The 3 drivers of digital marketing success, that most businesses don’t have

With Australian companies feeling the pressure of digital disruption – a ‘damburst‘ if you will – new research has found three key areas that companies successful at digital marketing have in common.

The research indicates that a clear strategy, team-wide digital literacy, and using data to shape narratives inside a company correlated strongly with the digital success of Australia’s highest-achieving brands.

According to the research…

  • 85% of Australian companies believe their organisation has been disrupted by digital;
  • 51% are “somewhat confident” in their ability to execute their digital marketing strategy;
  • Only 29% of companies were “highly confident” in their ability to execute their digital marketing strategy.

The most confident companies — labelled “Digital Achievers” in the report — are on average 59% more likely to have seen 20%+ revenue growth in the past 12 months, and 6.5 times less likely to have seen a headcount decline over the last 12 months.

Although the “Achievers” said they had more people and time to execute their strategy, there was no correlation with company size — meaning the key difference was that resources and time were being used more effectively.

As far as individual skills, the marketers surveyed feel the most confident in social media and email marketing and gave themselves the lowest marks in marketing automation and SEO.

The independent research was commissioned by the Australian-owned digital strategy agency, ntegrity, in partnership with McCrindle Research, as part of their annual research into the Australian digital marketing ecosystem. Researchers surveyed 319 Australian marketing professionals between January and April 2018.

It’s incredible isn’t it that the things that are most important to the success of an Australian business are the very factors that businesses are weak at. The tsunami of disruption that is coming down the pipe at all businesses is only growing in pace and veracity, yet people seem to be looking in the wrong direction. Heads in the sand.

Once the wave hits, as it will, and is, often you hear complaints from business sectors about how ‘unfair’ the competition is, or totally unrelated things are blamed, such as immigrants or trade deals or the number of seagulls on the pitch walking clockwise.

I suppose this breeds an industry of digital marketing agencies. Certainly, all those I know in this industry – who know what they are doing – are doing very well, thank you.

It’s going to be be interesting to see how this all pans out.

A watershed moment for Perth tech startups

Dr Marcus Tan addressing the ‘Digital Disruption in Health’ YOLK event, last week

This week it was revealed that local tech business, HealthEngine, had raised $26 million from global venture capitalist Sequoia Capital.

This is notable for a few reasons:

  • it’s the largest private sector investment in a local tech startup
  • the first such investment from this Silicon Valley VC in Western Australia, and their second in Australia (after investing in Melbourne-originated LIFX)
  • the same VC that has invested in such global successes as Google, Apple, Whatsapp, Stripe and AirBnB
  • the business is headquartered and will remain (as far as we know) in Perth
  • the investment reduces the need for the company to do an IPO & keeps the business private

On so many levels, this is a knock-it-out-of-the-park deal, made all the the more notable in that the co-founder and CEO, Marcus Tan, has been a fixture on the local startup scene for 7 years or so.

I remember first meeting Marcus when he was a fellow mentor on Perth’s first Startup Weekend in September 2012. The 10th such event will be held next month. The more I got to know Marcus, the more impressed I was.

Not only a cofounder and CEO (he’d put together the HealthEngine startup in 2006, developing it from his lounge room), he was also an angel investor himself, and a philanthropist (being behind the Global Meridian fund raiser for local worthy causes). He was one of those who set up Perth’s second co-working space for techies, Sync Labs (now run by Spacecubed). He has been basically everywhere in and around the sector in the past decade, as well as a practising GP. Is there nothing he can’t do?

A week last Friday I moderated a session down at the Old Swan Brewery (see photo above), on the topic of digital disruption in health, and he was quite brilliant on the panel. His deep intelligence and soft spoken authority came across (as always), and anyone that met him and heard him cannot but be impressed.

A few years ago I invited him to be a guest speaker in my eBusiness MBA class. Along with many gems of advice, I remember him saying that that Australia is of a certain size that one online business can totally dominate a sector. Realestate.com.au (REA Group) has done this in real estate, and is one of the most profitable online real estate businesses globally. A larger country, such as the States, he argued, is almost too large to have one business dominate. It was clear he was out to dominate Australia, and this week’s funding probably allows him to complete that mission, while looking out for regional and global market expansions.

It could not happen to a better person, and I wish him and HealthEngine all the best.

What this also does is demonstrate to other local tech startup aspirants that a good tech idea, well executed, can be built from Perth. Apart from traditional ICT businesses like Amcom and iiNet, we’ve not seen evidence of this being done. You can also bet Sequoia and others will be looking at Australia, and maybe even Perth. To Atlassian and Canva (Perth originated, but now Sydney based), HealthEngine is now added as the next possible Aussie ‘unicorn’.

Be inspired Perth tech startups up, for you could join the list sometime soon…

Busking in Perth – memories from 25 years ago

Ruff n Ready

The first time I came to Perth, WA, was exactly 25 years ago, as a busker. Christmas 1991. We had a brilliant 10 days, and – incredibly – each made enough to cover our return airfares.

At the time, I was living and working in Singapore, where busking was prohibited. Something about it being against the law to have two or more people gather together in a public place; a law that had been brought in to help quell communism in the sixties. Singapore did quite a good job of quelling communism, but that’s a different story. The strange remnant of this law (since lifted) meant that 2 fellow band members who had travelled down to Perth the year before (‘where there’s a terrific street entertainment scene‘) said we should visit this Christmas and do some busking.

Yes, I had fellow band members. I had moved to Singapore the year earlier, and somehow inveigled my way into a fairly well known (in expat circles anyway) 6-piece rock n roll tribute band (the ‘Ruff n Ready Roadshow’) which was made up of teachers, mainly from the same school I was working at. Anyway, 4 of us agreed to do it, and so we cobbled together a skiffle set of rock n roll classics, interspersed with some silly jokes and improvisations.

Our first port of call was Council House to get the required $2 busking license. It showed some red dots on a CBD map of the city, which denoted where we could busk and off we trotted. We saw one small stage set up in one of the malls, and set to work. Everyone pretty much ignored us, and by the end of day 2, we had not much to show for it.

Oh well, we thought, at least we’ve given it a go. And we are hardly street performers anyway. We’d do 20 or so dinner dances in Singapore, but this live performing to Christmas shoppers malarky was a different ball game. One upshot of actually performing on the street was meeting other performers, many of whom do it for a living, and do very nicely thank you. They can sense when it’s a good time to do a show, know exactly how to build up a crowd and milk it for all it’s worth. People I met that week, I would meet a year later in Covent Garden in London, or in Edinburgh at festival time.

The person I was staying with said that by performing on a stage, Perth people might think we were paid by the council, so the next day we went and found a spot outside Myers’ main entrance in the central shopping mall. There was a steady throng of people there, who were happy to stop and listen. Suddenly the money started pouring in. People would sing along, laugh at our silliness (we looked a picture in our multi coloured teddy boy outfits and greased up hair – the photo above shows us in Fremantle that same week), and would generally get the idea that it was time to pay up when we ended each set with the Motown/Beatles standard ‘Money, (that’s what I want)’ .

On one occasion, the Salvation Army lady was standing near our audience getting donations for her tin, so we decided to donate a whole set’s worth to her. You should have seen her face.

Never change a winning formula, we thought, so we played there for most of the week pre Christmas, and a few days after. In between, we did a day in Fremantle (not so good tippers that lot), and also got booked to play on stage in Forrest Chase for the Carols by Candlelight and were entered into a busking competition (we came second!).

All the while I was struck by Perth’s beauty: the clean streets, stunning blue skies, bright sunshine, great coffee and beautiful beaches. The friendliness of the people and their genuine warmth (we were asked to play at so many parties & corporate gigs, but it was always the week after we’d left). ‘I’m going to live here one day‘, I thought. And so it would prove, about 5 years later. For 2017 denotes the 20th year that Lisa and I moved to Perth. We’re set here for life, and every year about this time, when I find myself walking through the mall or Forrest Place, I always remember the time, a quarter of a century ago, I first landed here, and strummed a tea chest base for 10 days and sampled my first (of many thousand) flat whites.

Merry Christmas Perth, and a Happy New Year. You’re beautiful.

The intolerance of difference

celebrate difference

In a recent post, I argued there was one proven way (borne from research) that dealt with bullying, but it was not easy to do. You had to deal with all 4 sides of bullying behaviour: the bully, the victim, the bully’s acolytes and the majority who carry on with their lives.

I’d now like to step back and discuss what causes bullying behaviour in the first place. What explains persistent and aggressive behaviour against a weaker group by another larger, stronger group?

It’s intolerance of difference, pure and simple.

Bullies play on the herd mentality, that bond that makes people stick together in a group of sameness. This group pours scorn and blame on a smaller group ‘that looks different’. Perhaps these victims dress different, pray different, eat different, speak different, act different. Some things, or many things, are different about them. And it’s this intrinsic ‘different-ness’ that becomes the reason to pick on them.

We are naturally scared of things we don’t understand. It’s an understandable, human response. Ever since our cave-dwelling days, we have been wired to distrust anyone that comes into our area that is not from our tribe. Safer to assume they will attack us, take our food, our jobs, destroy our neighbourhoods. You tended to live longer that way. Survival of the fittest.

Whether it’s the red-haired chubby 9 year old being picked on by taller, slimmer jocks, or whether it’s Hanson’s ‘Asian invasion’ of the late 90s (or her ‘Muslim invasion’ of the mid 2010s), what is common to all this behaviour is a majority privileged group putting down a smaller ‘different’ group, and blaming them for all their own ills.

What is also common is a complete falsehood with the facts. Asians did not invade Australia, nor are we being swamped by Muslims (less than 2% of the population). And anyway, what is actually wrong with having a nice variety of people and cultures on our country? What a boring, staid place it would be if it were all the same. How insular and sad that country would be. We’d all be missing out on some amazing experiences, many of which we take for granted today, that only came about through immigration and ties between countries (such as open trade).

Of course the two-faced nature of the ‘anti immigration’ debate is that those proposing it are indeed immigrants themselves, in their own generation or not many generations before. They should be more honest in their arguments (but of course they are not) by declaring: ‘I got here first, I like it, and I don’t want anyone else coming in and getting what I enjoy.’

If we only ‘stopped the boats’ (full of fleeing refugees, by their very nature the most downtrodden, weakest people on the planet), or ‘reduced immigration’ or ‘banned head scarves’ then somehow everything would be back to how it was. The implication is that it is too easy to get to our country, and we’re being overrun. A country of 24 million, with a land mass of 7.7 million sq kms, one of the largest countries on the planet.

Quickly you see the same four groups forming – the bullies shout from their safe positions as shock jocks, Alt Right politicians, Senate seats, news opinion pulpits or press columns, while their supporters jeer from the stands (‘Trump tells it like it is!’). Half a million voted in the recent election for Hanson’s party. Suddenly all your issues can be blamed on them, those that look and act different to us, those same people fleeing the horrors of Syria or African war lords. Meanwhile the victims line up for scorn, and have little recourse to a fair hearing. At the same time, the majority sit by, possibly disagreeing but not intervening.

One wonders why we don’t celebrate difference, rather than have a preconditioned aversion or suspicion to it. Multiculturalism brings the world together, creates better understanding and forms ties between peoples. You are less suspicious of people you have met and interacted with. 20,000 Syrian refugees are not going to ruin Australia (or the US for that matter) any more than the Vietnamese boat people did in the 1970s. In fact, many went on to form businesses, not for profits and councils and do great work in our communities. It makes a society richer, more understanding and inclusive. Ultimately, this makes us and the country safer. What puts a country at risk is tribalism, with people bleetingly following their one eyed herd.

In the 1990s I taught at the United World College of SE Asia in Singapore. There were students from 60 different nationalities in the school, over 1500 in all. Over 8 years, I saw no bullying behaviour. Instead, I saw celebration of difference, proudly proclaimed on ‘UN Nights’ and every day with kids just getting on with each other, forming friendships and understanding each other’s cultures. In fact, it was not even an issue. Put different cultures together at an early, formative age and they will have peace, argued Kurt Hahn, the founder of the United World Colleges. They were set up in the 1960s, a few years after the horrors of the Second World War, precisely for this reason. There are now 16 such colleges around the world. None (sadly) in Australia.

I am looking for the politician or leader to celebrate difference.

To plot a different path. To talk about what unites us, rather than play on what naturally can scare us and rub salt on divisions. To talk to our better angels, not our worse demons.

This is not for some trendy tree-hugging bohemian reasons, this is actually for our own (and everyone’s) betterment. A safer future, a surer world, confident in itself, able to stand up to bullies.

Perhaps Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is the best example of this in practice. He personally welcomed the first group of Syrian refugees. When he was asked about the risk of letting in Syrians, he corrected the interviewer, saying ‘They are Canadians, and we will protect them, as we do all Canadians.’

Let’s use the power of the people to make this happen. Let’s call out those who pander to the lowest common denominators. Love trumps hate.

A failure to communicate

Martin Luther King

No one’s listening anymore. Not for long anyway, as in, not for more than a few seconds. In this twitter era of short concentration spans, communication is boiled down to 3 word phrases and little else. You get passing attention. There’s just so much ‘stuff’ going on, flying by on newsfeeds and instachatter.

Recent elections around the world show this trend is only becoming stronger. UK politicians, with right on their side (130 vice chancellors from ALL 130 UK universities backed ‘Remain’), failed to convince more than half the voting public to stay in the EU. Trump’s rise is similar, in that his support, and those of Brexit, is mainly made up of older people and/or lower educated, working class whites. The new economy has done them no favours, it would appear, and there’s an underlying fear and confusion about foreigners, immigration, disruption and terrorism. Why couldn’t the EU do a better job of explaining the benefits of its club to its 2nd largest member? Why couldn’t the two main UK political parties?

In the Australian election, the longest campaign for decades failed to grasp people’s interest for long, so each side resorted to 3 word phrases (Jobs and Growth vs Putting People First) and towards the end even those were (if you forgive the pun) shortened: Save Medicare. In the absence of attention, nothing succeeds like fear mongering, so the Libs went with ‘security’ (due to the uncertainties of brexit, busts and boats) and Labor went with Medicare. Which do you fear most people – losing your job or paying more for your GP?

The result? a brexit buyer’s remorse in the UK (‘bregret’ they are calling it), a hung parliament in Australia and the possibility of President Trump. Australian voters could now get both of the fears realised – an uncertain economy, with more redundancies due to less investment and activity AND paying more for health services due to an ageing population and ballooning costs.

Meanwhile the US election will drag on for another 4 months. Either way, Trump wins – the Presidency or major personal brand inflation. I have a feeling he’d plump for the latter, such is his ego.

So what’s going on? No doubt, fear mongering is behind most of these results (it’s a raw emotion and everyone from the sleazy salesperson right up to the pollie draws on this), but it’s also a massive failure of communication.

Perhaps the greatest skill of the leader is to communicate their vision and bring people along with them. Obama could do it, perhaps the greatest practitioner of the set piece speech since Reagan, Martin Luther King  and JFK. Roosevelt could do it. So too Churchill and Lincoln.  Of course, you need more than the ability to deliver a great speech, but without it, everything can be nought. It’s a necessary, but not sufficient condition of leadership. Neither John Howard nor Menzies were great orators, but they were OK at it, and led for over a decade. Kim Beazley was particularly good at it, but never became PM.

Obama showed, in this instant snapchat world, how you can reach hearts and minds. He may have disappointed many with his results since, but he showed you can be articulate and sensible while being rousing and passionate. He struck the right tone, and was (in himself) a fantastic story. And yes, the best orators are also the best story tellers. Clinton (Bill) could do it, Hillary, less so. But she may yet prove to be a sensible choice for President. Not a great campaigner perhaps, but given the choice between a great campaigner and a great President, I know who I’d choose. Often to get the one, you need the other. She’ll have a tough time as President unless she can convince the country, congress and the Senate to come along with her. But she won’t be President unless she can expose Trump for who he is, and put forward her own positive agenda with clarity, while overcoming peoples’ natural aversion to her ‘untrustworthy’ image. It’s all very mucky really, on both sides. And yes, it has come to this. Don’t expect ‘debate’ (if that is what it is) to improve anytime soon.

Many people waking up in Australia today will again bemoan the lack of leadership, and within it the lack of ability to communicate a strong vision and bring more than 40% of the country along with them. On either side. The two main parties again failed to win more than 80% of the total votes cast. Weird and wacky minor ‘parties’ (people really) have been elected and will hold the balance of power, perhaps in both houses. We see the return of Hanson (Australia’s Trump) once more.

No one says communicating your ideas is easy, but it’s critical. Without it, what are you achieving anyway?

CEOs sleep out for the homeless – 2016

sleepout-$$$

The CEO Sleepout last Thursday night was another humbling and thought-provoking experience for me, plus the other 100+ WA CEOs who braved the cold and hard concrete floors of the WACA, armed only with a thin piece of cardboard, a sleeping bag and a pillow.

sleepout-place

My spot for the night

I found the same spot I had used 6 years earlier, and actually got more sleep than I anticipated (2 or 3 hours maybe?). While some wanted to be on the grass outside (the dew and wet would make that very uncomfortable), I snuck down to the bowels of the Lillee Marsh stand to claim a quiet spot next to the cafeteria. It was warmer than expected, although a cold breeze came though in the early morning lowering the temperatures to single digits.

In all, the 104 CEOs of Perth (and their generous supporters) outdid all other capital cities other than Sydney in terms of donations.

Money goes to the St Vinnies, and is put to good use. Homeless shelters, places where homeless people can get a shower, clean their clothes and sleep the night, are provided for the 9,500 who sleep rough every night in Perth, part of the 105,000 across the country. Mental health services, support, social justice advocacy and partnerships are provided.

sleepout-tvo

Talks from the homeless and a panel discussion educated the CEOs on the issues confronting homeless people

The stats are saddening – homelessness starts young. 40% were homeless before aged 15, so they are at school. Often the school is unaware.

Over half start out their homeless journey coach surfing at friends or relatives (63%). Usually it has been spawned by parental conflict and/or domestic violence which means they are on their own. If no other options are available they go to a street or a park (16%). They have basically left home, and have nowhere else to go.

53% have mental health issues, 20% have attempted suicide in the past 6 months. 84% are unemployed. Only 31% complete year 12.

James Lush interviewing Barry Felstead on ABC radio. Barry raised $120k+

James Lush interviewing Barry Felstead on ABC radio. Barry raised $120k+

Youth homelessness takes up a disproportionate amount of GP time and costs, so too hospitals, emergency, law courts and victim assault services. Usually they are the victim. Being out on the streets is not safe. (At least we CEOs were perfectly safe, the odd discomfort for one night our only issue.)

All of this costs the tax payer $750 million a year, yet the amount of money provided for homelessness overall is far less.

Research shows that the simple fact of providing shelter greatly reduces their instances of crime, victim assault, suicide and mental health issues and greatly improves their chances at school and in getting a job.

It starts with a place to call home.

Then, if education and training can be provided, their life can be changed for the better, and they can join society on an equal footing.

All power the CEO Sleepout and the Vinnies. Well done and thanks to the CEOs and their supporters. Thanks for over 50 generous souls, I raised over $5,800 for the cause, more than double what I raised when I last did the sleepout in 2010.

You can still give to the cause (up to the end of August), so please donate if you can – the cause is so important, and the money goes to great use.

Economic growth set to continue

wpid-sunny-blue-skies_edit0.JPG

I’ve lived through a few recessions in my time. I still remember getting the candles out (yes, really) during the miner’s strike of the early 1970s in England. I was 9. It was fun – as a family we knew when the power cuts were coming to our little town, and when to get the candles ready.

The oil price shock brought on by the Arab-Iraeli war a year later would plunge the world into recession as oil prices quadrupled. The same happened again after the Iranian revolution 7 years later, which, combined with strict monetary policy plunged the UK into deep recession and mass unemployment (reaching 4 million at one stage). Another miner’s strike, this lasting just under a year, was finally defeated by the government of the time, who had cut taxes and deregulated the stock market ushering in a surge in share prices, which promptly collapsed on ‘Black Monday’ (a day that coincided with a hurricane sweeping across southern England, which closed our school for the day – I was now a teacher). The resultant interest cuts forged a strong recovery which only resulted in a deep recession in 1991. The UK had suffered through 3 major recessions in 20 years, one every 7. I taught this as an economic rule – a recession every 7 years.

By then I had moved to Singapore, which was enjoying two decades of non stop double digit GDP growth. I moved to Perth, Western Australia, just as the Asian economic crisis hit in 1997.

[If you, dear reader, see my exit just prior to these two recessions as anything but pure coincidence, please be assured I am not writing this post from my own island.]

And so to Australia, whose last recession was in 1991. 25 years of continuous economic growth has seen the country become a confident and influential player on the world stage. The 12th largest economy, boasting some of the best places to live.

With budget season now behind us, the latest figures predict our economy will continue to grow for at least another 5 years (albeit slower at 2 to 2.5% a year), which will stretch our period of non stop growth to 3 decades. Quite an achievement.

No doubt people will argue about whether we have invested this growth correctly, have built the infrastructure and society we want, which looks after as many as it can, and allows families to live in peace, and prosper. Some have got richer than others. 105,000 people still live on the streets, homeless. It’s not perfect by any means.

Government budgets are in deficit as the ‘mining boom’ ended and built-in spending programs have persisted. Billions of dollars of government spending cuts are blocked in the Senate (hence the double dissolution election coming up), and surpluses are many years away. Federal government debt has risen to just under 40% of GDP (in WA, state government debt has blown out to $40b or almost 100% of WA GDP).

Taxes in Australia are about the same as in other developed countries, but are more slanted towards direct (income and profit tax) than indirect (GST, taxes on cars, alcohol and cigarettes).

Meanwhile inflation is negligible and predicted to stay around 1%. The most recent quarter, it even went negative (hence the recent cut in interest rates to a record low of 1.75%). Interest rates could go to 1.5% later in the year, or even next month.

Unemployment is around 5.5-6%, and may rise a little more, but is unlikely to go much higher. A threat of a recession is small (we’d need something in excess of 8.5% unemployment for that).

Many WA businesses are feeling the pinch, and have been so for about 3 years. The real estate market has gone nowhere, and is still oversupplied in terms of the number of properties for sale or rent. Population growth in WA has slowed as those that came here for the ‘mine building’ boom have returned home.

Most people and businesses have ‘got used’ to the new normal of 2016. It’s no longer 2012, or 2006. The drag from mining and commodity prices is easing. Other industries are showing brighter signs, and everything feels a little more steady, if cautious. You have to work harder now for every dollar, every deal. [This is where the good sales people and good businesses prosper.]

Much depends on China. If China continues to grow, at 5% or 7% or even more, then what China wants, WA has. The US economy has improved, and the UK is one of the strongest in Europe. A few possible speed bumps are spread out in front of us: the threat of a ‘Brexit‘ and the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency. Both these, and especially the latter, have grave consequences for world growth. And, make no mistake, we all live in the same world. While the chances of both happening are less than 50%, they are not zero by any means.

For now then, it looks like Australia will continue to grow, almost inexorably onward. It’s blue skies over the Great Southern Land…

Encouraging women entrepreneurs

Springboard-panel
It is a sad fact that today in 2016, you are more likely to meet a board chair called “Peter” than a female board chair. Only 22% of Board appointees are women, although this has increased from 9% a few years ago. In Australia, a recent report showed that men in full time jobs were paid 15.4% more than women in full time jobs. In Western Australia, another report showed the gender pay gap is 25.3%, the worst state in Australia.

Achieving equality in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, it makes economic sense. Above and beyond the obvious and outrageous discrimination (systemic, implied, institutional, cultural…) is a case that we are only “fishing in shallow waters” if we ignore and keep down the majority (now 50.8%) of the population – women. The GDP foregone every year in Australia is assessed to be 20%, or around $300 billion.

This week I listened to the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner (and former lawyer and NSW Businesswoman of the Year) Elizabeth Broderick talk on these issues.

“In Australia today,” she says, “there are 1.4 million women suffering physical violence at home.”

1.4 million women. Domestic violence, which also includes exclusion, continual verbal and emoitonal attacks affects an even larger.

One solution? Get the people with the power (men) to act.

Male Champions of Change is an attempt to do just that. Men champion the changes in the home and at work, because this needs to be as much as male movement as a women one…

I also attended the launch of Springboard this week, a US-based accelerator for women entrepreneurs. It’s been going 4 years in Australia, and 3 in WA, and some of the excellent people who have taken part in recent years were interviewed about their experiences since going through the Springboard program (see photo above).

Most have either raised money or are in the process of doing so, and have had their businesses accelerate dramatically since leaving the program. Sharon Grosser from SEQTA and Louise Daw from MiPlan were on the program in 2013, and I remember they graced the cover of Business News along with Wanida from MagnePath, being the first time 3 women made the cover in its 23 year history. I’ve been following their progress with interest every since.

A 3-month accelerator for women in (mainly) tech startups is a great way to get women more actively involved and promoted. All other accelerators I’ve been too have had, by sheer weight of numbers, a preponderance of men, usually single and their 20s and 30s.

At Springboard, only 8 women are selected from across Australia every year (WA has been well represented recently with 5 in the last 2 years alone) and more information on 2016 applications can be found here or here. Applications are now open, and close on March 30th. The Bootcamp itself is run in Sydney and will take place from 16 – 18 May 2016 followed by 8 weeks of mentoring before the accelerator culminates in a pitch night for investors. { If anyone requires more information, they can contact Sheryl Frame  or the CEO in Sydney Elisa-Marie Dumas.}

Whether it’s tech startups, boards or any type of business, we have to do far more to encourage women to reach the upper levels of organisations. My best two managers (by far) over my 30 year career have both been women. Women tend to have less ego, are more nurturing of their teams, but can be as steely and tough as the next man. In study after study, women leaders come out on top. A 2012 Harvard Business Review report showed women are better business leaders than men on pretty much all elements, not just traditionally ‘female’ ones.

It’s time to make some changes.

When I look at my own organisation, I see the top CEO is male (me), but 60% of our executive team are female as are half the managers, half the sales teams, and all the corporate services team.

We can’t lose!

Promoting the positive force of business people

Australians of the Year

For the past 55 years, every Australia Day, the ‘Australian of the Year’ is announced, usually by the Prime Minister in a ceremony outside Parliament House. It’s become a major occasion, and is televised.

The Award was originally designed to bring some deeper meaning and a focal point to Australia Day itself. These days the winner is picked by the National Australia Day Council (NADC), in order to honour the Australians who make us proud to be Australian.

Glancing down the list of 59 (no doubt worthy) recipients, we see a distinct skew towards Science and Sport ~ with 15 Scientists and 14 Sportspeople honoured. That’s half the total list. 9 politicans & activitists and 9 entertainers make them quite a common category as well … then it’s a bit of a drop off to 4 business people, 3 military personnel, an artist, an author, a Bishop, a Cardinal and a judge. There are only 9 women, so it’s 85% male.

I love my sport like the next guy or gal, but surely they get enough recognition already? And not to mention their many accolades, wages, endorsements and everything else. When 4 win it in a 7 year stretch from 1998-2004 you think things have gone a bit over the top, even considering the sports mad Prime Minister we had at the time. How can you really compare the spray on skin brilliance of a Prof Fiona Wood with a tennis player, or an Indigenous leader with a cricketer?  And why so few women?

If we are trying to inspire our kids, then whose example are we trying to promote? Science is for boys and sports are so important the best ones are to be placed on another pedestal?

All hail Rosie Batty, the 2015 recipient and a campaigner against domestic violence. I’d like to see far more women, and more business people honoured too.

The first business person was Alan Bond in 1978 (oops!), then Dick Smith in 1986. Recently there has been a bit of a rush on  with Simon McKeon (2001) and Ita Buttrose (2013), who were honoured more for their post business work than what they did in business.

4 business people in 60 years? Slim pickings you might say.

Is this the tall poppy syndrome rearing its ugly head? Is it somehow ‘dirty’ to be successful in business? Are we only interested in what James Packer is up to with Mariah Carey, or Clive Palmer’s latest absurd remark? Are there no other admirable people in business who have served their organisations and communities well, creating jobs, wealth and happiness for tens of thousands? Well, yes there are, and I could name plenty. I’ve found the higher up you go and meet people, the more impressive they are. Not show offs, but working people, working hard, with the right attitude to their staff, clients and the community in which they operate. Most of them quietly get on with it. They give back in bucket loads. They pay a lot of tax, as do their companies. They pay dividends.

It’s not bad to be successful, and we should applaud those that are. Those that have worked hard over many decades, created the backbone of the economy, and have made this country the one that simply has the best lifestyle in the world. No exaggeration, even our cities get in the best places to live. And Australia gets even better when you step out of the cities!

So, come on NADC. Let’s see some positive reinforcement of the excellent business people out there. Women and men. Good people who can inspire the young of today, show them they can get out there and do it. Show them that they don’t need to settle. They can build up a  great company themselves. Yes, they can do science and maybe sport or entertain, but equally they can create a whole organisation, or go into one and transform it, building wealth for many (yes, including themselves) in the process.

Maybe not Clive Palmer. But perhaps Michael Chaney, Gail Kelly, Scott Farquhar, Jack Cowin, Stan Perron, Janine Allis, Radik Sali, Carla Zampatti … and many more besides. If you look, you will find thousands to choose from.

No recession for Australia, say the experts

Alan Oster

On Friday I attended an Economic Outlook breakfast, hosted by RSM, with NAB chief economist, Alan Oster. Here are my notes… it’s more positive than you might have guessed (which was the main take away.)

The headline is that there will be no recession in Australia in 2016, continuing an amazing 24 year run for our economy. Basically, mining (9% of the economy) is worse than people think, and everything else (especially services, 50% of the economy) is better than people think.

Globally, world GDP growth should be around 3%, which is short of the long term average of 4% that “the world needs”, but it’s not terrible. Things “are OK” in China and US, and this is important as these two nations drive the world economy.

In the US, interest rates will (finally) rise, slowly, and “it’s about time”. They can’t be zero forever. US inflation is at 1% unemployment is down to 5% (both inside target range).

China industrial output and steel are both down, but services are up. Iron ore and commodity prices are falling as demand is dropping and supply is rising. Iron ore prices are set to go to $33/t (but they were $23/t 10 years ago). China is not about to blow up; the tertiary sector (50% of economy) is growing at 8% a year and rising.

Meanwhile, India is growing at 7%, Japan has slipped back into recession, Latin America is in recession, the Asian tiger economies exhibit weak growth, and Europe is OK but not great.

Here in Australia, “there will be no GDP problem”, as LNG exports are set to add 2% to GDP growth on their own. Growth is switching to services away from mining services. Housing is OK but apartments market is over supplied. The RBA will not cut rates, and are unlikely to be able to raise them in 2016 as they don’t want to worsen the Sydney and Melbourne and property booms.

Mining investment is falling as we move to the export phase. The Aussie $ is moving to 63 – 73c range. The labour market is doing better than predicted, and most of the currency adjustment has already happened. The lower A$ is helping mining exporters (receive a better price).

When we ask businesses about their confidence (“how do you feel?”) we see that it is OK, not terrible but not great either. When we then ask “how are you going?” businesses are actually doing much better than major media reports. ‘How are you going’ is what businesses have done and are doing, not just ‘how they feel’.

The strong sectors are personal and recreational services (30% of economy) and are doing very well. The consumer has money. The Aussie consumer has ability to buy a house, get a lawyer, take a holiday in Australia … and is doing so.

Retail is actually quite good, and we’re in for a good Christmas. WA has good conditions but low confidence. Health and social assistance has added 370,000 jobs in Australia. Manufacturing has lost most ~ 100,000 jobs.

Australia did not save up to GFC but since has been saving and will continue to do so. Their spending “should be” at 4% growth but is at 2%. Property is strong in Syd/Melb and weak everywhere else; which means controlling it with interest rates is impossible. The Chinese are buying apartments that we might think are small but they think are fine, and it’s a safe place to put their money so the Chinese government can’t see it. Expect a marked slowdown but no crash in property in 2016. Perth has already lost the most in the property market in 2015, compared to any other Aussie capital city.

So, there will be no recession in Australia as exports are going to be strong; domestic demand is growing; non miners are doing better than everybody thinks. Unemployment will fall below 6% – the services sector is employing everybody.

Inflation is low – as forecast; which gives room for RBA to cut rates if they need to. But RBA does not want to fire up Syd/Melb property markets. Interest rates rise may rise, but not til 2017 and then only slowly to 3.5% from their current 2%.

Agriculture is a growth industry but is only 1.5% of economy. The “dining boom will not replace mining boom”. It cannot, it’s not big enough.

What would derail this positive view? If unemployment somehow gets to 8.5% we are in trouble. Our debt is serviceable as long as we have jobs; we have 3rd largest super in world; if you counted super (“which I know I can’t!”) then we have no debt. Debt will be an issue if we get into recession, but I don’t think we’ll get there, so we’re fine.

China is the least likely country to run out of cash; so whatever happens they have ability to keep going. It’s hard to think of a scenario that could make China fall over.

For all the slides to accompany his talk, click here