Advisor Insights with Melanie Grevis-James: Managing Director

Advisor Insights

Published 15 January 2020

Melanie Grevis-James, is an experienced Marketing strategist and business owner. As Managing Director of Our Planet Marketing, Melanie supports businesses to align the company’s focus on providing sustainable marketing plans and advice for small businesses and the tourism industry.

In this Advisor Insights series with Louise Broekman, CEO of the Advisory Board Centre, Melanie shares her experience and motivations in appointing a Certified Chair to support her in the growth and strategic direction of her business.

The Advisor Insights series are unfiltered conversations giving you a lens into real people and real businesses within the Advisor ecosystem.

Listen to the Podcast

Read the transcript

Louise Broekman:
Welcome to the Advisory Board Insights. I’m here with Melanie Grevis-James. Melanie and I have known each other for many years. Melanie has a really lovely business called Planet Marketing. It’s got a big heart that goes with it. So thanks for joining us today, Mel. I’d love for you to share your story.

Melanie Grevis-James: Thanks, my pleasure. I’d love to share my story because I’ve been really passionate about trying to grow my business. As you know, I’ve had my business for a long time, it’s about 20 years now, although I’ve never really felt that I’ve taken it to that next level. I guess for me that was why I’ve ended up here in this spot, because I really felt that I wanted to grow it, take it to that next level, but I didn’t feel I had the skills and the experience to do that on my own, particularly as I am a sole trader and I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off. So for me to try and find someone to help me grow my business and find some clarity was the most important part of what I was looking for.

Louise Broekman: Why this particular moment in time for you, Mel? What’s been the trigger for you say you need some external help?

Melanie Grevis-James: I think there was two things, more personally related. One is now that my daughter is now at an age where she’s more out of my hands, so I actually had more time to dedicate to my business. I felt like I could really put myself back into my career again, which I feel I have missed in the last 10 years as she’s been growing up. That was one part of it, really feeling I was able to do that and in the right spot to do that. Also, we’re ageing, I figured I want to really make the most of the next 10 to 15 years of my career so that I can really build up the business to a good point. When I do want to sell, exit or scale back, I’ve really got a good business to do that with.

Louise Broekman: It’s interesting the size of your business. Most people think that advisory boards are for the mid-market, but actually engaging with Advisors and Chairs as mentors as a starting point is really what you’re doing at the moment. So is that in preparation to really build the right networks around you at the moment?

Melanie Grevis-James: Yes, definitely. And I suppose, I was lucky because I know you so I know what the Advisory Board Centre does and the amazing skills and connections that you have within the Advisory Board Centre. I realized that I was struggling trying to find someone on the open market, I was doing Google searches or getting recommendations from other business owners. I just wasn’t finding the right fit that I felt was right for me and my needs. I wanted to do it seriously, I was making a serious commitment to my business and I really was trying to find someone that could help me on that journey.

Louise Broekman: What has that journey been like for you? You connected in with us for the Advisor Concierge, we scoped out what your needs were and then that EOI went out to the network. As a business owner, what was that experience like for you on the other side, connecting with people that you don’t know?

Melanie Grevis-James: I must say it was brilliant and I’m so glad that I’ve done it, so thank you, Louise. I think the main thing it emphasised to me was I wasn’t out there just trying to find a mentor and then waiting for people to come back to me. Sometimes approaching mentors or business advisors, we don’t really know whether they actually really are keen to work with you, so I think that was one of the key things that I loved with the Concierge. When the expressions of interest came to me, I knew these candidates were really interested in helping me, which meant it made the process a lot more enjoyable. It was also a lot less time-wasting, in terms of funding advisors that would be the right fit.

Louise Broekman: Melanie, having gone through that process, what tips would you give other business owners?

Melanie Grevis-James:
For business owners for a start, I would say definitely do it. I do think though a business owner needs to be in the right mindset, you need to be serious about your business and committed to your business, otherwise you’re wasting your time and the advisor’s time. Obviously, all the advisors are very high quality and they’re not the advisors that I would have connected with normally through my own personal connections. I think that’s really important for business owners. If you are serious and committed to your business, this is a great avenue.

Make sure you know what your needs and your priorities are in your business. Are you looking for growth or are you looking for product development? Are you looking for sales strategies? Are you looking for succession planning or exit strategy? Make sure you know what your priorities are and consider it as a long term investment in your business. It’s an investment in your business and building a relationship with an advisor is a long term relationship.

Louise Broekman: It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned that, about being clear about what your priorities are. Since we’ve been doing the concierge service in the last 18 months, about 80% of businesses, when they come to us, they know they need something but they don’t know what it is. To be able to independently review that with business owners, to really focus on those priorities and get that clarity around what is needed is important. What they need is actually a different decision.

Melanie Grevis-James: Yes, I thought I knew what my requirements are and what my priorities are but you don’t know what you don’t know. Even with my own marketing business and with clients, businesses think they know what they need, its marketing. But it’s not until we actually sit down and start going through a strategy that they realize that they don’t really know.

Louise Broekman: We’re all blindsided by something. And the advisors: any tips for them?

Melanie Grevis-James: From the advisor’s point of view: one of the things I did find was that the advisors that were of more interest to me were the ones who had obviously taken the time to have a look at my business to see what niche I was in, and that the Expression of Interest was clearly personalized to the size of business I am. I know I’m a lot smaller than a business looking for a whole advisory board, so having that personal approach and making sure to address the various criteria was important.

Make sure that LinkedIn profiles are up to date. Make sure that your contact details are on the EOI letter or your profile because I saw a few that didn’t have them.

Louise Broekman: That’s really interesting. The little things matter.

Melanie Grevis-James: All in all, the expressions of interest were amazing quality and it was certainly a very hard decision to try and work out who was the right person for me.

Louise Broekman: It’s great to be able to build these pop-up advisory boards for businesses like yours and, and to be really practical and supportive at the same time. So Melanie, thank you so much for sharing your story and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next 12 months.

Melanie Grevis-James: I’m looking forward too, I can’t wait to get started, so I’ll let you know how I go.