Top tips from the 2019 Victorian Telstra Small Business Woman
I am an accidental entrepreneur. My grand plan was to provide home visit physiotherapy to clients who couldn’t access other services, while earning a bit of extra cash on my way home from my real job.
After years of tip toeing around the edges, I realised that not only was I getting pretty darn good at solving problems, our clients were happy, the team were loving the work and the business just kept on growing…
Skip forward 10 years; Own Body is one of Australia’s largest home visiting rehabilitation services, employing more than 50 people across 3 states and continues to grow over 50% annually.
Winning the Telstra award in March has not only connected me with amazing people and opportunities, it has encouraged me to reflect on my journey. I hope that by sharing these tips constructed from my experience, I can encourage some early stage entrepreneurs to step up.
- Get clear with your X factor (and delegate the rest)
The majority of businesses start as side hustles; bootstrapped from day one. Us founders start out as the CEO, accountant, social media/HR/IT manager, website designer, complaints officer… the list goes on. People often ask me what I would have done differently if I had my time again.
The answer; I wish I realised that I don’t need to know or manage everything. A prime example is when I decided to be thrifty and build my own website (after all, developers cost so much!). Two months later, the website looked exactly like I had put it together myself. At the time I was still working elsewhere as a physiotherapist and was declining shifts so I could finally get the website done!
See the problem? Sometimes we need to get out of our own way and see the bigger picture. My advice: take the time to identify your ‘secret sauce’; where you are the most effective and delegate the rest. This helps remove you from the operations, leaving you free to take the next step and take advantage of opportunities.
- Structure the most important parts of your day (and stick to the plan)
I confess: I am one of those crazy people who genuinely LOVES exercise; I’m addicted. A few days of sitting still sees me clawing at the walls. But do you think I can get to the gym or go to for a run in the evening? Not a chance! My mind is too distracted by whatever problem(s) I’m trying to solve that day. I worked out that the only way to get my fix is first thing in the morning, before my brain has switched on and before my phone has emerged from its nightly Flight Mode slumber.
Getting the important things done in business no different; choose the MOST vital thing you need to do today, get that done first. Many of my peers talk about ‘shiny object syndrome’. It’s a real thing. If we see that we can finish/fix/create/win something put in front of us, that’s where our focus goes. So before you finish your day, write down the most importantthing you can achieve tomorrow, and do that before anything else.
- Be clear on your goals, both short and long term
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I don’t know a single successful business owner who ‘has it all’, everyone makes choices and sacrifices. The key is choosing what’s most important to you now, and structuring your choices around that. When I first quit my job to work on Own Body full time, I took the opportunity to meet up with friends for coffee – a little too often. I thought I’d outsmarted ‘The Man’ and was living the dream. The problem was, the business growth slowed and cracks started to appear. Had I wanted to simply keep it ticking along, this plan would be fine. For many people, a perfect work life balance is the dream, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Balance and variety are essential for sanity and mental health, but if you’re shooting for the stars, something’s gotta give!
- Ask for help, you’ll be surprised who will donate their time to support you.
I am overwhelmed by the number of people who volunteered their time to mentor, coach and teach me along the way. Whether it be friends who can help me in their professional niche, business owners (even competitors!), clients or employees; support and inspiration comes in many forms. Some of the best lessons for me have come from spontaneous conversations where that person has shared a simple golden nugget of wisdom.
My advice is to be genuine, excited to learn and interested in them and their passions and they will want to help you. Humans love making a difference. The caution I give here is to be respectful of the relationship. If you ask for a coffee, pay for it, and absolutely read that book they recommended before coming back for more advice.
- Keep your circle full of cheerleaders
There will always be people who feel your success reflects poorly on themselves and either subconsciously or blatantly sabotage your success. Like a bad relationship, it’s important to distance yourself from people who tell you that you “can’t” or “shouldn’t”, with no personal experience to back them up.
The good news is there are many more good folk who will celebrate and support you. Even if your friends have no interest or experience in business (don’t worry, there are soooo many networks for those discussions), it’s vital to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed.