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New business a perfect fit
A NEED to balance work and family led to a successful business for Rebecca Blake. Rebecca combined her occupational therapy skills and passion for people to create a unique workplace consultancy.
Rebecca started Blake Professional in July 2011 so she could contract for a previous employer, but became serious about running her own business in early 2012.
Her employer was wonderful but the family had to relocate, so Rebecca explored a range of flexible, family-friendly and potentially profitable alternatives.
A qualified occupational therapist, the then stay-at-home mum set five criteria: Flexible hours, work appointments fitting around family needs, working at home when her kids needed her, the diary fitting with her husband’s and profit outweighing stress.
An ergonomic consultancy was the perfect fit as it used her skills and experience while enabling Rebecca to work with people and improve their work environment. “I am very interested in people’s wellbeing at work as opposed to merely meeting basic health and safety statutory requirements,” she says.
Without actively seeking it, the business began to secure work and receive great feedback from clients. They loved Rebecca’s strategic approach, excellent customer service and follow-up.
As well as her knowledge and professional skills, she was already known for her customer service, reliability, honesty, integrity, holistic approach and genuine interested in worker health safety and wellbeing.
Blake Professional sells expertise about ergonomic, health, safety and wellbeing strategy. Its webpage is pitched at office based ergonomic consultancy.
Rebecca ensures that all aspects of office work stations are set up to help minimise potential physical problems. She also helps clients to understand that ergonomics is based on the sciences of physics, biomechanics, human physiology and anatomy, not simply aesthetics, interior design and comfort.
“I am always very clear to my clients that I will only recommend something if there is a demonstrated need,” Rebecca says.
Clients tend to be medium to large businesses or government departments with a designated health and safety or risk manager. The business also helps smaller organisations seeking advice about specific employee health and safety issues.
Most clients are from Melbourne and central, northern and north western Victoria.
While she felt that she had some natural business nouse, Rebecca was aware that “you don’t know what you don’t know”. “Like re-reading your own essay, I couldn’t see potential mistakes in my approach,” she says.
When she was ready to approve her brochure and spend money on other materials and a website, Rebecca decided she should seek independent advice.
She learned about SBMS via an email from Small Business Victoria offering a free one-off consultation. Rebecca discovered her mentor, René Blaszak, during that consultation.
The SBMS is a non-government non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
René is a recently-retired dynamic manager with a successful history of profit improvement via sustainable cost reduction, restructuring and business development/marketing. He is particularly skilled in strategic/business planning and realistic objective setting.
René said Rebecca had already done many things right. She had developed a mutually beneficial working relationship with an ergonomic furniture supplier, built a customer base, considered a pricing strategy, conducting research and designed promotional material.
Rebecca also followed the free Mobile Business Centre mentoring session with three more with René. During those sessions he reassured her that her ideas had merit and provided objective advice in a range of areas, including:
- Management skills and strategic planning.
- Setting measureable objectives and keeping financial records up to date.
- Applying an objective business approach to decisions such as billing structure and which clients to target.
- Being clear about these issues and making choices that are a good use of her energy.
- The possibility of government small business funding.
- Tax issues.
- Cash management, pricing and targeted, focused marketing.
- The need for a written memorandum of understanding between business partners.
- Developing sustainable competitive advantages and marketing them.
“I was looking for insights from someone with a non-biased, un-emotive, non-family, fresh perspective who had considerable business experience,” Rebecca says. “I needed very honest feedback. I got it! Happily it confirmed I was generally on the right track.”
Since seeing René, Rebecca’s client base and confidence to target clients have both increased. Without his help, she says she would still be lacking the confidence to run with her instincts and to believe that her ideas often had some merit.
“In all honesty, I still can’t believe my luck,” she says. “René’s advice to date has been invaluable. Whilst he professes to know nothing much about ergonomics, he has very quickly identified the key areas of my business that I need to focus on and has provided not just sound business advice, but wonderful encouragement.
“René’s positivity towards my business and my potential to be a successful businesswoman has given me the confidence to make decisions and to value my skills in a way I never have before.
“He has a natural ability to provide the perfect balance of good advice, authority and a sense of requiring accountability, good humour and good company all whilst applying brilliant strategy in a completely non-pompous ... way! I really enjoy the time spent in our mentoring sessions.”
René said Rebecca had done everything right. “Rebecca’s OT business has very good potential because she is in a specialist sector and has the discipline and drive and a burning desire to be a successful entrepreneur – not only in the OT arena,” he said.
Rebecca has already recommended SBMS to several friends and business associates and is now sharing strategies she learned with others, creating a “ripple effect”.
“I think any new business would be silly not to access SBMS before committing to spending money on their venture,” she says. “I am happy to do what I can to offer my return support to SBMS. Who knows, one day I may even be successful enough to be able to volunteer my expertise!
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