Does paying the price lead to winning the war for talent?

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As companies look towards improving their profit pictures, many CEOs are considering the adoption of leading talent. Talent reduces the cost of business processes, improves customer satisfaction, and perhaps most importantly — drive innovation. But procuring the right talent isn’t always easy. CEOs in 2018 are considering:

  • Higher wages

Higher wages aid in employee retention, which reduces training costs. Higher wages may also lead to the hiring of better talent — and since 23% of CEOs are considering higher wages, it may become a way to remain in step with the competition. Nevertheless, higher wages can also be seen as throwing money at the problem, and ultimately, may not actually retain talent. Higher wages don’t necessarily lead to a better working environment, which is a critical aspect of employee acquisition and retention.

  • Social and online channels

Networking is one of the leading ways to find top talent, as many talented employees are not actively looking for new positions. Word-of-mouth, active social media channels, and industry-related groups can provide the business with excellent leads on talented professionals who may be interested in new opportunities.

  • Additional and non-traditional benefits

If companies cannot compete based on salaries alone, they can compete in terms of benefits. Traditional benefits such as retirement funds and medical plans can make a substantial difference when employees are comparing positions. Non-traditional benefits such as flexible time and work-from-home can attract those looking for work-life balance.

  • Advanced training

Modern employees are looking for ways to build upon their careers. Advanced training and seminar programs add to their value as employees, not only making them more useful to the business but also drawing in the most motivated and driven employees.

  • Employee referral programs

Employees can often identify talented individuals who would excel in a working environment. Many times, they have already established a network with others in their industry. An employee referral program can bring these talented individuals directly to the business with limited time invested.

38 percent of CEOs believe that hiring is getting harder. A formalised talent management process can make it easier for businesses to attract and secure the right talent. With increasing wages and benefits, CEOs must also consider their cost-benefit analysis, identifying each hire’s direct value to the organisation. Through a structured talent management process, CEOs will be able to identify and secure the employees most beneficial to their organisation’s bottom line.

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Using social media to improve customer engagement

Facebook, Instagram, and — of course — LinkedIn. From connecting with colleagues to finding old friends, social media provides a valuable and ubiquitous role in our daily lives. But it isn’t just about personal communication; it’s also about connecting with consumers. 88% of businesses are now using social media for marketing. LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, and even Instagram now play a vital part in connecting customers directly with brands. By using social media strategically, companies can not only increase general brand awareness but also customer retention and engagement.

Choosing the right platforms

Social media platforms change year by year. Platforms such as Vine shut down, while Twitter radically alter their platforms with continuous feature upgrades. Each platform has a different core demographic and is useful for different industries. To create an effective social media campaign, you need to understand the different platforms available and select the most appropriate one for you.

  • Facebook. Restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues frequently find their customers turning to Facebook first — and it’s easy to see why. Creating and promoting events on Facebook is an easy way to get in local traffic. But Facebook pages aren’t just for food and drink service; nearly every business should maintain at least a Facebook page where reviews can be posted.
  • Yelp. Yelp has easily become the go-to for customers looking for businesses in their area. Customers will look for everything from general contractors to retail outlets on Yelp and posted user reviews have become extremely important.
  • Google Places. Google Places is extremely well-integrated with the Google Maps service, and consequently having reviews and your business information up is extremely important. For example, when customers search using the keywords “interior painting near me” or “sports good stores,” they’ll often be directed to Google Place information.
  • Instagram. Instagram is popular with restaurants, shopping outlets, and recreational facilities; anything that will give you fun and engaging pictures. Whether your business runs outdoor excursions or sells antique jewellery, Instagram can be a great way to quickly increase brand awareness through solid, unique content.
  • Pinterest. Pinterest tends to have an artsy audience focused on cooking, crafting, fashion, and other creative pursuits. Businesses that are either selling creative products or selling hobbyist supplies will find Pinterest extremely useful.
  • Twitter. Twitter is rapidly becoming a go-to place for business-related information, as well as one of the first places that many customers look to for customer support. Because of that, Twitter is now becoming non-optional for many larger businesses.
  • Tumblr. Companies that want to reach out to a more youthful demographic would do well to consider Tumblr, as the platform is commonly used with demographics aged 15 to 25. Other platforms, such as Facebook, are primarily focused on the 25+ audience.
  • LinkedIn. With nearly half a billion users, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional and business networking platform. It is a vital networking tool that also aids in both customer retention and talent acquisition, making it a critical component in every company’s overall networking strategies.

It’s not possible for most businesses to run comprehensive advertising campaigns on all of these platforms. Instead, companies need to drill down and identify which platforms their customers are using the most. Youthful, modern brands may find their core audience on Tumblr and Instagram, whereas B2B companies may want to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Optimise each channel

It’s easy enough to automate your marketing so that content is replicated across all platforms — but it’s usually not the best strategy. Every platform and its audience is different, and consequently content has to be optimised for each channel.

Word limits, hash tags, embedded links, image filters, and more are all different across platforms and impact how users may interact with your content. Content on Twitter or Facebook may have vastly different hashtags than content on Instagram or Pinterest. Similarly, some types of content such as video or images may be better suited for other platforms.

Building a strategy

  1. Develop your social media goals. Is your organisation attempting to build brand awareness? Increase sales? Bring in website traffic?
  2. Investigate platforms. Which platforms are more likely to be of use to your organisation? How can they be integrated together?
  3. Create a content calendar. Use an automated system to schedule your posts and connect your chosen social media platforms.
  4. Set the tone. When posting to and interacting on social media, put your content first — and avoid being overly promotional.
  5. Build relationships. Social media isn’t a one-way street. Build relationships by interacting with customers one-on-one.

Analyse and optimise

It isn’t always possible to have the correct social media strategy right out of the gate. Instead, you’ll need to analyse your audience behaviour and optimise your strategy to their needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which posts are garnering the most interest? Try to take advantage of popular content by promoting it and following up with similar posts.
  • When do we get the most interaction? You may find scheduling your posts at different times and days of the week will get better reactions.
  • Where are our followers coming from? By identifying the sources of your followers, you can see which platforms are most useful to your strategy.
  • How many followers are we retaining? If followers are frequently leaving, you may not be delivering the content that they expected.

Find the value in social media engagement

Through social media, you can effectively build your customer relationships and increase customer engagement — but it does take a lot of work. With no one-size-fits-all solution, each business must find their own path. Your social media strategy will depend on a lot of factors, including your organisation’s industry and its primary audience. But once you’re able to develop a solid social media strategy, you’ll find yourself connecting and engaging with your customers more directly.

Modern businesses are finding that the way that they do business and market is changing very quickly. From recruiting brand ambassadors to improving brand awareness, companies must always be cutting edge if they want to remain competitive. With the rise of new digital trends, many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and managers may find themselves needing advice and guidance. At TEC, we provide world-class mentoring from an experienced and successful network of professionals from different industry sectors. If you want to build connections, enhance your business or get help in navigating the ever-changing corporate landscape, contact TEC today to get started.

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Creating a company culture: Lessons form Consolid8

Consolid8 is an accounting firm that was originally built on the experience Managing Director Tanya Titman developed providing management accounting solutions. From that basis, Tanya realised there was a significant need for greater financial literacy among business owners, a focus she believes is a great differentiator for the business. There’s also been a focus on cloud accounting solutions, a fact that has seen the company recognised by Xero for its contribution to the industry.

However, Consolid8 hasn’t just made a name for itself in the way it serves its clients. The company is in the unique position of offering subsidised onsite childcare for its staff – a model that other businesses have expressed their desire to replicate. The childcare facility has provided challenges to the firm over the years, but it is well-established as a key part of Consolid8’s culture. The ongoing benefits it provides Tanya and her team have been well worth the effort.

The challenge: Balancing business ownership with a young family

In the last practice Tanya worked in before starting Consolid8, trying to look after two children (there are now four in her family) meant she experienced challenges often associated with being a working parent.

“[When] having a baby and running a business, you don’t get to take six months off or 12 months off and just enjoy motherhood. It’s like business, it never stops,” Tanya began. “I went through the challenges of trying to look after a baby while balancing that with work, and it was really, really hard.”

“At the end of it I thought ‘no woman should have to go through this’, so when I went out on my own from day one I set up the on-site childcare.”

Tanya approached the inclusion of the childcare facility with no real strategy, but a desire to make it happen so other women could avoid the stress of what she went through. This resolve was put to the test even before the facility’s doors opened. It was originally meant to be a joint venture, but the day the centre was to open was the day the GFC hit, so the other business pulled out.

The solution: Creating a family-friendly working environment

Tanya’s experience in an industry that wasn’t able to offer the flexibility working parents desired was a key catalyst for the on-site child care centre. Women across the accounting sector were being discouraged from coming back into the workforce after having children, leaving them to make the tough decision between their children and their career. At Consolid8, that’s not a choice they have to make.

“Amongst my peers and people I’ve gone through uni with, there’s some amazing talent and I’ve seen them rise really quickly through various firms and do amazing things and then they’ve had a child and it’s all come to a grinding halt because they weren’t offered any sort of flexibility,” Tanya explained.

“If I can present these amazing women with an opportunity to bring their kids to work or have their baby with them and be able to be breastfeeding and not have any of the barriers to being in the workforce… no one has to make the choice between work or family”.

Unfortunately, the process of setting up a child care centre wasn’t as simple as it sounds, especially as Tanya was essentially a pioneer for this model of creating an on-site variant. One of the core decisions concerned whether the centre could be government-funded without incurring significant amounts of red tape.

“If we were to become a fully licensed childcare facility, we could access government funding but to do that essentially we’re becoming a commercial childcare centre, and there’s a whole lot of regulation and a whole lot of requirements for that that made it cost-prohibitive,” Tanya says.

The results: An engaged workforce and a defining culture

The effects of the on-site child care centre have been wide-reaching, and influence more than just the working parents that bring their children into Consolid8 each day.

“A graduate can come on to our team and know they’ve got a lifelong career here if they want it, and they’ll never have to make that choice,” Tanya says. “I’ve had some of my male team members come on board and be able to bring their children to work so that their wives can go back to work.”

Most importantly, the centre is shaping Consolid8’s culture and changing the way staff engage with each other, while also attracting the next generation of employees.

“The parents that are on the team are very connected because their children are growing up together in child care.”

“The talent we get is incredible and we have a lineup of people wanting to come on board,” Tanya notes. “In an industry that is really quite competitive for great staff, it means that we have the edge over many of the larger firms because they can’t match what we can offer in terms of that work/life balance.”

Tanya’s desire to challenge herself while developing Consolid8 led her to TEC, where she finds she is able to be influenced by people from business outside the accounting industry. Importantly for Tanya, the group isn’t just there to congratulate her on what went well but rather exists to question and challenge her – and each other – for the purposes of improving the business and her role within it.

Australian SME Outlook: Confidence Index Highlights Q3 2017

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According to the Confidence Index report, CEOs are exceptionally confident in the domestic economy and expect to see an increase in both sales and profitability in the year to come. This optimism is likely to have a direct impact on the market and will drive the strategy for many Australian businesses in 2018.

Sales revenue and profitability are leading targets.

By 2018, 76 percent of CEOs believe they can increase revenue while 73 percent believe they can increase profitability. However, this change isn’t being seen as driven by price increases. If revenue and profitability are to be improved at the same price points, companies will need to expand into new markets, grow their operations, and innovate. A potential barrier to this may be the increasing difficulties in both acquiring and retaining top talent.

Confidence in the economy will influence operational strategies.

CEOs confident in the economy and in their own profitability will be more likely to expand their businesses, purchase inventory, and invest in assets. In so doing, they will also be strengthening the economy and improving upon the very same market factors that they are relying upon as indicators. CEOs in 2018 are likely to continue investing in growth and expansion as their confidence increases.

CEOs should be aware of the bright outlook in the Australian economy and the consequences of current perception. Many companies are likely to begin expansion now, which may increase competition in certain sectors. As CEOs will be more willing to take risks, all businesses will need to improve upon their own fundamentals to remain competitive. CEOs looking towards improved profit and revenue will also need to create a strategic plan to work towards this growth.

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The guide to marketing metrics that really matter

It’s easy for a business to become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of marketing data that it has collected. But marketing data isn’t just “data”, it is critical to improving and directing a marketing strategy. Just as logistics and shipping analysis is necessary for fine-tuning business operations, marketing data is necessary for identifying potential opportunities and points of failure. But because every business is different, the metrics that are important to a particular strategy may also differ. Companies need to be knowledgeable about different types of metric if they are to isolate the ones that are relevant to them.

 

Audience metrics

  1. Visits to the website

In terms of audience metrics, there are two important ways to count visits — total traffic and per user. Total traffic encompasses the number of individuals visiting your website. Services such as Google Analytics can even show you real-time dashboard results regarding how many users are active right now. Total traffic should always be trending upwards year-on-year. Often, the per user visits may be more important. Analytics services can also track how many times an individually recognised user has visited your site. This shows how much of your audience you are retaining. Customers average six to eight connections with a brand before conversion.

  1. New sessions

When a user visits a website, all of their activity is considered to be a “session.” The amount of new sessions is an effective metric to assess your brand awareness – Is this increasing over time? For growth campaigns, new sessions can be used to track the performance of outreach initiatives. More new sessions mean an expanding audience, while a decrease can indicate a plateau in market saturation or a loss of interest. Sessions can be combined with other metrics — such as how long the user stays on the site, how many pages they visit, and whether they come back.

 

Behaviour metrics

  1. Sources of traffic

Where is your audience coming from? Search engines, advertising campaigns, the monthly newsletter, social channels and direct links will all be recorded under sources of traffic. If your website is being primarily accessed through search engines, then your SEO campaign is healthy and working. If your website is being primarily accessed through social media accounts, then your social media campaigns are working. Your “sources of traffic” analysis tells you which components of your marketing strategy are most effective — and which components need more work.

  1. Bounce rate

Sometimes users may reach a website and then immediately leave it without taking a further action. This can happen for a variety of reasons — the page was slow to load, the content was something they did not expect, they did not like the design of the website or they simply became distracted. Regardless, a high bounce rate generally indicates that something has gone wrong.

 

Campaign performance metrics

  1. Conversion rate

The conversion rate is often the most important metric in a marketing campaign. Conversion is commonly used to refer to a user making a purchase; converting from a user to a customer. But that isn’t the only type of conversion. Conversion rates can also be used to track newsletter sign ups, contact us forms, brochure downloads, or free trials — it all depends on the strategy. Many campaigns focus primarily on increasing the conversion rate, which means paring down to users that are most likely to convert, and attempting to secure more of these users.

  1. CTR

Click through ratings are used to track when customers interact with links, whether through blog links, email marketing, or paid ads. If customers aren’t clicking through, they aren’t converting. This could mean that the marketing copy and design is not engaging or is not reaching the right audience. A low CTR generally indicates the need for a clearer or more compelling call to action.

  1. Customer acquisition cost

Customer acquisition cost, in its simplest form, is the amount that you spend on marketing divided by the number of customers gained. How much is the marketing team spending to acquire one customer? By tracking customer acquisition costs, you can optimise your strategies to make the most out of your advertising dollar. If you have multiple campaigns working at once, it may be difficult to isolate the cost of each individual strategy. In these situations, split-testing and granular tracking of each separate campaign may be necessary.

  1. Social media and content engagement

Likes, shares, follows and comments all show positive levels of engagement. These metrics are used to assess what content best works with your audience. As with high levels of traffic and recurring sessions, social media engagement improved the odds that users will convert, in addition to extending brand identity and general brand awareness.

 

Long-term marketing metrics

  1. Customer lifetime value

Customer lifetime value is calculated by averaging the amount that a customer will spend with a business throughout their entire relationship. For each customer, there is both the cost of acquisition and the cost of retention. Lowering these costs and increasing customer spending will increase revenue. Low customer lifetime value may indicate that a company is not effectively retaining customers.

  1. Net Promoter Score

Net promoter scores, measured on a scale from -100 to 100, indicate the willingness of current customers to refer others to a business. Essentially, it is a metric that reflects word-of-mouth reputation. Net promoter scores are solid indicators of customer loyalty. Low net promoter scores may indicate that a business needs to improve its products or its customer service.

Depending on your individual marketing strategy, you may use only a few of these metrics — or you may use nearly all of them. Your campaign may be focused on building awareness, improving revenue, or both. Regardless, a solid understanding of the metrics available is the first step towards creating a well-rounded and well-optimised strategy. By consistently tracking the right metrics, your organisation will be able to compare different initiatives and improve upon them. But that also requires experience and knowledge. At TEC, individuals are able to reach out to peers who are exploring and discovering the same marketing strategies and advancements. Contact TEC today to learn more about the benefits of an on-demand and exclusive peer-to-peer executive network.

Inbound marketing: A new way of marketing

63 percent of businesses now report that generating traffic and leads is one of their top marketing challenges. A few decades ago, it was commonplace for consumers to rely on advertising that was sent to them — television and radio advertisements, physical mailers, and even billboards. In the early days of the Internet, marketers sought to replicate the impact of this type of advertising through pop up ads, banner ads, and interstitial ads.

But very quickly, an entirely new way of marketing has emerged — inbound marketing.

In inbound marketing, customers are targeted with great content so they are directed to the business themselves, given that it can provide them with the information and insights they need.

 

What is Inbound Marketing?

Commercials, physical mailers, and magazine ads are all forms of “outbound” advertising. Companies send these highly promotional advertisements to customers with the express purpose of getting them to commit.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is marketing that promotes great content and makes it available to customers in a way that points them back to the company. Inbound marketing encompasses corporate websites, social media accounts, blogs, and other content repositories. Inbound marketing is notable primarily because the consumer is entirely in control of the whole interaction. Brands give them the data they need so they can choose the brand themselves.

Let’s check out how inbound marketing works when buying a car.

Decades ago, consumers were fed with various advertisements for local car dealerships — this is how they got to decide which dealership to go for and select from the cars they have available.

Today, a consumer is more likely to google different car models first before deciding on what car to buy for themselves. They will then do an independent research on car dealerships available in their area, read online reviews to check for trustworthiness and reputation, and then check if they have the car of their choice available.

To appropriately capture inbound marketing, modern companies need to be aware of both buyer personas (representatives of their key demographics) and buyer journeys (the process of purchasing that a buyer undergoes). Learning more about your buyers personas and supporting them as they go through the buyer journey is a key way to improve conversion and engagement.

 

The stages of Inbound Marketing strategy

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Attract: In an inbound marketing strategy, the goal is to attract consumers at the very first stages of the buyer journey. When looking for new products and services, 65 percent of smartphone users search for relevant information first — regardless of where it comes from. In real estate, a real estate agent may want to attract buyers who are looking into home financing or sellers who are looking into remodelling a home for sale.

Convert: Once you’ve successfully attracted the consumer’s attention, the need to promote great content is essential to drive them to convert. Through a great content strategy, marketers will want to showcase how their product is superior to others. From the scenario above, a real estate agent can do this by establishing trustworthiness and authority through timely and valuable content.

Close: Marketers are often only able to directly engage with consumers when closing. All content must be tilted towards a clear and concise call to action. The call to action directs a consumer further along their buyer journey, ultimately leading to closing a deal. Using the same example, a real estate agent would urge ready buyers and sellers to connect with them directly.

Delight: With consumers given more control, retained customers have become even more important. After closing a sale, marketers need to get in touch with their clientele to make sure they have everything they need and check if they were fully satisfied with the process. By driving customer loyalty, you ensure repeat business.

 

Channels used for Inbound Marketing

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Social media: Consumers enjoy interacting with brands directly. Social media accounts can be used to distribute content, engage with consumers, and actively respond to any questions and concerns.

Blog posts: Blogging is an effective way for companies and professionals to build up a repository of great content. 53 percent of marketers report that blog posts are their top inbound marketing strategy.

Word of mouth: Consumers often ask friends and family for advice when looking for big ticket purchases. In fact, 64 percent of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. An effective word-of-mouth strategy nearly always come from previous clientele.

Search engine optimisation: Consumers need to be able to find a business to interact with it. When consumers have questions in mind, SEO directs them to the right answers. An SEO campaign relies upon keywords and high-quality content to promote brand and businesses.

Online video: There are many third-party platforms dedicated to online video, which provides a mix of social media engagement and an engaging video content.

Email marketing: Consumers are often interested in further information from brands and companies they trust. Signing up for an email newsletter provides consumers the opportunity to learn more about the brand and in turn, gives companies direct access to consumers on a regular basis.

 

Building an Inbound Marketing strategy

There are many types of inbound marketing strategy — and different types of strategy work well for different companies, industries, and demographics. Building an effective strategy that is universal and can be used in a massive scale is impossible. Everything needs to be tailored to the customer’s needs. Marketers, instead,  need to ensure that they have a strategic plan and that they are able to adapt to this plan as needed.

A marketing plan should consist of a clear goal, solid metrics, and methods of optimisation. Goals may range from improving engagement to building sales revenue, depending on the company’s current advertising strategy. Metrics must be directly related to goals to track the performance of the strategy and optimisation must be completed on a regular basis to ensure that the strategy remains effective.

 

Not sure whether your business is in need of an inbound strategy?

  • Do you use your website to sell your product or service?
  • Does your target audience use the internet to research topics related to your product or service?
  • Do you want to expand your customer base beyond your company’s geographic location?
  • Do you have expertise to share?

Marketing is continuously evolving and businesses need to keep up in order to stay relevant. CEOs, entrepreneurs, and high-level professionals must be well-versed in these new marketing strategies if they are to survive the technological disruption and consumer revolution that is to come. Modern consumers are now looking to make more intelligent choices on their purchases, giving tech-savvy companies an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to outpace slower competition.

But when something as intrinsic to a business as marketing strategies change, there may be a myriad of other adjustments that need to be made as well. Consulting with other key stakeholders within your industry is one of the best ways to learn how to adjust your strategy and avoid common pitfalls.

TEC provides access to a strong peer-to-peer network of executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals that offer peer-to-peer consulting on the massive changes that are impacting businesses today. Contact TEC now to find out more. 

How to receive feedback when in a senior position

As CEOs or managers, you can benefit from constructive feedback. Everyone has areas in which they need to improve, and listening to others can impart valuable information, even if it’s only regarding how others perceive them.

Top leaders — those performing in the 83rd percentile — ask for feedback the most frequently. Upward feedback incorporates feedback from employees in managerial reviews; it gives critical information regarding your relationship with employees. There is no doubt that feedback from employees and colleagues are helpful, but this doesn’t stop the fact that CEOs and managers often receive less feedback and have greater difficulty accepting that feedback.

Major sources of feedback for those in a senior position

Subordinates, colleagues, the board of directors, and even internal measurement systems can all be sources of feedback for you. But all of these sources of feedback are not the same. It’s important to understand how these sources can be best used and how they may sometimes be skewed either negatively or positively.

  • Subordinates. Subordinates are some of the most familiar with your performance because they work directly with you. That being said, they may conflate your performance with management as a whole. Some of their complaints may directly relate to their work rather than relating to your personal leadership style.
  • Colleagues. Colleagues have a significant amount of interactions with an individual but may not be truly objective. In order to continue a solid working relationship, colleagues may be hesitant to offer negative feedback, even if they are assured it would be confidential.
  • Board of directors. A board of directors see the results of your managerial style and can only give you feedback on your chosen business strategies. Because they aren’t privy to day-to-day operations, they may not be able to give accurate criticisms. When an organisation is doing poorly, they may see this reflecting upon you.
  • Internal measurement. Internal measurements such as those provided by enterprise resource planning solutions can give direct information regarding your productivity and success but may not be otherwise accurate, especially in relation to soft skills.

You need to use all these avenues of feedback to create a complete picture of your performance. This is why it becomes important to court feedback from multiple sources as it’s the only way to obtain a full and complete picture of both yourself and the current managerial environment.

Scheduling one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are often the most effective way to get detailed feedback from employees and other colleagues. Though they may at first be hesitant to share any reservations, once they begin talking, you can then explore the issues in detail. Positive feedback also helps, as it can become easier to identify an employee’s or colleague’s values and what matters most to them about their working environment.

For employees, a one-on-one meeting gives them the chance to air out any of their concerns. In many cases, employee concerns can stem from a lack of transparency; they may not understand why processes are in place or the decision-making process behind these processes, as it has never been explained to them. Employees are also heavily involved in the day-to-day processes of an organisation and may see issues that are simply invisible from a CEO or management perspective.

For colleagues, a one-on-one meeting will often reveal how working better together would look like. There may be issues that are not apparent to you as your colleague may operate in a slightly different space and have an emphasis on different aspects of the business. Together, you and your colleagues can find solutions that benefit the business as a whole.

Getting anonymous feedback

Understandably, much of the challenge related to one-on-one meetings involves a hesitance to give direct criticism. Employees are often fearful of their jobs while colleagues may be worried that they will create a combative working environment. Some may not have any work-related concerns but may simply feel that it’s overly stressful or impolite.

Anonymous feedback can resolve some of these issues. Through anonymous surveying tools — such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms — employees and colleagues can evaluate individuals without having to attach their name. In an ideal scenario, this gives them more room to be honest and direct.

However, it’s also not without some issues. In close working environments, it can be impossible to give anonymous feedback without implying who gave it. Because of that, the feedback may be vague enough that it isn’t useful. At the other end of the spectrum, anonymous feedback can embolden certain members to give unnecessarily harsh feedback. Though this feedback may still have a core of truth, it’s important not to take it to heart.

Finding the right approach

Often both types of feedback can be necessary to create a well-balanced picture of your own performance as a leader. But you need to take some time to educate employees regarding the type of feedback that you’re looking to acquire. An emphasis should be on providing constructive feedback; rather than simply stating things that you’re doing right or wrong, employees should focus on how they would like things to be and whyThis gives you actionable information to work with.

Some structure to feedback can be desirable — such as asking employees to give you feedback on specific areas of your leadership: communication, decision-making, efficiency, and interpersonal skills. Employees are more likely to give useful feedback if they’re aware of the areas that you are seeking to improve and the type of feedback you desire.

Additionally, it can be important to separate yourself from the rest of the business and its management. Be specific about needing feedback regarding yourself and your own performance, rather than management as a whole. Otherwise, it can be too easy for both colleagues and employees to conflate you with the business itself and its processes.

When in doubt, ask direct questions, such as the following:

  • How can I better support you and facilitate your work?
  • Is there anything that I am doing that disrupts your work?
  • Have you received enough feedback regarding your work and your position?
  • Are you being given the opportunities to use and develop your skills?

If there are certain areas in which you want to improve, you can also ask your employee to keep an eye out for them. Some examples include the following:

  • Am I appropriately delegating work?
  • Do you ever feel as though I am micromanaging?
  • Are there tasks I give that you feel are unachievable?

Taking steps towards improvement

Whether or not you believe that the feedback was valid or useful, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s been received, understood, and — above all — valued. Whether feedback is negative or positive (and whether you believe it’s accurate or inaccurate), the process of giving feedback is something that you should encourage or reward.

Of course, once you’ve acquired that feedback, you need to process it into action. Feedback has to be assessed — both individually and as a whole. If there are areas that are frequently coming up, such as a lack of communication, then these are issues that you need to work on. If there are issues that are only coming up with a single employee, you may need to assess your professional relationship and whether the feedback may be valid or may be an idiosyncrasy of the individual.

Ultimately, collecting feedback not only gives you the opportunity to grow as a professional, but it also improves an employee’s relationship with the business as a whole. Through meetings with both employees and colleagues, you can develop relationships that are built on trust and work towards making them more functional and efficient. Remember: negative feedback doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong; it could mean you’re doing something that isn’t effective for that particular individual.

Collecting feedback doesn’t always mean engaging with employees and colleagues, either. You can also get input and advice regarding your feedback from others who are experienced within your field. Mentorship and peer-to-peer exchange is an excellent way to get more insight into your performance as an individual. Contact TEC today to join a highly qualified, experienced, and professional network of leaders across the globe.

4 types of stress: Do you know what is causing yours?

Globalisation, managing a business in a VUCA environment, and an increased feeling of isolation have made being a CEO more difficult than ever. In fact, two-thirds of CEOs are currently struggling with stress and exhaustion. But they don’t have to be. CEOs need to work harder to rise above it, identify the cause of their stress, and proactively manage it.

As a leader, stress can impact both your mental and physical health. It can also lead to poor decision-making and inefficient work. If you want to be the best that you can be, you need to control your stress effectively and ensure that it doesn’t control you.

This process begins with a better understanding of stress, how it originates, and how you can mitigate it. There are four major types of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. Each of these has its own nuances, drawbacks, and even benefits.

1. Time stress

The clock is ticking and there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish everything that you need to do. As deadlines loom ahead, you start to wonder whether you’re even capable of fulfilling the duties of your position.

Time stress involves the pervasive feeling that there’s never enough time in the day. This type of stress tends to occur as deadlines approach. CEOs are responsible for a tremendous number of deadlines, and realistically they can’t all be met. A CEO may find that they simply cannot achieve all their goals, and this can lead to feelings of failure.

But time stress is also one of the easiest types of stress to handle as it’s related to something tangible and immutable. Though you can change your habits, there’s nothing you can do about time itself. Because of this, being realistic about your goals is one of the most critical aspects of relieving time stress.

  • Brush up on your time management skills. You may not have enough time because time is simply slipping away unnoticed. Pay attention to how you’re spending your time and work to optimise it.
  • Delegate your tasks intelligently. You may actually not have enough time in the day, especially if you have been trying to handle everything yourself. If a task can be handed off, it should be.
  • Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Don’t take on too much. Part of being a leader is ensuring that you aren’t put in the position of over-promising and under-delivering.

The more control you have over your time, the less stress you’ll experience. After all, you’ll already know what you can and can’t do, and you’ll be able to avoid over-booking yourself. Here is an article on how to effectively delegate tasks in order to free up time in your day.

2. Anticipatory stress

The new expansion seems to be going great, but there’s no way of really knowing until the doors open. Are you going to be prepared?

CEOs may begin to experience stress before a major event, especially if the results are uncertain. This is natural; it’s that fight-or-flight instinct kicking in before an upcoming ‘battle’.

Since you don’t know what you should prepare for, all you can do is wait and worry — and that, in itself, can become damaging. Anticipatory stress is one of the most insidious forms of stress because it can be constant. After all, there’s almost always something new around the corner. Anticipatory stress also conveys no true benefit: worrying about a situation that you can’t change doesn’t help.

  • Prepare yourself. The better prepared you are for upcoming events, the less you will have to worry about.
  • Be confident in your decisions. Though you may not always be able to make the right decision, you should be able to make the best-informed decision. You are, after all, still human.
  • Focus on tangible actions. Rather than worrying, look for something that you can investigate or improve. This allows you to take control over the situation in a functional way.

3. Situational stress

All the data is gone, and the backups are nowhere to be found. Could this spell the end for your business?

Even the best-prepared leaders will occasionally face an emergency. The emergency above — data loss — has happened to nearly a third of all organisations at one point or another. This type of stress is generally blended with panic, and that can lead to exceptionally poor decision-making. Emergency situations often require immediate action, and they can have devastating consequences. CEOs will often feel under pressure to quickly make the right decisions to steer their business out of danger.

  • Take a breather. Even in an emergency, you need to take the time to think things through; otherwise, you could simply compound your problems.
  • Seek out advice. A knowledgeable mentor or experienced business partner may be able to reframe your perspective and give you some useful tips.
  • Remove yourself from the situation. If it’s a specific environment that is triggering your stress, remove yourself from it to fully consider your options.

4. Encounter stress

It’s that time again — downsizing. You know that it’s part of running a business, but that doesn’t make the meetings any easier.

CEOs need to deal with people, and not all of those dealings are pleasant. From employee reviews to firings, there can be many social encounters that are less than pleasant.

CEOs may feel stress when approaching negotiations, dealing with angry customers, or having to censure their own employees. Encounter stress can also simply arise from having to be in constant contact with many individuals, as having to be social and ‘on’ all the time can be exhausting. This can lead to a feeling of brain drain and impact a CEO’s ability to work.

  • Remember to make time for yourself. It’s important to get some alone time in every day so you don’t always feel as though you’re performing your duties as a CEO.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence. Learning more about why people feel a certain way and how you can have positive interactions with them can help put you back in control.
  • Don’t take it personally. You can’t please all the people all the time; learn to accept the fact that sometimes people will walk away unhappy.

Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to eliminate all the stressors in your life — but you can turn them to your advantage. CEOs need to be extremely mindful when managing their stress levels, as stress can come from all four corners at once. A little bit of stress is motivating, but a lot of stress can lead to poor decisions and negative social interactions. As long as you can identify why you’re feeling stressed, you can work to alleviate that stress.

A supportive network of peers and mentors can help a great deal. For the most part, stress is unnecessary; it only serves to cloud the mind. Through TEC, you can access a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network where you can learn stress management techniques from other leaders. Sign up for TEC today to begin building a path to better decisions.

Staying relevant in a disrupted industry: Lessons from Eckersley Group

Businesses need to move with the times, something that Tom Eckersley quickly realised when he took over his father’s company, Eckersley Group, with his brother in 1991. Providing a broad range of printed materials to businesses across Australia, the introduction of the digital age has meant Tom’s had to update his product and service offering frequently in order to remain relevant.

Keeping pace with digital transformation

“The advent of digital technology has completely changed the way both our customers and we as a business look at printed products,” explains Tom. “Marketing has undergone huge transformations – our clients are connecting with their customers in completely different ways, everyone is trying to decide on the best medium to communicate through, and there’s now a far greater range of products to choose from.”

Rather than seeing the digital transformation as a challenge to overcome, Eckersley Group chose to work directly with new technology to provide a range of innovative, highly relevant products. These mainly focus around targeting printed media to increase engagement. “Instead of printing a generic brochure that goes out to 100,000 people, we’ll now produce 1,000 but they’ll be aimed at a specific sector or group. We’ll use data to individually personalise content, and through this we’ll increase engagement.”

From the business end, the technology Eckersley Group uses to produce material has changed dramatically over the years. Tom’s invested in a range of new technologies to keep up with this, particularly digital production equipment. “We decided it was best to concentrate on a few core activities rather than a broad range of service offerings. This has meant we’ve been able to carve out a niche slice of the market without over-stretching ourselves.”

A dynamic duo

The print industry is one where, as Tom explains, dynamism is key. “We need to be incredibly responsive to the market, we can’t work on one model from yesteryear, we need to change our business model constantly in order to keep up with the pace of technological transformation.”

Tom and his brother realised that, in recent years, there’s a clear need for an end-to-end supply solution in the print industry. Eckersley Group responded to this by focusing on logistics. “We’re no longer just providing the product. Instead, we’re looking at end-to-end solutions, including supply, warehousing and distribution into our offering,” says Tom.

It’s this dynamism that’s gotten Eckersley Group to where it is today – a highly successful business that’s developed and grown over the years, taking on a number of other printing companies and adding them into the core. This has enabled Tom and his brother to receive acclaim from the print community, winning Craftsman Awards consistently for the quality of work they produce.

An outside perspective

In a family business like Eckersley Group, where meetings can take place around the dining room table as much as in the office, it’s essential to get an outside perspective. For Tom, TEC was able to provide that objectivity. “I met someone many years ago who was having a similar experience to me in terms of running a family business. He mentioned TEC and suggested that I go along to one of the meetings. From there, I never looked back. TEC’s given us that broader range of input and objectivity that we needed. When you’re in a family business, you’re so involved with everything and you have been all your life, so it’s important to get some perspective.”

As well as talking over issues around the table, Tom also enjoys hearing from the public speakers that TEC brings in. “The speakers bring a different dimension, they bring a lot of expertise to a particular topic, whereas with the group we can get that broader advice. Both have worked really well in improving my decision making at Eckersley Group.”

Fast Facts:

Established in: 1971 (Tom and his brother took over in 1991)

Industry: Printing

Size: 30 staff and around 1,000 clients

Markets: Australian SMEs, corporates, governments, some individuals especially book publishers

Product range: 1,000s of productions over 100 different categories, covering all marketing materials, printed matter and business stationery, both from a digital production and a traditional offset production point of view

4 tips to running effective meetings

From stand-up scrums to sit-down sessions, meetings take up a large portion of time for any organisation. When managed effectively, a meeting is an opportunity to optimise business operations. But when managed poorly, meetings become disruptive and distracting.

It’s estimated that $37 billion a year is wasted on meetings that are unnecessary — and meetings themselves can offer a false sense of productivity that gets in the way of legitimate accomplishments.

What’s the difference between an effective, powerful meeting and a waste of time? It often comes down to leadership.

Leaders are what set the tone and course of a meeting; they are the ones who decide whether a meeting is necessary, what format the meeting should be in, and how long the meeting should take.

As a leader, you need to take steps to make sure your meetings are living up to their potential.

1. Create a highly structured agenda

Meetings tend to bounce from one topic to another as related concerns arise and an extemporaneous discussion begins. While this type of exploration can sometimes be useful, it’s more often distracting.

Creating a highly structured agenda will keep your meeting focused on the issue at hand. When creating an agenda, ask yourself:

  • What are the goals of the meeting?
  • Who is necessary for the meeting?
  • When is the best time for the meeting?

Expand on your agenda with a thorough outline of the meeting’s discussion topics. A narrow, specific agenda is the most useful agenda; the broader your meeting topics are, the less likely you are to be able to get anything substantive done.

2. Only invite those who belong to the entire agenda

A shorter, smaller meeting is almost universally desirable. Additional members will only expand the scope of a meeting, encouraging it to run longer and reducing its capacity to focus.

Meetings should be as short as possible and should be limited to attendees who are necessary. If team members feel that the meeting is not relevant to them, they will often become distracted. They may even derail the meeting entirely, in an attempt to bring it towards topics that are more relevant to them. Even if they remain silent, their time will still be wasted.

Irrelevant meetings burn out employees — and over time, they encourage employees to ‘zone out’ during meetings even when they are relevant to them. Improving the relevancy of your meetings is the first step towards ensuring that employees are attentive and alert.

3. Stick to the agenda

It’s easy for unexpected issues to arise during a meeting. After all, team members may find themselves suddenly in the room with a large number of people who could solve the problems that they’re currently encountering.

This encourages them to discuss issues that are relevant to their current tasks. But for a meeting to remain efficient, it’s important to avoid being side-tracked.

When an issue that’s not on the agenda does arise, acknowledge it and have it recorded. Make it a point to discuss it in subsequent meetings.

Ensuring that the issue is properly acknowledged is important; otherwise, team members may feel as though they have been brushed off.

Likewise, it’s important to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue if it is a valid one, as otherwise people could forget about the issue.

4. Debrief and follow up

Once the meeting is over, give an overview of the key points the team has discussed and the information that has been gained throughout the meeting.

If it is desirable to get undirected feedback, set aside a time at the end of the meeting for meeting members to address any of their additional concerns.

A report should be compiled to include the meeting’s minutes, and team members with newly assigned projects or tasks should be followed up to make sure they’re on track.

Ideally, every team member involved in the meeting should walk away understanding the issues raised, the solutions presented, and their role in implementation. Written documentation will further improve the process as team members will be able to refer back to the documentation later.

As a leader, you have the unique ability to direct the meeting — and an effective meeting is all about direction. Keep your agenda close, and you’ll be able to keep the meeting on track and moving swiftly.

But meetings aren’t just about structure and process; they’re also about practice and experience. Connecting with other leaders is an excellent opportunity to acquire tips from others. Contact TEC today to find out more about connecting with a peer group of thousands of leaders, entrepreneurs, and mentors.

Making decisions with disagreements

When it comes to business strategies and problem-solving, not everyone shares the same perspective. Before a decision can be made, it’s not uncommon for a disagreement to occur. As a leader, it’s your role to manage these disagreements without letting them disrupt the flow of your organisation.

Sometimes, it’s not always important, or even possible, to make the best decision when you don’t have all the information regarding a certain issue. It’s more important that the decisions are made and that they are made with due consideration. You can achieve this by creating a decision-making strategy and by following these best practices:

Leave emotion out of it

A disagreement can easily become personal. After all, each professional is defending their own point of view, which stems from a combination of their own knowledge and experience. But everyone has their own perspective and no single individual can understand all aspects of a situation. It’s important to remain professional and to leave emotion out of the decision-making process.

Not only can introducing emotions ultimately confuse issues, but it can also reduce the impact of any points you are trying to make. Being clear on facts and clearly justifying your decisions is necessary not only for the best possible outcome, but also to ensure that employees understand your reasoning and do not feel ignored or pushed aside.

Appreciate all suggestions

It’s very easy to dismiss suggestions either as being outlandish or something that you’ve already considered. But rather than making a quick decision and potentially undermining your employee’s confidence, you should instead explore the idea and walk them through your own thought process. Be open to ideas that you might have otherwise dismissed; there may be some components that you haven’t considered.

By being a good listener, asking questions, and trying to see everyone’s point of view, you can create a positive and cooperative atmosphere. Employees will be more willing to share ideas, and ideas that are truly innovative and creative will be more likely heard. Being a primary decision maker is often like being an investigator; you need to explore all of the data before drawing a conclusion.

A failure to consider your employee’s ideas, even when they are truly unsuitable, can eventually lead to frustrated employees who feel unappreciated. When employees offer their ideas, they are trying to help. When that help is ignored, they often feel personally rejected. Moreover, it can make employees hesitate when they truly do have a good idea, as they may feel as though they won’t be heard.

Keep the consequences of your decision in mind

By necessity, each suggestion during a decision-making process needs to be explored to its conclusion. Once the brainstorming is over, each potential decision should be thoroughly outlined, and the consequences of that decision should be thoroughly investigated. The following questions should be asked:

  • What are the potential results of this decision?
  • What complications could arise due to this decision?
  • Who will this decision affect positively or adversely?
  • What will be the ultimate cost, in time and money, of each decision?

It’s possible that you may not know which decision will perform better. It may be something that is truly unknowable, such as a scenario that relies on too many factors, or it may be a decision that requires additional information before it can be made. Either way, if a decision must be made at this time, then the potential consequences not only need to be acknowledged but they also must be prepared for.

In business, it is possible that a decision may need to be made without all of the information present. Because of this, you may need to simply choose the best out of all possible solutions and plan contingencies in the event that there are negative consequences.

Compromising often doesn’t produce the best results

When we were children, we were often taught to compromise. It made sense because compromising is a fantastic way to build relationships with friends and family. But compromise is not a fantastic way to run a business. As a CEO, you need to make decisions that are optimal, not acceptable. Compromise ultimately results in both parties getting a little of what they want and a little of what they don’t need. Compromise leads to two dissatisfied parties and a weakened overall strategy.

CEOs may feel the compulsion to compromise when it comes to important business decisions, especially if tensions and emotions are running high. But when it comes to business, it’s almost always better to set a solid course rather than trying to split multiple strategies. A CEO needs to carefully study when compromise is and isn’t appropriate, and practice mediation in lieu of compromising their decision-making process.

Make better decisions through positive leadership

As CEO, you have already been selected to lead your company. Your company has put its faith in your decision-making abilities for a reason. Part of that reason is because you make well-considered, well-crafted decisions. As long as you are not making every decision in the company, it’s your prerogative to override others.

But it isn’t always that simple, especially when tensions run high or the right decision may not always be obvious. During those times, you may want to reach out for mentorship. TEC provides direct access to leaders and business owners who have experience moderating the decision-making process and ensuring that the right decisions are made day after day. Contact TEC today to find out more. 

The art of defining a market for business: Lessons from Norwest Recruitment

60% of Australian small businesses will fail within the first three years. When polled, 44% of failed Australian businesses suffered from ‘poor strategic management’ and 40% ‘fell victim to inadequate cash flow.’ Many of these businesses failed not because of a lack of opportunity but because they were not able to properly define their market and execute related strategies. In fact, small businesses have been opening m­­ore often throughout Australia due to favourable economic conditions; though all the components for success may be there, the focus and the market research is not.

Since 2002, Norwest Recruitment has operated with a simple goal: connecting businesses to the talent they need to grow and thrive. With over 20 business awards — and a ranking of 47th on the BRW Fast 100 — Norwest Recruitment has been a clear success in the competitive market of permanent and temporary employee recruitment. Erica Westbury, CEO of Norwest Recruitment, has achieved this success not only by identifying the commercial and residential growth within the North West but by also committing fully to the opportunities it represented.

Embrace the challenge

In Australia, recruitment services is not a growing industry. In fact, it experienced a downsizing of -0.4% between 2012 and 2017. This is significant, as nearly all sectors experienced growth. Since 2002, the unemployment rate in Australia has been generally falling, with a peak in 2009 and again in 2015. With this information in hand, it might be easy to think that a recruitment agency wouldn’t be able to succeed.

But it was a thorough understanding of the local market that led Erica to her conclusions. Erica realised that the recruitment agencies that already existed in Norwest Business Park weren’t offering premium-level professional services. Recruitment services were being ignored because they offered both poor customer service and a substandard talent pool. Recruitment services had developed a bad reputation.

By understanding the challenges facing the recruitment industry — one of poor reputation and a flooded workforce — Erica was able to position Norwest Recruitment in an area of the market that was not yet filled. By offering premium temporary and professional talent, she was able to sidestep issues related to low unemployment rates and a stagnant market. Norwest Recruitment became a resource through which HR departments could find the best professional talent. And this was something businesses would always need, even when the market was flooded.

Do it better

When asked about competition tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, once said, ‘If other people are putting in 40-hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100-hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what takes them a year to achieve.’

Businesses need to view their competition as a benchmark and should always be attempting to improve upon their work product. For Norwest Recruitment, it wasn’t just about providing a better talent pool. It was also about providing a better experience, refining processes, and reducing overhead. Businesses today need to be able to stay ahead of their technology, pivot when the market changes, and understand their customer’s needs. Often, a business will even be called upon to anticipate market and customer changes long before the change occurs.

Erica knew that in order to break into the market of recruitment and employment, she had to be able to do it better. There are hundreds of options available for companies that simply want access to a talent pool, but it was better customer service that many HR departments were looking for. By improving upon customer service and putting clients first, Erica was already a step ahead in the game.

The risk in decision-making

As a CEO, you’re faced with difficult decisions every day. Making challenging decisions can be the difference between success or failure, it could even change the entire course of your business. It is easy to fall into the habit of choosing the safest decision to achieve expected results and avoid the risk of being wrong. This may decrease risk but it does not improve results.

It is essential, as a business owner, to remain committed to your choice and be aware that no matter what option you choose, your efforts to support the success is far more important than the cost of being ‘wrong’. Erica’s decision to build a business in a saturated market was associated with great risk. The focus was not on whether this was the right decision to make – rather Erica did everything she could to ensure that her decision turned out right. The success of this is reflected in the 15 business awards won by Norwest Recruitment, including the 2014 Hills Local Business Awards, the 2011 Fairfield City Local Business Award, and the NPAWorldwide Australia/New Zealand Top Revenue Achieved Award.

Learn from other business owners

Business owners must never stop learning. Not only is there a wealth of knowledge out there available from other business owners, but the market itself may change with the times. Business owners need to stay on top of new technology, need to refine their leadership skills and learn new management techniques. They must understand modern accounting standards and have the strategy skills necessary to grow and expand in often challenging marketplaces.

Through TEC, Erica was able to reach out to other business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals. She was able to listen to experienced and accomplished TEC speakers and connect to a like-minded community that could offer her support and resources. Through this professional community connection, Erica was further able to build her knowledge and confidence as a leader. It’s time you belong to a peer network and learn from the best. Get in touch with TEC today.