Emma, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve lived in Coffs all my life. I grew up went to school here and then left as soon as school finished, moving to Brisbane, as I wanted to be an air hostess! After not making it through any of the Virgin interviews (I was WAY too shy), I settled for working in the corporate world for Telstra.
I lived the usual life, got married, had kids and then I lost my dad – at age 54. It really threw me, and I realised that life is way too short. So we packed up and moved back home to allow our kids to grow up around family, and to live every day to the fullest on the beautiful Coffs Coast.
From school, I had really enjoyed photography and once I grasped the new digital side of it, I began my business – Emma Rhoades Photography. Over the past seven years, we have grown the business to have a team of four and under the new name of Meraki Images. I’m still involved in this, even though I have a new role with Nortec.
You recently joined the team at Nortec; what motivated the change?
Throughout my career journey to date, I had come to realise that my true passion was in helping others to grow their businesses. So, I knew, given the chance, this is where I wanted to head with my career life.
An opportunity to do just this came to me early in 2016; however, I wasn’t in a position to take it up. But lucky for me, another similar opportunity came along late last year, and the stars aligned for me to jump on it.
In your new role, what sort of services will you be looking to provide local small businesses?
My role is really to support small business owners through advice and learnings that can assist them to grow and develop their business and skill sets. This is something I am really passionate about, so I find going to work a real joy.
Formally, Nortec provides these Business Advisory services (among others) on behalf of the NSW Government’s Business Connect Program. The program provides funding subsidies for two hours of business advice for eligible businesses and then a package of a further six hours for a small nominal fee of $125. Advice can include really anything, from business development, sales, marketing, training and other areas.
In my role, I look for businesses that might be interested in this type of assistance, and we work together on a one-on-one basis so I can really understand the business and any challenges and I can tailor the advice to suit the needs of the business moving forward.
Putting your other hat on now, you mentioned you have owned a successful small business, Meraki Images, for some years now. What have been some of the successes to date?
My biggest success from Meraki Images and the journey we’ve been on so far, has been to listen to my customers to really understand their needs and always be willing to help them.
Customer service has always been my main priority – yes, we have made mistakes along the way; we are only human. However, I believe it’s what you do or how you react with regards to your mistakes that makes all the difference.
What is one of the best lessons you learnt in small business?
I think the single most important lesson that I learnt early on in the piece of starting my business was to have a “big picture” strategy. If you don’t have an end-goal in mind … where are you going? How can you possibly know what you need to do if you don’t know the end destination? It’s impossible, and prone to disaster. So no matter how big you think it is, get it down on paper and refer back to it. It doesn’t have to be a 10-page document; just write down your one goal that you’d want if you could have everything you dreamed of in business come true.
Managing a small business has its challenges for all business owners. What have you found challenging in running your own business?
There are lots of lessons I could share with you! Owning a small business is plagued with challenges, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Here are a few defining ones that come to mind.
Learning to let go and trust your team is probably what most small business owners struggle with at some point in their growth. You can’t move forward with one foot still in the door behind you.
I also think there is great benefit in “Thinking BIG” – if you want to BE big, you won’t get there by thinking small.
Taking measured risks – weigh them up by all means, but growth won’t come without risk and challenging your comfort zone.
Cash flow is always a balancing act! It’s probably the single most recurring issue for small businesses I talk to. Cashflow has many facets, and simple things like knowing your costs, calculating gross/profit margins for products or services and even accounting for wages or owner drawings properly are commons pitfalls to cashflow dramas. Getting the help of an advanced accountant to guide you through setting the foundation of good cashflow management is absolutely key.
What inspires you about living and working on the Coffs Coast?
We have an amazing, progressive community here in Coffs. We are diverse, have many talents and to see the population growth over the past few years is just fantastic. Now, to work on the business economy …
What do you like about the Coffs Harbour business community?
The Coffs Harbour business community is here for one thing – to improve the business economy here in Coffs, and to support our local business owners. With various business organisations and networking groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Business Women’s Network, Coffs Councils 6 Degrees program, along with many others – we have created a valuable and diverse range of business owners willing to stand up for one another, collaborate and develop the region as a whole.
Being a part of this business community and being able to support this growth and development through my role is something I am extremely proud of.
Anything on your bucket list you’d like to share with us?
I don’t believe in the concept of a bucket list … Live for now is my motto. Plan for now, this year, next month, next week – not for “before I die”!