Sydney-based Julie Sweet runs Certificates Online, a 24-hour service which obtains full original birth and marriage certificates for clients. In this Q&A, Sweet explains how she’s kicking goals in her niche market.
Certificates Online provides an efficient service through which full original birth and marriage certificates can be obtained promptly. Sweets customers are generally people applying for the First Home Owners Grant, travelling overseas, in need of their passports, getting married, having babies and other things in which these original documents are required. If you’ve ever had to chase these up yourself, you would know all too well how much of a pain in the arse it can be, particularly when time is of the essence, and this is where Sweet found her niche market.
Below, Sweet offers insight into how she’s made a success of the business.
My Business: What motivated you to start your own business?
Julie Sweet: Emotional and financial independence, as corny as that may sound. I truly wanted more. I wanted to be emotionally fulfilled, I wanted to be in control of how I felt internally and I believed starting my own business would allow me to feel differently within. Of course, coming from an immediate and extended family of entrepreneurs also helped the cause! Financially, I was at a crossroad in my life working full-time for a large organisation, and I began thinking outside the square somewhat. I was beginning to become challenged by working the hours I was in the corporate world, when I thought “what if I did this for myself?”. That doubt lead me to take a chance in starting my own business.
MB: What are your most effective work habits?
JS: I guess I would have to say my energy and enthusiasm. I would also like to think my positivity, which I try and ensure I have constantly.
MB: The most important person in my business is ... because ...
JS: I would be lying if I said there was just one person, for there are several. They range from our SEO specialist, to our graphic designer, our accountant, our business lawyer, and staff, along with our artwork photographer. Let me just say it takes a team – a key network team – so the most important person in my business is my team.
MB: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
JS: To start – to actually begin. To suspend my fear and start my own business.
MB: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business? How did you fix it?
JS: Letting the business run me. In the early days I was consumed with the business, not that I am not now, yet I have no boundaries. I used to hit the ground running and couldn’t see which way was up and became so stretched that I almost burnt myself out. Fortunately I had people around me who not only saw this, but guided me actively towards becoming open, less rigid and more flexible. Ultimately I fixed the problem by working on the problem, myself.
MB: What challenges are unique to your industry and how are you overcoming them?
JS: Within this industry of births, marriages and with respect, deaths, it’s often thought of as a ‘once off’. In saying that, of course many have more than ‘one’ child, along with several deciding to remarry (and remarry.and remarry). However, there is something of an invisible ceiling – that is, how many births and marriages can an individual go through in their lifetime? That can pose a slight issue. The thing is, on the flip side repeat business and word of mouth has turned out to be one of our most profitable areas in our enterprise, which is a refreshing experience.
MB: How do you delight customers?
JS: By making the impossible possible. Exceeding clients’ expectations always brings a smile to my face. When a customer expects something by a certain date or time and then receives it faster than they anticipated, it makes for one happy client. And that always builds a wonderful rapport.
MB: Share your number one sales technique with us.
JS: Get out there. That is all I can say. I would say sell your soul, yet that sounds corny. However, effectively it is what I mean.
MB: What’s your secret team-building tactic?
JS: Authenticity. People detect a false, inauthentic person a mile away.
MB: Best tip for managing people?
JS: The skill of listening. Genuinely listening and hearing what is being said.
MB: Who do you most admire? Why?
JS: I love this question and it is an easy one to answer. It is my maternal Nan, who is Maltese and truly salt of the earth. My Nan is a woman of honesty (truth that is so raw you only come across it with either a best friend or in group therapy) and generosity. I have never met anyone like her and her ability to be able to adapt year after year after year to the times we live amongst is remarkable. More so, she does something that is what I consider rare and that is, she does not judge, ever. Without a shadow of a doubt she is my confidant.
MB: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation? Why?
JS: Logically I want to say the latter, yet speaking subjectively I admit, for me, it’s passion. I feel it’s more important because as prepared as you can be – and don’t mistake me, preparation is essential – if you don’t have the inner passion that drives what you stand for, all the preparation in the world, in my view, will not suffice. Passion is innate – you can learn to prepare, whereas through my lens, passion is instinctive and empowering. It can change you.
MB: What’s your favourite networking activity? Why?
JS: Networking itself. Any Business Chicks networking event is my favourite. They deliver each and every time invaluable connections, excitement, motivation and enlightenment.
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?
JS: I would invest it in advertising. Namely, SEO campaigns.
MB: Generation Y: are they as demanding as everyone says?
JS: I must say I haven’t experienced Gen Y as demanding personally. I have found the ones I have come across to be extremely innovative and daring.
MB: What do you hope to achieve in your business in the next 12 months and where do you plan to be in a year from now?
JS: Expansion, expansion, expansion. We wish to market our business on an even larger scale and employ more and more staff. We want Certificates Online to be the website on everyone’s lips – worldwide!
Follow @mybusinessau on Twitter for breaking stories throughout the day.
Find out why you should join the SME Association of Australia.