As featured on Women Love Tech
Sharon Williams is the CEO and founder of Taurus Marketing. She’s a PR strategist, speaker, entrepreneur, and media commentator with years and years of experience and industry knowledge.
Sharon launched TaurusAcademy 22 years ago, a mentoring program for interns, graduates and members of her team. Sharon’s passion for lifting others up and empowering, educating, and inspiring the people in her business is the reason I wanted to chat with her and share her amazing story.
You can listen to the full episode below, or read on for the transcript.
Michelle: Sharon, thank you so much for joining me on Your Business Boost today. From the outside, looking in, you have achieved so much, and while it’s really inspiring to see women like you at the top of their game, I find it really, helpful for our listeners to know the backstory of how they actually got there. So, would you mind sharing yours with the listeners?
Sharon: Yes, of course. Well it was 27 years ago now and I was working for a tech entrepreneur in England, my husband and I worked for the same company. We’d gone traveling and worked for that company in Hong Kong and lived there for a few years and then come down to Sydney on the basis of my husband’s position.
The employer in the Australian office offered me a job in admin, even though I’d been working in global marketing. And when I fell pregnant, he said, “oh, well, you’ll be leaving.” I thought that was a bit sad, but realized he obviously didn’t feel I could stay.
And then a competitor reached out and said, would you like to come and work with me? So, I waddled in nine months pregnant and was offered a contract. I wheeled in Charlotte two weeks later and the rest is history. I went on to work with that client for 15 years.
So my success didn’t happen overnight, it evolved and grew. I love that a lot of the women I work with, and I’m sure many of your listeners as well, the catalyst for them starting their businesses was the birth of their child or realising the corporate role that they had been doing prior to them falling pregnant, was no longer sustainable for them to do.
Michelle: So what do you think are the key things that have contributed to your business growth?
Sharon: I would suggest that it’s resilience and tenacity. I’m not from wealth and so everything I have worked for was for the good of my family and my team.
I’m hugely proud that when I wake up in the mornings, I’m paying 20 mortgages, 20 people, school fees etc. My marriage broke up when my youngest was six. But, even when I was married I didn’t see it as my husband’s job to provide. It was my job too. It was never an option for me not to work. I had to work. I wanted to work. I’m proud of work. I’ve given my kids a great life. The tagline at Taurus is that I grow people, brands and businesses, and by golly, I do.
Michelle: Have you ever had a break?
Sharon: I love what I do. So, it’s not like I’m suffering. I mean, it’s really hard work. I don’t know how I did it, when I look back with those three babies and a marriage breakdown. I don’t know how I did it, but I love what I do.
So, it’s not like work. Yeah. Yes, I get tired and exhausted sometimes. I’ve had three bouts of breast cancer and that stopped me in my tracks. So I live with that over my head which just makes me want to live life as hard and fast as I can.
I have taken five holidays in 27 years and each time the company ran without me. I mean, I was online, but the company ran without me.
Michelle: I’m sure it’s not a joy every single day, but you’re doing the thing that you love and it’s so important because I see so many women who create businesses that become like a runaway train. So, it’s really refreshing and good for people to hear that.
You said that you are responsible for 20 people’s mortgages and bills, I’d love to get some insights from you about how you’ve been able to grow your business with great (and maybe not so great) people?
Sharon: I think it’s worth the listeners knowing that I run a consulting business. Things like PR coverage, social media strategy, business strategy. So I try to hire good PR people, good strategists, but the thing I learned and I’m still learning, is that you need to hire people that share the same core values.
When you get married, you need to find someone with the same core values. And so that first big leap was when I hired my first part-time mum. If you hire someone that feels good, it’s right. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s not right. That person isn’t aligned with your own core values.
It’s very hard to find the right people. One of the big pieces of advice I got very early was if someone’s not working, don’t try and fix them, get them out quickly and help them onto their next opportunity.
You can’t teach values. I think a person is one way or another. They are who they are and you can’t change that. You can inspire and coach somebody, but you can’t change them if they’ve not got your core values.
And that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And it doesn’t mean I’m right. It just means that I have to hire people who will be able to cope with me and think like me, and like the way I work.
Michelle: Could you tell me more about TaurusAcademy?
Sharon: I love seeing people blossom, and that’s what TaurusAcademy is all about. From the beginning, we had a training ground for mostly part-time mums. We were retraining them for perhaps a different priority, different ways of working or different industries.
I’ve taken a married lady in from Queensland, from oil and gas, and she’s now a fully-fledged marcomms consultant. And then I’ve got my babies, the ones that come straight out of school or university. And so, I do a lot of teaching in universities and speaking and they come onto our intern program and then TaurusAcademy which is our fast track program. And then the hope is that they come on full-time and stay for many years.
And then many go off to do other things. Anyone who’s worked at Taurus is hugely successful; Head of marketing at Canva, head of marketing at AESOP, working high up in government. And I’m so proud of that.
Michelle: You should be proud because you know, the fact that you have the bandwidth to nurture these people. So often when people are hiring, it’s like a stop gap. It’s like, oh, I need help now. But what you have done with the academy and this whole ethos, you care about people. And, and that’s beautiful.
Sharon: It’s about being fulfilled. It’s about being a good person. It’s about giving back to the world. One of our success stories is Troy who heard me speak at his university. He came on as an intern but he had a dream of starting a sugar-free iced tea business.
He worked with me part-time when he was at uni as my EA. We then put him in our boardroom for a weekend after he’d been with me a little while, with some extraordinary people that were clients like Coles, Woolworths and legal scientists.
And by the end of that weekend, he had secured a significant investment into the business. Now, 15 years later, the Nexba brand can be found in Coles.
Michelle: I love that story of origin, how you identified this incredible person, saw the potential and nurtured it. You must have incredible systems and processes, a blueprint for how things should go?
Sharon: I’m not a tech person, but my agency is run on personal relationships. But we do have systems and processes, whether they’re manual or technology that I’m very proud of. And it’s tried and tested.
Michelle: It’s obviously working to have had the longevity that you’ve had. Something that you’ve done is create the Sharon Williams brand. I’d love to know at what point you made decided to have a separate brand? How do they work together?
Sharon: I came to Sydney in 1994, not knowing anyone. Just a couple of family connections. So I had to start with a totally clean slate. People will only buy you if they know what you stand for. If they’ve never heard of you, if they don’t know who you are, if those core values aren’t out front and centre, they’re not going to be interested. So it made sense to me to build a brand that was intrinsically linked the person behind it. If you think of Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, you know, from one extreme to the other, but you still know what they stand for and what you can expect to get.
So, it was a no brainer for me. I had to get out there and network and meet people to get business.
It’s also learning, you know, I learn every day and I make mistakes every day. That’s all part of the journey too. And so, the personal brand became something I did instinctively. That I felt was necessary. And then we trademarked it into an actual personal branding service.
I strongly recommend to anyone who’s listening is get good advice, surround yourself with people who are good mentors and you know. If you’re not evolving, changing, and learning new skills, then you get stale. We always want to be reinvigorating the thinking around a client. So I’ve always had great people in my life to teach me stuff.
I’m sure there’s listeners sitting there going, oh my gosh, how do I cope today?
Believe me, I’ve been there. You know, with cancer, I’ve been on my knees, in my hallway going, how am I going to get my son through school? Maybe I’ll live just long enough to see him graduate. And there’s been times in business, the 2008 global financial crisis for example, when things are tough and then there’s been times where things are great.
So, tenacity, resilience, you will come through. Always you’ll come through.
Michelle: Such great advice. So, Sharon, the final question that I have for you, and it’s the one that I ask all of my guests to lead our listeners with one recommendation, that’s going to boost their lives.
Sharon: After the last two years with COVID, look after your health first and your wellbeing, because if you go down, your families and your business will go down too. So please book in the time to Rest. Even though I work hard, I still find time to do something that lifts my soul.
And then the other thing is, have your emergency fund. Something for a rainy day, because you will have times where things are tough and you need three to six months working capital. I learned that the hard way. From a business perspective, and also from a personal perspective, I have always had a running away from home fund.