Share your story

Sharing your authentic story as a rural business owner helps you to stand out in a competitive global market and gives customers the confidence to buy from you.

As a wordsmith I am constantly sharing stories. Stories that educate, inform, inspire and challenge deserve to be shared.  In my youth we relied on oral and print mediums. Today in a digital world the opportunities are much greater.

But why should a business allocate time and resources to articulating its story?

It all comes back to why should I purchase a good or service from your business?  Is it because it is so good?  But what if that same product or service is available from multiple businesses?  Why should I buy it from you?

Customers are becoming increasingly savvy to marketing ploys and, sadly, there is a growing perception with younger generations that business people are profit hungry and unethical.

Sharing your story can help explain who you are and what you stand for.  In a competitive and global market, effectively articulating your story can help customers decide who they want to do business with. 

As I wrote in my last blog, when Elise Brown of Fair Dinkum Dog Coats changed her wholesale business to an online one, she was faced with a huge challenge.  How could she help customers find her new website?  And then how could she convince them to buy her product instead of all the other choices on the market? 

Telling her personal story has been an important strategy. 

Through her website and social media Elise has been able to articulate how her business allows her to work and live in a rural community that she loves. Her followers have watched her two daughters grow up in the workshop and carrying their orders to the post office.  Through her posts they know her personal values on family, rural living, and caring for animals.  She also explains how her product is made and the benefits of using oil skin.

Notice how the product came second?

Sharing your authentic story and presenting a human face can also help change negative perceptions about the business sector in general.

Not only are we members of a community, we are parents and volunteers. As business owners we provide a valuable service, create employment and contribute taxes to support the essential government services depended on by many.

As we have recently evidenced, the public can be fickle and perceptions can rapidly change.  One minute they are applauding our sporting heroes and the next minute they are tearing them down.  Then, after hearing their personal remorse, they are once again defending them.

We need more people defending the business sector when it is wrongly portrayed in a negative light. The public needs more information to be able to carefully consider and weigh the evidence instead of making snap decisions.

Simple and genuine stories are extremely powerful.  They should be embedded on your website, in your marketing materials, and when speaking in public. 

Not everyone is a skilled communicator so, if required, seek professional assistance to help articulate your story in the most effective way.  A skilled communicator will not put words in your mouth or try and spin something into bigger than it should be.  They will understand that less is best and authenticity is your main advantage.  They will also remind you to think from a customer's perspective.

Then, just be yourself and let it shine through.

KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Lucky Escape

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Sebastian Parsegian has had two lucky escapes in his lifetime. The first was 40 years ago as an 11 year old Armenian refugee fleeing war torn Ethiopia. The second was when he and wife Rebecca left their jobs in Melbourne and moved to Swan Hill in country Victoria to become award winning business owners.

If leaving his job selling used cars in Melbourne was a concern at the time, it certainly isn’t now. With multiple trophies lining his office, including the prestigious 2016 Toyota Australian Dealer of the Year, Seb looks very comfortable as both a business owner and resident of a country town.

‘We’re out of the rat race,’ explains Seb. ‘In Melbourne you don’t even know who your neighbour is. We have a sense of belonging here and I have an extra 70 hours a month up my sleeve. No travel and friendlier work hours.’

Having wisely invested their hard-earned wages into property Seb and Rebecca were in the fortunate position of being able to buy into an existing business in Swan Hill in 2007. It was a great time to move to the country with their son aged ten at the time.

‘We turned up at the football one Sunday at Lake Boga, where we had bought a house, and were welcomed with open arms.  Through children and sport you automatically get to connect with people.’

Business wise, Swan Hill Toyota had already enjoyed some success and they were able to invest just as it relocated to new purpose-built premises on the Murray Valley Highway leading into Swan Hill. 

That success has now doubled.  Since taking over, the business has increased its number of employees from 14 up to 34.  The sales figures reflect why. When Seb and Rebecca took over 27 vehicles were sold a month which quickly went to 50 and now 70.

A new location will have helped contribute to this success but more so the culture.  So what makes this rural based business so competitive at a national level?

Quietly spoken Seb believes that sharing his 25 years experience of selling cars with staff helped to increase sales straight way.  Rebecca also brought with her the experience of working in the car industry and has since become the principal dealer of Swan Hill KIA located conveniently across the road.

They continue to invest in staff through the Toyota franchise’s extensive training program.

‘We support each other to exceed targets,’ says Seb.  Everyone gets a KPI bonus regardless of which department they work in, encouraging team work and innovation.  ‘Customers are our guests. The relationship is definitely more important than the sale. It’s all about the experience.’

When announced as the 2016 Toyota Australian Dealer of the Year over all the metropolitan based franchises, Seb and Rebecca were delighted.  Previously on four occasions they had won Rural Dealer of the Year and now they had received acknowledgement at the highest level.

‘We were so pleased for our staff and customers,’ recalls Seb reliving the announcement made at a gala dinner in Melbourne. ‘It was a massive achievement for Swan Hill.’

‘Swan Hill punches well above its weight,’ adds Rebecca. ‘A number of businesses are operating at a national level.’   

Yes, Seb and Rebecca wholeheartedly agree. It was a lucky escape when they came to Swan Hill.


Seb’s Top Business Tips:

  • Don’t take things personally
  • Say thank you - to staff and guests
  • Don’t major in minors
  • Stand guard at the door of your mind
  • Focus on who and what you can become from being in business rather than what can the business do for you.
  • Have dreams and goals – set your goals in concrete and your plans in sand
  • A big shot is a little shot that kept on shooting


KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE