Our Fearless Leader & Director Virginia Brookes was featured in this month's edition of LATTE by Business Chicks talking all things business and entrepreneurship. Here's what she had to say in case you missed it!
What's a quote you live by?
Nothing ventured nothing gained – I apply it to every aspect of my life!
What's the toughest business challenge you've faced, and what did you learn along the way?
This would have to have been the Real Estate downturn last year, it was tough to get deals done in my recruitment space. I was dealing with competitors who were dropping fees significantly; I had a long term staff member leave who did the wrong thing and cost me a considerable chunk of money and clients were trying to save money in every way they could. Cash in our business was tighter than it had been in many years and some clients were being pretty rotten with paying. We took the time to go through every aspect of the business and reinvented parts, cut parts and changed technology. We have also diversified in several ways, it was a strong realisation that you shouldn't be too niche!
What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
Invest your money more when you are making loads of it. I had a great time in my 30's with loads of holidays, designer wardrobes etc but only put away small chunks of money. If you have a highly profitable business, invest large amounts wisely and spend minimally. Everyone told me this, but what did they know? Apparently, I knew best! It was only in my mid 30's I started to invest wisely!
What have you learnt about growing a business?
It is hard to grow a business while you are doing everything! When you have started a business, you try and keep your finger in every pie which doesn't give you time to do what you do well. As your business grows and you can afford to, employ people to do the tasks that aren’t your strengths. I have my Ops Manager who has been with me for 5 1/2 years and has grown with the business; she loves the whole operations & compliance side of the company and is always taking responsibilities away from me that she can do better. I now have a Sales Manager who does the nitty-gritty of the sales training & processes – this allows me to be client-facing, actively bringing in money to the business and giving "on the job" mentoring and training to the team which I love! Make sure you have people around you that disagree with you too - I love nothing more when someone in my team has a better idea than me and mine gets (nicely) squashed!
You need to be continually evolving the business; what worked 13 years ago for us certainly doesn't work today. We are constantly looking at ways to improve our systems and procedures and are always looking at different AI systems that will allow our team to focus more on being client-facing. I learnt at NY Stern business school last year that 25% of your business every year should be different from what it was 12 months ago.
What have you learnt about marketing your business?
Have an expert! When I started my business 13 years ago, marketing for us was still Seek, print media and social was only getting going! I now have a full-time Marketing Manager in our business to keep up with today's marketing. In my space, this is a full-time job and it’s how we speak to our customers directly in our voice. We have spent a good deal of time and money on training within the marketing space, and we are still just really getting going!
What's one thing no one tells you about being an entrepreneur?
That it can be lonely when you don't have a tribe that you can rely on. The biggest sounding board for me has always been my mum, and in the last year or so I have found an incredible tribe of women business owners and we catch up every six weeks for a whole day like a Board of Directors. Surround yourself with a tribe who will lift you up, work through your troubles, listen to your ideas and support your goals. You need to be around people who "get" you and what you're doing!
What have you learnt about culture in your business?
Culture is something that makes or breaks a business, and it can only take one person to ruin the culture you have created! Our culture is close-knit, where we support and uplift each other and where we learn from each other. I am close to each of my team and treat them as I would treat my friends (respect, kindness and care). I would say that I'm careful with who I bring into the team and only on maybe 3 occasions in the last 13 years have I had to terminate staff because of a shitty attitude and lack of respect for others! Never nice but has to be done!
What have you learnt about leadership in your business?
I want to be a role model for the people that work within my team; I like having strong characters in the business, and I want to create successful careers and financially successful individuals. I have a strong work ethic and am always available for any member of my team who needs to talk or who needs advice. I am learning more and more in the last few years to bring people in the team who are far better than me in various roles within the business. It is also super important to only show the positive and upbeat side to your team everyday. If I come into the office long-faced, miserable and unmotivated then you will push that onto your team – to be a great leader you need to bring the energy and motivation every day to your team.
You can follow Virginia Brooke's on LinkedIn for more business insight and updates!