Category Archives: Case studies

What’s your story? #4: John Boylan

What's your story?

This edition of What’s your story features John Boylan, the current HR Manager at Greenpeace Australia. Since his beginning as an Army Cadet to his current position, John has had a very interesting career.

John BoylanWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

I’m currently working as Human Resources Manager for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Broadly speaking, I’m tasked with all the HR functions of Greenpeace in our geographical region.

What other activities are you involved in?

I do a bit of fitness training for a local rugby team called Sydney Irish. It’s a largely expat group and leans far more to the social than to the competitive side of things. In saying that, they’ve won two trophies in their first two years so there must be some talent there!

Aside from that, although over a year and a half in the country, I still see myself very much as a tourist in Australia and so spend my time trying to figure out what exactly is going on in Australian people’s heads…an endlessly fascinating pursuit.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

I had absolutely no expectations in school of what I was going to be become…not in a negative sense; I just had complete confidence that I’d choose my own path and not conform to what seemed the obvious choice. I still do that and I still have no idea where I’ll be in 5 years’ time…and it’s made all the difference!

What was your first job?

My first job was when I was 13 at an amusement park stall selling dreams…..well, selling the dream of being able to knock 6 cans over with a baseball and winning a teddy-bear. The lady who ran the stalls used to sit in a caravan watching us all on CCTV cameras so if you stopped yelling out “3 balls for a pound!” to customers she’d come down and give out to you. Naturally I came to dislike this woman and took great pride in blocking the camera, knocking the cans over with my hand and presenting select people with their prize.

My first REAL job I suppose was when I was accepted into the Army Cadets after school which kick-started a 12 year career as an Army Officer.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

I wouldn’t so much call it a turning point as confirmation of what I’d suspected, but when I was serving as a Lieutenant in Kosovo in 2008 I felt stymied by my role there. While the Irish Army performs an unbelievably valuable function in the peacekeeping sphere, being involved in the military side of things meant you could help, but only so much. After that, I knew I needed to get involved in a far more direct way with helping people in trouble-hit zones. I haven’t got there yet, but that’s the goal.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Che Guevara. Reading his works and about his life in my early 20s completely restored my faith that there are leaders out there who will choose the harder right over the easier wrong, and that will act with disciplined selflessness in order to inspire orders through leading by example. He was intelligent, pragmatic, completely uncompromising, and guided by a personal set of morals, values and ethics that I could personally empathise with.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I’d like to put my skills from the army into practice by coordinating international aid elements on the ground in disaster-hit areas or war-torn regions.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

I’d tell him that, as he suspected, nothing you do will totally meet your expectations, so as soon as you feel things have run their course, get out…..and trust in your ability to find what you’re looking for.

What’s your story? #3: Chris Page

What's your story?

Today’s career interview with Chris Page, National Manager – New Projects at Napier & Blakeley, clearly illustrates there is more than one way to get where you want to be!

One thing that is clear from the discussions I’ve had at recent conferences about the future of work is that many of Australia’s issues with education and employment stem from our relatively recent focus on getting a university education. Aspiring to a degree is not a problem in itself, except that this goal may be at the expense of other forms of equally valuable forms of education for school leavers – both in terms of individual skills and the economy as a whole.

We first ‘met’ Chris in Group Training Australia‘s Network Magazine (March 2015):

Excerpt

Here’s what Chris had to tell us about what he’s learnt on his career journey…

What’s your current position and what do you do?

This is actually a complex question. My title is quite vague and for good reason – to not put boundaries on my internal function here at Napier & Blakeley. To describe my role I initially look to my CV and LinkedIn profile and which says

As head of the new projects department in the National Tax Business Unit I am responsible for the growth of the National Property Tax Business throughout Australia.

I’m also concentrating on growing the Napier & Blakeley brand internationally, and increasing recognition throughout the Property Development, Construction and Investment Industry sectors as the leading provider in Transaction, Asset & Development Advisory, Quantity Surveying, Sustainable Property Solutions and Property Depreciation and Insurance Assessment Advice.

Putting what I do into a simple sentence is hard simply because my role here at Napier & Blakeley is really quite diverse. I do a lot of Business Development in varying sectors in the Property Industry, continuously growing the Napier & Blakeley brand.

I’m also responsible for the growth of a new Tax Business Unit within the company which we’ve been working on for nearly a year – it is being launched and goes to market this coming July. All very exciting – and of course keeps me busy.

What other activities are you involved in?

Outside of work – well not as much as I’d like – I’m rather time poor.

I try to keep it simple. I have a strict gym routine, attending the gym religiously regardless where I am travelling, or staying, at a minimum of 6 days a week. This for me is probably the most important part of my day. Not only because there is no better stress relief other than sweating it out on the gym floor but also because entertaining clients often means eating and drinking far too much – all of which would go straight to my waist if it weren’t for gym!

I am an avid rock climber – yet another form of keeping fit, but also mind clearing. Climbing a wall requires constant problem solving – keeps my brain active in an unusual and physically active way.

Let’s not forget my passion for wine and food – this is something I spend a great deal of time enjoying.

Inside work – LOTS.  Too much even.  I tend to take on more than I should. It’s the price of absolute career commitment. 

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

Absolutely not. Nowhere near it.

I finished school quite young – and at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do – apart from the typical high school dreams. Great job, lots of travel, lots of money, all the glory.

Unfortunately something we don’t quite understand as teenagers is the iceberg theory. When it comes to successful careers generally people outside only ever see the top of the iceberg – the success and glory. And as we know with icebergs, the bigger portion is under the ocean hidden from view.  Stress, responsibility, sacrifice, risk, persistence regardless of challenges or failures on the way. Endless hard work.

But it’s all worth it, for that small bit of super white bright ice soaking in the sunshine at the top.

I think I learnt rather quickly – by being thrown in the deep end in the early years of my career that there is more hard work than there is reward.

I had more work than I did have hours in the day. But I fought through it – always taking on more than I could handle. Biting off more than I could ever chew – but I chewed through it all. Perhaps at great personal and social expense. But if you want it bad enough – you will do whatever it costs to get it done. Success is by no means easy – it wouldn’t be rewarding if it were.

When I finished school I thought eventually I’d end up in Construction Management or something related to it. And I have done that, from Contracts Administration on hundred million dollar construction sites, to being project manager and development manager on sites just as big. Then on to acquisition and development management in the global property market – something I never even dreamt of doing, let alone before the age of 30.

And now I’ve jumped fence to the consultancy side – working with a great deal of developers, asset and fund managers across the country as well as Southern Asia. A lot of my work these days is within the Property Tax sector. Tax is definitely something I never ever considered being remotely involved in – however property tax is one of the good taxes – it’s the one of the few taxes that gives back!! It’s nice to work in a business unit that helps property investors make more money!!!

When you remove common boundaries or as I call them, our comfort zones, and you let your career take the wild paths without fear of the ‘what if’ then this is when your career will take you to places and heights you never expected.

What was your first job?

I was 13 – far too young to have a legal job, but I was tall and looked older than 13 so managed to sneak my way into my first ever job.

Living on the Gold Coast – when I wasn’t at school or at home I was mostly likely found on one of the two ice rinks ice skating and playing ice hockey. Naturally I started working at one of the rinks. It was, at the time my ideal dream job – being paid whilst getting to skate. Loved it. I worked at ice rinks on the Gold Coast and then down in Melbourne (after a family move at 15) up until the last possible moment when university and my apprenticeship took all my time.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

This is a hard question. There are a couple of turning points.

Spending a few weeks in Canberra at the GTA  (Group Training Australia) ‘Today’s Skills, Tomorrow’s Leaders’ program was definitely an eye opening event. It lifted my ideas of what is possible to a whole new level.

I think travel is also something that can help us grow, or act as a turning point. When I moved to London – my entire life was shaken upside down. New job, in a new country, new everything – it challenged me to a new way of thinking. Primarily because it exposed me to a whole new level of success. Success you don’t see too often in Australia. The abundance of successful multi-millionaires and billionaires that I was lucky enough to learn from in the UK really taught me that success is not something you get or are given (well for those lucky to be born into it perhaps this is the case).

Success is something you sacrifice for, something you dedicate your whole life to earning. It’s the reward that we are lucky to earn after a life time of effort, hard work but most of all smart business decision making.

But let’s not forget success is not only wealth – it’s family, and life in general. I think it was a turning point meeting people who had obtained great wealth and success at the sacrifice of much else. Family, friends – time.

Learning that success is more than just wealth and power – this teaches us that we need to work hard towards a happy balance. And that will be something different for everyone.

 Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

I admire a great many people. Kerry Packer is someone I grew up admiring, he was born into wealth, but he grew up in an era where you worked for it. He lived life to its fullest – made good and bad decisions, but regardless of outcome continuously fought to better himself and his businesses.

Aurelio Peccei, an Italian scholar and industrialist of the 20th century is probably one of my all-time most admired individuals to read about and more importantly learn from. He is perhaps best known as the founder of ‘The Club of Rome’ but for me, he was a man who survived imprisonment, torture and very nearly execution during WWII, he is the one man who turned post war Fiat Corporation into the mighty international beast of a company that it became in the late 20th century.

When Aurelio founded The Club of Rome, he introduced the world to the idea of an international think tank. A forum for scholars of all nations to come and think aloud – to present the world with ideas of how to better humanity for the greater good.

 

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Limitations? What limitations? By simply thinking ‘if there were no limitations’ you’re already placing them upon yourself. There are no limitations!

As I’ve always said, people who tell you to pull your head out of the clouds simply say it because they themselves are too scared to see what’s above them.

Limitations are something that generations before us were guided by. People were born poor and were to stay poor, or they were born into wealth and it was their ‘birth right’ to remain wealthy throughout life.

Thank god for the industrial revolution.

Today people can be born anywhere in the world, from any family, any race, any religion, any anything and become wealthy, successful and powerful. The only limitation we have are those which we lock ourselves into.

If you truly want it – you will do whatever it takes to get it – or die trying. If you want it that bad that is.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

This question makes me laugh. Because the only thing I would say is “slow the F**k down Chris”. (Excuse my French!)

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a career. We’re placed under so much pressure these days that we forget to stop and smell the roses.

So simply put, the only think I would advise myself on is time. Slow down, the one thing we learn with age is that the journey is where the fun happens. The destination is death so why limit our journey?

Take risks, have fun, work hard and enjoy where life takes you without worrying about ‘what if’!

A new way to recruit

You sense the new person you need for your business is ‘out there, somewhere’.  But how do you find them?

While researching an article on new recruitment tools for SMEs, I was talking to our client and friend, Jo Muirhead. Coincidentally, Jo had just posted a new vacancy on Facebook. Instead of a traditional Facebook advertisement, this was a normal post with a link to a page on her website containing a video of Jo talking about the job plus details of how to apply.

This innovative approach has some key benefits

  • Jo started by being crystal clear about what she wanted – and equally clear about what she didn’t want.
  • Facebook is the perfect medium for reaching her target candidates: anyone looking for a part-time PA role in their local area.
  • Using video allows the potential candidates to see Jo and get a real sense of what it might be like working with her, giving them the chance to screen themselves out if they don’t think they’re a good fit.
  • Applicants were asked to include a video of themselves explaining why they think they’re suited to the role. This would require a level of confidence that matches what’s needed to perform well in the role.
  • The post and video leave little room for doubt, saving time on both sides of the recruitment equation.
  • Promoting the role via Facebook is free and Jo’s Facebook friends and followers were able to easily share the job with their connections.

Did it work?

Jo kindly gave me an update this week (4 May):

I had two applicants only, which meant I didn’t need to wade through 100’s of resumes and pay someone to review all that wrong and poor job application information. The video was certainly the test of courage that kept people away.

That being said, both applicants were incredible and if only 1 had applied I would have been more than happy. Having to choose between the two was tough but it came down to skills and teachability.

What do you think?

Would you be willing to give something like this a try?

You can find more tips on using social media in our e-book ‘Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice’.

Perhaps you already have experience using social media in your recruitment process. How has it work for you?

 

What’s your story? #2: Libby Bleakley

What's your story?

Libby Bleakley is the co-founder and project manager of the Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude (Centre of Learning for Youth) in Timor-Leste.

Libby recently agreed to share her career story here. Read on to find out how a girl who didn’t like the Police came to build a career as a police officer – and where that career has taken her.

Libby BleakleyWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

I am a Federal Police Officer currently working in Crime Prevention. I had spent 19 years as a NSW Police Officer working in general duties and then specializing in working in child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim support, youth issues, indigenous issues and crime prevention.

I then joined the Australian Federal Police and spent 6 years in the International Deployment Group – I was posted to the Northern Territoty for 7 months to live and work in a remote Indigenous Coommunity, then to Sudan to work as a peace keeper with the United Nations for 8 months and then to Timor-Leste for 1 year with the United Nations living in the jungle and a further 2 years on the AFP mission teaching in the Timorese Police Academy.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No – I didn’t even like Police! I had no real idea what I wanted at school.

What was your first job?

I studied a 2 year Child Care Certificate course at TAFE and taught in pre-schools and early childhood centres for 8 years.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

I was a victim of a violent assault and was lucky to survive. I wanted to join the Police to make a difference in other victim’s lives and I successfully implemented and co-ordinated the first Victim Support Unit for the NSW Police Service.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Many people in my life and many people I have crossed paths with all over the world. People with strength of human spirit that survive no matter the adversity. People who genuinely love others and care for them no matter what walks of life they are from.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I would open thousands of community centres all over the world – especially in war torn and traumatised countries. I am currently building a youth and community centre in Timor-Leste . This project has been developed to establish a facility for the Timorese youth and community that will develop skills, character and leadership through educational workshops; crime prevention workshops; language courses and fitness training – to build strong social foundations and to prevent crime within the community.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Always have respect – but be able to push the boundaries in what you dream and believe in. Be creative and adventurous – surround yourself with positive like minded people and move on from the negative ones. Always have time to look after others on this planet – not matter how small your action may appear to you, it may be life changing to the recipient. Be honest and fair and open minded.

Life is what YOU make it, no matter what you are presented with in your life you have the choice to be a victim or to take control of your own destiny.

But most of all, remember  – “There is no such thing as a bad day. There are only rainy days, sunny days, wet days, cold days but never a bad day” (as told to me by a wonderful old Indigenous Elder).

If you feel inspired by Libby’s story and would like to help her build the first youth and community centre, please email susanr@balanceatwork.com.au and I’ll be happy to send you more information.

UPDATE FROM LIBBY – FEBRUARY 2017

• My 14 months leave from the AFP has come to an end and I return to work on 2 March and I am happy to say that I have achieved everything I set out to do and more during this year in Timor-Leste. I feel confident the Centre will continue to run well under the management and supervision of our staff, Dede and Atisis Da Costa.

• Dede and I spent several days at SOFPOPE and the Ministry of Justice registering our Centre as a Private Centre. We should receive our Certificate within the next 2 months.

H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes with Manager Dede and Libby Bleakley
PLUS FITNESS GYM:

Our Plus Fitness gym was opened on 10 October and we now have 300 members with more than 200 members on a waiting list. We are happy to have several females now attending as well as many rival gang members (Kork, Kerasakti and PSHT), who are working happily together training and forming positive relationships.

Each member of the gym is required to donate 1 hour a week to work as volunteer security on the front gate. All members are responsible for cleaning the gym and gardens at the end of the day. At this stage cleaning is going well but security needs more work, although it has improved with members taking initiative to encourage volunteers.

SEWING CENTRE:
Our Manager for our Sewing Centre, Silvia has been training Tina and Domingas for the past 4 months and we now have a new member from our English class joining them 2 days a week – they are making DFG kits, gym bags and towels. We do not sell our DFG Kits but we do sell gym items – 50% of money made goes to the individual who made it and 50% to the Centre for ongoing running costs.
I submitted a funding proposal to the Department of Foreign Affairs (Australian Embassy) in relation to funding for our new project on “sustainable kitchen gardens”. Our Manager Dede and I met with Johannah Leay in January, who is looking into funding us $15,000 (yet to be confirmed) to commence the program.
We shall employ the 3 women in our sewing Centre to produce the heavy felt bags – make the organic coffee ground compost on site and grow vegetable seedlings to fill the bags prior to selling them.
We are in the process of extending our front fence of the property giving us an extra 3 metres of land to set up our composting bins.

ENGLISH CLASSES:
This past month we were fortunate to have Tammy Chu and Anna Barletta from the Rotary Club of Nth Sydney and the World Computer Exchange (WCE) attend our Centre. The women have been working for the past 12 months on raising funds and putting together 12 laptop computers incorporating English and maths educational modules along with “Jolly Phonics”, used in our English curriculum. They identified our Centre as an ideal recipient that WCE can add significant value to.
WCE is a 15-year global education non-profit organization whose aim is to connect youths in under-privileged communities to the skills, opportunities and understanding of computers that have various education modules, including English and math.
Tammy and Anna worked hard for the week they were in our Centre and we have now successfully started our computer English courses. We will have 3 x 10 week semesters in a 12 month period – Basic English 1,2 and 3. We have a total of 120 students in our English classes that commenced on 6 February, 2017.

Tammy and Anna from WCE (Rotary Nth Sydney)our teachers and Manager
We have continued working with Simon Krieg from the “Centre of Human Development”, who has kindly donated the TESOL courses to us as well as assisting us with the English curriculum and Jolly Phonics modules.
Dede and I attended INDMO this week, which is a National Institute for Labour Force Development – it is the national regulator body who regulates the development of national qualification or national certificates and accreditations. We are seeking to have our English course accredited this year.
We interviewed several applicants for the head English teacher position and decided to employ Gido Feliz for the 24 hrs a week teaching students and supervising our 5 volunteer teachers. We are very happy with his professionalism and teaching skills.

AFTERNOON TEA WITH XANANA AND 7 MINISTERS:
H.E Xanana Gusmao has attended our Centre a few times in the last 2 months. He brought his 3 son’s from Australia to train at our Plus Fitness gym and visited on other occasions. He is so impressed by our members and the fact that rival gangs are making peace and friendships at our facility that he asked us to run an afternoon tea for our members which he assisted in catering for.
Libby Bleakley and Dede Da Costa greet H.E Xanana Gusmao
On Friday afternoon 10 February, we had 250 members attend our afternoon tea catered for by Mana Nina catering. I conducted a fitness and bodybuilding/weight lifting seminar.
The following Ministers were also in attendance –
Minister of Social Solidarity – H.E Isabel Amaral Guterres
Minister of Tourism – H.E Francisco Calbuadi Lay
Minister of Defence – H.E Sirilio Cristavao
Minister of interior – H.E Longinos Monteiro
Secretary State SOFPOPE – H.E Ilidio Ximenes
Vice Minister Administration and Statal – H.E Tomas Cabral
National TV and Educational TV (National) also came to film the event – airing it on both channels as news headlines.
H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes spoke at length to Dede and I in relation to us building 2 more Centres in Timor-Leste as ours is so successful.

MEDIA – Timor Learning Centre FB page
In January we were so fortunate to have a film production company from New York attend our Centre. 3 wonderful film producers were touring the world making humanitarian films about “the gift of giving” and chose our Centre to make a promotional film to assist us in raising funds. His Excellencies Xanana Gusmao and Ilidio Ximenes were also in attendance. The film will be in virtual reality and people all over the world can view it on their smart phones when they download the free apt. This will be available sometime later this year.

FINANCES – The WCE women, Tammy and Anna raised enough funds to not only install our 12 laptops and systems but to also pay for a permanent teacher for our English class for 1 year, with extra funds for stationery etc.

Although we have now paid our lease until January 2018, we still require more funds for the ongoing running costs each year (approx. $30,000 AUD)

We are currently in the process of designing our small traditional house that shall be our library room (Dede our Centre Manager is also an architect). We shall then source some quotes and concentrate on fundraising early next year.

CONCLUSION –

It is evident that we have the total support of H.E Xanana Gusmao, H.E Ilidio Ximenes and many other Government Ministers that support our Centre. They have been impressed that this was created by 2 off duty AFP women with the help of Rotary, family, friends and other companies and groups. They have stated that it is definitely the first of its kind in Timor-leste and has already proved to be a success – changing communities and decreasing violence.

I am proud to say that in the next 2 years we should see 2 more Centres emerge within this Nation and I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of those people who have made our dream for Timor-Leste come true. Please don’t forget us as we continue our quest to support the beautiful communities in this country.

Although I return to the AFP to continue my work on 1 March, 2017 my intention is to continue to travel to Timor-Leste and work at our Centre for a month every few months. I liaise most days with our Centre Manager and receive weekly reports from him, allowing me to be informed of our Centre activities.

I have been personally invited by H.E Xanana Gusmao to assist him in showing our virtual reality film in Timor Plaza on 20 May and shall return around this time.

Libby Bleakley
Rotary Club of Blackheath
District 9685 Australia
Director
Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude no Comunidade
Centre of Learning for Youth & Community
Timor-Leste
RAWCS Project: 33-2014-15
Phone: +61411032961
Email: ebleakley@live.com

What’s your story? #1: Dr Howard Bell

What's your story?

The first volunteer in our interview chair is Dr Howard Bell OAM, Principal Solicitor at WorkCover NSW.

When I first met Howard Bell, he was my boss and we were working in the chemistry department at the University of Sydney. That was 35 years ago and a lot has happened since then! We hope you enjoy reading his story.

Howard BellWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

Principal Lawyer at WorkCover. It’s the best job in the world. I love it because it helps to build a safer and healthier New South Wales. WorkCover, as a regulator administers the State’s work health and safety laws. We provide legal services to WorkCover and also other agencies within Safety, Return to Work and Support. I am also an elected Health and Safety Representative.

What other activities are you involved in?

I am also a part-time officer in the Australian Army Reserve where I have been an instructor, project officer, company commander, the Executive Officer of  University Regiment and had lots of interesting and rewarding roles in the Reserves, including having deployed overseas peace keeping in East Timor. I have, addition  been a part time teacher at TAFE NSW and taught at various universities – most recently at Charles Sturt supervising post graduate doctoral students. I have also enjoyed an active volunteering life with community organisations including Amnesty International, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Cana Communities, music and folk festivals, the trade union movement and other great organisations that strive to make the world a better place especially for battlers,  the homeless community and people who need help with their struggles.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No. When I was at school I wanted to go out and become the world’s greatest chemist – but a later interest in Law and social justice led me towards my current career choices.

What was your first job?

Laboratory assistant and landscape gardener.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Becoming a dad. And becoming a grandad. These events have inspired me especially.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My children and grand-children. And people who follow their hearts and pursue their dreams. And people who live to love, to be happy, to build peace and kindness in the world.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I would build 105,000 homes across Australia so that all our homeless Australians would have a safe, loving and happy home in which to live.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” (Eleanor Roosevelt). And the world is your oyster.

Do you know someone whose career story belongs in our ‘What’s your story?’ series? Please let us know!

Latest SLICE Survey results

Our latest survey of financial planning practices was published this week…

The aim of the SLICE survey, which runs 3 times a year (each time on a different theme) is to provide financial planning practices with an opportunity to share their views and insights with their peers and build an understanding of the most effective approaches to a broad range of hot button topics that challenge practices’ efficiency, profitability and viability. The latest SLICE survey focuses on financial planners marketing strategies.

Survey authors, Peter Dawson of The Dawson Partnership and Susan Rochester of Balance at Work, say the latest survey provides data to confirm what they have observed among financial planning practices.

The vast majority of financial planners surveyed have a marketing plan (83%) with 73% of those with a plan saying they put the plan together either on their own or with their business partner(s) and 47% drawing on the resources of a practice development manager. 33% had input from a business coach.

SLICE-3-SURVEY-RESULTS-figure-1

‘Up until a few years ago our marketing plan was pretty rudimentary but as time has gone by we have adopted a more structured approach with regular marketing planning and review meetings that we hold each quarter. This has helped us keep a focus on our marketing campaign making sure it remains relevant to our business and helps us achieve our goals.’
Principal SME financial planning practice

Of those businesses with a marketing plan 53% said that having a plan in place has opened up new opportunities with 40% saying that they were unsure if having a marketing plan was responsible for new opportunities that arose for their businesses.

While most respondents don’t use an external source to assist them put together their marketing plan 50% said that they would be open to doing so as they felt that someone with the knowledge and experience could add value to their marketing planning.

‘I suppose it’s too easy to get bogged down in the day to day work in a one man practice and my approach to marketing is a bit hit and miss but I do recognize the value of having a marketing plan and would be willing to hire a marketing consultant.’
Sole practitioner

The main marketing strategy used by the most respondents was utilising formal business partnerships (33%) followed by direct referrals from existing clients (28%), while 11% use networking as their primary strategy.

‘We have traditionally gained most of our business from our clients but it got to the stage where we realised that to grow to where we wanted to be we would need to look at other means of growing the business. We had some relationships with local accounting firms and worked towards developing these. This strategy has led to an increase in revenue of 22% each year over the last three years.’
CEO SME Financial Planning group.

SLICE-3-SURVEY-RESULTS-figure-2

‘Although the majority of respondents say they track the effectiveness of their marketing via a range of means, there was a surprisingly wide variation in the sophistication of their processes. While some follow a process where all leads are tracked, monitored and the source identified, then report on results regularly to see what is working and what is a waste of time, others have very little in place.’
Susan Rochester

According to our respondents social media is not a major strategy in their current marketing plans and a number of respondents made comments including ‘Social media is just a lot of noise,’ ‘Social media maybe ok for an on line business but our firm is a people to people business and nothing can replace that’ and ‘My kids use Facebook and I just don’t get it’.

‘We expected to find one or two respondents reporting social media as their main marketing strategy. This was not the case in this sample, although comments indicated that practices are using social media to support other strategies, for example by sharing newsletter articles via social platforms.’
Peter Dawson

However social media wasn’t without some support with one respondent stating that she was open to using social media as ‘it’s all about connectivity and if I can interact with people at a professional level on social media that can only be good for my business’.

SLICE-3-SURVEY-RESULTS-figure-3

The practices that responded to this survey were mostly more than 10 years old (78%), with 17% who had been in business 6-10 years and only 6% for 5 years or less. The majority had fewer than 10 staff (72%) although 28% of respondents were from firms with 21 or more staff.

Concluding remarks

The Slice 3 survey has revealed a strong focus on financial planners developing structured marketing plans and that these are far from static documents as most reviewed their marketing plans on a regular basis. Respondents were focused on building their business by drawing on their relationships with their clients and through formal business relationships. Many are yet to embrace social media as a major part of their marketing plan, although this may change in time as attitudes shift.

For more information about the SLICE survey, contact Peter Dawson directly on 0418 601 245 or emailpeter@dawsonpartnership.com.au

How can assessments assist low SES students?

This is a question we were asked recently. We are sharing what we found out so you can use it too.

Often students from low social economic status (SES) backgrounds may lack access to the types of career decision-making support that comes from growing up in a family where professional educations are taken for granted. If the students are first-in-family at tertiary studies, they often don’t have good role models to talk with and rely heavily on the university, TAFE or school careers advisers to inform them about what to expect from careers that require tertiary qualifications.

Why would you use psychometric assessments with low SES students?

  • In order to give them an accurate and timely awareness of their workplace preferences and personal strengths, so that they can fully capitalise on their abilities, skills and suitability to their careers so that they can be productive and financially independent as soon as possible.
  • The combination of assessments, career counselling and education allows low SES students to fully appreciate their most preferred career options at an early stage.
  • Providing accurate, objective assessment that matches them against the right career, at the beginning of their careers is the ultimate gateway to help them move out of their current SES grouping.

Why would you use Harrison Assessments in particular?

  • “The system is designed for all levels, including low income students.” Dr Dan Harrison, 3 September 2014.
  • There are no questions in the assessment that could be viewed as discriminating against low SES background.
  • Although we do not collect data for SES when using the questionnaire, data for other factors indicates there are no adverse impacts of the assessment. Harrison Assessments keep a close eye on any potential for adverse impacts in order to ensure EEO legislation compliance.
  • It has been used successfully with students of low SES background in a recent US case study.
  • If required, the questionnaire can be delivered via a ‘simplified English’ questionnaire and/or a pencil and paper test.
  • Harrison Assessments does not measure personality alone. The questions also relate to a person’s interests, preferred tasks and work environment, decision making, management styles, motivations and values, communication, leadership, interpersonal styles and workplace cultural fit.

With many thanks to Patricia Parish, Careers Education Consultant at University of Western Sydney, for her valuable insight in this area.

Do you have any experiences working with low SES background clients that you’d like to share?

We look forward to reading them below.

3 steps to building a better business case

career help

Are you required to apply for money for initiatives you wish to implement or purchases you wish to make?

When you are putting forward a case for funding for a project, it’s easy to slip into thinking the numbers are all that matter. Yes, the price is important, but it never tells the full story.

You can easily improve your chances of gaining support for your project by demonstrating you can answer some fundamental questions.  Here are the questions we suggest our prospective Career Navigator clients need to be able to answer before they even start talking about the money:

1. What are you hoping to gain by using this product or service, or completing this project?

How will this purchase or project benefit your organisation and/or your clients? For example, you may expect it to help you supply higher quality client services, or to serve your clients more efficiently. Can you clearly and precisely articulate the benefits so they can be easily understood by people who are not experts in your field?

2. How will you know when that outcome has been achieved?

Detail exactly how you will measure if your project has been a success. For example, suitable metrics may be the number of new clients served, time spent with clients, client feedback ratings, time saved and costs cut. Of course to be able to make a comparison, you will need data for your current situation, before the purchase and/or implementation.

3. Is there anything else you need to know?

You need to feel confident you are making the right choice so if there’s anything at all that is unclear, seek more clarification and/or evidence as to why this proposal should be supported. Examples of further information may be white papers, case studies, benchmark or validity data, or opportunities to speak to existing users.

Being prepared in this way – while also paying attention to the financial viability of all options – supercharges your credibility as a business-minded partner in the decision-making process.

Then it’s time to talk about how to make your dream a reality.

What do you think?  Would you follow these steps for better results?

Share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback below.

[Thanks, Rachel Bourke, for providing the inspiration for this article!]

Using Harrison Assessments to develop staff

workplace training

In our experience, a well-planned combination of tools and activities gives the best outcomes when coaching and training employees.

Here’s an example where Harrison Assessments was used as part of an integrated approach to staff development.

How could you use an integrated approach to staff development in your organisation?

Case Study: Online Recruiting

The first time I met Frank Stillone, managing director of The Silent Partner, he was looking for a ‘robust’ recruitment process.  

Finding the right people was difficult.  Most didn’t live up to what was required for the role.  Mistakes and poor performance from his staff were costing him business.  He needed a better way of finding the right person who would be an excellent fit.  Together we were able to develop a process that delivered the results Frank wanted to achieve.

Background

The Silent Partner, in Sydney, is a provider of virtual office, calendar management and help desk solutions.  The growth of the business requires regular recruitment of additional virtual receptionists to deliver these services.  Frank had previously done his own recruitment, with mixed results.

Designing the job requirements

Using his knowledge of what makes someone successful in the virtual receptionist role, Frank and I carefully selected the essential and desirable criteria, along with those characteristics he would prefer to avoid.

For each of the eligibility criteria – skills, qualifications, experience – points were allocated to each possible answer, depending on the job requirements.  For example, some of the company’s clients are medical specialists and allied health professionals, so bonus points were awarded for experience as a medical receptionist.

For the suitability criteria – personality, motivation, work preferences, interests – we were able to add relevant traits and rate them in terms of their importance and frequency of use on the job.

Setting up the campaign

Once the criteria were in place, Frank was ready to start taking applications.  He placed an advertisement on an online job board with a link back to The Silent Partner’s ‘Jobs’ page.  The advertisement also stated that the only way to apply was by following this link.

When an applicant reached the web page, they could see the job description with an ‘apply now’ button at the bottom.  By clicking on this button, the applicant would arrive at the beginning of the online application form.

The application process

Once they reached the application form, applicants were first presented with details of the job.  If they chose to proceed with an application, they completed their name and contact details before proceeding to the first part of the online questionnaire (eligibility).

Answering the eligibility questions took only a few minutes.  The applicant was then asked to upload their CV and cover letter.  Depending on their score in the first section, they were asked to proceed to the second part of the questionnaire (suitability).  Completing this section takes about 20 minutes.

The results

A total of 269 people viewed the online application form.  Of these, 69 decided not to apply after viewing the job description while a further 27 didn’t proceed after entering their personal details, therefore self-selecting themselves out of the process.

This left 173 applicants who completed the eligibility questions and/or resume upload, including 132 who went on to complete the suitability questionnaire.

The system automatically short-listed 24 candidates with scores over the pre-determined cut-off.  The CVs of the top 15 short-listed candidates were reviewed to decide who would proceed to preliminary structured telephone interviews.

Frank interviewed five people in the preliminary round.  Two candidates were selected for more detailed interviews and both were offered – and accepted – a virtual receptionist position.

The benefits

The Silent Partner’s recruitment process had rewards in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficient

  • Frank didn’t have to receive and respond to 269 emailed applications, saving him days of unproductive work.
  • Once set up, the process was automatic and did not require management or input until Frank was ready to close the campaign and interview.
  • Frank only had to read the resumes of short-listed candidates.
  • Telephone interviews were structured and effective in further screening of candidates.
  • Candidates could be notified of their progress directly from the recruitment system.

Effective

  • Frank was able to monitor the campaign via a dedicated dashboard.
  • By deciding in advance what he did and didn’t want, all applicants were objectively and automatically screened.
  • Frank estimated the new process took less than 20% of the time he’s devoted to similar recruitment exercises in the past, representing a significant cost saving to the business.
  • All applications were checked for consistency by the system, flagging applicants who may not have been honest in their answers to the questionnaire.
  • Only those candidates who met pre-set criteria were considered for the role.

Frank says:  At the end of the day, your company is just a collection of people doing stuff and whether that company is Apple or Merv’s Mowing Services it doesn’t really matter.  If you want to be successful you need to get the right people doing things right.  As small business owners the same applies to us:  We can be experts at many things but we cannot be an expert in everything. That’s why we need to bring in someone with specialised knowledge and tools to help us find the talent we need to grow.

Download the case study

If I knew then what I know now…

Wouldn’t you love to go back to being 16 – when you knew it all?

Teenagers are a great reminder that we don’t – and can’t – know everything.  The best we can do is limit the extent and the risks of our ignorance.

One very rewarding aspect of our work is giving people information about themselves and those around them that allows them to manage risk.

Here are some cases where we are providing this knowledge and changing businesses:

1. A business owner developing a succession plan with prospective equity partners

What they now know:

  • Values, strengths and challenges of each person;
  • Similarities and differences in what motivates them; and
  • Potential areas of conflict.

2. A management team planning a restructure

What they now know:

  • Who is in the right job;
  • Who has the potential to fill a new role; and
  • Who should probably be moved on.

3. A practice manager developing to take on more of the business responsibilities

What he now knows:

  • His strengths that may be perceived as challenges by others;
  • How to manage time better; and
  • How to express himself in ways that will motivate others while feeling authentic.

4. A manager developing her team

What she now knows:

  • Effective ways to communicate with and inspire her team;
  • The balance and range of strengths on her team; and
  • Individual team members’ expectations.

5. A business owner who is ready to hire more staff

What he now knows:

  • The characteristics people need to be successful in the role(s);
  • What he definitely doesn’t want; and
  • How to objectively measure performance potential.

Every one of the situations above are very expensive if you get them wrong.  Doesn’t it make sense to find out as much as you can before you make that investment?

How’s your balance?

A recent conversation with Thea Foster of Added Value Corporation prompted this article. Thanks for the inspiration, Thea!

We all know that to run a successful business, department or team requires consistent achievement across several disciplines.  Typically we need to perform well across finance, marketing, sales, service delivery, planning, technology and people.  And it’s quite common to see one or more areas get more attention, while others are neglected.  Thea calls this ‘playing favourites’ and most of us do it.

To find out if you play favourites, make a list of the outstanding issues in each aspect of your work (use the list above as headings if you like).  If you have a good balance across your scope of management, you will have roughly the same number of outstanding issues under each heading.

Perhaps you found one or two areas with a longer list of outstanding issues?

My prediction is that those are the areas of management you feel least comfortable handling.  It’s human nature to tackle the easy stuff first.  What comes easily to us will naturally be attended to first.  Unfortunately, that often means a log-jam of other issues that build up and stop us from moving forward.

You are not alone.

‘John’ is just great at finding new prospects (marketing), converting them to clients (sales) and providing them with all they could ever expect (service delivery).  You could say these activities are his favourites.  What John enjoys less is budgeting (finances, planning), dealing with IT (technology) and involving his staff in the business (people).  John knows these things are all important, but for him it’s more fun to be out there talking with clients.

Have I just described someone you know?

Or you might know ‘Jenny’.  Jenny has elegant systems in place to keep track of every action (technology, service delivery, people, planning) and every dollar (finances).  What she doesn’t like to do is tell the world about the amazing services she can offer (marketing, sales).

Both John and Jenny are not realising their full potential because the unaddressed issues are holding them back.

Here are the steps for improving your balance

1. Identify your ‘favourites’ – the tasks that you find easier than others activities.

2. Decide whether you are prepared to spend less time on your favourites so you can spend more time getting on top of issues in other areas.

3. If yes, identify your priorities, allocate the time and start taking some action now.

4. If you prefer to continue working on your favourite activities – which is where you will be happiest and most productive, take the time to identify what you should get someone else to do for you and how.

What are you avoiding right now?  What’s it costing you?

Once you’ve been through the exercise above, change will only happen if you make it happen.  Finding a coach or mentor to guide, support and keep you accountable will certainly help you to reach a better balance – sooner.

Remember to let me know how you intend to improve your balance.

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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