Marketing Eye

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We are at the pointy end of the year, and it's without doubt my most reflective period. It's 10 years since I registered the Marketing Eye business name, and it's been a long, arduous journey, but one that I don't regret.

Marketing Eye started with investment money. The first few years, we had some tweaking to do, which was stressful, because I wasn't just playing with my money. Bringing a new model into a mature market is just a case of rolling the dice, seeing how they fall and hoping for the best. But I believed in it with all of my heart. I thought I knew something that others didn't and that was that all small businesses need to manage cash flow with no surprises and they all need marketing. This is a formidable combination, capable of allowing small to medium sized businesses the freedom to do what they do, without being held to their next invoice.

There were changes that needed to occur in the business model, but the day we got it right we never looked back. In the time leading up to this moment, I doubted myself, cried myself to sleep because I felt like a failure and constantly put myself in situations where I was uncomfortable. I was stressed off my head and didn't know how to deal with it. No one taught me how to do this. Often, a simple thing that would go wrong, would seem to me like the end of the world. Once, some hackers hacked into our bank accounts and emptied them. I had a public speaking engagement only an hour later. Instead of dealing with it later, I cancelled the engagement. I didn't know what to do and I didn't have the hindsight to know that it could wait an hour or two. It was the wrong choice and something that I now realize was not how an entrepreneur acts. They are supposed to suck it up, put on their good shoes and show the world how things are done.

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I am not a born entrepreneur. In fact, I am anything but. I am more like a person who has an idea and just wants to see it through. It's like finishing a mathematics equation. I wish I could say that I had undying passion for business, but instead, I feel gratitude that I am able to provide myself with a great life, as well as the ability  to employ people and provide them with a secure income and an opportunity to see themselves shine.

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Being a woman should never be a disadvantage and I am the last to hang my hat on the entire equality equation. I believe in 'the best person for the job' regardless of gender.

But being a woman is hard. Being a single woman in her early forties who hasn't had a family yet, is even harder. You are placed in a category by people with a certain distain for you. It makes people feel sorry for you. It makes people think that there must be something wrong with you. If you haven't done it at all at least once, there must be something wrong with you mustn't there?

I am speaking from first hand experience. I am that girl. I am that woman. I am that sister. And I am that daughter. What went wrong? Was she so career-obsessed that she thought it would be around forever; that looks, availability, men and a never ending line up would stay around forever? Or is she just plain hard work?

Having done a lot of soul searching, I have found the answer: I forgot to stop and smell the roses and keep myself open to possibility.

In my case, my 30's were spent building a business -- this business, Marketing Eye. And it was spent being in love with two men and not looking elsewhere. Two that just kept the carrot dangling enough so that while I was so busy working, I had no time to look for anyone else. Instead, I had someone when I needed them and I had my business that I could dedicate my time to. One was during my early 30's, the other in my late 30's. They were narcissistic men who knew how to manipulate. I was vulnerable and weak. They were both the wrong men and twice I made the same choices. If nothing changes, nothing changes. You would think a smart woman like me would know better.

I woke up one month ago. I realized that growing a business is hard work and I have given my heart and soul to it. I also become acutely aware that I have been played by people smarter than me because I am easy prey. I am that career woman who has a dream and has so many moving parts that she will never have time to open herself up for possibility. Instead, when she catches her breath, she just wants the person who is most comfortable to her.

I am telling a story that most women would be afraid to tell. The story of how we miss things because to run a business, we not only have a vision and a plan, but we have to have the guts, determination and fearless ability to pick ourselves up off the ground over and over again when no one, and I mean no one is going to give us a hand. 

We may have family who love us; but they too think something is wrong. They can't quite figure out how we don't 'have it all'. I am someone's daughter and someone's sister. They love me like no one else is ever going to love me - unconditionally. But they too look at me and wonder what went wrong.

Every single time that I think that everything is going to work out fine and things are falling into place - something falls apart. And it's never small. It's big. It brings me to my knees and it is excruciating. Worse still, I am dealing with this by myself, internalizing the pain, the hurt and the disappointment. I know tomorrow that I have to get up and do it all over again and I have no one who is going to do it for me. I mean no one.

Being a woman in business, whether you have five children and a loving husband, or you are like me - single and not sure where you fit in the world - is challenging. 

Next time you look at that female entrepreneur that walks into the room in her designer outfit, head held high, navigating her next move; spare a thought for the fact that she has a role to play and she is doing it to the best of her ability. She will fall down, make the wrong choices and come across as if her world is perfect - but she is human, and the truth of the matter is that it isn't easy being her. It isn't easy being me.
Published in Management
It's Sunday and I have been madly working away since 6am. That I suppose is the life of an entrepreneur.

Of late, it's been crazy. My 'to do list' seems endless and there really isn't enough hours in the day. On top of that, I only recently realized that I am not utilizing my time effectively enough and need to make some changes - except I feel like I need to catch up before making changes. It is 'the chicken and the egg' scenario all over again.

People can look at Sundays in a number of ways; For me, I look at the day as the first day of the week, as in Australia it is a Monday. I am of course sitting in my hotel room in Atlanta.
Published in Mellissah Smith
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 00:00

5 Winning Ways To Turn Your Business Around

'Anything is possible' and if you truly believe it, you can see it.

The world is full of pessimistic individuals who are tirelessly working to pull you down, but if you are a real entrepreneur with a BIG DREAM and determination to make it happen, then you may be in the minority of business people who achieve success.

Business can be a rollercoaster and there is always something that pops up that will challenge you and make you dig deep for solutions that may not be obvious at the first glance. It's part of the journey that both you and I have signed ourselves up for.

Creating a winning formula for business isn't easy and the reality is that for most, it is near impossible. But if you are serious and you have the vision to take your business to the next level, from whatever position you are in today, then you may be someone we will all read about in Forbes or Inc Magazine in a few years time - and I can't wait to see that happen.

This blog '5 Winning Ways To Turn Your Business Around' is my story - not necessarily yours. I will share with you my insight into what I believe to be the future of Marketing Eye and how we are going to cement ourselves a global small business marketing company that is unparalleled in the market place.
Published in Management
Thursday, 11 September 2014 00:00

The art of internal entrepreneuring

Think big. Dream even bigger.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Atlanta. After landing last night, I could feel the buzz. Literally, as I walked through the airport, hopped on the plane train and grabbed my luggage after almost 24 hours of flying and being in transit, I felt this overwhelming energy. In Atlanta, anything can happen. You can be anything you want to be. You just need to believe.

It's day one and I checked on the guys marketing the company from the Atlanta Technology Village. They work tirelessly ensuring that our brand is prominent in the market, and that we stay number one on Google. They are designing stuff; diaries, promotional products, website landing pages, edm's, books, magazines - you name it - they are doing it.

Their passion is that of an internal entrepreneur. People who make 'shit happen'. Designing a culture like this is incredibly hard - but in our case, it happened by accident or at least due to the environment we work in.
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 00:00

Is your business a global startup?

When I started Marketing Eye more than 9 years ago, I had a vision to be the world's best small business marketing firm. I dreamt that I would open offices all over the world that would sell marketing services backed by sophisticated technology platforms, media and education, to businesses that had revenues of $1 million to $200 million.

Primarily, the companies that would be ideal clients were one's that were entrepreneur-led, like me, and who had a dream to significantly grow their businesses and mostly be industry game-changers - although the latter wasn't exactly necessary.

In the early days, we had hurdles. The first was our own mind-set of being use to working with funded startups or medium to large corporations and shifting the way we interacted, engaged and nurtured our clients to success to cater for burgeoning SMB market.

It took time. More time than I ever imagined. 


It wasn't until more than 5 years later that things took real shape and my original business plan came into play. There wasn't an obstacle that I didn't face and no amount of hours in the office seemed to help get Marketing Eye to the level that it needed to be to fulfil our business plan.

Then, somehow it became easier, and I had more time up my sleeve to get back to doing the things I should have done in the start and that is "working on the business, not in the business".

This is where my life became very exciting and every single time I achieved one more piece of my business plan, I had a real sense of accomplishment. Suddenly everything became easier and there was enough money in the coffers to do what we needed to do. No more watching cashflow to the level that we needed to do in the early stages, and more investment placed in areas of the business where it needed it most.

We had a lot of changes that we needed to do in the business. I had made a lot of mistakes particularly in the recruitment stakes and had senior management who were not well-suited to marketing, let alone a senior management position, that were steering the ship.

Hard decisions needed to be made and I was making them - with confidence.

Now it's a different story. I can safely say we are well on our way to realising our business goals and achieving everything that I set out to achieve in that very first business plan. 

We are smarter, faster and better than any of our competitors, and on top of that, we do everything in-house with no outsourcing and have our own proprietary technology to back it up. Then of course, we have a company magazine which is really taking shape, and I love the fact that we are able to give our clients a voice.

Expanding to the US market has been very hard both personally and professionally. I have lost the last few years on planes, living in hotels and putting myself out there in very uncomfortable situations.

One of the big changes for Marketing Eye right now is to forget that we are a small business, and to act global. If you want to be global, you have to behave like a global company. That means business structures, management structures, planning sessions, meetings, reporting and so on.

The knowledge that you need to have to expand globally is exhausting. I still cannot get my head around all the different tax laws and government regulations of the US, preferring to hire it in rather than invest the time in expanding my knowledge in this area. Somehow I took for granted the fact that in Australia I seem to know more about tax and business structures than some of the outsourced companies I employ. Likewise, with law, it feels like I am telling the lawyers what to put in contracts and they are just taking orders. Both of which may mean that there needs to be a change, but nevertheless, this is how I feel.

Finding the right partners in overseas markets is imperative, but remember, the partner you have today may not be the same as the one that takes you to where you want to go. Make sure you learn as much as possible and give them every opportunity to be successful in what they do, powering your company to the next level.

Get across foreign exchange because currency can make or break you - and you just have to ask Billabong about that one.

Marketing in the US is different to Australia. It is far more aggressive, technology savvy and immediate, whereas in Australia, it is more relaxed.

This journey continues to be exciting, but it is important that if you are a global startup, beware that you don't act like one. Fake it until you make it and treat your company like an entrepreneurial corporation that is fast tracking global expansion.
Published in Management
Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

Some entrepreneurs are neurotic

It's a Saturday and I am sitting in my friends living room talking business while at the same time reading emails and catching up on the latest in business news.

As we talk I realize that entrepreneurs are no different from celebrities, movie stars, singers, musicians or any other career that is centre stage.

The reality is we all have a bit of neurotic behaviour in us - whether we like it or not.  Some entrepreneurs are more neurotic than others - micro-managing, controlling, double A-Type personalities that find it hard to accept another person's way of doing things, and then others just tip the iceberg.

Many entrepreneurs have a goal, or an idea of where they want to be. They are achievement orientated and often lack discipline, needing to hire the latter in to complement their existing skill base.
 
Published in Management
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00

The one thing that keeps me going

Another weekend has just passed, and we went over the same old topic that keeps popping up; what do we want out of life and why do we do the things we do.

We read theories about entrepreneurs and what makes them tick; money, competition and passion. It's like a broken record that keeps on repeating itself. I for one wish that someone would come out with something a little different. Some piece of inspiration that is going to make me stop in my tracks and go "yeah!".
Friday, 21 February 2014 13:46

Reality check #1

It's only 7 weeks in and it's already been a roller-coaster of a year. I am already exhausted. Everything imaginable has happened to me this year, but somehow exhilarated at the same time.

There have been so many changes; life, business and game. I feel like I have lived through so much, yet there is still so much more to achieve.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending half an hour with a young entrepreneur by the name of Kylie Marie, who is inspiring, ambitious, energetic and ready to take on the world. I now know why older people liked spending time with me when I was new to business, because that energy is contagious. I couldn't help but smile and be totally inspired by what Kylie is doing and her fearlessness in business. Her brow bars, Browco Brow Bar, will be everywhere in the next year or so, along with her eyebrow products that are to die for.

The other day, a few of us from the Marketing Eye team were at a client meeting and they mentioned that they buy all of their employees an ipad for Christmas.

You should have seen my employees faces! They were green with envy. It was as if they had all been given ferraris.

I thought to myself, "that's really cool" but not for a second did I think that they received something worth more than what my employees in Atlanta received. Perception is an unbelievable thing and more and more, companies are being encouraged to "buy" their employees happiness.

Many new age companies, with venture-backed operations offer:

A week of discovery in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Argentina, has led to a new discovery of my own: that the world is full of surprises.

Caught up in the hustle and bustle of a city that boasts more than 14 million people, Buenos Aires is the hub for the world’s best polo players, Malbec wine, salsa dancers and beef.

You cannot live by normal rules if you travel to Buenos Aires, because the city simply won’t let you.

From the availability of buying the Argentine peso at a rate that is not less than half of what you would get buying it on the street, to the ability to eat at a reasonable hour – Buenos Aires asks you to take a risk, and that’s what the 400 entrepreneurs who graced an EO conference at Alvear Palace do every single day.

Published in Mellissah Smith
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