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I’ve been running my company successfully for over 25 years, and when I reflect on my journey, there are a few things I wish I had learnt sooner. Hindsight is a great thing.
Straight from Hong Kong in 1994, I arrived in Australia motivated to build a new life in a new country. As a Taurean, I had a stubborn attitude to never give up. This, combined with my love for each day (having lost a sister and a half-brother), bags of energy, tenacity and a passion for helping entrepreneurs, I founded my marketing and PR agency, Taurus Marketing, within 12 months of landing in Sydney.
By far the most challenging and rewarding project during my lifetime has been raising three beautiful, now adult children alongside founding and running my company. This, combined with hard work and late nights, has helped me give my children the life I wanted for them.
Looking back at the start of Taurus 25 years ago, which coincided with the birth of my firstborn, I have seen my fourth ‘baby’ mature into a reputable, corporate award-winning PR and Marketing agency. We have helped over 1,000 businesses, nurtured over 500 graduate intakes, won awards for excellence, presented overseas at international conferences, led thought leadership in the media and broken new ground in our industry, creating a unique and strategy methodology, The TaurusBullseye™ and a wide range of trademarked services.
Having survived the GFC and COVID-19 and an ongoing battle with breast cancer, I know all about the difficulties and challenges of keeping going when things get tough. I have had to learn problem-solving, cash management, mentoring and prioritising my family and my team with client expectations while striving to keep some sort of balance.
Here are the six lessons I wish I had known about entrepreneurship when I started my journey.
1. Be gentle with yourself
As a working Mum, like so many others holding balls in the air, I juggled home, family, work, sales, revenue and conflicting deadlines. I still remember the scramble to do 3 pm school picks ups around client meetings – and of course, managing a multitude of relationships.
Looking back, I was a perfectionist and tried to do everything at 100 per cent. I perhaps held myself to unnecessarily high standards and could have let some things go. I would have been kinder to myself and given more rope to strive less for perfection all the time.
Sometimes you have to make some space, so others can come forward and fill it.
2. The Bullseye – understanding the importance of the End Goal
Know where you are going before you start, so you have the Bullseye clearly defined.
After all these years, I still believe Strategic Planning is key to reaching business goals and successful implementation.
Define the end goal first. If you can see your end goal and define your target clearly, you can visualize the outcome and plan the journey to get there.
The key is to know where you’re heading. Work backwards into sizeable steps or chunks to get there, then bring the team on board, so you match as one cohesive unit.
The Bullseye allows you to see into the future clearly. Look at what needs to happen today, in a month and six months.
3. You never actually get there
Every time I have hit a Bullseye, the celebration and pride, however rewarding, is short-lived because the next phase of the journey is already formulating and laid out in front of you.
It struck me that growing a business is a similar job to being a Mother. Things never standstill. As soon as you’ve birthed, the baby is soon replaced by a toddler, primary age, pre-teen, teen and then adulthood. Each phase needs more of you or something different. No two phases are the same, and there is always that next phase to prepare for and steady.
Business continuity is about just that. It’s a continuous journey broken down into small time-based pieces, whether by years or quarters or revenue outcomes.
No sooner have you got there, there is another journey to start. It is relentless and, of course, exciting and challenging.
Often you get it right; sometimes you get it wrong. We are human, after all.
On that journey, a business has also got to be prepared for constant change, threats, challenges and so reinvention, adaptability, resilience and re-invigoration are key.
4. Find and engage the right mentors
I am lucky that I found good mentors early, but I should have found them earlier. My mentors were invaluable right from the outset and still are. Find the people you want to be like and learn from them.
Seek and pay for professional advice to get you there faster. In business, the best advice comes from those who have done it before and lived it. Connect with professionals with experience in your specialty because you want advice from someone who knows your industry and can point out the pit holes before you see them.
Be wary of consultants that haven’t built the success for themselves that they promise you.
I have been lucky to have the counsel of entrepreneurs, chairmen, accountants, industry groups and organisations such as The Executive Group (TEC) and The CEO Institute assist my journey. I became a mentor myself as a Chair at The CEO Institute. Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) is another great source of wisdom.
5. Hire the best skills you can afford and train well
After all these years, the staff is still the most vital asset to a business. Loyal, clever, well-trained teams can create magic. I love watching the slipstream speed in my business when the team is right.
Train and invest in people and grow their professional, industry-specific, and soft skills to keep them engaged and aligned with business growth. A team that’s pulling in the same direction is joyous, and you will reach the Bullseye much faster.
My days, even today, are spent fast-tracking the upskill of the team, inviting them to be the best version of self, giving them more rope to try different things, creating space to fail and putting more opportunity in front of them to take leadership. The best lessons are usually the hardest.
6. Watch and plan cash
Cash flow is the critical win or lose element of every business and an essential component, as a leader, to monitor, especially in the current climate.
The best advice I ever had in business was to open a tax account, so I saved as I go. That way, in a tight month, if a client didn’t pay, I always had a cash account to turn to.
At Taurus, suppliers have always been paid on time which builds a reputation that is professional and loyal.
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Know your expenses and budget and plan for unpredictable times. This brings me to the end of Jobkeeper this month when predictions say we will see another potential obstacle as companies plan around this and adjust budgets to regain financial stability.
If you take time out to strategise, plan well and forecast ahead you will be way ahead of those who put their head in the sand.
You will be well-positioned to manage the next phase of uncertainty, maintain business stability and achieve longevity.
As my team and I emerge through the next phase, we continue to evolve, navigate challenges and celebrate our wins. Change is hard but we are right in it, together, up to the elbows.
Business survival depends on your ability to continually ideate, adjust to your environment, assess the risks and capitalise on the rewards.
I am proud of Taurus, proud of New South Wales and very proud of my team. It feels good to be 25 years in business.