Sarah Riegelhuth is an entrepreneur, author and finance expert. Here she shares exactly how she scaled the businesses Grow My Team and WE LOVE NUMBERS with the help of teams based in multiple countries.
Right now I am literally driving (well Finn is driving, I’m in the passenger seat) from Denver to Las Vegas for the weekend. I’ve just finished the WE rebrand brief document, cleared my inbox and punched out a couple of articles, with the sprawling Utah canyons as my ever-changing backdrop.
Now that’s what I call living.
My journey into working globally began about 3 years ago when we were referred a graphic designer in Bolivia (who we still work with today), however has really snowballed over the past 18 months, partly thanks to Grow My Team who I’ve used to recruit and build our Philippines teams, oDesk, Freelancer and eLance for all the small jobs that need doing from time to time and I think (mostly) driven by my inner-nomad.
Personally, I hate being in the same place for more than a couple of weeks and am obsessed with travel, meeting new people and exploring the planet’s diverse cultures. ‘Settling down’ is just not for me, and thankfully I have a husband who shares my view of the way life should be lived. To it’s fullest and in line with what you want, not what society tells you you should be doing.
Working in a large remote team is not without it’s challenges of course (quality internet access being the main one), however the pros certainly outweigh the cons. By way of example, we launched our startup WE LOVE NUMBERS on the 15th of January this year. Finn and I were in Colorado when the website went live. The rest of the team were spread across Australia, Philippines, Bolivia, Romania and Bangladesh! We’d been working on WE LOVE NUMBERS for almost 18 months testing the model first within WE and then building our go to market strategy on the beach in Coogee. It really was no big deal for us to be out of country when we hit the go button.
It hasn’t always been like this and getting started was a slow and steady process of getting used to working from different locations, and building good systems and training programs that didn’t rely on us being face to face with our team mates.
We started with a single role that was repetitive and could be trained fairly easily. We created a brief for Grow My Team to recruit from and built a basic training program for our new team member. We already had a staff induction process, but I found this became even more valuable than ever when working across borders. Over the first week, I scheduled 30 min time slots with Michelle (she’s still with us!) to check through the work that I had allocated her in training, and give her feedback. It’s simply a case of being organised and setting time aside to get the training right.
Once I’d trained my first couple of Philippines team members, my eyes opened up to all of the possibilities within my company that weren’t location specific. In order to grow the team to where we are now, all our processes had to be reviewed and I trained the entire existing team on ‘how to train’ so that we could share the load and build the team faster. This, along with building out more robust systems, have been one of the really positive outcomes of working with a dislocated team. Our systems and processes are remarkably better than they were before and maintaining them is a constant focus for the team now. These days recruiting is recruiting, it’s the same process no matter where the person is located and we have freed our thinking up to look for the best talent all over the world.
Again, we needed to improve the way we managed the team now that we were all in different locations, ensuring that everyone still understood what was expected of them and could perform effectively at a high level. We use Google Hangouts to host our weekly team meetings, monthly meetings, quarterly planning days and team member reviews. We’ve always followed the Gazelle’s One Page Plan and other planning tools, and created clear scorecards and critical numbers for our team, we started doing this both locally and for our international talent and have more recently moved to Align enabling us to use all of the Gazelle’s planning tools online. Everyone has a login and we can all work together using the technology as the basis for our planning, meetings and tracking.
Get tech savvy
Technology is probably the biggest thing that we needed to continue to embrace as we grew, we use Jing, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Viber, Basecamp, Sweet Process, Xero, Better Book Club, Google Docs, Gmail and many other completely cloud based solutions that connect us and ensure we all have access to the same information.
One of the coolest things about being global from a business perspective is the increased level of service we can provide to our customer. WE LOVE NUMBERS is soon to launch our ‘Know your Numbers’ 24 hour support service. We can do this because we have talented and qualified people located in timezones across the globe. Even though our members are currently (not for long!) Australia-based only, the reality is that entrepreneurs are often working at all hours of the day and night. If it’s 2am and one of our members wants say, a financial report or urgent cash flow analysis, we can give it to them right away. They won’t need to wait until 9am AEST to get the answer they need, that’s pretty awesome.
PHOTO: TIM WHEELER
End 2016 on a high with these eight pulse-racing activities in Melbourne. From death-defying heights to underwater wonders, these are perfect ways to let loose and get you and your team’s blood pumping.
For a full adrenaline junkie experience head to St Kilda to skydive over the beach. After jumping out of the plane you will experience 60 seconds of free-fall before enjoying a sail down to the sandy shore.
2. Escape room
Put your problem-solving skills to the test while you battle the clock at Escape Room Melbourne. You have just 70 minutes to solve the puzzles in the room in teams of two to six people. It’s a great team bonding experience that will have your heart racing and your brain working, too.
3. Rock climbing
Rock climbing is a fun activity that puts your strength to the test. Hard Rock in Melbourne’s CBD is a large facility with plenty of space to scale the walls. From the bottom it might not look that high but once you start climbing it’s a different story.
4. Shark diving
Interested in an extreme adventure? Head to Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium where you can come face-to-face with a shark – an experience you will probably never forget. Shark Tank has got nothing on this!
5. Hot air ballooning
You may have seen hot air balloons dotting the early morning skyline in Melbourne. Why not experience the city at sunrise in a hot air balloon yourself? Melbourne hot air balloon by BalloonMan gives you a thrilling ride with panoramic views of the city ending at the Grand Hyatt for a champagne breakfast.
6. Body electric dance class
Dancing might not seem too dare-devilish but Body Electric Dance Studio takes things to the next level. Designed for beginner adults, the jazz dance classes run for a semester during which you learn a routine. At the end of the semester there is a performance with matching costumes to boot. Test out your performance skills on stage and shake off those nerves! Classes often book out so get in early to secure a spot or apply to the waiting list.
PHOTO: TIM WHEELER
7. Treetop obstacle course
Trees Adventure in Glen Harrow Park is an obstacle course with a difference – it’s located high up in the canopy. Soar between the branches at super-fast speeds on the flying foxes, jump across to ropes and test out the airborne skateboard. The course will take you around two hours to complete and afterwards your legs might feel a little like jelly.
8. Aerials circus class
Learn circus skills with an aerials class. You can work on strength, flexibility and confidence while soaring through the air on a trapeze or aerial ring. The National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia is located in Prahran. Cirque De Soleil, eat your heart out.
Young entrepreneurs from around the world shared the deeply personal stories behind their businesses during a launch event in Sydney at the weekend for the comic book Brilliant BusinessKids.
Brilliant BusinessKids is the latest publication from global entrepreneurial hub Inspiring Rare Birds and was launched alongside the blended learning environment Phronesis Academy and the academy’s first program startup.business.
Thirteen-year-old Sydney entrepreneur Juliette Jones, who appears in the book, described to an audience of children, academics, teachers and entrepreneurs at the University of Sydney Business School, how the death of her grandfather from Motor Neurone Disease inspired her to co-found CSJ leMoNaiD.
“We’ve raised more than $20,000 so far. Our goal is to raise awareness about the disease and get enough money every year to pay for a research team at Macquarie University,” she says.
Zeryab Cheema, who is 19 years old and whose business story is also depicted in the book, explained how he is launching a new ride-sharing service in Australia. His current business iView International employs more than 40 employees worldwide.
“We hope to expand the new service across Australia, then to the United States,” he says.
The comic book features entrepreneurs as young as eight – with businesses based in Australia, Indonesia, the United States, Israel and Vietnam – who describe their journeys from startup.
Brilliant BusinessKids was conceived by academics and entrepreneurs, and can be read alone or as the course book for startup.business, says Rare Birds founder and CEO Jo Burston.
The book and program enable students to learn from the challenges and opportunities other children have experienced growing enterprises, and shows them what they could do and who they could become. “I passionately believe that if you can’t see it, you can’t become it,” she says.
Startup.business has been trialled in a number of Sydney schools and also shows students what’s it’s like to see, think, do and be an entrepreneur. It’s the first of many initiatives from the academy, which has been co-founded by Jo Burston and Dr Richard Seymour, from Sydney University School of Business.
“It’s an exciting development in education and one we believe will be embraced by schools around the world,” says Jo Burston.
Dr Seymour says Phronesis Academy is a “ground-breaking collaboration” between entrepreneurs and academics.
“Entrepreneurs learn in the thick of uncertainty, change, and action. It’s what they do best – asking, trying, doing and reflecting,” he says. “It’s a dynamic and exciting way of learning. That’s why Inspiring Rare Birds has partnered with Phronesis Academy to develop education initiatives that integrate knowing what, with knowing how, why and with whom.”
“The program will also create communities of entrepreneurial learning and practice with a community platform soon to be released. Our vision is to connect young entrepreneurs worldwide,” he says.
Are you a teacher whose students would love to learn the skills and mindset of an entrepreneur? Please contact email@example.com for more information about how the program could benefit your students.
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Rosie Thomas and her sister Lucy formed PROJECT ROCKIT 10 years ago, fresh out of school, to ‘do something’ about the long-term affects of bullying on young people.
“We saw how bullying could rob a young person of their life’s potential; how having had that experience, perhaps over a period of years, they were now simply not equipped for the world ahead or to make the most of what they had to offer the world.”
What grew from that single-minded observation is Australia’s youth driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice, building spaces where imagination, leadership, creative expression and acceptance are available to all young people, regardless of their social label, grades, gender, sexuality or cultural background.
Over the past 10 years, PROJECT ROCKIT has worked with thousands of young people in workshops. The team has created an online curriculum, worked with Facebook and Twitter at their headquarters in Silicon Valley, and seen things and worked with people that neither Rosie nor Lucy could have imagined when they started.
What sets the duo apart
So what drives them? Rosie explains: “I love and thrive on mayhem! I think I’m an excitement junkie, and I really get a lot energy being enriched by different activities and by doing things with meaning and purpose. It helps being supported by a great team. It is important to re-energize at some point, but I don’t regard work as work because I derive such a lot from what I do.”
As with many entrepreneurs, Rosie and Lucy had spotted something missing – in their case, that young people were unable or ill-equipped to stand up to bullying. They moved quickly to do something about it – to fill the gap, to fix something and to meet a need.
What sets them apart is how they use young people in the workshops they run in schools, so the audience can relate to those presenting at the front of the room. They also go beyond bullying, once in front of young people, and talk about gender, sexism and racism.
Their shared vision
Rosie and Lucy divide their roles, with Lucy focusing on the psychological and social elements, the program development and content, and Rosie focusing on the business side of PROJECT ROCKIT, backed by their team.
“Our team are wonderful,” explains Rosie. “They all have a passion about improving the lives of young people, and a sense of social justice. Young people deserve access to respect, acceptance, and leadership, and our team are all about making that real and available. We have trainers and a head of growth, who ensures we can scale, so that we have a realistic chance of being in every single school in the country.”
Hostility in the classroom
At the start of the program one of the biggest challenges they faced was overcoming many teachers’ assumptions that it should be them running the workshops and confronting this problem. In the early stage of the business, PROJECT ROCKIT experienced considerable hostility in the classroom. Why should two ‘pipsqueak girls’ – Rosie’s own words – come into school and teach anti-bullying programs, and why should they be paid to do it?
“What was great was that, often within the timeframe of one single lesson, those same teachers turned in our favour to a belief in what we were doing, and a recognition of the positive results our young presenters had with the young people in the classroom,” Rosie says.
“Before we knew it, the groundswell had turned so that teachers and schools were also standing up to the concept of bullying, which was wonderful to witness,” she says.
Using technology to scale
Rosie makes the point that, when they started in 2006, “Facebook was in nappies, and cyberbullying was barely a concept that resonated at all. It simply didn’t exist.” Since then, social media and technology has exploded. Ironically, that explosion has helped bring bullying in general into sharper focus. Technology also helps PROJECT ROCKIT scale. A 90-minute workshop can only address a finite number of young people. An internet connection gives anyone access to their curricula.
The company is launching PROJECT ROCKIT Online, which makes its programs available to anyone on their mobile devices. Part of this will be real-time data which can be shared with teachers, and there are plans to conduct research using PROJECT ROCKIT Online.
PROJECT ROCKIT was also the Australian delegate to Facebook’s compassion research day at its Silicon Valley HQ, and the firm is one of four Australian companies on Twitter’s global compassion program as well.
So what are Rosie’s tips for first-time entrepreneurs?
1. “Look around you. Does it exist already? If so, how can you improve what already exists? Does it really need replacing or improving? Should you collaborate instead with a team that exists already? Or is there no need for your concept at all?” says Rosie.
2. “Test. Get it live and see what happens. Ask yourself whether it works, and keep testing against those initial objectives.
3. “Having gone through numbers one and two, just start. If an idea remains an idea, and doesn’t hit the market, it’s a waste of time,” she says.
4. “Once you’ve started, take feedback on board, but make your own decisions. Growth might hit a plateau, you will have doubts, and others will give you advice. It’s worth considering, but you make your own decisions.”
As to the future, Rosie explains: “We want to scale nationally. We want to find more passionate young presenters. PROJECT ROCKIT Online is a focus, we have a new app planned called CheerMeApp, and we plan to launch PROJECT ROCKIT Online TV as well. We want to create exciting new projects for young people so that they can connect, be empowered and be supported.”
Are you running a social initiative or considering launching one? Women entrepreneurs share insights into how they grew their enterprises from ideas into nationwide and sometimes global movements in #IFSHECANICAN – a book detailing the journeys of 29 emerging women entrepreneurs.
By Jo Burston
I love talking to successful entrepreneurs, but it’s still unusual, and always special, to meet one who has had more than one success.
Taryn Williams is on her second startup, founding theright.fit off the back of her earlier success with company number one, Wink Models.
As she notes, “Starting two companies has played havoc with my work-life balance, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I think some of us are just wired for excitement and challenge, and being driven in that way.”
Taryn started Wink Models 10 years ago to systematize the processes needed to scale the management and employment needs of a large cohort of models, their bookings and payrolls, and do so efficiently and fairly. On the back of being able to scale the Wink Models business, she wanted to devise a second, creating an online marketplace that brought together fashion producers, such as videographers and photographers, and models. It grew out of the need to identify new types of talent. Advertisers were starting to seek different modelling talent, replacing a 19-year old model in a Mercedes with a woman in her mid-30s who, in context, might be able to afford such a car, for example.
And producers and advertisers were starting to find it difficult to find and recruit this talent. At the same time, the frequency and depth of advertising was changing, moving from perhaps three shoots a year to as many as seven or eight, oriented to digital, with consumers wanting to see fresh content, in smaller clips, on their mobile devices, more often.
Taryn and her team wanted to create a platform that allowed talent and producers to connect with each other for projects, and the platform replaces the traditional way of phoning talent agencies. If a photographer has a spare hour, and can shoot a piece of content that might have a lifetime of a week, they can now find that work, allowing both sides of the equation to manage their income and their personal brands.
And coming from a modelling and production background herself, Taryn knew the areas that could benefit from improved service, such as model payment times, which were notoriously slow.
When self-awareness comes into play
Probably the biggest challenge in Taryn’s career has been delegating. “I’m a control freak! I need to be across every aspect of the business! And I eventually got to the point that I realized I could not cast every single model, and that I was actually the bottleneck standing in the way of success. It took a long time to learn how to let go, introducing systems and processes that allow me to manage the business without getting in its way. I recruited the best I could in each of the areas I needed to fill, so that I could work with the best in each field, and then give them the autonomy they needed to be successful. And I found this uncomfortable, but it was the right thing for the business.”
Mentors have played a central role in Taryn’s career to date. “I’ve had wonderful mentors who have given me some awesome advice. A favourite quote is, ‘Don’t spend time rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ – there are times when a product or a person just isn’t working, you need to cut your losses, pivot quickly, ‘fail fast’, take the key learnings and move on. And if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Personal growth is everything. It’s incredibly important always to be learning and challenging yourself, always being slightly uncomfortable.
“One of my current mentors, without whom I’d be lost at the moment, is incredibly inspiring, and I hope one day to be able to give something back. Connecting mentors is so important, especially for the next generation.”
As to the near future, aggressive growth is the main priority for Taryn and her team, with a focus on execution and delivery for theright.fit in Australia, from the company website to its pricing platforms. Then expansion into international locations such as New York, Los Angeles, South Korea and Singapore is planned.
Taryn’s vision for the future of theright.fit shows there are real opportunities in Australia for startups to grow fast and globally. Women-owned businesses that have expanded overseas simply achieve greater success than those that don’t grow beyond our shores.
Would you like to hear Taryn Williams’s survival tips for global expansion? At Rare Birds Con 2016, on 8-9 June in Sydney, she’ll be sharing her insights on this and how mentors can help grow your business. For more details visit rarebirdscon.com.
Follow this series, brought to you in partnership by Rare Birds and Microsoft Surface. #microsoftsmb #rarebirdscon16 #mystartingstory
For Chelsea Sloan Carroll, there’s a lot to love about the resale clothing industry as well as the franchise business model. Here, the co-founder of the American resale clothing chain Uptown Cheapskate sings the praises of the freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment in leading franchisees to build an international brand.
Chelsea Sloan Carroll’s resale clothing franchise Uptown Cheapskate, has grown from a single location in 2009 to a national presence employing more than 500 people across the United States. Unlike traditional retail, Uptown Cheapskate purchases gently-used, stylish clothing from local customers looking to clear out closet space, and has developed a niche market for frugal shoppers who want brand names without the price tag. Uptown Cheapskate’s stores are individually owned by local franchisees, and Carroll is heavily involved in developing a consistent – and successful – system used in stores from California to New York. “I love that the Uptown model provides people the opportunity to own their own businesses,” she says.
Carroll is especially passionate about how her company improves work-life balance for her franchisees. “There are so many intelligent, hardworking, awesome women who also want to have families,” she says. “But because there’s just not flexibility for it in most offices, an artificial barrier is imposed between parenthood and climbing the corporate ladder. A lot of our best franchisees are mothers who say, ‘I’d like to make my own hours. I don’t mind working hard; I can do that. But I need to be my own boss so that when my kid is sick or I just want to catch her soccer game at 3 o’clock, I can leave my store and have that flexibility.’”
Indeed, for Carroll, business is a way for people to ethically earn an income on their own terms and to create jobs. “The only businesses that I would build,” she says, “are ones that have social and environmental benefits as well as a focus on profits. They’re called ‘triple-bottom-line’ businesses, and they’re rare, but necessary in this day and age. Uptown Cheapskate hits the triple bottom line by paying millions of dollars each year back into the community while making it easy for people to recycle their clothes.” In other words, she’s not interested in building a business that doesn’t give back to the community while making money as a general course of business. “Making money for the franchise is great, but it’s not my first or second or even third priority,” she says. “I care first that my franchisees are able to be profitable in their locations, and I strongly believe that our focus on intangibles will bolster company growth in both the short and the long term.”
Power versus persuasion
When you’re a franchisor, says Carroll, you technically have the power to do whatever you want to do. “But in practice, you walk a delicate tightrope of balancing franchisor versus franchisee interests. The franchisor’s responsibility is to protect the brand and to help franchisees succeed, and the franchisee wants to run a profitable store. When franchisees want to do their own thing because they believe they have a better way, this can lead to conflict.”
So how do you get consensus? Adopt best practices, be persuasive, and back up decisions with data, says Carroll. Uptown Cheapskate’s 2015 Annual Meeting is a case in point. “Our corporate office said to our franchisees, ‘Look guys, here are the numbers. They demonstrate clearly that if you do markdowns every month to rapidly turn inventory, your sales will increase.’” Fortunately, her franchisees listened. “Same-store sales were up 20.1 per cent in 2015,” says Carroll. “It was a terrific year, and we’re still on fire from it. 2015 was not a great year for most retail clothing, but it was a really great year for us as we worked together to build the brand.”
Are you a women entrepreneur in the United States with a business turning over more than $10M? At Rare Birds, we’re looking for founders to appear in our latest book! Email our lead writer and editor now and tell us your business story and turnover.