Along with Michael Schildberger, the former ABC anchor in the 774 morning time slot, now occupied by John Fayne, Geoff Slade was a founder of the popular Business Essentials in 1984, the audio magazine which plays a role as virtual business mentor to 1000s of Australian business leaders and owners. Business Essentials recently interviewed Geoff about the truths he’s learned in business along the way. In this audio file you’ll hear about his ups, downs and lucky moments, the rewards and challenges of business life, including the supremely important role of trust and long term meaningful relationships. He takes Heather Dawson back to the early days. It was 1967, he was 21 years old and had just opened the doors to his first employment agency. What did it look like?
An interview with Business Essentials
My three biggest career regrets
If you were to look at most people’s career trajectory, it generally rises over time, but zoom in a little and you’ll probably see some dips or a drop along the way. The upside to those dips is that a set-back in life can be a fantastic opportunity for learning and growth. In hindsight, you may even come to see that the valuable learning opportunities provided by the drop gave you the tools you needed to achieve something amazing, or the confidence to try something out of the box that really paid off.
Here are my three biggest career regrets to date, and the lessons I learnt from each of them.
- Look after yourself. I turned down a phone interview for an incredible sounding job with an arts organisation in Hobart because I didn’t think I could sneak out of work for the call. It was in my early days in the workforce and I just didn’t understand that you need to look after yourself when job hunting is at play. Of course I always advocate leaving on good terms when you do move on, but I didn’t realise in that scenario that I needed be less passive if I was ever going to get another job.
Lesson: Nobody is going to look out for you in the same way that you will look out for yourself. You need to be your strongest advocate and do whatever is in your power to make things happen.
- Never under-prepare for interviews. I have done this on a couple of occasions, by underestimating the advantage of interview preparation in helping you to successfully win a role. I went in full of boundless enthusiasm and thought that would carry me through to success (and, to be fair, that has often been enough). I hadn’t really done any research on the role or the company, and I certainly hadn’t done any preparation in terms of practising typical interview questions, in order to get a feel for what my key strengths were and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.
Lesson: You can never be over prepared. You won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked in an interview, but if you have spent some time contemplating the proffered role from several different angles, and how it may relate to your skills and experience, then you’ll be well placed to answer any questions on the fly that you hadn’t expected.
- Think carefully before turning down a job. I had just started university and in my search for work, I submitted my resume to a nearby chocolate factory (yes, really) because I had heard from a friend that if you worked there you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. They called me up, but I had too many contact hours at uni, so I wasn’t able to take the job. It was almost twenty years ago, but to be honest, I am still heartbroken over it!
Lesson: If you have a dream/goal/vision, then chase it with every particle of your body. Perhaps I could have gone part-time, or considered dropping out of uni altogether. In any case I should have done WHATEVER it took to get that job and fulfil my dream to eat all the chocolate I wanted.
What are some of your career regrets? What lessons have you learned?
A race that will change your life
The Spartan Sprint is a 7km course that has 20 obstacles, which is a challenge for first timers and returning racers alike. The Spartan Slayers, a team comprising Diana Tanvis-Loi and Angelika Langer-Zindel from Slade Group Shared Services and Bill Sakellaris from TRANSEARCH International Australia, recently competed in the Spartan Australia Melbourne race. We spoke to the ‘Slayers after they had had time to recover and reflect on what they achieved by participating in the event.
How did you get involved in the Spartan Race?
Diana: Angelika and I were talking to Bill about our interest in Tough Mudder when Bill mentioned the Spartan Race. He had raced before and thought it would be good to do it again with us as Rookies.
Bill: Having completed two of these events previously, I was keen to participate again. The Spartan Race is mentally and physically challenging. It requires planning, preparation, training and teamwork.
What training or other preparation did you do prior to the event?
Angelika: I did more rock-climbing and tried to choose more strength base classes at gym, but I underestimated the running part, so I think I could have done better.
Bill: I trained twice a week in the gym with a weekly bike ride. The gym works on upper body strength, which is critical in the Spartan Race, and the cycling helped with my endurance.
Diana: I hadn’t planned to customise my regular training for the Spartan Race, but it coincided with my new regime at F45, which I started in January. I’ve also been training for the 15+km course with Run for the Kids (Melbourne, 18 March). This combination definitely helped me prep for the race and I was able to do more than I normally would have been able to.
What did you find most challenging about the race?
Bill: The monkey rings, rope climb, horizontal wall scale and protruding wall were the most challenging for me. The monkey rings were particularly tough! I managed to complete ¾ of the wall, successfully climbed the rope and conquered Olympus – the protruding wall.
Diana: I have really weak arm strength so there were some obstacles that I struggled to complete. I did my best with the help of my amazing teammates. However, it was definitely a challenge for me and I found it a bit frustrating that I wasn’t able to complete every one.
Angelika: The running tired me out and did not leave me enough strength for some of the obstacles. The bucket nearly killed me, but I finished it! Next time I will follow the training instructions to be better prepared.
What surprised you about your abilities? Were you better/worse at something than you thought you would be?
Angelika: I struggled with balance and being a Yogi, wasn’t expecting that! Just because something looks easy, does not mean it really is easy!
Diana: I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was surprised most by how much strength and energy I had… I was expecting to be smashed. One obstacle that I thought would be a walk in the park for me was all about balance (think Cirque Du Soleil) and I just kept tipping over. It’s good that my dream wasn’t to be a circus performer!
Bill: Having completed the Sprint before, I knew that I could handle most of the challenges. The monkey ropes were the main issue for me in previous races and proved to be so again. This will my area of focus for the next attempt. Once I conquer this obstacle, the rest will be easy!
What did you enjoy most about the event? Would you do it again?
Diana: We completed the Sprint (rather than the Elite race), so there was less competitive pressure, which made it enjoyable. I would definitely do it again. The challenges I faced will help me target areas for improvement. I was wearing my most worn-out runners because of the mud (I threw them away after the race) but I could feel the impact that my shoes had on my performance. I won’t be making that mistake next year!
Angelika: I loved trying all the obstacles. It was really fun and I was very happy as first timer to have the option not to do the penalty burpees. Lucky me!
Bill: The event was challenging both physically and mentally, so just to be able to complete it was very rewarding. I successfully completed 90% of the obstacles, so my aim next year will be to complete all of them within a shorter time frame. Beyond that, our teamwork and the Slayers comradery made it fun. To get the most out of these events, I recommend the following:
- Be well prepared: train leading up to the event, know what to wear, what to eat before the race, plan for the event logistics
- Have a team plan: stick together, help each other through all the obstacles
- Change your roles: motivate yourself and the group leading up to and before the event, lead from the front at times, support from the back at times, coach your team through some of the more challenging obstacles
7 business and life lessons we can draw from Roger Federer’s #20grandslamwin
I’ve done a quick survey around the office and the streets at home, and guess what? I can honestly say I can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Roger Federer (or who isn’t pleased he just won the Australian Open last weekend). Can the Swiss tennis maestro do no wrong?
Federer’s probably the best known sportsman in the world right now. He’s just won three of the five last grand slams aged 36, which contradicts those who assume he should be too old, too slow, or simply past it. No way!
Who knows what has led to the incredible renaissance of this elite superstar? If we wind the (Swiss) clock back a little, Federer had a four year drought up until last January (2017), where he didn’t win one major at all… zero, nada, niente.
Well, this got me thinking… What can we learn from the great man’s rebirth over the past twelve months, and can these learnings have a place in the office and our lives generally?
Working in the ‘people business’ – I am an executive recruitment consultant, and a communications coach, trainer and facilitator – I’m constantly observing behaviours. Here are my observations on Roger Federer:
- Federer has a rock solid self-belief system. Experts say sport is played 70% above the neck. Federer’s self-talk must be awesomely positive. What do you say to yourself about yourself at work?
- Maintaining fitness (and winning) at 36 years of age in international sport is a massive achievement. Mentally and physically Federer works so hard. I’m told the dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. What do you need to be doing more of in your life?
- Federer surrounds himself with family and has a great team to train and support him. We can’t do it all by ourselves. Who have you chosen to be on your team, in your inner circle, both at work and socially?
- Even with #20grandslamwins, Federer still has a coach (Ivan Ljubicic). Why? He never stops learning. You could seek out a couple of wise heads to act as your business mentors or engage professional coaches.
- Be Smart. Federer won’t be playing every ATP tournament anymore. His body just can’t handle it. Are you making smart choices when prioritising the time you spend with clients, colleagues, family and friends?
- Plan B. You must have one. Federer could have crashed out after Cilic steamrolled him in the fourth set. But no, he switched it around with a better serve and a few different shots to win the fifth set. Last year against Nadal he was down a service break. Again he had to switch things around. Have you got a Plan B (or C) for when something important isn’t working for you? Think “change it up”.
- In post-match interviews Federer joked with commentator Jim Courier and enjoyed a laugh with comedian Will Ferrell. He said when he’s having fun, he plays better. Allowing yourself some light stress relief can enable you to keep winning – try that in the office. “Keep it classy” though!
Yes, Federer reminded me that the little things done well, done often, can get you there in the final set. As for the other big question, why does everyone love him so much? You will have to help me to explain that one (I bet he stole a block of chocolate when he was ten, but no one’s fessing up back in Switzerland)!
What have you seen when you were watching Roger Federer play? How can you apply your observations to the world @work?
Bankers aren’t all bad.
“All businesses experience growth,” says Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager – NAB Business. “It’s in their nature – at some stage in their life, they must grow to survive.” In the following article by Nigel Bowen, written for NAB Business View magazine, Geoff Slade credits a longstanding relationship with the bank as having an important part in the growth and success of his business enterprises over the years.
Fifty Years of Business Wisdom Distilled into Seven Truths
After half a century in business, Geoff Slade has learnt a thing or two. Here he shares seven truths about what it takes to make it in the business world.
Back in 1967, aged 21, Geoff Slade began his first recruitment agency. A couple of decades later he received an offer for the company he couldn’t refuse and sold it, moving on to become HR Director at Pacific Dunlop. In 1992 Geoff launched another recruitment business, Slade Group. In recent years, with the likes of Seek and LinkedIn affecting the recruitment industry, he’s adapted by moving away from commoditised services and launching business intelligence services, such as Yellow Folder Research, which harvests and sells talent intelligence. Here, the 72-year-old shares what he’s learnt after half a century of launching, building and selling businesses.
- Your level of success correlates with how well you understand your customers
Whether it’s recruitment or any industry, you’ll usually find that 10 to 20 per cent of companies are doing well, 50 per cent are doing okay, and the rest are on their way to going broke. What separates out the 10 to 20 per cent? I’d argue it’s that they put the effort into truly understanding what their customer wants. Of course, often the customer doesn’t fully understand what they want. That just makes it more important to spend time with them, ask them searching questions and help them formulate what their real needs are.
- Change is a fact of life, so concentrate on staying ahead of the game
I remember buying my first IBM golf ball typewriter and marvelling at the advanced technology! No matter what technological, economic or social changes are occurring, the two questions to keep asking yourself are: “What can I do to differentiate myself from the competition?” and “What can I do to enhance my relationship with the customer?”
- Be discerningly persistent
It took me seven years, living on the smell of an oily rag, to make my first profit. People seem to want things quicker these days – to reap all the rewards before putting in the hard yards. Of course, you need to make a judgement about whether the industry you’re in is growing or contracting, and whether your efforts will pay dividends. But even in the most favourable of conditions, you should accept that you’ll need to work hard for a long time.
- Don’t get hung up on working for yourself
I launched my first business because a job offer fell through, not because I had an issue with being an employee. After selling that business I worked for a big company for a couple of years. There are things you learn as a business owner that make you a better employee, and vice versa. For example, business owners often don’t pay enough attention to collecting and analysing financial data. A stint in a corporate role is useful for learning that discipline.
- Be businesslike in your attachment
I had no intention of selling my first business, but a buyer asked me to name my price. I thought of a figure, doubled it, and sold when they accepted that price. That meant I’d achieved financial security by my mid-forties. Whether it’s your company, your house or anything else, you shouldn’t be so emotionally invested that you pass on a great opportunity to sell.
- Focus on selling – but don’t be too eager
Two pieces of business advice have always stuck with me. The first is: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” That’s very true. The second is: “When you negotiate, you have to care, but not too much.”
- Don’t forget there’s more to life than business
After my first marriage ended, I realised I was guilty of not paying enough attention to my family. When I got remarried, I was determined not to make the same mistake. Thankfully, I haven’t. That’s involved decisions such as limiting the number of offices I open, which might have resulted in the business making less money than would otherwise have been the case. It also helps if you have a bank that is supportive during the tough times. I value the good relationships I now have with my children, my wife and my ex-wife. I lead a full life and have all the money I need to do what I want to do. Another $10 million, or even $100 million, isn’t going to make me any happier.
This article was originally published in Business View, the business magazine of NAB, Issue 24 Summer 2017.
Overwhelmed? Gratitude as a business strategy.
Running your own business can be challenging and life itself can be overwhelming. I’ve said it here before.
Last week I was named in the Top 50 Small Business Leaders of Australia by Inside Small Business magazine. It was an absolute honour and a surprise. Females in Food is less than 6 months old and already being recognised for the problem it is solving – to empower women manufacturers of food & beverage products and associated services to pursue their creative pursuits and look after their financial well being. I was tired of seeing women (40% of single Australian women retire in poverty according to Australian Industry Super) choose either their creativity or their financial well being when really we can have both with some planning and the right support.
What running a business means, however, is long hours, often the remuneration not commensurate with the effort and a lot of juggling the development of tactical solutions with strategic thinking. The latter not a mean feat given the skill set and capacity to do both at the same time is incredibly difficult and not for the fainthearted.
Many people experience busyness, life challenges and the fretting of making the right decision, regardless of what the decision may be. Last week in amongst the recognition from the business and Females in Food community, I was still confronted by the amount I wanted to achieve. Achieve for my consulting and coaching clients, my Females in Food community, for the team that work with me, for my intimate relationship, my home and my family.
Not that different from anyone else.
The truth is, however, it really began to get me down. I was now feeling overwhelmed by my to do list. It seemed never ending and for someone like me who demands so much of myself I wondered where the light was going to get in. It reminded me of that incredibly powerful Leonard Cohen (RIP) song Anthem and the verse that says,
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Cohen was the master of capturing the beauty in the challenges of life. He having experienced financial betrayal by one of his advisors; he rose to meet the challenge by getting back on the road and rebuilding his music business by reconnecting with his fans as he toured the world after a long hiatus.
What I started to think about in my moments of silence was how much I actually have, how much there is to be grateful for.
I could not imagine being anywhere else right now, doing anything differently and with anyone else other than the people I am doing it all with. I had a moment of saying to myself, “Hang on a minute! Look at what you have and be grateful”. Thank goodness I got it in that moment.
Gratitude made me refocus and remember the extraordinary opportunities and work afforded me.
For many of us when we complain we say, “first world problems” and we laugh it off, but I believe it is all relative and no matter what “world” we live in, the challenges we face feel very real to us and we must give them the light they command, but all in moderation. Sweeping problems under the carpet or minimising them because we live in the “first world” doesn’t work either, however, what does work is remembering how fortunate most of us are and what opportunities we have before us.
Being grateful for what we do have, and when times are overwhelming perhaps just remembering to be grateful for the small things afforded to us each day can be helpful, even if it just may be that the sun came up today.
In some of my training I refer to a well known psychologist who works in the field of relationships, Dr. John Gottman, of The Gottman Institute. Dr. Gottman refers to relationships that work well as “masters” and those that don’t as “disasters”. The key difference that I like to refer to is the notion that the “masters” are always recognising what they have whilst the “disasters” tend to focus on what is lacking.
A practice that many find helpful is to write a gratitude list.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or challenged, take a moment and write down a list of all the things you may be grateful for, and as I said, it may just be that the sun came up today. Here’s my list for today;
- I am living on purpose
- I have awesome clients
- I am supporting an inspiring community
- I witness the profile and confidence of women I work with grow, and I get so much more than I give
- I have an amazing support crew
- I have a lovely home in a great neighbourhood
- I had a refreshing swim at one of my favourite Sydney harbourside beaches yesterday.
Chelsea Ford is presenting at Slade Chats in partnership with Females in Food on Thursday 19 October 2017 at 5:30pm. Click here for full event details.
And just like that, I’m off to a new team!
In November I’m taking on a new role with the Carlton Football Club as a full time coach in an elite sporting environment. I’ll be going from working as a corporate recruiter to working with elite sportsmen and women.
It may sound weird, but after what I’ve learnt through 2017, I feel so much more prepared for what’s to come.
Here are some key learnings from my time here with the Slade Group, let’s call it the 5 P‘s.
Boy was I slow! When you start a new role you want to double check things, make sure you’re not stepping on toes and listen and learn as much as you can. Note to self: Jason, don’t over think things or double guess – you’ll learn as you go and be much more valuable learning by doing.
Sounds simple in the professional world, but I am still amazed by the lasting negative impact of people who think it’s ok to be late, or not show up at all to interviews. This has left me with an underlying anxiety never to be late to anything myself. Or, if it’s unavoidable I’ll always call ahead and tell the truth.
Recruiting is all about people. Every step of the way, and on every recruitment assignment I’ve dealt with people as candidates, as clients, and as colleagues. There are no widgets in the work we produce. In life we all make mistakes, can inadvertently let others down, and over time learn about our strengths and weaknesses. How we react to and handle difficult situations, is the important bit. That goes for me as well. Make the tough calls, and be honest and fair. People appreciate and respect this much more than smoke and mirrors.
Talk about added stress by not being prepared. Yes things move quickly, but systems are in place to help you cope and keep track. Use them! You’re a part of a team or better yet, a brand, and if you are unprepared that’s a bad look for all of you.
One thing I quickly learnt heading into, and during, my consulting role is that there is still some stigma around recruitment. It didn’t make a lot of sense as I had never had any personal experiences with recruiters prior to becoming one. But once I started meeting with clients and candidates I learnt they were happy to share their issues. I listened. Maybe I just got lucky, but my time here at Slade Group was nothing but professional and personable. I couldn’t count how many people I’ve come across both internally and externally in the last year or so who have taught me more than any book or university ever could. As I now say when discussing who I work for, “you don’t survive as a brand in this space for 50 years if you’re not doing a lot right.”
Now looking forward
At the start of the year I set out on a new journey. I made the switch from not-for-profit to the corporate world in order to test my skills and pace in the recruitment space. I joined Team Slade and when I look back now, it’s fair to say I had little idea about what lay ahead, and it’s also fair to add that I still have a long way to go if I return one day to become a top flight senior consultant.
Can you remember some of the Aha moments in your first year in a new role in your world @work?
A homecoming with fresh eyes
We’ve written about the benefits of Boomerang Hires, but what’s it really like to leave a company and return again a couple of years later?
Two years ago I left Slade Group to see what life was like on the other side. Having consolidated my internal recruitment and industry knowledge in a consulting role, I went back to professional practice to work in a mid-tier accounting firm.
I learned a lot sitting at that desk. While it taught me about different operating systems and processes, I also learned something about myself – essentially that this new job was not for me; recruitment was where I wanted to develop the next chapter of my career.
In my next role I worked for a niche professional services recruitment firm, where I specialised in forensics, insolvency and corporate finance. Sounds dry if you’re outside the industry, actually a pretty exciting time for me. It allowed me to upskill, while expanding my network in the professional services sector. I grew the business, met some influential people and made many successful placements. There were even a few parties.
However over the course of leaving Slade and working in those subsequent roles, I was discovering what motivated me and finding out how I could add value to the company I worked for, as well as client organisations.
As a returning employee, you have an objective viewpoint. You’ve had the opportunity of new experiences with other businesses and the benefit of seeing your former employer with fresh eyes. For me the culture at Slade, the integrity of its leadership and the trust the brand enjoys (evidenced by longstanding relationships with clients, candidates, and former employees – myself included) were deciding factors in making my return when the time was right.
Today employees change jobs a lot more often over the course of their careers, and there is certainly an advantage to learning new skills in a new organisation that you can bring back. Culturally coming back to Slade was easy because I understood and respected its values. Flexibility and adaptability are critical in today’s market. Being agile, learning from different organisations and observing how others work has allowed me to realise new opportunities for the team I now lead. Likewise, being a knowledge specialist is equally important: clients appreciate my understanding of business support roles and my experience in industry.
When moving on from a job people often talk about the negatives that motivated them to looking elsewhere. The positives for me are always the people, colleagues and clients, where I established relationships based on the authenticity of a personal connection to the business.
Coming back to Slade was like leaving home in my early 20s. Heading off on many adventures and returning to my family home a bit older and wiser than when I left. You are much more appreciative about being looked after and having your favorite things! At Slade my ‘favourite things’ means quality systems and processes, ongoing training, clear values, flexibility with time arrangements to pick up on life’s vagaries, and of course my colleagues and clients. When I walked in the door, it felt like my team already knew me, like I was welcomed back from a holiday. I’m not one to get too comfortable, I enjoy taking risks, and there’s much to be done, but it’s a nice feeling to boomerang back to our Slade family.