TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I am Cathy Tavernier, the driving force behind Optimazing. It is my mission to help ambitious entrepreneurs towards more online visibility via their website, free giveaway, blog, vlog, newsletter, social media and webinars in an efficient way.
I find it important that entrepreneurs don’t “just do” online marketing because it’s a necessity for their business, but that they do it in the right way: with a goal and an online marketing strategy plan in a consistent way. Next, to that, I also take care of all administration that comes out of your online marketing; such as the set-up of funnels to build on the Know-Like-Trust factor with your potential customers and fans.
Customers can choose to be guided by me by following the necessary training with me via 1- on-1 projects, workshops and masterclasses. And soon also online trainings. Or they can choose to completely or partially hand over the online marketing activities.
These days, online marketing cannot be ignored in the current way of doing business. I want my clients to feel that online marketing does not have to be a “struggle” in their business. With the right approach, you get more online visibility without spending large amounts of money and time.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
In 2013 I started as a virtual assistant to help entrepreneurs with their administration and bring structure in their business, so they would be able to focus on their core business. After 2 years, more and more of these administrative tasks were marketing related. I was able to help them, but I was no expert. I had the knowledge in several areas, but not being an expert in any part, not always knowing the right tools or not knowing how to use them the best way for your business. This didn’t give me a good feeling.
If you want to advise and guide people, you have to be an expert in the things you do. That’s my persuasion. As I got more and more interested in online marketing myself and my clients were more and more asking me to help them in that area, I started following different courses in online marketing to increase my knowledge to enable me to advise and guide my clients into the right direction whenever necessary. I didn’t just want to process the tasks they were giving me. I also wanted to become their sparring partner whenever they didn’t know what to do, what the next step to take was to let their visibility grow.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
When I graduated, I started working in big companies as a personal assistant, office manager, finance & administration manager etc. I always had a job where I helped managers, directors, sales teams in an administrative way. After 15 years of working at Deloitte, I felt I couldn’t grow anymore. I reached the ceiling, however, I was ambitious and wanted more. Next, to that, I hated losing so much time on a daily basis in traffic.
Mid 2013 I became an entrepreneur and my virtual secretariat CT Office was born. In 2018 I started a rebranding project and end 2018 I completely made the move towards online marketing: Optimazing was born.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Think really good before you start. Do you have the ambition to go the whole end, whatever it takes? Do you want to work a lot of hours to set-up your business? Because in the first years and even after that time, there will be periods that you will have to work long hours. Being an entrepreneur is more than just delivering your services. You need to be an accountant, secretary, marketer etc. even if you have the budget to hand over some of these services to freelancers or specialized companies. Not working hard when you want to set up a good business is a utopia.
Make sure to surround yourself with the right people who lift you up, but also tell you when you are not doing the right kind of thing to let your business grow. A good accountant advising you what to do and what better not to do is a necessity! You don’t need to have the accounting knowledge, but you need to be able to understand your figures and act towards it. Therefore an accountant not just processing your numbers is key; he needs to prevent problems and advise you on financial issues whenever necessary.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
Having suppliers giving me the services I needed for my business; meaning entrepreneurs who think with you, who advise you, who are not just delivering their services. Who becomes a sparring partner, who you can trust to think with you to let your business grow. I had to cancel collaborations with an accountant 2 times, before finding the right person who advises and guides me through the financial matters of my business. Now, these things are much clearer to me, even when spending less time myself into my accountancy. It gives me peace.
The same experience I had with my IT person. As IT is not my expertise, I had to trust what my IT person said to me. So I just followed whatever he suggested improving my business. Because I am that kind of entrepreneur who wants to best for my clients, so I will give them the right advice. But not everybody is like this! After a while, I noticed that things were not working the way they should, even when he had an explanation for everything. But it sounded like Chinese to me … because it was not my expertise! It didn’t give me the right feeling. As this cooperation really didn’t work the way I wanted it to work, I asked in my network several people who they could advise for my IT problem, what their experiences were with IT people.
It taught me that you need to check your network before starting a collaboration. And not only rely on the answer of one person but several. It seems obvious to do that, but when your busy building a business, you sometimes have the reaction to solve a problem quickly, certainly when the matter is not your expertise. Even when it’s not your expertise, your supplier should be able to explain in your words what is going wrong and why you need to take the following step. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise! It learned me always to talk the language of my clients; to explain them and if necessary re-explain them the need for something.
Next, to that, I learned that communicating with your clients is key. Even when not being ready or not having the time to follow-up on a request immediately, just inform them that you are busy with their request and that you have added it to your planning. I become enormously frustrated when collaborators or suppliers don’t respond to emails for days when I am worried about something or have an urgent request. Sometimes a phone call of 5 minutes can prevent or solve a lot of frustration.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
Dearing to invest in me and to choose to deliver “only” online marketing services and all administration that comes out of this. In that way, I can further specialize myself, and I can advise, activate and administer their online marketing in the way I think it’s best for their company. Not only being an entrepreneur delivering services but being a sparring partner, understanding my (potential) client’s their frustrations and worries and to be able to take a part of that, if not everything, away.
It always gives me a boost when I see how happy people are with their growing online visibility. When they see that investing in online marketing pays off! That their mailing list is growing and they are getting more clients.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
I try to prevent to take projects where I need to be present at the workplace of my client. I have chosen to deliver services for which my presence is not really needed on the field. Which doesn’t mean that we never sit face-to-face. I can work perfectly from my home office, which means that I can arrange my hours as I wish.
I choose to get up 1 hour to 1,5 hours before everybody gets up to follow-up my emails, follow-up on my own online marketing activities etc. After that, I can sit together with my partner for breakfast or drive my daughter to the bus station. I can prepare dinner by the time the kids come home, spend some time together and start working again when they start doing their homework. If I need and want to work during the weekend, that’s not a problem. I am still together with my family.
I can arrange my agenda myself and I have skype or zoom to have online meetings with my clients. This means that I can also be flexible towards all my clients.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
Successful, sincere entrepreneurs who dare to say that it has not always been a blink of an eye. That dare to say that it was a hell of a job sometimes even when now living a financial solid life being able to do in life what they want to do and making a difference with their services. Being an asset to somebody’s dream, somebody’s company. Ambitious entrepreneurs who remained human didn’t start to act differently because they became successful, just because they remember the road they had to take before arriving at their goal.
I greatly admire Anne Raaymakers from Fanfactor and Greet Bunnens and Karina Urbina from Business Boost Event, all empathetic self-made entrepreneurs who don’t hide the fact that it is hard work to let your business grow and to be outstanding in your “job”. However, it does not always feel like “hard” work, because you are building your dream.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
I became an entrepreneur because I was no longer challenged by my job. I worked very hard to satisfy my boss. I was an employee, worked as I was working for my own business, but didn’t get the appreciation in return that I needed and wanted. Next, to that, I spent a lot of hours in the car being in traffic jams, which frustrated me enormously.
I needed a challenge and wanted to spend more time with my children. I knew that with my knowledge and ambition, I could be a difference towards all these entrepreneurs struggling with their administration and their work-life balance. Knowing myself, I would go for it!
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
I am constantly investing in myself and surround myself now better with the right people, who lift me up to a higher level, becoming a better entrepreneur with a solid financially stable company. Because a stable financial foundation of your company is key if you want to be able to keep focusing on the services you want to deliver, improving your work and work with the right people. It brings peace. Having one or more sparring partners is key. They sometimes see things you don’t see about your company and vice versa. You learn from each other. But be careful with whom to connect. There has to be a healthy balance in the way you are helping each other.
Next, to that, you need to have the right person next to you to train or guide you in the areas of your job where you don’t have the expertise. You need to acknowledge your weaknesses and strengths and then seek help and stay focused and critical.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
The first years, I didn’t. I just wanted to work, work and work to earn money. The more I worked, the more money I would gain. The more I would be able to create my dream company. That was my understanding …
But that’s NOT how it works! You really need a business plan indicating what you want to accomplish in the short, mid-short and long term. Otherwise, you are not setting up a business, but having a hobby! When setting up your business plan, you know what you want to accomplish, but also the investments that will be needed. So you can look if this is possible or not if you need to adjust and whom to attract to achieve your goal or in what to invest. After setting up the business plan and discussing with my sparring partners and accountant, I set up my online marketing strategy planning.
As some entrepreneurs forget that last step, I created our Optimazing Marketing planner, which guides and inspires you through your marketing through the year, quarters and months. Next, to that, it also foresees in evaluation moments, which are key for your business.
Setting up a business and online marketing plan really changed my business. I am no longer having a hobby, but building my dream: setting up a financially solid business where I help entrepreneurs with a growing impactful online visibility in an empathetic guiding way.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS
I don’t feel or think that my gender is an advantage or disadvantage as an entrepreneur. If people want to work with me, this is not because of my gender, but because of my expertise and my way of working. How they experience me in real life, but also online.
The only disadvantage maybe is that next to our entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurs also have a family and household we need to take care off. But also that is something you can discuss and arrange with your partner and/or children. Communication and respect are key. When you explain why you want things to be organized in that way or why it would be helpful if they could give a hand and explain the advantages (spend more time together), then everybody is willing to help. We have passed the years where only women are responsible for the household. If you are in a relationship you need a partner who supports you and understands that sometimes you do need to work long hours. But I guess that’s the same for a male entrepreneur or even an ambitious employee.
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
Definitely Autorespond. Autorespond is an online marketing tool, having newsletters, autoresponders, CRM and shopping cart in one system. You can start with the email marketing system and expand it afterwards with the shopping cart or vice versa.
It helps me to automate and simplify a lot of administration that comes out of online marketing. Next, to that, it’s a good advantage that the tool is a Dutch tool made in the Netherlands, meaning that there are no time differences, no language barriers and they have a great helpdesk.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
You can’t do everything alone. If you want to grow you need people who assist you, who can take that part of your business you don’t like, out of your hands. Because all these parts are necessary to set-up a good business and you will always postpone the job because you don’t like it. And this can be disastrous for your business. So dare to look for help or ask for help!
And last but not least: Try and fail, don’t fail to try!