Lanna Hill, Director of ne Small Step Business Coaching specialises in business planning, strategy and sales education for SME’s across Australia. Lanna’s mission is to empower her clients with the education and inspiration they need to achieve their business (and personal) goals.
The two core pillars of her business reflect her specialties – business planning, strategy & sales – and the key messages to her clients and wider community is that these things are critical to business success and need not be scary, boring or inauthentic.
Lanna is all about helping her clients realise their dreams are achievable and when she isn’t doing that, she is running her household alongside her 3 year old and nine month old children!
What is the vision for your business?
My long-term vision is to be an ambassador for entrepreneurship and small business, and continue to empower, educate and inspire my community to take charge of their business success and reach their potential. I’d love to continue my coaching as well as speaking at industry events and seminars across Australia, and continue and expand my media involvement. I am particularly passionate about providing a voice for women in business and young entrepreneurs, and driving a movement towards more values-based businesses and brands across the country. I feel so fortunate in my role to be at the ‘coal face’ of the startup space – I hear so many exciting business ideas and the thing I love about small business owners is that they genuinely want to make a difference to the world around them. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it!
What did you want to be when you left school? Did you study?
I actually wanted to be in musical theatre (I did a lot of singing and drama during my time in high school). But I decided to be “sensible” and took myself off to university instead, studying Commerce. I do remember though that I always liked the idea of being in “business”. I got two thirds of the way through my degree and needed to take some time off, and applied for a temp role working for a FMCG manufacturer when I was 19. I never went back and finished my degree, which I do somewhat regret! However, 10 years later I was living in Sydney, in a national strategic sales role for the same FMCG company. So it was a decision that did end up paying off for me professionally! My decade of corporate experience has been pivotal to the success of One Small Step, and I often reflect on the valuable lessons I learnt during that time. However, my passion is definitely now with small business!
Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?
There have definitely been some major hurdles along the way, and I don’t think you ever stop having to deal with bumps along the entrepreneurial journey – you just get better at dealing with them! In terms of what has helped me overcome my professional and personal challenges, I am very ambitious and self-motivated, and have always set mini goals for myself, even as a kid! These goals have driven me over time, and help in keeping my eye on the prize and staying motivated. I’m also a big fan of reflecting on life’s challenges and taking as much learning as you can from them. As the saying goes, you either win, or you learn, and I genuinely believe that. Some of the most challenging moments in my professional career ended up being some of the most pivotal. I’m generally a pretty positive person and try to see the best in any situation. Having said that, owning your own business is tough – I can now say that I never fully appreciated the benefits of being an employee until I started my own business! But I can also say, hand on heart, that I am one of those annoying people that truly love what they do. I definitely feel that I’m doing what I was meant to do.
Were there any major changes you have made to your initial business model?
Not any significant changes, as I really did my homework before I launched the business – I knew what my brand was going to stand for, who my target market was and how I could add value in the market. I have pivoted slightly to focus on larger SME’s, and I am always looking at ways to be more efficient and accessible. Being a solo operator is tough as you are so limited by what you can physically do! So scaling my business whilst still maintaining my commitment to providing the best service I can is a juggle I am very mindful of.
What do you think was the biggest mistake you made in business?
I would have to say my biggest lesson in business is something that is ongoing for me – and that is not allowing myself to think big. I mean, really big – like if there were no barriers, where would I want my business to be in 5 or 10 years. I realised that last year, that I was actually holding myself back from really succeeding because I was too focused on the practical and tangible. It is really important to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground in business, however you’ve got to allow yourself to have your head in the clouds every once in a while. I’ve achieved things in my business in the last two years that I would have thought were totally unrealistic – which is a lesson to me to not let my practical, logical side get in the way of dreaming big!
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Well obviously I will be a bit biased in my answer here – but my first piece of advice would be do your homework. Do your business plan! Having a great strategy and action plan is just so critical to not only your business success but your longevity as a small business owner. Being a startup means lots of hard work – and having a great plan is going to make it so much easier to get ahead. Secondly, I would say build relationships in your community, as deep and as wide as you can. Reach out to your peers, to the business owners you look up to, and of course to your customers. Whilst we live in a digital age, relationships are still what business is built on. And thirdly, try and remember to pace yourself (although I am terrible at this). It’s a long game – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
How have you personally measured your success?
I think of success as a moving target, and as I mentioned I’m someone who is continually setting (and chasing after!) goals. Every 12 months I set myself a new set of professional and personal goals that I want to achieve, and I generally do this in the second half of the calendar year, so by the end of the year I already know what I’m aiming for the year after. Having that mental list of stuff I’m chasing really helps me in day to day decision making and prioritising. So whilst I am very driven as a business person, given that I have two young children I am also very mindful of enjoying this time with them and being a present parent. I don’t always get it right (in fact, often I don’t get it right!) but my personal goals are just as important to me as my business goals. So the way I measure success is basically how close to, or how many of my goals I achieve over time. And it’s not all about world domination – far from it! A lot of my personal goals are just small but significant things I want to do more of, or less of, that make a difference to my wellbeing and/or my families wellbeing. That’s the trick with goal setting – it needs to be meaningful and achievable, otherwise you won’t be motivated enough to do something different.
How do you make the most of your day?
Coffee! Haha! I generally have a weekly and monthly list of to do’s as well as strategic goals that help me stay on track and not get too bogged down in the reactive stuff. I started outsourcing some of my business tasks late last year and that has made a huge difference to me, as I don’t have a team. I will continue to outsource as my business grows. I think too, when you become a mother you are forced to become so much more effective – I’ve become pretty good at utilising every spare second to reply to emails, return phone calls, check social media etc. And I’ve learnt not to sweat stuff like keeping the house spotless!! In fact let’s be real, I’ve never been one of those Martha Stewart types. But what I mean is, my two main priorities are my kids and my business. Everything else is secondary. If the difference between getting to hang out with my kids or not is ignoring the never ending loads of washing, then so be it!
Do you have any tips for those struggling to gain a successful work life balance?
I must admit, I have a very poor work/life balance at the moment, however I do have a three year old and a 9 month old! My biggest tip would be to know the things that revitalise you – whether that be a quiet bath, reading a book, meditation or exercise. And just try and incidentally fit that stuff in whenever you can. Exercise has always been the thing that makes the biggest difference to my mental & emotional wellbeing, and I know I’m not fitting in anywhere near enough of it! I’m also a huge advocate of having business priorities, obviously for the business benefits but the personal benefits are also huge. Having clarity and direction makes such a huge difference – which is why I love working with small business owners! We live and breathe our businesses – so it makes sense that investing some time and energy in having a great plan will have lots of positive flow on effects in your personal life.
How has your family impacted your business venture?
Enormously! My children were the reason I decided to get into small business in the first place. I love that I can get so much fulfilment out of what I do, yet still get to spend lots of time with my kids during the week. I will say though, that it is very hard to balance my ambitious, entrepreneurial side with my more nurturing, maternal side! My family has always been very supportive and believed in me and my goals, which means the world.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I would have to say ourselves. I mean, I think gender bias is still alive and well in Australia, and particularly in big business. I have worked in very male dominated industries and it is hard – you feel like you always have to work harder to prove yourself and get ahead. But I think a lot of the time women are their own worst enemies. Having the courage to go after your own success, with no apologies, is something that we need to get a lot better at. Whether the cause is nature or nurture, women still get caught up in looking after and worrying about everyone else, and doubting themselves. I’m never going to stop thinking about my family and friends, but I try not to waste energy and valuable mental space on second guessing myself these days. It’s been a long road though, and it’s continually evolving! I am optimistic that things will continue to get better over time and as the business world changes and evolves. Educating our young men on the changes we need to see in the world is just as important as educating our young women, too!