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My Business May Be Rubbish - But I'm Living My Dream!

  Tell us a bit about your business?   1800-GOT-JUNK? is a full service junk removal company that helps people regain the space in their homes and businesses. We send out two friendly, professional crew members to collect anything from unwanted household toys, clothes and furniture to back yard rubbish. The items are always disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner; either donated to charity, recycled, or even sent to a reusable energy facility. 1800-GOT-JUNK? does a full sweep up after the job is done. I own the Adelaide franchise and am just preparing to launch the service in Perth. Other franchise locations are in Melbourne, Sydney, and the Gold Coast.         Why did you start up your business?   I had always dreamed of owning and operating my own business. I first fell in love with the 1800-GOT-JUNK? brand several years ago when I began exploring business options, but it was out of my reach at the time. Eventually, my wife and I made the big decision to sell our family home in order to buy a business. Call it serendipity, but within weeks of taking that step, I learned of the availability of a 1800-GOT-JUNK? franchise in Adelaide. I knew the people here were in need of a superior customer-service oriented business that would help them with one of our biggest challenges:  disposing of all the clutter and unused things in our homes.         What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business?   It’s a common belief that one of the best reasons to buy a franchise is that you are set up for success with tested systems. However, you quickly realize that success is actually up to you. There is a lot of risk in leaving a secure job, selling your family home, and knowing it will take a lot of days and nights of hard work before you will start to realize some profit.  Like any new business I faced the major challenge of having to raise awareness about the value of a service and brand that my market wasn’t familiar with. Another hurdle was that I spent so many long hours in the first year or so working in the business that I actually set up my bed in the office and had to spend so much time away from my family! Fortunately for me, and the business, my family has been very understanding.       What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business?   If owning your own business is truly your dream, create a vision of how that business will be in the future, never lose sight of it, and set goals against it to help forge a path to success. Join like-minded entrepreneurs or people you admire to keep yourself motivated and inspired. And be prepared to work very, very hard!       What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?   Once I purchased the business, I really didn’t feel I had any other choice than to have laser focus on it at all times. With so much at stake – my family and lifestyle, my employees, and my own dream – I was able to take that leap every day. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worthwhile.       How did your family and friends react?   I have been fortunate to have a supportive family. Growing up, my Dad was Managing Director at Coca Cola, and later my parents started their own winery from scratch. So I have always been affected by the entrepreneurial bug. Being part of a family business has taught me have a strong work ethic and has led me to take my own step into entrepreneurship. I’ve always had great mentors! I couldn’t make this work without the support of my wife and children. They’ve been encouraging me and cheering me on the entire way.         How has your life changed?   I’ve realized a lifelong dream, so I feel fulfilled. It’s a wonderful achievement, but it comes with a lot of hard work, motivation, and sleepless nights. It’s crucial to keep a positive attitude going all the time, particularly in front of my employees and customers. It’s also very gratifying to change the lives of my customers – to see the smiles of relief on their faces when we’ve cleared a space for their hobby or passion. It’s extremely rewarding.       What success have you experienced since starting your business?   In 2012 my Adelaide franchise of 1800-GOT-JUNK? saw the highest growth in the entire system. That’s over 3 countries. My second year in business has grown by 108% over the first. I knew I had a stellar brand to work with and I knew my customers would love it, but the financial results can be attributed to those long days and nights I put in to get the business going in a new market. That’s what it takes!       What is the vision for your business going forward?    I am currently in the midst of moving my family to Perth to open my second 1800-GOT-JUNK? franchise. This is proof of my vision turning to reality right now! Going forward I will be happy to know I have delivered a fantastic customer service and experience that grows the business to its full potential.       What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup?   My tips for staying motivated during the tough times include:   ·        Ensuring you have a strong support network at home   ·        Surrounding yourself with positive, successful entrepreneurs   ·        Have a mentor you can consult with 24/7   ·        Create a clear vision of your business in the future; imagine how it performs and succeeds and revisit the vision on a regular basis   ·        Retain focus on why you started your business in the first place – recall your dream!   ·        Acknowledge that, in business, there are cycles of ups and downs, and if you truly have a great business in a strong market, you will overcome the downs and be up again        

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My Million Dollar Mistake

My million dollar mistake plagued me for years. Each time I think of what I did all of those years ago, I cringe. A million dollars is a lot of money so how could I make such a mistake? It is really simple (and stupid) – I didn’t start my first business earlier than I did. From an early age, I always knew I wanted my own business. So when I left university I got busy building other people’s dreams whilst I secretly dreamt of what life would be like if I did it for myself. My insecurities, doubts and fears controlled me and I masked them with ‘reasons’. I had every ‘reason’ under the sun why I couldn’t start my business yet. Each day, week, month and year that I delayed starting my business meant the profits were delayed and more importantly, so was my happiness. It took six years from leaving university to start my business and live my dream life. It has only been in recent years that I truly understand the essential truths about starting a business and achieving success. Here are the four truths you need to know to achieve success sooner than you thought. There is never a right time. The funny thing about life is there is always something that will hold us back – if we let it. You may think you are too young or too old, you are waiting until your children are in school, you want your credit card paid off or you are even waiting until you have enough money to start the business… whatever your reason is, it doesn’t need to prevent you from starting now! Start planning and take action. The longer you leave it, the longer it will take for success to come. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Perfection paralysis is very common amongst entrepreneurs, especially for women entrepreneurs. We spend so much time researching, planning, tweaking and revising that we prevent our products or services getting out into the world. And even if you do think it is perfect, I guarantee you won’t think that way for too long. As we evolve and grow, our products and services will also evolve and grow. Don’t focus on the minutiae and do the best you can with what you have. Good enough is good enough for now. You won’t always have the full plan. If you know exactly how something will turn out, ask yourself “Am I stretching myself to live to my full potential?”. From my experience, the answer is no. When you know exactly what to expect in then it is a telltale sign that the vision needs to grow. When the vision grows we can not know exactly how something will turn out as we haven’t done it before. You may need to meet someone new who may recommend a book, website or coach that expands your mind and your world that brings you closer to your dream life. Without meeting that new person prevents that essential chain of events to be triggered. Take one step at a time and understand everything happens for a reason. The plan will only be revealed when you take action. You must believe in yourself. The biggest sale you will ever make in business is with yourself. If you don’t belief in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you? Self worth is the foundation of your future. Your self worth dictates how you think, feel, act and ultimately what results you experience. Believe that no matter what, you have the skills to achieve what ever it is you desire. Even if you think you do not have the skill to build and run a multimillion dollar business, you have the skill to go out and find a coach, read that book or attend a seminar to learn the skills or to meet people who already have the skills that can help. So take a moment to think how much not starting your business is costing you both financially and emotionally? Now I would love to hear from you. In the comments below, tell me your biggest insight you are taking away from this? If you found value in this article, please share it with your friends – it would mean the world to me. Thank you!

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My Story:

It all started when a friend dropped in to suggest we use my technical skills and his "gift of the gab" to create a design and T-shirt print business, with a BIG focus on the T-shirts. We learnt a lot FAST -- a few good things and lots of BAD things, like if the customer is in the car out the front of the house waiting for his sporting club shirts, make sure you get them done fast… If your business partner says be there at 10:30 am on a Sunday, get there a bit later, especially if he is a womaniser in his mid 20’s! and if you have to be at a Sunday Market at 7:30 am then don’t count him in for the early shift! I soon picked up that although he had the gift of the gab, it also meant that he was not good at other things. Sure he had charm, sure he had a way with customers that would take me a long while to learn, but in the end, success is up to you. Lesson learnt -- choose your partner wisely. The next thing I learnt was, just because you have the ability, it does not always relate to being good in business. Profits were slim, talking and scheming were lots of fun and the late night drink sessions were a hoot but it didn’t make for good business. A local University was running a course on small business over 6 weeks, we got a ton of great information and so my learning about business began. All that was back in the mid 80’s. Move forward to today and I am semi-retired with a big bunch of business ideas welling up in my head. Along the way I morphed the initial business into a sole trading business, altered it to include photography with the design work. I then took on various jobs, and learning opportunities and found that although I had a range of skills, they never seemed enough to make things go bang, they seemed to go flop instead. I went into a part time venture after becoming redundant in the 1990’s recession that Australia “had to have” -- I learnt about customer service and soaked up all the information I could get, I cut my teeth on customer backlash from being in a business that was treating them poorly and I knew then that business skills was a thing you could learn and profit from. A change in direction saw me return to study, adding a Graduate Diploma of Education to my mix. Three years on and a miss mash of short term teaching positions filling in when teachers were away sick or on stress leave, saw me bundled out when the then state government announced there was an excess of teachers. I had to reinvent again, I dragged out the business name and dusted it off. Desktop publishing was in full swing, so I bought a computer and a few programs and buried my head in learning the skills to create anything in print. I soon learnt that it wasn’t easy and may hours work in learning on my own was not the best way to go, but it was all I had. I learnt some more -- attending seminars, one-day sales training events and finally got into a 9 week intensive Sales Course, some of the BEST training I have ever done. I listened to motivational tapes, I went to business breakfasts, I networked and hustled the best I could. I was learning fast about marketing, I was exploring public speaking to help grow my business and I learnt fast that customers did not always appreciate the time and effort that went into what I did, and many of them I realised had no idea about business. The more I spoke publicly, the more I learnt people liked what I had to say about business, marketing, innovation/creativity, setting goals, developing a positive work culture, and amongst other things -- Leadership. The business had gone from T-shirts to training with a few interesting deviations along the way. The internet was in its infancy and people were getting more information than they knew what to do with. I spent ages looking, learning, reading, responding, writing and now creating articles. A local paper utilised 90 articles I wrote on business, a large daily newspaper also took on an a-z set of articles and I was having a ball. Not making much money but learning, talking, writing exploring, working part time, in business part time and feeling fulfilled. I was asked to contribute to the writing of a book on goal setting (now in it’s fourth edition) I stumbled rather inelegantly into a role teaching adult business students in the evenings a few nights a week in Leadership - Innovation and some training subjects, I had a ball in most of those subjects and the things we all learned were priceless. In one Innovation subject, about four weeks in, one participant told us he had saved his department 10% of their annual budget that equated to $100k per year ongoing! Just from one of the ideas implemented from the class…  I was asked to run a certificate level small business course and threw myself into that. When I wasn’t presenting Mon - Wed, I was creating course content on the other days. It was all business related and I loved it. My business had now turned and included coaching people in small business, I discovered quickly that those that needed assistance did not often seek it, those who got assistance could either flourish or flounder, the flounderers often gracefully bowed out. I also stumbled into a directorship of a startup training and consulting business with three others and a loyal group of about 15 supporters. We all heard a story from the key person about how this startup would make us millionaires! We were all very interested in that. Another learning took place after I poured some cash in and spent six months helping to ‘build’ an empire -- it failed. The learning -- a big hit on the head, choose your partners wisely. I had learnt it before but it was coming back to haunt me. I should have asked more questions about the business plan that on reflection was so transparent you could see for miles.  I asked the other Directors why they didn’t see the writing on the wall? They said they were following a strong lead from people like myself who they thought had a solid idea about how to make this work, I did. But that didn’t mean the main Director had a clue nor did he want to hand over the whole thing to others to make it a reality, if we had jumped in early the whole thing might have been quite different. I focused on teaching and coaching after that, and fumed in the background that I got caught out again from the previous business deal. The teaching was fading out and it was time to take a new business turn. I jumped in to a franchise after what I thought was extensive research. It was not extensive enough and five years on, I bailed out, burnt out and very annoyed that I probably could have stood on a street corner and thrown away $30K for each year of operation and still been ahead of the time wasted and the opportunities that went buy in a what could have been scenario. In amongst this, I was given the opportunity to develop an outline for a "business hub" enterprise that could provide jobs, and a range of opportunities to develop a suite of businesses to ensure a degree of stability. The focus was on ensuring it was community based and could also attract funding by being an incorporated body. A wonderful project with a great deal of scope, still going, although the igniting organisation has changed focus, I have retained the information and have built on it substantially. I now work part time fulfilling my creative side in a business that requires practical and creative input (My current boss would have been about 10 years old when I started my business journey) while writing and exploring the business hub idea. Some of the things I have learnt along the way Follow your instincts - If it looks like a rat, it probably is. If it looks like it and smells like it, then it is a rat. A rat by any other name is not anything else, as much as we might want it to be Strong start up capital - Can take pressure off the early phases of a business start up Networking - You never know who you will meet or where they may take you, realise also you might meet  some duds on the way too Cash is king - You need it to pay the bills, to keep suppliers happy, to pay yourself a wage, and to ensure there is some left over to grow, without growth you stagnate Keep asking questions and seeking answers - Keep learning, formal or informal, both have solid merit. “If you’re green you grow, if you’re ripe you rot.” Jim Rohn Get up and get moving - If you fall down (and you will) get up, dust yourself off and move on. if you take too long to dust yourself off, you may well find a train hurtling down the train tracks you are somehow standing on, MOVE. Get good at the basics - Know that Marketing, Operations and Management are all tied together and all need work, Know also they are held together by People - the Physical Environment and the Culture of the organisation. Get advice - Any advice can be good if it heads you in a positive direction. Free advice - You may not realise the value of until it’s too late. - Paid advice you might spend time worrying about if you can put that advice into action! Stop worrying and get started… Wisdom is knowledge in action - Learn a little, act a little, see the results Business is about investing - In you, in your team, in your customers, you service etc, sow good seeds into good soil and with good watering and sunshine  you will be able to reap in a good harvest, therefore invest well.

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Networking: How to Have a Conversation with Anyone

We often hear that networking is essential to business success. Yet to be honest, few of us are good at it. We either avoid it altogether, or when we enter a face-to-face networking situation, we fail to engage and make the most of the opportunities it presents. Why is that? A key reason, I believe, is fear - a simple fear of conversations. This may seem far-fetched. However, social anxiety is more common than most of us realise. Just as research has shown that many people fear public speaking more than death, the thought of initiating multiple conversations with complete strangers can fill some nervous systems with fear. It’s a concern you can easily overcome, however, if you remember that most people you meet are in the same situation, and also actually enjoy talking about themselves. Your task is simply to encourage them. Here are a few techniques: Introduce yourself with a smile The smile comes first. When you approach someone at a networking event with a big, genuine smile and an outstretched hand, they’ll welcome you into a conversation 999 times in a thousand. If that one occasion in a thousand occurs and you sense rejection, the issue is generally with the other person, not you. Just move on to the next person. Ask Questions You’ll never be lost for conversation topics if you have a few questions prepared beforehand. They don’t need to be profound questions. Just open-ended enquiries that encourage your conversation partner to elaborate on their own life, work or pastimes. In fact, they can be as simple or trivial as “What kind of work do you do?”, “What kind of business do you run?” and “What did you do on the weekend?” It’s usually best to be superficial at first. If the other person appears willing to open up as the conversation continues, you can then ask more personal and more complex questions. Listen A big mistake people make at networking events is trying to talk the other person into submission. This rarely works. What works is active listening. If possible, allow the other person to say twice as much as you do. Get to know them. Find out what gives them pleasure and pain in their business and personal life.  How can you do that? Just ask them. They’ll appreciate your genuine interest. And don’t forget to respond positively, with your voice, your expressions and your gestures. Nod when you agree with something. Smile when they say something light or humorous. Maintain eye contact as naturally as possible. Add simple, encouraging comments such as “Really?”, “That’s interesting,” or “I agree.”  'Cherry-pick' words and phrases One of my favourite techniques to keep a conversation going and make it interesting is to ‘cherry-pick’ some of the other person’s words or phrases that are most interesting to you. For example, your conversation partner may say: “I spent the weekend with my family, gardening, going to the beach, helping with homework.” You notice the word ‘beach’, so you ask. “The beach sounds like fun. Did you go surfing?” This can open an interaction about surfing. As you pick up on different words and phrases, you can eventually reveal activities and pastimes of common interest. Use Names Most people like the sound of their own name, so take note of the other person’s name and use it liberally in your conversation with them. This will also help you remember the person later. Some business commentators suggest taking notes about the people you meet during an event. I find that just using a person’s name repeatedly in conversation is a useful memory tool. Remember your elevator pitch In a previous article, I wrote about how to prepare and deliver an effective elevator pitch. When someone at a networking event asks what you do, have a few words prepared that explain the problems you solve, the value you deliver, the credibility you have for doing what you do, what makes you different and how the other person might benefit from what you do. Generally, it’s best not to embark on your elevator pitch until you’re asked to say something about yourself. When you are asked, however, a finely-tuned elevator pitch, delivered naturally, can be a powerful aid in furthering the conversation and developing a relationship.     Introduce people to others Once you get to know someone at an event, take every opportunity you can to introduce your new acquaintance to someone else. Many will appreciate this gesture, as they may be hesitant to introduce themselves to others. It will also enhance their perception of you, your status and your potential worth to them. Acknowledge when the conversation has ended Occasionally, despite your best efforts, maintaining a conversation is difficult. You may find that you and the other person share little in terms of interests or values. Sometimes a conversation just runs out of steam. It’s all right. There’s no rule saying you have to persevere. Just smile, tell the person you enjoyed meeting them, and suggest you should both get to know some of the other people at the event. Practice these techniques and you should never feel uncomfortable at a networking event again.

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New Business Idea: Workspace As A Service (WaaS)

Do you know that of Australia’s 2.1 million SMBs, almost 15% fold annually? Alarmingly, that figure is the same amount that are started every year. From generating local investment and driving innovation to providing employment opportunities across the country, SMBs make a significant contribution to the Australian economy. As we navigate the current economic environment, it’s critical that as an owner you have access to the technological capabilities enabling business expansion, agility, and success. After all, Australia’s success will in part be built on your individual achievements. However at Citrix, we understand how the thought of trying to better manage and understand your IT is often enough to send you running for cover. It can detract you from your core business priorities, and can sometimes prove to be a troublesome, time-consuming, and costly in managing your business. What if I tell you there is a new approach to IT simplifying its management and ensuring it delivers the results you need? I’m pleased to say this platform exists today. Not only does it empower you to better control your IT environment, it allows you to save money, attract more customers, and even re-think the whole way you do business. WaaS: Worspace-as-a-Service  We’ve termed this new platform Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS). In its most simple form, WaaS delivers secure, seamless, anytime, anywhere access to all business applications, services, and data across your corporate and personally owned devices. Getting a bit more technical, it combines cloud-based platforms to offer you a virtual workspace, which can negate the need for on-premise IT and in some instances, you might not even need physical office space at all. And if that is not enough to grab your interest, with WaaS you can outsource the management of your IT network to a third-party provider empowering you to focus on core business priorities. Ultimately, WaaS gives you all the benefits of a fully-functioning IT environment without the need for physical office space or IT components, including: Optimised IT platforms and assets - Seamlessly and rapidly take advantage of recent desktop and application upgrades, such as moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8, or upgrading your financial applications to comply with new legislation, without having to purchase the latest devices, or update each workstation individually. Given businesses spend on average $1,900 to own, run, and upgrade each PC in the office this can be a crucial factor in business success. What’s more, updating each device one by one is a laborious task that prevents you from focusing on your main business objectives. To explain how and why this works, all devices used across your business access a centralised online IT environment. This central and reliable system hosts all business applications, servers and information in a virtual environment, meaning that when an update is required it only needs to be implemented in this one place, rather than across each device. This delivers significant time-savings, ensures staff have access to the same IT capabilities, and empowers you to efficiently take advantage of the latest IT innovations. Reduced Real-Estate Costs - With the freelance economy building momentum, businesses are scrutinising their costs and looking to reduce some of their hard costs. With real-estate traditionally being one of SMB’s biggest outgoing, it’s useful to consider that WaaS allows you to create a virtual workspace helping you to cut costs in this space. Improve employee productivity – Empowering employees to use the devices they choose at the time they choose is fast becoming an expectation, not a request. Taking a WaaS approach helps make this a reality. Employees simply need to log on to the virtual workspace via a device of their choosing, at times suiting them, where they can access all the services they need. Similarly, it means your business is not restricted by boundaries when recruiting new employees, which is great for expansion. Enhanced security – Just because you’re giving employees control on any device, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on security. By using a centralised IT environment, you can efficiently apply the relevant security protocols. For example without WaaS, employees may be saving sensitive business data to their personal devices – that do not always offer the necessary security requirements – so that they can work on the go, which compromises your business security. Furthermore, if a work device is lost or stolen all sensitive data can be easily wiped clean as it is saved in the virtual environment, rather than the device itself. Rapidly scale to meet demand – Having temporary workers or new joiners can be an IT headache, as can managing peaks and troughs in your business operations. Embracing WaaS allows you to rapidly scale the size of your IT environment to address these demands in a cost-effective manner. For example, new staff can be added to the virtual network in a matter of minutes rather than hours. Similarly, if you need to expand your IT environment to react to seasonal demand, you can easily scale up to accommodate it, before reducing it once the event is over. We hope this insight into WaaS shows you how it gives you the freedom to experiment and grow without the upfront fixed costs and limitations of a traditional IT deployment. The benefits of WaaS for SMBs are relevant and real, and we can’t wait to see you take advantage of them.

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New year resolutions to boost your work life

The tinsel has been packed away and you have traded in your beach-towel for a briefcase. This is the perfect time to say “hello” to workplace happiness and “goodbye” to the bad habits that make you miserable and hinder your professional success. You’ll enjoy your time in the office more and improve your professional reputation. The following year should be outstanding as you adopt these workplace New Years Resolutions and add more of your own. Continue your Education Furthering your education and knowledge of your profession, can put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition. These days, the opportunities to continue studying whilst working are quite manageable and will help you build your folio of qualifications. If going back to University or TAFE isn’t so appealing, you should still strive to learn something new everyday. It is easy to get stuck in the same routine, you need to break the habit. Read an article; discuss a new approach with colleagues; research what other organisations are doing. The opportunities for learning are multiplying everyday in this information age. Actions for a Happier Workplace Brighten up the atmosphere for your colleagues. Work life doesn’t need to be miserable; in fact it can and should be happy. There are some simple actions to create a happier environment at work and encourage those around you to do the same: Stop to say hello to colleagues and get to know them better. Find ways to make working on a project more social and fun. (Belgrin likes to organise a brainstorming session and order pizza for the team). Make a habit of noting good things that happen each day. Give praise for the good work of your colleagues and make them feel good. Be Courageous Not outrageous, courageous! Don’t go riding a pogo stick around the office or acting crazy, but practice professional courage by stepping out of your comfort zone. You know you are in a comfort zone when an issue arises and you hear yourself coming up with all the excuses to not speak up and provide your opinion of a solution. Once you have begun breaking through your own barriers, you will find stating your mind gets easier. Be sure what you are bringing to the table is constructive and is in the best interest of the involved parties. Once you build your confidence and find yourself contributing more, management may start to take notice. In turn, your career will thrive more as a result of taking an active stance within your workplace. Add a Touch of Sparkle Adding eye-catching touches to your working environment to capture your imagination will aid inspiration and increase your productivity. Layering interest through different use of materials, objects, colour and light serves to add warmth to your environment and stimulate the mind in different ways. A space completely void of colour or texture has a dulling effect, not only on the space but it takes a toll on you too. In practice, these office etiquette’s will not only enhance your working experience but will consequently help boost your career.

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No more Mr Nice Guy!

I like to think all people are nice, honest, friendly and helpful. I like to see the best in people and trust that they will do the right thing. To me, personal values are important and coexist with making money. But there are times that I wonder if this personality type belongs in the business world; a space which seems to be dominated by people who negotiate hard, who can play dirty and see business as a fight with only one winner. In a dog-eat-dog world where survival of the fittest is the unspoken law, is there a place for a ‘nice guy’? To me business is challenging, exciting and always interesting. The pace, dynamism and endless complex questions intrigue me. There is nothing more rewarding than starting, growing and building businesses. But day-to-day business life means working with a lot of different people, some of whom are sharks that will bite if you let your guard down. During my time in business there have been a few bruises, breaks and injuries from such people. I had business partners that knowingly deceived tens of thousands from me and 9 others. There was the nightmare landlord who ripped off rent extra payments, scared off a business buyer and refused to contribute a single cent to his own building. I had clients that purposely didn’t pay their account, then went into voluntarily liquidation to dodge their debts. Even a co-shared office ended with a civil claim because I damaged a bookshelf (worth $50!) A hard-nosed, aggressive approach to business seems counter-productive to me. I understand that assets and livelihoods need protection, but can’t grasp a ‘win at all costs’ attitude. Whilst some of the perpetrators of negativity in my past have just been devious people, others just felt they needed to fight rather than lose a single cent or (even worse) risk not being ‘right’. Simple, outcome-focused and honest conversations with willingness to compromise can bring speedy resolutions where all sides can win. They build relationships that can be prosperous, rather than torching every single bridge between you. It’s a problem of short sightednessvs. long sightedness. The disagreement that I mentioned over a $50 bookcase meant that I never referred a single business to that accountant,  worth many thousands of dollars per year. The irony of this hardass approach is that a softer human touch has infinitely more appeal and can actually be a very solid foundation for business growth. Customers love it. Employees love it. Co-workers love it. Suppliers love it. Business partners love it. Interactions with real care and feeling stand out like a dog’s proverbials. There are huge strengths to business in maintaining softer human qualities, in fostering sensitivity, compromise, kindness and a genuine interest in other people. It increases retention of staff and not only keeps your clients, but drives new business through word of mouth. My local cafe owner greets me by name every single time I walk in and make my coffee by heart, so I never go anywhere else. Virgin money is another example – their call centre is the most helpful and understanding I have ever dealt with, so they keep my business and get referrals. Small and medium businesses work with feeling the best, just because they are still small enough to be personal. In these businesses values are not just a corporate statement or taglines coming from the marketing department. So it seems that there is value in being a ‘nice guy’ in business, but you do need to protect yourself. It is very easy to become hardened in business; to lose your open, friendly attitude and get sucked into believing that you need to be a warrior to succeed. The skill is in setting boundaries around what you will accept, without building an emotional armour around yourself. Here are a few tactics that I have developed along the way: • Be aware that people will take from you whatever you let them take. Ultimately it’s up to you to protect what’s yours. • Saying ‘no’ or sticking to your values doesn’t have to be done in a inflammatory way. Calm conversations are much more effective. (Assertiveness and voice volume are not correlated). • Understand the difference between a short term ‘win’ and and long term financial returns from business relationships. • Avoid battles; even if you win, you will lose something. They waste a lot of energy, time and emotion. • Get legal protections. Small business owners are very poor at contracts, terms and conditions and knowing the law. Verbal contracts and handshake deals fall apart with a puff of wind, so get everything in writing. • Watch for warning signs: if you see bad behaviour, it is probably going to continue. • If clients are not paying you, be strong enough to stop supply. It doesn’t get any easier for them to pay their bills as they get bigger. • Family and friends. If you are going into business with people you know; get legal advice and have contracts for everything. Avoid it if you can. • New ventures and contracts.  Take your time; do due diligence and get lots of advice. Take the advice. • Do business with people you like and trust – there are a lot of really great people out there. • Do your best to stay away from sharks and learn the personality types. • Remember that satisfaction comes from living your values, which don’t always result in financial reward.   Dr. Warren Harmer    

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Online for Change

  Tell us a bit about your business? Blue Clay Productions is a video production company based in Sydney and Wagga Wagga, offering a wide range of services from filming, editing to motion graphics. We also increase the online presence of clients by creating strategies and creative, compelling video content that fits our clients’ marketing needs and budget. Some examples of how we might do this is through creating a television commercial, online promotional film or live streaming an event. We started a regional arm in March 2012 and work closely with SME’s and tourism operators. Why did you start up your business? I’m a journalist by trade and love telling stories. When I was working for a major current affairs program I was often approached by businesses and individuals who wanted to share their story. Some of these businesses were paying PR agencies thousands of dollars just to write a press release. Then you have the ‘big boys of business’ paying tens of thousands for online videos – even more for a television commercial.  It’s just not feasible for SME’s to pay this kind of money. When you consider the power of online video in terms of audience reach and the various ways you can use it to tell and sell, it’s a perfect platform for SME’s. Teaching this market how to use online video and creating affordable content has been a successful recipe.   I also saw a gap in the video production market – particularly when it came to corporate films at a reasonable price. Many were able to pick up a camera and edit some footage but few were able to really tell a good story. What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? Getting runs on the board in the first few months was a hurdle. I enrolled in a small business course that really made me look at the direction of my business, my market and my competitors.  What was my edge? What was the one thing that made my video business different? The answer was ‘me’ - that being my experience and training. So I ran with it. I attended every free (or cheap) networking and training event I could. I made cold calls and I turned on the charm without (hopefully) seeming too desperate! Rejection is a very hard thing to deal with but you need to use it as fodder to keep going. Once you get momentum you gain more clarity and confidence. Also, capital can be a difficult obstacle but it doesn’t have to be. There are low interest unsecured loans that can easily be obtained. Research it through your local Business Enterprise Centre. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? Do your research and do a proper business plan. Starting a business is like building a house – you need strong foundations. Don’t skip this and ensure you spend proper time on it. There are lots of short courses you can do to help with this process and templates that can show you the right format. Market yourself and get out there. How? Do I need to say it? Video marketing is great for people on a budget who want to build an online presence. You don’t need thousands to produce quality video content however remember that you need to protect your brand. Don’t send anything live that will do more harm than good to your product/service. Think outside the box and think of ways you can use video to reach your audience. You could simply do a vlog (video blog), a product demo, an office tour or you could engage a video production company to create a professional film for you. Remember to ask yourself, ‘Who is my target market and what are my key messages?’ Remember, Google loves video. Also, create partnerships and explore pro-rata deals. The first big contract I scored was after I already worked for this particular company through a sponsorship deal. It meant that they got to ‘try and test’ my services before they handed over a cheque. It actually lead to many other contracts. I still take this approach when I am trying to break into a new sector. You won’t see the rewards the following day though. It may take months if not a year or more to see the full return on investment. What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? When I first returned to Australia from working overseas for a couple of years as a journalist and producer, I found it difficult to find full-time work that wasn’t based in the news industry, which I’d grown tired of. I had a plan when I returned to open my own video production company however I needed capital and some training. I worked part-time while I completed a business course and also during the first eight months of trading. How did you family and friends react? My friends and family, like so many others, often said they supported me but they often questioned my sanity and regurgitated facts like, ‘One in three businesses fail in the first two years of business” etc etc… Some perhaps thought it was a ‘phase’ I was going through; others knew how tenacious I am so they didn’t question it. You just need to remember to take it slowly, do your research and preparation and be passionate! If you aren’t passionate there is a good chance you will become a statistic and no one wants to hear ‘I told you so’. How has your life changed? Wow, where to start? I work harder, longer and in the beginning sometimes for a lot less money… but I am now more passionate about life, work and the future. Expanding to regional NSW has brought a lot of opportunity and exciting paths. I have also learnt what my ‘business style’ is and how it works for my company and me. Oh, and I can pull a sick day and take leave without asking the boss. What success have you experienced since starting your business? Blue Clay Productions has managed to secure a number of great contracts and establish fantastic relationships with key bodies in various sectors ranging from tourism, universities and media. In 2012 we filmed a documentary about the woes of dating in Sydney. We took five single women fed up of dating ‘pretentious city guys’ on a road trip to meet men from various backgrounds. We drove from Adelaide to Rockhampton meeting all sorts, from farmers, professional athletes to Irish miners. It was a mission to say the least. We also made the move to open our regional branch, which has opened a lot of doors for us. This year we will be opening a Media, Arts and Business Centre in the Riverina where we’ll conduct training, mentoring programs and networking events. Exciting times. What is the vision for your business going forward? We really want to expand further into Melbourne and run more workshops across the cities and regional areas to teach people the value of video marketing and story telling. We are aiming to become the go-to agency for regional video production in southwest NSW and established training and a support base for SME’s, young entrepreneurs and artists through our centre. What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup? Network and talk to other people who are starting up their own business. Join a young entrepreneur or business group in your area. You aren’t alone and you might be able to troubleshoot issues with them and form great alliances at the same time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the biggest and best within a year. Set realistic expectations but aim high.  Also, make small goals and targets that you can tick off and gain a sense of accomplishment – and reward yourself when you get there. But most importantly? Remember to have fun!

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