By Katie Cunningham
Jono Clarke is brutally honest about what it’s like to run a small business.
“Get ready to do the long nights. Get ready to lose some weekends here and there; lose sleep,” he says with a sly smile. “But at the end of the day you’ve built your own company, your own future, you work for yourself. You’re your own boss.”
Clarke owns J. Clarke Constructions, a decking specialist company based on the NSW Central Coast. Clarke hasn’t always worked for himself. He started his career doing a building apprenticeship with his chippie dad, where he got the taste for “creating something out of nothing”, and later went into civil construction.
Then in 2015, he launched his own business. It’s now a thriving company with a team of staff and a long list of happy clients. Their specialisation means they are, he laughs, known as the “deck-sperts”.
What makes a small business work?
Clarke has learned a lot along the way about what makes a small business work. First and foremost is possessing that never-say-die attitude.
“You need to be driven – driven to find and keep good staff, work long hours and weekends if you have to,” he says. “You’ve got to be a go-getter in the sense that you go out and fight for jobs. Every day you get up, the first thing on your mind [has to be] your business.”
Finding the right team really is critical, Clarke says. That’s why he makes a concerted effort to be a good boss, create a great work environment and retain those key players.
“One of the big things with having a successful business is making sure your crew enjoy the work – making that enjoyable for them, having a bit of banter on site, having a laugh [important]. But also making sure you get the job done,” he says.
“I always try to remember what it was like working for someone… I reward them whenever I can – our Christmas party last year was an all-expenses paid trip to Surfers Paradise.”
It’s also crucial to have the right tools in place to get the job done. Given customers often check you out on social media before giving you the job, be prompt in responses to clients and suppliers over email, do your invoicing and payroll and have your files backed up and safe in the cloud, Clarke says having a supportive internet provider in Superloop has been a “game-changer” for his business.
“With social media and cloud being so crucial – in this day and age, everyone’s got it, everyone’s doing it – keeping up with content [is so important]. People want to see how real the team is. They want to see what we do, if we make a mistake, how we can fix it,” he says.
“We spent a lot of time looking to see which internet provider was right for us. We definitely found the [right] one with Superloop, and their business plan has been a cut above the rest. I feel like they’re part of my team. They have support based in Australia and they really know what I want, they know what I need. That’s a big tick for me.”
But his number one piece of advice to other small business owners – or those thinking of taking the plunge – is to be ready to put in the hard yards.
“Get ready for some challenges. Be ready for people to say no and to face a few roadblocks,” Clarke says. “Everything that comes against you will make you stronger and the next time it happens you’ll know how to deal with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance and remember at the end of the day, you’re only human and you can only do as much as you can.”
For Clarke, the rewards of being your boss always makes the hard work worth it.
“It is 100% rewarding – the fact that you’re building something of your own is amazing. Every day that you’re still in business and running your own show is a blessing,” he says.
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Source: Thanks smh.com