My Story: Business - Always Learning, Always Growing

Business growth

Family Business Lessons

I've been around business in one form or another my whole life. When I was a little girl, my Dad owned a garage and spares shop and when he and my Mum split, my Dad decided to quit his garage and set up in business selling Cornish pasties. 

Meanwhile, my Mum and her new husband set up an engineering business and are property developers, one sister owns a real estate firm and my other sister is in the PT and health sector.

Through my life I saw them go through many ups, downs and a lot of struggle. My Mum's engineering business went bust in the 90s and my Dad's business at one point went into a voluntary arrangement. 

I was always absolutely fascinated by business and how it worked. I would question my parents endlessly and learned a huge amount about business from them by my early 20s. Even though after my Dad's business traded out of their struggles and went on to grow into a business that turns over 10's of millions of dollars each year, I was convinced that I would never go into business myself because it all seemed way too risky for someone like me.

Work, Work, Work

My teachers at school would have told you that I was not that "academically bright" and I left school with below average grades. At 18, after spending a season working in night clubs in Mallorca, Spain, I came back and smooth talk myself into a trainee book-keeper role that to this day I have no idea how I got.

This was the start of a 20+ year career in corporate finance and my school teachers had to eat their words. I worked my way up the corporate ladder, qualified to become a Certified Management Accountant, worked in TV and film industry in London and spent 15 years in leadership roles working closely with the business owners to help them build profitable businesses. 

In 2009, my boss asked me if I would coach some friends of hers who were interior designers. They were very talented designers but were not making any money. They had received a local grant and were looking for someone to help them to develop their business skills. This was my first taste of business coaching and I loved it!

My World Turned Upside Down

Very shortly after this, my husband and I moved to Melbourne and I took a role as the chief financial officer (CFO) for a local firm. In August 2013, because I felt we had miss-alignment of values, I decided that I could continue in the role no longer and resigned. At about the same time my husband and I were going through IVF and after a number of unsuccessful attempts decided not to continue.

My world had a huge, devastating hole in it and for the first time in my life I didn't have a plan. I was joking to my Mum one day and said "oh, maybe I should just become a coach" and she said, "why not?".  The next day I did some research and signed up to a certification to become an accredited coach and decided to set up my consulting business. The rest of my family wondered why it took me so long!

A Business of My Own

Initially I started coaching women who were in turmoil in their careers and wanted to make a change. Within six months though, I found myself attracting business owners who needed my help and gravitated back to what I had always loved; helping business owners to build strong, profitable businesses. I had over 20 years experience in this field and could add much more value to my clients in this space.

I was lucky enough to have a very supportive husband who believed in me during the early days because we went from having two very good salaries to only one and our savings started to dwindle as I invested them into my business.

Learning Curves

As a new business owner, my biggest shock was that there were parts of business that I knew very little about! 

As an accountant who had worked in SMEs of 30-100 people, with a focus on operations and profitability, I had only had exposure to high-level marketing and sales strategy.  I was totally unprepared to have to do the tactical work needed in these areas in my own business to attract clients. This was a massive learning curve for me.

I remember going to my first networking event and being petrified! My experience of networking until that point had been standing in rooms, often the solitary women, with a bunch of other accountants and stuffy old bankers who all seemed to know each other and I hated it. I also thought I had to go to networking events to sell, how wrong I was!

One of my mentors encourages me to join a BNI chapter and this bunch of fabulous people took me under their wing and taught me what networking is really about; building relationships. I went from being a petrified networker to becoming a massive fan and now a large proportion of the referrals I receive are from relationships I have built whilst networking.

The world of online marketing was a mystery to me as well. Until I started my business Facebook had been a place I'd see family holiday snaps, which old school friend was getting divorced and some really funny cat videos; I had no idea how to use it to grow my business. I took courses, watched and learned from others and just decided to commit to developing the skills needed.

Selling was something that was very outside of my comfort zone too because it's something that I'd never had to do before. I had all sorts of limiting beliefs around what selling meant and what it meant if someone said no.

Getting Help

Having those pressing challenges back then meant I had to do something to resolve them quickly or risk my business never taking off. So I found a business coach who was awesome at helping others to buy and he taught me how it's done.

He also worked with me help me improve the quality of my thinking. We are all limited by our own capacity to think and our past experiences so we need someone else with a fresh set of eyes to show us what we cannot see ourselves. Having a business coach of my own is something I would never be without.

This is a win, win in my line of work because not only did I improve results in my own business as I grow it helps to improve the results in my clients businesses too. I'm a dedicated life long learner, committed to continual improvement.

The Future is Bright

Two years in and I am working with some amazing, audacious female business owners and helping them to blaze their own trails. They are committed to building mission based, seven figure, profitable businesses that allow them to lead the life style they choose whilst at the same time enabling them to contribute positively to the world around them. 

I have two exciting new projects currently in developments right now that will mean I can reach more businesswomen to help them to grow and excel.

Business is full of ups and downs and twists and turns and the more uncertainty that you can handle the higher your chances of success. The thing I love more than anything about my business is that I get to first and foremost help others to achieve their dreams and then mine get taken care of along the way.

Lessons I Want to Share

Here are some of my biggest take-outs from the first two years:

  • Follow your passion and strengths. You'll add more value to your market and when you do that the dollars will follow.
  • Take action! Be committed to making progress towards your goals every day.
  • Use your fear as your energy; don't allow it to be an obstacle.
  • Build strong relationships and give generously.
  • It's not the person with the most natural talent that wins, it's the one who has the most grit and determination to keep going when others have given in and given up.
  • It's the small things that you do consistently in business that bring the biggest results. Whether it be blogging each week on the same day, turning up to a regular networking event or creating a processes that can be replicated time and again.
  • Be a dedicated life long learner. You don't have to have all the answers; it's about knowing the right questions to ask, to the right people.

Oh and did I mention, TAKE ACTION!!!

 


Claire Whitelaw Brown

Claire Whitelaw Brown

Business Strategist at CWB Business Growth Strategies

Founder of CWB, I work with disruptive, trail blazing, inspirational female business leaders and their teams, to help them accelerate their business and personal results. Through one to one coaching, online training and mastermind programs I help businesswomen to build strong, profitable businesses that work for them instead of them working for it! I believe in nurturing the uniqueness in every client whilst helping them to boldly reach for their most audacious goals.

CWB Business Growth Strategies

CWB Business Growth Strategies 1 FOLLOWER

Consulting and strategy


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Comments (3)

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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

Very inspiring, keep it going.

Arrnell Gapusan

Arrnell Gapusan , Community Manager at SavvySME

It's worth reading... Very inspiring! thanks Claire

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