“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
Interview with an Entrepreneur - Leanne Wesche
Briefly tell us about your business and how you got started.
Leanne Wesche is the 2008 Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. The award was recently presented to Leanne in recognition of her successful launch of five different companies in the manufacturing and fresh produce industries over the last twenty years.
A dynamic businesswoman with incredible drive and determination, Leanne has been self-employed since the age of 19 and her entrepreneurial skill has been recognised through many accolades.
Leanne currently owns and manages Pacco Group and Safeguard Innovations. Pacco Group is Western Australia's largest fruit and vegetable packing facility, supplying up to 80,000 pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables to supermarket chains daily. Last year alone, produce valued at $60 million found its way onto the tables of Western Australian families via Pacco.
In 2008, following 18 months of research and product development, Leanne launched Safeguard Fruit & Veggie Wash. Safeguard is an all-natural cleansing wash for fresh produce, found to be up to 100 times more effective than water in removing dirt, chemicals, waxes and contaminants. Safeguard is now helping to protect families from food-borne diseases around Australia and the globe, with sales into 11 countries in the first 9 months.
Leanne's journey is one of incredible passion, resilience and an eye for an opportunity. Her wisdom is not gained in a library but in the real world, where hard work and determination is the key to her business success.
What have been your major achievements?
Being singled out to win the Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year amongst so many inspirational women achieving such success in their businesses and communities was a truly humbling experience.
I have received many accolades over the years and have actually used Awards as a great way to attract media coverage to assist building my profile and branding my products and businesses. With this latest award, it will bring many new opportunities and I am excited to be able to share my story to hopefully inspire and motivate others to achieve success and satisfaction in their own businesses.
Pacco Group was born from building strong relationships in an industry that I had built a reputation for exemplary service and commitment. Like a true entrepreneur, the creative side of me then strived for more and developed Safeguard Fruit & Veggie Wash. Running these two diverse businesses in both local and international markets is a challenge that requires incredible hard work and passion. On a bad day, I ask, "what is the worst thing that could happen?" and this brings me back to perspective and keeps me focused.
What have been your major challenges?
Working and building a reputable business in the fresh produce industry, which is a very male dominated environment has been tough. I have had many knock backs and I view every 'No' as an opportunity to find an alternative way to achieve it. Failure is not an option for me. I am very fortunate by nature to be extremely positive. I believe resilience in business is essential.
Cashflow has always been a challenge for my fast growing businesses. Many successful businesses fail not from lack of sales or growth, but from not managing their cashflow. This is a day-by-day issue that I continue to micro-manage.
Of course launching my new veggie wash product into 11 countires in less than one year has had many, many challenges. Each country has different import requirements and each agent has required different support.
Who has been your greatest mentor?
I have not had a mentor as such, I have employed some great people over the years and they have impacted greatly on my businesses. I have contracted various coaches over the years to use their knowledge and expertise to help manage my businesses, but often found this was not results orientated. I have preferred to employ people, coach them as best I can and allowed them to grow with me.
I subscribe to many publications and never have the time to read them on a daily basis but sit down for a whole afternoon on the weekend and rip out lots of interesting articles and file them for future reference. I am always inspired by Australian innovation and what amazing accomplishments people are achieving.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
I think that my resilience, determination and customer focus makes me stand out from the competitors. I run my businesses to suit customers of all sizes and develop strong relationships.
I never let my customer's know our problems. It is our job to deliver a product or service and we just get on and do what we do best. They don't need to know a machine broke down or half the staff have come down with the flu, we just make it work.
We also provide flexibility. In a retail environment there is always change and you need to adapt quickly and without fuss.
I also engage my suppliers, tell them my story, my vision... that I will be far larger and more successful than you can ever imagine. This then puts you in a great position to negotiate and work with them.
Where would you like to see your business in five years from now?
Safeguard Fruit and Veggie Wash launched into Europe. Pacco Group expanding into processing an extensive range of value-added produce lines. I also see the business continuing to develop strong systems and procedures to allow me to concentrate on Safeguard Innovations growth and product development.
What are your Top Five Strategies for Success?
- Systems, systems, systems. Have written procedures and continually update them.
- Be real and vulnerable. Appreciate what you are good at and don't be too proud to ask for help.
- Measure everything that might be significant; anything that is measured and watched improves.
- View every 'No' as an opportunity; find an alternative way to achieve your goal.
- Have the toughest conversations as soon as possible; complete the nasties in the bottom of your tray. They are never as bad as you think and putting them off only distracts you from doing what you are good at.
What are your goal achievement strategies?
Make sure that the goals that you set are measureable.
Ensure that your staff are aware of the goals that are set for them and the company.
Be consistent in your message and follow through on what goals you have set and revisit and change them if necessary.
I don't ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do, so l lead my team, coach them rather than fixing their problems and allow them to make mistakes along the way.
How important has goal setting been to your success?
A lot of the time when running a business it is difficult to set goals and follow through on your promises. Without setting goals I would not be able to run two businesses today, but this has been a discipline that I have learned over the last few years. I am a true belivever in achivement through working hard, believing in your dreams and sheer determination. You have to seriously want to be successful!!