Franziska Iseli is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Basic Bananas, The Business Hood, The Data People and Oceanlovers. A renowned marketing and brand strategist, adventurer, author and speaker, Franziska is a board member at the global Entrepreneurs Organization and sits on the United Nations (UN) subcommittee to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through entrepreneurship. Franziska is also the author of ‘Social Media for Small Business - Marketing Strategies for Business Owners’, and here she shares her experience and advice for other women in business.
Q: You’ve had an amazing career in marketing, branding and entrepreneurship. Did you always know what you wanted to do when you ‘grew up’?
Franziska: As a kid I wanted to be a vet, but I realised that although I’ve always loved animals, I couldn’t deal with cutting them open! So, having also been intrigued by marketing and branding, I enrolled to study marketing at Geneva university in Switzerland (my home country) and to keep my dad happy I also studied political science. During my studies I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do after graduation, so did a few internships to find out what I enjoyed which also included an economic project at the Swiss Embassy in South Africa. I eventually moved to Australia and ended up working in advertising.
Q: Were there any defining moments – or people you met – that helped to shape your career path?
Franziska: Most of my mentors have come through books and the biggest inspiration for me has been Richard Branson. His book ‘Losing My Virginity’ came out at the same time I was starting my first business, Basic Bananas, so it was the book that most guided me. And it was a dream come true for me when Richard wrote the forward for my third book ‘The Courage Map’.
Q: What is the best career advice you’ve ever had (and who gave it to you)?
Franziska: I don’t recall who gave me this advice, but the concept of having a vision or purpose that is bigger than you has always helped me, especially when starting a business. It also helps to create a great workplace culture by having clarity around your vision and bringing your team along the journey with you – and never swaying from it. I remember very early in my career that I only wanted to work with people who make a positive impact. We got really tested on this early on when we had the opportunity to work with someone who didn’t fit that vision, but was offering a lot of money to provide consulting services. As a start-up business we really needed the money, but we said no and that was the beginning of me realising how powerful it is to stay committed to your purpose, even when times are tough.
Q: Did you have a business mentor? If so, how did you find them, what did you learn from them and what advice do you give to other women looking for a mentor?
Franziska: Aside from Richard Branson, I’ve found inspiration in a lot of books and podcasts – and many of them aren’t even about business. For example, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coehlo has had such a big impact on my life and I’m not even sure why. I think it’s really about finding and honouring your purpose.
My advice to other women in business is to not only look for mentorship in a particular person, but to also find them in books and podcasts as I have. And if someone really inspires you, reach out to them. Shoot for the moon and don’t think that because they are famous or influential that won’t want to help you. And most importantly listen to your own intuition!
Q: And because we often learn more from our mistakes than our successes, what is the worst career advice you’ve ever had? (or what is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made)?
Franziska: I think the biggest mistake I’ve made is hiring the wrong person. You know those situations where a candidate has good skills, but you can sense that maybe they won’t be a good cultural fit and you hire them anyway. And the second biggest mistake, is realising that they were the wrong hire and keeping them on the team despite that realisation! There’s been times when I’ve thought to myself that this person would be better off somewhere else, but I feel bad letting them go. I think that is a tendency among women entrepreneurs, maybe because we tend to have more empathy. But it’s important to be able see the bigger picture and ask how not hiring the right person might impact other team members. It always does. Sometimes removing someone who is not a good fit is necessary to protect everyone else and your business.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
Franziska: I think my biggest challenges have always been around conflict. I’ve got better at it, but when I first started out as an entrepreneur I was pretty conflict avoidant. I never felt very comfortable facing the difficult conversations. But as a small business owner I’ve had to embrace the uncomfortable aspects of running a business – ‘getting comfortable with the uncomfortable’ is a good motto for me now!
Q: You’re passionate about mentoring small businessowners and giving them the confidence to thrive? What are your top three tips for any business owner?
Franziska: I think my best advice would be:
- Always start with your business purpose and don’t compromise.
- Look for ways to add value – don’t focus on making money. I’ve always found that money follows when I focus on how I can add value to my clients and find ways to solve problems for them.
- Learn to get really good at outsourcing. I see this as a challenge for a lot of women in business who want to do everything themselves and on top of running a small business are looking after their family and travelling for work etc. I’ve always been pretty good at outsourcing and it made my business – and life – so much better. Getting the right people on your team doesn’t mean you need to hire a bunch of full-time resources either. There are freelancers and other small businesses out there to help you with a lot of the tasks you need to do when you are growing a business.
I’d also make of point of saying it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people who believe in you. Not everyone in your entourage or family will be the right people to talk shop with!
Q: Are there any resources you can recommend as inspiration for other women in business?
Franziska: I’m biased but I do think we have some incredible business resources at Basic Bananas! There is Basic Bananas TV on YouTube and Basic Bananas radio, a podcast available on every major podcasting app as well as a lot of marketing tip and resources on our website.
I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. They are not all business or marketing-related but for me it’s about finding inspiration by diversifying my interests. Some of my favourites include:
- The Joe Rogan Experience – Joe Rogan is a brilliant interviewer.
- Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris – I love the different perspective Sam brings.
- The Tim Ferriss Show – often the #1 ranking amongst Apple’s best business podcasts
- ‘Daring Greatly – How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead’ by Brené Brown
Q: How do you balance your work and personal life – and still find time for yourself?
Franziska: I don’t really believe in work-life balance. It’s all just living for me. I really love working but I also understand how important it is to make time for other things and to recharge our batteries. Being in nature, meditation, surfing, walking the dog, travelling, riding my motorbike and going on adventures makes me more productive, so if my calendar gets too busy, I make a point of blocking out time for those things. Without our health, we got nothing.
Basic Bananas has supported thousands of small businesses owners with marketing mentoring support for small business owners including workshops, online courses and podcasts. You can also buy Franziska Iseli’s book, ‘Social Media for Small Business – Marketing Strategies for Business Owners’, at www.basicbananas.com.
The Australian Government’s business.gov.au website contains useful information for small business owners including guides to starting and growing a business, marketing your business, using social media for business and more.
Franziska’s favourite books and podcasts:
Bank of Queensland Limited ABN 32 009 656 740 (BOQ) AFSL and Australian Credit Licence No 244616. The views expressed in this article are those of Franziska Iseli alone, and do not represent the views or opinions of BOQ.