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Modelling an overly-lean start-up

Friday, 10 February 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

feature-my-best-mistake-tw-thumbAll start-ups should ensure costs don’t run out of control, but when you operate in a cutthroat industry such as modelling, you can’t afford to skimp on much if your business is to grow.

 

When Taryn Williams started her business, she soon realised her management style wasn’t sustainable if she wanted to be taken seriously.

 

Williams, 26, is the founder of WINK, a Sydney-based agency for models and promotional talent. Founded in 2007 and operating nationwide, the business recently signed its 350th model.

 

WINK secures talent for clients across a range of categories, from high fashion runway shows and magazine shoots to event hosting and in-store promotional activities.

 

The agency counts high-profile brands such as Volvo, MAC Cosmetics and Vodafone as clients, and Williams is hoping to open a Melbourne office before the end of the year.

 

WINK also prides itself on the way in which it treats its models.

 

“I’d been working in the modeling and events industry myself for about nine years. I found that the way agencies were being run left a little bit to be desired,” Williams says.

 

“A lot of models don’t get paid on time or aren’t briefed very well about the things they’ll be doing before going on the job.”

 

“There’s no industry body to protect them – there’s no union or industry pay rates. I wanted to do something to change that, so I decided to start my own agency.”

 

“Everyone gets paid within seven days as opposed to getting paid every three months. This flows on to the clients because they get models who are happy to be at work.”

 

But before its rise through the ranks, Williams struggled to keep the company afloat due to her dogged determination to keep costs to an absolute minimum.

 

“Looking back, my biggest mistake was trying to do absolutely everything myself because I was so fearful of investing in a bookkeeper, PR agency or anything like that,” she says.

 

“I had a fear of expenditure… I thought I could save so much money if I did it all myself.”

 

“Probably after a year of being in business, I was really struggling to do all the bookkeeping, in addition to not using an accountant and not having an assistant, and doing all my own IT setup.”

 

“The business ended up being compromised. Instead of having a really neat system, everything was really clunky and out of date.”

 

“Tax-wise, I was in a bad position because I hadn’t set up the company as a Pty Ltd. I had run off without stopping to get any professional advice.”

 

Williams finally decided to change tack when she realised she no longer enjoying being in business, partly because she was spending so much time completing tasks that didn’t interest her.

 

“I had 100 models Australia-wide, but it was me doing all the client-chasing and all the behind-the-scenes admin,” she says.

 

“I was spread very thin, and not using my time to make sure the models and the clients were happy. It left me no time to focus on what I’m good at.”

 

“When I looked at it on paper, and realised the number of hours I was spending on certain things, it finally made sense to me to hire someone to do it properly and much quicker than I can.”

 

Williams hired a web developer and an IT professional to build a new business website, an assistant to help her with talent applicants, an accountant and a bookkeeper.

 

“I was saving so much money because my BAS was being done properly and the business was set up properly tax-wise. It [also] generated new business almost immediately,” she says.

 

“Revenue for this year is predicted at $500k to 600k.”

 

By understanding the importance of having a professional team, Williams has been able to refocus on her main passion: recruiting standout talent while delivering great results to clients.

 

“We have a much tighter management style, which flows through to all our staff and talent,” she says.

 

“[The way we treat our models] kind of couples with how we treat our clients. We’re the agency where nothing’s too much trouble.”