Kate Morris has spent 20 years building online beauty retailer Adore Beauty, from humble beginnings to the newest company to list on the Australian Securities Exchange.
During this time, Morris has become one of the country’s leading e-commerce entrepreneurs, and has often been willing to open up about what’s worked, and what hasn’t, while building her business.
Here are seven pieces of advice Morris has shared over the years.
1. Success is about more than money
“Look, money helps. It’s hard to feel successful if you’re living off rice and beans, as I did in the early years of my business,” she said back in 2018 when asked what success means to her.
But there’s more to it, she said.
“Success is about having choices about how I want to live my life, and having opportunities to make a difference to the world.
“I get to work flexibly to spend time with my kids; and I also get to do great things with my business now, like paid parental leave and our Women in Tech scholarship.”
2. Culture matters
In 2017, we asked Morris what she wishes she’d known before hiring her first employee.
“I wish I’d known the importance of hiring for cultural fit, rather than skills or experience,” she told SmartCompany.
“Once we got to about 25 employees, we realised it was going to be difficult to continue to be the sort of company we wanted to be without identifying and reinforcing the cultural values that were important to us.”
3. On being the face of her brand
How do you get your business noticed, without comprising who you are?
During a SmartCompany event in 2017, Morris reflected on building a business in a sector dominated by larger ‘faceless’ companies.
“I’m up against huge corporations that are relatively faceless. I think people like a face,” she said.
“Why shouldn’t they know who is behind a business?”
From sitting on advice panels to putting Adore Beauty up for awards, Morris said self-promotion becomes about using any tools at her disposal to take on the competition.
“I don’t have their marketing budgets, so we just have to use whatever we have.”
4. Don’t build a business with the sole aim of finding an investor
Back in 2015, Morris sold a 25% stake in Adore Beauty to Woolworths, but said bringing on an investor was not something she was always aiming for.
“I really think a lot of businesses sometimes have a primary focus of ‘who can we get as investors’, but that’s the wrong way to go about it,” she said in 2017.
“You’ve got to think about what’s right for the customer and everything else comes after that. If you build a strong business, then success will follow.”
5. You have to “get stuff done”
In a speech to graduates of Monash University in 2017, Morris explained why business success isn’t about having the best idea.
“A lot of people think that being successful in business is about having a big idea. A stroke of genius. Thinking of something nobody’s ever thought of,” she said.
“The truth is that ideas don’t matter anywhere near as much as the ability to get stuff done.
“I am not a genius. I wasn’t a child prodigy. I wasn’t the dux of my school. I did not graduate with straight high distinctions. My ideas are not better than anybody else’s.
“What I am good at, is getting stuff done. Not getting it done perfectly. Just getting it done.”
6. If you’re in a rut, ask for help
Speaking at the Above All Human conference in 2016, Morris recalled a time when she wondered if she should “just chuck it in and move on”.
It was at the end of 2010. Adore Beauty had about $2 million in turnover and was winning awards, but she felt stuck.
“They’d just given me Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year but I didn’t know if I was the right person to be running this business anymore,” she said.
“I didn’t know where the growth was going to come from, I didn’t know what to do next. I thought maybe I should hire a CEO or just chuck it in and move on.”
Working with a business coach helped Morris “turn the lights back on”.
“I hadn’t realised how bad it had gotten,” she says.
“I reconnected with my passion and purpose and all of a sudden I knew what I had to do.
“I knew the time was right to pull out all the stops and take some big steps on the brands I was missing and finally invest in some marketing.”
7. Use your time wisely
Back in 2015, Morris gave us some insights into what her days, and weeks, look like.
While there’s no one typical day for the entrepreneur and chief executive, she said she had one rule she tries to live by.
“I never schedule meetings on a Monday. Mondays are for trying to trawl through a heaving inbox and getting ready for the week,” she said.