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Top business tips and insights from successful woman business leader
18 May 2021
Erin Evans, co-Founder and Director of Firesoft - a leading recruitment and consulting agency specialising in IT business and office roles - shares her business tips and insights.
How did you get where you are today?
I've always lived my life following my passion; using 'do what you love' as my compass. I studied Sport Medicine in university as that's one of the things I love. In order to pay for my education, I became a franchise owner which I operated during the Canadian summer while studying. As it turned out, I found out I loved business, leadership and creating opportunities for others more than I loved sport med...! Once I graduated, I took a few gap months to travel the world where I met my now husband! Within 9 months, I had sold my franchise, assets and moved across the world to Australia. I fell into recruitment as most people do and after the first year, realised how much I loved it and quickly progressed within the company. After four years climbing the ladder, the itch to get back into a creator /drivers' seat and put my business owner hat back on struck. Enter Firesoft which I co-founded with my then boss; Danny.
Tell us about a day at work you'll never forget
I went to Malawi, Africa in March of 2017 with a group of Entrepreneurs through The Hunger Project. We spent time with some incredible men and women in rural villages and witnessed levels of grit, tenacity, drive and vision I had never experienced in my life. The challenges and obstacles these men and women overcame daily along the path to their vision was more than I would experience in a lifetime.
Upon returning home to Australia, the depth and weight of perspective and inspiration for all I'd witnessed and experienced began to land. I distinctly remember the first day I went back into the office after that trip and seeing my entire business - the people I was surrounded by, the physical space of the office, the challenges I left behind and the inherent weight of being a business owner - with entirely new eyes. Everything was different - every perception had entirely shifted.
What's your personal quirk or point of difference that has helped you to excel in your field? Any advice for growing your personal brand?
Sounding weird helps. My Canadian accent has morphed into something between Canadian, Australian, British and Irish (so I'm told) and is always a conversation starter. I'm a bit of an accent misfit! For me - personal branding is all about authenticity. I find it really difficult (and exhausting) to wear masks and have been told one of my superpowers is just my ability to keep it real. I think everyone has had enough of the highly curated and cultivated personas and content. Just own your strengths and be you; your tribe will find you.
What would you be doing if you weren't on your current path?
I've often thought about this as the 'chance' meeting of my husband in Europe in 2009, which completely rerouted my path and of course hemisphere in which I manly play. What I do know, is my purpose to create, live in alignment with purpose and provide opportunities for others to thrive would remain so I'd likely be doing something similar just on the other side of the world!
What is your approach to personal finance? Any top tips or great advice you've had over the years?
Ahh money. Let me start by saying numbers haven't historically been my happy place. As I've grown older (and I'd like to think wiser), I've realised, while this attitude is grounded in truth (for me), it's also incredibly important to be organised, proactive and responsible with my money. Hire experts to help. Ensure you have a good rapport with them, they ask about your aspirations and long-term goals and understand your personal values and can push back if your goals and values don't seem to align.
What mistakes have you made?
A few of my biggest mistakes have been around finances; once in my franchise and once in my current business. Not only has it taught me to keep my eyes on my money and lean-in to the numbers but also to hire professionals and vet those professionals to ensure they are the right ones! I also make the mistake (and still do) of getting too emotionally tied into tough decisions in the business; whether it be staffing, leadership decisions, or when to cut the cord.
What is your approach to business banking and accounting?
As mentioned, numbers are definitely not my happy place. I have really struggled over the years to get excited about business accounting and finance management, so it's always been the last thing on my to-do list. That said, since hiring a CFO for Firesoft and engaging an external wealth management consultancy, my opinion has swiftly shifted. I've realised I don't actually hate the numbers; I just hate having to organise them and all the tedious activity that happens behind the scenes.
What I've realised I actually love, is understanding and analysing the patterns, the potential of the money and planning for an exciting future for that money!
How do you prepare for negotiation?
One of the best ways to enter a negotiation is to feel confident and prepared to handle all angles. One of the best ways I've found to prepare is to identify my ideal outcome first. Then I identify my second compromise position and then a third option which is far from ideal but acceptable. Once I know my boundaries, I then work on my assets for positioning my proposal. Once I'm clear on my value, I scenario play the conversation to be prepared for all angles of objection and rehearse how I will counter.
One of the best hacks (and I use this for interviews too!) is to record myself being questioned or countered (by a partner or friend). This often adds the right amount of external pressure to prepare for a real-life situation and also provides the added bonus of watching-back responses and assessing them for confidence content, and body language delivery!
What one tip would you tell your younger self about negotiating?
Be prepared: put in the time but most of all, know your value!
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
I experience imposter syndrome all the time. It creeps in daily. I literally never feel like I have enough experience, enough knowledge, enough success or enough of a profile to be taken seriously, but I've grown to realise this is mostly rooted in my tendency towards having a growth mindset; in the fact that I'm never done learning, I never 'know it all' and I'll never reach the 'end' destination.
How do you keep track of your accomplishments and how do you celebrate your success?
One thing I'm really not great at doing is keeping track of my accomplishments in a formal way. I often forget the little milestones along the way to the big goals and often those are just as important (if not more!) than achieving the big ones.
Who has taught you the most about knowing your value in the workplace?
Gosh - so many people...I think the key individuals who have helped me know my value have been my husband, business partner and the incredible girl gang I have cheering me on behind the scenes. Often their voices sound a bit like 'hey, do you know how awesome you are and how much you're actually doing?' We have a tendency to be our own harshest critics and while I believe a healthy sense of humility and a growth mindset are what power success, I also know having a cheer squad and people who believe in you is incredibly powerful.
What has been your biggest or best failure and what did you take from it?
Early on in the business we appointed a financial firm to do our accounting and government remittances. They were referred to us and we didn't really do our due diligence before appointing them. Fast forward three years, I was just about to secure my first mortgage and I suddenly had a notice from the ATO that my personal accounts had been garnisheed; my entire savings had been drained. Turned out there were some negligent (read dodgy) issues with business tax payments not being passed on from us to the Government and our business (and me personally!) were liable. Lesson learned; regardless of who is looking after your money, don't get complacent; keep eyes on it, monitor the top line and understand the flow. Vet your partners and ensure they are reputable, referenced and are the right fit.
Do you have a routine or habit that you practise that allows you to do what you do?
I do two things often which help me to 'get real' and then to move forward. The first is something I've learned called 'putting my thoughts on trial'. It's an easy exercise which acts as a third party (all me) questioning my line of thinking, behaviour or patterns. Asking myself; is that true? What fact to I have to support that? What can be done? It often helps to put things in perspective and level me to reality, removing any pre-programmed filters or self-talk. Second, I practice gratitude. I am lucky to have been wired to see the silver linings in most things but gratitude is now an ingrained and conscious practice which helps to bring me back to the present moment, take stock of where I am, where I've come from and, of course, spikes the serotonin leaving me more clear, focused and at peace.
What’s your favourite quote?
Be a classy woman with a little bit of hood and a lot of universe in you... No idea who it's by but I just love it and feel like it's my spirit quote - if that's a thing...
If you were starting your business today - what do you wish you'd known?
It's a marathon not a sprint - pace yourself, trust your intuition, let your passions be your compass and enjoy the ride.