Cracking the million mark

Business owners share their money-making secrets with Christine Long.
By · 11 Nov 2013
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11 Nov 2013
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Business owners share their money-making secrets with Christine Long.

Former model Stephanie Mason, 28, launched her hair-extension business, Showpony Professional, in 2009 and hit turnover of $1 million by year three.

Serial entrepreneur Glen Carlson, 32, kicked off his 40-week business accelerator program Key Person of Influence three years ago and he's on track for $1 million profit next year.

Richard Kuipers' Two Men and a Truck grasped the holy grail of $1 million about three years ago. It was a milestone for the now 67-year-old, who had devoted three decades to his removals business.

Here are their tips for passing the million-dollar milestones.

Be visible

Mason got her hair extensions into salons by "pounding the pavement". She started with Victoria, and as soon as there was enough business to support a representative she moved on to the next state.

She got a big boost at the 2012 Australian Hair Expo when Showpony was a finalist in the Expo's Business Excellence Awards. "All the salons from around the country go to this event so we were doing demonstrations on the stand all day and the stand was chock-a-block for three days," she says.

In an age where you are your Google profile, you need to be visible in blogs, articles, industry publications or by writing a book, says Carlson.

Kuipers, who has now handed over day-to-day management of his business to his three daughters, still puts energy into keeping the business' brand and social responsibility program visible.

Be unique

For Mason, exploiting a gap she identified in the market has meant investing time in educating salon-owners and the next generation of hairdressers in how to use her products and sell them to clients.

In an industry known for a hard-sell, Carlson takes a different approach and sticks to a single product. "There's a lot of charlatans and, frankly, bullshit artists," he says, "and the typical model is: sell, sell, sell. So instead of selling more and more and more to one place we're opening in more cities and that's how we're increasing our revenue, by growing wide rather than trying to hammer in deep."

Save yourself

Carlson says he is "ruthless" about preserving his time for high-value activities. Anything else gets delegated. From day one, when he only had $10,000 in the bank, he got a virtual assistant to handle his diary and inbox. "I personally had plenty of time but it was a low-value activity," he says.

Identify door-openers

Carlson's plan of attack? Find partners servicing the same market where there is no competitive overlap. The proposition involves the partners selling 10-15 reasonably priced tickets to an event for small-business owners. Each partner became a sponsor of the event. The value for KPI? Some of the 500 business owners sign up to its 40-week program, which generates 90 per cent of KPI's revenue.

For Mason a significant door-opener was winning the belief and support of Heading Out Hair and Beauty's Caterina Di Biase. She opened the door to the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, which put Showpony in front of the top 30 salons in Australia.

Stay focused

Kuipers puts his success down to "sticking to his knitting", even as his business grew to 20 company trucks and 45 contractor trucks. "A lot of people stray and are always trying to make money here, money there, but we don't. I always believe in keeping to the core business and just keep on improving the systems all the time."

Find a super-model

Business models based on your time will act like brakes when you're chasing the million-dollar milestone, says Carlson. "If their revenue is attached to their time it is limited."

Look ahead

Kuipers says he aimed to increase turnover 8 per cent annually and sustainably. Whether it's introducing a product line, opening in a new market or looking for more efficiency, keep moving forward.
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