“I grew up in a small town north of London where the ‘big smoke’ was never far from view. A graphic designer by trade, in my 20s I created presentations for city banks and research companies, which traded in high standards and fast deadlines. From early on in my career, I knew intelligent visuals packed a powerful commercial punch – yet no one in the corporate presentation world was taking the time to do them really well. That was my first inkling of entrepreneurial ambition.
A decade ago, pregnant with my first child – and filled with self-awareness that my life was already on the brink of profound change – I seized that momentum to take my passion for presentations even further.
In 2006, I launched Presentation Studio from my kitchen bench in Sydney. It was a humble start as I literally had my father build me a website and that was the launch of my business, which is now on track to turnover $3.3 million this financial year.
Today, I lead a team of 25 talented presentation experts in our Sydney office. The secret to my success has been retaining a laser beam focus on what we do well: transforming lacklustre presentations into powerful business communication tools. Our clients today include Westfield, Yahoo!7, Fisher & Paykel, Hyundai, and Qantas.
Last month I was named a NSW Finalist in the 2015 Telstra Business Women’s Awards which really is the ‘Oscars of business women’s awards’ in Australia. It was certainly nothing I could have envisioned a decade ago but is now recognition of all the years of hard work, ups and down and shows backing myself was worthwhile.
These are my seven biggest tips for any budding entrepreneurs, many of which I learned the hard way:
Fuel That #PASSION
Other than a good design eye and a really solid understanding of PowerPoint, I had no accounting, business or management experience; but I had passion and understood the need. The rest I learned as the business demanded it.
Passion is what sets a fire in your belly and gets you out of bed each morning. It’s what keeps you going when the ‘doubters’ question your thinking. It’s what gets you through those feelings of guilt when you sacrifice time with your partner, your kids or for yourself.
My biggest passion is to give others the power to influence and that drives everything I do. You have to love and believe in what you do, so that the time you invest is spent doing what you love – you are working towards something bigger. You have to put your ‘Why’ at the heart of every business to make it truly thrive.
Find your niche and stay true to it
My Dad worked for British Telecom in the UK for many years. I remember him saying that if I wanted to earn good money and really make a difference I had to do something nobody else was doing. I focused 100% on designing presentations, I had found a niche that was not already being mastered and I was willing to give it everything I had to make it a success. I’m really glad I listened my father.
Put in the hard work
I definitely put in the hard yards and worked very long hours in those first years. The most important things I valued then (and now) were professional design and going above and beyond with customer care. I instinctively understood what clients needed and that is what I delivered.
Avoid BSOS [Bright Shiny Object Syndrome]
The closest I came to losing it all is when I strayed away from my area of expertise. Clients were asking for brand design or app development. But, it wasn’t our strength – the team were put under too much pressure, we lost our focus – and point of difference. So seriously, remain focused and don’t be distracted by all the other things you might be able to do, if they are not what you are meant to be doing.
Know when to outsource
Very early on I was advised to outsource what I could. Even though cash flow was tight and every dollar earned was being put back into Presentation Studio, I hired a cleaner a book keeper and an account manager so I could focus on design. I didn’t cut a profit but it was an investment in growing the business. It’s the ‘chicken or the egg’ approach. Even now, I constantly review where my time is best spent – and decide what action will maximise results long term.
Master the art of productivity
I enjoy travelling and get more done out of the office. That’s no coincidence, as flights for me mean time to think and write; I have less interruptions and no emails coming in. I put my headphones in and I’m in my own world. If you can’t get out of the office, I suggest turning email popups off and working in blocks of 50 minutes. Stop multi-tasking and challenge yourself to see what you can get done in that limited time.
Always make time for you
I’m clear on what ‘my time’ looks like. I’ll go to a conference and enjoy a peaceful night in a hotel. Have a bath and an early night and write a blog (like right now). To me that is indulgence, but more than that it’s also doing what I love – so for me that’s a double win!”
Emma Bannister, is the Founder & CEO Presentation Studio. Click here to visit the Presentation Studio website