Karen Hollenbach is the founder of Think Bespoke and revered as the 'LinkedIn Lady'. Think Bespoke is a specialist Melbourne based consulting firm that provides personalised LinkedIn training, social media management services and career planning for individuals and businesses.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
In December 2010 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I reflect on this experience as being pivotal in my decision to focus on building my business. As an ex-corporate career professional and mother of two pre-schoolers, I wanted to see if I could carve out a more flexible career, enabling me to leverage my skills and be present for my dear Mum and children.
Formally trained with a Bachelor of Business, Marketing, I am also a Registered Teacher with the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT), a Certified Trainer, Independent LinkedIn Training Consultant and have extensive experience training and coaching high-performance teams and facilitating formal business training programs. What began as a resume writing service, grew over the next 3 years into LinkedIn Profile writing for job seekers and self-discovery workshops for professionals in the mid-stage of their career.
How did you get your business started?
For the first three years I continued to work part-time for a boutique training organisation, as a business trainer and facilitator with leadership teams across Melbourne, as I developed and refined Think Bespoke’s career and business services. There is a common saying that people buy from people they know, like and trust. Being somewhat desk-bound with the care of my Mum and young children, LinkedIn became a critical tool for how I leveraged my networks and generated leads and referrals for Think Bespoke.
With a content marketing strategy in place for Think Bespoke, this began to influence my community and previous colleagues began to reach out to me on LinkedIn, having read my blog posts and engaged with me online and via my face to face workshop content about LinkedIn and Career Planning. With an international network of connections on LinkedIn, I also have a strong track record working in leadership roles in sales and marketing for global brands. This meant that past colleagues, who’d been watching my business journey from the sidelines, began to refer their friends and family to Think Bespoke’s LinkedIn and career planning services.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
The most important lesson I have learnt is to always be open to learning and trying something new. I would never have imagined that what started as a resume writing business would turn into a training consultancy for individuals and organisations. The concept of being a ‘lifelong learner’ has always helped me be open to new opportunities and to try new things. I genuinely want to help people and this attitude has opened many doors for me. The money comes after you help.
The other invaluable lesson was knowing whose advice to listen to. Everyone has an opinion, but you need to sometimes experiment and see what works for you. The advice I did listen to was from those who know me, are willing to give me honest feedback and have my best interests in mind. Being prepared to guest speak has also influenced the growth of my business. As a community builder, I spent time from 2013-2016 attending and speaking at many local business community events. I continue to guest speak on a regular basis and this introduces me to new industries and new people I might not have met otherwise.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
Mentors have played a critical role for me. Importantly, they’ve been people who’s values are aligned with mine, and are able to provide deep insight, whether it be compliments or criticisms. The power of taking the time to observe and reflect in this fast-paced world is essential if you want to be relevant to your clients and build a business that is sustainable for the longer term. You have to be able to talk ambitiously about your business with someone who understands what makes you strong, while also having the ability to provide counsel on what could potentially hold you back. It was the advice of a wise mentor who suggested that my knowledge of LinkedIn for business growth was deep and my approach for B2B business owners was unique. This encouraged me to focus my LinkedIn insights and training on the B2B market and was invaluable advice.
What are your top 3 tips for starting a business?
1. Begin. It won't be perfect. Perfection does not exist. Put a line in the sand and get started.
2. Be prepared to embrace new online platforms (social media, Apps, etc) and experiment with them to see how they can help your business. Curious by nature, and valued as a social media strategist, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the value of social media channels to help attract, acquire and engage my ideal clients. Think Bespoke’s online footprint now extends far beyond just LinkedIn, with a following of over 6000 readers across our social media community. Technology has also been a key enabler in terms of streamlining our business processes with a CRM, email marketing and booking system.
3. Be prepared to hustle and network.
Attending business networking events has helped me get my business name out there and is also where I have learnt about new technology and developed many of the skills I need to run a small business in the digital age. Meeting people face to face has also connected me with many talented service providers who I have formed strong collaborations with.
Karen Hollenbach is a graduate of the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Marketing), 1996. She is willing to answer your questions about starting a new business. Find her in the Members section.