Friday, April 17, 2020

Small Business Survival - Control what you can, adapt to what you can't

A brutal business environment, which few of us have ever encountered

Owning and running a small business can be challenging at the best of times.

However, few business owners would have faced a more challenging business environment than the one we currently face in 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented government restrictions that have been introduced to limit spread of the virus, there is enormous uncertainty and even anxiety in the community.

Social distancing, the banning of social gatherings, the government push for us all to “stay at home”, the disruption to weddings, funerals, sporting events, the panic buying of some groceries and periods of empty shelves in supermarkets, the closing of national and interstate borders, the almost complete closure of schools and the global economic shockwaves that will reverberate for many years to come – all effects of the war on COVID-19.

There have been many small businesses that have been unable to survive in such a brutal and disruptive environment; consumer confidence is low and job losses have been high, despite the various federal government relief packages that have been introduced.

So let’s look for small business stories that can offer us some hope. Examples where businesses are finding a way to survive and deliver service to their customers.
  
Plan for the future, instead of worrying about it ...


John Tatterson runs ASA Financial Advisers, a small business located in the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne – but servicing clients all around the country. He leads a team of five staff and has been in the financial services industry for almost 20 years. After ten years of working in the business, he became a partner in the business – and subsequently was offered the opportunity to buy the business.

The essence of John’s business is about helping clients plan for the future. Helping them to get some clarity around their financial and lifestyle goals and formulate plans for building and managing wealth to achieve their goals. John has brought the same forward-thinking philosophy to the running of his business. His philosophy is simple, know what you can control and adapt to what you can’t. 

An added complexity to the business environment within which John operates is the nature of the industry itself. The Royal Commission into the Banking & Financial Services industry conducted in 2018 found numerous instances of where banks and financial advisers had behaved unethically. There was subsequently a serious loss of community confidence in the industry. Higher standards and new rules were legislated by the government as a consequence of the Commission’s findings.

John is proud however, that his firm has been abiding by those standards and principles since 2009, well before they were legislated.

I posed John some questions for our interview. He is a softly spoken family man (with two young daughters), who projects a calm and measured approach when discussing and reflecting on his experiences in managing a successful business.  This is what he had to share ……

1.   1. John, you’ve been in the business for almost 20 years and took over as Director and have been running the business now for about ten years. Stepping up from being an employee to the person owning and running a business can be quite a bold step. What was your motivation – why did you decide to take that risk?

Yes Brian, I must admit however that it didn’t occur through my initiation of the process, but rather it was the owner of the business who initiated it. He had been contemplating retirement for some time and he approached me to see if I would be interested in buying him out.  At the time I was very comfortable in my position as an employee, but I could see two potential benefits of taking the risk.  The first being the challenge - which is what attracted me the most. 

The second was being able to run my own ship and therefore alter the course of the business.  This allowed me to relocate the business to a part of Melbourne that I believed was under-resourced with the types of services which we offered. I was also able to develop and implement some longer term strategic alliances, which have provided us with a solid foundation upon which to further build the business over the past ten years………. So in summary, my motivation was the challenge, the opportunity to have more influence and the opportunities I perceived to further grow the business.

 .   2. Managing and operating a small business in these current times with all of the uncertainty and anxiety around COVID-19 is a huge challenge …… What have been some of the ways you’ve had to adjust the operation of your business – how have you needed to adapt?

The most obvious and biggest change we have needed to adjust for is social distancing both with staff and clients.  We quickly needed to purchase the appropriate equipment and software so all staff could work remotely from home. Thankfully we all use Voip phones so it was a matter of plugging our phones into the internet at home and it was all like we were in the office when using the phone system. 

We have also made great use of Microsoft teams to share ideas and files between staff.  In terms of clients, we are now using Zoom regularly for client meetings and Docusign to which allows clients to sign documents electronically.  We have also increased our communication with clients to keep them updated on market movements and also as a source of information on initiatives provided by the Government such as Jobseeker, Jobkeeper and small business support measures.  

   . 3. As an industry, the recent Royal Commission found that there were many financial advisers who were guilty of pushing a particular solution or plan in which they had a vested financial interest and yet failing to disclose their conflict of interest …… What advice would you offer to anyone who was considering consulting a financial adviser?

Thankfully since the Royal Commission basically all conflicts have been banned under the new Code of Ethics that came into force from 1st January 2020 - which is an initiative that my practice has very much welcomed.  My best advice in sourcing a Financial Adviser would be to do your research and find someone you trust.  If what they are saying is too good to be true (in terms of promised investment returns for example), then it probably is…… Ideally you should be looking at their education background (qualifications) and be prepared to ask your prospective adviser lots of questions. If they seem to be evasive or vague in their responses, then it’s probably a red flag. If they promise to get back to you to provide information and fail to do so – then you shouldn’t have to be chasing them up – and I’d suggest it’s another red flag.   

 .   4. Financial planning is something that many small business owners can sometimes neglect. What are some general tips for sound financial planning that you might share, relevant to small business operators?

The most common mistake that I see with small business operators is they don’t treat themselves as employees - they pay their own superannuation last which often means it gets missed.  The second mistake we see is not having the appropriate protections in place both from a legal and insurance perspective.  So my general tips would be to invest in yourself and your superannuation and also to protect yourself and your family, should things not work out.

 .   5. You have a small team of staff that you manage in your business. What have you learned about keeping a team motivated and building a customer service focused culture within your business?

The previous owner who I used to work with would say the worst thing an employee could say in a small business is “it’s not my job”.  I think this is what makes small teams unique and helps keep staff motivated - they need to be flexible enough to perform their core functions, but also willing to help other team members find answers when needed. 

I also empower staff to acknowledge to clients if we don’t have the answer, but we will do our best to then find out.  I never ever want one of my team to “bluff” or answer if they are not sure. I expect my staff to undertake their own independent research and to subsequently share their findings not just with their customer, but also with the rest of the team. 

One further lesson I’ve learned, is the importance of taking the time to recruit the right person when you have a vacancy to fill ……. Although technical skills are important in a job, what is just as crucial for me, is that any prospective staff member possess the right personal qualities. They must have integrity,  they need to project a professional manner, they need to be a good listener and they need to convince me that they want to keep learning and improving.

 .   6. What advice would you offer to someone who was contemplating starting up their own business?

You need to have a plan, you need to know why you are starting the business and you need to be able to adapt to change.  Your plan needs to be based upon sound research and not overly optimistic assumptions. You need to ensure there will be strong cash flow – I’ve seen too many great businesses and terrific ideas go under because of the strain of a lack of cash flow. 

The current Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how crucial strong cash flow and balances sheets are in managing periods of volatility.  You need to know why you are starting the business because if you are not 100% committed then you will find it difficult.  And lastly, you need to adapt to change because the economy and the environment is constantly changing and if you don’t keep learning and keep evolving, then your business will not grow.

 .   7. And finally, what advice would you share with small business owners who were themselves struggling to remain positive during these difficult times?

The message I keep affirming to both myself and my staff is that this Coronavirus pandemic is our generations version of a World War.  And it will eventually pass. If we can keep diligently working our way through this, adapt when we need to and get out the other side with a business that’s in solid shape, then we will be able to cope with anything else that the future might throw at us. 

One last thing I'd like to add Brian .....

The success we have been able to achieve in our business has been driven by building long term relationships with clients. This is achieved of course by knowing your stuff! But it's also about building trust by being reliable and consistent - in other words, always doing what you say you're going to do. When you surround yourself with good capable people in your business who share these same values, then things get easier....... Thanks for the opportunity to share some of our experience and learnings  - I hope it is of some help to your readers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Managing Your Small Business During COVID-19

Tips For Adapting and Coping With the Pandemic

Are you finding it hard to know how you can proactively manage your business during the corona-virus pandemic? Here's some suggestions ....

1. Understand your current financial position

It’s essential to make informed decisions about your business based on your current financial position. Pending restrictions imposed by government, your ability to trade through this period, pay outstanding debts, keep employees or meet existing leasing or loan repayments will be determined by your financial position. Contact your accountant to discuss the various options which may be available and make a plan as to what you need to do to minimise the impact on your business. Cash flow is critical, especially if your existing income and trade has been significantly disrupted by COVID-19.

2. Check your eligibility for government assistance

The Australian Government has announced several stimulus packages to help business owners manage the disruptions to their business. For sole traders, this includes access to the JobSeeker Payment, which now includes a coronavirus supplement payment and an increase in the income test for partners.

3. Contact your bank and insurer

A new loan deferral arrangement for small business owners is now in place. Contact your bank or financial lender to discuss this arrangement. We also recommend talking to your bank’s hardship team if you would like to discuss the options available if you need relief from any personal mortgages or loans. Visit the Australian Banking Association website for a list of hardship contacts for each bank.
On 2 April 2020, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted interim authorisation to insurance companies and brokers to offer payment deferrals and refunds to businesses impacted by COVID-19. The package allows existing eligible business customers suffering hardship to:
  • defer insurance premium payments for up to six months (for payments due before 30 June 2020)
  • request a refund for unused premiums for any policies they need to cancel as a result of the pandemic – without the cost of administration or cancellation fees
  • receive a credit or refund for unused travel insurance premiums, without the cost of an administration or cancellation fee
The interim authorisation applies to Suncorp, Allianz, QBE Insurance as well as any other insurers or insurance brokers who choose to take part, as long as they notify the ACCC.

4. Communicate with your stakeholders

It’s important to communicate to all your stakeholders about what is happening with your business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have staff, they need to understand what your plans and the likely impact on them. Be as calm and clear in what you are telling them as possible.
Follow up all your debtors to try and get any overdue payments in. You may need to consider negotiating, based on what they are able to pay in the current circumstances. Also communicate with your creditors to see what payments you may be able to defer. Review your trading terms to ensure that you obtain upfront payments (where possible) or a deposit for any new orders.
Keep your customers updated about your services, for example if your business is affected by restrictions, ensure you communicate as early as possible what this means for them.

5. Seek advice on deferring tax payments

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) can grant you a deferral of certain tax obligations if your business is impacted by COVID-19. Call the ATO on 1800 806 218 or speak to your tax professional to discuss your options. Deferring payments may impact on your eligibility for other stimulus package options, so seek professional advice.

6. See if your business can still operate

As the government has announced expanded restrictions to business activity and travel, check our list of the latest restrictions to see if your business can keep operating or if there are any changes you need to make to fit in with these mandatory requirements.

7. Understand your options in relation to employees.

Familiarise yourself with your obligations as an employer. Information is available through Fair Work (for businesses under the national industrial relations system). This information also covers issues such as when you might be able to stand down employees, redundancy information and changing work hours.
On 30 March, a $1500 per fortnight JobKeeper Payment was announced by the Federal Government to support employers in retaining their employees. One of the eligibility criteria is that you are able to demonstrate that your business has suffered at least a 30% drop in revenue due to the pandemic.

8. Consider whether you can draw on your superannuation

If you are a sole trader whose hours of work or income has fallen by 20 per cent or more as a result of the pandemic, the Federal Government is allowing you to access your superannuation. This is capped at $10,000 this financial year and a further $10,000 next financial year. The withdrawals will be tax free.

9. Reach out for support 

This is an important time to reach out to your networks for support and advice. Being able to identify ways in which you can at least exercise some control over your situation is good for your positive mental health. Keep communicating and stay connected with your support networks and speak with other small business owners to share ideas and explore possible opportunities for more innovative practices. 


You don’t have to work through this alone - don’t allow pride to stop you from reaching out and asking for help if you need it. The last thing you want to be doing is bottling up any feelings of anxiety or despair. Open up and share your feelings with people who care about you - be it co-workers, family or friends. This pandemic will eventually pass + not tomorrow, nor next month ..... but at some point it will pass. 

Yes, you must step back and possibly make some hard decisions in assessing the viability of your business moving forward. But what is even more important, more integral to your ability to lead your business through this crisis, is that you take steps to maintain your own personal physical and mental health. You need to ensure any decisions you are going to make about the future of your business are coming from a place of reasoned judgment- and not one ruled by anxiety nor fear. And if you’re looking for some quick tips on how to boost your drive and energy, check out Self-Motivation
Stay up to date with all the government announcements and any rule changes at Business.gov.au

Sunday, September 1, 2019

If you're an Australian small business, should you prepare for a 2020 recession?

The real risk of a recession in Australia

In an opinion piece written for the Financial Review on Aug 29, 2019, the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argues that Australia has a one-in-three chance of entering a recession in 2020. 

He points to various geopolitical and global economic forces which can impact on Australia and cause a significant economic downturn.
  1. The escalating U.S-China trade war
  2. The likelihood of a hard Brexit, with no trade agreement being reached between the U.K and Europe
  3. An extended  10 year period of growth in the U.S economy, with fears a long overdue correction may be imminent
  4. A near-crippling amount of debt in European countries such as Greece and Spain
  5. Escalating tensions between the U.S and Iran
  6. In 2019, a ballooning U.S federal deficit approaching a staggering $1 trillion
  7. Stock markets becoming increasingly nervous and fragile to any bad news. 
Rudd says that the global storm clouds which are gathering require some major government policy shifts - only then could a recession be avoided. But besides Rudd, there are many other commentators who warn of a coming global recession. 

Here is a headline warning written in the Guardian in early August, 2019 -

Here is another headline from a recent August 2019 New York Times article - 


The risk of course, is that once enough people start believing that a recession is imminent - then it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consumers become excessively cautious and conservative in their spending - impacting upon business sales, cash flow and profit.

Having said that, we cannot ignore that the Chief Economist of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Stephen Walters, in a recent speech delivered to Melbourne University's Faculty of Business, said this - 
"The only uncertainty surrounding an impending recession in Australia is when it will happen"
Here is a short video recently produced by Finderrec.com, warning of the risks of a recession for Australia  in 2020 and describing seven signals which point to it -



So what does this all mean to you as a small business owner? .... The formal definition of a recession is commonly taken to refer to "two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth"

What tends to happens in a recession?
  1. Jobs disappear, and the unemployment rate rises. 
  2. Entrepreneurs have trouble getting the financing they need to start new businesses
  3. With less disposable income rattling around the economy, existing businesses may be forced to close their doors. 
  4. Those that stay open are much less likely to expand their operations or otherwise make new investments. 
  5. Real estate values may fall, even though monthly mortgage payments stay the same. People who lose their jobs may lose their homes, too. 
  6. The stock market collapses, wreaking havoc on investment portfolios and retirement accounts. 
Small business tips for surviving a recession

So what can you do? ...... Let's not over-react or panic - it would be way to premature to say go and buy up stocks of gold for currency, sell your stamp collection and go live in the hills. ....... However, some common sense steps are still warranted to prepare your business for a potential major economic downturn -
  1. As afar as reasonable, reduce discretionary expenditure
  2. Start squirrelling away some of the current business profits to save for leaner times that might lie ahead.
  3. Consider whether it might be prudent to delay major capital outlays, such as the purchase of new equipment. Or perhaps consult with your accountant as to whether leasing rather than buying new equipment might be the wiser option, given the economic uncertainty surrounding next year.
  4. Improve cash flow by chasing up sooner any outstanding invoices - and consider offering customers a small discount as an incentive for earlier payment
  5. Review inventory levels and see if reduced stock levels might be appropriate for some stock
  6. Work hard at keeping your customers - let them know you appreciate their loyalty. Look at ways of rewarding loyal customers. Look at ways of adding extra value to your customers, before you ever look at lowering prices.
  7. If you need to reduce labour costs, consider reducing hours rather than cutting staff (although ensure all members of the team truly are working productively)
  8. Be open with your staff. Explain the challenges the business faces. But be optimistic that you will get through the downturn together - and ask your staff to look for any opportunities where the business can operate more efficiently
Worrying won't help

There's no point worrying about global forces that are beyond your control. It would be unhealthy to become anxious and panic about the prospect of a recession in 2020........ Besides, nothing is certain here - but when the weather radar starts indicating storm clouds are heading your way, then it's usually wise to at least prepare to take a raincoat out with you.

There are some simple things that you can do now in your business that aren't too radical.  Small actions you can take - that will help you to prepare and position your business for a potential economic downturn next year. ....... And remember too, that any downturn will always be a temporary one - and that opportunities for growth and expansion will eventually follow.

In business, if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's this ..... There is a time for boldness - and a time for prudence. Success partly relies upon judging the circumstances that you will be facing - and then acting accordingly. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thinking about buying or selling a business? Read this


I An online marketplace that makes buying & selling a small business easy


If you are an entrepreneur thinking about either buying or selling a business, then this article will offer some great tips that can make the process a lot easier for you.

I It's a big decision that will have ramifications both for you and your family, so you want to make sure whatever you’re doing is for the right reasons. There can be a lot of emotion around the prospect of either exiting or buying a business – and you need to ensure that both “head” and not just “heart” are playing an equal part in any course of action you decide to take.

 There are many decision points in the process – whether to use a broker for example, how to estimate the value of a business, what type of settlement period to negotiate, the size of any deposit that will be required, the extent of training that should accompany a sale, any arrangements that must be made for existing staff – and when and how customers should be advised about new owners.

 One online global platform that connects potential business buyers with sellers is BusinessesForSale.com …… It is not the only online portal for buying and selling a business, however it is a very popular one and has tens of thousands of small and medium sized businesses listed. Whether you are wanting to buy or sell a cafe, a beauty salon, a garage, a franchise or maybe a graphic design or landscaping business for example – then it’s a marketplace option that you should consider.

I I recently posed some questions to Faye Ferris, the Marketing Director of BusinessesForSale

 1.   What are the potential benefits of buying an existing small business versus establishing one yourself?
There are many potential benefits of buying a business that’s already in operation instead of trying to set everything up yourself. Many of the initial decisions that can cripple some business owners have already been decided, such as name, location, logo, products, and services. Of course, as a new owner, you can choose to make changes, but you may not need to do that to actually start operating. Often taking over an existing business means you start your endeavour with staff, customers, suppliers, stock, and systems already in place, so the potential to start making profit is there from day one. By purchasing an operating business, you are eliminating one of your competitors, and with a financial record of the business, attaining loans and projecting income can be a much easier process which makes planning and expanding a lot easier.

  2.   What are some of the different formulas that are used to estimate the “fair value” of a business?
      There are a lot of different ways for the valuation process to go, but they all have some common threads. If you are thinking of getting your business valued, you’ll need to know the history of the business and have thorough records/information on your employees, on the legal and commercial contracts and obligations you have, your business’ finances, as well as the market and industry as a whole. Once you have that information, here are a couple of formulas you could use:
·        Comparable Business-Based Evaluation: With this method, it is difficult to get an exact amount, but it might be good for determining an approximate figure—which is helpful when assessing businesses to buy or when considering if you should sell.
·        Discretionary Income-Based Valuation: This is basically taking and projecting what the owner’s income is and therefore what the future owner’s income could be, calculating return on investment.  
·        Multiplier Valuation by Sales: This method uses the industry multiple your business is in. It then multiples that amount by the business’ gross sales. For example, if gross sales are $80,000, and the multiple is 0.4—you’d have a valuation of $32,000.
      Other formulas and more in-depth explanations can be found in this article, and it should be noted that things like goodwill are hard to attach a financial value to, so I suggest having a professional valuer or a business broker involved in the process. .

  3.   What are some of the risks and traps of buying an ongoing business?
      While it may seem easier to buy an ongoing business rather than starting up from scratch, (and it usually is), you need to make sure you do your research. As well as taking on all the good of the business, it’s possible to also inherit the bad. If the business has a bad reputation with customers or suppliers, it could be difficult to turn that around. Conversely, the previous owners may have had a great relationship with suppliers/landlords, etc., and been getting a better deal than you will be offered as a new owner. There may be a temptation to not make any decisions or changes to a profitable business, but as each person’s leadership and management style is different, there will be inevitable changes/differences. The smart small business owner will be ready to change and adapt processes and systems to better suit the new management.

  4.   For those small business owners who are looking to exit their business and to sell either through a broker or an online platform, what advice would you offer?
Once you’ve decided that selling your business is the right move for you, the next step would be to decide if you should use a professional or not. Doing it yourself will obviously take more time, and you would need to familiarise yourself with your legal obligations and government requirements. The reason most people would choose to do it alone is financial, but you may be surprised and find that the cost of a professional broker isn’t as high as you’d think. The Australian government recommends AIBBbrokers, and I recommend this guide for helping you choose the individual broker that is right for you.

Whatever method you choose for selling your business, there are two pieces of advice that I would like to give: Take care of yourself and take care of your employees. A change like this is almost always at least a little bit unsettling and stressful for both the business owner and the employees. As the business owner, not only do you have to deal with all the legal and financial decisions while trying to get things in order, but also you have to say goodbye to something that has likely taken up a lot of your time and energy. For your employees, their routine and future have become more uncertain and unknown because they won’t know what changes are coming their way. Do what you can to go easy on yourself and others, communicate well, and try to make it a smooth management transfer in addition to a successful paperwork transfer.

  5.   Finally, tell us a bit about your online platform, BusinessesForSale.com – and why a small business owner or a budding entrepreneur should consider using your site …… and how they would go about it?
Faye Ferris, Marketing Director 
When selling a business, I think you want it to have the best chance of getting in front of the highest number of potential buyers. For over 20 years, we have been helping business brokers and private sellers market their listings. From cafes to construction businesses, some of our most exciting business opportunities have included the makers of Big Ben's clock, a Chinese toll road, a crocodile farm in Thailand, and even a tropical island! We have become the world's largest marketplace, advertising 75,206 businesses for sale in over 130 countries with more than 1.5 million buyers visiting our site every month looking to buy a business. We also have guides and resources on the site to help you sell, buy, and run a business in Australia.

We rank on the first page of Google for thousands of search terms, so there's really no better place, in my opinion, to advertise when selling your business. The audience alone makes this an amazing platform. But there are also other great reasons to advertise with us, such as we do not earn a commission, and there are no hidden charges for you. 

You simply choose a package and only pay the one-off fee; plus, you can cancel at any time without penalty. The process of listing is very quick and easy; you can add your business for sale in less than 10minutes. We'll email you each time a buyer is interested and store their details in your online account for easy access. When it comes to buying a business, I think you want to see the largest range of options available to you...so for all the reasons that make BusinessesForSale.com the best place to list your business, they also make it the best place to buy a business. 

Thanks to Faye Ferris, for sharing some of her experience with us and offering some great practical tips on buying and selling a business. . Also, a related article that might be of interest is Dare To Be An Entrepreneur

Friday, August 17, 2018

An Entrepreneur Who Knows Her Why - business serving a higher purpose


Kortney Olson , founder of the GRRRL  brand
Kortney Olson is carving out a niche space in the multi-billion dollar industry of women’s active / leisure wear. She is the founder and dynamic CEO of “GRRRL”, a brand that reflects a spirit of physicality, independence and authenticity.

Traditional sportswear brands tend to target women of “standard” sizes, whereas the GRRRL brand caters for women of all sizes and their marketing specifically features women of large plus sizing.

Like any entrepreneur, Kortney’s motivation and determination in establishing and growing her business is fuelled by a vision – but it is one that is deeply rooted in driving social change and female empowerment. The brand is associating itself with leading female ambassadors from sports that include weightlifting, martial arts and body-building. High profile brand ambassadors (such as Holly Holman, the UFC mixed martial arts champion) get on board because they share the same values of inspiring women to become more self-accepting of their body image.
"We want women to find the awesome and extraordinary within themselves”
The company’s tagline “It’s Time to Change the Game” speaks for what the business stands for. The website explains “…..Our clothes won’t change the world, but the women who wear them will….. We want women to find the awesome and extraordinary within themselves”

A brand that says to women - "Be true to who you are"
Since the establishment of the business in 2015, growth has been phenomenal - with over 30,000 customers spread across more than 20 countries. 

Kortney established the business as a means of generating funding for her “Kamp Konfidence”, a training and personal development program that aims to inspire teenage girls to develop stronger foundations of self-respect and self-love. 

The incidence of suicide and self-harm amongst teenage girls is alarming and Kortney believes this can be reduced through educating young people to develop their skills in resilience, assertiveness and self-esteem, so they are more capable of with-standing peer group pressures that exist around drugs, sexuality, bullying and body-image.

Kortney’s passion is encouraging women to stop looking for acceptance and approval outside of themselves and instead find it within. Her zeal is partly fuelled by her own early struggles with depression, drugs and rape. She readily admits that for several years she seriously lost her way and was barely surviving in a deeply dark place - but eventually regained a sense of direction, faith and clarity of purpose in her life.

Strong is the new pretty at GRRRL
Kortney is using these experiences to connect with young women who may be facing similar struggles and she seeks to inspire them with the confidence to follow their dreams. 

Kortney agreed to share some of the lessons, tips and insights she has gained so far as an entrepreneur who is building a successful business (which recently featured in Forbes magazine). However she explains it is a business whose higher goal is more than just making a profit .....I asked her 5 questions –
1   
      1. Running and growing a business takes a lot of stamina and inner fortitude. You were a professional athlete Kortney, and perhaps thereby possessed the benefit of bringing an ability to focus and persevere to your business. But what about other aspiring entrepreneurs, what advice would you offer them for getting through the difficult times?

That’s a great question Brian.  I believe my dogged attitude actually comes from something other than having an athletic background.  It comes from being a recovered drug addict/alcoholic!  Upon completing treatment, many of us still carry traits of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  I realised a long time ago that I could turn that OCD into something incredibly powerful. 

Recovering alcoholics and addicts are often given labels by society – and a social stigma will often accompany this – however we don’t have to allow these to hold us back.  For me, it was about a flip of perspective – turning a weakness into a strength. 

An integral part of my growth as a business owner has been accompanied by my commitment to personal growth and self-development.  Something I found incredibly helpful back in early 2015, was taking the “natural gift assessment”.  As part of an intensive self-improvement program, I learned that we are all born with various inherent gifts and that I have 3 “primary” gifts ….. The gift of Encouragement (explains why people like and trust me); The gift of Evangelism (explains why if I have love or belief in something or someone, then the world is going to know about it), and the third (which apparently is rare to have as a primary gift) is The gift of Giving. 

The gift of giving means that when I see a problem in the world, it’ll keep me up at night until I see that it’s fixed.  I have come to believe that if we are able to understand what our primary natural born gifts are, then we can harness these powers to our benefit (and to the benefit of others around us) - and better understand the reason why we are programmed the way we are.

Also let me add Brian, I have recently found myself being invited to speak at business conferences, and I have developed a keynote speech which I call “Goals Not Controls”.  In a nutshell, I share my experience that as entrepreneurs many of us often get TOO caught up in all of the details of what we think things are supposed to look like - right down to the very smallest detail.  Instead, as we learn to focus more on the overall end result, and less upon the means of achieving that result, we free ourselves up for the possibility that sometimes the Universe will have a different plan for how we will get there.

     2. What have you learned about surrounding yourself with the right team of people, in order to grow a successful business?

Yes, surrounding yourself with positive, uplifting people is CRUCIAL!  I believe we eventually become the sum of the 5 top people we most hang around with....

Since I’ve been in Singapore, I’ve been searching for mentors to help guide and direct me because I know how important this is.  I am convinced that the growth of my business is directly proportional to my on-going growth as a human being ….. and the people with whom I most regularly associate with will influence my learning and growth …..  

In my business (and my life), I want people around me who possess strengths and qualities that complement my own, people whom I can trust – and people who ultimately help to bring out the best in me.  

I recall reading once that Warren Buffet said that when he was hiring senior people to join his business, there were three qualities he particularly looked for – Intelligence, Drive and Integrity. But above all – he regarded integrity as the quality that he valued most.

     3The “GRRRL” brand is carving out a real niche in the women’s active/leisure wear industry. You have built a HUGE social media following …. What marketing advice would you offer to small business owners – who typically however are operating with a very limited marketing budget.

We’ve bootstrapped this brand to the moon and back.  It may surprise you that we spend very little on marketing - in fact, less than 5%. 

What people are drawn to, is authenticity……  I believe we’re at a tipping point where people are really starting to cut through the nonsense and wake up to who genuinely resonates with them and helps them see-through all of the “smoke and mirrors”.
For me, business is about showing up on a consistent basis.

With social media, it’s about putting myself out there in ALL states which has really spoken to my audience and enabled me to connect with them.  I don’t sugar coat anything.  I’ve posted pictures of myself crying in complete and utter frustration. …… Even though I once had a mentor tell me that leaders don’t show emotion and cry, I have made a conscious decision to always keep it real.  For me, authenticity is the way forward.

      4. What would you say has been one of the major hurdles you’ve had to overcome in your business journey so far – and what did you learn?

The biggest hurdle has been cash flow.  It’s probably a headache that many other owners of small and medium size businesses can relate to!

At this point in the growth of my business, ever cent is going back into inventory…… But- one thing I have learned is this – the power of prayer and trusting that the Universe has a plan……. I believe that as long as my business goals are such that others will gain benefit – as opposed to goals that are purely about self-benefit, then I believe that the Universe will provide me with the necessary means for achieving my goals. This faith has kept me showing up time and time again. 

When I say the word “prayer”, I’m not necessarily meaning in a religious context.  I know that it can be a loaded word, carrying connotations of some type of “God”. 

But even an atheist can simply look around and keep an open mind that there is SOMETHING else out there beyond this material world that we have access to if we ask for help.  Every entrepreneur should read the classic book Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  It’s here he talks about “the ether”.  It’s this ether that I refer to as “The Universe”. 

I do not wish to sound like a zealot. But at the end of the day, all I know is that for me, there is a God, and I am NOT it. 

If I show up on a daily basis, and ask this higher power (God, or whatever you want to call it) for guidance, and to show me how to serve humanity through my business, and not my selfish, self-centred ego -  then things always seem to have a way of eventually working out. 

It also takes some of the pressure off of me personally, as I believe there is a “higher power” that can help guide and inspire me in the way I run my business (and my life) which can enable me to better serve our planet.

      5. Kortney, so much of what you are doing with “GRRRL” and “Kamp Konfidence” is motivated by your passion for women’s empowerment….. Do you believe that an entrepreneur can succeed if their motivation is solely about making money by providing a “solution to a problem”, or does it need to be more than that?

Providing a solution to a problem is the fundamental premise of how business has been done for the last 100 years.  If you’ve watched the recent film “The Founder” about the McDonalds Brothers and Ray Kroc, I think it reveals a lot about the most basic principles of traditional business.  Value is in the eye of the customer; quality is about maintaining an expected standard consistently; and ensure the customer and accessibility is kept at the forefront of all product development decisions. In addition to these basic business principles, the film also displayed how the pursuit of profit could sometimes be ruthless – presenting Kroc as someone who eventually cared more about money than the relationship he had originally built with the brothers.

However I think we have seen some shifts in the business landscape over the past ten years …… There has been an emergence of brands like GRRRL – and also for example, Tesla and The Body Shop, which exist for a purpose greater than just solving a problem and turning a profit. ….. Whilst we are solving a problem, it’s a much higher level problem than just plugging a gap in the marketplace and meeting a consumer need. At its core, there is a cherished vision of a social benefit that is driving the business – which is one that I believe our customers, associates and staff can all genuinely become engaged with.  

Each of us must find our own way.... For me, building a business that is as much about serving a "Higher Purpose" as it is about being profitable, has provided me with a sense of meaning and personal fulfilment that I had been searching for in my life. 

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Kortney.  You can find out more  about the GRRRL story at - https://www.grrrl.com/au/  More information about the self-empowerment workshops that Kortney Olson runs for teenage girls can be found at Kamp Konfidence on Facebook - enquiries from potential new corporate sponsors for the workshops are always welcome.

Other articles that might be of interest - The Inner Game of Business and also How To Flourish - lessons from positive psychology