Janine Allis is not your typical entrepreneur. She admits that for the first part of her working life, her entrepreneurial spirit was “dormant”.
As a teenager, Allis refers to herself as “Miss Average”, never the stand-out student, she went to a technical college and left a few months before her 17th birthday. Before starting her own business, Allis had worked in 30 jobs, travelled the world and had a baby.
Growing up in the Melbourne suburb of Knoxfield, Allis’s new book The Secrets of My Success and the Story of Boost Juice – Juicy Bits and All details her adventures from start to finish. After leaving school, Allis took up a job at an advertising agency before trying her hand at modelling and embarking on a six-year overseas adventure, which saw her working on David Bowie’s yacht.
After her days cruising with the rich and famous, Allis created the iconic Australian juice brand Boost, alongside her husband Jeff in 2000. It’s never easy starting a business and, like all new owners, Allis has faced a number of challenges along the way, including managing fast growth, developing and evaluating business processes, and responding to unwarranted criticisms of the products.
These lessons and more have informed Allis’s business and saw her named as the Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year in 2004. SmartCompany spoke to Allis about the Boost Juice journey and her most valuable business lessons.
Blending a great team
Like most, Allis hasn’t always been lucky in love, but in 1995 she was introduced to her “soul mate” Jeff Allis. As well as being “partners in life”, they became business partners and in 2000 opened their first Boost Juice store together in Adelaide.
“Finding the right business partner is one of the hardest things to get right and when you find out you’ve got it wrong, run away quickly. Partnerships are incredibly destructive if they’re wrong, but if they’re right it’s great,” she says.
Prior to starting Boost, Allis had the misfortune of going into business with a group of men (starting the juice store Sejuice), who did not respect her thoughts or value her work. Through this experience she quickly discovered the hardships of working with an unsupportive team, but it was this experience which inspired Allis and her husband to start a business on their own.
Allis says Jeff’s support has been crucial to her success.
“The most influential person in my life has definitely been my husband. He has an amazing faith in my ability, but he’s also really critical,” she says.
Throughout the Boost journey, Jeff and Allis’s skills and qualities complemented each other’s. In her book, Allis writes Jeff’s attitude kept her calm and sane when business was difficult while she became the “problem solver”.
“If it’s wrong, it’s just dysfunctional. You need to have a partnership in every capacity, a partner who is 100% supportive. I was lucky and had a partner who was perhaps even more foolish than I was and backed me 100% of the time.
“Having the right partner at home is vital,” she says.
Another important ‘Jeff’ in her life was former Flight Centre executive Geoff Harris.
“Geoff Harris taught me a lot about the business side of things and how to structure a business. From his own experiences running Flight Centre he knew what to avoid.
“For me, success or failure has been down to the people I’ve surrounded myself with. Some people are only half full, they live in fear. But as an entrepreneur you need to find the people that say ‘give it a go’. Find people who support the idea, have started their own business intelligently and are ahead of the curb,” she says.
Success is also determined by how well you build your team of employees and Allis says Boost would have been “very difficult, if not impossible” to get off the ground had she hired the wrong people.
“What comes first is attitude. You might not be the most educated, intelligent, or qualified person for a role, but you might be that someone who has the drive and a twinkle in their eyes, but didn’t have the chance to have the education.
“There is a lot you can teach, but attitude you can’t,” she says.
Allis says the best teams are a mixture of different personalities who fit together to compensate for each other’s weaknesses.
A good mix, Allis says, should consist of the leader (efficient, focused, ambitious), the thinker (analytical, unassuming, well organised), the doer (hard-working, patient, keen to get the job done without fuss) and the emotional creative (social, energetic, high maintenance).
In order to maintain the right mixture of people, Allis says she was selective not just about her employees, but also her franchisees.
“Some of the people we got in didn’t have the experience, but they had the drive. Getting the right franchisee is just as important as having the right employees.
“If you get the people wrong, you can’t even get started. You must have the right people to go on the journey with,” she says.
If you’re having difficulties with a team member, Allis says to consider their qualities and your own, and learn where the problem is arising, before trying to devise the best response.
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