Lauren Lowe is the Operations Director of Future Fitouts, a Brisbane-based commercial fitout company specialising in transforming commercial spaces. She and her husband, Aaron founded the company in 2010 from their kitchen bench. Since then, the company has grown to a well-known and recognised brand in the Brisbane fitout industry and continually delivers inspiring works spaces for clients.
She is a 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards finalist, a finalist in the 2018 Telstra Business Awards and a winner in the 2018 Top 200 Westpac’s Businesses of Tomorrow.
Bullying she experienced early in her career was one of the significant turning points that led her to where she is today.
But as Lauren says, “I’ve always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and business owner. At the age of 12 I started my first business –weeding out natural vegetation along the fronts of canal frontage homes. In the first 12 months I earned $1,200 and had weekly bookings and employed the neighbourhood children. I thought I’d found something that did a great community service and that earned an income, but after a couple of years the local council sent me a letter instructing me to stop because removing the vegetation isn’t allowed!”
I’ve always been a strong believer in myself, I think self-belief is incredibly important, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Similarly, resilience, a strong mindset and positivity are immensely valuable and attributes that get your through the touch times. I’ve also been very lucky to have supportive parents and a supportive husband.
Lauren’s advice for women that are experiencing workplace bullying…
I’ve learned that there is no need to put up with any kind of workplace bullying or mistreatment of any kind. I probably put up with it for way too long and when I finally left I realised that it’s not like that everywhere. I think I stuck at it for too long because I loved my job, and it was the people who made it so hard and difficult. But I didn’t realise that I could get the satisfaction (and more) of doing a great job elsewhere, in a much better environment.
We use the philosophy at Future Fitouts that there is a perfect job for everybody, but that perfect position may not be where you are currently or think it is.
Lauren’s husband is the Co-Founder of the business, naturally we wanted to know how she finds the right balance working with him…
Good question! Aaron and I were very clear when we started in business together that we would have separate roles and responsibilities, and this I think, has enabled us to be so successful. We argue sometimes, of course – we are married after all! But usually it’s when the other person is trying to make decisions on a topic that is in the other person’s area. So, we pull ourselves and each other up when this happens because maintaining that respect is very important for the success of the business and for our relationship.
We have always worked with a business coach which is also invaluable as they are an outsider looking in, seeing the big picture from both sides and can remove the emotion from the decision-making process.
Another ‘secret to success’, if you like, is that we occasionally holiday separately. Because we live together and work together and raise a child together, sometimes we need a couple of weeks apart doing our own thing, and we find that is very restorative for ourselves personally and professionally and a chance to ‘miss each other’.
Her business combines profit and purpose with several initiatives – for every new enquiry received, Future Fitouts provides a meal to a rescued Australian animal, for every new proposal, a brick to a school in Kenya, and for every project complete, they save one square metre of rainforest in the Daintree. We asked Lauren if she believes more Australian businesses should look at this model.
Absolutely, the Buy 1 Give 1 model is a gamechanger. They’ve created a platform where it’s so easy for a company to make a positive social impact without compromising their bottom line. It’s about every business, no matter their size, doing what they can in whatever way they can. Not only that, it’s also incredibly good for company culture because we all feel so good knowing that the work we do has a higher purpose.
The best decision Lauren has made in business…
People are such a big and important asset in business. Knowing when you’ve got the wrong people and having the courage to let them go is crucial. So too is identifying the right people for your business and if you have to, creating a role for them so they can join the team.
Also, I’m very proud of the systems I’ve built from the ground up. Creating processes and systems may seem arduous to some, but I enjoy the process and see the power in having best practice documented and followed every time. It’s one of the things that enables us to deliver on our promise of a stress-free high-quality experience for our clients. As an extension of this, I also think it’s important to trust staff not just to follow processes but to also contribute fresh thinking because diverse perspectives create deeper insights and more robust outcomes.
Finally, surrounding yourself with the best team of consultants, suppliers and business relationships can accelerate your business in the right direction.
The top three skills Lauren says you need to be a successful entrepreneur…
1) Have some appetite for risk
2) Trust your gut: if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and
3) Expect to work hard. The notion of working two days a week on an island is a myth! (and always be positive!).
How she personally measures her success…
Success to me is not defined by the amount of money in your bank or material assets. It’s about how you are as a leader and how you inspire other people. Plus, I believe in being well-rounded. Success to me is having balance in the important things: health, relationships, business, community involvement, friendships, and children. Having a great business at the expense of relationships is not success.
I set clear goals in all areas of my life and am conscious of dedicating time to each of them (easier said than done, especially with a young child). I take my hat off to all the working mums! They are the definition of success.
The company Lauren admires the most?
I admire two types of companies. First there are those that have incredible processes and systems in place to ensure consistency and quality at scale, like Boost Juice and McDonalds. And then, of course, I’m attracted to businesses that are doing more than maximising profit. They make a positive social impact and do so while growing their people, pushing their limits and boundaries of what is the norm, like the ThankYou Group and Who Gives a Crap.
It’s important to have women around you that allow you to thrive, these are the ones in Lauren’s corner…
My mum, definitely. She was a stay at home mum and she always inspired me and my sister to do our best at everything and she really believed we can do anything that we set our mind to. These days she continues to provide me with that emotional support but also plenty of practical support as well in the way of looking after my 3-year-old daughter when I have urgent work deadlines.
Plus, I’m fortunate to work with some incredible women in a very encouraging and supportive work environment and I’m also surrounded by other female business owners in my network who all understand what we’re all going through.