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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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Posted in The world @work

I officially abdicate from the role of Queen of (Lazy) Small Talk

I’m currently completing a Ross Clennett Program – Leadership Coaching for High Performance (highly recommended, BTW). As part of my homework, I explored some of Ross’s previous blog articles as a little pre-reading. An article that was originally published back in 2010 immediately jumped out at me. It is called Are you still stuck in the recruitment dark ages? My initial thought was: Surely not, I am mostly Gen X with a dash of millennial thrown in… Dark ages… ppft. Upon reading it I was embarrassed to learn that one of my genial habits belongs in Westeros, without indoor plumbing or running water.

What is this bad habit, I hear you ask? It’s small talk. Well more so, my icebreaker one-liners. These are the old standards like, “Did you find us ok?”,How’s your day?” and “How’s the weather outside? Is it still sunny/rainy/windy/cold/cloudy/all of the above (I’m based in Melbourne)?” that I roll out in interviews or meetings with candidates and clients.

I’d prefer not to think I greet people with clichés, but we are all guilty of being a bit lazy when engaging with others from time to time.

Ross says why not take the time to really (I mean really) prepare for a meeting and come up with something meaningful as the ice-breaker. As a recruitment consultant, this could be looking for connections in common with a candidate, such as having worked at the same company, in a similar role or related industry. They may have some interesting interests and hobbies, (a case in point if you have ever wondered whether it is worthwhile including such information on your resume). Whatever you choose, make it PERSONAL.

I’ve made it my personal mission from now until Christmas to not utter any of those tired one-liners, and I have to say… I’m doing OK so far. Here are three of my recent cliché-free icebreakers:

  1. I see you’ve worked in Japan for two years, tell me about some of the cultural differences in the workplace?
  2. How was your time with Twitter? I’ve heard amazing things about the office and company culture.
  3. You grew up in Darwin, so did I! Do you know Fannie Bay (yes, it’s a real suburb of Darwin and I did grow up there)?

All three sparked wonderful free flowing conversations that turned into A+ interviews and unsurprisingly, the third candidate and I realised that we had friends in common (that’s Darwin after all).

So let’s not be lazy with our small talk; a little prep and a bit of thought goes a long way.

What bad ice-breaker one liners are you going to stop using?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Motherhood Statements are not on!

Recently I attended a webinar hosted by international communications experts rogenSi, where they talked about using more persuasive language in our everyday business communications. For me, this could mean meetings with colleagues, interviews with candidates, presenting my services as an executive recruitment consultant to potential clients, or pitching for a coaching gig in my other professional capacity.

The techniques discussed (see below for some quick tips), got me thinking about the level of expertise amongst the senior leaders and executives I work with every week. While highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields, sometimes even talented people lack sophistication in their communication style.

The webinar went on to say that frequently, business people use ‘motherhood statements’ to attempt to convince others. That is, statements which are too general, too broad or too bland to have any meaning – the words simply don’t cut through. Here are some examples of the platitudes I hear: “I’m highly motivated”; “I’m ready for a new challenge”; “I’m a people person”. When we make motherhood statements we’re not heard. It could be because the language we have used isn’t precise, we haven’t backed-up our claims with appropriate evidence, or we generalised about the subject without making a specific point.

Former Rogen International CEO, Neil Flett, also addresses the issue in his very readable book: The Pitch Doctor. He’s emphatic: “Business people should avoid too much motherhood speak.” Flett’s analysis and the rogenSi webinar concur that what you say and how you say it can be key to becoming more memorable in your professional interactions.

Try these 5 tips to avoid motherhood statements:

  1. Statistics – use meaningful stats, not just big numbers
  2. Facts – inarguable facts are persuasive
  3. Examples – paint a picture, use SAO (Situation, Action and Outcome) to describe it
  4. Case Studies – talking openly, when permissible, about a winning bid that led to a successful project and the results achieved
  5. Tell a story – storytelling is most powerful when related to your own personal experience, when it allows you to share your passion and demonstrates that you really mean it

Take my advice, by using convincing language in future, I guarantee you will be more persuasive… Did I just make a motherhood statement?

What do you hear in your world@work that’s just really blah blah blah?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

It’s a 3 step process: Resign with dignity; Goodbyes with self-respect; Start anew with collegial engagement.

It can be a pretty tough time that business of resigning and changing jobs. We all know it’s typically rated amongst some of the most stressful events in life.

Over the years, I have seen countless people go through the process of resigning from their current job in order to take a step up, a leap into something new, or for a fresh start. As recruiters we support candidates when they resign, as they transition out of one organisation, onboard into a new organisation and transition into a new (often more senior) position.

I experienced this myself when joining Slade Executive this year and it reminded me of the importance of my role in ensuring every career transition is as smooth as possible.

So, armed with a fresh perspective on what it is like going through a resignation, leaving a company and starting in a new one, I thought I’d share some tips that can help you with your career transition. If you follow my advice, you won’t be thinking ‘What have I done?’; I guarantee you’ll be completely focused on putting all of your energy into making a success of your new role.

The resignation process

  1. The first thing to do is be one hundred percent sure you have considered this career change carefully. Ensure you have exhausted all avenues with your current employer so you can be confident that a role with another organisation is the right option.
  2. When considering a prospective employer, make sure you have covered all aspects of the role. Consider factors such as: the type of work you will be doing, location, hours, team culture, benefits and company position in the market. Does the ethos of the organisation resonate with your own values? Are you excited by the opportunity? I put a lot of weight on my instinct (backed-up by doing my own research) when making such an important decision and encourage all of my candidates to do the same.
  3. Never let your decision to move on be solely about money. Being appropriately remunerated is important and extra dollars no doubt make a difference financially. However, without the less tangible things I have mentioned above, you may find yourself in the same situation sooner than you think – a short-term gain for longer-term pain is simply not worth it.
  4. Be respectful! Be prepared when resigning to discuss your reasons for leaving in a concise manner. Being able to articulate how you came to make that decision shows that you have not taken it lightly. If you have an exit interview, be honest. Constructive feedback reflects well on you and can help the organisation improve.

Moving out

  1. Work through to the end with integrity. After you have resigned, it can be a bit awkward. Put in all of your usual effort as if you had not resigned until your final day.
  2. Discuss an appropriate narrative with your current employer. Be professional when advising clients and colleagues that you’re leaving.
  3. Always leave on good terms. Be appreciative of the opportunity you have had and thank the people you have worked with. Remember, without the work you have accomplished with your current employer, you may not have had the opportunity to pursue a new challenge.

 Moving in

  1. Don’t bad mouth your former employer. Never do this because it really is in poor taste and doesn’t show integrity.
  2. Be yourself. During the recruitment process we assess cultural fit, so you can be comfortable that you will fit in just as you are.
  3. Take the time to get to know your team. There are many different personalities to get to know in a new organisation, so take the time to meet and build a rapport with your new team and colleagues at all levels.

I’m here to help you get it right!

I genuinely care (as all good recruiters should) about your wellbeing. I understand that this isn’t just a job, it’s your career. Your reputation is at stake and the decision to move, whether voluntarily or otherwise, impacts greatly on your personal life. It’s also my job to ensure that I know the culture of the organisations I recruit for. I investigate career progression opportunities for new hires, look at project work undertaken, and assess all of the company benefits to thoroughly equip candidates with the necessary information to ensure the role is a good fit for both parties.

If you are considering a move and would like to have a confidential conversation or are looking for talent for your organisation, please feel free to contact me.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Degrees for unicorns… where are all the category management experts?

I’ve been told I’m a “unicorn”. At first I didn’t get it (I actually had to google what it could have meant?). Then as years passed by, I’ve become acutely aware that I’m not a mythical creature, and that people with my unique combination of skills, qualifications and experience do actually exist. If that sounds arrogant, it’s not my intention. It can be lonely being a rarity in the market at times. But rest assured there is a small unicorn population out there, just like me… we’re called category management experts.

What is category management?

Category management is a collaborative process adopted by retailers and suppliers in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) to help drive business performance, by better understanding how to deliver value to customers [1].

In a nutshell, this means selling products by category rather than by brand. There is a functional and logistical element to the process, and there also is a relational and human side to the process. The PhD I’m currently undertaking is exploring these dynamics from both a qualitative and quantitative research perspective, with the aim of trying to understand competitive retail environments. Ideally category management can be a win/win for suppliers, retailers and customers, but if that turns out to be unachievable, at least I’ll discover through my research why it’s not possible.

Learning about category management

Considering the Australian retail sector makes the highest employment contribution to the Australian economy, with 1.3 million people and 11% of the workforce[2], you may expect there would be a focus on category management as part of many popular courses studied. While I completed three degrees through one of Australia’s leading universities (in business and psychology), I didn’t learn a single thing about category management or market insights through any of them! Everything I’ve learned has been either on the job (working inside a retailer, supplier, agency and now a private consultancy), or through presentations by industry partners.

My PhD results

Four years into a six year part-time PhD journey whilst juggling two companies and a family, it’s safe to assume that achieving work/life balance is not my area of expertise (try me again in two years). However I can vouch for this: if you’re passionate about finding out the why behind something, a PhD is a pretty good vehicle to help you achieve that.

Wearing my supplier hat, I want to know why the retailers aren’t accepting our new products in development (NPD)? The generic answers provided just aren’t constructive enough. As a retailer, I question why suppliers aren’t sharing holistic category insights, instead of a tunnel-vision brand-driven sales pitch. The conversation can’t be strategic or collaborative, and simply shows they aren’t on the same page. As a research consultant I want to know why both retailers and suppliers trust me more than they trust each other? The undercurrent of past politics can block all hope for future joint business planning and innovation.

The results thus far have been fascinating, if not a little concerning for the future of our retail economy. I’m still in the midst of analysing the data, but if you’re interested in learning more when I’m able to share, send me a message on LinkedIn. Until all is revealed, here are my thoughts on what we need to do in the category management and the insights space.

A unicorn’s guide to the future of category management and customer insights

  1. Bridge the current gap between academia and industry
  2. Even better, educate our young graduates before they go into industry
  3. Better still, train and support the rare skillset of CM managers and analysts on the job
  4. Rebuild the bridge between retailers and suppliers to encourage collaboration
  5. Upskill the entire industry on category management and insights
  6. Teach the value (and difference) between big data and actionable insights
  7. Identify who to hire – are they a unicorn or just a horse with a carrot?
  8. Work together on solving this industry problem.

Soon I’ll be able to tell you the why… my next job is to figure out how.

 

Rebecca Rees presented at Slade Chats in partnership with Females in Food on Thursday 19 October 2017. Contact Stuart Carruthers, Practice Leader Consumer, Retail & Sport at Slade Executive for further information about our events, if you need assistance when hiring in these sectors or are seeking career advice.


References

  1. Gooner, Morgan & Perreault, 2011; Blattberg, Fox & Purk, 1995.
  2. ABS 2015-16, cat. no. 8155.0

 

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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. 

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

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.

1/ Pace

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.

2/ Punctuality

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.

3/ People

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.

4/ Preparation

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.

5/ Pride

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?

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Challenging questions about change

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Have you ever wondered why the subject of change can provoke strong emotions?

Back in the fixed-line age of last century(!) when timed local calls were first floated by our national carrier, there was a tsunami of public rejection. Just five year later when Motorola and Nokia were offering us the new-new thing, that same ‘public’ jumped on board without questioning the fact that they would be billed on the basis of timed local calls.

I’ve heard individuals describe themselves in interviews as either good or bad at handling change. Typically it’s not as black and white as that, as we all respond to change differently, and how change per se is introduced to us, can impact our emotional and cognitive response.

  1. Do you understand your response to change?

When reflecting on your past responses to change, both in your personal and professional spheres, are you aware of what underpins your behaviour? A move interstate, a teenager pushing back, a new housing development going up next door, a relationship breakup, a new boss, a bad accident? In ‘work speak’, I’m alluding to our motivators, those forces that drive our individual and team responses to change that impact productivity.

This is a great question to ponder separately, not only when you’re interviewing a potential candidate for your organisation. Consider how you personally affect change in your organisation, how change affects your team, or broadly others in your workplace.

I often challenge candidates by asking: “When you do decide to embrace change, are you pretty loyal to that change… particularly when you are convinced it is the right decision?” I might also pose a behavioural question such as, “What is your best example of a time when you have embraced a significant change, only to discover that you might have been better off taking a more measured approach?” This is a great way of helping an individual recognise that of course, whichever way they manage change, it’s likely they handle it differently to others.

When you challenge yourself on this question, you might also find it helpful to consider how your motivations are orientated. For example, are they past, present or future orientated? What impact might that have on how you embrace change and help others embrace it as well?

  1. Talk it over or lose the advantage

When we remember that we each hold different motivators, it helps us to understand how we respond to change differently. Research such as that presented by Abraham Maslow and Deci & Ryan, also tells us that what you expect and believe are critical to your ability to embrace or reject change. Your experience, skills, knowledge and sense of self-esteem are also important factors.

Do you know what truly motivates you when it comes to change? What about your team members? Most of us think we know what motivates our behaviour and therefore, how to motivate others we work with. I wonder if we do really know, or just think we know.

Having insight into your own personality, in turn helps you to understand others, particularly on the subject of adaptability to change. At the senior leadership level it goes much deeper than personality profiling; research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan suggests personality informs approximately 30% of how we are motivated at any given moment. Context is ‘king’ when we talk about change, which means deeply exploring the situation in our conversations with candidates or colleagues.

How do others rate you and your team when it comes to leading or embracing change? What assumptions might you or others be making, and how do these impact the wider organisation?

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Posted in Slade Education, Slade Executive, The world @work