Best friends don’t always make the best business partners, but for Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart, there’s really no better recipe for success or happiness.
Just under a year ago, the pair launched Beam Australia– an online marketplace for job seekers searching for flexible employment.
The impetus for starting Beam was sheer frustration. Both Reuss and Stuart held demanding corporate roles, which weren’t flexible and offered poor work/life balance. As young mums, they immediately recognised the need to address the problem and to help other well-qualified female (and male) employees gain work which suited their lifestyles and reduced stress and anxiety.
As well as support employees, Beam’s objective is to boost Australian businesses by creating a strong, retainable, talent-pool.
It’s little surprise that the two innovators were named this year’s emerging entrepreneurs at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. We sat down with Steph and Vic recently to chat about the last 12 months and why flex work is the future.
Tell us a bit about your roles at Beam?
We co-CEO! In this stage of our start-up, that means everything from hacking our way through Xero to negotiating strategic partnerships and meeting with the Office for Women to represent those excluded from the traditional labour market. We each have specific responsibilities which play to our strengths, but importantly we have good overlap in skills so we come together and work side-by-side often, which is one of the best parts of the role.
How does the average day play out for you?
Well the only consistent thing is quick and frequent gear-shifts, from getting the kids ready for their day and doing the drop-offs, to client meetings, tech problem-solving, changing from flats to heels multiple times in elevators, back to pick up and dinner, homework, bath and bed. Repeat.
But the best parts of every day? 1. Meeting our talent. There’s nothing more inspiring. 2. Getting to work with your best friend. 3. Getting to revolve the day around what we want and need to do with our families (most of the time!), without guilt.
What does it mean to you to be named this year’s emerging entrepreneurs?
We were completely shocked and overwhelmed to receive this recognition. Like most startups, it’s fair to say that the first year has been challenging. In breaking new ground, we’ve had our fair share of skeptics and spend much of our time working to change a mindset in business Australia. So to be recognised as a worthy cause and valuable service by some of the most accomplished leaders in Australia, was incredibly humbling but also gave us an incredible boost. The confidence to accelerate the growth of Beam Australia. The impact of this award gives our proposition, and thereby our talent, credibility to be valued as highly as it should be. Our goal is massive social impact – more work options for a lot more people across Australia. And new ways for businesses to tap into exceptional talent. This award is a huge part of this story!
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
Our talent. No doubt. The people we get to meet – mostly women but also men – are just incredible. Their careers are inspiring and their stories move us to push for change every day.
What are your ultimate career-goals over the next decade?
To see transformation of the mind-set in businesses to embrace genuine, sustainable flexibility – and to see those organisations thrive.
What key attributes make a great leader?
Genuine. Passionate. Transformational. Striving towards a clear purpose.
Why do you think it’s important that women put themselves forward for awards?
Because men do! And because we want our daughters to. So why wouldn’t we?!
Awards are an acknowledgment of success and hard work but it takes a lot of confidence to tell the world that you’re doing a great job! Many women are naturally reticent to beat their chests and share their accomplishments. The more women who can share their success, the better we can truly understand what impact they are having in our world.
What big change/s do you wish to see in your industry?
To even up the playing field for talent – so businesses which are starting up, growing quickly or big corporates, can compete for the best talent equally. The best talent is looking for flexibility in when and how they work, challenging career roles and organisations with a social conscience. A small organisation can provide these just as well, if not better, than a large organisation. This gives talent more choices and options to remain in the workforce; and ultimately increases the participation of women in work; and leadership roles.
We would love to see that the diversity challenge moves from incremental (stalled?) progress, to accelerate with market demand for excellent talent. As the HBR and BCG have found, part-time flexibility needs to be part of the solution.
What would the world look like, if more women led?
It would look like the playground at school, or the world of grads, or any other normal place where women and men are equally represented. This balanced leadership makes better decisions, will produce a net gain to the economy, and pave the way for our daughters and sons to truly be whatever they want to be.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Have a go. You can do it!” – A magnet my Dad gave me when I had to swim a 25 meter pool for the first time. It’s stuck with me. (Steph)
“You can do anything and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Advice given to me growing up and that I now give my kids. (Vic)