It’s not about the hustle

Sally Branson

The Sally Branson Consulting Group

The Business

The Founders

Sally Branson Dalwood

The Concept

Senior-level counsel on crisis planning, special situation solutions and reputation management.

The Hard Part

“I think to have a really robust business and be able to pay for things, it’s often that you have to be in your 30s and 40s and 50s, because there is a real cost to starting your own business if you want to do it well.”

The Best Part

“Because I am in my 40s with experience and life experience, I get to decide how I use my skills to serve and to help people.”

The Realisation

“I didn’t want my skills to go to waste and there is no one else with my experience in Australia.”

Sally Branson was the Victorian state director of the National Party when she realised she’d need to pivot.

After giving birth to her first son, she’d slogged it out in the high-profile job for 10 months before “I just couldn’t make it work”.

Having previously advised senior ministers, a prime minister and the US joint chiefs of staff in previous roles in politics, diplomacy and in the military, Branson is made of tough stuff. But she ultimately decided she could no longer work in such senior roles and be the parent she wanted to be.

Branson understands why motherhood is often a time when women make the leap to start their own business – often because they finally have the wisdom and capital needed to do so.

Back Yourself

Branson initially began a startup when on maternity leave called The Suite Set, which notes the overwhelm felt by expectant mums and helps them pack their hospital bags properly. But full-time entrepreneurship had never really appealed.

Despite that, Branson said she always knew she didn’t want a “desk job”. “I always had ideas when I was growing up, I did car washes, I read a lot of American tween books where everyone had a lemonade stand or a carwash, I tried to have a babysitting agency when I was 12. It didn’t go down so well – not a lot of customers in a country town of 200,” she says.

After quitting as state director in 2017, Branson found she was being approached for her advice on media issues and problems. So she resurrected a consulting business she’d started in her 20s as she saw the gap in the market for authentic and modern crisis management and reputational crisis affairs.

“I didn’t want my skills to go to waste and there is no one else with my experience in Australia. I’ve worked as a senior adviser to a prime minister, I’ve advised the joint chiefs of staff, I’ve run massive public affairs programs that have geopolitical significance, but I also run a family and have a mortgage and all of these things,” she says.

“Most of my small scale competitors are older men who have a very set way of dealing with a crisis and I feel really strongly that crisis management needs to be authentic and modern.”

The Privy Council

Asked for her top piece of advice, it is to surround yourself with the right people.
Branson has created her own “privy council” – a group of trusted individuals who can be relied on for advice and support. It should include a “hype person” who’ll always be positive, a “glass half empty” friend who can give you “the dark side”, and someone who is five steps ahead of you in their own venture whose counsel you can seek.

The crisis specialist also has a WhatApp group of small business owners who share their knowledge, from how to set up an overseas phone number to how to determine how much to invoice for a particular piece of work.

Run your own Race

Branson says the internet makes it very easy to compare yourself to other founders, but “comparison is the thief of joy”. “We hear about these unicorns, or Melanie Perkins, which is extraordinary, but also, on social media it’s really easy to get caught up in all these young hype girls,” Branson says.

While we live in a society that loves overnight success stories, she thinks it’s more important to keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing.

“It’s really important when you’re starting your own business to run at your own pace. I hate hustle culture, I’m not running my own business to hustle. I made my own business so I can do what I love, what I’m really good at, what I’ve got extraordinary experience with, but at the same time fitting in with my family’s needs as well.”

‘If i can do it, anyone can’: words of wisdom

Avoid crises: “People aren’t planning for crises because they think they’re too small, or that if a crisis happens you’ve just got to suck it and see, but you don’t. You can plan for a crisis and women are very good at that.”

Don’t let problems fester: “If you address it, and have a five-step plan of easy, simple stuff, it’s not going to keep you up all night. Even the calmest people in a crisis get lost without a map.”

Look after yourself: “I recommend to all of my clients that they should have a regular appointment with a psychologist. When you start your own business, it is not your partner or your best friend’s role to be your one source of emotional support.”

Do it for the right reasons: “Anyone who approaches me and says, ‘Oh I want to go out by myself because I’ve got marital stress, or I’ve got mortgage stress’, I’m like, ‘noooooooo!’”

Beware the scams: “There are a lot of ‘gurus’ who prey, particularly on women entrepreneurs and make them sign up to these extraordinary monthly contracts they can’t get out of. Really critically think about where you’re getting your advice from.”

It’s never too late: “I think we get caught up in thinking you have to achieve everything in your 20s and 30s. You don’t have to be a wunderkind to start some amazing business.”

“Most of my small scale competitors are older men who have a very set way of dealing with a crisis and I feel really strongly that crisis management needs to be authentic and modern.”

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