Delivering the work right is in the fibre of Lisa Spiden's entrepreneurial physiology. And she weaves this best practice in her two businesses.
Dynamic and driven Lisa Spiden loves spending time with her dogs, Billie and Jess -- two Border Collies that are known for their intelligence, energy, athletic abilities, adaptability, and stamina, which is why this breed of dog is used for herding sheep in farms.
Like her dogs, Lisa’s businesses – fibreHR and Roster Right – as well as Lisa herself, exhibit these fine qualities and more, enabling her and her teams to guide their clients through their expertise, coupled with the great products and services they offer. In her own words, Lisa imparts, “I describe to my team that we're almost like shepherds. We partner with businesses to help them navigate their way to their ultimate dream when it comes to people.”
Despite growing up with people who run their own businesses, particularly her dad who has his own garment sourcing company, Lisa’s rise to becoming an entrepreneur, with two businesses at that, was somehow not premeditated. It was like she stumbled on something she didn’t realise was a goldmine.
“I was really lucky, I think, the way that I approached fibreHR because I always thought it was going to be temporary. When I say temporary I was going to do it until I run out of work and then go back into the corporate world.” Indeed, it was so temporary that she neither had a website nor business cards for two years. She didn’t even think of coming up with a business plan because she never took her solo trading too seriously.
Even though Lisa did everything that she felt would be considered wrong for an entrepreneur, it still worked. Her business was up and running. Now it has grown over the last nine years and the prospect of the future still holds affirmative for fibreHR. The only thing that Lisa did at the beginning was making sure she really does a good job for her clients and performs the work that they wanted her to do very, very well.
It is in fibreHR where Lisa got to work closely with CEOs, which kept her constantly excited. “We work with really fast-moving, dynamic entrepreneurial businesses. I am able to sit down and share my knowledge, but also learn from amazing business owners,” she said. It is an experience that makes her motivated, gratified and passionate about what she is doing.
While fibreHR’s initial ascent was relatively smoother, since it was easy to take it off the ground and lay it down the track, Lisa’s experience with Roster Right was an entirely different journey. It’s a company she started four years ago but they just began commercializing it more recently.
Pioneering something in a new industry comes with various complications since no one has gone before you and you have nothing you can use as your reference. This was what Lisa went through with Roster Right and she admitted that it had a degree of technical difficulty because they were doing what no one else had done.
According to Lisa, the business itself and the product were so complex that she had to surmount several challenges right from the beginning. “Roster Right is a business that mathematically constructs rosters. So, we've worked out how to reverse engineer rosters to be the most efficient version of the roster that can exist based on the roles that the client gives us.”
Lisa may have had different starting lines and varying tracks for her respective businesses, but both posed hurdles that enabled her to stretch her entrepreneurial muscles in order to leap over them. With Roster Right, she feels that she had taken too much of a financial risk that she was dwelling more on the finance side of the business rather than actually doing what she needed to do: growing the business. The lead time to acquire clients was a lot longer because getting clients across the line was a struggle, and cash flow was a real issue. “That was truly hard because you spend your life trying to work really hard to have a good product and sometimes the client doesn't value it the same way as you think they should,” Lisa shares her frustration.
And with fibreHR, although starting it was quite a walk in the park, the actual journey itself was something Lisa would consider as highly stressful, yet exceedingly rewarding. Being an outsource company, they are often counted upon only to deal with the problems at work, unlike with being an in-house HR wherein one deals with the good and bad, alike. “Usually, it's when there are difficult conversations or things aren't going right, that’s when we are involved. Often, I would find that people come to us when things aren't working. Sometimes the actual weight of the stress of what clients are going through can get to you a little bit. At the same time, that's what we do, that's why we're here, that's why we're in business, and that's something we're getting used to.”
During the early years of Lisa growing her business, employing people, while necessary in taking certain tasks off her daily activities, had put so much pressure on her shoulders. She had to think of wages and other responsibilities that business owners must take care of. “I get really nervous about the fact that I had other people working for me, lives on my hands, so to speak.” Carrying these burdens by herself was extremely exhausting on her.
“That would have been very different if I was already in EO then because I would have been able to deal with that through my forum... to share that load,” Lisa thought in hindsight. Lisa joined EO Melbourne only about two-and-a-half years ago and since then, she has received the support she needed as an entrepreneur. “I love my forum. It's so great to have a group of people that you can share your challenges and your opportunities with.” Being able to articulate what’s going on in her business enables her to clarify what she needed to do, helping her come up with resolutions, as well as getting positive feedback from the group.
Having two businesses to run has also thrown Lisa’s work-life continuum a bit off equilibrium. “I used to do a lot of exercise through joining triathlons many years ago and just having a good work-life balance. That's probably something I need to get back in check. That's gone out of the window a bit lately.”
She may have made some struggles and challenges along the way, but Lisa is out to finish the race and enjoy the entire experience because it is something she is passionate about. The triathlete in her makes her want to get going and give her best in whatever endeavour she has set her foot on.
She’s also working on patting herself on the back as often as possible. When she looks back on her journey, she thinks that one of the things she doesn’t do particularly well is in celebrating successes. The young Lisa, driven as she was in achieving results, had the tendency to want to attain one thing and then get on immediately to the next rather than to stop and look at the achievements made, whether individually or as a team.
Learning from that, she’s now out to revel in the milestones she and her team have achieved along the way. In fact, Roster Right had a quick run the day prior to this interview and they were able to deliver their first end-to-end full set of rosters for a client. Which meant that Lisa and her team would be capping the week with some champagne, to toast on their success. Lisa regards Roster Right with a lot of potentials, and she’s more excited with what the company can offer her as much as what she can offer to make it expand and flourish.
Moreover, since Lisa wasn’t really expecting a business to blossom out of her solo trading in fibreHR, she was delighted that the company has grown, both in people and in profits. Now, she has a general manager who helps her run the business.
With the continued growth of her businesses, Lisa also enlarges her horizon by getting involved in various charity works, such as Make-a-Wish Foundation and animal rescue. Don’t get her started with topics on dolphins and the environment because those are some of the things she’s also passionate about. “They should probably not ask me those questions at one of the cocktail parties because they'll get a lecture,” Lisa warns in jest.
In case you don’t know this part about Lisa, she grew up spending her weekends on a farm near Melbourne. Her parents’ farm has different kinds of animals – horses, sheep, cows, and pigs, to name a few. That’s why she loves nature. Up to this day, it’s her comfortable space, sort of a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s how she unwinds and frees herself from the stress of work. “I spend time with my partner. We've got two dogs. I love to hang out with my dogs, they're like my family,” referring to Billie and Jess.
Finding comfort, given the high energy running a business requires, is a natural thing for entrepreneurs. For Lisa, it’s okay to be vulnerable and to acknowledge that the entrepreneurial journey is hard. “What I've learned being in EO is that the more honest you are, the more transparent you are, the more you ask for help, the more genuine you are about showing your vulnerability, the quicker you get to the end results.”
Her journey has taught her a lot. “I definitely think that I needed to take risks to get the rewards in my businesses. I still got two businesses that I run and I've never looked back. I really enjoy running my own business. I really enjoy working and partnering with other business owners to help them get the most out of their businesses and it's really rewarding to do something that you can actually see the tangible difference. I like doing what I do, I like seeing the impact we can make on businesses, and that's got me where I am today,” Lisa said with conviction.