John Fisher, in a broad Manchester accent, said he was interested in meeting someone who would like to bring BforB to Australia. “Did I know anyone who would be interested?” he asked. “Yes me!” I replied.
I grew up in a family business on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Barbados. I later married an Australian and have been here 27 years, living on 12 acres of forested bush in the McPherson Ranges of Northern New South Wales. We currently have two businesses. The first, Cariblue, is a management and franchise consultancy business started in 2006 which I grew to provide services nationally with 6 staff. We worked particularly with companies who wanted to grow their business, and this often included franchising their business as a growth strategy.
In 2012, we then bought BforB Australia, the Australian franchise for a business networking and referrals business from the UK. BforB is a welcoming group, part of a proven international system that meets fortnightly at either breakfast, lunch or dinner with our meetings structured specifically to generate quality referrals, business opportunities and potential strategic alliances for professional and quality businesses.
Originally purchased with a partner who we bought out, I focused on really getting to know and fully understand the business, developing it for the Australian market. I set about working with the international franchise team to develop and implement an entire online business management system to systemise and automate the business, combined with an online training platform, the BforB Referral Academy.
In the second half of 2015, we started selling franchises, the first two of which were sold to our members – it’s a good sign when your customers buy in. We are now expanding from South East Queensland into Melbourne and then Sydney.
What drove you to make a major change to your business life?
My last job was CEO of a national franchise and I realised if I continued on that career path my husband and I would need to relocate to the city – Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. We decided lifestyle was more important and really enjoyed where we lived. Could I create an opportunity working from our home in the bush? I started market research within my network, and before I knew it, I was requested to quote for jobs with Gold Coast City Council and Delfin Lend Lease. They accepted the quotes, asked “what company name shall we put the contract in?” and next day Cariblue was formed.
BforB came into our life when the founder, John Fisher, walked on to my stand at the Brisbane franchise expo, explained his business in a broad Manchester accent and said he was interested in meeting someone who would like to bring BforB to Australia. “Did I know anyone who would be interested?” he asked. “Yes me!” I replied.
We originally owned it with one of my colleagues, however, we bought her out when my husband became very ill and we decided to change and simplify our lifestyle. He resigned from his position as a Production Manager to join me in business, providing support in the areas of book keeping and administration for both businesses, as well as at home where we work as a team.
What’s been your proudest moment in business?
At an award level, Cariblue winning the Australian Institute of Management’s Management Excellence Award for “Owner Manager of the Year” in 2012 really amazed me – someone anonymously nominated me, as I never saw myself in that league. In 2013, this was followed by the Franchise Council of Australia’s “Franchise Woman of the year for QLD/NT”.
However, there are many very proud personal moments with my staff and franchisees on their achievements and those of our clients and members. Seeing them grow personally and achieving their business goals is really what drives me daily – the feeling that we have made a real positive difference to people’s lives.
What mistake have you learned most from?
We are always learning and see “mistakes” as just part of an educational process, a learning opportunity.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
In any business, you need to start with good culture, clear strategy and strong leadership. Ensure you add good products or services which are valued by your customers and deliver what you say you will deliver. Mange the numbers and cash flow and always be learning. Then create possibilities for the future and go for them; be courageous – as a friend recently said to me “fortune favours the brave”! Finally take breaks and holidays to recharge so you do not burn out; plus it’s an opportunity to see your business from a different perspective
In franchising, there is another “layer” in that - if you help your franchisees achieve their goals and be successful, then you will also be successful.
What have you learned about yourself?
I have been surprised at what I can achieve and do and I continue to push the boundaries. We have also both found working as husband and wife (sometimes with our daughters as well), that we have had to learn how to work effectively with someone who works differently to each of us!
What has been your biggest sacrifice for the business?
The opportunity cost of what else I could have done as a career or other business opportunities – it’s a shame you cannot do everything in life as there are so many interesting and exciting things to do!
Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
Be clearer on what I wanted from a business, I started Cariblue just to be able to stay where we lived, as it was an early virtual business, which was a novelty to many at the time. We had three children and a mortgage so I had to generate an income quickly. However I put many years and time and effort into a business that if it had been different would have grown significantly bigger. When I was looking for that bigger opportunity I had a definite list of what I wanted, which resulted in our purchase of BforB. This has been my main focus as it is so much easier to scale and grow, plus has repeat income from renewing memberships, both which were lacking in my consulting business.
Who would you most like to employ in your business – famous or otherwise?
At the moment we do not want to employ anyone, but I would enjoy input from Richard Branson, as I like his entrepreneurial spirit and fun culture.
Best piece of advice to other business owners?
Do what you love, be passionate about doing it well and always be learning. Know what you want from your business and go for it – both in selecting the business, growing it, the people you want as customers/staff/franchisees and the lifestyle you want it to give you. Finally, always help others as what you give out comes back to you.