In this Q&A Sydney-based corporate communications specialist, Mike Holland, founder of Wordwallah, an SME offering writing and editing services, explains how he structured his business to suit his lifestyle.
My Business: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
Mike Holland: Setting up the Wordwallah business model to ensure minimal overheads and maximum freedom. I work from a home office and I have no staff – only subcontractors. In the past I’ve been involved in all areas of corporate communication – from graphic design, video production, interactive multimedia to event management, but now I focus only on writing, editing and indexing. This allows me to work from anywhere in the world. All I need is my laptop, phone and an internet connection. I’ve never met most of my clients, and I attend only about 10 face-to-face meetings per year.
MB: What are your most effective work habits?
MH: Discipline. When you work from home, it’s very easy to get distracted. Routines and targets help you stay disciplined. Here’s a typical working day for me:
0800-0900: Check emails and industry updates.
0900-1200: Sales calls and/or marketing.
1200-1400: Exercise and lunch.
1400-1730: Writing proposals, project management, business development etc.
MB: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business? How did you fix it?
MH: Using inexperienced subcontractors. Early on in the business, I was using less experienced subcontractors because their hourly rate was lower. But it ended up costing me more in time having to double check their work or, worse, losing a client because of substandard work. Now I only contract people who are accredited and have at least 10 years’ experience. The margins per project may not be as high, but I get more work from more happy customers, so the profits are greater.
MB: How do you delight customers?
MH: By value-adding. For example, we were writing some case studies for a client, and we created media releases of each at no extra charge.
MB: Share your number one sales technique with us.
MH: I use a sales call report each week, which tells me exactly how many calls I’ve made and what type of calls they were (e.g. no contact, contact, prospect, appointment made, brief, sale etc.). From that I know that for every 10 calls I make I get through to three people and one of those will be interested in my services.
At the end of the quarter I check my sales figures against the number of calls I’ve made so I’m able to work out how much each call is worth to me. This is a great motivator when you’re lacking enthusiasm, because you know that whenever you dial a number, whether you get through to the person or not, you just earned X dollars.
MB: Favourite piece of business technology? Why?
MH: Banklink. I hate bookkeeping – I used to struggle for hours with MYOB, even though I had a bookkeeper. With Banklink, my cheque and credit card accounts are linked to my accountant’s secure website. He sends me an email once a month with a link to my bank statements on his site. I simply click on any transactions that are not clearly identifiable and write a brief explanation for the accountant (e.g. ‘subcontractor payment’). This takes me around five minutes a month. My accountant even fills out and submits my BAS for me. And because most of this process is automated, it costs about as much as a regular bookkeeper.
MB: Best tip for managing people?
MH: Open communication. We sometimes forget that our clients don’t know the intricacies of our services, and we assume they’ve understood something that’s second nature to us. This can be potentially disastrous. Always ensure everyone is clear about what is happening, what is required and what you mean – every step of the way.
MB: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation? Why?
MH: They’re equally important. Without passion, you will be easily discouraged or you may simply lose interest. But without preparation your business will founder. If you lack one of these skills – develop it or get a partner who has it.
MB: If someone gave you $100,000 and said, “Invest this in your business by the end of the week – or lose it”, what would you do?
MH: I would invest in streamlining software to reduce or automate tasks. I would also commission an SEO/social media expert to assess and optimise my website and social media platform, and a writer to provide ongoing content.
MB: How do you relax?
MH: Meditation. I also avoid newspapers, radio and TV to reduce mind-clutter. Swimming three kilometres a week at Bilgola Beach rock pool (all year round). Playing guitar. It’s so easy to learn new songs nowadays – you just google ‘[song title] chords and lyrics’, then you go to YouTube and type in ‘[song title] guitar lesson’, and someone on YouTube very kindly gives you a free guitar lesson.
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