21 September 2023

How can small business owners ditch the 'overworked, underpaid' label?

| Morgan Kenyon
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View of Yass main street

Regional towns depend on small businesses to thrive, but without proper management their operators can be left longing for the lifestyle they deserve. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

Yass local Bridget Breen always had an entrepreneur’s eye. It served her well when she took the plunge and started her own business as a young adult. And unlike the 20 per cent who fail in their first year, Bridget’s venture was profitable.

But three years in, despite having 24 contractors and a full-time admin assistant on her team, Bridget continued to work 12 hour days. Burnout was quick and unforgiving.

When she finally decided to sell, Bridget quickly realised the business was worth very little without her at the helm.

Unfortunately, Bridget’s story is not unique. As told by the June Small Business Matters report, almost half of small businesses fail to make a profit, and 75 per cent of owners earn less than average wages.

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So, what did Bridget learn from her first venture?

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of regional towns. Since settling in Yass 11 years ago, I’ve been working to improve the lives of locals that run them,” she says.

“These are often longstanding family companies, some passed down for generations. There’s one thing holding them back more than anything – everyone works in the business, but nobody is working on it.

“Most of the time, growth is not about working harder or being better at your craft. It’s about taking a step back to figure out what your role as owner should look like.”

A certified business coach since 2007, Bridget has worked across industries to ease business owners through tough periods, including the 2008 global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bridget Breen smiling at camera

Bridget lived and worked overseas for decades before coming back to Australia. She now wears a number of hats, authoring two successful ebooks and appearing on podcasts as well as coaching Yass locals. Photo: Bridget Breen.

She says no matter the external influences, a business remains the reflection of the growth, skills and mindset led by its owner.

“Finding and keeping the right staff has always been a major challenge for my clients, and it has nothing to do with living in a small town. Getting the right people in the right role and motivating them to grow with you is absolutely essential,” Bridget says.

“The first step is to clarify the role of a new team member and what type of person would best fill it. Base your job advert on what is challenging and rewarding about the role to attract candidates who want the challenge, not just the wage.

“These are all questions that seem fairly simple but actually require a lot of reflection and planning. If you don’t know what your ideal employee looks like, how can you build a team to help you reach your goals?”

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Once a business owner has built a solid foundation around their team, time and money, Bridget says long-term success depends on getting involved in the community and creating lasting connections.

“Relationships are everything in a rural setting. When I set up in Yass, the first thing I did was walk into every business I could find and introduce myself,” she says.

“Later on I joined the Yass Valley Business Chamber (YVBC) and grew my network from there. I definitely recommend joining some kind of community or networking group in your area, no matter what type of business you’re running.

“Owning a business shouldn’t mean giving up all of your personal time – it’s your livelihood, not your life. Learn how to run it properly and you’ll soon reap the rewards for yourself, your family and your community.”

Bridget plans to continue growing her own business alongside locals in Yass and its surrounds. To explore your own avenues for growth, get in touch via Bridget Breen: Professional Business Coach.

YVBC has served its communities for over a century. For more information, visit Yass Valley Business Chamber.

Original Article published by Morgan Kenyon on Riotact.


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