From her small town of Waroona in rural WA, bookkeeper Bronwyn Lawson starts her day at 4am, with her laptop and a cup of dandelion tea.
Describe your “aha” moment; when did your business idea first come to you?
I had been working full time as a bookkeeper and office all-rounder until I fell pregnant with my second child. My first child went to daycare at just four months, and I always regretted it. This time I wanted to be a proper stay at home mum, so I quit. But my boss said “We’ll set you up to work from home.” While I am sure he intended me to remain an employee, I saw it as an opportunity to start a home-based business. I borrowed money, got myself an ABN, and my employer became my first client.
Describe the “why” of your business
I just love what I do. I’m a big numbers person and I’m passionate about small business and helping business owners who would otherwise have no idea what to do. But even if all these reasons are taken away, my “why” is that I am self-reliant. I am responsible for my business, my income, my relationship with my clients, my personal and professional progress.
You live in rural Western Australia; what impact has where you live had on your business?
Having grown up in suburban Melbourne, small rural Western Australia is a very different environment and running a business in a small town is very challenging. The retail climate here especially is very difficult, and most startups don’t survive the first year. We have the essentials, but not much else.There are not as many clients, resources, suppliers or support, and so of the ones I do have, I treat them like my own family.
List your three biggest business goals? Which of them scare you the most and why?
1. Handover the bookkeeping work to my protégé.
2. Develop and maintain a proper business process system.
3. Replace my husband’s income so he can quit his job before it kills him.
Number one scares me the most. As I look forward to a new chapter in my business, I know that I need to let go of the old chapter. Can I really trust that my protégé will carry on in the same way I have? Undoubtedly not. She will have her own way of doing things, and the day will come when I will need to become Queen Elsa and just “let it go”.
What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Developing an online training program for small business owners who struggle with the numbers side. It will bring more financial return than an hourly rate; but there’s a huge amount of work involved to get there.
Has anything surprised you about working for yourself?
I have been surprised at just how much I can accomplish when I need to; I survive a full, busy day on three hours sleep and can breastfeed and type at the same time. I have also been surprised at how much the entrepreneurial dream can become a nightmare if time management, financial discipline and delivering a consistent standard of work are not maintained properly.
(Bronwyn, enjoying the serenity of the early morning!)
Once you became a soloist, what about your life changed almost immediately? What changes have been slower to come?
I had to learn pretty fast how to be self-motivated. Early on in my soloist life, with a baby and a child in early school, it was too easy to put off the work needing to be done. I quickly developed the ability to manage my time between work and home.
What has come slowly is my belief in myself. I am absolutely convinced that being a soloist has helped me to become a better person, and that my life has been enriched. At the age of 42, I feel like I’ve only just begun.
What’s the best part of the life you’re living now you’re a soloist?
Working in my pyjamas! I’m an early morning person so I’ll often get up at 4am when the house is quiet, there’s no kids needing me, no phone calls, and I can work in blissful peace. It’s the most productive time of my day.
Got a tip you’d like to share with our community about soloism?
Look after your network. Build strong relationships that will endure throughout the ups and downs of your business life – there will be many. Carry this attitude through to your suppliers, service providers, and support network. At the end of the day, what we will remember won’t be the money we made, but the relationships. Make it personal.