Valerie Khoo is the Director of the Australian Writers’ Centre, Australia’s leading centre for writing courses, which offers both “classroom” and “online” courses to students around the world. The centre has helped thousands of students get published, score book deals, change careers and improve their job prospects.
This article explores Valerie Khoo’s experience with a business mentor and outlines how a mentor helped her to think bigger.
I had a vision to build a buzzing, dynamic and results-focused organisation that would really help people achieve their writing goals.
Back in 2005, I wanted to create the kind of writers’ centre that I wish had existed when I wanted to become a writer. I started my career off as an accountant, but I eventually realised that I wanted to work with words, not numbers. I wanted to become a full-time writer. For me to transition careers, this took a lot of work, research and trial-and-error. But I finally achieved my dream of becoming a full-time writer. Since then, I’ve always wanted to fast-track the opportunity for other people to live this experience. I had a vision to build a buzzing, dynamic and results-focused organisation that would really help people achieve their writing goals. So that’s why I went into business. I realised that creating a structured organisation – an innovative writers’ centre – was the best way to help the most people. Creating online-courses meant I could help people all over the world.
My dream was to provide a community to inspire and motivate people, and provide practical tools, delivered by the best teachers, to achieve their goals. And so, the Australian Writers’ Centre opened in 2005 with two courses.
Today, the centre boasts almost 30 courses that are available both face-to-face as well as online, and are presented by some of Australia’s most successful authors, journalists and business communication experts. Thousands of people have graduated from the Australian Writers’ Centre and it has students from all over Australia, as well as from overseas including the UK, US, Afghanistan, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands, France, the Ivory Coast and more countries.
I knew the best way to reach the most people was to have a structured environment, a community that could also help each other.
My passion in life has always been to help people achieve their dreams, or to help them realise that their seemingly impossible goals are actually possible. But my technical skill is writing. So I realised that while it was unlikely I would ever coach someone to Olympic glory or mentor anyone to climb Everest, I knew I could definitely help someone achieve his/her writing dreams. That’s how the Australian Writers’ Centre was born – because I knew the best way to reach the most people was to have a structured environment, a community that could also help each other.
Sometimes, a mentor can see your potential much easier than you can!
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t actually seek out a mentor at first. The mentor found me. I was running a perfectly sound little business in the early years. But my first mentor – William – really opened my eyes to a bigger vision. I didn’t even engage him as a mentor or consider him a mentor at first. He just kept enrolling in courses and, every time our paths would cross, he would pester me to think bigger. I’ve always been grateful for his persistence. Sometimes, a mentor can see your potential much easier than you can! At the time, I was doing everything – the admin, course development, marketing, everything. He helped me create systems, recruit staff and, importantly, step up to the next level.
My mentor helped me understand that I could play a much bigger game.
When I first started, there was no way that I would have thought we could become a global organisation, serving students from countries all over the world. My mentor helped me understand that – and that’s exactly what has happened. Even though he’s helped me think bigger, he’s also helped me put systems in place so that I’m not running myself into the ground. I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations anymore and this gives me the luxury of planning the next vision.
I didn’t realise how beneficial mentoring would be to recruiting the right people.
I knew that mentoring would help me with my business plan and strategy. And I wasn’t surprised that my mentor helped me think bigger.
But I didn’t realise how beneficial mentoring would be to recruiting the right people. My mentor has been instrumental in finding key staff that has been a perfect fit for the business.
The mere fact that I wasn’t looking for a mentor in the first place has made the whole experience such a bonus. Knowing what I do know, I would have looked for a mentor much earlier!
The biggest impact will be on your mindset.
If you find the right mentor, the biggest impact will be on your mindset. You might think that you are dreaming big now. But having big dreams – and truly believing that you can achieve them – is very different. The right mentor can help you map out the steps you need to take in order to leap to the next level.
My favourite part of being a businesswoman is…
I just love seeing ideas and projects come to fruition. I love helping people who want to help themselves – whether they are the students at the Australian Writers’ Centre, or aspiring entrepreneurs who are getting their businesses off the ground. I also love networking with other businesswomen (and men!). I think networking is one of the most under-rated activities when it comes to growing your small business. After many years in business, you soon realise that it’s never what you know or how good you are – it’s WHO you know that will make all the difference. Remember: your network is your net worth. I truly believe that. And I love fostering relationships, hanging out with smart and dynamic people and watching them succeed. First Published: 23 May 2012
About the Australian Writers’ Centre
The Australian Writers’ Centre, Australia’s leading centre for writing courses, offering both “classroom” and “online” courses to students around the world. In 2013, they welcomed their 15,000th student. Since founding the centre in 2005, it’s grown it from a one-person operation to a thriving centre featuring more than 30 of Australia’s top writing trainers/journalists/authors. The centre has helped thousands of students get published, score book deals, change careers and improve their job prospects. It holds courses in magazine writing, travel writing, web writing, blogging, novel writing, food writing, business writing and much more. The Australian Writers’ Centre also runs the annual Best Australian Blogs Competition, a national event that honours the writing and achievements of Australia’s top bloggers. In 2010, the Sydney Writers’ Centre was a winner in the NSW Telstra Business Awards. In 2009, it was named by Dell as one of the 10 most innovative small businesses in Australia.