Universal Mark of Quality and Excellence

Stella Gianotto shares her 7 Steps on being a Successful Small Business

As Founder and Creative Director of Stella Design, Stella Gianotto has lived and breathed the design industry for over 15 years. Considered a branding guru, she has worked with high-profile brands such as Sportsgirl, Sportscraft Group, SOCOG and Mattel, but have a soft spot for SMEs. She went out on my own ten years ago, frustrated with bureaucracy, high staff turnover and never receiving client feedback (as well as the boss looking down my top) and have never looked back.

“Work is no longer work for me: I do it on holidays, late nights, weekends, even in the bath tub if I choose to. Now I have my own little empire – although small we are receiving awards and commendations. It’s also about giving back – I guest lecture in design and mentor and nurture my creative team and interns. Outside of Stella Design, I enjoy cooking, running and participating in community events and fun runs.”

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

My biggest turning point in business was when I lost 40 kilos. I hadn’t realised that the effects of a change in mindset in my health and personal life would spill over and so profoundly affect my business. It gave me the courage to transform my business into what I had always wanted it to be and to make it even more successful than ever before. I now apply the same discipline from my training to my business. Small, regular activities over a sustained time period always brings a compounding affect to the end result.

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

Read, learn, grow. And repeat, always. I am always astounded by the human capacity to learn, and continue to learn in business. Often I learn more from my team and their initiatives than I do by myself. I have also found that having a healthy paranoia for your business will serve you well and will keep you disciplined. Business never really stops growing, it lives and breathes and needs to be look after and kept as healthy as possible, just as we as humans do.

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

“Who said you can’t do it?” was probably the best advice one of my mentors offered to me. It’s a completely different mindset to most other mentors and coaches but at the end of the day we are only limited by our own capacity to grow and to think, and it’s the same for business.

This mentor told me our minds are only the real limitation and those who say you can’t generally don’t know how or don’t want to do it. He taught me to never stop asking questions and you’ll never stop learning. This has served me well all these years.

It’s not difficult to be successful in business; we just make it difficult by overcomplicating it and wrapping it up in too much emotion.

4. What do you think the biggest change that business owners will need to adapt to over the next 2 years?

Keeping up with or even just dealing with technology is the biggest issue. We can now get businesses to market within weeks where it previously took months; this is going to be the single biggest hurdle in terms of a business’ flexibility and ability to manoeuvre in the marketplace.

It means a change in mindset and also an ongoing strategy to keep up with technology, adapt the business to it and then implement so it’s beneficial. Just being able to learn new technology will be difficult for some businesses to embrace.

Tough times ahead for those businesses still refusing to embrace social media or the online free(mium) model for doing business.

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

Cloud computing has removed limitations to doing business, making it more accessible and mobile. It’s so easy to easy to connect, share, recommend, like, advise and work together online.

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

We are focussing on segmenting our services to make them more cost-effective, following a product model. We are also adapting some of our services and selling the expertise online. Finally, we are going back to source and mentoring the next generation of creatives coming through.

Our marketing has also been segmented: we offer the same product type to multiple audiences with a specific and tailored message. In short, we are looking to leverage more out of our foundation rather than spending on acquisition of new business.

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

Greater education, more intern and mentoring programs through which SMEs can access and get exposure to medium and larger business. The government doesn’t really teach or assist business owners on how to run a business at all. I also believe that SMEs in start up phase should be given greater tax incentives to branch out and grow.

If the government would listen, focus groups could be invaluable to offer feedback. A variety of key business owners (at all levels) could be invited to present their experiences and offer their opinions.

Stella Gianotto | http://www.stelladesign.com.au

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