‘Work hard, set goals and have patience’

‘Work hard, set goals and have patience’
22 September 2013

We sit down for a catch-up and advice session with super savvy CEO Hazel Jackson

There’s no better ambassador for Save Your Wage Sunday than Hazel Jackson – a woman who, upon founding her training company, biz-group, had just US$700 in her pocket. Hazel’s story of discipline, determination and unwavering dedication inspired us all to think about what we really want to put our money towards. We hope it does the same for you.

Hazel, you’ve built an incredible organization from next-to-nothing. Would you mind talking to us about where biz-group started and some of your early struggles as an entrepreneur? In 1993 I thought starting a training and development business in Dubai would be a valuable, enjoyable and challenging business that I could afford to start.  The first three reasons still hold true today, but it was the affordability element that led me to learn some real life lessons as an entrepreneur.  I had $700 as my starting capital, which I needed to cover my living expenses, and assumed I’d make money in the first month! I was naïve, but also determined.

How did you make your business survive in the early days, with so little money? I was graciously given the opportunity to train an amazing group of women on telesales skills – the first training course I produced was done on a typewriter as I couldn’t afford a computer! Out of necessity I started what I now call the Envelope Accounting approach. I truly believe this was how I survived the first 6-8 months of my business and continued to grow it from that point to this.

We were a cash-only operation for 8 months. I started with a DL envelope (one for every month of the year, so 12 total). On one side, I recorded all funds received, and placed the cash in the envelope. On the other, I’d record all of my expenses and pay for everything in cash, ensuring I paid all debtors (and especially my staff!) on time.  At the end of the month, what was left was profit, and that’s what I needed to live on.

What were you doing prior to starting your business in Dubai? I was something of a hotshot employee in London, working in advertising prior to starting my own business in Dubai. I had a good salary, a company car, expenses, and a bit of a carefree life, with a shopping habit! I wasn’t a great saver – hence my paltry starting capital!

What changed your spending habits – how did you change from big spender to envelope budgeter? When I arrived in Dubai, I was told about the consequences of bouncing cheques, the dangers of finding yourself in debt and the fact that no bank would lend me money unless I had a stable job in a reputable company – not what you want to hear as an ambitious entrepreneur!

The envelope meant I kept strict control of my expenses - I literally COULDN’T spend more than I earned. If I wanted something that I couldn’t afford – I waited!

In addition to curbing my expenses, the DL envelope technique also made it really clear that I needed to drive sales and close deals quickly. I kept a keen eye on revenue at all times!

What is the best piece of money advice you’ve ever been given? I recall a lesson learned from my Yorkshire grandmother – live within your means. It was that lesson that I used as my guide in my early years starting the business.

What’s your biggest money regret? I wouldn’t call it a regret – perhaps biz-group hasn’t grown as fast as it COULD have, but we have grown steadily and consistently and within our means on our 20 mile march each year!

The envelope principles have followed me through 20 years of business. Now with 43 brilliant people in the team and three different business brands, we don’t spend what we couldn’t ultimately afford to pay in cash, and we have at least 6 months of all expenses including payroll in the bank at any one time.  The envelope has got bigger and is now managed through a proper accounting system by a qualified Finance Manager – but the rules remain.  They allow us all to sleep well at night.

What advice would you give anyone in our community thinking about venturing out on their own? If you have limited capital follow my Grandma’s advice. Don’t get buried in debt before you’ve even begun to trade. Outside of that, work hard, set goals, and have patience!

Take a picture of your piggy bank and upload it to the gallery now! Inspired by envelope accounting? Take a picture of your DH envelope and upload it, too!

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