Ideas + Insights

My 5 greatest business a-ha moments.

Tess Robinson

I vividly remember when we moved into our first ‘real’ studio. We upgraded from our quasi-illegal, deeply humbling alleyway warehouse we shared with a family of mice and an abundance of quirky neighbours and moved into a light-filled office above an art gallery in Woollahra. It was beautiful, clean and very on-brand. To our sheer delight, it even had OH&S approved stairs, windows and walls!

And what’s more, we no longer had a studio that backed onto a lane smelling like a million garbage trucks just had an orgy! (sorry Mum)


I felt like Julia Roberts in the latter half of Pretty Woman.

For me, starting a business at 22 could have been described as a case of insanity. I was a college drop out after four failed attempts, with zero savings and zero experience. It took the next three years of working 70 hour weeks to get Smack Bang off the ground. I said goodbye to weekends, holidays, friends’ birthdays, my own birthday, good health and devastatingly a loaf of Iggy’s sourdough bread on a Sunday morning (if you know, you know).

To outsiders, we’ve always looked primped and polished, but let me tell you, what may look like a well-oiled machine now has certainly had a few burnouts along the way.

This eight-year narrative contains far more ups, downs, and inside outs than I have time to write. We’ve outgrown 4 office spaces over that time, and with that went our Kikki K diaries and our USB sticks. We’ve lost clients, staff members, sleep and unashamedly our dignity (cue Xmas party 2016).

The intensity and the hurdles of the last eight years have truly built me into a bigger and better businesswoman, and woman for that matter. I feel as though I am able to handle more every day and turn each problem into an opportunity that works in my favour.

Fast forward and here we are now with 15 incredibly hard-working and capable employees, over 100 clients under our belt all the while thriving from our very own two-story light-filled studio in Woollahra. It’s been wild, it’s been chaotic, but mostly it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I’m still not entirely sure where I’m heading, and there are still many dark corners of the business. But I do feel that as a business and a collective of individuals, we are proud of the work we’ve done.

I’m still figuring out my definition of success. If you Google “success” you get a lot of trite quotes and corny cliches that feel similar to the positive affirmations hurled at me during that spin class I went to once, (in 1999….)

But when I stop and take a break from the merciless to-do’s, I can see that it’s all worth it. When my staff tell me that they’re happy and when our clients tell me they’ve had a 30% increase in sales, it’s all worth it. The moments when I’m standing in our pokey little staff kitchen making a cuppa and I can hear the team in a mix of hardcore taking-over-the-world brainstorm ideas and intense belly laughs, it’s all worth it. And when I get home to a lifestyle that I love and that I have worked my bloody ass off for, it’s all worth it.

Like most other entrepreneurs, I learned how to build a business whilst building my business. It’s been an on-the-fly, trial-by-fire kinda lesson.

  1. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step up
    Going on maternity leave forced me to take a step back and consequently, a step up. In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, my General Manager and I were meticulous in planning and implementing systems that meant I could actually have time off.Stepping back allowed me to see the business and its working objectively. I could see the flaws and the parts that needed attention because I wasn’t in it. It also allowed me the freedom to decide how, upon returning, I wanted to step back into it – where I would be of the greatest value and what I wanted to prioritise.
  1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
    Everybody knows about the 10,000-hour theory of expertise. What most people forget is that it’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” — applying yourself and staying woke — not 10,000 hours of sleepwalking through your job.If I could give you any single piece of advice, this would be it, 10,000%. Continually ask yourself, is this the best way of doing it? Am I the right person to be doing this? Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Learn the power of delegating, and it will allow you to have far greater impact.
  1. Diversification isn’t always the answer
    Creative genius is literally the ability to give birth to new ideas or solutions. As an entrepreneur, it can be so exciting to have the freedom to explore a million and one fun ideas – but just because you have a million ideas doesn’t mean you should pursue them all. Think about your end goal, and ensure these creative ideas are in complete alignment with your values as a person, and as a business.
  1. Pleasing two of the three P’s to stay in alignment
    At Smack Bang, we work with clients who fit a specific criteria. They must tick two of three boxes; Passion, Profile and/or Profit. Obviously, the trifecta is the goal. It took me years to be able to conceptualise and articulate this criteria. For a long time, I consulted my crystal ball and made decisions about which projects to take on with my gut. And then I heard from a friend of a friend, who was describing his methodology for choosing which projects to work on – Profit, Passion, Profile –  Wham bam, thank you, Ma’am, finally, we had a clear framework to base our clients off.
  1. Word of mouth is the O.G of marketing.
    Gone are the days where simply having a presence and a nice looking website were enough. Building trust with your audience is imperative if you want to remain relevant and memorable. Your brand is your reputation. Prioritise offline over online. You need to connect with your market, and not just collect them.Growing your online presence needs to be organic, and from this will come genuine and real relationships beyond the mere double-tap, and the sense of instant, false reassurance that comes with it. Be kind to everyone, simply because that’s the right thing to do, but also because of who you are and how you treat people is what leads to work and building a good reputation.
  1. You gotta do the work.
    I know I said I’d give you 5 tips, but like my local Indian takeaway joint, I like to under-promise and over-deliver. Consider this last point me throwing in some delicious (and free) samosas with your curry order.I hate to break it to you, but reading a book on how to kick a ball doesn’t qualify you for the World Cup. You need to do the work. Put in the time and build up the practice. You need to show up, with your sleeves roll up and consistently give it your all.

Image credit: Nat Turnbull

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