10 daring thinkers who defied the rules

Daniel Flynn, Co-founder Thankyou

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Stories by Lynda Dugdale, Cameron Cooper, Michael Blayney and Jan McCallum

Defy the rules. Take the step. Embrace the risk. CPA Congress 2016 was all about training your heart and mind, about daring to push the boundaries and make your endeavours as bold as they can be, without letting go of rational decision-making.

Read on as 10 inspiring thinkers share their stories.

1. Knowing your why

Daniel Flynn
Co-founder Thankyou

Thankyou co-founder Daniel Flynn exudes the gumption and stop-at-nothing passion of someone who truly does want to do their bit to change the world. And he’s silenced the cynics, because what started out as an extraordinarily ambitious idea eight years ago has turned into a thriving business that has contributed A$4.69 million to providing safe water, sanitation, food and child and maternal health services to people in need.

When Flynn learned that 4500 children die each day from water-borne diseases, he thought that surely he could do something about it. 

“What if we could launch a brand of bottled water that gives 100 per cent of the profit to funding water projects?” he mused.

His reasoning was this: in 2008, US$50 billion was spent globally on bottled water; today that figure has surged to US$137 billion.

Flynn has defied the rules of running a company. His co-founders were his girlfriend (now wife) and best mate; they secured a customer before they had funding or a business name; they even googled “How do you start a bottled water company?”.

Once the venture was up and running, they attended business meetings in borrowed suits and had their first delivery shipped to Flynn’s parents’ garage. 

Traction was hard to come by in the first three years. Some retailers with whom they’d been negotiating even imitated their idea. Thankyou’s success story is now a matter of public record; what Flynn wants to stress is what is behind his success: “knowing your why” and giving each team member a reason “to do their life’s best work”.

He says knowing why you are doing something defines everything you do – every decision, every reaction. “You could say ‘no’ to me a hundred times, even a thousand times, but I will get up and go again, because I know my whys. Our whys anchor us in storms,” he says.

“For three years, we didn’t get far but, man, we knew why we were doing what we were doing. And when you know why, you’ll be prepared to do things that others are not prepared to do to get a result.”

As for the Thankyou team, Flynn set about empowering each of them to make a small but significant impact in helping end extreme poverty in their lifetime. “Teamwork makes the dream work – it is the title of a good book, but for us it’s the mantra that we live by,” he says.

Flynn points to the commitment from each of Thankyou’s 50 team members, all of whom strive to keep the “naivety of youth and belief in the impossible”.

“We believe that every person, once they wake up to the importance of their role, they give 100, 150 per cent,” he says, “and that’s what’s made Thankyou great.”