Lisa Messenger's Answers to Thriving Interview

Updated: Apr 26



The game-changing founder and CEO of Collective Hub, international speaker, best-selling author, and an authority on disruption in both the corporate sector and the start-up scene.


The ‘Answers to Thriving' is an interview series that takes a look at the women who have taken action to pursue a life purpose, goal or ambition. We uncover key moments, lessons and habits that have influenced the life they lead today.



Can’t start the day without: A Green Smoothie

Go-to coffee: An Iced Latte

Top music track: Any 90s remixed dance tracks generally

Favourite quote: 'Here’s to the crazy ones. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change world are the ones who do' – Steve Jobs

Most afraid of: Nothing anymore. I learnt some big lessons over the past 18 months, which you can read about in my book, Risk & Resilience!

Go-to to have fun or let your hair down: A spin or dance class




Looking back, when was the very first time you realised your life mission and how did that take shape initially?

Nothing for me was linear or happened in the order people would expect. I guess it really started for me in 2012, but it was the culmination of years of business and personal growth in equal measure that led me to a point where I was strong enough to produce Collective Hub. I remember I woke up one morning and I decided I had to produce a magazine! It was completely illogical because at that time print was essentially dead or dying and it was a highly saturated market. It went against everything that should have been, but my passion was so deeply ingrained in me that I just had to do it. I think once you get to a point where you’re absolutely clear about your reason for being, or your passion, then the “how?” has a way of working itself out. I believe that once you absolutely know what it is that you came here to do, synchronicity and serendipity kick in and things start to unfold.


I think once you get to a point where you’re absolutely clear about your reason for being, or your passion, then the “how?” has a way of working itself out.


What specific events led you to your realisation?

In 2004, I did a course called the Hoffman Process, which was an eight-day, highly cathartic, integrated course and that started me on my track. I stopped doing a lot of self-sabotaging things and I became very clear about who I was, probably for the first time in my life. On a more practical level, I had been running businesses for over a decade, exploring different industries and pushing myself from a business perspective. It was a case of many things coming together at once that gave me the strength and courage to take the plunge and launch Collective Hub. Essentially it was born out of frustration because so much of the media focuses on gossip and superficial things, rather than trying to make a positive contribution to the world. Frustration can be a very motivating and energising force, if you make the decision to harness it to propel you forward, rather than seeing it as something that is holding you back.


Frustration can be a very motivating and energising force, if you make the decision to harness it to propel you forward, rather than seeing it as something that is holding you back.



Once you had become clear about your mission to be the entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, what were your first practical steps towards making it a reality?

What I would say is that naivety can be a great thing. I literally had no clue - I had never worked in media. All I had was my idea, to bring inspirational people together in some format and tell their stories, in order to inspire people. A magazine seemed to make sense to me. I literally just started googling “how to start a magazine” and “what do you need in a magazine”, finding out what I needed to get this venture started. By taking a leap of faith I ended up achieving a lot more than if I had over analysed and waited until I was more informed. Later, other editors and publishers have commented on the fast success of Collective Hub – if I had heard their comments at first, I probably wouldn’t have been so bold! So, naivety can be wonderful!


My advice is just to go ahead and start something but allow it to morph and evolve as you learn and progress. I think that it’s really important not to be too attached to the final outcome and remain open minded to your initial idea evolving.



What were your biggest challenges or failures that helped you progress the most?

Every day was a challenge! The start-up journey was probably the best three years in my experience, having had launched a few startups already. I was so full of passion and eagerness, just running on adrenaline. All I cared about was moving forward. Then, as things grew, the challenges became bigger and more serious, I suppose, ultimately the biggest concern was cash flow and where to invest the money – who to hire first, making decisions about staffing, those sorts of issues. Every single day in the Collective Hub journey I’ve had one issue or another! The trick is to fail fast and move on.


As I was making progress, people started telling me how much they liked what I was doing, so that kept me striving to move forwards despite the daily challenges I was facing. However, bigger isn’t always better, as I learnt around year four of Collective Hub. I had scaled way too fast, hired too many people too quickly and things started to spiral out of control.


I learned my lesson and now I use a lot of freelancers and consultants, as opposed to full-time staff and I hire specialists, not generalists. It’s a much more sustainable way to grow because it allows things to move and morph rapidly, responding to changes in the market demand.



Do you have a strategy for dealing with fear, so that it doesn’t overwhelm you and prevent you from positively progressing forward?

Yes, I do and I also explore this topic in my latest book. The best tactic I use is to imagine the worst-case scenario in my mind and then consider the steps I would take in that situation. It’s almost like reverse-engineering the situation and realising that there’s always a way around any problem. For me, considering the worst-case scenario really helps diffuse my fear. Having said that, because Collective grew so rapidly, there were times in the last 18 months when I was almost paralyzed by fear due to the sheer size of the obligations I needed to meet on a daily basis. I realised then that I needed to hire specialists to handle various practical aspects of the business, so that I could focus on the creative, visionary side. That was a huge lesson for me - it’s crucial to really understand where your genius lies and where you should be focusing your energies and to hire specialists to cover the areas in which your skills are weaker.


The best tactic I use is to imagine the worst-case scenario in my mind and then consider the steps I would take in that situation.



Did you have any big believers or supporters who helped you grow and make progress?

So many! I mean, literally, thousands and thousands of people. I think largely, it has been a community. After I launched, I remember saying, “this is gonna be big”, but I had no idea just how big and I think if you give people a chance to belong to something, then people will carry the message for you. I witnessed something I’ve never seen in all my years. People remembered the brand and became champions and evangelists for it straight away. They supported me and supported Collective Hub every day and I was blown away. It was extraordinary. I really have to thank everyone out there, entrepreneurs, creatives, everyone who really helped. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had some very big, influential people such as Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver, take me under their wing and offer me advice and guidance.


Anna Wintour from Vogue and Condé Nast invited me to go to New York and meet with her because Collective had come into her radar and she was interested in our business model since I was backing all the trends. She really believed in me early on. Five years ago, there’s no way I would’ve thought that was possible. It was beyond my wildest dreams. That’s why I absolutely believe that if you have a why, anything is possible. Closer to home, my dear friend Lorna Jane has been wonderful and I’ve had so many amazing business people and leaders in Australia offer me support. It really does take a whole community, a whole tribe of people. Give people a reason to support you and I believe they will.


I absolutely believe that if you have a why, anything is possible.


Have you had specific coaches and mentors to help you grow professionally?

Yes, although probably more so before I launched Collective Hub. Collective Hub grew so rapidly that I needed very specific people and I feel very strongly that it’s not a good idea to rely solely on one mentor for such a big venture. I have several mentors, for different areas of my life and business. I really tap into people who’ve had first-hand experience in specific fields and I will call on the relevant person to deal with the current issue I may be facing. I just don’t believe that one person can possibly fit that entire spectrum.



What have been your top “pinch me now” moments in your career to date?

It’s funny, because before I launched Collective Hub, I would say I had “pinch me now” moments every six months or so. Since launching Collective Hub, it’s more like every six minutes! Launching Collective Hub was a total “pinch me” moment in itself. It just took off in such a big way and so quickly, it was massive. Equally, when I made the decision to stop the print magazine, that was also a “pinch me now” moment because it took so much courage, even more so I think than it took to start it. It was such a big brand by that point, with a huge following, but I had to do what I felt would serve our community in the best possible way and remain true to my vision. I needed to be courageous enough to actually break everything for a while and then remake it more sustainably and I think that’s a huge lesson to anyone.


There have been other things too, such as when I co-chaired the Virgin Way Conference with Richard Branson. Richard and I were onstage together for three hours. Moments like that are really special. Also, sitting with Anna Wintour in her office in New York in the Condé Nast Building, when Grace Coddington with her big, curly hair was in the office opposite us - I felt like I was on the set of Devil Wears Prada! It was surreal. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and spend time with some amazing people – Jamie Oliver, Ewan McGregor – so many “pinch me” moments.


I needed to be courageous enough to actually break everything for a while and then remake it more sustainably and I think that’s a huge lesson to anyone.



Is there anyone you would still particularly like to interview?

We’ve had so many truly incredible people on our covers, but I haven’t personally done anything with Oprah yet and I’d really like to. That’s my “pinch me” for next year — we’ll do something together!




What’s the one piece of career advice you wish you’d been given when you were in your early twenties?

I think to be unafraid to make your own rules and don’t live life according to other people’s expectations. Really look at what lights you up, what excites you. There are way too many people who just end up in a boring nine-to-five job, simply because they think they should or it’s the right thing to do. They’ve never really questioned why they are doing what they are doing. So, I would really urge you to look very closely at what excites you. What lights you up? What makes you want to jump out of bed every day? I don’t think we need to make this distinction between work and why. I really believe they should blend together and we should all be doing something that we love every day.


Be unafraid to make your own rules and don’t live life according to other people’s expectations.


What would your advice be for the women reading this who want so much more from their career but haven’t made any killer moves yet?

Never stop educating yourself, keep learning and speaking. Go to networking events because you never know who you’ll meet for sales or opportunities. Listen to podcasts, read books, scroll through the web, look at Instagram. Travel to different places you’ve never been before to always keep yourself really open to opportunities. That’s how my career has evolved. It’s not always easy to do, but I am constantly putting myself out there into different communities and exploring new things, because you just never know when something will be sparked inside you.

You’ve got to be counter-intuitive and keep pushing yourself into situations that are outside your comfort zone, because in my experience, that’s where creativity and ideas get sparked. If you only ever keep doing the same things day in and day out, there’s never room to discover new possibilities. Be brave and be bold. Even if it’s just walking to work instead of catching a bus, or going to a different café in a completely different suburb that you’ve never been to before - do something once a week, which takes you out of your normal daily routine and eventually something magic will happen!




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