A natural shift for former corporate designer
Small business, NINE MSN, 2005
It’s been a pain-free transition from deadline-driven corporate life to small business for a Sydney-based natural therapist, writes Tiffany Bonasera.
Time-poor, stressed and heavily reliant on other people to achieve results, Stephen Wayne-Smith decided to cut loose from his highly paid corporate role as a senior architectural designer to pursue his passion for fitness, health and natural healing.
Turning his back on what he describes as an 80’s career that, “didn’t have any meaning in the end,” Stephen began a series of courses in natural health, with the aim of combining his interest in this area with his ambition to work for himself.
“I wanted to do something that was worthwhile,” says Stephen. “It’s so rewarding when people walk out of here without pain. It’s all about a personal sense of worth.”
Now, he spends much of his time soothing and healing clients seeking reprieve from the corporate treadmill through massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture and holistic counselling at his clinic, ZenLiving, located at Surry Hills in Sydney ‘s inner city. The clinic, which is a three-storey terrace, doubles as his home.
Established in 1999, ZenLiving is thriving. But going solo has been a lesson in patience for the former high-flyer. Stephen started out by hiring a treatment room in an already established health clinic while he was still studying. This gave him the opportunity to keep costs down and allowed his main marketing strategy, word-of-mouth, to gain momentum.
“Initially, I never advertised and I deliberately did that because I wanted to determine the types of clients I have,” says Stephen. “If your business is generated through word-of-mouth, then these clients are likely to have nice friends.”
Six years on and the challenge for Stephen is to encourage new clients to come through the door, which requires a cost-effective marketing mix. This includes leaving brochures outside his premises, outlining the types of therapies and services he offers, with a link to his website, so potential clients can pick one up as they walk past and read more about the business in their own time.
According to Stephen, another marketing-must is getting into a good online directory. But he stresses a website must be well presented, have compelling information and be easy to navigate for this to have the biggest impact. For Stephen, developing an e-newsletter has been another useful way to communicate with his clients.
Marketing your business can be expensive, says Stephen, but if you do much of the work yourself, this can minimise costs. For example, Stephen developed his own website and creates and writes his own marketing material.
But the one area Stephen says cannot be compromised is your professional image. This should also be considered as marketing because it’s a reflection of you and your business.
“It’s like any marketing,” explains Stephen, “If I came down to treat a client wearing a singlet and was unshaven, people would have no respect for me or what I do.”
Creating an edge
In a society where people are searching for greater balance in their lives, there has been a sharp rise in interest in natural therapies and those who practice it since Stephen first started. But he is comfortable with the increase in competition.
“I’ve studied and have become multi-disciplined so I can offer a lot of different therapies which compliment each other,” he says. “I work out what’s going to resolve a problem the fastest.”
It’s a win-win situation for Stephen, and the business’s bottom line, because the happy client will come back and they’ll tell their family and friends about the treatment too.
There’s a limit, however, to how many people Stephen can treat each day. In an effort to expand his business, he’s now branched into selling a range of 100 percent natural essences, which are already proving popular.
There’s nothing Stephen misses about his old life in the corporate world. Being a small business owner means he’s got greater control of his life and it’s been a surprisingly stress-free transition.
“It’s all about lifestyle, you have very little stress unless you are doing something wrong,” says Stephen.
Want to work from home? Stephen’s top tips
• Create an atmosphere that is beneficial to you specifically. Avoid bad lighting, noise or air-conditioning that will affect you physically and may be detrimental to your productivity.
• You are number one in the decision-making process and this eliminates any stress and tension involved in the chain-of-command. In the natural therapies industry, dealing with clients on a one-on-one basis means I’m totally responsible for the quality, content and delivery of a service.
• You control the amount of leisure time you want. This balance is also a key factor in an individual’s wellbeing. With some careful planning you can have plenty of leisure time and cash to be able to cover any time you take off.
• Combining a workplace with a living space is not a problem if you love what you are doing. It reduces your costs and means that if you have a spare hour or two you can do other things, which can contribute to the smooth running of your life.
• Running a small business doesn’t mean you’re making a small contribution to society and the realisation of this by dissatisfied individuals accounts for the continued growth of small business today.