Staying True to Yourselves

Vanessa Cullen share their 7 Small Business Insights with Sydney Business Month

Vanessa Cullen is the Principal and Managing Director of Forward Thinking Design & has been in business since 2003 (starting out at aged 21).She was recognised as one of Anthill Magazine’s ’30 Under 30′ Young Entrepreneurs in 2010 & 2009.

Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Design (Hons, UNSW) & a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies (Deakin), & is an Accredited Member of the Design Institute of Australia

1. What was the biggest turning point in your business and what brought it on?

When Forward Thinking Design started to regularly win awards (Telstra Short-listing, Winner Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence 2011, Winner Suncorp Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence 2010 and Winner Anthill Magazine ’30 under 30′ Young Entrepreneur Awards 2010, to name a few), I realised that our hard work and efforts were finally paying off. We had begun to create a name for ourselves and were gaining credibility within the industry.

2. What has been your biggest learning experience running your business?

Initially, convincing clients to trust their projects to someone they perceived as ‘very young’, was a problem. A key learning curve was to prove ourselves and learn to balance ‘trust’ in business to business dealings versus the need to protect one’s own interests and not be taken advantage of.

3. What’s the best advice you ever got for your business?

To stay true to ourselves and in what we offer. We take full responsibility for the seamless delivery of every project, from start to finish, including the design, approvals and ensuring that our clients receive accurate construction costings and best practice on-time fitouts. We aim to create long-term relationships with our customers and believe that if our clients aren’t still successfully trading 5 year later, then we haven’t done our job properly.

4. What do you think is the biggest change that Business Owners will need to adapt to over the next 2 years

As the global economy continues to grow, companies will need to become more efficient and differentiate themselves in ways that will provide them with a competitive edge in order to remain resilient to external factors. As technology continues to advance, we should embrace what it can offer us, but we should also remember the importance of face-to-face contact.

5. What piece of technology or app can you not live without every day to make your business more efficient?

It’s a boring answer but who can’t live without their mobile phone and remote server access? It keeps me in contact with my business wherever I am at all times.

6. What business strategies are you focusing on to grow your business over the next year?

To continue to expand our reputation as a leading interior design company across Sydney and beyond, and obtain more high quality leads through referrals and marketing, as well as striving to increase our exposure through the winning of awards and media coverage. We also aim to assist our clients in providing them with the best possible design for business performance and aesthetics. We believe in happy successful clients; their success is our success.

7. One thing you want NSW Government to change to help small business grow?

Encourage and nurture the growth of small businesses by providing an environment supportive of viable new start-ups. Too often small businesses are forced into closure due to a myriad of preventable reasons. There’s too much time taken up in red tape and in managing the pressures of taxation.


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Staying True to Yourselves
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