The Stanley & Co. Lawyers team believe in law done differently. It’s an approach we love here at Kiikstart – and one we reflect through our own work. Today we chat with Partner Amra Sabou about her career, starting Stanley & Co, and how the company is shaking up the legal space.

When and how was Stanley & Co. born?
My fellow Partner Rich and I were working at another law firm together. In early 2016, we decided to go out on our own. We could see so much scope for improvement from the traditional model. Our clients weren’t really happy, but it wasn’t because we were doing a bad job; it was mainly because of the fee structure. In July 2016 we set up shop and decided that, to the extent we could, we’d be a “new law” law firm.

What sets your approach apart?
Our main points of difference are that we’re approachable, we’re client-focused and we have fixed fees. Our clients have direct access to us and they have our mobile numbers. Our view is that we’re regular people doing a regular job, and we want our clients to feel comfortable. We don’t sit behind big, expensive mahogany desks where you have to go through multiple secretaries and personal assistants to get to us. We’ll explain things to our clients so they understand. Why would you do it any other way? Our clients are important to us.

What areas of law do you service?
We work in four main areas: family & divorce, wills & estates, commercial & business, and criminal & traffic. My main areas are family and wills, while Rich mainly works across commercial and criminal.

Where did your career in law begin and why do you enjoy practising?
My first law job was in a community legal centre that was set up to provide legal services to those who can’t afford private legal representation. It was a great first experience. I was the managing lawyers’ right hand person and it was a very broad role, so I got a lot of experience early on that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere.

I also love the business aspect of what I do. I’ve always found myself doing a lot of running the business from recruitment, to marketing, not just the legal work. I do enjoy having that variety because that puts me in a position where I can make changes. In turn, this ultimately creates a better client experience.

The idea of fixed fee pricing seems very foreign in the legal space. What has the response been like to this model?
We rarely get issues with fees with our clients because we don’t follow the traditional billing method. We also find that our client relationships are far better because we’ve taken away the fees and they’re the main burden for clients. It means they’re free to call us, email us and talk to us a lot more. We’re able to give our clients a better service because we actually get to know them and they get to know us better.

It makes working with a lawyer more accessible because in family matters we often fix our fees up until the end of the first hearing. So the clients know exactly how much it’s going to cost, and have confidence that at least up until the end of the first hearing their legal fees are sorted.

Do you think you’re debunking a lot of the stereotypes about lawyers?
People are so pleasantly surprised when they come here, which is really nice. I get the greatest joy out of my job when the clients are happy. Everyone has different parts of their job that get them going, but for me it’s the sense of relief on clients’ faces. I think they really do see the benefit of using us. Most of the time it’s the first experience they’ve had with a lawyer, so we want it to be a positive one.

When did you meet Kiikstart’s Director, Ali, and what synergies have you found in your approach to business?
I came across Ali at a Power of More event – a women’s networking event. She was talking about her business really passionately and how if we do things the same way, nothing will change. It was music to my ears. Many lawyers are set in their ways and don’t know much about client marketing and relationship marketing. That, and lawyers just aren’t affordable. I truly believe that if lawyers keep doing the same thing they’re doing, they’ll go bust. So what Ali had to say really resonated with me.

Where we do business, who we do business with, and how we work are all changing. The rise of the gig or sharing economy – and the burgeoning success of apps like Uber and Airbnb – is creating a new breed of workers.

In this new economy middle man roles are eliminated or diminished, and people have no set hours or ongoing commitments.

Contractor life might sound great, but there is a degree of uncertainty that comes with not knowing how much you’ll make week to week.

Despite some of the obvious downsides – like no employee benefits – it’s estimated that some 150 million workers in North America and Europe are working as independent contractors – and the success of tech service platforms like Uber are at least partly credited with this transition.

But what challenges and opportunities does the gig economy present for leaders? Here are four key areas I’ve identified that need attention.

Staff Retention
As many of the best and brightest shift to working for themselves, staff retention will be a big challenge for companies. Team continuity is highly desirable, but a report by McKinsey recently found that “knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy”. One potential solution? Adopting a startup mentality, often characterised by a culture of idea sharing. Creating a mission-driven culture where there is room for innovation and experimentation will help to keep your team engaged – and benefit your business.

Embrace Technology for Good
Technology – and especially mobile technology – is a major element of this new ‘gig’ economy, but leaders should be discerning about how, why and when a business will use technology. The end goal should not be digital disruption, but the enhancement of the end-to-end customer experience. The imperative to use technology to improve efficiencies should be balanced against the need for quality human connections. Leaders will need to reflect on the end-to-end consumer experience to a greater extent and ensure a client-centric model underpins all interactions. Ask: What opportunities do we offer for personal connection with our consumer? Stakeholder feedback will be critical too.

Innovation Isn’t Just an App
New technologies are an important aspect of modern workplaces, but they’re only part of the story. While uberisation – defined as “a different way of buying or using [a service], especially using mobile technology” – has its place, it isn’t relevant to all people and all businesses who want to use a service. Leaders must keep their target consumers’ needs front of mind, and can also consider some of the other ways to innovate as a business. Co-creation, waste minimisation and partnerships are some of the ways companies can implement innovative practices into their business. You can also check out this article I wrote recently about nine innovative consumer trends.

Accept the Pace
The pace of change is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for businesses across the board. In 2019 artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), apps, drones, and advanced robotics have all become mainstream tech vernacular. Allocating and respecting the time and resources needed to think creatively as a business is essential. Leaders must accept that continuous innovation in business is no longer a choice. And continual review and assessment will be vital to getting it right.

As consumers, the gig economy means more choice and greater convenience than ever before. But, more than ever, businesses and leaders must ensure that you bring your team and customers along for the ride. This means balancing the need for fast-paced innovation against cultural considerations, and constantly assessing our end-to-end experience from both a technological and human experience perspective.­

You may have heard about the closure of Coca-Cola Amatil’s manufacturing plant at Thebarton. However, you may not have heard about the company’s best practice approach to handling the closure.

With the permission of Coca-Cola Amatil (thank you to their HR team), today I want to share more about Kiikstart’s engagement with their staff in the lead-up to the closure. In this case study, I’ll cover how our recently created Transform program helped to achieve staff buy-in and reflected Coca-Cola Amatil’s ‘proud to the end’ philosophy as the plant transitioned to closure.

Kiikstart’s Engagement
Kiikstart was engaged to work with CCA employees whose roles were being made redundant due to the plant closure. The company sought to give their employees training that would help them to gain new skills and perspectives for a successful career post-CCA.

Initially we worked with 10 of CCA’s senior leaders, before working with a broader group of 26 shop floor employees.


The Transform Program – How It Worked
Our coaching and mentoring work with CCA was focused on building personal value and cultural fit in a modern, competitive world. Each employee worked one-on-one with Kiikstart to develop a personal action plan.

This work included:

  • A personalised career risk assessment to identify career roadblocks and risks;
  • Support with updating CVs and other documents ready for market;
  • Defining strengths and points of difference in their approach;
  • Defining individuals’ values and ethics;
  • Developing personal brands and defining an action plan for success;
  • Detailed, co-created actions for each participant to complete prior to the next session.

What makes it unique?

  • Individualised: The program is tailored to each participant. Working one-on-one with each employee, Kiikstart assisted participants to create their own individual action plan.
  • Contemporary: The program is designed to generate new opportunities for employees in an increasingly competitive and changing market. We also consider the Fourth Industrial Revolution, how roles are changing and relevant industries of the future.
  • Action-focused: Actions are co-created by employees together with Kiikstart to ensure measurability and progress.
  • Open door policy: Participants are able to chat with their coach Ali outside of scheduled sessions. This assists with the development of open and trusting relationships between employee and coach. Kiikstart is able to support employees through the process of applying for roles, the interview process and considering job offers.

 

The Results

Of the Senior Leaders who commenced the program, seven are employed in alternative leadership positions, one is looking for employment, one is mapping out a life of retirement, and one leader is actively engaged in the program and remains at CCA.

Of the shop floor production employees who took part, four are still actively involved in the program as they are contracted until next month at CCA. A further 15 have found new employment, while two are self-employed, one is semi-retired and six have exited the Kiikstart program with a clear action plan.

 

What Employees Say About the Program

In an anonymous survey, CCA employees rated Kiikstart’s program as the most valuable transition service they were offered in 2018.

“Kiikstart was recommended to me as a support service during the site’s transition to closure. Ali created an open and honest environment allowing each of us to share and learn from each other as we explored our options for the future. By changing the way we viewed our work and life experiences, Ali helped us to understand the true value we could bring to a new workplace. Importantly Ali also helped us create the marketing materials and networking techniques to allow us to showcase the benefits we could offer a new employer. I quickly realised the value of Kiikstart and extended Ali’s scope to include all employees on site. The service proved incredibly effective across the entire site, from operator to Operations Manager and everyone in between.” – Robert Menadue – Former SA Operations Manager, Coca-Cola Amatil

“I have been with the same company for over 11 years and had not looked or thought about my CV until my position was made redundant. With the company’s support program, I was introduced to Ali and the Kiikstart program. The program helped me ensure my personal / business profile was where it needed to be, portraying the best reflection of myself to potential employers. It challenged me to look outside the normal avenues for gaining employment and provided a pathway to success. I have not experienced a program like this before and I’m so glad I did. I would certainly recommend Ali and the Kiikstart program to others seeking new opportunities in their careers!” – Brendan Wuttke – Production Planner SA, Coca-Cola Amatil

Ali provided our employees with creative, modern and proven approaches to generate new opportunities in an increasingly competitive and changing market. Since commencing the program, our employees are more confident and can tell their career story highlighting individual achievements and transferrable skills. I would highly recommend the Kiikstart program to businesses and individuals who are going through transitions or wanting to take a new career path.” – Alice Thompson-Seagrave – People and Culture Advisor, Coca-Cola Amatil

Interested in the program?
We’re excited to be rolling out our Transform program more widely in 2019. If your company is going through a period of major change – whether it be redundancies, a rebrand, a company partnership, or something in between – get in touch to find out how Kiikstart’s program can have a positive and lasting impact for your team. Get in touch with me at enquiries@kiikstart.com or on +61 428 593 400.

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Combining his background in marketing and graphic design with a fast-growing passion for wine, Daniel Hill is on favourable ground at Seabrook Wines in the Barossa Valley. The Tasting Room & Wine Club Specialist, who says he fell into a career in the wine industry, is using his skills to help grow the brand. Daniel’s approach includes exceptional end-to-end customer service that begins when customers enter the cellar door, and extends beyond their visit.

The family-owned Barossa Valley winery is run by Hamish and Jo Seabrook. Hamish is a first generation winemaker, but comes from a family of wine merchants and educators with deep roots in the industry. It’s a rich and unique story – and one Daniel says is worth telling.

We asked Daniel to share more about his background, Seabrook’s approach to telling their story, and how the brand is elevating their customers’ experience.

What’s your role at Seabrook and how long have you been with them?
Technically my role is ‘Tasting Room & Wine Club Specialist’, but my position within the company is multi-faceted so in addition to the day-to-day workings of the tasting room, I manage the website, social, digital and print media, investigate new marketing and sales opportunities, and look after local trade accounts for the Barossa region.

Seabrook Wines’ story is an interesting one. How do you articulate the family’s story about the shift from wine merchants to makers?
There’s definitely a wonderful history behind the brand and why we do what we do. Seabrook is a first generation producer and Hamish is the first winemaker in his family, and the first to be making wines under his own label. However, the wine merchant business dates back to 1878.

Hamish’s dad was the last to run that business, but due to the evolving market he decided to conclude that business in the late 1970s and move to the Barossa.

In your storytelling how much do you focus on this history?
We’re up-front about the fact that we’re a young producer and a new kid on the block despite that history. The brand is still quite unknown to today’s younger market, with a lot of the older generation familiar with the W.J. Seabrook & Sons releases.

How is the wine industry changing?
From my point of view, there’s been a cultural shift in the way people consume alcohol. The focus has shifted to quality over quantity, with more people enjoying better wine, spirits and beers.

How do you set yourself apart in a very busy market?
Our Tasting Room offers gorgeous views from our deck, where guests can take in the surrounds of our estate vineyard. Guests that visit Seabrook are welcomed, and provided with a relaxed, fun, and informative wine discovery experience. We want people to slow down, take in the surrounds, enjoy our products, hear our stories, and be entertained with our company; all in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Making guests feel at home is key to what we do.

The three most important factors to the Seabrook customer experience are the product, the experience, and the service. If any of these falls short of exceptional, we would have failed to create a memorable and life-lasting experience.

How do you elevate customers’ experience at cellar door?
The customer experience begins the moment they walk through our doors. Visitors are welcomed with a warm greeting, a handshake, an introduction to our tasting room, and most importantly a glass of Riesling! From there, we seat the customer like you would in a restaurant; seat them, pour water, ask them questions about themselves and their journey, and explain to them how the experience will run.

Each visitor is treated like family, with the hope that they feel welcomed into our extended family, and begin a lifelong relationship with Seabrook as people and a brand. This doesn’t change after they’ve left our Tasting Room either. Personalised emails, phone calls, and invites to offsite events allow us to strengthen the wonderful relationships that we forge in our Barossa Valley home.

We also continue that personalised service once they’ve left. I usually grab their order form and jot down their names so I make sure that I don’t forget. We place a card with a photo of our winery and a handwritten thank you note into their box; it doesn’t matter if they’ve bought one bottle or 10 bottles. We want our customers to feel appreciated, and that reciprocity and personalisation is key.

Why is it important to go the extra mile for your customers?
I remember when I began visiting cellar doors on a journey to learn more about wine. The overall experience was quite daunting and left me questioning whether wine was for me.

When I sat with Hamish to discuss how we could create a unique and tailored tasting experience here at Seabrook, I needed to ensure it was welcoming, relaxing, and fun overall. I don’t want anyone to walk out of our doors and feel the way I did many years ago.

Wine IS for everyone. It shouldn’t feel pretentious or exclusive, and people shouldn’t feel daunted by it.

Visitors to Seabrook should leave with a lasting and positive impression of their time with us – and then be transported back to that moment every time they open a Seabrook wine.

The idea for thank you cards was conceived by owner Jo Seabrook at one of Kiikstart’s customer experience workshops. To find out about future sessions, or to work with Kiikstart, visit email enquiries@kiikstart.com.

When did you last review your end-to-end operations and really assess how generous you are as a business? Likely never.

Generosity is an essential factor that determines the type of attachment people have to your business – and whether they’ll feel a sense of connection with you both now and into the future. It relates to not only your external relationships with clients, but equally to the relationships you are creating with your staff. Generosity begins at home, or in this case, in the business.

Today I’ve covered some of the ways you can demonstrate this culture of generosity – and why it makes good business sense to do so.

Caring for your team
You’ve no doubt heard the saying “charity begins at home”. The same applies to your business. Ask yourself: When was the last time I sat down with key members of my team and assessed how generous we are with our staff? You probably haven’t, after all you pay them, so what more do they want? As disturbing as this outdated thinking is, there are plenty of organisations that take this view to their detriment. As American leadership author Jon Gordon says, “Great leaders don’t succeed because they are great. They succeed because they bring out the greatness in others.” The same can be said of companies.

It’s likely that one of your business’ values is care for your customers. This care also must extend to your team. As marketing strategist Leo J. Bogee III advises, “Give value, give opportunities, give satisfaction, give praise, give encouragement, give joy. You’ll be shocked at the bounty that returns.” Check out my recent post on improving staff buy-in for examples of ways to show you care about your team.

The value of giving back
While caring for your team will yield happier, harder working employees, it is giving back to your customers that will generate sales and create loyal customers. Whether it’s a simple handwritten thank you note, a birthday voucher thanking your customer for their patronage, an invitation allowing them to sample a product with no strings attached, or something more elaborate, ensuring your customer feels valued is key.

According to Gartner Inc., in only a few years 89 per cent of businesses will compete first and foremost on their service delivery and customer service experience. This means that, increasingly, generosity needs to become a focus. The cardinal rule? Your generosity should always add value to your client’s experience.

Social responsibility
We know that customers are increasingly turning to companies that are good global citizens.  This is particularly true of younger generations. As Jiffy Junk LCC Managing Member Adam Butler asserts, “As businesses work hard to establish a brand identity, social responsibility and charitable support need to factor into who we say we are.”

When giving back as a company, factor your customers into your decision making. Engage your clients in a conversation to identify what social responsibility means to them, and who and what causes you should be giving to. Remember, it is never about you! Matching funds giving – where businesses match individuals’ donations – is one successful strategy that promotes giving among consumers, and highlights a culture of businesses giving back.

The power of generosity
A culture of generosity through giving back to the community and consumers can help to set your business apart, and also demonstrates the power of gratitude. One guiding rule? Ensure that what you are giving is appropriate and fits with your brand. For example, if you are a premium brand, value-adds and gifts should reflect this.

Some companies foster a culture of giving through subsidised volunteer hours for their employees. Nonprofits Source found that in the United States 60 per cent of the companies they surveyed offered paid time off for employees who volunteered with non-profits. They also found that employees who volunteered during work hours also felt a greater sense of loyalty to their employer, and developed leadership skills in the process.

Setting yourself apart
I recently wrote about my time working at The Body Shop, and the lessons I learnt from Dame Anita Roddick. The company fostered a culture of care and giving that hasn’t really been replicated on this scale since. However this culture of care and activism was a significant driver for many consumers that really set the brand apart.

Depending on your brand and clients, this culture of generosity can be represented in a variety of ways. It could be through extra product, value-adds such as free workshops, or the opportunity to try a limited release product before it launches to the market. It could be flexibility in how you deliver a service, or an invitation to a special networking event. You don’t need to spend a lot of money; what you give just needs to be seen as useful to your client.

Remember that the relationships we have with our staff and clients are like our personal relationships. If they are not nurtured and prioritised, people tend to look elsewhere. Good, loyal customers can be hard to find, so make generosity a priority for you in 2019 and beyond. Happy giving!

Increased competition, diminishing consumer trust, and fast-moving tech innovation… There’s no doubt it’s a competitive moment to be in business.

But with every challenge comes opportunity, and in this case, to the changemakers come the spoils. In other words, if your business is investing in innovation and forward-planning, there’s no reason it can’t be successful, whether you’re in hospitality, brick and mortar retail, or professional services.

The Kiikstart team have rounded up nine key consumer trends that we think will be big in 2019.

Personalised & client-centred
For your business to succeed, more than ever you must be client-centred in everything that you do. The days of a one size fits all approach to customer service are long gone, as savvy customers seek out brands that are willing to go the extra mile. Personalisation is one example of this. Nowadays everything from your Nutella jar to your handbag can be personalised, and Australian brands such as The Daily Edited have capitalised on this trend. Consumer trends sight TrendWatching say “mass hyper-personalisation is just around the corner”. They cite examples such as Albertson’s & Genomind recently introducing custom genetic testing by pharmacists in-store to assist with more tailored medication recommendations.

Be inclusive
While premium brands have long-focused on exclusivity, now brands that create a sense of inclusivity will benefit. While quality of end-to-end offerings is essential, customers still want a brand to feel accessible. Marketing strategist Sonia Thompson says exclusion marketing – “..when companies serve the masses, without making accommodations for anyone who may have different needs” has consequences for business.

So whether it’s providing for a range of dietary requirements on a restaurant menu, or celebrating cultural diversity through an advertising campaign, inclusivity presents opportunities for your business. Examples include Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty Beauty, which launched with 40 shades of foundation to accommodate women of all colours, and Nike’s Pro Hijab line of performance sportswear for Muslim women athletes.

All about the experience
The shift to a focus on experiences rather than physical goods in part reflects the views of millennials. A Harris Poll study found that 78 per cent prefer to spend money on events and experiences rather than objects. Social media is in-part credited with this shift. TechCrunch describes how “You can only snap an item once, but a worthy lifestyle encapsulates hundreds of shareable moments”. Brands that create Instagram-worthy experiences will reap the rewards.

But creating a memorable experience extends beyond the physical, to what you can smell, hear, touch and taste. Even for brands that are selling physical goods, there are opportunities to create a memorable and different experience on the shop floor – check out my recent post on future-proofing your retail space for more tips.

Encouraging interaction
One important element of your experience is interaction and immersion with products. Whether you’re a brick and mortar business providing education opportunities about your products, or a brand like Jacob’s Creek who are inviting their customers to make their own blend of wine on-site, discerning consumers want to interact with the brands they support.

Less salesy
One element of this more experiential approach to engaging with consumers is a less sales-focused attitude on the part of business. In 2019, businesses need to create an environment that is based on exploration and discovery, rather than a quick sale. Caroma’s Norwood showroom is one example of this. The interactive space provides clients with an opportunity to engage with their products and interior designers to generate ideas and interact with products. There is no option to buy on-site, so the sales element is eliminated. Customers are instead provided with a helpful introduction to the brand, a swag of ideas, and the details of retailers who can sell them the products at a later date.

Multi-purpose venues
While brands can’t be everything to everyone, one tourism and hospitality shift is the trend towards multi-purpose spaces. Brick and mortar venues that offer food and beverages as well as products for sale are well-placed for success as long as they remain consumer-centric. New Adelaide Hills venue Lot 100 brings together four local companies, creating a “mega booze destination” according to Grace Schneider. The cellar door, distillery and brewery are all on-site, as well as a restaurant that can cater weddings. The venue also offers masterclasses in brewing, distilling and cider making, bringing an interactive and educational element. Increasingly, venues must offer a range of options to consumers, but at the same time they must remain authentic to the people, the region and its history.

Utilising technology
This one might sound obvious, but businesses that embrace technology – and employ it in a focused, customer-centric way – will benefit. UK fashion retailer ASOS’ decision to use augmented reality (AR) to create an app that lets customers see how an outfit will look on a range of body types is one practical example of this that keeps the customer front of mind. Convenience and interaction are key.

All hail the start-up
Remember that consumers love discovering new and boutique brands. After all, everyone wants to be seen as a leader rather than a follower! Whether you own a restaurant or a large department store, complacency is a killer. Product must remain fresh and contemporary, and supporting start-ups and smaller brands makes good business sense. KaDeTe took this theory to the next level recently when they opened the world’s first ‘startup supermarket’, bringing together recently launched food and beverage brands. (Such a cool concept!).

Responsible business
As consumers become more aware of sustainability issues, there is an expectation that businesses will reduce their waste wherever possible. It simply isn’t in a company’s long-term interest not to be socially and environmentally responsible. Whether it’s a business decision to do away with plastic straws, or a luxury label’s decision to finally go fur-free (Burberry did so this year), companies will be rewarded for responsible decision-making.

So there you have it – our round-up of the consumer brands your business should take to stay competitive and keep kicking goals in 2019 and beyond.

Need support with your company’s innovation strategy? Get in touch today at enquiries@kiikstart.com to find out how we can work together.

Across the world, minimising waste is a hot topic. The decluttering movement is gaining ground, and the world is waking up to the environmental implications of our waste.

In business, there are many examples of waste– and all of them can impact on our bottom line and our psyche.

While many businesses are good at minimising physical waste, business and staff inefficiencies can have an even greater impact on your bottom line.

Here are six ways to minimise waste at work with the potential to whip your business into shape in no time flat (with a little hard work, that is).

Clear communication
Despite more methods of communication than ever before, this doesn’t prevent some messages from getting lost in translation. When communication breaks down, this can have a serious impact on your business, impacting staff morale, your team’s output, and ultimately your customers. There are many ways to improve your team’s communication. Choosing select mediums for communication is one important way. For example, consider platforms such as Slack to streamline your workflows, and minimise the number of emails you send and receive.

Avoid over-servicing
Under-servicing can lead to dissatisfied customers, but over-servicing can be just as costly. While it’s great to be accessible to your clients, remember that this comes at a cost to your business. TopLine Comms CEO Heather Baker says over-servicing is the number one profitability killer for service businesses. “We created a level of expectation that simply wasn’t feasible,” she says of her own experience. Utilise a time tracking system, such as Toggl or Clockify, to identify areas where you are over-servicing, and pass this information on to your clients to take back control.

Flexible roles
Having defined roles, especially as your business grows, is essential to avoid the duplication of services. But Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, Dan Cable, says job titles must be flexible and play to each employee’s strengths. “Nowadays organisations need innovation and agility from employees,” he says. “This opens the door for employees to use their personal skills to adapt the job, and the job title, around their strengths.” Strike a balance by continuing to set KPIs, but taking a less rigid approach to the job descriptions of old.

A matter of priorities
Time management expert Peter Turla says, “Managing your time without setting priorities is like shooting randomly and calling whatever you hit the target.” It can be the difference between success and mediocrity. Your business needs to clearly define what high value work is for your brand, and ensure your leaders are setting clearly parameters and direction around this. Consider how you’re using your time and talents, and be strategic when prioritising your tasks to minimise waste.

Act on ideas
A company culture that promotes not only idea generation, but also idea execution, is crucial. Without the latter, your team’s talents and ideas are wasted. While experimentation is not without risks of its own, chief innovation officer of Rightpoint Greg Raiz says embracing risk must become part of a company’s “long-term culture” if it is to remain innovative. “The overnight disruptive success of the iPhone, Google, Amazon and Netflix all took more than a decade,” he says. Failure to leverage new ideas and networks in real time can create a culture of living in the past and doing what is safe, to the detriment of your brand.

Plan your events
While there is a strong push for more investment in professional development and marketing opportunities within many companies, it is important that these opportunities do not result in financial waste. When considering expos, tradeshows, workshops and other profile-raising and professional development options, consider what you or your employees will take out of this. Ensure that you clearly define and plan out how you will leverage your attendance in the real world. Where you can’t define these benefits, such opportunities are best avoided.

Minimising any business’ waste in a meaningful and holistic way requires work, but consider the far greater cost of not doing this work. This work should begin with a review of your business in order to identify the greatest areas of waste. Nevertheless, small changes count. Ask yourself: What is one small change I can make to my company’s operations to minimise our waste? Then, make the switch. Take the small wins, and plan for a bigger overhaul that incorporates all of these steps.

Earlier this year, you may remember that I wrote a post highlighting the potential pitfalls of collaborations, entitled ‘Don’t mention the ‘c’ word’.

In it, I covered six essential steps that businesses should take before committing to a partnership.

But what happens once you have made that commitment? Today I want to cover the next phase: how to achieve a best practice partnership or collaboration.

Who’s in charge?
Whether you’re establishing a partnership of two individuals or two larger companies, roles must be clearly defined. It is vital that program partners are equally involved, and that each brings something of value to the table. It is not enough for a partner to pay lip service as part of a PR exercise and add little or no value to the other party. For a partnership to work, all agencies must be true to their word, and act on their promises.

While there’s no legal requirement to have one, a written partnership agreement is essential. It should cover everything from how the business will be controlled, to how income or losses will be distributed to the partners. The ATO has useful resources on structuring a partnership.

Define your values
While shared skills are a non-essential – in fact, complementary but divergent skills can actually prove most advantageous – shared values are a different story. For partnerships to flourish, it is essential there is a clear, well defined code of values and standards that all partners hold themselves to. The Co-Founder of fast-growing online platform Food52, Merrill Stubbs, agrees. “It’s so important when curating a brand with such a strong point of view that we share a similar take on the world, strategically and aesthetically,” she says.

Values alignment is key, since values shape not only our professional identity, but also determine what conduct we deem to be good and bad as a business. Workplace mediator Elinor Robin says these values guide our actions in business. “When partners’ values align … they are more likely to make congruent decisions and remain united,” she reasons.

Know thy neighbour
Getting to know each other, and open communication, is essential to the success of any partnership. For partnerships to grow between groups of businesses or individuals, it is key that you understand each other’s value, so you are best placed to create benefits and opportunities together. This requires open communication and the resources on hand to share the uniqueness of each business within a group.

Ensuring you have the right conversations is part of this work. FutureSense President Jim Finkelstein advises that candid, quality conversations are key. “A true valued partner … will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” he says. “A true value-add partnership ids marked by freedom to share, discuss, opine, and have the tough discussions that lead to innovative growth.”

Review your performance
For any partnership – or any business, for that matter – to succeed, a consistent process of review is a non-negotiable. Whatever the structure of your review process, it’s important to ensure that regular time is set aside for this work, and that this work is undertaken within a framework, and is time limited. There should also be clearly defined goals and objectives that are assessed as part of this work.

Your review should identify what is and isn’t currently working and why, and should also examine how your businesses can work together more effectively, and set timeframes for making these changes. Many businesses with a partnership model call upon the services of an external coach, to ensure this work is impartial and outcome-focused.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
In all dealings, respect is the name of the game. From the get go, ensure you collaborate with partners who share your values so you can easily establish a culture of mutual benefit and respect. Parties must be respectful to one another even when expressing differences of opinion, so opt for a partner with the same goals; someone who wants to grow and will support your growth.

Finally it’s worth noting that those looking to enter into more formal partnership relationships should definitely check out the ATO site for further advice.

Take these steps, and your business will be well placed to create collaborations that prove fruitful for all parties. Enjoy the ride!

Christian Van Niekerk is passionate about business innovation. The Grant Thornton director – who commenced with the company in 2003 and quickly worked his way up the ranks – has recently been recognised as a Performance Inspiring Awards finalist by the company for his work on a reporting model he created.

Christian says his work with Kiikstart led to the development of reporting templates that are changing the way the company presents to its private advisory clients across Australia. We asked him to share more about his journey to a Grant Thornton directorship, and his views on leadership.

Kiikstart: Congratulations on your award nomination for creating a new approach to reporting at Grant Thornton. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt about leadership during your career?
Christian: Thank you. Probably that true leaders need to stand up and make tough decisions. You don’t get into a leadership position because you’re friends with everybody. Sometimes difficult things need to be done and said. I’ve had to make a few tough decisions along the way. If you don’t make them, you can’t truly be a leader.

And the other lesson is around the importance of looking after yourself. Leaders tend to just go on and on and not stop and look after themselves – and we should. You need to have your own time and preserve your own mental and physical wellbeing in order to be an effective leader. I have three children under five at home, so balancing it all is important.

Did you always aspire to a leadership role or end up here by chance?
I like to think I’m your traditional introvert who doesn’t go looking for attention. At school I was the kid who’d rather get an F than stand up and do an oral presentation. Having said that, I ended up being school captain in year 12 and chose accounting because I thought I could be in the corner and do numbers and not interact with people. I didn’t go looking for a leadership role, but as I got more responsibility and started training the junior guys, I kind of fell into leadership.

What do you love most about your role?
I enjoy the responsibility that it brings; and feeling like you’re making a difference to people’s lives – whether it’s the client you’re looking after, or your staff. I’ve trained and mentored so many staff through the CA program. You become a go-to person to give them advice about where their careers end up going. I enjoy the challenge of helping them through that.

Who do you look up to in business?
Leaders who inspire me include Richard Branson. I’m inspired by where he came from, how he built his empire, and the way he views life. His philosophy around caring for your employees because they look after your customers is so true. I really align myself with that thinking.

How important is it to be passionate about what you do? And how do you maintain that enthusiasm for your work?
If you’re not passionate about what you do, then you shouldn’t be doing it. I think people can see through you if you don’t believe in what you’re delivering.  At times it can be difficult to maintain your enthusiasm. I’ve often found my enthusiasm rejuvenated by the younger people coming through; their passion tends to rub off on you. It’s fantastic sitting down with them to discuss their own career trajectory, and how I can support them in that journey.

In the last five years I’ve been given more free reign in terms of what I want to do, and how I want to do it – including interacting with clients at a different level, and presenting to them differently. I’m extremely passionate about innovation.

How has Kiikstart supported your work at Grant Thornton?
I engaged Ali personally one year ago in an informal mentoring role. We went through a 10-week one-on-one training program, which pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I went through it.

From there, we developed a program called GT Grow in Adelaide to help our staff understand what it is to have a career and grow it. Ali has been a key part of that. Her sessions around owning your career and what that means are designed to stop people from expecting their employer to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to their training and development. The underlying premise is that your learning journey belongs to you.

What are some of the key takeaways from your work with Kiikstart?
The work I’ve done with Ali has been amazing, and resulted in some great changes. One of the key takeaways for me is around doing things differently for clients. Working with Ali challenged me to consider how tax results delivery should change for the client. The reporting model we’ve moved to as a result ensures that we don’t get bogged down in technical language. We used to deliver results to our clients by going through financials page by page, and pulling up detailed excel spreadsheets. Now, we explain the outcomes, and don’t get so caught up looking at the financials. It’s very visually driven. We started by rolling this out in the Adelaide office, and it’s since been rolled out nationally.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I think I’ll still be a partner in an accounting firm, continuing to focus on self-improvement, and looking at the ways we develop and deliver results to our clients, ensuring we’re continuing to innovate. For me, a focus on work/life balance and family is key. At the start of my career it was all about the corporate tree, and I never really appreciated having a family, and that’s certainly changed in the last few years. I want to make sure that balance is maintained.

Having your team behind you is essential to any brand or business’ success. Big or small, not-for-profit or corporate, if your staff believe in your brand and love where they work, this will shine through.

At Kiikstart, I work with brands of all different sizes all over the country, and creating healthier company cultures is one of our key areas of work.

Here, I’ve covered nine ways you can improve staff buy-in. You’ll not only create better cultures, but your brand will thank you for it too.

1. Regular team meetings
This might sound obvious, but busy companies caught up in the reactive daily grind of demanding workflows can sometimes forget the basics. As American baseball manager Casey Stengel famously said, “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” The same is true of all workplaces. Bringing your team together for regular meetings is essential to creating a culture of open communication where everyone feels included.

2. Set the agenda
Once you do bring your team together, ensure this time together is efficient and purposeful. Clear meeting agendas with defined outcomes will mobilise buy-in from your team. Ensure that everyone in the room has action items to their name at the end of each meeting to keep them accountable. And also ensure you set timeframes for delivery and future follow up.

3. Create a culture of idea-sharing – it needs to be a given
Company cultures – yes, there can be more than one – usually start at the top, so working to create a culture of idea-sharing is essential to achieving staff buy-in. If your company’s CEO or your team leader proves to be a good listener and creates a supportive space for idea generation and exploration of ideas, staff will be more inclined to share their thoughts. This might include acknowledging and drawing on the particular expertise of front-facing staff who deal with customers day to day, who may offer important insights into your brand or business.

4. Change up your job descriptions – be prepared to re-design roles
Every member of your team needs to understand their place in the business. This is why redesigning job descriptions to focus more on outcomes and less on processes is essential. Staff also need to understand the elements of each other’s role so they have a full picture of how each role fits together. Personal attributes and attitude should also form part of each job description – not just technical expertise.  Ensuring that attributes such as respect, enthusiasm and helpfulness are included will likely be more useful to your team than a long list of tasks.

5. Encourage experimenting with ideas – across all roles
Creating both formal and less structured opportunities for idea generation and experimentation is one important way to improve staff buy-in. Making work fun, team building activities and creative events can all boost morale and encourage your team to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.

6. Change the look & tone of performance reviews
To get the best from your team, performance reviews should be treated not only as an opportunity to ensure staff are meeting your KPIs, but also to see how you’re faring as their employer. A recent report entitled ‘State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia’ found that only 52 per cent of employees feel that their workplace is mentally healthy, while 21 per cent had taken time off work in the past 12 months because of stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns. Employers should view performance reviews as an opportunity to check in with their employees and consider ways to create a happier, mentally healthy workplace environment.

7. Create opportunities for growth
As part of performance reviews, staff should also be given an opportunity to help drive their professional development opportunities. Giving staff opportunities to upskill not only benefits your business, but also keeps them interested and helps them feel valued. Consider developing learning plans with members of your team to help facilitate this work.

8. Share the love
Ensuring that employees feel valued and credited for their work is absolutely essential to achieving ongoing staff buy-in. Incentive programs, team recognition and bonuses are some of the ways to share the love. Creating a supportive culture where good work is recognised and rewarded will encourage staff to share their ideas and consistently put their best foot forward.

9. Measure your success
Finally, ongoing assessment and review of measurable actions will not only help to avoid confusion, but will also encourage action, both as a team and from individual staff members. Opportunities for self-reflection need to occur more regularly than at annual performance reviews, so consider other internal measures beyond your company’s financials. From balanced scorecards to anonymous surveys, consider a range of measures to ensure your team is performing – and identify areas for improvement.

Then, share them with your team to ensure everyone is part of your brand’s continuous improvement journey!