For small business marketing mentor Sarah Denby-Jones, exhaustion (understandable). A young family (exciting). An opportunity to assess what she wanted next for her career and her lifestyle (enviable). “I’d proved what I could do, and didn’t feel the need to repeat the same experience,” she explains. “I was ready for a change, with the focus very much on my family and on rebalancing my life.”
#SurfaceLife - Sarah Denby-Jones Small Business Marketing Mentor https://youtu.be/5nX2MR3yWDE via @YouTube
Her decision was to move to from London to Sydney, with a clear initial objective built on her recent success in the UK: regroup, re-energize, recalibrate. It was only after she had fulfilled these personal objectives that she started to consider what the next entrepreneurial move might even be. “I knew I wanted to share my own experiences with people starting their journeys for the first time. I’d walked the path they were on or were about to start, and my experiences meant I could help them. In particular, I wanted to develop the idea of having the freedom to strike that balance, and to help others in business do the same.”
As she notes, businesses change fast, and disruption and innovation can appear at any moment. Small business owners especially can struggle to decide what’s important and relevant whilst staying true to their purpose. That’s where Sarah comes in, working as a mentor and strategic advisor to her clients.
“It’s sobering to remind ourselves that around 30% of startups or small businesses fail to survive beyond two years, often as a result of the initial idea being unsustainable in the medium term.
“So I challenge my clients’ thinking and strategies, I take them back a few steps, work with them to help them identify the core of their businesses, and what drives them. We focus on these foundations, and on getting them right. It’s too easy to focus on the tactics and the tasks of the moment, but if you’re operating on foundations that are weak or wrong, you are bound to fail.
Marketing is Sarah’s passion. “It’s my fundamental position and belief that marketing is about everything that you do. Once you’ve found your space the magic is in the details of the experience you create, and in how you connect on a human level. It’s about the culture, systems and structures that you put in place that pulls everything together to support your growth. These are your foundations, and they support the proposition you take to your customers.”
Sarah now works with disruptors. “Successful companies are now ‘fast’ rather than ‘big’ or ‘small’, size matters little if you can scale, and it’s technology that lets you scale,” she says. “When I started in London in the early-eighties, accessible technology was still in its infancy. We were anchored to desks with large PCs if we were lucky, we had secretaries if we were really lucky, and phones connected to walls with cables! So you actually had to have an office in a building. It was inevitable that our clients then were large companies, many leaders in their segments by definition. Much of our work was around changing strategy and the way they went to market. It was like turning proverbial tankers mid-ocean. We did it, but it took time.
“Technology has changed everything. I’m still in awe about what I can do because I can remember what it used to be liked!
“So being able to run a business from something as compact and as powerful as my Surface Pro 4 is just so cool! I can operate my business with clients from home or on the move. Its mobility is important because it lets me run my business on my terms, and means I strike the balance I seek in my life. I can work at home on product development, and meet with and engage with clients, with everything to hand.
“One thing about the Surface that I do love is the note-taking. I think and express myself with diagrams and hand-drawn schematics. Being able to do so with the stylus on the screen, and then to share and discuss new ideas with clients, is very powerful and very important and fundamental to how I work.”
Working with small businesses, and successfully growing and selling one of her own, gives Sarah Denby-Jones first-hand insights into what creating a business actually means. “It’s difficult to turn dreams into reality, and every business starts with a dream. Each entrepreneur’s path to success is different and you move along your path by learning as you go. I work with entrepreneurs who seek to create purposeful and profitable businesses. The passion and purpose will sustain you through the tough times and define your success, the profit is your reward.
Her one message for entrepreneurs is, “Leaning into your strengths is one of the most powerful things you can do, not least because you end up doing what you love, as well as playing to your skills.”