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Liz Atkinson

entrepreneur-zone-atkinson-thumbAtkinson arrived in Australia as a backpacker and discovered she had a talent for sales, working in commission-only casual jobs. In 2006, she established Zest Marketing Concepts and has grown the events promotion company to a turnover of $4 million with a staff of 80 and offices throughout Australia and New Zealand. Atkinson is also the co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Women, an organisation for young female entrepreneurs.

Founder and owner: Zest Marketing Concepts

Age: 32

Based: Melbourne

I had worked for someone else in a similar business and found it easy, and I knew there are always lots of clients looking for sales. In the end a client approached me about setting up the business.

Attitude is everything when it comes to selling, you have to believe and be positive about whether you can sell in the first place.

The more people you speak to the better chance you have of a sale. If you are not hearing a lot of no’s then you are not working hard enough. Appreciate them as it brings you closer to a sale.

If you do want to grow a big company you have to have systems, if you don’t you will never grow past a certain point. Look at McDonald’s; it is the best example of systemising.

As a manager you have to lead from the front.

You don’t know if a salesperson is amazing until you see them in action. Don’t believe what they say, as they are salespeople.

I set bonuses for staff. Bonuses are the easiest thing to use ever and they really, really work. It can be as simple as a $20 gift voucher or a breakfast BBQ.

Look at the type of people you have in your business and find out what inspires them.

Recognition and rewards work. The biggest reason staff ever leave a company is that they feel undervalued and that you don’t care.

Reward success. If someone is doing something extremely well give them a text message or a phone call to let them know. But I never give rewards when it is not deserved.

As a business owner, when things start to get tough you need to go straight back to your goals. You must make sure that you always have goals set.

It’s all about building relationships with staff. I work on the 49/51 rule. This means I base my relationships on 49% personal and 51% business.

To form a successful company you need to have as much of a personal relationship with someone as a business relationship. I believe that investing time into the people is the most important thing.

We have some massive plans for growth. I have three companies now which are part of Zest as we have expanded out into sales, marketing and mystery shopping. The goal is to reach 20 offices across Australia and New Zealand and to raise $200 million for charities across the world.

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Cara Waters

SmartCompany editor

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.