4 key lessons for business success

Female Office worker

Running your own business can be rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges too.

So before you hand in your notice and take the leap into small business owner territory, Suzi Dafnis CEO of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network says there’s a few things you might want to think about first.

“One thing we an underestimate is how long it will take to turn a profit,” she says. “While it’d be great if we were all an overnight success, sometimes it takes a little while to establish your business and start to bring in enough revenue to cover your living costs and to pay you a salary. It’s a good idea to have enough money put aside to cover your living expenses (rent or mortgage, car payments, groceries, utilities) for at least six months.”

Understanding business and how to run one efficiently is something Suzi has had to learn the hard way. She launched her first business with her partner’s savings and within six months found themselves in a deep financial hole they thought they’d never get out of it.

“We consulted with an accountant who helped us put a plan in place to pay back our debt,” she said. “He also helped us straighten out our business plan so that the business model would make money.”

It’s easy for a new business to fall into the debt trap early, so Suzi urges you to think about the financial model for your business from the beginning.

“My first business was built on what I thought was a great idea, but when I met with my accountant to show him my plan he quickly pinpointed that there was no way the business was going to make any money,” she said. “So, I had to reconsider the business model and put in place more conservative revenue targets.”

With such a wealth of business experience, we are thrilled to have Suzi on a discussion panel about supporting emerging and start-up fashion businesses at Fashion Exposed on Monday August 18.

In this chat, we discuss how to perfect the juggling act; how retailers can prepare for a e-future; how to fill the knowledge gap; and Suzi’s 4 key lessons for business success.


As a sole proprietor you are often required to perform a myriad of roles from marketing to admin, sales and people management without formal training or expertise in these areas – how can business owners juggle these roles effectively and successfully?

In the beginning we do juggle many roles. However, we also come with a set of strengths. So it’s best to focus your time an energy on doing what you are good at and leaving the things you are not good at to others. As soon as you are able to, pay someone to do the things that you are not good at and which are not business-building. For example if you need a website but you’re not a web designer then don’t spend hours and hours creating something that is average (and making yourself crazy in the meantime).

You are better off paying someone to do the tasks that you are not good at. Having said that, as a business owner having a sound understanding of your business finances is essential, even if you hire a book keeper and an accountant. Also, a good understanding of sales and marketing is essential as you really are the best person to promote your business.

Retail has been particularly challenging in recent years, what advice do you have for businesses in this sector? How can they prepare for the new future where technology and e-tail are prevalent?

Retail has changed and customers will continue to look online for what they want. But, it’s an exciting time for retail, too. Be sure you are online (even if you don’t sell online) and that you have a robust online presence that includes your own website plus a presence in social networks.

Most customers, whether they buy online or offline will often research online so be sure to be found. You can counter price wars by ensuring you provide excellent customer service, after-sales service and educational information that puts you out in the market as an authority in your area of retail.

What can businesses do to fill the knowledge gap and boost their skills?

Ongoing education is an essential part of doing business and an investment. No matter what the skill, there are courses (both online and offline) plus books, blogs, podcasts, webinars that can help boost your skills as well, of course, as traditional in-classroom training.

The other thing, and this one is one of the secrets of highly successful business owners, is to find yourself a mentor. A mentor can help boost your education PLUS provide you valuable guidance and support that comes from real-life experience of running a business. And, your mentor does NOT have to be in your industry. In fact, often it is better if your mentor is not in an associated industry but rather comes from a totally objective perspective.

Cute business woman with colleagues in discussion at the background

As a business owner yourself, what are some of the key lessons you picked up along the way?

The key lessons for me were around these areas:

1. Education – the need for ongoing training and development. When I started my first business at age 26 I didn’t have a business degree. I learned from experience and from the many courses, seminars, books and classes that I went to to build my skills.
2. Mentoring – I have had many mentors through my business life and I continue to rely on mentors to help guide me as I explore new areas of business growth. I highly recommend mentors.
3. Inspiration – there’s no need to go it alone. I look to other successful female entrepreneurs and their stories for inspiration.
4. Networking – who you surround yourself with is really important. I’ve always sought out people with similar values, goals and aspirations. I don’t enjoy networking events that much BUT I do create opportunities to meet with and network with those that support me and who value the things that I do. Meeting other entrepreneurs and sharing ideas has been key to my growth and success.

You will join an expert panel at Fashion Exposed to support startups and emerging businesses – what can visitors expect? what do you hope to bring to this session?

I’m excited to share my own business lessons and also those of the hundreds of successful business owners that I’ve had the chance to learn from and meet. I’ll be sharing some of the main strategies for success that I have learned from the 160 women that are in the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame including the one thing I keep hearing time and again is their key to ongoing business success. (It’s the same thing that both Oprah and Sir Richard Branson claim to be key to success.)

What is your number one advice to new business owners?

Commit to your education. Business is a great personal development journey and the more you learn the more you’ll succeed. Knowing what Doesn’t work is as important and knowing what Does work… so take failure in your stride and keep moving forward, correcting your course as you go along.


BOOK YOUR FREE SPOT to see Discussion panel: Supporting emerging and start-up fashion businesses at Fashion Exposed

suzi dafnisJoin Watson X Watson, Small Biz NSW, TFIA, Australian Businesswomen’s Network and Launch Initiative at Fashion Exposed on Monday August 18 at the Sydney Showground, Olympic Park.

Emerging or start-up fashion business? Or just looking for ways to improve and grow your business further? Look no further than this discussion panel, drawing on the varied experience of the participants, visitors will get great support and practical advice.

  • Listen to Australian Businesswomen’s Network about how they work with thousands of Australian’s every day on strategies and resources to grow their business.
    For more information or to register, visit fashionexposed.com

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