How I Succeeded: Yfoundations' Zoe Robinson

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How I Succeeded is a regular series on Lifehacker where we ask business leaders for the secrets and tactics behind their success. Today: Zoe Robinson, CEO of Yfoundations.

Current gig: CEO of Yfoundations, the peak body for youth homelessness in NSW

Location: Sydney, Australia

Current mobile device: iPhone 7 Plus

Current computer: Mac

One word that best describes how you work: Passionately

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

The calendar on my phone.

What social network do you find the most useful?

Instagram for my personal network and twitter for my professional network.

What were the most important lessons you learned while growing your business?

I am constantly amazed at how much can be done with so little. Coming from a corporate career to now being CEO of a not-for-profit (Yfoundations, the peak body for youth homelessness in NSW), I can see the difference having a clear purpose makes. The reason why some NFPs are able to do great work and have a high impact with very little resource, is that every moment and decision is centred on their purpose. By comparison, corporates have a lot, so they need to ensure they use that plenty with purpose. Lean doesn’t make it impossible – it just means you have to make clear, decisive choices.

What has been the most surprising part of your business journey?

The most surprising part of my professional journey has been working with death row inmates in Texas. That changed my perspective on my work, and I decided that whatever I do, it must be with purpose and with passion. And part of that purpose is always keeping the people you are working with and for, at the heart. That applies to corporates and NFPs: if you keep your clients, your key stakeholders, and your purpose at the centre of your days, you will achieve impressive results.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Rallying. I can rally to get a job done and to get it done with energy and enthusiasm.

What's your sleep routine like?

Sleep is something I am protective about – I think it is crucial to our health. When I am not doing an overnight street walk with one of the youth homelessness services we represent, I get to bed pretty early and wake up early. Routine is important to me.

What advice would you offer to other businesses on how to succeed?

Be focused and say ‘no’ when needed. A partner I once worked with at Deloitte said that real power is being able to say “no” to opportunities that don’t fit your purpose, your ethics or your strategy. And that is okay. ‘No’ is powerful.


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