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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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

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When filling a CEO position seems like a call out to Mars

How do you find a CEO to head up a privately owned organisation, operating from a remote part of a former Eastern Bloc country, where there is no local entity, no information about the organisation in English and the Directors and the Owners do not speak your language?

For a TRANSEARCH consultant, it’s another exciting opportunity. In fact, early in the process we had to retain a local linguist with technical and sector knowledge to ensure we communicated effectively.

Here are my 6 Top Strategies for securing an executive for a parent company from a rare region:

Have respect for the client’s homegrown reputation, differing work practices and local regulatory standards.

Cultural and language barriers are sometimes the least of a client’s challenges: when they start mapping out audacious targets for their new hire, take time to allow them a reality check as you start sharing the local market realities.

Global accreditations and reputation is one thing, but building a local presence and distribution for products or services is another. As you’re learning about their region, help them understand a little about yours. In this case my client, a major international player with just over 50% market share in the sector in their own country, was seeking to expand their business in the Asia Pacific region. With a strong presence in Europe, they had recently launched in North America and were looking for a base in Sydney or Melbourne. Locally they would be up against established competitors with sizeable market shares.

Set realistic time frames. In this instance, searching the APAC region for a CEO with demonstrable startup experience in sectors supplying specialist FMCG products through omnichannel distribution routes was never going to be a simple task.

Attention to detail and high levels of candidate care will ultimately pay off.

Risk management is always a high priority in executive appointments and the new executive will need further support through the onboarding period and building their local team post hire.

Complicated by communication difficulties, I was fortunate that a few of our client’s senior executives had an intermediate level of English and a translator was available for our discussions. Over the course of my research for the assignment, I developed a deep understanding of the client, their business and its culture. On a broader scale, I was immersed in the business culture of another country, learning firsthand about how it thinks, works, behaves professionally and measures success.

Following this appointment, we continue to meet with the client and the CEO; I am pleased to hear their market entry initiatives are going well. We are already discussing the next mandate!

Have you procured goods or services internationally, provided or sought professional services across language and cultural boundaries or supplied emerging export markets? What are some of the challenges you experience in conducting international business in the not so obvious global markets?

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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