growing again. So what’s it like working with the board is to be able to swap in through skills that you need at a particular time. And so I personally have a goal within four months as to have an Advisory Board and I already have three members through the Advisory Board process that I would like to invite to that board.
Louise Broekman: Yeah, that’s, that’s really great. And it just shows how important fit for purposes and the lifecycle of your business and meeting you where you’re at. And that’s very exciting and it’s a stage process too, isn’t it? And that’s where every situation is quite different. When we do the advisor concierge process Sharyn, 95% of businesses have never had an Advisory Board before. So how do we actually navigate, how am I going to do anything? I want to do something, but I don’t know what.
Sharyn Csanki: Yes and I think in my experience because I’ve spent a long time in government on government committees, advisory boards, I understand the process. And as an executive coach as well, the hands-off, but your hands are all over it type of feeling. I totally get that. And I think one of the interesting times in the process is Lawrence was driving us and he clearly had the map in his head where we were going, but he didn’t own the content. In fact, he was clear that I’m here for this and not for that, which I thought was really good. He set clear boundaries and I appreciated that. And a couple of times he really pushed, particularly my partner, around going out and using our existing networks to sell. And we pushed back because after three years if there was any stone unturned in our existing map networks we had found it. And so I think keeping that balance, that balance with your advisor, they’re not telling you what to do, you know your business, you know your networks. So what we needed is a fresh start. We needed fresh thinking and that’s what we ended up getting.
Louise Broekman: Yeah. Very exciting in a whole new phase that you’re going through now, just to close off, what tips would you give business owners and advisors?
Sharyn Csanki: Well, I think the tip is to keep the right arm open, with your advisor. If you’re going off track, you start to feel uncomfortable here. It’s probably something in that. So raise it and work it through with the advisor. It sounds like different advice, but it’s the same advice – to trust the process. I think we did trust the process and it really paid off for us and have a lot of fun with it. That would be my only tip.
Louise Broekman: That’s great. And exciting steps ahead for you! And thank you so much for sharing your story, but I’m also so excited for you for this next stage as well, and you know, we’ve got the Advisory Board Centre community right behind you. Thank you for sharing with the people that have listened to this session today. We’d love to be in contact with you if you’re a business that needs support from the concierge service, it’s complimentary. We look forward to supporting other businesses in your endeavours. Thanks very much.