How I Started a Business from Scratch and Accidentally Grew it Bigger than Intended

Just over 10 years ago I decided to retire from the fashion industry and move back to Australia. I had been in that space since I was 15, I finished high school through distance education while working overseas, I was unsure what I wanted to do next.

For my first six months back in Australia I asked people who I met what they do for work in great detail. What does their day look like, what is their goal etc. As I’m in Sydney, most of the women I know tend to be in PR and marketing. I soon ended up in PR.

My goal was to get into an industry where I could eventually work for myself, set my own schedule, get a dog and work from home. Modelling I was in a different country most weeks so I couldn’t even get settled into a home. I wanted the opposite of that. I was quite sure that after 5 years in PR I would be trusted enough to be hired as a freelancer, thus giving me more flexibility.

So I slogged it out, I worked for a few companies, I learned a lot and developed a very thick skin. Then one day I had a business idea that I decided was worth quitting my job for.

I had no idea how I was going to make money while waiting for the Expert Hub website to be built but sometimes I am wise enough to spot an opportunity when it presents itself, and this was one of those times.

My first client, Ben Lucas from Flow Athletic approached me. I told him I just quit my job and he told me that he wants me to do his PR, so I had a client. Then around a week later a model who was launching an app approached me and asked about PR. Now I had two clients. Because I had a lot of free time, but didn’t yet know what to do with that free time, I worked 8am-8pm min every day on these two clients. I got them soooo much coverage that it attracted more clients. In less than a year, I was so stressed my hair started falling out and my entire body swelled up. Next thing you know I had to hire three staff with little to no thought put into it because I had no free time or brain capacity left and I needed help, here are my learnings:

 

If it suits you, listen to what the market is asking for

My goal was to have a tech platform that allows experts to more or less do their own PR. Bennett PR was never supposed to be a thing, but it turns out that is what most of my clients wanted. They wanted me to do the work for them.

Therefore I have prioritised the unexpected business over the one I set out to do and I did this for a few reasons.

  • It was needed
  • We get a lot of word of mouth referrals. The best thing about WOM when you work in an industry such as mine is that they already somewhat understand what I do. These are the best clients because the education process is done for you
  • It would also be more work for me to prioritise the business idea that less people know about as I would essentially have to start the education process from scratch

This tip won’t work for everyone, and some entrepreneurs are very specific in what they want to do. For me, I am happy to adapt if it makes sense

 

Get the right advisors

My biggest weakness is finances and tax. I simply don’t understand the breakdowns. I finally hired a book keeper who now does all that for me and tells me what to pay. Again, I didn’t set out to have staff so this was hugely stressful for me. Best money I ever spent

 

Give your team ownership over their tasks

There is a great book from Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Laif Babin called Extreme Ownership. As a business owner you have to take ownership for everything that happens in your business, but they also mention giving your staff ownership over their tasks so there is no question as to who is responsible for it.

My team know that if they need help to tell me by Wednesday morning. They feel safe putting their hand up if they need to, but because they have their own projects they also take pride in them and do their best. This approach has worked well for me and my team and as because I know they will speak up I don’t need to micromanage.

 

Determine what success means to YOU

As soon as I hired my staff, I started reading business books and chatting to other entrepreneurs who were in start-up phase.

Everyone was excited about being busy, hustling, opening offices and hiring.

While I was caught up in it at first, it soon filled me with dread. That’s not what I wanted. I don’t want to travel to an office every day and sit in board meetings. While I will quite happily work from 14-hour days, I want to be with my dog.

For 5 years I “hustled” and kept trying to get bigger and do more things. I recently decided not to launch my 3rd business idea as I was spreading myself too thin and to slightly downsize the agency. I’m much better off for it financially and sometimes I even have free time.

 

Do what you promised to do and/ or exceed expectations

We get 100% of our clients for BPR through word of mouth because we do a good job. We always try to over exceed on our promises. It is a lot easier to convert a client and get new business if your happy customers are talking about you than it is too cold call, explain what you do, then follow up in the hopes of getting a conversion. A happy client is a strong asset so keep them happy.

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