Welcome to my regular column entitled "My Light Bulb Moment". This series highlights a "blinding flash of insight" business, cultural and sports leaders have had in their career, and how this changed their lives forever.

I don't know if it's just me, but I seem to always learn a lot more when things go wrong, rather than when things go right. Sometimes these moments take on a special power of their own, and change how we think, work and operate well into the future.

Denise L'Estrange-Corbet

Denise is co-founder of World, celebrating 25 years in business this year. For her services to New Zealand fashion, Denise was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002, and is author of All that Glitters , her bestselling autobiography in 2008. In 2011, she was also voted the second most trusted female in the Reader's Digest "Most Trusted" list.


Light Bulb Moment - Don't be intimidated

"When Francis Hooper and I established World in 1989 we were very naive," Denise says. "We had never run a business before, employed staff, or even looked at a lease." However, despite these initial challenges, they took on a small store in Auckland's High St, designing quality denim clothing that became very successful, very quickly.

Due to this demand, Denise and Francis took the opportunity to team up with a local freelance denim manufacturer with all the machinery they required. All went well for six months, until Denise received a devastating call one afternoon. "The manufacturer phoned to say he could no longer make our garments. We were perplexed of course as we always paid our account on time and never asked to queue jump." Digging further, Denise was shocked to find that the real motivation as to why their partnership had ended was far more sinister.

"Bully boy" tactics

"A large retailer in the same street as us had become seethingly jealous of World, and the traction our brand was getting." As this competitor was far bigger than World, he threatened to cut off his contract if the manufacturer continued to make clothes for them.

"Sadly, he stopped making clothing for us and supplied product solely for "bully boy". Of course, "bully boy" then stopped supplying him, and the manufacturer went under." To add insult to injury, this large retailer then bought all the machinery at knock-down prices.

"I was furious," Denise recalls. "And I challenged bully boy on his actions. I very quickly learned to never, ever be bullied by anyone, regardless of how big or rich they are. Bullies are bullies because nobody stands up to them, and I was not going to be one of those people. At the time, I couldn't see what I could learn from this, but realised later that it was a 'light bulb moment' in my career".

If you have had a light bulb moment, please email me.

Tom O'Neil is an award winning business speaker, international author of The 1% Principle and Selling Yourself to Employers, and CEO of both CV.CO.NZ and AchievementExpert.com.

You can contact Tom at tom@cv.co.nz.