Published in Women’s Agenda on February 17 2016
Jo Schneider: animal lover, entrepreneur, CEO, networker
Jo Schneider is a serial entrepreneur, previous holder of Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year (SA) and has featured in BRW, The SMH, Sky News and The Age.
At just 22 she set up her first award-winning company, Animal Therapeutics, which is now the sole distributor of a world renowned performance product for performance animals in Australia and New Zealand markets.
Her other company, DVE Business Solutions, is a consultancy advising large organisations, specifically universities, on process improvements, change management and customised systems with a people focus.
Growing up, what kind of career did you want to pursue?
Growing up I always wanted to be a vet. I always had a love for animals and owned many pets that would be my make believe patients. When I realised that there were no veterinary courses in my area at the time, I began researching other opportunities. My love of science and maths led me to pursue a career in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at university.
Also, from a young age I remember being very entrepreneurial. At 11 years old I set up my first business ‘Jo’s Toffees’ which as you can imagine was a roaring success! Looking back on it I was a busy little kid and didn’t sit down for long!
Who inspires you?
My business helps teams, departments and organisations run more effectively, efficiently and productively. As an ex-engineer who worked at GM Holden I quickly became an expert in lean methodology which we use across our client portfolio at my DVE Business Solutions. Eric Ries who wrote The Lean Startup gives great examples of how to transfer Lean principles to business which has inspired me to do similarly.
I am also inspired by business leaders who have given it their all and built up successful, large businesses with a positive culture and environment to work in. People like Richard Branson and Naomi Simson are great examples of dedicated and successful business leaders.
Who (apart from you) is most surprised by your achievements?
I wouldn’t say surprised is the word. I have always had a business sense and worked hard at everything I put my mind to. One person who would be surprised that I am the CEO of a consulting firm is my manager from GHD. I didn’t stay long in the job because I thought consulting was not for me!
How have women helped shape your success to date?
Growing up I was surrounded by a family of strong, independent women who worked hard for what they wanted. My Oma and my Mum were not one to take things on lightly. Instead, they pursued each opportunity, teaching me to be strong, caring and to achieve anything I put my mind to. Rather than allowing gender to be a consideration in our family, I have always been encouraged with the phrase “You’d be good at that”.
The young women who have come up to me and thanked me for providing them with vision, inspiration and guidance have also helped me out as much as they say I have helped them.
What qualities do you most admire in a female colleague?
I admire women who are straight to the point. They are not reluctant to speak their mind but in doing so, ensure they communicate in a constructive manner.
What’s the key to successfully balancing work and life?
For me, work is my life. At my consulting firm I work with some of my best friends including my mother and in my other company Animal Therapeutics I have created a company based on my passion for horses and high performance.
I think the key to a work life balance is to be aware of the bigger picture and to be aware of your personal goals. By having an idea of your goals, you can plan out your priorities based on what you think is important. It is also important that you allow for flexibility. We go through so many different situations in life that will require a varied balance, whether it be a bigger investment into work or more time to work through personal goals.
Each person has their own set of goals and measures based on differing values. Your work life balance should be measured against your own values and not a friend or colleague’s plan.
If you had an afternoon to yourself, how would you spend it?
Any opportunity I get, I will always go horse riding, which is my favourite outlet. I also love to plan so you might find me organising my house and setting up my planner for an effective coming week.
Who do you regard as your mentor?
I believe that it is important to have multiple mentors to learn from. I find that we are after different knowledge and advice based on each individual situation. What we are drawn to or need at the time is very dependent on what area we want to grow in. It is unrealistic that one person has all the knowledge and experience you desire. For example, when I transitioned from an engineer to a CEO of a consulting firm, I needed to be taught how to communicate in a different manner. I am also very fascinated by a person’s lifestyle so having multiple mentors allows me to gain insight into varying aspects of an individual.
What personal attributes have you used to overcome adversity in your life?
I have a very positive attitude, but I am also very pragmatic in my thinking. It is important to be honest about your adversities and deal with the situation. We should always allow ourselves to experience the emotions but be realistic that the situation will pass and move forward. My ability to overcome many of life’s challenges is via my upbringing where I was taught to be independent.
If you could make one change to women’s lives, what would it be and why?
Last year I joined the Sunrise Children’s Village and Project Gen Z in Cambodia. I was able to see firsthand the effects of children, male and female, having no access to education. It made me realise how much we underestimate the value and impact of having education offered to us so freely. I would love to see everyone have the same opportunity as I did.
I also want women to learn to be confident and self-assured in themselves and their abilities. Confident women inspire other women to be confident.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of my job would be creating and building a company culture to facilitate the future of the company with a like-minded team who will not require my involvement. Firstly, at DVE we need to hire people who not only have the required skills but share in our values and embedded culture. It then requires a fair bit of balancing on my part to personally connect with the team but to also allow others to manage the development of the culture. This requires that we build up the right team members.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to success in your field?
Network! So many people think that going out and talking to others is underrated. Be proactive and learn from experiences. Find influential people within your field and ask for their advice and find out the steps they personally took to reach their goal. You do however need to take personal responsibility and action to achieve your results.
I regularly take myself out of my comfort zone attending celebrity events such as the CEO Cook Off, travelling to Cambodia with other entrepreneurs, attending Telstra business women’s awards and sitting on high level boards. I’ve met some of the most inspiring and amazing people by regularly doing things which are outside my zone of influence and the opportunities that have come from making these choices have profoundly changed the way I think and the way I do business for the better.
I also re-invest in my business for growth and am a firm believer in innovate or die! I invest in the best people in the industry, marketing, training, strategy and systems to drive my company’s growth.