Jess Polaschek hated maths during school. So much so, she avoided it completely and opted for a design degree at university which led to an early career in visual merchandising.
But she’d always had a hankering to get involved in the retail side of things and, with a suite of creative friends and contacts looking for a place to sell their wares, her Sydney based design space, Tribe, was born.
She’s proving that SME owners can successfully turn their passion project into a viable, long term business.
Multi-tasking in small business
Now, as a small business owner, Polaschek is a visual merchandiser, gallerist, marketing specialist, logistics manager and critically, finance director, all rolled into one.
More importantly she’s realised that learning how to crunch the numbers not only helps her understand the story that data tells about her business progression, but can actually be interesting.
Better Business Basics founder Annie Flannagan says understanding what the story is telling you, as a business owner, is fundamental to how you move forward.
Small business can be lonely
As an entrepreneur herself, Flannagan recalls how lonely it can be starting a business.
The experience made her a great proponent of more open and trusting communication with peers, other small business owners and mentors to help provide context and an informal benchmarking of business performance. That context helps SMEs avoid the pitfalls of being too responsive to the real-time data, something Polaschek worries about.
“There is a danger of that,” Flannagan says. “But one thing we should be getting much smarter about is taking the live data that all these online tools provide and being able to step back and look at it in context. That’s where the gold is.”
Managing the juggle
For Polaschek, who started Tribe online before opening a storefront in Darlinghurst, the current challenge is juggling the different roles required of her as a sole trader and trying to grow the business from its current micro-business size.
It’s something Flannagan refers to as the balance between working on the business, and working in the business. “I still struggle with it, not quite daily but certainly weekly. I’ve put Fridays aside to go back over the week and look at how many of the tasks I’ve done have been about working on the business… I don’t know anybody that says to me, ‘I’ve got it sorted’.”
How productivity tools can help
The advent of cloud computing has helped ease the administrative burden of running a business, but streamlining systems and processes through various integrated programs.
“Tribe is a hugely technological business,” Polaschek says. “I don’t know how I would do half of it without the internet and all the amazing programs we have now. Just the fact you can access information from wherever you are is amazing.”
She uses programs such as Xero, Google Drive and WordPress as well as Dropbox Business, which is a necessity for her when sending and receiving large image files of artwork.
Dropbox head of marketing for Asia Pacific and Japan, Deeps de Silva, says that as Polaschek has already found, their product was created to provide a way for people to access files instantly, anywhere.
“SMBs are time poor,” de Silva says. “By simplifying the way they work, business owners can focus on doing the things they love – like brainstorming ideas, collaborating on new projects, creating value for customers, and keeping their teams in sync.”
For businesses that need to share large files, Dropbox provides that capacity with the security benefit of having tight permission controls over who sees what files.
“The benefit of greater collaboration can bring immense outcomes for SMBs,” de Silva says. “It can ignite creative energy, spark new thinking, and inspire big ideas – all the things that led business owners to start their own businesses in the first place.”
Vodafone’s General Manager Enterprise Sales, Neelum Prakash, says it is important that small business owners remain in touch with the passion that led them to start the small business in the first place. “So many small business owners are inspired to start their business so they can do something they love for a living,” she says. “However, it can be hard to remember that passion when facing the unique set of challenges that small business owners often face. By offering specialised business applications like Dropbox Business and Google Drive as part of our ReadyApps1 suite, we are giving our business customers the tools they need to manage the day-to-day tasks of building a successful business, while having enough time to focus on doing what they love.”
The pitfalls of small business growth
Flannagan sees immense benefit that technology brings by having your entire business ‘story’ on-hand. But she cautions that even with this, growth has its own challenges. “When you’re small your gut instinct is your guiding light. As you grow, it becomes less important when it comes to some of the hard business decisions you need to make.”
She says for small businesses, and particularly those run by creative people who are often more likely to tap into their instinct and creative skills in decision making, the critical crossroads is learning to transition from wholly instinct to fact and instinct.
“You really love what you do so you go into business. You think the business side of things is going to be easy, because it’s a natural progression from being good at something. Actually, it’s not. But you can learn how to be great in business.”
Our technology solutions, including our range of ReadyApps, are designed to help you save time and simplify business processes. For software tailored to your needs, call our Business Specialists today on 1300 308 569.
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