Helping individuals actively participate in all parts of their lives by providing education that inspires new ideas and challenges the status quo.
LinkedIn, over the years, has become the most useful social media platform for professionals and business owners. It is a quick and easy way to reconnect with an old college friend and a co-worker. But more than that, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for lead generation, market research and global networking. There’s a great need for LinkedIn users to learn more about the little-known and advanced features that can help you unlock its potential to the greatest extent possible. Karen Hollenbach, an Independent LinkedIn Specialist Trainer recognized the need for LinkedIn training and set out to change the way LinkedIn is used by professionals with Think Bespoke. Think Bespoke is an Australian owned and operated LinkedIn education and training consultancy. Karen’s mission is to help you unlock your potential and her team comprises a collective of talented local professionals with LinkedIn, content marketing and career management expertise. The people at Think Bespoke help individuals actively participate in all parts of their lives by providing education that inspires new ideas and challenges the status quo. In an interview with Beyond Exclamation, Karen shares her journey through the years, the founding vision behind Think Bespoke, the services that her company provides and more. Below are the excerpts from her interview with us.
What was your goal while growing up? Did you always want to be where you are right now?
I’ve always leaned towards being an educator. When I did my undergraduate studies at university I liked the idea of returning one day as a lecturer or tutor. Leading and managing teams fueled my desire to help people tune into their strengths and show up in their roles in a way that was unique to their personal style and natural tendencies, rather than doing what they thought they ‘should’ do. This idea of challenging the status quo and re-thinking how women navigate their professional lives is at the heart of my story and how I now help others through LinkedIn training and LinkedIn marketing mentoring.
What seeded the vision to venture on your own?
I’d worked for the global beverage business, Diageo, for nearly eleven years. It was incredibly fun as it allowed me to travel interstate weekly and work my way up the ranks, eventually managing and leading a trade marketing team who worked with global brands that sponsored major sporting events. Once having children, my priorities began to change. I loved working but needed more flexibility. While on maternity leave for the second time, I returned to university and completed a post graduate qualification in teaching, enabling me to briefly teach at local high schools and a training consultancy when my children were very young. I began to use my teaching training and my business marketing qualifications to start a consulting business helping people make their own career changes and get job-ready through helping them write strong resumés and LinkedIn profiles. Gradually, as I began to see the increasing relevance and use for LinkedIn, my focus shifted to where I am today; namely, LinkedIn profile writing, LinkedIn training and LinkedIn marketing mentoring.
Could you give us an overview of Think Bespoke, and the inroads it has made in LinkedIn training space?
Think Bespoke’s focus is teaching people how to leverage LinkedIn to help them achieve their professional goals. Whether it be female led services based businesses or professionals in the mid stage of their career, we help our clients get to the heart of what their career objective is, and to tailor their LinkedIn presence around that objective. Personal branding is such a big part of your online presence, and tailoring your personal brand to your goals can help you make waves in your industry. We help create thought-leaders and job seekers who are confident about the people who they are trying to influence.
In 2018 our work was recognized when I was listed in the top 20 LinkedIn experts in Asia Pacific by Social Media Marketing Institute. In 2019 I was listed in their top 10 LinkedIn experts in Asia Pacific. Our unique use of storytelling, content marketing and relationship building rituals to help clients and the organizations they lead get better results on LinkedIn has helped me achieve this status.
Tell us about one strategy that has helped you grow Think Bespoke?
Our content marketing strategy has been central to growing Think Bespoke. It’s helped make us the ‘go to’ for LinkedIn, whether that be how to write your LinkedIn Profile, how to manage your company page or how to leverage the new features LinkedIn provides. LinkedIn marketing is an increasing focus for many businesses and we show our clients how to get started with the tips we share on the blog. Our content marketing strategy has extended to guest podcasts and guest columns, regular webinars for industry groups and peak bodies and the recent launch of my new podcast, The 5 Minute LinkedIn Marketer. Our goal is to provide our LinkedIn tips in bite sized chunks so it does not feel too daunting and can be managed and easily implemented by busy professionals.
Tell us about your life before Think Bespoke. How past experiences help you today in leading the company?
Before I founded Think Bespoke, I was working for a multinational organization with high profile brands in an extremely competitive market place. This experience gave me extensive experience in developing my marketing communications and leadership style to navigate many complex stakeholders with competing priorities. I like to tell people I speak two languages; sales and marketing. My role at Diageo demanded that I motivate and inspire a local sales team to deliver the goals of global brands. Speaking both languages helped me achieve the results expected of me in this role.
My time at Diageo as well as my own personal experience with career change and building my profile as a LinkedIn expert, has helped me flex my style to the needs of my clients and their learning styles. My ability to communicate with clients and colleagues and understand the principles of content marketing, while also being empathetic, asking the right questions about where they are in their business or career journey right now, helps give them the confidence and road map to grow their LinkedIn presence and secure the role that they’re looking for.
I lead a virtual team of talented writers, content marketers and career practitioners. My choice of team members is focused on selecting the best in their field who do great work and are good people. Most of us are corporate escapees and love working flexibly, which means treating our roles as parents and carers as seriously as the work we do for Think Bespoke’s clients.
Have you achieved all that you had desired? Tell us about the moment when you realized that your hard work has finally paid-off. What keeps you driven and determined towards work?
As a life long learner, there will always be new adventures ahead of me. Having said that, the ability to manage a business whilst being there for all of my children’s milestones has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. Think Bespoke’s 10th birthday in 2020 has also been a rewarding moment – where I can look back and really see how much our services have evolved over the past 10 years. It has not been easy, and business ownership was never a goal. The focus has always been about doing great work, working with great clients who share our values of collaboration, community while being able to show up in all areas of my life.
I established Think Bespoke (which was originally called Bespoke Professional Resumes) in 2009 and operated as a sole trader until 2015, which is when we became a company, and I became our first full time employee. We now have 3 divisions and my collective of talented professionals works virtually across Australia, helping people with our LinkedIn, content management and career services. Are we making millions? No! That was never my intention. I have replaced my full time corporate income, working less hours, actively participating in my children’s lives and taking most school holidays off. We do great work, my team work from home and separately run their own businesses and our clients are a delight.
Running my own business has been the most exhilarating and exhausting thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s keeps me going is the freedom working for myself brings, the potential income you can earn when you get it right and the satisfaction that comes from living my personal mission every single day, which is to help people unlock their potential.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work life balance is about being able to work flexibly and was a major driver for establishing Think Bespoke. I set strong boundaries across my week that are aligned to when I work most productively, when my clients and team need me and when my family needs me. Self-care is a significant focus and looks like walking regularly, meditating when I can, eating wholesome food and spending time working in my vegetable garden in our back yard. I don’t aways get the balance right, as I love what I do and believe in taking imperfect action. This can result in choosing to burn the midnight candle at times. I have a fabulous husband who takes his role as a parent seriously and loves to cook and is happy to clean. This makes a huge difference to how we share the demands of parenting and running a family home with two teenage boys. Having a home office means my commute to work is one minute, which is a huge time saver.
How satisfied are your clients with your service? Can you share some of your client’s testimonials?
Our clients actively refer us to their friends and colleagues, which is a very strong indicator of how satisfied they are with our service. We’re very focused on delighting our clients and believe we can always streamline and improve the way we do things. Here are some examples of what our clients say about us.
Had a great experience with Think Bespoke. Felt extremely comfortable in discussing career challenges and potential future career prospects. Marina really asked thought provoking questions to challenge my thinking and set me on a positive career path. My resume also turned out fabulous. Thanks for everything. – Martine, Career Coaching client
We have been working with Karen for 5 years now. Karen has presented to our team at events, workshops and worked with us on a 1:1 basis. The foundation of our Linkedin strategy has come from the time we have spent with Karen and we continue to stay ahead of the game through our engagement with her. Only yesterday did Karen join one of our company wide webinars and present on how to network in the new normal. There were so many takeaways which our team is already implementing. Thank you again Karen we love working with you. – Nicola Veltman, LinkedIn Training Corporate Client
I highly recommend Karen to anyone wanting to clarify and amplify their brand on LinkedIn and unify their professional platforms. With her encouraging and direct approach, Karen’s 1:1 coaching sessions allow you to get out of your own way and move forward with a clear and manageable implementation plan and get on with building your brand and connecting with your tribe. If I’d known the immense value from Karen’s coaching session I would have booked her a lot earlier and saved a lot of precious time. – Carolyn, Small Business Owner
What would you advise to the young entrepreneurs venturing the startup landscape?
I feel very strongly that there is a lot of pressure on your entrepreneurs to have to do ‘all the things’.
If you can embrace the concept that the idea you have for your business is not what your business will look like in a year’s time, this could just be the impetus to help you build momentum. The one key thing I have learnt is that your business changes over time, especially if you establish great relationships with your clients, are open to their feedback and willing to adapt to the opportunities in front of you.
Embracing the beauty of this concept means letting go of perfectionism and the realization that we are not in control of our own destinies. What you need to focus on is what you can influence, and that’s your current product / service offers, the quality of work you do and the ability to ask for feedback and adapt to the needs of the community you wish to serve. The best example of this in Australia at the moment is the gin distillers who have started making hand sanitizer!
I encourage you to dedicate time in your schedule this month to mapping out how you can help your clients right now, in an effort to create additional revenue streams for your business.
I believe we are all capable of great things. However, I also believe it’s too easy to get stuck in your thoughts. Action is where the gold lies! Take the time to look at your business and your clients and work out ways to do this better. You just never know where a simple phone call to a client you’ve done great work with will lead.
What are your plans going ahead? What does Think Bespoke’s expansion and growth trajectory look like in future?
My focus is on being known as the number one LinkedIn expert for female led service-based businesses in Asia Pacific. For Think Bespoke, we’re focused on being the number one LinkedIn profile writing service for professionals in the mid stage of their career. From a lifestyle perspective (because that’s the important part – right?) my husband and I are also starting to think about locations for a house in the country with a verandah to sit and watch the sunset together. I would also like to travel regularly and have at least 3 extended trips with my husband and boys discovering Australia, our sunburnt country.
The restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have provided the impetus and time to transition Think Bespoke’s training and services online. The silver lining of this decision has been opening us up to a global audience beyond Asia Pacific. We’ll continue to offer our online training and LinkedIn profile writing services and help our professional communities navigate their return back to the new CoVID-normal, whatever that looks like!
LinkedIn is helping professional communities stay connected online and is more relevant than ever with the rapid expansion of the remote workforce. I will always love seeing clients have lightbulb moments when they realise ways to improve their professional presence online and use LinkedIn to get better clients and job opportunities. As the “LinkedIn Lady,” I’m always one of the first to show my communities how to use the new features LinkedIn is continually rolling out for individuals and businesses. It’s my hope that the current world events will help everyone re-define what doing great work means for them, creating new opportunities for everyone.