Juggling 300 corporate clients in the high-pressure sales department at LinkedIn would seem a world away from running a yoga business in the middle of Bondi Beach, but that’s the path Amanda Graci has found herself on. The co-founder of Bondi Yoga House spent more than three years as a senior relationships manager at the online recruiting giant, joining in 2012 and going on to help build and train a team of 25.
When she and partner Benny Gould decided to open their urban yoga retreat at the start of 2016 - following nine months of travelling the globe - Amanda naturally drew on some of the lessons she learned while working with small- and medium-sized businesses across a broad range of industries.
One of the most important: it’s often easier to be the person giving advice from the outside! “We talked about this a lot in the beginning,” Amanda admits. “It is a lot easier to be an outsider looking in than being down in the trenches. It’s very easy to get caught in the weeds of the day-to-day, so for us it’s really important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. [We try to] follow what we used to preach and apply practices that were so ingrained in us - which is a lot harder than it sounds.”
These include staying true to your brand and knowing how you plan to measure success. “At the moment, Bondi Yoga House is the first of its kind [in Sydney], so it took us some time to understand what our brand was going to be,” Amanda says. “We’re continuing to refine that message we communicate to our audience.” She laughingly refers to herself as a “data nerd” and uses analytics to make sure the business continues to stay on track. “This is something that Benny and I love, and the way that it relates to revenue.”
Not surprisingly given her track record, Amanda also believes in the power of creating a strong network, and still recommends leveraging relationships with people you know and trust to grow a business both internally and externally. To help get Bondi Yoga House off the ground, the couple turned to their local community for support and to forge strategic partnerships. “People have been so supportive,” she says. “[Remember], there will be people that have gone through or are going through what you are experiencing.”
Similarly, when looking to hire new employees, she believes that it’s all about referrals. “Even if someone doesn’t have the skills you’re looking for, that’s okay if they’re a cultural fit for your business. Skills can be taught, personality can’t.”
The couple expect to start growing their business as the peak summer tourism season approaches, and admit that they’ll even draw on elements of the LinkedIn company culture as their start-up evolves. “LinkedIn has a great company culture that supports transformation, being one team and overall wellbeing,” says Amanda. “At BYH we are still in the early days of building a culture as it’s just Benny and I, but there are definitely elements we will adopt especially around transformation and being one team. For us it’s a real focus on doing work that you are so passionate about that it doesn’t feel like work. It’s about living and breathing that balanced lifestyle, and at the end of the day not taking things so seriously and just having fun!”