Career Skills & Transitions with Will Richards, Co-Founder at Overnight Success
What's your career story so far?
William Richards: It's quite varied. My career story started when I went to University and started a double degree in the course that probably wasn't the best fit for me but it was a double degree in mechanical engineering and Industrial design. I pursued it because I thought it would lead me to a high-paying job with a bit of potential status from engineering and I worked out fairly quickly that I wasn't that interested in it.
It’s also super hard as well. And that's a dangerous combination if you're not interested and it's super hard.
Lucy Wark: That is the worst quadrant.
William Richards: Yeah, so I had a crack at it for two and a half years. I think almost three years and slowly realized it wasn't a great fit - which was around the time you're getting into thermodynamics and those challenging subjects.
On my way to University every morning and on the way back, I was always listening to podcasts about economics or some of the American ones and startup stories like How I Built This and I was enjoying that way more. I was learning about it but I was paying a shitload and spending a lot of time studying so I realized it was probably not the best fit going on and there were signals in another direction.
So I ended up swapping out of engineering and picking up Banking and finance, but because of that and the way the units panned out my university journey became quite a long process. It just basically forced me to study part-time, so in that process, I started working and went into a car insurance startup part-time that was very much like a customer service role but it was a super small team and that kind of got me involved in the world of startups.
I was exposed to it and that business got acquired and the same team started a new business while I was still at University and I was working a hospitality job, working in this startup world, and studying for quite a few years, and then when I moved on from that business, I got a summer internship at the end of my university in private equity and that helped me to understand the finance World a bit and the drivers behind that; e.g. what an LP is, and what investors are, and what the return profile is, and the different types of businesses, and it was definitely like private Equity businesses - it was a fishing business and a boat harbor business, etc.
I think it's interesting because all the dots do connect when you look backward - that classic Steve Jobs thing.
Then I did that internship and then I was trying to get a graduate role in a Big Four role and probably Consulting. And I could not get one - it was ridiculous. I was in the system and chewed out and pretty flat about the whole thing. And then a friend at my footy Club worked at an Enterprise sales business.
Which was a media monitoring business, so I ended up getting a job there as a BDR and was there for about four or five months and the guy who I interned for at the PE group called me one day and said he just knew someone who was hiring an analyst and thought I'd be a good fit.
So I jumped there and was in the wild world of child care for a while, which was quite cool for a few years. And then when I was at that business, I started writing a newsletter called Overnight Success because I was interested in the startup world and getting more involved and in particular the Australian startup ecosystem and publishing that and the process of polishing that and getting it opened up a lot of doors and helped me made a lot of really cool people.
And now I work at a family office / Venture studio, and we're spinning up a few ideas and making a few Acquisitions. It's a very small team but pretty dynamic and still running the newsletter business now, sort of a media company, and doing a few different things at once and that's my varied career story, but it all comes together, I think.
Lucy Wark: I think that's so awesome. And you've had the opportunity to get a lot of actually really interesting and relevant skill sets in there - engineering, customers, sales, finance, marketing - that's kind of an entire startup team in one.
William Richards: Yeah, and when you're in a Venture Studio situation, It's the same as being a Founder, it's a small team, like you end up doing everything like yourself; your customer service, your building the MVP as well and all those things, like even my industrial design degree that taught me a lot about basics of UX design, like I was playing on Figma when I was at University before I even knew why I would be using it in my career and that's been so useful but I didn't realize it would be useful until you look backward.
Lucy Wark: I was going to say particularly the PE thing I think is really interesting. I know there are a lot of folks coming to the startup and Tech world out of either a technical background or maybe a design background or they've discovered a customer problem and it's an interesting space where if you try to explain the economics to a lay person they're like that sounds insane and I think having just a grounding in how to real businesses work so that you can come into a space that is making debts on extreme power law performance from a very small portion of a portfolio would be a really valuable skill set.
William Richards: definitely! it is a funny one because I look at Venture and because it is a hit-driven illustrates power all that sort of thing like private Equity to me is much more reasonable and thought out I feel like if I was ever gonna raise a while, I don't know yet to be honest, but those cash flowing businesses that provide real services that we don't think about. they're not traditionally sexy. I think those are really interesting businesses and having that experience changed the way I think about business in general.
Lucy Wark: Yeah, definitely, and apologies. I've gone off track because I found that really interesting but to jump back to your career
What ingredients, skills or attitudes have been most important for you so far?
William Richards: I think you need to break it down into probably two key areas like this, probably the early career Will when I still broadly Define myself as early career, but super early career Will and then probably now more so. Early on, I was saying yes to everything. I was jumping on any project that was open or needed to be solved. I was actively looking for problems in these businesses that I thought I could be useful in solving. So for example, when I was at this, six-month internship at this PE group, they didn't have a website or the website they had was basic and I got the sense that we were kind of running out of work for me because they were a two-man team. I was a third person. I was there over the summer. Naturally, we were just on top of the work.
And yeah, I carved out my own little role and mocked up a website built for them. It's still live now. and like that, it was a safe space to learn about web design and that whole interaction with someone even though I was an employee and lots of stuff it was a cool process to go through. I think early on I was just Jumping on everything I could because it was just interesting to me. I think more so now I've realized how important networking is and being open to networking and knowing that networking isn't handing out business cards that like to go up.
That's a very old-school way of looking at it, I think
networking to me now is how can I help you?
Listening to your story, listening to your business, listening to what you're building, and thinking about how can I with my network potentially help you and it could be like an introduction. It could be an email. It could be like, I read this blog post that I think you'd find interesting and… just trying to be useful. I think it does especially in the Australian startup ecosystem, it is so small and everyone does kind of know each other and it took me a little while to realize how small it was, but I think being that type of person just pays off on dividends quite quickly.
Lucy Wark: Yeah, and it's also more fun as well. I feel for so many people the discomfort that I feel with networking is about it feeling transactional or extractive. I think when you get to a point where you're this is about creating value for other people and helping it just becomes more enjoyable.
William Richards: Yeah, a real quick example - There's a group of Runners called Startup Stravas. It was like a WhatsApp Community started by Batko from Statemate and there was a group in Sydney and I messaged just to say can we start one in Melbourne but basically a Melbourne one organically spun up and I was one of the first people there and I was in the midst of marathon training. So I was running a lot at the time but then just getting involved in that group and sending a few messages like on the announcement Pages, like organizing the hats and the merch and lots of stuff, I met people at events sometimes and they're like, you're the startup Stravas guy and I'm like, it's weird. How like you know me from that - that's not my day job. It was just a fun thing to be a part of and deal with the community. But it's funny how those things put you on people's maps.
Lucy Wark: There's a delightful clip of Barack Obama somewhere. Again, apologies for interrupting your profile but there's this one where some interviewers asked what's your career advice for young people. And he said to be someone who gets shit done. He probably says it's slightly more nice, but just being the person who can handle it. Who says I'll get it covered and you will find that people love you. I think there's something to be said for just jumping in and doing the work and like that going a long way.
So what is the biggest career transition you've made and what helped you take this step?
William Richards: It was probably that little stint I did in Enterprise sales. At that point, I was aware that Tech was interesting and thought it would be an interesting jumping-off point when I was unable to get a graduate job and I was going through this phase in my life. I was kind of like I finished this degree. I've got a bit of work experience. I thought I had a pretty good resume at the time and I just couldn't get a job like anywhere with a name you would recognize and I ended up doing this sales role. I was a BDR working in the Enterprise sales team so we were booking in meetings and helping the sales process for contracts that were fifty thousand a year minimum to 100+ so they were relative, in the scheme of that business, they were the bigger size clients and it is pretty scary to be calling CEOs completely cold and just having a crack at not saying reading a script but having a script in your head working out how your tool could help them and thinking about it before you make the call and it was all because it was a media marketing business like you would go like oh they’re in the news right now, let me call them and be like, hey, did you see this, did it trying to have that conversation and 95% of the time being told basically to f off? and yeah, it was a really hard job and
I don't think I would ever go back into that world. And I don't think it fits my personality and some people are really good at that sort of thing. But you learn so many skills that you let use every day. I think everyone should do the sales or all at some point in their life and whether it's knocking on doors or calling people or I don't know what but doing a proper sales job and getting people who have never met you to jump on a call or come to a meeting or buy something a for a few thousand dollars, whatever it may be like you.
Yeah, you learn a lot and you learn a lot fast. So yeah, that was probably the biggest career transition that I made and I probably won't go back to but I learned a lot.
Over time, you are continually building your professional toolkit. Where do you want it to go?
William Richards: It's really interesting. We're building Overnight Success - it is a media business… because we work in the ecosystem as well, we see the problems that we're trying to solve and we have conversations with people every day about what we do, what they think is missing, where they have problems in their world and how we might be able to solve them.
So we are thinking about what else we can do content-wise, but also what else we can do product-wise and I think even that time in the Enterprise sales business taught me the value of not just media and content but also what that represents and the curation of that and the curation of it being instant and the value of that and when you apply it to the startup and the Venture landscape it can get interesting.
So I think when you look back, you get inspiration to build things. Because of your experience, you see something I can apply to that type of product or that type of service in this new ecosystem. To be honest, it's not like a super new idea. But in Australia, it's not a very common thing or there's no one I think doing it super well at a reasonable price point.
It's a really hard question but I'm big on looking back and reflecting and learning from past experiences and applying them to the future because I think that's what makes you you, and that gives you the edge. As opposed to the next person.
It’s the same with doing design. I learned how to build a website. And now when I see a problem, I'm kind of like that's something I could potentially solve using X tool and publish online and get feedback. If you didn't know how to do that you would never come to the solution. So yeah looking at things from a Builders mindset has been really useful.
Lucy Wark: that makes a ton of sense. And this also might bleed into that answer.
How do you approach learning new skills?
William Richards: I literally just do stuff like, I've realized now it takes me three-ish months to feel comfortable in a new situation, in a new scenario and I'm very aware of it. And that's even going to a new gym. I won't feel comfortable in that place until I've been there for at least three months.
I remember going to a new school, like University, and it just takes me a little while to get comfortable in my surroundings. So I know it is just about putting in the time and working - the most obvious example of this I can think of in my career, and we didn't speak about it was when I worked in Hospitality, I got really into coffee and really into that Iatte art and it took a good six months of no I'm making coffee today like everybody I'm gonna try and not get these wrong and get them sent back. I think it is just like getting feedback and failing and learning.
Lucy Wark: That is a beautiful way to learn. I love it. There's probably a set of learning archetypes of people who are I need to know Theory and then I can go into it versus people who are I just need to do reps until I feel like I've got it but that'll be something I'll go chase down.
What's the best career advice you've received?
William Richards: Yeah, it's funny you say that, I listened to Nathan's interview before and he was from a teaching background; he was like, it's this type of learning… I was like, obviously, he has a very academic way of looking at it, but I was kind of like I just kind of get there have to crack.
There are probably a couple and I don't want to dwell on one because I think they all work out at different times but
the first one is to be kind and reputations matter.
I got that from my dad. He works in corporate insurance, and car insurance at the moment, we're originally from the UK but came over to run a few Insurance businesses. He's always been very kind, and clear of how reputations matter, especially in the corporate world. It's very similar to the startup ecosystem, maybe not as small at the moment. But yeah you need to be kind to people because otherwise people find out and don't want to deal with you.
So yeah, that's one. I think the second one was from my old boss at Equity Group where I was for that I was there for a few years. He was quite big on don't try and skip the line; don't try to rush into a role where you're not quite ready yet because it may not go to plan or it may fail and you may ruin your reputation on that project and I think when I was really young I was kind of why am I not working out?
Lucy Wark: Yeah, you're like you needed to hear that at that point in time.
William Richards: Yeah, like it kind of makes you reset and think I haven't, like that person is in that role because they've done X Y, and Z and it's built them to that and I was kind of like I just want to jump to that because I think I'm as good as them if not better, and the reality is you're not, like you need that experience, you need to do the work. So yeah, I think being patient was really useful and it was a bit of not a shock to the system, but I think it really healthy thing to reflect on.
The third one which I think comes out with Overnight Success is just create your own luck.
I think it is so easy in the sense that there are so many tools where you can start creating things whether it be no code or publishing tools or whatever. It is so much easier than it ever has been to get your name out there get your thoughts out there and set yourself aside from the competition.
You'd be surprised if you just start putting stuff out there how easy it is for people to get in touch and think of you as you know, something a little bit more than you potentially are at the moment, but then you just ride that and it’s great.
What's one thing you wish you knew when you first started your career?
William Richards: I probably spoke about a little bit but that whole thinking I was destined for the corporate world and graduate jobs and that sort of thing I now know I would not fit until I could be bureaucracy ever corporate so I think working out early on how I wanted to define success in my career like that. It's taking me a while to realize what that is and what I'm striving for so I think for anyone who's young and feels a little bit lost just do what you can and learn quickly and try and evolve because you may be building potentially in the wrong direction. And you don't want to waste too much time before you realize and that could be like you doing a university course that might not be the best fit or it could be you're starting a career somewhere.
I suppose the second one equity is really important. And that I think comes back to my finance background. If you ever want to know build real wealth or have real influence. I think being an owner is super important. So do what you can to secure that bag.
So the final question, what's one resource that's helped you on your journey?
William Richards: yeah, you're gonna love this answer as someone running your course but honestly I think doing courses In this ecosystem right now is the best thing you can possibly do. I've done two so far that have changed. One like I learned so much but then the main reason is the people you meet. Like Overnight Success would not have happened if it wasn't for the Startmate media Fellowship that Bronte and Lauren ran. For that course, I went in red hot because I had this idea of the newsletter and I was kind of like that a vehicle thing to start but I didn't really have any impetus to start publishing it and I also didn't know anyone in the ecosystem. I was kind of superfluously, in finance, but not really in the startup world and I submitted the idea and I was like if they accept it like I'm going for and if they don't accept it, then it was probably a stupid idea because if this organization didn't think it was a good idea then who will.
And thankfully they did and yeah, I remember coming to every session we had whether it was relevant to me or not. I remember going to a podcasting session whether it was talking about podcasting equipment, but I was kind of like no I'm gonna show up and ask questions because I don't know who's this on this goal and I met Gemma my profile under there brought to use an outcome like a really close friend. She was running the course at Startmate at the time. She's now an advisor for Overnight Success. There were so many early supporters who got around the newsletter; they were the early adopters who shared it online, who built that core subscriber base of not just high-quality readers in the sense that yeah, they open the email but they were the people who I wanted to open the email and I think getting stuck into a course and really going back to the networking thing, like trying to help people has made such a difference for me and the career that I have now, so yeah, there's no one book that I've read that's added more value than doing a course in the startup world.
The other course is Explorers with Airtree. It’s been awesome for my Angel Investing career and what I do with the regional angel investor network; a fantastic group of people there as well.
Lucy Wark: Absolutely, I will link out to both of those. I probably had a similar experience, like doing Startmate women's fellowship and just I think being ready at the time being and trying to put myself into this six to half days a week and see what happens. I would highly recommend it!
Thank you so much, Will!
William Richards: Of course! Check out the newsletter if you want, it's all about startup news and deals and the drama that happens in our little world. So it could be relevant to everyone listening.
Lucy Wark: It's really good. I highly recommend it. Will, thank you so much!
This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Looking to level-up?
Explore Fuzzy's programs for live and self-paced courses to develop career-accelerating skills.