My business story, Flash Fotos

In the lead up to the Telstra Business Awards National Finals in Melbourne next week, we’re bringing you the stories behind some of the very inspiring finalists.  Good luck to all!

Melanie (middle) accepts the 2011 QLD MYOB Small Business Award from MYOB’s Tim Molloy (right).

Flash Fotos

Melanie Summer

5 Top Tips to catapult your Business from Surviving to Thriving

Like most other business owners I started my business 6 years ago to create a life with more independence, more flexibility, more income and a better lifestyle. I wanted to create my dream life.

Little did I know that in reality my life would turn into a nightmare. My income for the first four years of business was much lower than I could have earned working for someone else. I worked long hours and was stressed and worried about operating at the brink of bankruptcy and losing all my equity. Finally over the last two years I was able to turn the business around from barely surviving to thriving. Winning the Telstra Business Awards in July 2011 has been an amazing acknowledgement for our turn around.

People often ask me how I turned the business around from merely surviving to thriving. The answer is there was no single action created the change but a variety of factors that turned us around. Here are my top 5 tips that helped me to transform Flash Fotos into the success it is today.


Tip 1: Get Clarity

Without clarity about what you want to achieve in your business it is very hard to drive it to success.  You need to know where you want to go in order to steer into the right direction.

Ask yourself:

  • What kind of customer experience do you want to create?
  • What benefits should your services/ products offer?
  • What sort of team you want to work with?
  • How many customers/ sales you want to achieve?
  • What do you want your customers say about you?
  • How much involved do you want to be in your own business?

Tip 2: Work on your Business not in your Business

Many business owners start a business because they feel they are really good in their trade.  Once they start their own business they keep working in their trade.

The real value of being in business is by leveraging your own time and to take your hands off the tools.  You need to start working ON the business and not IN the business. Someone asked me the other day when I thought was the right time to do this and the answer is: Right now! Start implementing those changes in little steps if you can’t afford to replace yourself right away.  Maybe outsource some of the admin tasks to a virtual secretary or create a part time role.  If you develop your business to the point that it runs without you being involved into the day to day running of it you truly have created a business that works for you.


Tip 3: Get Help

When things get tough we tend to try to save every dollar.  However these are the times when I feel it is a great idea to get outside help and employ a coach, consultant or even find a mentor. By finding an outside person you will get new ideas and become accountable to someone else which often helps staying on track.

When I was on the brink of bankruptcy I employed a coach who charged $29,000 for his service. I had no money and got a new credit card in order to pay his fees.  My friends thought I was either very bold or mad. But in the end they had to admit that the coach helped me to turn things around where I was not able to do that on my own.

Tip 4: Invest in your Self

Being in business means we need to keep up to date with new technology, trends, changes in legislation, etc. We need to keep learning to keep our competitive edge. Invest in yourself and regularly book into training courses, seminars and read books.  A good example is the development and influence of social media on business in the last decade. Those that don’t “upskill” will eventually be left behind.

Tip 5: Test, Measure and Review

Develop some meaningful reports that give you an indication about how your business is travelling .These are called  Key performance indicators (KPI’s).  With the help of KPI’s you are able to see trends and changes in performance which helps you to act and adjust your course when things turn pear shape. You can also identify lack of performance of staff members or identify training needs. Don’t be afraid to make changes as this is often vital to stay alive.


I’m proud to have taken Flash Fotos to where it is today, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without learning some valuable lessons along the way!  What lessons have you learnt that have turned your upstart into a thriving business?


Melanie Summer | Managing Owner – Flash Fotos