Pivoting from marine chemistry to marketing in 2000, Steven and Fiona Pilchowski are now focussed on using their knowledge, expertise and love of all things local to provide a personalised service for businesses and community groups through Messages on Hold Townsville.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
My husband Steven and I started Adspeak Marketing back in 2000 when Steve’s marine chemistry research grant dried up. With a brand-new baby, we were forced to either pursue careers away from Townsville or pivot. We decided to pivot. Initially, we worked with Jingles Australia, moving into Messages on Hold, Websites, Graphic Design and working entirely for ourselves. We’d previously been interested in writing, design, IT and music production, even undertaking further study, but had not expected to use it for business.
The business evolved. Now we primarily offer Messages on Hold services to businesses across Queensland and are transitioning to a new name to reflect this – Messages on Hold Townsville. What are Messages on Hold? They’re the messages you hear when you call a business and get placed on hold. You’ve probably heard our messages while on hold at the Townsville City Council, your local doctor or mechanic. As a fan of autobiographies, I particularly like getting to know business owners and their individual passions. We really enjoy using creative writing to promote businesses, upsell products and services and entertain clients. Steve then uses his music production, professional voice management and IT expertise to make each businesses sound amazing.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
The start-up phase. When things start slowly (as they inevitably do), it’s a challenge to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. Friends and family would often advise us to ‘get a real job’. It’s hard not to let it get to you. You need to surround yourself with like-minded, positive people. When we first started the business, we used to pretend that we were in an office. Times have changed and now working from a home office is much more accepted.
Working with your spouse is awesome…most days! But it comes with challenges. Over the years we’ve learnt to be strict about ‘keeping work at work’, having dedicated times to do work and talk work. And we’ve learnt to have thicker skins when critiquing each other’s work. But if we had the choice, we’d do it all again.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
We first met at James Cook University where we were both studying chemistry and biochemistry. We must have had some chemistry of our own, because we were voted ‘The Best Couple’ in the Chemistry Department! 30 years later, we now enjoy working in a much more creative field. However, we continue to draw on our scientific backgrounds to analyse what works best for our clients and deliver a professional, effective result every time.
What is the best piece of career or business advice you ever received?
Firstly, work closely together with other businesses. You’re stronger when you ‘hunt as a pack’. It’s a lot more fun too! Encourage, advise, and refer business. We now enjoy a large referral network and are the provider of choice for phone systems providers.
Secondly, don’t get distracted by the ‘bright and shinys’- there will always be something new to try. You need to constantly discard what isn’t working, refine what is working and stay focused.
Lastly, remember, working long hours is not sustainable. Success is measured in both dollars AND lifestyle.
Going forward, what is next on the cards for your business?
Like I said, our focus is now almost entirely on Messages on Hold. We’ve been working on rebranding as Messages on Hold Townsville. We’re a proud locally-owned family business! While you can already hear our messages right across the state, from Intersport in Toowoomba to Gulf Parts and Service in Weipa, we’d like to continue to grow and offer a local alternative to the ‘big boys’ who have had a monopoly for many years.
Our key strength is our personal service, which we will never compromise. We will always offer a personal and professional Messages on Hold service which truly reflects individual business owners and their unique products and services. As the preferred Messages on Hold service now recommended by phone service providers, we would like to continue to grow this relationship to mutual benefit. I (Fiona) also have a background in community services, so we’re firmly committed to continuing to support not-for-profits with reduced fees.
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