The number of New Zealand women starting their own business has soared in recent years. Statistics released by MYOB in October 2016 indicate that women now make up 44 percent of small to medium sized business owners in New Zealand, compared with 30 percent in 2012.
Participants of the survey attributed the following reasons for starting their own business:
- To take control of their own destiny (34 percent)
- Because they are passionate about what they do (33 percent)
- To obtain better flexibility (30 percent)
- Lifestyle change (18 percent)
- As an investment strategy (16 percent)
- As a hobby (12 percent).
OECD publication, Entrepreneurship at a glance (September 2016), provides data on the share of self-employed by gender for each of the 35 OECD economies. Interestingly it shows that New Zealand women are close to being on par with men; the only OECD economy to display such balance.
In the first of a regular feature on women in business, CareerMum talked with Rachel Klaver, Founder and Managing Director of Identify Marketing, in search of insight. How does her business operate? What makes Klaver tick? What are the highs and lows of being a business owner, and what advice does she have for others embarking on a similar journey?
Award winning businesswoman, and mum of three (aged 16, 13 and 11), Rachel Klaver launched her business, Identify Marketing, in April 2015. Identify provides expertise in all components of marketing strategy to small and medium sized businesses, and works with its clients to train, implement and/or deliver a customised marketing strategy.
In the short space of just 22 months, Klaver has grown her business to a team of five plus a band of committed contractors to meet the demands of her thriving business. Last month, Identify scooped the Supreme Award in addition to the Most Outstanding Fledging Business Award, at the prestigious David Awards.
What has been key to Klaver’s rapid success, and what advice does she have for other women looking to start their own business?
About Rachel Klaver
Auckland-born Klaver is a go-getter. As a mum of three, who raised her children as a single mum, her achievements are nothing short of remarkable. A former teacher, sales and marketing specialist, author of 27 books, freelance writer, spearhead for women’s publication M2Woman, PR guru and former business owner of an early education training establishment, Klaver has a wealth of experience, and is never afraid to give something a go. She draws on every one of her experiences as she focuses on the growth and success of Identify Marketing.
Klaver is a big picture thinker. Authentic in her style, business savvy, and strategic. She does not pretend to be something she is not, and her business is cut from the same cloth – her team is empowered, committed, and customer focused. She claims that her team has grown quickly to make up for her weaknesses, but her own leadership skills are clear to see. Klaver doesn’t feel the need to own every part of the business. Her success is about growing a capable team who will deliver results, challenge the status quo, and grow the brand – whether Klaver is in the equation or not.
How did Identify get started?
Identify Marketing started in Klaver’s living room – drawing on her skills and experiences to get going. It was always her ambition to grow a team around her, so as demand grew, it wasn’t a difficult decision to start recruiting. Her approach paid off when 180 people responded to the part-time role she advertised in the local paper. The 10-hour contract offered to the successful candidate grew as the business grew. The business now has a team of five, most of whom are career-driven mums, and this has worked to Klaver’s advantage. Finding highly skilled, qualified people who were looking for part-time work has never been a problem, and fitted well with the needs of the growing business.
What has been key to success?
Three key factors stand out for Klaver – the commitment of her team, her ability to listen to her own advice, and listening to feedback from her clients.
Klaver believes that the patience and commitment of her team was instrumental as the business got going – they worked remotely, maintaining close contact, but coming together only for team meetings. The team then worked from a dedicated office in Klaver’s home for three months prior to moving to their new office in Orewa; a scenario that worked remarkably well, and allowed time for the team to gel before taking the next step.
Klaver believes that, “every mistake is an opportunity to learn.” Feedback from clients is particularly important to her. If a contract opportunity is lost, Klaver is the first to seek feedback to ensure she can turn the missed opportunity into a positive for the business.
Klaver also walks in the shoes of her clients – striving to listen to the advice she gives to her own clients as they aspire to grow their respective businesses. In doing so it allows her, and her team, to experience first hand what their clients are going through.
How does Klaver juggle the competing demands of a growing business and family life?
Klaver’s love of working means she must set herself strict rules to ensure she switches off. Her phone is out of reach after 6pm, after which her family (including both her dogs) become the priority. Her love of fishing, pilates and walking occupy much of her down-time, and whilst she confesses that switching off is not an easy thing for her to do, she sees value for both herself and the business in doing so.
What challenges have been met along the way, and how have these challenges been overcome?
As seamless as the past 22 months may sound, Klaver has confronted many turbulences along the way, and continues to face the challenging demands of a growing business – juggling bigger picture ambition with week-to-week cash flow. Klaver often re-invests her own salary back into the business as she balances her business investments and overheads with demand.
Klaver also engages a number of committed contractors to ensure the growing demand doesn’t impact the level of service received by her clients.
What does the next 12 months hold for Identify?
By the end of 2017, Klaver aims to have supported 200 small to medium businesses to develop robust strategic plans that will support their future growth. In building her own business, Klaver fully appreciates that every dollar spent by her customers is precious, and aims to maintain a strong client focus through her own business’ growth.
Klaver’s advice for others starting their own business:
- The business doesn’t need to be perfect when you start. Identify has had three re-brands since its establishment. In Klaver’s mind, a business that is the same five years on is a bigger problem.
- Outsource as quickly as possible what you’re not good at.
- Don’t rob your business of long-term success through your own uncertainty. Be focused on your offering to customers, and believe in what you’re doing.