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Be prepared for sharks

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Have you been watching ‘Shark Tank’ (the television show where budding entrepreneurs present their business to a panel of potential investors)? The first episode I found myself cringing and feeling terribly sorry for the business owners who were criticised or rejected. As a fellow business person, I know just how much of your heart and soul is contained in your business. So a rejection would have felt terrible.

But during the second episode, I noticed that my attitude had shifted. There were a few candidates who were clearly underprepared or failed to present an accurate (or realistic) financial overview of their business. The investors were clearly annoyed at some of those people, and rightly so. And I became much less sympathetic toward the candidates.

The people who have made it to this stage of the television have been provided with an amazing opportunity. Unfortunately, some just didn’t seem to understand enough about their business (or business principles in general) to present a strong case for why someone should invest with them.

We all need to make sure we have a better grasp on our business than the unsuccessful entrepreneurs! Most of us are not looking for investors or business partners, and may not even have to acquire a loan from a bank. This might lull us into thinking that we don’t need to answer questions (even if it’s just us asking them!) about our financial figures, our projected sales or our potential worth.

You can really only respond well to change and be innovative if you understand your current situation. Be very clear about where you are heading, where the potential growth areas are and how you are going to sustain and progress your business into the future. Revisit these areas regularly, share the overall vision with your team, and ensure that you always have a good grasp on where you are headed next.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Rise to the challenge

b2ap3_thumbnail_woman_handstand.jpgWomen who start their own business often enter pursuits that are male dominated – and being a business owner in general has traditionally been the realm of men.

Some of us have felt (or still do feel) like we have to adopt male traits in order to make an impact and find success. This is often because many of our role models or predecessors in our chosen field are male. But while you might feel pressure to do this, in the long run it is not going to work if you try to be someone you’re not. Your customers will know you are not being authentic and you are unlikely to see success in your business because you are not able to use your strengths and abilities.

For example, if you are naturally friendly and like to put people at ease, but the ‘traditional’ way of interacting with customers is purely to ‘talk business’, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Of course there is always a balance – spending half a consultation making light conversation is not the best use of yours or their time!

Stereotypically, women tend to include emotional factors when making decisions. This can be really valuable – I have written recently about listening to your gut instinct, and that is definitely important! But if you find that many or all of your decisions are based on how you feel, you may find yourself making poor decisions. For example, we can all feel anxious, scared or apprehensive about a change in direction. But if we listened solely to those emotions, we would never achieve anything!

Finally, despite what we (or others) might be thinking, it is OK to fail. So many women that I know in business place enormous pressure to get everything ‘right’ and ‘perfect’. But I think most of us know, it is from our mistakes and failures that we learn the most. So be brave, surround yourself with other brave women, curb your perfectionism and rise to the challenge!

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Demystifying Logo Design

Getting your logo designed can be tricky to navigate, so here are some tips to help you navigate the process!

b2ap3_thumbnail_Logo-Design.jpg1. Branding process

Your logo is just one element of your whole branding. Therefore any discussion with a graphic designer should include questions about any existing branding, or some in depth questions about your business or organisation (such as your target market, the products/services your offer, and so on). This helps the designer to get a good impression so they can design a logo that is appropriate.

Most graphic designers will include a number of concepts in the price of designing a logo. You should ensure that any ideas you have will be considered, but you should also be open to allowing the graphic designer to come up with concepts, based on their impression of your business. A good designer is likely to come up with some ideas that you never would have thought of!

2. What program is it being designed in?

Logos should always be designed in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, or a simliar program that can create vector images (this blog article explains it really well). If anyone tells you they use Photoshop to design logos, do not use them! Your logo will be limited to the size of the original image - if you need to make it larger, it will be pixelated. Vector programs like Illustrator also give the designer much more scope with effects and endless possiblities for design.

3. What final file formats should I be given?

Some graphic designers choose to provide only 'raster image' files (e.g. JPG, GIF, etc) and then charge you a (much higher) additional fee for an 'EPS' (or vector) file. The reasons for doing this can vary, but generally it is a way of ensuring that you will continue to utilise their services (because they 'own' your original logo files).

At Shel Design, we choose to provide our clients with an 'EPS' file within the standard cost of designing any logo (as welll as JPG and PNG), as we know how important that file is for your business or organisation. If you need to work with signwriters, uniform companies and other promotional companies, an EPS file is essential. It can be enlarged to ANY size, it can be manipulated to work in reverse colours (e.g. if you need colours varied when the logo is placed on a dark background) and it has a transparent background (very important!). Plus there are other 'design advantages' that I won't bore you with, but that are also important too!

And we want our clients to come back to us for future jobs becuase they love our work, not because they are beholden to us!

4. Check portfolios

It is always a good idea to look at other logos a graphic designer has created (most graphic designers have a website with a portfolio - if not, ask for some samples to be sent via email or view them in person). See if you think the quality appears to be good and the variety wide.

If you are ready to have your logo designed by Shel Design, contact us for a quote!

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Australian (business) let us rejoice

b2ap3_thumbnail_Aus-Flag_sml.jpgAs Australians, we are known for having a bit of a whine about, well, almost everything! And the reality is, it is not hard to create a list of things that make operating a business in Australia a hard task.

According to recent research, the average Australian small business spends about five hours a week on red tape and compliance. This includes GST and BAS compliance, employment laws and superannuation regulations.

We have the highest minimum wage in the developed world and penalty rates are high. Adding up four weeks of annual leave, two weeks’ worth of public holidays, sick leave and other entitlements, means that small business owners are paying employees for nearly two non-working months each year.

Our transport costs are high, trading hours are regulated in some industries, rent is astronomical in urban areas and I could go on!

If you look only at the disadvantages of operating a business in Australia, your outlook would be very grim. But we can choose to focus on the negatives (which can only lead to failure) or we can give more attention to the positives.

Particularly as we mark Australia Day, a great way to do this is to look back on all the inventions that have come from Australia (most of which have turned into thriving and valuable enterprises). These include: the black box flight recorder, spray-on skin for burns victims, cochlear implant, the electric drill (back in 1889!), permaculture, wi-fi technology, the inflatable escape slide for aircrafts, and many more examples. I guarantee you that each of these inventors and entrepreneurs would have spent a great deal more time on their passions and projects, than focusing on the negatives.

We have a culture of innovation and exploration. Tap into that history and acknowledge that we truly live in the lucky country. Happy Australia Day!

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How creative is your business?

b2ap3_thumbnail_pencil_scribble_lowres.jpgMost businesses these days need to be innovative, often in the way they market their products, but also to promote growth, to attract the right staff and many other reasons. So being a ‘creative workplace’ is not limited to those of us in creative industries!

It is common knowledge that we generally all need an inviting workspace in order to work productively. But have you spent time recently assessing your workspaces? Open spaces, access to greenery (via windows, easy access to the outside or indoor plants), clean and convenient kitchen, large desks, up to date equipment, whiteboards and pin boards (for those moments of inspiration!), and comfortable seating are just some of the ways you can improve your workspace.

Have you noticed that the best and most creative ideas often come in the middle of the night, or over a relaxed lunch or at other times outside the standard nine to five work day? If it is possible in your industry type, consider allowing your staff (and yourself) to work flexible hours. For example, if you know someone is more productive in the very early morning, let them work from 7am and leave mid afternoon. You will gain tremendous benefit in the form of ideas and will also boost staff morale because employees are working in a way that makes them most happy.

A sure fire way to boost creativity in your business is to increase the fun! Inject some spontaneous activities into the work week: surprise your employees with unexpected gifts or rewards, buy everyone iceblocks when the temperatures skyrocket, announce that the next work day is ‘loud shirt’ day. The possibilities are endless and the benefits will include a happier workplace, and quite possibly staff who brag about their great working environment, hence attracting a higher standard of employee. Everyone wins!

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Time is Ticking Away

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” (Dr. Seuss)b2ap3_thumbnail_drseuss.jpg

Maybe it is just me (although I suspect not!) but this quote definitely sums up my head space at this time of year. Most of us know the basic ‘rules’ of time management, which include tools such as making lists, prioritising tasks and breaking larger tasks into more manageable chunks. But have you stopped to consider that it may not be possible to ever be truly ‘on top’ of all your work? It can take us a while to learn that each day has a finite amount of time and that we cannot work until we drop!

For a perfectionist like me, this has been a steep learning curve over the past nine years of running a business. I have had to learn not only to prioritise tasks in order to get through my work, but also prioritise to the extent that some things may remain on the ‘to do if I get time’ list.

But once I learnt that hard lesson, it actually became easier to make better choices about what I was going to work on. It means that things rarely fall through the cracks now because I have a better (more realistic) system for my workload.

The trick though is to identify the right things to work on and then to work on them! It can be easy to react to the random things that pop into our inbox or across our desks and be distracted by them. So it takes deliberate (ongoing) choices of what to pay attention to and a commitment to getting those things done.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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An ode to home based businesses

To kick off the new year, I am focusing on home based businesses: because I know there are many of you out there!

b2ap3_thumbnail_woman_work_home_sml.pngMost of us are aware of the pros and cons of working from home. And if you have been operating for any length of time, you will know how much hard work it is too. So here are some tips that will help you to maximise the positives:

• Take regular breaks. This can be tricky at home because it can be easy to be distracted by the home environment. So make sure your breaks involve physical exercise or even just getting outside to eat lunch. And if you do want to undertake ‘home’ tasks, make sure you put a time limit on them so they don’t eat into your work time.

• Create designated work times. These times should also be communicated to your family and friends so that you can maintain uninterrupted work wherever possible. Many home based business owners find that their friends and family don’t take their work ‘seriously’ and think that all manner of activities and tasks unrelated to work can be included in your work day. Of course flexibility is a great advantage to working for yourself from home, but if your day is full of unplanned interruptions, your productivity will decline.

• Interact with others. A large proportion of successful home based business owners lean toward the introverted end of the personality spectrum. This means that they work well on their own and don’t always need to interact with other people. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing! At some point, we all need to talk to and relate with others who are in similar environments. So if you aren’t already doing this, make networking a new year’s goal!

 


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Inspirational Women

When I research topics for this column, it is primarily quotes and/or business advice from men that I come across. This advice and the motivation that can be found in those quotes is inspiring and can definitely be useful for women in business. But I think it is also important for women to hear from other women. There are unique struggles for female business owners and sometimes we need to hear from those who’ve forged the way before us!

So here are some of my favourite quotes for and from women in business:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” (Anne Sweeney - President of Walt Disney)

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” (Marissa Mayer - CEO of Yahoo)

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” (Arianna Huffington - Editor In Chief of Huffington Post)

And this one from Melinda Gates goes beyond the realms of ‘business’, but for me personally, is a great reminder of us all being part of a much bigger picture:

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

 

 


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Balance: is it mythical or achievable?

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the book Eat, Pray Love) recently posted an article on her blog, saying “I feel and fear that the lovely word "balance" has accidentally become yet another weapon in the arsenal that we use against ourselves - yet another piece of evidence that WE ARE NOT DOING IT RIGHT”.

And she is right: most of the time when we are talking about ‘balance’ it is bemoaning the fact that we feel like we are not achieving it. We are behind in our work or not spending enough time with kids, partners or friends, or not getting enough sleep…and the list goes on. And to top it off, we often look at other people who seem to have it all together and compare ourselves negatively to them.

But what would ‘balance’ actually look like? When I stopped to think about that, I imagined that it might be quite boring! Because it would mean there would likely be no surprises, no unexpected events, and a fairly rigid existence. And from a business perspective, I imagine it would mean that opportunities would be unlikely to come my way because I would be safe and secure in my bubble of balance and not notice them.

More importantly, we have to stop comparing ourselves to others. We all have different tolerances, stress triggers, time pressures, family circumstances and so on. It is like comparing the proverbial apple to an orange.

Ultimately, the ‘balance’ you should be aiming for is to keep perspective about what you will be most proud of when business is no longer a factor. Will it be about how much time you spent making a profit or how much time you spent doing other stuff that matters to you?

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How do you define success?

Success is an interesting idea to ponder. Each of us are likely to have different priorities and definitions of what success is. Even though the aim of any business is to generate income (otherwise it is essentially a non-profit organisation), how much profit, and what we do with that profit, is where the definitions start to vary greatly.

 

One dictionary definition I found starts with a general statement: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, and one of the sub-definitions is “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status”. Personally, I think this is a very narrow view of success, because it focuses on the external results – which become quite subjective.

 

I much prefer this definition of success: “the fact of achieving something good that you have been trying to do”. I think this allows for a much broader spectrum of experiences that I know many female business owners would measure themselves against. For example, part of the ‘success’ of my business (in my opinion!) is that I have been able to earn an income while also being involved in the day to day of my children’s lives. I have created a flexible working environment that helps me to achieve that ‘balance’ between work and family.

 

I am certain, though, as female business owners that many of you will have come across other standards of success by which your business is measured by others. ‘Success’ for you may mean working part time even though working more hours might result in more profit. ‘Success’ might be achieved when you are in a position to donate and give away large amounts of money. Whatever your definition, don’t let other people’s narrow definitions discourage you to continue to strive for your own idea of success.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Confused about the world of websites?

If you are about to embark on creating a web presence for your business (or are still confused about what owning a website involves), read on!

There are essentially three elements essential to getting your business on the world wide web – and I have found it helpful to compare these elements to mobile phone setup:

Domain Name = this is similar to your mobile phone number

Web Hosting = this is similar to your mobile phone plan or package

Website = this is similar to your handset

As you would be aware, you need all three of those elements for your mobile phone to work. And in the same way, for your website to ‘appear’ you need a domain, a web hosting plan and of course, a website.

So here are each of those elements explained in more detail:

1.       Domain Name

The very first thing you need to do is register a domain name. In fact, you can do this (and should do this) long before you plan to build a website. This is because the domain name you want may not be available, or may become unavailable if you wait too long. Domain names do not need to match exactly a business name, so for this reason, someone else may have already registered the one you want. In addition, there are some unscrupulous people who register domain names for existing businesses, for the purposes of selling it at an inflated price, or to just be annoying!

The process of registering a domain name is fairly simple. You need to find a domain registration company (registrar) at which to register and purchase your domain. All Australian domains (i.e those ending in .com.au) can only be registered for 2 years (no more, no less). Other domains (such as .com) have various registration periods, but always in increments of 1 or 2 years.

Most websites/companies that sell domain names require you to create an online account, check that your desired domain name is available, register your domain and pay for your domain online.

BUT BE WARNED!! Generally with pricing of domain names, you ‘get what you pay for’. Meaning that if you register your domain through a cheap domain company, it is highly likely that their prices don’t include services that are standard in more reputable companies. For example, one of the vital things you will need to do when you have a website ready to launch, is to access your domain’s ‘DNS records’, so that you can ‘point’ your domain to your hosting (see web hosting section below for more information on this). Many ‘cheap’ domain companies charge you extra to access this area, and you end up paying the same or more than higher priced domain companies.

Another consideration when choosing a domain registrar is whether this is a primary service that they offer. For example, most telecommunications companies in Australia also offer business services such as domain registration. What they DON’T tell you is that the domains are not actually registered through their company, so when you need to get support, make changes or transfer your domain, it can be extremely difficult to achieve those things.

Shel Design offers domain registration via a reputable domain registrar and our domain prices include access to all the areas you will require.

2.       Website Hosting

Now that you’ve registered your domain, you will also need to purchase ‘web hosting’ if you want to have a website and/or set up emails using your domain name (e.g. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Signing up for a web hosting account gives you access to a ‘server’ on which your website is stored (and hopefully backed up if you are using a reputable company!). When your web hosting account is created, you will be given the ‘domain name server’ settings that you will need to enter into your domain account. This ‘links’ your hosting to your domain.

Most web hosting companies provide you with an admin area called ‘cpanel’ (or similar). It is in this area where you can setup email accounts, check website traffic statistics and many other functions.

Shel Design recommends Crucial Web Hosting for a number of reasons:

  • They are based in (Sydney) Australia.
  • Their prices are very reasonable
  • The hosting package includes 50GB storage, unlimited data transfer and unlimited email accounts.
  • They provide automatic backups
  • They guarantee 99.9% uptime
  • The support they provide is comprehensive, fast and very helpful.

All of these aspects are VITAL elements for any web hosting that you choose. Please do not be tempted to choose a ‘cheap’ option that doesn’t offer all the above. I guarantee you will regret it in the long run, with a website that is often down due to poor uptime or low storage limits.

3.       Website

There are many options for website design, and often it will be like comparing apples with oranges when you try to choose between various website design quotes! But here are some things that should be ‘non-negotiables’:

  • Your website should be built using a Content Management System (CMS) as this will allow you to easily make changes to your site
  • Any CMS system should be transferrable. That is, you need to ask the web designer if the CMS is owned by them or is ‘open source’. This is important, because if you decide you no longer wish to have this web designer look after your site and/or wish to transfer the site elsewhere, you will not be able to. The system, if owned by the website company, will likely only be able to be used while ever you continue to be contracted with that company. In addition, companies with their own CMS often charge higher hosting fees.
  • I highly recommend you do not have your site built using ‘Flash’, as this is not compatible with search engines. That is, ‘Flash’ is essentially a collection of images, and search engines are unable to ‘read’ your site.
  • Your web designer should be able to describe for you the ways that your site will be built to maximise Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). That is, it needs to be built in a way that allows for optimum chances for your site to rank well in search engine results. This should include the text you see on the page, as well ‘background’ text/keywords.
  • Ideally, your quote for website design should also include: documentation or instructions for using your website; a specific list of inclusions (e.g. how many pages, forms, etc); whether there are limits on number of changes and drafts; prices for ongoing maintenance where required.

 

So now you are on your way! If you have any questions, you are welcome to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Have you got the ‘look’?

b2ap3_thumbnail_flowerdress_sml.jpgRecently I phoned a day spa to make an enquiry about an appointment. What struck me about the staff member I was speaking to, was that she personified my expectations of a day spa. She spoke clearly and her manner was professional. She quickly established herself as knowledgeable about the services available by providing recommendations and being able to answer all my queries. The tone of voice she used was calming, and she established confidence that everything was being taken care of.

Anyone who has been to a day spa will know that a primary element is the overall ‘experience’ and atmosphere. A relaxed, pampering environment is essential for achieving that experience. Although my appointment is a couple of months away, the staff member I spoke began that process by exhibiting the same qualities and elements that will be evident when I am there in person.

Does this occur in your business? Is the first contact customers have with your business (over the phone, on your website or in person) a reflection of what they can expect? Are you projecting the image or ‘look’ that encompasses your business?

This first contact is vital. If your marketing efforts have resulted in someone contacting you, it is imperative that you build on that. That first contact should give new or potential customers the right idea about your business. This includes the words the customer hears, the impressions they get and the visuals they see. If these don’t match what your company offers, you are unlikely to secure or retain customers. Think about the image you want people to have of your business and ensure that everything you say and do promotes it.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Overwhelmed by choice

Is there such a thing as giving ourselves too much choice? Some recent research has found that when we are focusing on a goal, having more than one possible path to success can cause us to fail to reach any goals.

The research shows that at the beginning of a project, having a number of choices makes starting the process easier. But as you get closer to completing the project or task, having many choices can undermine motivation. It is the fact that we have to interrupt our momentum to make decisions that halts the process.

Having too many choices can also make us second guess the process and the decisions that have been made prior. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be flexible and open to shifting goals where necessary to respond to new information and so on. But creating an environment where we let ‘choices’ become the ruling factor, rather than the goal, it is highly likely that goals won’t be met.

This can be true for ourselves and our staff, as well as our customers. When customers are new to our business, giving them options is a great way to provide a positive customer service experience. But once they are a loyal customer, it can be beneficial to give your customers a single or limited path to follow. Giving them choice all the time can result in them getting frustrated: they trust you and want you to recommend the best course of action!

So find the balance for your business and your customers. Make sure you provide choice and consider many options at the start of a process. But as a goal draws nearer, limit the choices and focus on the final goal.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Don’t Doubt Yourself

Women tend to be their own harshest critics. We often doubt ourselves or second guess our decisions, motives and abilities. Often that doubt can be as a result of comparing ourselves to our competitors or fellow business women. I see many articles about ways to become ‘the expert’ in your field, and while that might be feasible or desirable, it is not an essential component, or a measure of, success.

So while striving to be better, learning from others and being mentored by those with more expertise than us, are all great actions to take as a woman in business, you need to assess your motivation. If your motivation for doing those things is because you doubt your own abilities and are seeking instead to emulate others, you are unlikely to find success.

Self-confidence is a common trait of successful business women. This doesn’t mean they know all the answers or never make mistakes. And it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily ‘the best’ at what they do in order to have that self-confidence. They have just learnt that doubts have a way of eating away at confidence and stifling the abilities you do have.

Theodore N Vail had a good way of viewing doubt: “Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.”. Or another way of looking at it, there are enough things to worry about without also adding your doubts to the equation!

This quote by Vincent Van Gogh is also a really lovely way to approach your doubts. He said “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”. Don’t give your unfounded doubts a voice.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Motivation for Women in Business

I love motivational quotes. Yes, they can get annoying and asinine when you see meme after meme appearing on your Facebook feed, but there is definite value in pondering the thoughts of those who have been before us in business. So here are some of my favourites (and why I’ve chosen them):

“Done is better than perfect” (Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook): although I am not a fan of all the ways that Sandberg views business, I agree with this statement. Particularly in current society, technology forces change much more quickly than we have ever experienced. Therefore, we have to shift from waiting until something is perfect, to knowing when something is ‘good enough’.

In the same vein is this quote from Meg Whitman (CEO of HP): “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of a mistake”. It is far better to launch a new idea, with the risk of making some mistakes, than to launch an idea too late (or not at all). What is innovative and relevant now has a high chance of not being relevant if you wait. Get moving on your ideas and use the mistakes (that you are highly likely to encounter), to improve your product or service. Learn from your mistakes!

And this quote to end on: “Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or help you to sleep at night” (Marian Wright Endelman, Activist). If your chief motivation for having your own business is to make lots of money, you may just do that. But you may also ‘lose’ a lot of other personal (and frankly more important) things in life. Work on what you are passionate about, and the rest will follow.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Starting Out: A Quick Guide

b2ap3_thumbnail_howTo_sml.jpgMost women starting a new business are full of ideas (which is great) and passion (even better!). But it can be easy to get caught up in the ‘fantastic idea’ and make mistakes that can be easily avoided. So here are some tips for starting out:

Take time to test: you absolutely need to go with your ‘gut feeling’ when starting a business. But if you do not take the time to test and research, you are likely to fail (and fail quickly). Talk to experts and people who have been in business for more than five years. Work out who your target market is and see what they think of your idea. You might receive feedback that you did not anticipate and may find you have to do some more work before you launch. That does not mean you should give up! The product or service you launch may look different than what you first envisaged, so be open to change.

Market aggressively: you are competing with many other products and services, and advertising ‘noise’ in general, so you cannot expect that your idea will ‘sell itself’. No matter what it is, you have to create a comprehensive marketing plan. This does not necessarily mean spending a lot of money, but you do need to have a clear plan of what and how you are going to promote.

You cannot do it all: at the very beginning, you will likely be the one doing every aspect of your business. But if your idea takes off, you must bring in other people with specific talents and skills. Associate yourself with other business owners and start building valuable and trustworthy relationships so you can draw on those networks when you need to.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Communication is the Key

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” (George Bernard Shaw)

On first reading, this quote is quite funny. But when you consider the implications of it for business owners, it is more sobering. Throughout our work day, we communicate in many different ways. We communicate face to face with employees. We communicate online on social media. We communicate in writing through email and other written communication. And we communicate via our marketing materials.

Written communication has the downside of being unable to accurately convey tone. Oral communication has the downside of being affected by the speaker’s ability to present information logically and clearly, and is dependent on the listener’s ability to process the information they hear.

So it is vital to work on getting your communication avenues operating effectively. For businesses, time is money, and poor communication is inefficient. If you don’t spend time carefully checking your message or your delivery, you will often spend more time repeating or rehashing the same information.

When poor communication is evident in your dealings with people outside your business, it makes your business appear unprofessional. And this is not just contained to communication directly with those outside parties: if your communication is poor internally, this will soon affect the product or service you provide. Customers and clients will notice (and be annoyed) when they receive conflicting information, or if miscommunication affects their interaction with your business.

As Sydney J. Harris explains, “The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Business Blues

This week we all heard the tragic news that actor and comedian, Robin Williams, had died from suicide. More so than most celebrity deaths, the comments on my social media feeds were that of shock and genuine sadness at the passing of this comedic genius. Many wondered how someone so brilliantly able to use humour to entertain millions of people could succumb to depression.

If nothing else, the ‘positive’ effect of a tragedy like this is that it gets people talking again about depression. And in the business world, the incidence of depression is remarkably high.

As those of you who are business owners know, there can be a great deal of pressure. Some of this is from external sources, such as clients, finances, the workload itself, and so on. But a lot of this pressure also comes from ourselves. We want to succeed! And sometimes we can put inordinate amounts of pressure on ourselves to do so.

Leanne Faulkner, founder of successful company Billie Goat Soap, was interviewed a few years ago about her struggle with depression. She said “I used to read all these stories about successful entrepreneurs and wonder why I was such a failure”. She likened the superficial stories she read to a “schoolgirl with anorexia who thinks that super models are the norm”, and took a long time to “realise that very successful entrepreneurs are the exception”.

Small business owners are often less likely to seek help because they may feel that if people know you have depression, it will negatively affect your business. There is no shame in seeking help. In fact, it is no different to the help you would seek in any other aspect of your business.

If you need help, contact Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Business

Have you heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? It is a concept that believes children need the influence, nurture and support from a wider group of people beyond their immediate family. When it is said today, more often than not it is because someone is lamenting the loss of that ‘village’ concept.

In today’s society, most of us live in large communities, extended families are distant and we live a more individualistic lifestyle than in previous decades and centuries. Most of us do not experience that ‘village’ lifestyle where we are intimately involved in each others lives. There are some who are wondering how we can reclaim some of the benefits of that lifestyle.

Many local businesses seem to have been going through a similar thought process. There is a definite focus amongst many locally owned and operated businesses to highlight and promote the fact that they are local, and use that as a positive point of difference to large corporations.

The flip side of this though, is that for these businesses to succeed, the local community has to embrace the idea of supporting local business. Anecdotally, I have been encouraged by the shift I have seen over the past few years. My own business has seen a dramatic rise in local clients, who are keen to support local business.

Supporting local business helps your community economically, generates more local jobs, reduces environmental impact. It also has many benefits for the buyer, such as often knowing the source of your product (or the person who has created it), better service and increased community interaction.

So let’s claim the ‘village’ concept for our local businesses. In order for a local businesses to thrive, it takes a village to raise it: so support local business and encourage those around you to do the same.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Cashing in on Tragedy

You may have heard about the Australian insurance company who launched an advertising campaign right after last week’s MH17 airline tragedy: "Is MH17 Malaysia Airlines tragedy a sign to consider life insurance?". They were rightly condemned for this and it was very quickly removed. This was a blatant form of ‘cashing in’ and it is deplorable that any person or business thought it was acceptable to do this.

But it is actually not this sort of ‘cashing in’ to which I am referring in the title of this article. Each time there is a disaster or a wide-spread tragedy, most of us feel helpless and many of us want to find ways to help. As business owners, we are often in a great position to coordinate assistance, but here is the difficult part: at what point do we cross the line between genuinely assisting victims of a tragedy and ‘using’ the tragedy to provide exposure for our businesses?

In the days following the MH17 airline tragedy, a well-known women’s media website posted on social media: “Details here on how to leave messages of support and condolence…”. But rather than linking directly to the Prime Minister’s condolence website, it linked to an article on their website.This crossed the line for me as there was no need to go via their site and it was viewed by many followers as ‘cashing in’.

Perhaps asking yourself the following questions will help you decide what action is appropriate:

-       Can I achieve the same or similar outcome if this is done anonymously?

-       Am I really being generous or am I (truthfully) seeing this as a way to gain publicity for my business?

-       Can I partner with larger aid agencies by posting links to their campaigns, rather than donations coming via my business (in response to my ‘special promotion’)?

-       Am I prepared to support this cause long term or am I just getting caught up in the hype of a topical issue?


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
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Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABN: 88 695 161 542

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