To celebrate International Women’s Day, we sat down for a cuppa and a chat with some true business Wonder Women. From climbing the corporate ladder to starting social enterprises, these fab females shared their insights, experiences, and kick-ass advice on all things ‘women in business’.
In business for over 15 years, Kyelie Baxter knows a thing or two about achieving success in the workforce.
The managing partner of the Gold Coast-based IQ Accountants, Kyelie’s impressive collection of silverware includes MYOB 2019 Certified Consultant of the Year, Australian Accounting Awards 2019 Partner of the Year (Boutique Firm), and 2018 MYOB Accountant of the Year, and she’s also been a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
Accolades aside, Kyelie is no stranger to the tricky balancing act of being both businesswoman and busy mother. We asked her to share her insights into the challenges facing women in business, where she draws her inspiration from, and the advice she’d offer anyone considering taking the leap and starting their own business.
As a woman, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced has definitely been “mum guilt”. As I was heading up the business when I had my children, I was back at work within a week while my husband stayed home with the kids. I certainly don’t regret my choices – as a mother or a business partner – but it was multi-tasking to the nth degree!
My strategy to reduce the guilt factor has always been to focus. Focus on where you are at the time and give your all to that place. This can be helped by putting a structure in place to enable you to get the most out of whatever it is you’re focusing on for that period of time.
The balancing act of being a working mum is a major factor in why I’m so passionate about flexible working in my own business (out of our team of ten, only two are traditional employees). I believe that more businesses need to embrace remote working and offer a more flexible approach, particularly for working mothers trying to “do it all”.
The other challenge I’ve faced over the years has been dealing with the assumptions made about me by others. As an example, when I became a business partner at a very young age, I quickly became the subject of assumptions such as “she’s too young” or “she’s not experienced enough”, whereas this wasn’t an issue for my male counterparts.
My tactic for overcoming this one is to find your own way to work around it. People are going to make assumptions about you, so it comes down to how you choose to deal with it. I’m a firm believer in picking your battles carefully.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
When I first bought into the business many years ago, I was very young and extremely nervous. Aside from requiring a significant financial investment, this venture also involved a huge life change, including relocating with my husband-to-be and taking a major step up in terms of the team I’d be managing.
Voicing my concerns to my grandmother, she told me this: “If you’re going to back anyone, back yourself”. I can’t think of a better sentiment to live by.
Are you seeing more female business owners among your clients? If so, what do you think is driving this change?
I definitely am. There are so many more women running the show nowadays! While I’d say it’s still a roughly 50-50 split between male and female ownership, this is still a huge improvement compared to the way things looked ten or twenty years ago.
In terms of what’s driving this change, I think a lot of women are wanting more flexibility in the way they work and are aiming to achieve a better work-life balance. Technology has also created significant opportunities for running your own business, especially around remote working and more flexible work styles.
I believe there’s a shift happening in terms of our expectations as women. We’re seeing these opportunities and realising we have the ability to create a better lifestyle for ourselves.
Interestingly, I’m also seeing a change in terms of the roles of men and women in traditional “husband and wife” businesses. Whereas previously, women would have more of a backseat role, I’m increasingly coming across situations where it’s the woman who’s the backbone of the business.
Which female figures have inspired you?
Once again, I have to refer to my grandmother here, as she’s been a huge inspiration for me.
She and my grandfather ran a corner store together – one of those typical country town stores that stocked pretty much everything under the sun! I have a lot of vivid childhood memories of sitting in the shop and watching the two of them work.
I’d see them putting in long hours, employing staff, and taking care of all the moving parts of the business. It taught me about the realities of running a business from a very young age and those memories stayed with me.
What’s really interesting is how equal the partnership was between my grandfather and grandmother, which I imagine would have been quite uncommon at the time. They very much worked as a team and made all the business decisions together. There wasn’t much gender equality back then, so that’s an inspiration in itself!
I’ve been able to turn to my grandmother for a lot of business advice over the years. Even though times are different, there are still common challenges that aren’t so dissimilar to the ones she faced. She’s a shining example of a strong woman and a true inspiration as a female in business.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day has significance on both a personal level and a collective one. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to reflect on your own journey; to take stock and recognise what you’ve achieved. It’s also a great time to look at other women around you and what they’re accomplishing.
While it’s definitely a time of celebration, I think it’s also about recognising how much more needs to be done in order to achieve true gender equality. Issues such as the gender pay gap or the lack of female representation in leadership go way beyond your own city or country. These are worldwide issues that we need to work on together.
What’s fantastic about an initiative like International Women’s Day is that, although these issues can at times feel overwhelming, we’re reminded that there’s so much support and unity within the female community.
If you could offer one piece of advice to women thinking of starting their own business, what would it be?
Get it right from the get-go. Your side hustle can go viral overnight or that one Instagram post can suddenly lead to thousands of customers. If you’re not prepared for that, it can be a huge problem.
So my advice would be to seek professional advice from the start and ensure you have the right systems in place to meet your potential demand. This will avoid major headaches and frustrations down the line, which can end up being incredibly costly.
Be prepared for the road ahead and set yourself up for success!
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