Success Stories

How Patti Wolf saved her business

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

The relationship Patti Wolf has with her mentor Jo-Anne Bowyer has gone from ‘strictly business’ to firm friendship in just two years, and Patti’s company has flourished. Emily Brayshaw discovers how and why.

Patti Wolf and Iain Logan own SilverScreen. Their mentor, Jo-Anne Bowyer from Shirlaws is a business coach.

Patti Wolf and Jo-Anne Bowyer standing in front of an orange wall

What about me?

Patti Wolf: Jo and I met at a leadership course years ago. In June 2013 she called me and said, “I’ve just started a coaching business. Can I meet you for a coffee and tell you about it? You deal with so many businesses; maybe it will interest some of your clients.” I thought: “Oh whatever.” But we met and after 20 minutes, I said: “Never mind other businesses, I want this!” She was shocked, because it wasn’t her plan to work with us.

Jo-Anne Bowyer: About 10 years ago Patti and I did a course together, but we weren’t really close. So when I joined Shirlaws nearly two years ago, I asked Patti to meet me with a view to her introducing me to her network so I could build my business. Halfway through the meeting she stopped me and said: “Hang on. I want this. I need this.” I said: “I’m not trying to sell this to you!” It was hilarious as she insisted and I ended up becoming her business coach.

Rethinking sales

JB: Patti was terrified of ‘doing’ sales when I met her. Her idea of sales was cold-calling so she spent 60 per cent of her time working on administration where she felt comfortable. So I changed the context around sales to relationship building. Patti is great at that and loves it, which has resulted in a healthy revenue stream. I was talking to her this morning and she said: “We’re going to fly business class, because that’s how we roll now.” That wasn’t an option for her before.

PW: I was scared about sales. Before I took Jo on, my accountant looked at the figures and said: “You’re only breaking even. You need to go out and sell.” I avoided doing the accounts, and Jo would say: “That’s fine, but what are you doing to drum up business?” And then one day, the penny dropped – Jo’s logic was inescapable. We’ve recently hit the highest target ever, but I know I can’t rest on my laurels. I have to keep generating interest, excitement and exposure for our business. It’s weird because before Jo I would have thought, best month ever, I can relax.” 

Waking up with dread

JB: Patti is courageous. She let go of a lot of superstitions about business and rose to the challenge when I told her to do something differently. Patti and I have amazing trust and confidence in each other. I said: “You have to call me when you wake up with dread. Don’t let days go by where you’re just sick to your stomach.” Now she calls me if that ever happens.

PW: I wake up feeling excited now, whereas before I would wake up with dread and be snappy with Iain. I’d be working on the books at home and he’d come in after working in our factory all day and would want to chat and relax. I’d be cross because he’d interrupt me. Jo came up with the simple technique that we distinguish our roles when talking to each other. So now, even with phone calls, he’ll start: “This is the husband talking.” Or he’ll start: “This is the director talking.” It’s a powerful, tiny tool, but now we relate very differently to each other. 

All about trust

JB: Because we’re both business owners, sometimes I now call Patti for advice. I also call her for advice about family because her children are grown up and mine are still young, and I trust her. Patti’s the same age as my parents. She came to my 40th birthday recently and is now doing business with my mother. Just to be part of Patti’s business is a privilege and I hold that very dear to my heart.

PW: In the beginning, you’re very excited about your business, but at some point you go, “Oh no. Now I have to start kicking in tens of thousands of dollars.” That is normal, but scary. You have to break out of that fear and when you do, your business will fly. Jo is like the business’s mum! Her heart is with us, we can call her any time and we trust her. The bottom line is: I love Jo and I admire her. 

Communication and trust are an integral part of business.

Learn why talking face-to-face is always better.

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