In this Q&A, My Business meets Prahran, Victoria-based SME owner Tom Griffith, who with business partner and childhood friend Emma Welsh has enjoyed seven years of success with wellbeing brand Emma & Tom’s.
In seven years of operation, Emma & Tom’s has secured listings for their whole fruit smoothies, sparkling organic juice and fruit bars in more than 2,000 cafes and independent stockists across Australia.
After successful careers in Melbourne and London – Griffith as a CFO and advisor to the UN, and Welsh running the consumer marketing division at NAB – pair used their accumulated savings to fill a gap in the market for whole fruit juices that were free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and concentrates. Here, Griffith explains the keys they’ve used to unlock seven years of growth.
My Business: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?
Tom Griffith: The more that you take on and do yourself, the better off you will be. The world is full of people wanting to help you out and help you empty your wallet. The more intimate you can be with your business, the more you will understand it and therefore know how to drive it.
MB: What are your most effective work habits?
TG: Recognising what's important in driving sales and profitability. We both have young children and work time can get squeezed (excuse the pun), so when we sit down we make sure we are very effective.
MB: The most important person in my business is ... because ...
TG: Clearly Emma – ours is an extremely close and collaborative relationship upon which we both rely heavily.
MB: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
TG: Partnering with Emma. It would have been a very tough road to have walked alone.
MB: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business? How did you fix it?
TG: We designed a bottle that our bottling plant was incapable of applying a label to. 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars later in contract labelling costs, we resolved this. We were much more careful with product design after that.
MB: How do you delight customers?
TG: We work very hard to support a fantastic product with an outstanding service to create an irresistible proposition to our customers. Constant amazement.
MB: Share your number one sales technique with us.
TG: We are happy to let our products do the talking. We generally do a pretty soft sell and give our potential customer time to taste our juices. Our products are high volume sellers, so the sales results quickly speak for themselves.
MB: What’s your secret team-building tactic?
TG: We happily provide our team with a lot of autonomy – we treat them as colleagues, not employees. In turn, our team behave like business owners themselves.
MB: Favourite piece of business technology? Why?
TG: We use hand-held devices to record all sales, so everything is recorded real time and synchronises with our database on a daily basis. With sales teams in four states, this is essential.
MB: Who do you most admire and why?
TG: My father has set an extremely strong example. He ran his own business – back before being entrepreneurial was remotely fashionable. I have learnt a great deal from him and continue to enjoy his advice and views.
MB: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation? Why?
TG: Preparation. There is so much that can go wrong and that needs to be considered. Passion is wonderful and a key element, but at the end of the day you need strong systems and control.
MB: What’s your favourite networking activity and why?
TG: We tend to identify people who we are impressed with and ask them for a coffee or and meal to meet them and to learn from them. We have many relationships with people we enjoy enormously and have learnt a great deal from.
MB: How do you relax?
TG: I run a lot, enjoy going to the beach and on outings with my two young daughters, who I am very close to. Being on top of things at work is, in itself, relaxing.
MB: Favourite sporting team and why?
TG: I'm very impressed with Geelong Football Club, they just get on with it. No altitude training, no carry on about their training facilities, no chairman looking to attract constant news coverage. They just live in Geelong or down along the coast, play football, perhaps a bit of golf or a surf, aren't in the papers for the wrong reasons, no-one knows the chairmanship name and while other clubs occupy thousands of newspaper column inches bickering over issues like succession planning, Geelong just do it quietly and execute it perfectly.
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?
TG: Upgrade our IT system and hire one person to assist operationally, freeing up more time for Emma and I to spend growing the business.
MB: Generation Y: are they as demanding as everyone says?
TG: No, I haven't seen that at all. We have worked with 30-40 Gen Y-ers and found them to be ambitious hard workers. Some personalities suit our business, others don't and we weed them out very quickly. The entrepreneurial environment suits some, but others can't deal with the pace and level of autonomy required.
MB: How do you foster and express creativity?
TG: We seek opinion from all of our team who are encouraged to be creative and are rewarded and recognised for it.
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