Entrepreneur Member in Focus: Sheree Sullivan

Sheree SullivanSheree Sullivan has an equal passion for creativity and managing numbers and it’s this combination that has seen her become such a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes described as the Accidental Entrepreneur, whilst she may not have had a clear destination in the beginning, there is nothing accidental about the years of hard work that she and her husband, Saul Sullivan, have dedicated to building their family business, Udder Delights.

Over the years, as her role has gotten bigger and bigger, she has been able to carve off the tasks she doesn’t like as much or that she’s not as good at, to instead focus on the tasks where her skill set adds the most value. As they built their business, Saul and Sheree have both become good at delegating, at letting go and giving other people responsibility.

What Sheree loves the most about her role is that she has the flexibility to mix creativity with strategy. By equalling loving the artistic creativity of creating new brands and the marketing that goes with that, as well as loving the numbers required to make this happen, Sheree makes and implements informed business decisions. Sheree’s truth to strategy is, creativity with rational and it has been a highly successful formula for her.

Sheree Sullivan’s Career Journey + Biggest Challenges:

Her journey began even before she knew it, when her parents purchased their dream farming patch of land in the Adelaide Hills in 1995, and started a fledgling cheese factory in 1998 which Sheree took the helm of, a short while later. In 2004 Sheree married Saul and together they relentlessly pushed the business forward. As the business has progressed throughout the years, they have seen equal amounts of triumph and tragedy. Late 2017, saw Saul and Sheree successfully bring on new investment partners.

The biggest challenges along this journey for Sheree have come in crisis times, when the buck lies with you, as the business owners. Sheree remembers years ago, as the captain of her high school, her Principal said “when you’re at the top, there are no good decisions left to make, there’s only the tough decisions left to be made.” By the time business decisions have escalated to Sheree and Saul, it’s a tough decision and requires the hard line.

Sheree has also always appreciated the flipside of this responsibility as well. At the top you have greater autonomy and the ability to lead and that’s often quite fun. Sheree highly values the creative control to say “we’re taking the business here” and the ability to set the direction of the business.

Sheree Sullivan’s Advice for Women in Business:

Sheree’s number one advice for women in business is to really understand money and how your business makes it. After about two or three years in business, a mentor questioned Sheree about the profit percentage of her top product and whilst she had always loved maths, she hadn’t really been applying it in business. Her mentor pushed her to stop talking about marketing and to articulate how much profit was in that product. Walking away thinking “I’m going to show you” Sheree then analysed the numbers and realised that their top selling product was actually operating at a 10% loss. This realisation was a massive turn-around point for the business. It was the kick up the bum needed to really get her head around and manage the numbers.

At that point Sheree decided she was going to focus on getting good at money and she’s still pushing on that focus to this day. Every year Sheree chooses to learn something else about the management of money because to her, business is about managing two things, money and people.

Sheree Sullivan’s BCD Experience:

Sheree joined Behind Closed Doors (BCD) many years ago, at a period in her life when she felt quite isolated, coupled with a desire to connect with other people who could challenge her business approach. Sheree remembers thinking, “I don’t want to be the sharpest tool in the shed” she was looking to learn from others who had already been through her experiences. BCD provided her with access to women higher in business to learn from, bounce ideas with and grow. From her involvement in BCD, Sheree has met some incredible women and made some very dear, close friendships.

Her time in BCD has helped Sheree to ‘say it like it is’ and made having difficult conversations actually quite easy. Through years of attending monthly meetings, where her own and other members’ problems are analysed and given feedback, Sheree has built the confidence to tackle difficult conversations head on. Sheree summarises “through the strong leadership of Donny Walford and my facilitator Kylie Bishop – who both call a spade a spade, I have learnt to just act on difficult issues, I don’t overthink it, I just get on and do it.”

Sheree Sullivan’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations:

  1. The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – it’s quite an old fashioned book however it provides highly useful insights about business ownership for small businesses. A key theme is around the concept that ‘you build a business to own a business, not a job.’ This was pivotal in the way that we built Udder Delights.
  2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – this book set the path on how Saul and I chose to spend our money. We embraced the concept of letting your assets buy your liability. This shaped our decisions around how we invested both our personal funds and in the business.
  3. Winging It by Emma Isaacs – I really enjoyed the pep talk aspect of this book, a quote stood out to me: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
  4. The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape – this recommendation goes back to always learning about and managing money. I’m constantly looking to expand my knowledge in this area.

The future is bright for Udder Delights, and Sheree is constantly humbled by how the business has grown and continues to develop. When women ask her for advice on how to progress in business she highly recommends BCD, the entrepreneur group particularly.

“When you’re at the top, running your own business, there’s no one else to really turn to for advice. BCD is an awesome and honest network. We give permission for members to be truly honest in the feedback we give. In our group we ask for permission to call “bullshit”. The honesty is refreshing and invaluable”.

If you’re feeling isolated in your entrepreneurial journey and looking for advice, support and a network to help you grow in business, Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind support and mentorship to help you navigate your business into the future.

If you have a story you would like to share regarding your entrepreneurial journey, we would love to hear from you.

Warmly, Donny

Meet some of our other BCD Members

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