As the adage goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. While it’s important to have a broad skill set, SMEs don’t have to go it alone: your personal and professional networks can prove more helpful than you may realise.
When Sean Garlick started his business, Garlo's pies, he had a problem. He had the idea: entering into a new business selling pies made by his younger brother, a pastry chef – but they had virtually no business experience.
What Sean did have, however, was connections, given his previous career as a professional footballer in the NRL.
“I was doing a bit of work still at the time with The Footy Show, doing some guest panel work and some interviews and all that sort of thing, so I got hold of The Footy Show and said, ‘Would you like to televise a grand opening? A celebrity pie-eating competition!’,” he explains on the My Business Podcast.
Garlo’s Pies was “an instant success” and had to open another shop to keep up with the demand.
“Twelve months later, we opened another shop and The Footy Show were back and they televised that again ... and then I started getting inquiries from everybody, all over the place, wanting to open franchise stores,” says Sean.
“Before we knew it, we had 13 shops in the first six years and it was quite a big business.”
Of course, not every business owner has connections to a television show or a group of high-profile sportspeople on whom to rely. Yet that does not mean that they cannot rely on family, friends or contacts to help them out.
“Everyone knows when you start a business, you've got no money,” Sean says.
“You do everything yourself. You can't advertise and you can't promote and you've got to call on favours and get stuff for free where you can.
“If you can't get through that first 12 months [to] two years, you're in a lot of trouble.”
My Business editor Phillip Tarrant comments on how well Sean utilised his network of contacts to help launch and sustain his business, something every business owner can do.
“I think everyone, irrespective of what they do or their community, can lean on people around [them] and ask for a hand,” Phillip says.
“Absolutely, you've got be not afraid to ask,” Sean adds.
“Unless you ask, you don't know. Quite often, people, I've found, they're generous with their time. They want to help you out. Especially successful people that you go to for advice: they're flattered that you come and see them and they're always willing to help.”