Young NZer of the Year, Guy Ryan

Guy Ryan is the founder and chief executive of Inspiring Stories, a nationwide charitable trust that works to help young New Zealanders unleash their potential to change the world. He was awarded Young New Zealander of the Year in 2015 for his work. 

At the Nurture Change Business Retreat (November 2-6 at the InterContinental Golf Resort & Spa in Fiji), Guy will be speaking about how to communicate with, inspire and lead the Generation Ys in your team.

Q. Who is a leader that you learnt something incredibly valuable from and what was the lesson you learnt from them?
A. American civil activist Maya Angelou said that, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. There's no shortage of overwhelming issues that threaten our future and right now there is a huge need for hope, optimism and empowerment. Storytelling and leadership are powerful things and, as leaders, we need to challenge ourselves every day to inspire our teams and the people around us to believe in themselves. Even in the face of hardship and seemingly impossible challenges, remarkable things can happen.  

Q. What lesson in business do you try to pass on to others and what does it mean to you?A. Dream. Dream up a compelling vision, define the ideal outcomes, and break it down into small, practical steps to get there. Even the most successful people and organisations in the world started with baby steps. They definitely didn't have all the answers and still don't. The critical thing is that they started – they stepped into the unknown… and you can too. You might just create something remarkable.

Q. Who do you think is a great innovator and why?
Daniel Flynn, co-founder & CEO of Thankyou. At 19, Dan and two friends learnt about the injustice that 800 million people in our world don't have access to clean water, yet bottled water companies were proliferating and making huge profits. They had a crazy idea: 'What if we start a bottled water company that provides clean water and sanitation to the people who need it most?'. Thankyou was born. Five years on, Dan and the team have built an incredible social enterprise that now employs more than 60 staff, is recognised as one of the most innovative FMCG companies in the world, and has donated more than $4m to help end extreme poverty. Dan and the team are compelling examples of the new generation of purpose-driven entrepreneurs showcasing what's possible. 

Q. What has been your biggest learning in business to date and why? How has it affected you going forward?
A. Resilience. We've certainly had our share of hardship along the way, but even in the toughest of times you never know what might be just around the corner. In 2014 we had our toughest quarter on record – to a point where most people would have walked away. We had to shrink the team to just me and move out of our office. We were literally kept alive thanks to the generosity of friends and family. We went from rock-bottom to running our biggest-ever Festival for the Future, to running our Live the Dream accelerator programme in two cities, and the week that wrapped up I won the Young New Zealander of the Year Award – everything changed.

Q. If you were 21 years old again and could do any career you wanted, what would you be and why?
A. I'd be doing exactly what I'm doing now – backing young New Zealanders to change the world. We'd just be further ahead!

Q. What are you most excited about in attending the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji?   
A. The opportunity to connect with brilliant minds, share ideas, and explore what we could do collectively to create something even more epic in the world.

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