“I don’t run a real business” was my catch cry for the first few years. I used to say I was just helping clients and making a little extra money on the side. It was less intimidating that way.
Fast forward 10 years, my perspective has changed. Own Body is now one of Australia’s largest home-visiting rehabilitation services, employing more than 50 people flexibly across three states and continuing to grow over 50 percent annually.
Winning a Telstra Business Women’s Award in March has given me the opportunity to connect with amazing female entrepreneurs and encouraged me to reflect on my journey. So now I’d like to use my time in the spotlight to help other women supercharge their game plans. I hope by sharing some tips from my experience, I can encourage others out there to stop ‘dipping their toes’ in business and instead become a force to reckon with.
1. Find your secret sauce and focus on it
It’s surprising how much my team gets done when I go on holidays. As women, we are naturally inclined to help our team, but this does little to empower them. And trying to be everything to everyone is not the best way to use our own skills effectively either. Sometimes we need to get out of the way!
Think carefully about where your own skills lie – where you are most effective – and delegate the rest. By freeing yourself from the operations of the business, you gift yourself the mental space (and the time) to focus on your other priorities.
2. The key to happiness: two mobile phones
The turning point came on my birthday a few years back when, after a few (delicious, buttery Mornington Pensinsula) chardonnays, I answered my phone expecting a friend trying to find me in the bar. Instead it was a new client, calling late on a Friday night thinking he’d be leaving a message. Face palm.
In my humble opinion, it’s impossible to switch off when we use a single device to run our lives and businesses.
For work, I needed a reliable phone with great tech capability, so I bought a cheap phone on a basic plan for personal use. I now literally separate my work from my life: emails, apps, contacts, everything. Best. Decision. Ever.
3. Love what you do and own your choices
As a female business owner, you might have realised that it can sometimes be difficult to combine your busy business schedule and a love life.
Let me share a little story about my dating life. I had been single on and off for a loooong time, so decided to try a dating app. I soon realised that being honest in my profile about owning a business led to far less interest than when I’d leave it out of it. Unsurprisingly the less-than-true profiles attracted exactly the kind of person who didn’t want to date a business owner. That would never work for me.
Unfortunately, I know a lot of female business owners who struggle with this. It shouldn’t be a thing, but it is.
But ladies, there is light! I met my lovely partner, Nick, three years ago, and he literally leaned in when I was talking about the size of my business and how passionate I was about it. He supports my dreams, celebrates my success and is incredibly proud of me. They’re out there, ladies. So, You be You.
4. Plan and schedule your day
Women tend to overestimate our ability to successfully multitask. The truth is we might be good at dividing our energy between many people and many tasks, but – as the resident maths nerd in my business, I assure you – it’s impossible to give more than one of them 100% of your attention.
Figure out what is most IMPORTANT (not the most urgent) and block off a time first thing in the morning to avoid being railroaded by emails or OPP (Other People’s Problems).
This goes for those other things in your life too. Work out which friends are important to catch up with and book those times in. You only have so much time and energy to give, spend it wisely.
5. Keep your circle free from nasty toxins!
Disclaimer: I don’t really believe in toxins in the way that they are excessively overused to sell us everything. But I do believe we need to cleanse ourselves from toxic, so-called friends (people who bring us down because they see our success as their failure).
You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well my business is my baby and my community helped it grow. I’ve been coached, mentored, encouraged and inspired by so many wonderful people; most of them unpaid, simply because they just wanted to help.
So, here’s my last tip: surround yourself with cheerleaders; people who elevate you no matter what. Because who doesn’t love a cheer squad?
About the Author
Driven by a passion to see positive change, Fiona White is the Director and Founder of Own Body – a business she created 10 years ago, that connects clients with experienced physiotherapy clinicians who, in turn, provide outstanding, personalised service. Fiona won the 2019 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Small Business Award.