Caitlin Sykes

Your Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Going it alone - Lisa Garrud, Isatrin

Lisa Garrud is the owner of Isatrin, a design and marketing company she set up on her own two years ago.

Lisa Garrud, owner of Isatrin.
Lisa Garrud, owner of Isatrin.

What are some of the advantages you've found in just having you in the business?

Being my own boss means that if I think something's a good idea, I can run with it. I can implement ideas a lot faster and I change methods and tactics on the fly.

And I'm in charge of my time, which means I can schedule my appointments so I'm never sitting in traffic.

I also love that family can be first. If my daughter is getting an award at school, I can make it to the assembly without having to ask anyone. I can be an involved parent and be at home when she finishes school. I know you can arrange time off when you're employed, but organising it when you are self-employed you feel less guilty, freer somehow.

And it's cheaper to join a gym because you can go during the day, not during peak times, and it's kind of nice without time limits or queues.

What about the lows?

Ideally you work as hard as you can while you have the work and rest when you don't. But that means when you're holidaying, you don't have any income. There's no holiday pay being self-employed, so you have to plan and save and save again.

In saying that, it takes quite a while to be able to earn the same amount as if you were employed; it's possible, but I've found it requires a lot of effort and sacrifice. I'm still working at it coming to the end of my second year, so there's no holiday fund yet!

If you're sick... tough. The only remedy is to not get sick - look after yourself - and that's harder than it sounds. It's eating healthy even though you're pulling a late one to meet an urgent deadline, it's getting enough sleep even though you've had to work late every day of the week because you're selling skills have been awesome.

It's having that break and doing some exercise to clear the head so that you can knuckle down again and get tasks done in half the time.

Being self-employed also means you have to wear all kinds of hats; you're the accounts lady who has to make debt collection calls, the graphic designer who has to be creative within a short timeframe, the sales person who makes the promises to the client to get the work. And once you've done all that, there isn't really anyone to pat you on the back and tell you that you've done a good job.

I get my satisfaction from pleasing the client. If they need something done on a tight budget or they needed it yesterday, the challenge I give myself is to exceed expectations. You need to be able to be hard on yourself.

Would you like to bring someone else into the business?

I'm actually thinking of doing this next year. Some things I can use contractors for, but if business keeps growing the way it is now, then I'll need someone to help with managing it all - looking after both the contractors and the clients and helping with the workload.

I think it will give me someone to bounce ideas off and help bring in new strategies. But it's quite a risk to also trust that same person with your business, and I just hope I can find someone who'll deliver what they promise.

How do you know you're picking the right person?

At the moment I work from home, so bringing someone into the business means I'll also have to find some office space. To do that there are some financial goals I have to meet. It would be so disappointing to bring someone on board and then discover there's not enough work to pay them. So not only do I need to be really busy, the work needs to be steady.

What are your top tips for making the most of going it alone?

• Get a mentor or business coach. For me, it means I have to get my to-do list done before I see him again for our next meeting. Sometimes that can be the hardest thing in business - you can be so busy creating a job for yourself working in the business, you forget to spend time on building the business and making it better.

• Join a networking group. I belong to two and not only do they account for a large share of the work I get, you also develop supportive relationships and can help each other out with business ideas and tips.

• Identify your weaknesses. If you know your weaknesses in business, pay someone to do that for you - otherwise it'll never get done and you'll be forever beating yourself up about it.

• Look after yourself. If something happens to you, your business will suffer. Eat well, sleep well, get outside and where you can, reward yourself.

Coming up in Small Business: What are the main considerations if you're looking at taking on staff for the first time? How do you go about figuring out what kind of person you need, where do you find them, and what's the right selection process? If you've got a good story to tell about how to build a team, get in touch: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com

- NZ Herald

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