Following the high interest in our interview of Maltese entrepreneur Charlene Mercieca, we decided to bring you closer to another 2 Maltese entrepreneurs. Nathan Farrugia and Gianni Zammit are not your average entrepreneurs if there is such a thing. They are well-known in Malta for a variety of projects which they manage, and even though our readers abroad might not have heard of them, we assure you that they give a whole new meaning to having fun being an entrepreneur.
Let’s start with a brief introduction
Nathan graduated as a physiotherapist and subsequently read an MBA but he is better known as the CEO of Ultimate Performance and leader of Team UP. He co-founded a charitable institute called Inspire and today is the president of Malta’s largest non-profit organisation, the Inspire Foundation. He is also the owner of Hellfire Events, Malta’s toughest endurance race series.
Gianni graduated with a BA (Hons) in Communication & Instructional Technology. He is the director and owner of numerous companies, including YoYo Kids Malta, Business Leaders Malta, Vibe FM, and Jugs Malta. Gianni has a strong musical background and is well-known for playing in rock bands, amongst them Rug, where he plays the guitar and is also one of the vocalists.
Understanding that both entrepreneurs were extremely busy, we opted to only ask them the same 3 questions. We kept away from cliches such as, how did you become successful? or have you ever failed? and instead focused on getting more beneficial value from their words. This is what they’ve told us, in their own words.
What was your biggest ‘A-ha’ moment?
Gianni’s reply: Strangely enough I didn’t really have an A-HA moment, everything just fell into place (divine intervention???!!!??!#$%^&*). I do believe that one thing led to another but it never smacked me in the face out of the blue, it was always progressive. From loving music to playing the guitar to dj’ing to radio to working in clubs to organising events to making a business out of it…and so on !! However, I did always have a little motto – “find something you love doing and work out a way to get people to pay you for it !!!!”
Nathan’s reply: I’ve had a few, across different aspects of life; some work, some family, some personal. They have all had one thing in common; they created a shift in mindset. The birth of my children shifted my mindset to one of responsibility and selflessness, as now my role on this planet was not to progress for my own sake, but for the wellbeing of my kids. Hard work and earning money wasn’t to have more disposable income for a new car or the next trip but to invest in the future education of my children.
I’ve also changed my career and profession many times in my working life. Starting off as a physiotherapist, I realized that I didn’t want to work within the constraints of government employment so I became an entrepreneur, starting up my clinics. I then felt the need to experience senior roles so I went into managing 5-star health spas. When I felt I needed to make a greater impact and have more purpose, I moved to the non-profit world and built social enterprises.
When I needed a change of scene, we moved to London to work on international projects. However, when the kids were school age, we moved back to give them security and eventually I went back into entrepreneurship. Each of these ‘shifts’ came with the questioning of my purpose, followed by what I enjoyed doing, and what would sustain my way of life. I am quite sure there will be more!
What was the most important part of your whole business journey?
Nathan’s reply: The journey itself, to me is more important than the destination. I focus on sustaining a growth mindset and never fixing to a goal that may limit possible options. Journeys have ups and downs, with resistance to change and self-limiting beliefs being the major causes of a derailment, so the most important aspect of life and work is building resilience. Through continuously challenging the comfort zone, we can build resilience and learn how to recover from adverse situations in every aspect of life.
We need to be brave and we need to do it frequently. To help, having a great team around you to rely on was critical for me. Whether I had the honour of choosing and developing them, or I had the privilege of joining their team, I gave a lot of weight to collaboration and support. And that includes friends and family.
Gianni’s reply: Believing in yourself is the key to achieving anything! I also believe that challenges and failure make you stronger and wiser.
What drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?
Gianni’s reply: The satisfaction of reaching your goal is a fantastic motivator – rough roads normally lead to beautiful places.
Nathan’s reply: I am mainly driven by curiosity. I look at a problem with curiosity around what solutions might emerge from the challenge. If I fail, it allows me to be curious about what went wrong, and what I need to try differently next time. Each time I fail, I try a new approach, avoiding the same mistakes. So even if life wears you down and you have a series of failures, the curious outlook trumps the need for brute force and driving motivation.
It’s far less stressful than having the feeling of swimming upstream to overcome the current. This ‘reframe’ is important and extremely useful as a tool in my coaching business. I work with high-level CEOs as a business coach and its’ the single-most effective way of getting someone out of a rut and on a new track. It shifts the mindset from ‘victim’ to ‘explorer’. It gives us the confidence to experiment in new ways, even if we have had a string of failures. Being an entrepreneur is fun. I follow the FIRE model showcased on Team UP to stay on track.
Flow and Fun keep me interested. Impact helps me feel useful and purposeful. Role modelling makes me raise the bar and live to high standards. Finally, Excellence makes sure I never stop learning or cutting corners.
Apart from thanking both entrepreneurs for their time and for sharing their experiences, we hope to have provided you with some food for thought. These two individuals have followed their own path to entrepreneurship using their existing environment and own set of skills. They have evidently different goals and ways to express themselves, and this is very important to keep in mind. There is no one way to reach your ambition, whatever it may be. You just need to be resourceful and stay positive.