'What we've learnt about being entrepreneurs'

By The Business Chicks Team | Jan 31, 17 05:32 PM

'You have to have a bit of the wow factor.'

Ainsley Johnstone and Natalie Firth are the brilliant brains behind Think Talent. Think Talent is a female-led recruitment agency, based in Melbourne.

Both mums, the pair started Think Talent back in 2014 as a way to 'realise their career and family aspirations' without sacrifice (how cool is that?!)  and in the three years they've grown substantially. 

We asked Ainsley and Natalie a few questions about what they've learned on their journey as entrepreneurs. And here's what they had to say... 

What have you learnt about growing a business? 

If you are passionate about what you do and why you are different the ‘sell’ is easy. Find advocates who will champion you to businesses you want to work with. We were able to work with high profile brands and enterprise clients right off the bat simply by utilising our network and asking for referrals. People want to help small businesses succeed.

Your people are your greatest asset. Get your team, culture and leadership right and the success takes care of itself.

Cash is king. It is boring but you need to be on top of your debtors, hire a very good accountant and ensure your back office is slick! Enterprise clients want to work with niche suppliers, but they need to be taught how to. Don’t be afraid to discuss financials with them upfront – it has been critical to ensuring our cash-flow is protected.

What have you learnt about marketing your business?

It is important to define a clear value proposition, key messages and tone of voice.  We have found getting cut through, especially in the noisy social media arena, is all about clear, consistent and regular communications that look, feel and sound like us. We write all our own copy because we want OUR voice to be the one heard by everyone.

You also have to have a bit of the wow factor. For us this has been using video to get our personalities across and it has really helped us standout from the crowd. We like to be on trend and stay across technology as well as marketing concepts that are pushing the boundaries. If everyone else starts doing what we are doing, we move onto the next thing. We want to be creating the trend!

What’s one thing no one tells you about being an entrepreneur?

Building a business is hard work! You don’t see the real return on investment until the 3rd year. It is worth it, but be prepared to sacrifice initially. It is also a lot of fun and so exciting when you get your first big win!

What have you learnt about culture in your business?

Establishing a positive work culture has been essential to our success and performance. We have used behavioural profiling and employee feedback to better understand our culture and what makes us special. We realised that Think Talent is inherently agile, resilient to change, collaborative and fosters direct feedback from a position of positive intention.

Our culture is not for everyone and we have recognised that whilst it is motivating  for the right people, it can be challenging for some. It is therefore critical we attract people who believe in our philosophy and enjoy working in an ever changing environment. We are more rigorous and decisive these days about who we bring into our business so we protect the culture we have created.

What have you learnt about leadership in your business?

We have come to understand that whilst collaboration and contribution is important, performance improves when there is a clear vision in place. We run a very agile business and things change day to day so our priorities shift in terms of project focus, however the vision for the business growth needs to be clear.

Because we stay on trend our leadership can be quite iterative which works for us and ensures our success as we release and test new ideas in an agile manner. It is important however that everyone understands what business and personal success looks like in our environment. We are currently improving the way that we manage performance, linking personal and business performance so that everyone is motivated about what they need to achieve. 

Ainsley and Natalie are both Business Chicks Premium members. You can connect with them here and here

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