To really survive and scale in business, a platform of technology should be driving your organisation. That’s the advice of one Australia’s most recognisable entrepreneurs, Jo Burston.
Sixteen years ago, when Burston founded her first company Job Capital, there was no such thing as a digital manager, and as she told Women’s Agenda recently, she didn’t know that many CTOs.
“But now, it’s an essential part of business,” Burston says. “To scale, you have to utilise technology.”
Jo Burston, who is the founder and MD of Job Capital, as well as the founder and CEO of mentoring program company Inspiring Rare Birds, says that technology has enabled her multiple businesses to scale over the years, whilst also keeping outgoing costs low.
“With Job Capital, we are still under ten employees in that business and it’s a terrific business,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to run big teams, I’ve always wanted to run small, effective and efficient businesses that pay for my lifestyle and pay for my goals and the things I want to do. I never had a desire to have one hundred people working for me, and that’s where technology steps in.”
Jo Burston’s insights reflect the findings of recent research titled The Way We Are: Australian Women in Business, conducted by the Insights Grill and commissioned by Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) in August, at found 23 per cent of women believe technology played a key role in their business success. It’s an indicator that leveraging tech solutions can help women get to where they want to be in their careers, especially as entrepreneurs. This is something that Burston has been highlighting in her role as a DWEN member and Dell Technologies Small Business Ambassador.
Over the past 18 months, many businesses have been hit hard. Jo Burston has seen the reality of this through her mentoring business, Inspiring Rare Birds, where entrepreneurs have been reaching out, looking for tools, support, and events to help them navigate the ups and downs.
“It’s all about what we can do for women and their businesses, or for their leadership journey, while they’re in troubled times,” Jo Burston said. “We’ve grown because of that, it’s almost an essential service, for women who are trying to survive, and scale in business.”
“We give them deep insights into what they could change to pivot in their business during Covid, with the support of a mentor. Even for businesses that didn’t need to pivot but needed that person in their corner to scale and thrive and go into new markets.”
The necessity of building more mentor relationships has also been highlighted in DWEN’s research, where 95 per cent of women business owners, entrepreneurs and C-suite executives said mentors were important to their careers. But there was a clear gap in people pursuing or forming these relationships, with only 58 per cent reporting they currently had a mentor.
“We know through the research that DWEN commissioned, that there is a lack of confidence in women in business, and it still exists. Mentoring fits really neatly into how to go about changing that,” Jo Burston said. “What we find through mentoring at Inspiring Rare Birds is that if you feel like you need a mentor in a certain space, it’s often the case that you need it somewhere else too – it’s often in a blind spot and you can’t see it.”
In her early years of entrepreneurship, having a mentor was key to Jo Burston’s success, she says, and it was important as she was looking to build networks with others in the business community.
“Being a leader in a fast-growing company can be a very, very lonely place,” she said. “Not many people really understand the concept of the mental fatigue or the psychological rollercoaster you go through when you’re building a company.”
“The doors it opened for me, the problems it helped me solve and the networks that were built because of it, are invaluable. Big heavy doors got opened for me, that otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Having a mentor, and being part of professional networks, was hugely significant for Jo Burston, who says her self-confidence has grown exponentially over the years she’s spent as a serial entrepreneur. She says she made it her priority to learn from others, rather than being intimidated by their success.
“The biggest takeaway for me personally, was the change in my business confidence, and my self-confidence. And that right there is the goal.”
It’s something she’s incredibly passionate about, considering 90 percent of female leaders in DWEN’s research believe women face biases that men do not.
In her own work, Jo Burston has seen bias against female entrepreneurs come through, and believes it’s a problem particularly when it comes to capital raising, an issue that will be addressed at an upcoming event hosted by Jo, and supported by Kochie’s Business Builders and DWEN.
“There still isn’t the level of confidence in respect to going for the right type of funding,” Jo Burston said. “We’re specifically targeting that problem, to get women more comfortable in front of investors.”