What does it take to run a successful business these days? How does an entrepreneur make their business stand out from the rest? How do you become an award-winning business?
With advancements in technology, shifts in consumer behaviours and heightened customer expectations, running a modern business has become complex. Gone are the days of a simple supply-and-demand methodology. Now, customers are wanting more, expecting more, demanding more—which means business owners are constantly pivoting to keep up.
I had a chat with the very talented business owner / serial entrepreneur Rylee Venables from Petals and Pinecones in Atherton—who recently won Cairns Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, as well as People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice for Excellence in Customer Service—to ask her how she built her business into the success it is today.During our chat, Rylee raised some very important business fundamentals, things that may seem simplistic at their core—but because of their simplicity, tend to be overlooked by many businesses.
Don’t Lose Your Why
Your WHY is arguably one of the most important foundations of your business. It’s the reason you started, the reason you push through hard times, and most importantly: it’s the reason your customers connect with you.
World-renowned author and corporate motivational speaker Simon Sinek said it best in his best-selling book and famous TED-talk, Start with Why:
Knowing your WHY gives you a filter to make choices, at work and at home, that will help you find greater fulfilment in all that you do.
In short, remember why you started your business. Whether to create a future for your children, to leave a lasting legacy, or to raise money for charity, it’s the core of everything you do within your business and the key to connecting with your customers.
This was something I noticed when chatting with Rylee; she had a clear idea of why she started her business, and maintained she would always have it clear in her mind, even as the business naturally evolves.
“When I first started Petals and Pinecones 3 years ago, I was inspired by the drive to create a safe, fun space where everyone could come and enjoy themselves with their families,” said Rylee. “I want everyone to feel like a somebody when they walk through the door—that’s been my mantra throughout this whole journey.”
So already I can see why Rylee has achieved so much so quickly; her business model puts her customers first, always. It’s ingrained with her why.
Which leads me to my next point.
2. Make Customers the Centre of Your Business
For years, businesses have run on similar models: business first, customers second (or third, or fourth…). But now, in 2018, with social media platforms, online reviews, and plenty of other channels available, there has been a phenomenal shift in power: customers don’t need businesses anymore; businesses need customers. People know what they want, and never before have they been so empowered to find the best product at the best price.
It used to be scandalous for a business to open shop across from their competitor—but now, online, that’s all there is; street after street lined with your competitors, where customers can compare and shop in just a few clicks.
So, how do you make customers choose you over your competition?
The quick answer is: these days, you can’t make customers do anything. You can only nurture and lead them to your business’ services and products. If you do this well, you won’t need to force anything, it will happen organically, as Rylee has noticed.
“It starts not just with me, but with my team,” Rylee says, “I never hire someone based on a piece of paper. I hire people who love interacting with people. My customers feel like that is the level of service they should expect as it’s not just Rylee, but the whole team, who will treat them like real people.”
From this, it was clear to me that Rylee runs a customer-centric business, where her customers always come first. It sounds cliché, but the results and Rylee’s success is a testament to this old expression.
“It’s about the little things. Remember their names, ask how their day was. Genuinely caring about your customers will see you more successful than a business owner who only sees customers as dollar bills.”
Rylee absolutely hit the nail on the head when she added, “I always tell my team during our training sessions, that ‘the customer won’t always remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel’.”
3. Don’t be afraid of change or challenges
It was refreshing and inspiring for me to hear Rylee’s attitude towards business and life challenges in general.
“When I started Petals and Pinecones, I had no qualifications in hospitality—which is quite hilarious. I mean, I wanted to start a cafe but had no clue what I was doing!”
That didn’t stop Rylee from diving right in and facing the challenges head-on.
“If I could talk to my past self, I would say ‘Get your accountant to hold your hand!’ We didn’t start with a business loan or finance, or any money behind us. We were growing very incrementally—we would barely have enough money to cover groceries for the day. It was a massive endeavour, and we had no idea what would actually be involved. It’s been hard and a crazy couple of years but it’s been worth it as well.”
Rylee kept pushing through, and knew she had to learn fast. But what was really interesting was her ability to adapt.
“There will always be challenges in business—always going to have bills, or unexpected things, there’s always going to be challenges that you just have to push through. There are companies that earn billions of dollars who suddenly go bankrupt and that’s the perfect example that there will always be challenges. It’s just how you deal with it.”
So what was Rylee’s advice for Aussie entrepreneurs doing it tough?
“Consistency. Consistency is key. Just keep showing up, even on the days that aren’t going so great. You may gain customers or lose customers, but as long as you keep showing up, you will eventually push through.”
“And of course, if something is not working, stop. Evaluate and re-pivot. Find solutions. We’ve had a lot of lows and challenging times as well. It’s about brainstorming, and pushing past those times.”
So the best thing you can do when you feel it’s too much, is to just keep going. Once you give up, the game’s over, right? Keep inching towards your goal and you will eventually get there.
4. Go where your customers are
The digital space is hard to ignore, and if you haven’t utilised social platforms for your business, you are missing out on getting more reach and therefore, more customers. Rylee explained how she covers her bases.
“I don’t invest in a lot of traditional advertising, like the newspaper, etc. I really appreciated Localsearch because they had the online presence as well. Andrew [Localsearch representative] came back every few months and would show me literally the numbers on the screen of how many people were looking at our profile, who was clicking on it, etc. And so many people do go to it. So many people think it’s all Facebook and Google now, and they’re not wrong—but there are so many people who trust and rely on Localsearch for their information.”
With more than 8,000 followers on Facebook and 11,000 on Instagram, it’s obvious that Rylee has been very successful in the social space online. So how did she build such a strong, robust following? Rylee says the secret is not only being where your audience is, but being honest, and sharing all aspects of the highs and lows with your customers and wider community.
“It always comes back to ‘don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help’. Share the highs and lows, the more you share about your adventure, the easier it becomes for everyone else. That’s the difference between something working or falling flat. Heavily involve everyone, just share it!”
Once again, Rylee’s success continues to stem from her strong personal drive of ‘why’, and her customer-centric vision. It’s about making a connection with her customers. Which goes to show, if you treat people well in your business, they will respond!
5. And lastly: don’t take your business too seriously
One of the most inspiring things about Rylee is her unique view on life. While she is serious about business, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, which has been a large contributor to her success.
“The way I look at is, what’s the worst that can happen? There are worse things in the world than your business not working!”
So all in all, Rylee’s mantras are to always be honest with your customers and—more importantly—to be honest with yourself. It’s scary when things don’t exactly go to plan, but pushing through it (where others would give up) is where success lies.
Do you know someone who would benefit from Rylee’s advice?
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Rylee Venables is a serial entrepreneur, starting her first business (a hair salon) at just 19, and now runs a successful cafe in the Atherton Tablelands. She has a husband and 2-year-old daughter, and never has been so busy, but nothing slows her down!
Over the last 12 months, Rylee and her business have won multiple awards including:
- Cairns Young Entrepreneur of the Year — Winner (2018)
- Tablelands Business Excellence Award — Winner (2018)
- Tablelands Business Excellence Award — People’s Choice Winner (2018)
- AusMumpreneur — Customer Service — Bronze Winner (2017)