COVID-19 has brought a raft of business challenges for all SME owners — but Sydney-based interior design outfit Shakespeare Design is using data and analytics to pivot its offerings and fight back.
Founded by Fiona Shakespeare 16 years ago, Shakespeare Design consistently graces the pages of style magazines around the country.
But in the past few months, life as a sole trader has been challenging. Shakespeare Designs’ revenue during the months of March and April 2020 dropped 50% from last year.
With the next wave of lockdown restrictions easing, Shakespeare is thankful to see business pick up.
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“Hopefully it’s a sign that consumer confidence is beginning to improve,” Shakespeare tells SmartCompany.
Overcoming the challenges of COVID-19
With border closures and lockdowns around the globe, many of Shakespeare’s suppliers had very slow or no freight at all — forcing her to find costly alternatives.
“I’ve had to pass these extra costs onto the client or avoid using these suppliers altogether if I’ve had a very urgent client deadline.”
Shakespeare says open communication is key. When she was informed in March that fabric supply from the UK was going to be significantly delayed, she instantly called her client, explained the situation, and offered a few different options.
“The experience strengthened my relationship with the client and the supplier, as we worked together to solve a difficult problem and tried to protect each other as much as possible.”
But Shakespeare’s main challenge comes from within.
“The biggest challenge has been keeping up my spirits and enthusiasm, so clients feel reassured that I’m still open for business and optimistic about the future. That’s infectious and encourages people to be confident about spending money.”
To create a sense of excitement and connection with her clients, Shakespeare turned from email communications to connecting via Instagram. The highly visual nature of the platform has brought her offerings to life, inspiring clients to imagine what their dream space could look like.
Shakespeare also contacted old clients asking for Google reviews and testimonials to update her website. By making the review process as streamlined as possible, she saw a great uptick in reviews — which directly led to a new job with an old client.
“I tried to make the process as quick and painless for them as possible,” she explains.
Using data to drive smart business decisions
Shakespeare’s secret to success, and her ability to pivot so rapidly, is her access to data.
“I’m using data from MYOB to calculate the percentage of my annual income generated from billing consulting time and seeing the impact that a higher fee rate would have on my bottom line,” she says.
“I use the profit and loss reports and look at income streams and expense streams. I then marry that up with my timesheets, so I know where I spend the most hours.”
MYOB helps Shakespeare to determine which products she should promote on Instagram by helping her analyse which products yield the best profit margin.
“I compared this year’s figures to last year’s to see where there were significant differences and why. I always maintain a very close understanding of where my biggest profits come from.”
Advice for unprecedented times
Managing mental health has been a challenge for many, and Shakespeare is turning to the interior design community for support and guidance.
Her biggest learning during the pandemic was that self-worth and purpose is very closely related to your work when you’re a sole trader.
Her best advice is to know where to find your drive and quickly understand what is and isn’t profitable in business.
“I have to be very self-motivated and it’s important for me to know how much money I’m making on each job. If any aspect of a job isn’t profitable, it kills my motivation and my ability to do my best work.
With MYOB I can check which aspects of a project are most profitable and plan how I can use my time accordingly.”
MYOB is a leading business platform with a core purpose of helping more businesses in Australia and New Zealand start, survive and succeed. At the heart of MYOB is a customer base of 1.2 million businesses and a network of more than 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and consultants, for whom MYOB delivers end-to-end business and accounting solutions. MYOB operates across four key segments: Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), Enterprise, Financial Services and Practice.