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Female Leader, Katie Graham, Owner Katie Graham

Katie Graham Owner of Katie Graham consulting has successfully pulled off the sea change from Sydney to Byron Bay, stepping away from an award winning career with high profile agencies and big brands. Katie’s an experienced brand growth consultant now working with small businesses with integrity. Her passion is supporting founders to create brand clarity, executable strategy and a sustainable approach to business.

Why do you advise businesses to focus on their B2B market first?

There is much (necessary and valuable) conversation happening around how businesses can be environmentally sustainable and balance purpose and profits. But for me, it’s just as important to be talking about how we can ensure that actually running these businesses is sustainable for the humans at the helm. 

Being sustainable in this context means many things. It’s about headspace. It’s about simplicity. And finding that perfect fusion between work and life. It’s about digging deep into the numbers and asking how you can structure your business to ensure that you have not only financial freedom, but freedom to carve out space for the things that ground you and fuel you on a daily basis.

Also, examining how to scale in a strategic way that keeps the business flourishing, your passion and motivation alive. All while keeping your energy investment manageable.

I love Seth Godin’s take on business growth.

In a recent podcast, he asked the question: “How few people do we need to influence so we can keep doing what we want to do tomorrow?” This question completely flips our obsession with vanity metrics on its head. It drives home the importance of truly knowing who you need to be talking to and why. And rejecting all that is extraneous to that. At its heart, it’s about strategic minimalism.

So while each client I work with is unique, I am always looking for ways that small business owners can grow sustainably. And when you start looking at growth from that perspective, you start thinking about the smart opportunities rather than the shiny ones. When you’re looking for smart opportunities for growth, all of a sudden, the B2B market where you’re talking to a “cluster” of the right kind of people who are either already buying from you or want to buy from you, starts to seem more sustainable than paying for each individual consumer or eyeball on social media. 

What steps should business owners who have reached burnout take to recover, and prevent relapse?

My search for human sustainability in business lies at the crux of everything I do with my clients. And it comes from a deeply personal place. I truly know the importance (and transformative power) of headspace, because I haven’t always had it. Before making the transition to a freelance life in Byron, I operated in fight or flight mode in busy Sydney agency land for way too long.

I worked on amazing big brands, with the budgets that meant I could do all of the awesome, never-done-before things. But it completely burnt me out and ultimately wasn’t sustainable for my head, my heart, or my health. 

While I take a sustainable approach to the work I do with clients, if a business owner has reached burnout, I believe they need to speak to a professional, and get the mental and physical health support they need. I couldn’t have got through my own burnout without the help of experts.

How do you create more time to think by saying ‘no’?

We can get caught in the hamster wheel of feeling like we need to do it all in order for our businesses to grow. But more effort doesn’t mean better outcomes. For your business, or for your wellbeing. 

Before saying yes and allowing ourselves to be easily swayed by shiny opportunities, it’s important to check that the opportunity is going to get you closer to your core goals. And to make sure the effort doesn’t outweigh the value. 

Approaching opportunities with an analytical lens, and only saying yes to the things that feel right gives us the mental space to be more open to ideas, more innovative, and more able to learn. That’s such a valuable, fertile springboard for growth. And leads to opportunities that are more creative, more lucrative and more in tune with your core objectives.

Share your views on why businesses should slow down to speed up growth.

The ‘slow’ movement is a philosophy offered up as a way to carve out some space in our fast-paced modern world. Championed by Carl Honoré in his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, it’s an approach that is (slowly!) gaining momentum across all aspects of our lives. From our consumption habits, to the way we interact with each other, to the way we operate our businesses.

Importantly, ‘slow’ in business doesn’t been slower growth. It’s important to untangle the concept of ‘slow’ from being lazy or stagnant. Or from rejecting the need for speed outright. At its heart, ‘slow’ means respecting time: your own, other’s, and the time things take to grow. 

As business owners, I think taking your foot off the gas to carve out time and space to reflect is vital.

It gives you the ability to focus on the important things rather than the noise. To notice and trust in your intuition, and to make decisions with a calm mind. It also, paradoxically, leads to faster decision-making. Because, you have the headspace to consider each decision clearly, and are less likely to overthink and be hit with over-analysis paralysis. An all-too common experience for small business founders.

Evidence also abounds of the slow movement’s positive impact on an organisation’s financial performance. One study by the Harvard Business Review looked at 343 businesses across a three-year period. It found that the companies that chose to push ‘go’ on every lead or initiative to gain an edge actually ended up with lower sales and operating profits than those that paused at key moments to reflect. What’s more, the firms that “slowed down to speed up” averaged 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over the study period.

I believe that when we take the time to stop, seek balance and adopt a more sustainable tempo in our businesses and our lifestyles, we’re creating the foundation for growth—on our terms.

What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?

My one piece of advice, is to stay curious. I love this quote from Anne Lamott: ‘We are hardwired with curiosity inside us, because life knew that this would keep us going even in bad sailing. Life feeds anyone who is open to taste its food, wonder, and glee — its immediacy.’

Applying curiosity to everything ensures we never stop learning and evolving, allows us to understand perspectives that are different to our own and tune into our intuition.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.