A duck and a dream

I had the pleasure of watching arguably the world’s best magician David Copperfield live in Melbourne recently. The magic itself was awesome...

17 reasons you should always carry a book with you

1. As someone who used to spend a lot of time waiting for real estate clients to show up – I know that clients / appointments / people in general are often late...

Reality Television your way to Success

I think I’m one of the only “motivational speakers” (not that I call myself that) who will openly admit that I watch television. I watch bad television too… even… dare I say it… reality television.

Where is the love?!

One of my businesses, Elephant Property, works in the notoriously under appreciated category of residential property management. The old adage in property management...

The power of the word

I’m quite distraught. I was eating my personal trainer approved afternoon snack of 12 almonds (my suggestion of 12 Tim Tams: not approved)...

Friday, October 26, 2007

John Ilhan – nothing crazy about him!

I’m often asked by aspiring business people what I believe to be the one key thing they can do to ensure their business success. Without fail I almost always say that I feel making a commitment to becoming a life long learner is the only way to stay at the top of your game.

I often suggest they find someone that inspires them and take them out for coffee or ask them some questions or read their book. Sometimes this scares people a little bit. Their comments to me of “what if the person says they don’t have time, or they won’t answer my questions” is usually met by me saying “well then you’re in no worse place than you started are you?”.

One thing I’ve overwhelmingly found in my quest for knowledge however, is that if you approach them correctly and with respect, the most successful business people are often the most approachable and generous.

I certainly found this to be true with one of my business mentors, John Ilhan, who I was saddened to hear passed away this week at the age of only 42. Not only has Australia lost one of its most innovative entrepreneurial icons – it’s also lost a bloody nice guy.

I met John at an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year event in 2005. I was almost speechless at meeting him, but was even more blown away by the fact that he took about 30 minutes of his time that night to share his thoughts about business with me. He gave me ideas, guidance and encouragement.

His generosity didn’t end there however. John agreed to come down to Tasmania to speak to hundreds of Launceston business people at my request (which I sent fully expecting a no). He spoke on stage for around an hour, shared what he knew, made a sizeable donation to the charity we were supporting and also took another half an hour to speak with me about my business goals and aspirations.

I know from my experiences with John was that he loved his family, that he was an inspirational business person and that he was happy and eager to share what he had learnt. John Ilhan the business person made the pages of BRW and thorough his business he’s left an amazing legacy. If other people’s personal experiences with John are anything like mine, the impact he’s made by generously sharing his knowledge has left just as important a legacy.

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How to become a Rock Star Boss when your key staff members go on the road…

This next statement should come as no surprise to you: When you employ someone – eventually they’re going to want to go on annual leave.

Knowing that, why do so many small – medium business owners and managers plan so poorly for this time?

To become rock-star-esque in this area, here’s a few easy to implement tips:

Aim: To become more rock star like every time a staff member goes on holidays

Tiny Tips:
• Find out where your staff member is staying and organise for a bottle of bubbly to be sent to their room with a card from the team wishing them a great vacation.
• About half way through their time off, send them a text message reading something like this: “Hi Tim, We all hope you’re having a great time away. Just wanted to let you know we miss you! Don’t write back, just keep on enjoying yourselves – Jane”
• If the staff member is staying at home for their annual leave – have the office send them a postcard saying “Wish you weren’t here!” with a signature from everyone in the office.
• A little note on the desk or a chocolate bar with a welcome back message on the morning the staff member arrives back is always a nice treat. Diarise to do this the night before (so much easier than running around the morning of).

Now – am I suggesting that you do each one of these things every time your staff go on holidays? No way! You’ll look more like a desperate groupie than a rock star boss. Pick one, be creative and rock on.

Aim: To never need to call / text / email your staff (about work related matters) when they’re on vacation

This one will take practice but it should be something you strive for the following reasons:
• If you’re business can’t run without this key person while they’re on 2 weeks leave, what would it be like if they weren’t working for you all together?
• Also – you don’t generate good will with your staff member’s family if they’re constantly having their holiday interrupted with a 1001 work “emergencies”.
• If your staff member doesn’t actually leave work, because you won’t let them virtually through text and email, they don’t get the restorative benefits of going on leave in the first place and you get a crazy, stressed out staff member with a cranky family.

• Set an office policy of “no contact on holidays” and make sure that all staff are aware of it (it’s not good for you to follow this procedure only to find their counterpart has been burning up the holidaying staff member’s blackberry all morning).
• Formulate a comprehensive checklist that covers everything that could foreseeably crop up and make sure it’s done prior to the staff member going on holiday.
• Recognise that there probably will be other things that arise during that staff member’s absence, but encourage your other staff members to fix the problems themselves (they’ll be far more keen to knowing that the same courtesy will apply to them when they’re on holidays)
• If the staff member has a work mobile phone – keep it at the office during their vacation time.
• Set up an “out of office” auto reply that lets email contacts know who the alternate contact in the office is.
• This one is the most important if you want this to really work. Your staff member can’t come back from their holidays, rested, refreshed, relaxed and walk back into chaos with the finger of blame pointed at them because they “were not able to be called”.

Good luck on your journey rock star bosses!

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The bucket list – how excited am I!

I’ve rarely been so excited to see a new movie as am I for the upcoming “The Bucket List” featuring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In short, it’s about two guys with terminal illnesses who head off to achieve everything on their “Bucket List” – ie: the list of the things you want to do before you… you guessed it… kick the bucket!

I’ve had a Bucket List (without calling it that) for years and I hope this movie encourages everyone to develop their own and to start ticking things off now (without waiting for old age to catch up to them first!)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The election campaign has started high tech!

I'm pretty new to facebook having only been an addict, err I mean, a member now for a few months. I'm past logging in every day to see who has tried to turn me into a vampire, but I still get excited when someone sends me a friend request. That is until I received what I considered a bizarre friend request the other day. It was from one of my local politicians! Is this what political campaigning has now come to? This politician who wants to be my "friend" - isn't someone I'd call a friend in reality. I know of this person, but that's about it. Talk about an interesting twist to the election campaign!

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Winning By Jack Welch With Suzy Welch

Winning = Winner

Not only do I think every person with any form of staff management in their job makeup should read this book… I also think anyone who works with anyone else (yes I mean you & him & all of them) should read the chapter on candor. Brilliant stuff.

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Book Review - iCon - Steve Jobs The Greatest Second Act In The History Of Business By Jeffrey S. Young & William L. Simon

Oooh the things I didn’t know!

I’ve owned two ipods, my dad was the first person on our street with a Mac in the 80’s and my best friend is pressuring me to buy a new Apple computer… oh yeah and I knew the names of the two Steve’s of Apple… that was about the extent of my Apple knowledge prior to reading this book. However, I didn’t need to know any more to be unable to put this book down until finished. The more I read about Steve Jobs, the more I wanted to know about him. My only distraction from being utterly entranced by this book was the same as with Disney Wars *link book*, so many names to keep track of! Nerd or not, if you want insight into one of the most influential leaders of our time - grab a copy.

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Book Reveiw - The Dip - The Extraordinary Benefits Of Knowing When To Quit (And When To Stick) By Seth Godin

Tiny and Tantalizing

Seth Godin is a marvel and I’ve always enjoyed his unique insight. The Dip may be one of his more controversial numbers though, going against the age old anti-quitting tradition! For me, this book helped me make sense of a number of decisions I’ve made in the past, but had trouble justifying. It’s a breeze to read – but read it twice to get the full dip-ly goodness!

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Book Review - You Inc. By John McGrath

A concept brilliant in its simplicity

I've always thought that a book has the power to change your life if it gives you even just one idea that you can take away, twist and incorporate into your life. That idea for me in You Inc was when John talks about a fabulous restaurant he once ate at. The restaurant took the time to actually call its clientele the day after they had dined to get feedback and ensure that they'd had a great time and meal. How did they get their phone numbers? Well they already had them from their reservations list. I loved this concept, it's simple, but brilliant. Most restaurants get phone numbers of people who make reservations and then do nothing with them! I've never had a call after dining at a restaurant and I know the impact it would have on me to receive that call. It made me want to run out and twist this idea into my own business (not a restaurant) straight away.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Review - Women's Ventures, Women's Visions By Shoshana Alexander

1997 – how much has changed!

I picked up this book in a $2 bargain box in Texas. I dare say it wasn’t a cheapie because of the content (I really enjoyed it) but more because it was released in 1997. Due to its age - two things stood out to me so clearly. Firstly, there was no mention of the internet. Not one, and not a website or email address on the contributors contact page - now what a great lesson in how much has changed in just ten years. Secondly, so many of the women profiled spoke of the glass ceilings they had hit due to being women. It made me feel very encouraged to compare this with my own talks with fabulous women in business today where the incidents of “boys clubs” are far less.

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Book Review - I Want What She's Having By Naomi Simson

Pleasurable and though provoking.

Naomi’s book did three things for me. It served as an amazing advertisement into her business. It told me of her story (although I really wanted to hear more real life examples in the book). I want what she’s having also gave me some great take homes I could incorporate into my business in a completely different industry. To top it odd the book is gorgeous - a real coffee table piece.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Everyone needs a … Matt

I remember the moment clearly. About a decade ago, my childhood friend Matt sat patiently trying to explain to me that I would love mobile phone text messages if I just gave them a chance.

With my goldfish like attention span dominating my vision that day I spat back at my good friend that I would not love text messaging, that I would certainly never need to text message and that I did not want to hear anything further on the subject.

Fast forward to today and not only do I conduct business via text messaging, it’s a vital tool for me socially – in fact I even hate speaking on the phone these days I like to text so much. To top it off, without text messaging, the courtship between my husband and I probably wouldn’t have progressed farther than our first hello!

It was in the next few years after my texting habit took hold I realised that, if you’re like me and not on cutting edge of what is about to be cool, you need a “Matt” in your life.

Your “Matt” will be that person who is right on the edge of the latest technology, who knows what’s about to be cool before the masses do and who is generous enough to share that knowledge with you.

My Matt was the one who introduced me to my laptop (and my husband and brother’s to theirs), ipods, blogging, podcasting, facebook, skype, feedburner and so much more! Matt has also asked that I mention that he is working on edging me towards a mac as my new computer.

If you’re not on the edge (as I’m not), how can you find someone who’s out there to advise you?

If you’re a business looking to tap into that edge, how can you find ways to start influencing those “Matt” people who see the next trends before they happen?

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Crashed and burned and would gladly do it again!

I remember fondly a job interview I once crashed and burned at. It was for a marketing manager at a local vineyard and restaurant.

I clearly remember telling the interviewer that in my opinion marketing encompassed everything from the corporate communications right down to making sure that each fork was polished in the restaurant and laid out exactly in line.

He was not impressed by my response and I knew it as soon as the words had left my mouth.

Knowing this, I wouldn’t change a thing if I were going for the same job today.

I think too many people hear marketing and instantly think “advertising”. To me, marketing embraces so much more that just what we traditionally know as advertising.

After all – aren’t you advertising (or presenting an image of) your company in some way every time your phones are answered? Each time a visitor clicks into your web site or receives an email from someone on your team? Don’t your uniforms and the design of your workspace also convey a message?

You can have a world class advertising or marketing campaign running on every media known to man – but the average customer will still listen carefully when they’re told that there were two hairs in their cappuccino, that the toilets were filthy or that they were snarled at when they turned up for their appointment.

If you’re going to spend the big bucks on marketing, make sure it’s not wasted by spending some time on the other aspects of marketing.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Reality Television Your Way to Success

I think I’m one of the only “motivational speakers” (not that I call myself that) who will openly admit that I watch television. I watch bad television too… even… dare I say it… reality television. I like it! It’s an escape for me and a way to relax and while I certainly don’t recommend you waste every minute of your life watching the box, I’m not going to condemn it as to do so would be highly hypocritical.

What I will say though, is even when you’re watching the dodgiest television out there – you can still learn from it!

The following is an excerpt from my new book Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can and is meant to be a bit of fun. Read it with your tongue well and truly wedged in your cheek.

I like to play a bit of a game when I meet really successful people for the first time. I like to see in which of my reality television categories they fit. I’m yet to meet a really successful person who doesn’t seem to obviously slot into one of the categories I’ve identified here.

Pick the most successful individuals you know personally and read through this list to figure out which “reality success profile(s)” they fit…

“Born with it” categories
This group is those people who are created with innate gifts. They’re blessed with certain characteristics that make them ideally suited (almost from birth it would seem) to rising to success.

Next Top Model
Look out for: Charm and beauty
These are our beauty queens (and kings). They have significant looks and/or charm and they know how to use them to their best effect. Sometimes, but not always, the most ethical of characters, they do what has to be done to get what they want and are happy to utilise their natural talents.

The Osbournes
Look out for: The silver platter
Born into wealth and/or power, you’ll find this individual fits into either the group handed everything but not quite knowing what to do with it or, in some rare and spectacular cases, taking what’s been given and expanding it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

So You Think You Can Dance
Look out for: Natural talent
These individuals have been blessed with a mind and talent that is simply built for success, often making their achievement seem almost predestined. Also like the dancers on the show, they have put in the hard yards to hone their skills and ability to create their success.

“Anyone can” categories
The best thing about this group is that any of us can aspire to be here. These are all learned skills that anyone can master if you dedicate yourself to the pursuit.

Dancing with the Stars
Look out for: Don’t even try – you won’t see them coming
These people are the chameleons of any workplace. Change doesn’t faze them as they can adapt to any situation. Flexibility is their middle name and they have no fear of constantly picking up more skills to add to their repertoire. Most importantly – they’re willing to fall over and over and still get up and keep trying.

Amazing Race
Look out for: Team spirit and work ethic
These people are well loved, with a loyal following in any workplace. They have mastered the art of teamwork and understand the true meaning of the synergy concept (1 + 1 = 3). They’re also willing to put in the hard yards and go the extra mile, past any route markers or detours, to get to the final destination.

Look out for: Volume and confidence
Look out for the person at your next meeting who demands to be noticed. They speak up, they’re confident and they’re loud (with purpose, rather than loud for loud’s sake). Everyone knows them or knows of them and they’re present even when they’re not in the room. They produce high volume in thoughts, ideas and results.

Look out for: The diplomat
These are the master negotiators and deal makers who have wangled and wrung every last upward movement within an organisation that they can. You can hate them if you want, and/or you can learn from them. Listen to how persuasive they can be – they didn’t get here by accident.

Look out for: An axe in your back
Here’s our dodgy category. Even though I love this show, you only have to watch it for one season to realise that it’s rare for someone to compete successfully on the show while upholding any semblance of the ethics they might display in the outside world. If you know someone willing to do anything to get ahead, including playing dirty, then Survivor is definitely their category.

In considering your own personal success, which category or categories would you most like to fit into?

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

What’s In A Signature?

I’ve just had a “celebrity moment”. Janine Allis the founder of Boost Juice just emailed me to thank me for sending her a copy of my new book. I’m a huge fan of Janine and the company she has founded. The fact that she took time to personally contact me just made her stock go even further up!

I love to learn from other successful business people and I think, if we keep our eyes open, we can do so all the time. In receiving Janine’s email my eyes were drawn to her email signature which, in addition to all the standard info (website, phone, address etc) also had the following:

My #1 Boost? : the raspberries relief. YUM!
What you’re reading? ; Nineteen minutes
What I love to do? : sit cuddling my boys
My football team : Go the Hawks !!!

Another successful entrepreneur I know, Lara Fletcher, founder of www.mocks.com.au has the following at the bottom of her email:

Favourite Mock: Cherries, although closely followed by Gelato

I feel like my signature is a bit underdone – being that I just have my favourite motivational quote on mine! I’m missing a marketing opportunity and I’m missing an opportunity to look like a real human being with a personality!!

Not to worry though – I love what these two fabulous entrepreneurs have done – so I’m making it my own and changing my signature right now. What about you?

Here’s what my new one also now includes:

Favourite Quote of the Moment: "Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win." Jonathan Kozel

Favourite advertisement heading from www.reallysold.com: Captain Kirk (Would love to explore this vast space)

Latest Book Out: Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can – get it at www.unleashedknowledge.com

Currently loving: Spaghetti and Lance Armstrong’s books

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Work Smart – I Don’t Think So!

If I hear one more success story spout the advice – “work smart, not hard” to a wanna-be entrepreneur I might scream. To everyone out there reading this: if you want to start your own business, in my opinion this is the WORST advice you can take.

Starting a small business in Australia, the odds are against you. If you start out with the plan to “work smart, not hard” I believe those odds will skyrocket in a not so positive direction.

When you start your own business it will be fuelled by your passion, your sweat, your desire, your hard work. Am I saying “don’t work smart”? Of course not! I’m speaking from experience and saying that if you think you can ONLY work smart at the beginning I think you’ll be in for a rude shock.

To me the path to success for a new entrepreneur goes like this:

Start: Work hard, hard, hard
Next:Keep working hard, hard, hard and once you have somewhat of a clue, start to incorporate the “smart”
Later:This is when you can look to eliminate as much of the hard as you can by being the smartest cookie in the packet – but it doesn’t come immediately.

Please don’t start a business unless you’re prepared for the “hard” – but always be on the lookout to incorporate the “smart” as you go along.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

When will financial literacy be a core school subject?

We leave high school knowing how to calculate what “x” is given “y” and “z” and that “i” comes before “e” except after “c” and yet most high school leavers are never taught the simple ABCs of financial literacy including how to budget, how to responsibly use credit cards and how to set up an investment or savings plan.

In a study by the Financial Literacy Foundation of Australia titled Financial Literacy: Australians Understanding Money of the 7500 people surveyed 84% of the young people stated that it was important to learn about budgeting. Sadly (and perhaps the reason why this isn’t taught in most high schools) only 57% of adults voiced the same opinion.

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The power of the word

I’m quite distraught. I was eating my personal trainer approved afternoon snack of 12 almonds (my suggestion of 12 Tim Tams: not approved) when I got a lovely crunchy surprise in my mashed up almond mix. Part of a rear tooth had dislodged and was busily working its way towards my small intestine.

Having my wisdom teeth stitches “accidentally” left in for about 2 weeks too long has left me with a justified fear of going in to see the man with the drill. Not to be deterred I picked up the phone and was told by the monotone receptionist: “you won’t be getting in for at least 4 weeks”.

Now note this was not “our next vacancy is in 4 weeks” or “I’m really sorry, barring dental emergencies we won’t be able to fit you in for 4 weeks” this was simply “you won’t be getting in for at least 4 weeks”.

The front face of this business, the director of customer relations and the person I think is responsible for calming irrational odontophobics like me (yes, that’s the word for those who fear the dentist) had actually somewhat alleviated my fear... by replacing it with indignation!

In your business or in your workplace does your front face realise the power of the word? Do you? Perhaps take a leaf out of my hair dresser's book – they answer every phone call with “Thank you for calling Bladerunner. How can I make your day today?” It’s a bit zany, it makes them laugh and it makes me smile.

The power of the word can invoke rage, or cultivate a fan – what do the words at your business do?

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Credit Cards

I remember the day my first credit card arrived in the mail. A rush of both terror and excitement made its way through me. Terror because I had watched both of my parents go bankrupt due, in part, to overuse and misuse of credit cards. Excitement – because I had a plan. I was going to avoid the seven deadly sins of credit cards and use mine powerfully and thoughtfully.

Can you avoid the following seven deadly sins?

Don’t get angry when your monthly credit card statement is spiralling out of control! Make a commitment to only spend on your credit card that which you can afford to repay in full each month. The interest on credit cards is what can kill you, and paying off the monthly minimum will leave you hand cuffed to your card forever! Get your credit card under control and remember “credit” does not mean “free money”.

Just because you see a new credit card that comes in pink to match your shoes does not mean you need to get it! I recommend only one extra “emergency” credit card – if you’re responsible enough to NOT use it! “Emergencies” does not mean the new XBOX being pre-released! Keep it for emergencies such as medical emergencies or another credit card being denied when you’re travelling overseas due to your credit card company suspecting theft. Also make sure your emergency credit card has no annual fee.

Wo-hoo your credit card company has just offered you another limit increase! STOP! Consider the following:
• Each time you get a limit increase it will affect your overall borrowing ability (the higher your credit card limits the lower your borrowing power for assets like a house!)
• The higher your limit the more someone has access to if you’re the unfortunate recipient of identity fraud
• Banks quite often offer limit increases to people who cannot sustain more debt
• Do you really need the increase or are you just excited you’ve been offered it

Paying off your credit card with another credit card is not the answer! As soon as you withdraw cash from most credit cards, you start paying interest immediately (in most cases). The only time I recommend you consider this option is when transferring the balance of your credit card to another. Then destroy the old credit card! Use the interest free period on the new card (often up to 6 months on a transferred balance) to help completely pay off your credit card debt.

Do you have a shopping problem? There are many great techniques for not overdoing the product envy, here are just a few:
• Put your credit card in a glass of water and freeze it. Commit to not buying anything until the water has melted (no microwaves!) and you’ve had time to fully consider the purchase
• Get a low limit on your card (preferably one that doesn’t have a limit high enough to afford the new Manolos!)
• Limit your online shopping to funds you’ve earned in your paypal account (that’s right – ebay your old stuff before you buy new stuff!)

How many is too many credit cards? This is, of course, an individual topic. For me – I have a personal card and a business card and I look for features such as low annual fees, high points for frequent flyer programs and long interest free periods. Importantly, I still stick to my rule of paying off each card in full before interest is due. A great option for someone who isn’t sure whether they’re ready for a credit card yet is to get a charge card – where you have to put the money into the card before you spend it!

If you feel that your credit card situation is beyond your control. Call your bank or financial institution and organise a time to sit down with one of their staff to organise a payment schedule. The banks have a vested interest in you continuing to attempt payment and can be quite flexible in how they make arrangements for your payment – all you gotta do is swallow your pride and ask!

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