The reality of running a small business in Australia
I like to keep things real, so I’ll start by saying it’s hard to be a business woman. It’s so very hard.
But it’s also rewarding, exciting, and always keeps me on my toes.
Is it harder than a male running a small business? I don’t know.
But I can speak from experience when my husband and I swapped roles a few years ago. COVID made him a stay-at-home dad while his workplace closed down. And I stepped into working full-time and then some.
And you know what.
Being able to focus on my business 100% without having to watch the clock to:
- see if it’s time for school pickup
- juggling sick kids, although he does pull his weight, and we take turns when the kids get sick
- not having to worry about school uniforms
- after school activities, although given COVID, hubby didn’t have to either.
Focused and productive
It was amazing how productive I could be when I was 100% focused on my business.
I even managed to take breaks and enjoy a family picnic lunch in the lounge room (the weather wasn’t brilliant in Hobart at that time of year), which the kids loved, and so did I.
Or we’d go for a walk which we continued to do when the kids were back at school.
When you’re laser-focused, though, with a wait list going on for a couple of months, you definitely focus on what you must do. And don’t sweat the little things.
That’s something I’ve found lately. The longer I have to do something, the more I procrastinate. Whereas if I give myself 1 hour and set a timer. I’m on fire.
How can women succeed in business?
Set yourself up for success from the start.
Decide if it’s a hobby or a business.
There’s nothing wrong with your business being a hobby or a side hustle. But I think it helps you get in the right mindset if you make this distinction from the start.
I’ve been in business since I was 18, and they’ve been a combination of full-time businesses, part-time and side hustles depending on where I was and what I was doing at the time. I even had a bricks and mortar giftware store at the beginning before I moved to e-commerce, so I’ve done a lot.
Prioritise a wage
I can’t stress this one enough – prioritise a wage for yourself from the start.
And I also think it’s an important part of setting yourself and your business up for success.
Prioritising and allocating a wage to myself is something I did from the start with She Rocks Digital, and it never was with my other businesses. So I’m speaking from experience when I say it’s the best thing you can do.
Even if you’re happy to reinvest your profits back into the business initially, just a small % gets you in the mindset and habit of allocating and drawing down a wage.
Also, when you are making money, it’s a great motivator to keep on going and driving you forward.
It helps from a budgeting perspective too.
How I set up my small business financials
The best thing I did this time around was set up my financials following (or similarly to) the Profit First method. Where you break up your income based on percentages:
- GST if applicable
Support for businesswomen in Australia
There can be a lot of support out there for businesswomen and female entrepreneurs. Most states depending on where you are located, have Enterprise Centres, and whether they have an advisor or program just depends on where you need support. Some even have women in business programs.
Back in my initial start-up days, some 15 years ago, a lot of it was very general advice, but these days the programs and support have evolved and improved.
Invest in your business for the right business support
If you want to invest in your business with coaching and support programs, I have personally worked with:
Belinda Gill from Better Than Busy
Belinda was the first person I worked with to support me in my business journey. And I think from memory it was around systems, processes and growth as I’d grown quickly and had missed some of the foundational systems and processes stages, so I needed to take a step sideways to implement them to help with the growth phase.
I’ve worked with Caroline on and off a few times over the years in a coaching capacity and, more so, have delved into Human Design and am currently working through Caroline’s 6 month program, The Experiment.
The Experiment has really been an eye-opener and solidified how Human Design can help me personally but also, in my business, has been a game changer.
Angela is a great business coach who I’ve worked with in a few different settings, from some group programs to a mastermind setting over the years. She’s straight-shooting and says that herself, and if you’re stuck, not sure what your next move should be or want to scale things up. Then Angela’s definitely the business coach to speak to.
Celebrating women in business around me
To celebrate International Women’s Day, I wanted to celebrate the incredible women in business in Australia around me. This is only a tiny part of the list, as I could have done a whole series on women rocking their business, and perhaps I should next year.
I sent each lovely lady a couple of questions, and they could choose which one they answered, or they were welcome to share something else if it resonated with them.
The best piece of advice I would offer to another woman starting out in business would be to start where she is and know that everything she thinks she will create and do may well just change.
Business is a path, a journey, and right now, she can only see the first couple of steps. And that’s all she needs to see.
Simply step forward and take action, and the path will begin to appear before her.
Zoe Buckley, Learning Boosters
My advice is:
- Be an innovator
- Look forward, not backwards
- Be an unstoppable force making your future what you want it to be
- Evolve – Don’t wait for it
- Lead by example
- Know your worth and stick to it
- Support other women
- You don’t need to do it alone
- Believe – even when it gets tough – and it will
- Be proud to be a woman, mother, mentor
Natali Louis, You and Me Gluten Free
What’s the best piece of advice you would give another woman starting in business?
Ask for help – don’t ever think that you can’t. Running your own business is a lot of work, and there will be things that you won’t know or have trouble doing yourself.
Put yourself out there and join community and online groups, where you will connect with like-minded individuals that will be more than willing to share their experiences and knowledge.
Remind yourself that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a strength and shows how committed you are to your business.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give another woman starting out in business?
Your outside world is a direct reflection of your inside world. The strategy you need for success isn’t always about the next funnel, the next launch, but rather about working on your inner world to heal. To get to the root of why you self-sabotage.
Why? Because this is the strategy that will help you get to the next level.
If you could write a letter to your past self, what words of wisdom would you share with yourself?
Whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing.
Nobody is coming to save you, so if you want something in life – it’s up to you to make it happen.
Rebecca Tilley, Reach Gymnastics
Building a lasting, profitable business is a long, hard slog. If you aren’t prepared to put in 14 hour days 7 days a week, for the first few years, don’t do it! Some of the things I have learnt along the way are:
- Know your numbers – do your best to understand where your money is coming in from and where it is going out. If you don’t know where it is coming from, you can’t capitalise on that, and if you don’t know where it is going out, you can’t plug a larger leak.
- Look after your staff, but don’t let the toxic ones stay! My staff members know I have their back. I pay them well and treat them every now and then. This means I don’t lose my best staff easily to competitors or other industries. Firing any toxic employees quickly means not having other staff infected with their toxicity and frees your mind up to focus on more important things.
- Take calculated risks – we opened another centre just after being closed for almost 2 years in the Melbourne lockdowns. It was a risk, not really knowing if lockdowns had finished, but the opportunity came up to open in the building next door to our current facility, and it has paid off in spades.
- Know when you need a break – yes, work your guts out for the first few years, but once you are a bit more established, have a rest! You started a business not to have a job but for the freedom of having your own time and finances. Delegate what you don’t like to do or aren’t that good at so that you don’t burn out.
- Most of all, have fun! Take moments every now and again to celebrate the little successes, network with other business owners who understand what you are going through and enjoy having the opportunity to build something that will make a difference in other people’s lives, whether that is through employment, your services or your product.
Kristen, Bella Oils
As a female business owner living with Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) can be incredibly challenging – however, it’s also one of my main drivers.
It fills my cup to help others, I thrive on creating products to help not only people with conditions like mine but others living with a blind illness. Sometimes it’s the blind illnesses that can be the most challenging. I may look great on the outside- but often, I am covered in pain and using all the energy I have to stay awake.
After 15 years of trying to seek treatments to heal me, I decided to specialise in products to assist with calming pain and energy, as I know this is something so many of us need support with. There may not be a cure for my neurological disease, however my products can help support me so I can try and live as normal a life as I can.
Many question how I can run such a successful business with the condition and symptoms that I experience? I can only stay awake 4-5 hrs at a time, so I learnt to make the business work around me. The days I’m more fatigued, I let my body rest. those mornings I can do a little more, I get creative! I’m incredibly fortunate to have support from my family to help me make products and do markets. I’m also grateful many of my customers have become my cheerleaders and friends.
My advice to others would be to keep living your life as much as you can, this may look different to other people, and that’s ok – as long as you are striving to operate at your highest vibration & keep believing that you’re worthy of living your dreams!
Melissa Daniels, Meld Business Services
Mel’s advice might be simple but yet it’s so true and something that even I need to remind myself of regularly:
Be you. Be unapologetically you.
Forget the ‘shoulds’. Forget the ‘I musts’. And do you.
Deep down, you know what needs to be done. You know how to do it. It’s up to you to find the courage to do it.
If you take a deep breath and trust your intuition, it might just work. Believe in your vision, and take that first step even if you’re not quite sure how you’re going to get there.
You’ve got this. You’re stronger than you think. Hold on and prepare for a wild ride. 💕
What’s your small business journey been like?
I love hearing about everyone’s business journey, so comment below, and please share. Or join my new Facebook Group – Rock Your Online Presence, which is all about helping and supporting your business, as the name suggests and share your journey over there.