An Interview with Jane Wilson

Business isn’t always a one-man job. For Jane, her business is all about her team and their hard work. We couldn’t agree more. After making a promise to herself after graduating from high-school, Jane’s path aligned and her story is beyond inspiring.

 What is your business (include name) and when did you start?

Our business is called Fantastic Cleaners, and I am responsible for the Melbourne department. I can’t really call the business mine, because it was completely a team effort to get here, so I’ll just go with “ours”. We are an Australian cleaning company, which services Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The whole story started around 7 years and 3 months ago in London, I was starting my 3rd year of college, and I desperately needed a job. After a lot of adventures, I ended up in an office on the other side of the world and I am responsible for the Melbourne department, as the head of Marketing and Social.

What inspired you to start your business?

For once, my education was focused in this direction, I have 2 specialties, one is business management, the other – analytic journalism. The other reason was that I desperately wanted to be taken seriously back then. I used to work for many companies in the services field since my teen years, and I observed my managers very closely. I saw firsthand how the lack of proper communication channels and the poor organisational skills of both managers and employees can damage a business severely. And every time I offered improvement suggestions, I was dismissed on the account of my young age. What can a kid know about management, right? So, when I graduated from high school, I made myself a promise that one day I will build myself a business, where communication and preparedness will be key points.

Tell us about the journey you have been on with your businesses?

Well, it’s a very long story, but here’s the short version: As I mentioned, I was in my 3rd year of college, and I needed a job. This is when I met Rune, who was just starting to develop his own cleaning company in London and was employing. At first, I started working as a blogger/marketing assistant. To know what to write about, I had to learn what the business was all about. At first I was sceptic, cleaning didn’t seem like something serious or fascinating. But after I observed a couple of jobs, I was amazed. The cleaners used such advanced technologies, vacuums that looked like they were taken from a space movie, and detergents which made stains disappear just like that. I guess I discovered a whole new industry that I didn’t even know existed. And I loved it. After 2 years or so, I got offered the opportunity to expand the business here in Melbourne. It was quite the investment, Australia was very far away, and I was about to get married, so the decision was difficult. But after my hubby said “Let’s do it” all the doubts went away, and we packed up and moved to Melbourne. The start was very rocky, because it’s not easy to start a business in Australia when you’re not born here, but we started small and kept building up. Two years after that start everything was going so well, that the Sydney office appeared, and two years later – the one in Perth. As for Rune, he is now the managing director of a whole franchise called Fantastic Services – except for cleaning services, there are also gardening, handyman, moving and many other services offered both in England and Australia.

How do you handle the naysayers?

I listen to them first. Maybe they have a valid reason to be sceptical, you’ll never know unless you listen to the arguments. Sometimes the negative opinions we hear are more valid than the positive ones, because they show us alternatives we haven’t thought about before. They can’t make the decisions for me, it’s still my call, but it doesn’t hurt to hear them out.

How do you balance everything? What are your top tips?

It’s not easy, this is certain. Especially after our daughter arrived almost 3 years ago. Balancing a business and a toddler is a challenge you can’t do alone. So, the first and most important thing you must have is support. From your partner, your family, your friends, you practically need all the support you can get. Another tip I can give you is to plan everything meticulously and make sure your plans are achievable.  For instance, I follow the SMART acronym for planning management goals. Your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Timed. At home we divide the tasks equally, make detailed plans for each upcoming week, and prepare for the morning from the evening before. And we always make sure that each of us gets some relaxing “alone” time to be spent however we like, because this is crucial to keeping your sanity.

Where do you envision yourself in the next 5 years? How do you plan to do this?

This is a tough one. I have no idea, really. If there’s anything I learned from my          experiences so far, is that life happens while you’re busy planning for it. My wish is to run the most successful cleaning business in the Melbourne area in five years. A business that will bring a new level of customer satisfaction to the market. But I have no idea if this is even possible at this point, because the world changes quickly and there are just too many variables which can stand on my way. I’ll do my best to achieve it, though, through perseverance and constant improvements.

What has been a challenge you’ve had to overcome that has shaped you and your business?

Oh, there’s been so many challenges during these 5 years, that it’s hard to count them. The ones that stick out the most, was the time we were flooded during a storm a few months back. There was water up to your knees all over the office. I guess we are still recovering from that. A few years back our online system got hacked too, we had to spend a few days organising our services without the help of computers, it was a nightmare. It really made me think how dependant we are on technology, it’s terrifying how something like that can destroy all your efforts. There are many smaller stories like these, but what shaped us as a business is, that we worked hard to overcome those difficulties and we never gave up. That’s why we are still here, while others aren’t.

Why did you choose to start at such a young age?

It wasn’t really a choice, it was more of a lucky coincidence that everything lined up so perfectly and lead me here. I ended up in a place where my ideas were heard, appreciated and put into actions. Even though I was young, I knew that I needed some progress in my life and some financial stability. To be honest, I was afraid to make those first steps towards the big responsibilities, but then I remembered what my grandmother used to say – that the world belongs to the brave people. So, I chose to be brave.

What would you say was a key to your so far success?

One of the things would be the team I work with. Picking the right people for your business is not an easy task, and it can get quite uncomfortable, especially when you have to let someone go, because they are not a good match. But once you find the right, proactive people to help you out, success is only a matter of time.

What has been the biggest tip you have received off someone that has stuck with you?

I guess one of the greatest pieces of advice that stuck with me over the years, was given to me by one of my mentors back when I was still in business school – Peter. It was when one of my term projects failed in the last minute. He said that there is always a better way to do things, and that a good leader considers all the alternatives before making a decision. Ever since I heard that, I’ve been applying it to my work. I start my projects early, and I always analyse every angle and the possible outcomes, before choosing how to proceed.

What is a tip that you would give to a young person thinking about starting a business, but not sure how to start?

Don’t get discouraged by failure. Not every idea you have will be genius, some of them will fail, but you should never let that stop you from pursuing your dreams. First you should start by planning. Just write down every idea you have for your business and every goal you want to achieve. Then sort through them and leave only the truly achievable ones. Arrange them in a timeline and consider what you will need to achieve everything. Of course, you’ll need money to start, so you’ll also have to consider your finances. Be very careful with loans, make sure you can afford the monthly payments at all times. There’s also going to be a lot of paperwork, so having an accountant you can trust is a must. The good accountant can not only handle your taxes but can also review your business plan and give you directions.

What are your top 3 biggest lessons you have learnt in your business?

The first and most important lesson would be to always look at the data. Your idea may be awesome, but unless you have some kinds of physical data to support them, you’re basically blind to all the possible issues. We live in the 21st century, and there are databases with statistical information on almost everything. Every good business analyst starts by researching the market and making plausible predictions. The second lesson is that the good plans mean nothing when the implementation is sloppy. This means that you need to be methodical, everyone should know their part, and they should follow strict timelines for everything. And the third one is to never make your customers angry. When you work in the services area, your entire livelihood depends on your clients. And in our modern era, it’s very easy for someone to destroy your good reputation. One bad online review from an angry customer can make your life very difficult.

What is a podcast you can recommend?

One of the podcasts I follow regularly is Business Boutique – it’s a podcast for women who want to make money doing the things they love. There are many educational lessons and inspirational interviews with experts or successful business owners there. Boss Mom is also a good podcast, which is perfect for people in my position, I learned a lot about balance from there. The third podcast I follow, is the Honest Money Podcast, they provide great advice that can make you rethink your relationship with money.

If you could meet an inspirational leader, who would that be? Why?

This is a very difficult question, because there are just too many inspirational leaders I’d love to meet, all of them are pioneers of the modern digital world we live in. I guess if I had to choose one, I’d meet with Arianna Huffington, the president of The Huffington Post Media Group. She’s such a fearless woman, she never backs down and is not afraid to make a stand. She’s been my role model ever since I was a student.

What was one of the first goals you smashed in your business?

The first achieved goal which made me think this wasn’t such a bad idea after all, was when we got our first positive referral. When you’re a new business and nobody knows you, it’s very difficult to convince people to choose you among the many and let you inside their homes. But everything changes once you get a glowing positive recommendation from a client. People see it online, and suddenly they have more trust in you. Also, once the neighbours saw the good job we did with their own eyes, suddenly our phone started ringing a lot more often. It was a great moment.

What would you say to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. But don’t jump head on into everything like you used to, some of those things were not such a good idea. Research first, it will save you a lot of disappointment.

Where can we contact you?

You can easily find me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Feel free to get in touch, I am always happy to help, if I can.

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