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!

From the Southern Highlands, to the ‘Southern Pie-lands’, the humble pie has spawned a marketing campaign that has seen an estimated $2 million injection for the local New South Wales economy.

As Manager Tourism & Events for Destination Southern Highlands for the past 13 years, Steve Rosa is part of the innovative team behind Pie Time. The June event is a month-long celebration of pies incorporating a Pie Trail of bakeries and other eateries serving pies of all descriptions, as well as cooking classes, pie tours, pie short break stays and more that also features a two-day flagship festival, PieFest.

We chat with Steve about the evolution of the destination marketing campaign – and why it’s been a major tourism drawcard for the region.

How did the concept for Pie Time come about?
Back in October 2016, we were undertaking a product audit of our region and noted that we had a high concentration of local bakeries. Initial numbers were 28 bakeries spread throughout our picturesque region covering 17 towns and villages over 2700sqkms. To complement our existing tourism experience trails such as our Heritage Trail, Garden Trail, Antique Trail, Arts Trail and Wine Trail, we decided to develop a Pie Trail which was accessible all year round. Following the successful launch of the Pie Trail in January 2017, we consulted with industry to create events and experiences around pies to give visitors another reason to experience the Southern Highlands. A two-day Pie Festival was initiated in June 2017, with a number of supporting pie themed events and experiences also created during the winter month of June – the best time to enjoy a pie.

How did your marketing campaign evolve?
This initial concept work led us to bake an original destination marketing campaign, aptly named Pie Time.  The humble pie was used as a platform for marketing the region during the off-peak month of June, encouraging people to visit, explore and stay while immersing themselves in Pie Time, which offers them unique ways to discover the Southern Highlands while indulging in plenty of pies through a pie trail, pie promotions, pie competitions, pie activities and experiences, and a pie festival. It also offered a new way to support and connect local industry by providing businesses with a unique selling point, a tangible way to create new promotions, an increase in customers in a non-peak visitation month, and an opportunity to collaboration with other businesses in the region to offer new customer experiences.

How big was the budget for the campaign and who was involved?
The destination marketing campaign was developed with a small budget of $80,000 plus industry co-op. The campaign celebrates the Southern Highlands as ‘Australia’s Home of Pies’, as no other region in Australia has a Pie Trail, a Pie Festival or more pie outlets in a destination the size of the Southern Highlands.

What were some of the key ingredients of the campaign?
The campaign ingredients included over 50 local pie sites including bakeries, cafes, restaurants, cellar doors, pubs, hotels, pie makers, tour operators, tourist attractions, event organisers, local Council and community groups. The recipe was a range of pie-themed events, a pie trail, pie related activities and experiences, a festival, and places to stay over the month of June. It involved taking existing products and attractions, encouraging and supporting the creation of new events, and combining them to create a short break campaign and richer destination product with a more compelling call to action under the Pie Time brand.

Have you been surprised by the take-up of this event? (And the doubling in pie sales in only one year?)
Yes! The humble pie resonates with people at all levels. It’s often at the centre of family memories, and there’s a pie for everyone, from plain to signature pies, vegetarian and vegan. It’s unique, quirky and fun. It’s a different approach to destination marketing. To see 100,000 pies produced and sold in June 2017, and see that increase by 100% to 200,000 pies in June 2018 is astonishing.

What sets this event apart from other food festivals?
It’s totally different to anything available elsewhere in Australia. The campaign and event supports our region’s position as a boutique Food & Wine destination and complements the development of our foodie experiences & trails. The campaign also targets both visitors and the local community through targeted and customised events and experiences.

How did you leverage the local community to support the event?
The Pie Time campaign was well communicated to local residents via local media, Council & DSH communications. Communications aimed to engage the local community as advocates for Pie Time among their family and friends. We developed special promotions and events for the local community such as ‘Local Pie Night’, where locals were incentivised to invite visiting family and friends to the Highlands on the last weekend of Pie Time in June to share a pie and the region. We also partnered with local charity group Meals on Wheels to conduct the ‘Giant Pie Drive’ throughout June, where schools, sporting organisations, groups, businesses and clubs could purchase pies as a fundraiser.

How did you drive this campaign on a shoe-string budget?
Working with a minimal budget required lots of creativity – particularly in advertising. Pie Time needed to stand on its own as worthy of PR placement, to ensure free coverage that could reach the geographically diverse audience we could not afford through traditional avenues of paid advertising. Our own paid advertising efforts through “non-traditional” avenues also needed to be extremely targeted – ensuring sufficient capture of our target demographic across Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong, without blowing the budget.

The Pie Time marketing strategy for 2018 was to capitalise on the momentum that had been achieved in year one, while cementing that Pie Time is here to stay and the Southern Highlands does, in fact, become the Southern ‘Pielands’ in June! A Pie Time communications strategy was developed that included a multi-channel approach with a heavy and target digital presence supported with free publicity and promotions. In addition to paid media and PR, we worked collaboratively with Tourism Australia, DNSW, Visit Canberra and local industry to further extend the campaign’s exposure.

What lessons can you take out of this campaign?
Always look to generate good content for stories and visual uptake by media. And ensure that you bring the industry on board, so they can take ownership of the campaign, in part by providing cost effective opportunities for industry to take part.

It’s a fantastic event concept. Why is it important to think outside the square when it comes to tourism campaigns?
Destination marketing is a very competitive and noisy market space. You need to continually find destination USPs to set your destination apart from others and give people – including repeat visitors – a reason to visit or come back.

As major retailers like Sears fall like very large dominos, you’d be forgiven for thinking the death knells have sounded for brick and mortar retail.

Closer to home, Myer is grappling with its own downward trend, with the retailer last month posting a $486 million annual loss.

So how are things going wrong for such significant retail players? And how can brick and mortar retailers’ future-proof their market share?

While there’s no overnight solution, there are reasons that some brands are able to buck even the toughest of economic conditions.

Take these five tips into account and you’ll be on your way to ensuring you have a thriving brick and mortar retail space both now and into the future.

  1. Be customer-centric

Brands can sometimes go wrong by trying to be everything to everyone. Knowing your customer and talking specifically to them, rather than utilising generic messaging, is key. This relates to your physical retail space and fit-out, as well as your other engagement touchpoints, such as a user-friendly website and your social media presence. M.J. Bale founder Matt Jensen is quoted saying that customer service is what sets his high-performing brand apart. Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman agrees, saying that creating a seamless customer experience includes an easy returns process, and good product pick-up and delivery options.

  1. Change it up

Product also must remain fresh and contemporary. Limited edition products and designer capsule collections, like those employed by high street brands Uniqlo and H&M in partnership with the likes of J.W. Anderson and Erdem, create a fear of missing out – and the market responds accordingly.

  1. Show, don’t just sell

In 2018, a brick and mortar retail space must be more than just a place that sells product. Retailers need to be much more interactive, and really showcase their products. In my recent blog postabout my time working at The Body Shop under the leadership of Dame Anita Roddick, I touched on how the company was ahead of its time by encouraging people to not only see but also touch and smell their products. Successful retailers will take up the opportunity to act as showrooms where customers can interact with products in beautiful surroundings. Liberty London, is one example of a destination department store that lovingly curates its products, showcasing artists from around the world, and acting as a launching pad for emerging and undiscovered artists. No wonder the brand has enjoyed success since it opened its doors in 1875.

  1. Encourage interaction

Encouraging interaction and discovery for guests must go further still. Brick and mortar retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers, and provide face-to-face opportunities for interactions with not only products, but also their designers and makers. Retailers must get savvier about how best to do this, and build a real community of supporters. Examples include internal pop up stores within a larger department store, a calendar of travelling artists and producers, and regional roadshows. The key is a space that is always changing and evolving. Matt Jensen of M.J. Balerefers to the “theatre of shopping”, saying, “You’ve got to entertain people as they part with their money.”

  1. Quality is key

Still, repeat sales increasingly come down to quality. Trends suggest consumers are growing increasingly discerning, and are turning away from products that are lacking in quality and ethics. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why trusted brands such as Swarovski and Tiffany & Co. are continuing to open new brick and mortar storesin a volatile economic climate. Thankfully the trend is not only prompting many retailers to clean up their supply chains, but also to ensure they’re providing real value to customers.

 So whether you’re selling food, homewares, fashion, or something entirely different, remember that outstanding customer service, fresh, quality product, customer engagement, and an interactive retail environment will all help to future-proof your brick and mortar retail space.

 To find out more about Kiikstart’s business planning and coaching offerings for clients in the retail sector, get in touch at enquiries@kiikstart.com.

“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained” – Shawn Hitchcock.

Mentoring is powerful. Some of the most successful people in the world, from Mark Zuckerberg to Sir Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey, say their mentors had a hand in their success stories.

Over the past 12 years I’ve personally mentored more than 2000 people across Australia, including people in our cities, regions and the Outback. Many of these people are business leaders and influencers, or people looking to step up in their career.

As someone who’s seen firsthand the transformative power of mentoring, here are five tips for getting the most out of your mentoring journey.

Acknowledge the benefits
The first step is to recognise that you’re never too old, too young, or too experienced to have a mentor. I recently wrote about how ego can impact your business, but it can also impact your personal career trajectory. A 2017 Deloitte report found that people who are mentored experience greater job satisfaction, progress further in their careers, and are better paid. Writing about his mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Richard Branson addressed the benefits of mentoring: “Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved … Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.”

Look beyond your industry & network
When seeking a mentor, don’t assume that you need a clone of yourself, or even someone from within your industry. A mentor outside your industry will help you to expand your network, and expose you to new ideas. People who don’t work alongside you each day are also more likely to be honest and ask questions that will challenge you to truly self-reflect. Founder and CEO of BIG Labs, Jyoti Bansal, says entrepreneurs “..should always select a mentor that fills the gaps in his/ her experience and skill set” so they can supplement the strengths that you bring to the table.

Find the right fit
Someone might look good on paper, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you as a mentor. Just like matchmaking, the mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t always yield a great fit. Even mentoring software app Mentorloop admits matching mentors and mentees isn’t an exact science: “Humans are infinitely complicated creatures… Using a spreadsheet simply doesn’t give you the scope or flexibility required to make matches across experience, skills, personality, preferences, and relationship goals.” Sometimes it’s only once you’ve formalised your arrangement that you’ll work out whether it’s a good fit. So how do you know whether it’s right?

A great mentor is like a colonic irrigation. They’ll help you find new ways to respond to your current frustrations, and move forward. The right mentor will respectfully question how you think and act, while providing guidance on how to find solutions to roadblocks and self-limiting behaviour. They’ll keep you accountable, but also provide a safe, supportive environment to have an open and engaged conversation.

Ensure it’s outcome driven
There’s more to this relationship than sitting with someone who dishes out advice or acts as your sounding board, although this advice is important. Ensure you’re both assessing and reviewing your progress. Set a co-created agenda and adhere to co-created milestones to track your relationship and keep you both focused during sessions.

Illumio CEO Andrew Rubin says when it comes to mentors “you get out.. what you put in”. The best models are based on measurable action. Remember that this is an equally accountable relationship, where you both need to do some of the heavy lifting and work in between sessions. On my part, for my mentees this has meant extra follow up and idea sharing between sessions, as well as introductions to industry networks that lead to new, undiscovered opportunities.

Pay for the pleasure
Remember that mentoring is an investment in yourself and your career. While you may be lucky enough to find a mentor who will help you for free, paying for the service ensures you’re working with someone who has the time and energy to invest in you. They’ll also be more inclined to establish an outcome-focused program, which will yield much more value for your efforts. Remember that your time is valuable, so invest it wisely when selecting the right mentor for you.

Are you looking for a professional mentor? Get in touch with Ali to find out more about Kiikstart’s tailored, one-on-one mentoring offering. Email enquiries@kiikstart.com or visit www.kiikstart.com to find out more.

Words are powerful.

Just ask any leader or media personality who has stumbled over their words, or used the wrong word in a situation. (Who could forget Tony Abbott’s ‘suppository of all wisdom’ gaffe!).

When it comes to brands, telling a compelling story is critical.

But while it may be easy to sell yourself through words (you can always rely on the services of expert marketers for that!)  it can be harder to walk that talk.

Here are five non-verbal ways to tell your brand’s story.

Captivating Visuals
Getting your visual branding and assets right can have a major impact on your brand. It’s why 91% of consumers prefer visual content to text – and why so many brands embark on major rebrands. Your visual content extends to your social media, where some brands triumph. Whole Foods, for example, reflects its brand values through eye-catching imagery on Instagram that reflect the brand’s wholesome food offering.

Design & Layout
Whether it’s a retail or office environment, the design and layout of your brand’s physical space is a fantastic visual portrayal of your values. Silicon Valley brands like Google and Facebook showcase their innovation and commitment to staff satisfaction through their thoughtful office environments, while Etsy’s quirky Brooklyn headquarters reflect the brand’s focus on high-quality crafting.

Evoke the Senses
When designing your brand’s space, consider how stimulating the senses can add to the mood or story of your brand. I recently wrote about how The Body Shop created an innovative retail space, which fed into the company’s broader story. Likewise, Abercrombie & Fitch plays on the senses to attract their target market, spraying fragrance and playing loud music to draw in their target clientele.

Poignant Packaging
A brand’s packaging is an important extension of their visual identity. Tiffany & Co. is one of the best examples of this. Those teal bags and boxes and white ribbon have long been synonymous with the brand, and speak to their values of timeless beauty and luxury. Brands can also reflect other values, such as their commitment to the environment, through their packaging. Organic haircare brand Kevin Murphy, for example, recently made a commitment to move to bottles made from 100 per cent recycled ocean plastics, which speaks to the brand’s commitment to the environment.

Customer Service
Finally, customer service is a clear representation of your brand’s values. As Alexandra Sheehan writes for Shopify, “Sales associates on the floor are the personification of your brand… It’s imperative that they’re considered an essential component of the brand identity.” Costco is one brand that reflects its values through their customer service. The retailer is known for being particularly accommodating when it comes to returns. The company has successfully created an affordable shopping experience without compromising on customer experience.

So there you have it! From your packaging, to visual and sensory experiences, there’s much more to your brand story than words.

Time to walk the talk? At Kiikstart we’re specialists when it comes to business strategy and idea execution. Get in touch today for support with any aspects of your company’s planning or storytelling. Email enquiries@kiikstart.com.

‘Collaboration’ has long been a buzzword in the business world.

Companies recognise that remaining relevant requires not only internal collaboration and team work, but also collaboration in the form of partnerships with other organisations.

Defined as “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”, collaboration makes good business sense.

Consider the success of fast fashion retailer H&M’s collaborations with luxury design houses such as Balmain and Versace, or Uber and Spotify’s value-add partnership that allows you to connect your Spotify account to your Uber car’s radio.

But with great reward often comes great risk. Collaboration can be seen as a smoking gun means to achieving greater brand awareness and financial rewards based on a partnership vision that focuses too heavily on the ‘what’ – the strategy – and not enough on the ‘how’ – the tactics, or fails to adequately recognise the risks.

In these cases, the results can be disappointing. Loss of autonomy, dilution of your brand, lost time and resources, or a negative impact on your brand’s reputation, are just some of the risks.

So today I’m challenging you not to mention the ‘c’ word without first taking these six steps to determine whether you or your business are really in a position to commit to a collaboration.

Do so and you’ll be well on the way to more successful partnership opportunities that yield better results for you and your partners.

  1. Time is of the essence

The first key question you should consider is whether you have the time and resources to nurture a collaboration opportunity. You should consider the potential drain on company resources, both in terms of the number of hours key staff would likely spend on such a partnership, and upfront financial costs. Remember that the drain on financial and company resources is often greater than expected.

  1. Identify your processes

Before entering into any external collaborations or partnerships, you should identify your processes for critiquing the value of your collaboration. Ask: what am I seeking to get out of the partnership first and foremost? Once you know this, you’ll be able to deduce how best to measure this  – whether it be greater brand awareness, a spike in sales of a particular product or service, or customer satisfaction levels.

  1. Leverage your strengths

When negotiating any partnership, be sure to know your strengths. Consider both your access to knowledge and people. For example, you may have a small team, but you could have expert specialised knowledge that is particularly valuable to a potential partner. Alternatively, you may have a broader organisational focus, but perhaps you have the people power to support this work and do more of the heavy-lifting. Knowing and leveraging your strengths before commencing negotiations with prospective partners will ensure you get a better deal for your business. Be prepared to ask yourself and your team the tough questions about what you bring to the table as an organisation.

  1. Mind the gap

Also be aware of your skill gaps – and ensure you partner with an organisation that doesn’t have the same gaps as you. Consider whether you have complementary skill-sets, and creative ways to bridge any skill gaps.

  1. Better off alone?

Finally, assess the ideas and opportunities that collaborations offer and weigh these up against the potential challenges. Ask yourself: am I really better off collaborating, or could I/we be better off alone? Consider what you could do with the resources required for your collaboration if you decide not to go ahead. Which option is more favourable from a commercial perspective? And don’t forget to consider brand reputation and PR risks. LEGO’s collaboration with Shell is one example of a company failing to recognise the PR risk of such an association, as attitudes to Shell’s environmental practices have shifted over time.

  1. Trust is a must

Finally, weigh up the ‘co-opetition’. The term, utilised to describe collaborations with organisations that would often be considered your natural competitors, sums up the need for trust. In order for partnerships to be truly successful, all parties need to be willing to share ideas and insights. At the same time, protecting your IP and business plans is essential to mitigate unnecessary risk.

So, be sure to exercise consideration and caution when using the ‘c’ word. While collaborations aren’t for everyone, successful partnerships can offer immense value to all parties.

I’m interested in your thoughts… Do you have a favourite company collaboration? And are there any other considerations you would weigh up before using the ‘c’ word?

In a pre-online shopping world, and before the Internet was mainstream, the retail sector seemed a much surer bet.

But even then, there were brands that didn’t rest on their laurels.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is The Body Shop. Under the stewardship of founder, Dame Anita Roddick, the company was innovative, and a tad rebellious.

Working for the brand on and off for more than a decade, my work in retail sales evolved into a training and mentoring role with the brand.

In 2003 I spent two years in Ireland developing their flagship store in Dublin, helping to improve outcomes and processes. It was my first foray into learning and development – and a path that Anita herself had influenced me to pursue.

I met Anita on several occasions and found her to be passionate and funny. I remember talking to her when I was at a career crossroads myself after starting a degree in Management, and finding it wasn’t the right fit.

Her words of wisdom helped bring me clarity, and it was this clarity that set me on a path to study PR and Communications – a fruitful course for me that’s led to my own learning and development business for brands.

There are many lessons I took from these conversations, and my experience working for this iconic brand, but here are a few of my top takeaways. 

Staff buy-in is key
The people on the shop floor, the franchisors and management have the power to shape an international brand’s reality, no matter how good it may be in other countries. The ‘90s and early 2000s felt like a real golden era for The Body Shop in Australia – and it was run very much in the spirit of Anita. She loved seeing what she could create, and having the right people working for her to bring the brand to life. We were proud to work for The Body Shop, and it showed. 

Make it fun
Anita was a fun person who attracted people who were smart and energetic. She led the way by creating an engaging and interactive retail space that changed the way people interacted with cosmetics. Customers could really engage with the products on the shop floor; they could smell and test the products on a large scale, making their shopping experience more fun and interactive.

Show you care
One of the most unique aspects about the brand is its clear social conscience – and its innovative and at times rebellious approach to community work and advocacy over the years. Our team worked on community projects in some pretty out there places! In 1993 I can remember working with people with AIDS at a time when there was still a huge stigma associated with the disease.

The public were looking for ways to get involved in community campaigns – and The Body Shop offered them that opportunity. We ran a lot of campaigns that fit with the brand’s values, such as a campaign to save the Siberian tiger. We sold soaps in the shape of tigers, took donations, and also offered people petitions they could sign. The public were buying our ethical products, but they were also buying into issues that they cared about; it was a feel-good, community experience that hasn’t really been replicated by a brand continuously on the same scale since.

Give people choice
I think choice is another major reason for the brand’s success. The Body Shop have always offered a substantial product selection and a range of size options. The company were also one of the first to offer the option to recycle your products, where you could bring your products back to be refilled. This was another way that The Body Shop showed their commitment to the environment. Good business is about giving people choice.

Great customer service will set your brand apart
While some blame the rise of online shopping for the demise of many businesses in the retail sector, if you have awesome bricks and mortar, I truly believe you can still be successful. Many brands are failing to engage their audience with the sort of humour and imagination that Anita championed. No-one gives money to people – or brands – that don’t make them feel good! Great customer service remains a key part of the story. Working for The Body Shop I learnt a lot about the human race: how to be respectful, how to make people feel comfortable, and how to involve customers with a product. The Body Shop achieved this, and taught me a huge amount about what it means to serve and understand people and communities.

Let your principles shine
Being a principled leader is perhaps one of the most important lessons I took away from meeting Anita, and my time with The Body Shop. Of course, the brand had to make profits, but Anita also asked people what they cared about – and reflected this through the company’s products, campaigns and initiatives. To this day, principles guide me, and the brands I work with too, in part thanks to those early lessons I learnt from Dame Anita Roddick.

 

Feature image: Daily Mail UK