What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business?
At first, making the decision to start my own business was the scariest part but once I made that decision, my business became my passion. I must admit that it was pretty much smooth sailing from day one. One of my old project clients had heard that I started my own firm, so she called me on day one when I was sitting at my desk with no clients, and the rest is history! I picked up a new client once a month for the first six months, and towards the end of my first year I was literally working around the clock and knew it was time to hire my first employee. It was such an exciting time because it exceeded all my expectations and everything was so new. Each year has brought its delights and challenges and I’ve learnt so much from those. I still absolutely love what I do and get excited when each New Year comes along because I know we’re just going to get even better.
What were the reactions from your friends and family?
My husband and mother in law were my biggest supporters and really pushed me in this direction. I am so thankful for their belief in me. The rest of my family and friends just went along with it, but I often get pats on the back for having made the move to start my own firm.
How has your life changed?
It’s changed in so many ways. I love what I do every day and I am challenged daily. I have done better financially than I would have done working elsewhere. I am also excited about what the future will bring. My biggest challenge came when I had my first child. Wow, hats off to all the mums who are business owners out there. I have new found respect for them ever since because I had no idea how hard it was going to be. My staff really helped me pull through it, but it’s made me see things from a very different perspective.
What success have you experienced since starting your business?
Agent99 PR has grown from a one-person home office agency to a full-service communications agency with staff of up to seven people. We have worked with close to 60 amazing lifestyle and consumer clients over the years and that is something I am very proud of. we were recently named finalists in PRIA’s Medium PR Agency of the Year, and Consumer Marketing Campaign of the Year, as well as Mumbrella’s Boutique PR Agency of the Year, as well as Relaunch Campaign of the Year which were huge moments for us . We have also been featured in countless industry magazines and outlets showcasing the campaigns and work we have done on behalf of our clients. During all of this, we have maintained our strong value of achieving results for our clients at all times, which is the philosophy I built the agency on.
What technology do you use in your working life to make things easier?
My phone is my life (sounds dramatic, but I truly don’t know what I would do without it!) I have all the vital apps, organizers, and social platforms which are so important to me and my clients’ in our ever changing world.
I respond to any crucial client or staff emails early in the morning and read the news and relevant headlines on sites such as smh.com.au or news.com.au which are usually my first point of call. Knowing what is breaking in the news helps us get onto any opportunities for our clients quickly and effectively.
5 tips for businesswomen looking to start their own businesses:
1. You are going to face many challenges, so you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you don’t, no one else will either.
2. Surround yourself with great business advisors who can help you make key decisions. Mine have been an excellent accountant, a business coach who really helped me take the business to the next level, another friend who runs an agency of a similar size who I bounce things off, my dad who has an excellent business/financial mind, and my husband who is in strategy.
3. Your reputation is everything – know what your values are and stick to them. They will guide each and every decision that you make in your business, and how you behave towards your key stakeholders.
4. Money is not everything. Happiness always matters, so make sure that you get the balance right. Spend time with family and friends and don’t stop doing the things that are important to you. I was working really hard in the first year of business but still managed to run my first marathon because that was a personal dream I wanted to accomplish.
5. Select your staff carefully. You can’t do it alone, so go through rigorous procedures to make sure that you are working alongside the best. They ultimately represent your brand, so they have to believe in what you do and do the best for you.
Tips for staying motivated when the going gets tough:
1. Recognise issues and deal with them. Don’t sweep things under the carpet, it’s best to face them head on.
2. Learn from everything that you do, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice!
3. Be relentless. There is a way, no matter how hard it may be.
4. Don’t give up on yourself or the business. But also know when you’re flogging a dead donkey and be ready to change direction.
5. Respect other people’s opinions, but don’t get pulled in many directions. Know your own mind and be confident in making your own decisions – right or wrong.
6. Enjoy the ride and celebrate milestones. I have a photo of my first cheque. I was so excited! I also took my husband out to dinner after having a fabulous year, and we celebrated in style. Remember, it’s important to give yourself a pat on the back, as no one else does when you are your own boss!
About your guest blogger: Sharon Zeev Poole is the Director and Founder of Agent99 Public Relations, a full-service communications agency. After being involved with medium to large PR agencies throughout her career and working on high-profile clients such as Warner Bros. And Starbucks Coffee, Sharon was ready to take on a bigger challenge. She aced the decision of either staying in a large firm to manage a team as an Account Director or becoming her own boss and starting a business where she could shape the company’s values and future. In 2007, Sharon decided to take the plunge, and through her own networks and reputation in the market, was able to build up a boutique agency to represent an enviable list of consumer and lifestyle clients. To date, Agent99 Public Relations works with some of Australia’s most loved brands in food and wine, lifestyle, travel, health and not-for-profit sectors. The team continues to expand and grow daily, with a clear passion and vision for its clients’ ‘missions’.