Fiona Jefferies Diva Works Interview

Fiona Jefferies Diva Works Interview

Fiona Jefferies Diva Works Interview

Diva Works has won the Gold Award for Sales Growth at the 11th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, with the company recording a whoping 200 percent growth in the last two years.

The Stevie Awards, announced at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, received over 2,300 entrants from organisations of all sizes and in virtually every industry across the globe and were judged by over 77 professional judges. Founder and Director Fiona Jefferies' dedication, passion, business acumen and customer service excellence led Diva Works to taking out the top prize.

From a revenue increase of $1.5 million recorded in 2014/15 to $3.1 million in 2016/17, the company has gone through a rapid growth period due to some savvy business strategy led by CEO, Fiona Jefferies. This result is even more impressive when compared to 2013/14 where turnover was $326,000, meaning Fiona has grown her revenue by nearly 1000 per cent in the space of just three years.

The all-female team, led by Fiona, is dominating 3D marketing within a niche market of designing and constructing whole sales and marketing suites for the top property developers in the country including LendLease, Stockland, Mirvac, Cedar Woods.

Fiona credits this success to offering a truly unique, curated and tailored approach to the strategy of property sales and marketing suites. From customer flow to interactive elements, attention to detail to beautiful design, the Diva Works team work with their clients to understand the key outcomes they need from the tailor-made space and create a fit-for-purpose strategy to help them achieve it.

Diva Works potential clients are also treated like gold, with Fiona and her team going above and beyond the traditional cold calls and client recommendations to generate new business.

'My team and I worked hard to create a carefully crafted and unique -shock and awe' pack for potential clients. This has been an absolute game-changer to the growth of the company.

'For an investment of approximately $80 to put together the "shock and awe" pack, we had four out of five warm leads come back, and have generated approximately $3.5 million worth of work over two years!"

As well as exceptional sales growth, Jefferies has also grown her team by 77 per cent, providing and offering flexible employment for 13 women. Diva Works is paving the way for other women to be empowered within this field, traditionally dominated by men.

Interview with Fiona Jefferies

Question: What is Diva Works?

Fiona Jefferies: Diva Works is a consultancy that designs, manages and builds sales office display for Australian blue chip development firms around Australia.

Ok, that's the official spiel but really what I do is relieve the stress from my marketing clients who are tasked with delivering a sales office as part of a marketing strategy to sell land or home developments. We eliminate the stress of our clients waiting around on a Friday night before launch day desperately hanging out for the one last delivery or trying to figure out where to place power points or how to make more sales through a strategic design. We take care of everything so our clients can focus on the overarching marketing strategy and arrive stress-free on launch day to see the fabulous finished product!

Question: How does it feel to win Gold for Sales Growth at the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service?

Fiona Jefferies: So very proud! I've been fist pumping on a regular basis and grinning like a mad fool since it was announced. I'm super proud of the Diva team for snagging this award by doing epic work and providing amazing levels of services and assistance to our clients.

Question: Why do you think Diva Works has become such a success?

Fiona Jefferies: The people: both with Divas I have in the business and my support circle. For many years I did this alone and nearly gave myself a nervous breakdown in the process! When I decided to get over myself and expand the team, the most amazing and right-fit people turned up to join Diva Works. In most cases, the person I was hiring did not have direct experience for the role but they showed up with a can-do approach, a tenacious attitude and an unflappable spirit.

The success is also due to my support circle that are stacked with family, friends and mentors who I'll never meet but inspire me all the same. To work in the construction industry where everything is in danger at any moment of running off into the ditch of despair…you need good people around you that will pat your forehead, feed you lime and back pepper chips and tell you they believe in you so get back out there and finish what you started.

Truly - the people you surround yourself with makes all the difference!

Question: What inspired the creation of Diva Works?

Fiona Jefferies: I am a very, very, very annoying employee. I'm a know-it-all. I'm mouthy. I want to do things my way. And I like my own company. With those type of personal characteristics (also: liabilities), I needed to create my own business so I no longer pissed off the business owner I was working for. I've always loved doing displays and had experience in trade shows and sales offices, so it was natural I would stay in the industry but just have my own gig. Growing up, I used to design floor plans and layout for alternate Barbie Homes and I also held art exhibitions in my bedroom that I harassed my family into attending to view - and pay for - my artworks. So yeah, I've done other business owners a favour and struck out on my own!

Question: Can you talk us through how you provide -flexible employment'?

Fiona Jefferies: Ok, it's really naive as a business owner think that you're going to get a dedicated employee if the flexibility is weighted firmly towards the employer. I've been in businesses that talk a good game about flexibility but in reality….you'd have to stab yourself in the stomach with a pencil to get an afternoon off. So that had always bugged me…and the construction industry is stressful with timelines crunching together, shifting delivery dates and trades that go rogue so there are times when you have to be all hands on deck to bail a project out. In times like that, it is because of the flexibility I've enshrined in Diva, the team step up to do what's required. Another thing that's got my goat over the years: the idea that women returning to work after having kids and they are expected to be satisfied with retail or low paid admin roles as this is 'best suited" to women wanting flexibility when returning to the workforce. No thankyou! Australian businesses are missing on HUGE potential working with women - or men - who want to be there for their kids swimming carnival but want a job that they can get their teeth into.

At a granular level, we all have laptops, we collaborate on line using Basecamp which is a project management tool that lives in the cloud and we also use Zoom for our video conferencing check in's. My attitude towards flexible employment is this: I don't care how / where you get the work done. You're an adult, I trust you to manage your time and projects. Everyone in Diva Works is mature and responsible to manage their work flow so we still achieve deadlines and deliver first class service around school pick up times, on going study, help with elderly relatives, professional training, chronic health issues and…life!

Question: What have you learnt from developing a business in field, traditionally dominated by men?

Fiona Jefferies: How to be direct in your communication - never waffle or attempt to justify yourself. Say what needs to be said and then shut the hell up.
I've earned my seat at the table. I don't need to shrink back or wait for permission to speak, I just go all in.
You're going to face some resistance being female. It sucks. The time of the dinosaurs being weirded out by women on site is almost at an end and the dinosaurs know it, so they are doing their last push to make you feel like an outsider.
Never show any weakness. If you need to cry or something hasn't worked out, remain calm and get busy fixing it, you can fall apart later
No is a complete sentence, sometimes as women we like to fill the silence with more words and justifications
Please and thank you has currency wherever you are and who ever you are working with
Best revenge is showing up and doing your work
Be professional not a flake
Do what you say you're going to do

Question: What advice do you have for women looking at starting their own businesses?

Fiona Jefferies: Oh god…I'd say to them: Are you really sure you want to do this?!? Because having a biz is equally both the hardest and best thing I've ever done. You can't be feint of heart. You can't be a flake and not follow through on promises. Bootstrap where you can but pay for advice and work done by others on time. Try to self fund for as long as you can. Anyone who is a perpetual Negative Nancy - even friends - need to get benched if all they offer is a stream of criticism and offer nothing of value. Be your own guru - seek out advice that can help but don't follow slavishly. Only you know what's best for you and your business. Be tenacious. Never give up. Be gracious. Always wear good underwear, it helps in dire times!

Oh and if you want to stand out - answer your damn phone and response to emails. So few business do it, you look like a pro compared to everyone else who doesn't!

Question: What has been the highlight of Diva Works, so far?

Fiona Jefferies: Building my Diva team - no lie, they are the best bunch of women I've ever worked with and I love each and every one of them. They are true Diva's! There is something pretty kicky about provide stable employment for 13 women and my wider network of designers and suppliers.

Oh yeah and that I'm still going and still love what I do after founding Diva Works in 2001.

Question: Can you talk us through some of the challenges?

Fiona Jefferies: I think the greatest challenge I face daily is remaining calm and making decisions under pressure. For example, we constantly face shifting timelines of sales office delivery. The site isn't ready for the sales cabin, the builder hasn't completed works, we can't get in to fit out the sales office because the civil works aren't complete due to rain…the list is endless. So with all these moving parts, I'm making a shed load of decisions that I don't always have all the information on or I'm under pressure to make decisions quickly to reschedule labour and resources.

I guess I rely on my intuition a lot in cases like these and I can't say I've totally ballsed it up (yet). I think the key is always taking action and looking for forward momentum. One of the best lessons I ever learned in my early years came from Warren Maher of Clifton Productions who was responsible for the rigging and lighting on the trade show stands I project managed. I was delaying making a decision on the lighting grid on the stand because I wasn't sure and didn't want to make a fool of myself on one of my first motor show stands. Warren sidled up to me and says 'Look, I don't care what decision you make but you have to make one. I have 15 guys standing here that I'm paying for and they are all looking to you to get on with it and make some choices…so do it. I can fix something if it is really a mistake but I can't do anything unless you tell me what to do". That idea of making a decision, any decision has stayed with me as it means that you're always focused on moving ahead not stuck waiting for the perfect idea / moment / decision…because there is no such thing.

Question: What's a typical day like, for you?

Fiona Jefferies: Nothing is typical…I have a to-do list that gets constantly torn up or put on pause when something unforeseen comes up.

But usually I wake somewhere between 4am - 5am and I either go rowing or get to the gym (moving body is critical for dispersing the stress). Throw down toast and vegemite and cold milo and then settle in for the day. Look at my to-do list, laugh manically and eat chocolate. Do a shed load of work that might consist of strategising sales offices for clients, design directing the look and feel of our displays, producing a floorplan to show the customer journey, pay invoices, delegate work out, eat more chocolate, talks to the team about the sticky problems they are having, play some cool hard rock tunes while I hyperventilate after hearing a sales office has been delayed, stand in front of open fridge door not remembering what I cam here for but decide cheese is the best options, book travel, make appointments to see clients, offer feedback to the team on their queries, compile quotes, answer emails, call my sister just to hiss down the phone 'What the actual f@%!….", eat lunch and read Rolling Stone, pack suitcase, jump on a call with a client to give an update on a project , schedule like a mo-fo, plank, stand in front of fridge again and this time grab strawberries, call up a supplier that needs some love and attention, write for 30 mins on my book, finish around 6pm, call friends / family / fella or go out for a meal. Or decompress by reading design mags and biz articles or paint or patchwork a quilt for a friend's baby that is probably 27 by the time I finish… Write something that I'm grateful for in journal even if it was cheese, collapse into bed to read and then pass out around 9pm.

Question: What's next for Diva Works?

Fiona Jefferies: A good lie down with a cool flannel on my head. Some chocolate. And then get up and keep going. I'm so lucky I get to do what I love each and every day.

Interview by Brooke Hunter