Liza Clifford On Networking and Building Close Relationships

Liza Clifford On Networking and Building Close Relationships

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Vital stats

  • Company: Liza Clifford Professional Bra Fitting Studio
  • Player: Liza Clifford
  • Est: 2011
  • Contact: 0861 333 779
  • Visit: www.lizaclifford.com

When your start-up idea piques the interest of one of the world’s most successful global entrepreneurs and business coaches, you know you’re onto a good thing. Liza Clifford launched her eponymous bra fitting studio in 2011, going into it “blindly” as she recalls.

In August last year, Brad Sugars, founder and chairman of global coaching group ActionCOACH, singled her out for a case study on how to turn your business idea into a business model. That’s because she achieved 700% business growth in a year.

“I had so little knowledge when I started the business,” Clifford says. “When I look back now I reckon that my naïvety actually saved the day. If I’d really understood what I was getting into, I may never have done it.”

It’s a numbers game

The best move she made, given her inexperience, was to hire a business coach, Marlene Powell, with whom she developed a close and honest relationship.

“Marlene asked me to write a business plan and her response was that I had a great idea, but not a great plan. Consulting a coach helped me to see how critical the figures really are.”

What Clifford had in her favour was a desire to learn. She was sufficiently hard on herself to acknowledge that passion alone would not drive the business.

 

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“I wanted to be able to manage it well, and be taken seriously as a female entrepreneur selling a product for women, which is not easy in the male dominated business environment.

“To do that, I needed to up my skills. Hiring a coach has given me more confidence and made it easier for me to network. It’s not that people see me in a different light now; it’s that I see myself differently.”

Growth can be tough

One of Clifford’s early challenges was almost overnight growth, thanks to a sharp focus on customer relationships – after all, if clients have to get naked for a fitting, rapport is key.

Those first clients became the best form of advertising for the business, much of which has grown by word of mouth. The result was a spike in demand.

“Everyone thinks growth is great, but it can be crippling if you don’t manage it properly.  We had huge pressure on the cash flow, but I had spent some time building relationships with my suppliers, negotiating with them to get a few extra weeks to pay for my orders.

“I also kept the bank informed about what was happening all the time, so I got a little leeway there too.”

The power of networking

Thanks to her many satisfied clients, Clifford attracted the attention of Durban-based entrepreneur, wellness expert Lisa Raleigh, who has celebrity connections in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“We now see up to 40 clients a week. The type of service we provide makes staff training critical and it’s not easy to find the right people. Our products are well priced premium brands, thanks to low overheads.

But if you sell the wrong bra to a client they won’t return. After we have done a fitting once, our customers can place an order by phone or online whenever they want.”

Ask yourself

Do you have a great idea but a poor business plan?

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.