Tag: business innovation

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.­

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.

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.

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.

Last month I joined local and international presenters, including Mainstreet America’s Matt Wagner, at the annual Mainstreet SA State Conference.

Today I want to share some key takeaways from two very thought-provoking days of discussion.

This is a useful read for those in the tourism or local government spaces, or anyone with a business on a mainstreet. Some of these points also apply more broadly to businesses, so read on as I share my key takeaways from this year’s event.

Give them quality and they will come
Despite the international move away from brick and mortar businesses, there are still plenty of opportunities on our mainstreets. However, generic products simply won’t cut it in 2018. Matt Wagner from Mainstreet America says 77 per cent of consumers are loyal to brands that give top quality experiences, while 50 per cent would pay more for experiences they value.

Do: Create niche, short-term offerings that focus on exclusive products or experiences to drive visitation.

Don’t: Compromise on quality. This will have a negative impact in the longer term.

Mix it up
A diverse but cohesive offering is key to success for any mainstreet. According to Matt, there does need to be influencers and hero businesses on any mainstreet to drive innovation. And while you need to mix it up with your offering, if the region is known for a particular theme, such as food and wine, it makes sense to also play to these strengths.

Do: Create a mix of innovative businesses and include hero businesses in the mix.

Don’t: Assume you need ‘big name’ retailers or chain stores. Boutique players can ooze quality and be just as powerful as drawcards, especially where your region has a particular niche.

Develop skills, not just infrastructure
While developing infrastructure is a fantastic way to draw people to mainstreets, their experience of the local businesses will determine whether they return. Service delivery is an opportunity to create a real point of difference from the likes of your local Westfield. Building real capacity from a business to business perspective is one potential key to success.

Do: Constantly work to develop your skills, and collaborate with other local businesses to improve service delivery.

Don’t: Invest in infrastructure alone. The quality of a customer’s experience is key to success or failure.

Business must drive change
There is much that can be done at a local government level to drive innovation on our mainstreets. Decision makers need to develop projects around mainstreets that engage and involve not only businesses, but local communities. At the same time, Matt says the evolution of mainstreets must also be driven by business. Having an organic plan that reviews and responds to markets, as well as measures in place to assess its success, is essential. Engaged consumers spend 60 per cent more with a business.

Do: Have plans and measures in place to engage consumers in a constantly evolving marketplace.

Don’t: Leave it to Local Government alone. Business must drive innovation to remain relevant and competitive.

Focus locally, think globally
At the conference I spoke about the need to think big and overcome a scarcity mindset. But this shouldn’t come at the expense of a local focus. Allow your region’s values to shine through in your product and service delivery. Matt advises you should ensure your offering is real and authentic, and isn’t simply a manufactured focus, as can be the case in larger mall environments.

Do: Focus on authentic, local product and service delivery.

Don’t: Think small. Renowned local products and services can be global contenders.

Thanks to my co-presenter Glen Christie from Port Pirie Council and everyone who came along to listen to us and the other Mainstreet SA presentations across the two days.

I look forward to seeing more of our mainstreets across the state grow, flourish, and continue to be authentic marketplaces showcasing the best of the local communities they serve.

Want support growing your mainstreet or business? Get in touch with me on 0428 593 400 or email enquiries@kiikstart.com to find out more about how we can work together.

Head to any successful mainstreet throughout the state and you’ll find it bustling with people. There’s the rich aroma of coffee in the air, people walking laden with bags filled with produce and other local goodies, and possibly even a few art galleries or cultural centres in the mix.

Mainstreet SA describes our mainstreets as “the beating heart of our communities”. They’re where locals and visitors alike come together at the pub or bakery, and where local products are showcased and sold.

But how can we ensure that our mainstreets are sustainable into the future? And, in a regional context, how do we innovate visitor experience and servicing to capitalise on infrastructure growth and other local advancements?

Next week I’ll be speaking at the Mainstreet SA conference in Port Pirie from May 10-11, addressing these key questions.

Co-presenting with Port Pirie Regional Council, I’ll be speaking about innovation in visitor servicing – and its role in future-proofing regional mainstreets.

My experience within the mainstreet space was largely shaped by my 13 years of leading retailing practice in Australia, Canada and Ireland. I’m  driven by smart, cost effective but visionary approaches to the places, people and product underpinning modern mainstreets.

Ahead of next week’s talk, I wanted to share a few little nuggets of wisdom to get you thinking about the future of regional mainstreets.

 

1. Infrastructure is only part of the equation

New infrastructure really is only part of the equation when it comes to creating a successful and sustainable mainstreet. Visitor servicing is equally, if not more, important. When the two work together, you’ll get the best result. A study by Walker – a customer intelligence consulting firm in the US – noted that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator.

2. Generic product and service delivery won’t cut it

So we know that generic product and service delivery simply won’t cut it with discerning shoppers in 2018. But how can we avoid the generic? My presentation will highlight many ways to do so, but these include authenticity and storytelling. Increasingly, customers are favouring quality, but they’re also seeking products and experiences that are authentic and unique to the region they’re visiting. Therefore, interaction with the product or service and its maker will be key. Deliver a high-quality product or service in an interesting and authentic way, and you’re on to a winner. Mainstreets need to be curating the opportunities that showcase the new and emerging artists and talent of a region.

3. Think big

On the day, I’ll be encouraging businesses and communities to think big. It’ll be about overcoming a scarcity mindset, or a mindset where, if I’m paying my bills, I’m doing okay. Thinking bigger and executing a plan that celebrates unique, artisan product, and experiences that are intimate and local, presents both a challenge and an opportunity for our mainstreets and local businesses.

 

We’ll be considering how to best capitalise on your region’s infrastructure, and delivering a modern, innovative service experience that will position your business and mainstreet for great success both now and into the future.

You can find out more about the Mainstreet SA State Conference and view the full program here. I hope to see you there!

Opening her eyes to “new possibilities” for two iconic Outback hotels saw General Manager Jo Fort engage Kiikstart last year.

What’s followed is a “quiet little revolution” at both The Birdsville Hotel and The Innamincka Hotel that began with an idea for a business makeover and evolved into staff development work involving all staff.

Located in Outback Queensland and South Australia respectively, Kiikstart’s Virtual Scholar program has enabled staff to undertake remote training with our director, Ali Uren.

General Manager Jo Fort explains the shift.

Kiikstart: What services have you engaged through Kiikstart?
Jo: I had heard of Ali prior to meeting her at the 2017 SATIC Conference. It was generally agreed that the Kiikstart approach was refreshing, and that she was potentially a consultant who could assist us with staff development and improving customer service, particularly at point of sale.

Why did you engage Ali and how has she helped the Birdsville and Innamincka Hotels?
Jo: When I met Ali I had a vision of empowering management to think like entrepreneurs – that way I imagined I could step back from my already overloaded role. I knew that work needed to start at General Manager level first.

What changes have been made and what changes are underway for your businesses?
I can honestly say there has been a quiet little revolution that has resulted in a makeover in what we do and the way we present to our guests. Ali has helped our businesses by assisting us to deal with the tricky issues, and helping our team to come up with ways to do the job better. Choosing to live and work in the Outback can place people well out of their comfort zone and, while it may seem exciting, it’s like any job; it can be mundane and repetitive. Living close together and having to work on relationships at work, as well as outside of work, is challenging.

She’s encouraged us to think imaginatively, to be creative, and to question work practices. If the actions don’t fit with our values and vision, then they have no place in our life.

How has Ali helped to streamline the change process?
The development process is streamlined to suit individuals. Ali is persuasive, but she also understands that some concepts take time, and that from little ideas, big things grow. As a group we are excited, inspired, encouraged and motivated to stand out from our competitors and to be notably excellent in general.

Ali guided me in the early phase of our plan to get myself and then our team to think outside the box. Once I was happy that the foundations of the business were strong under her guidance, the business strategy, roles and responsibilities were fleshed out.

How would you describe Ali’s coaching style?
Ali is a tenacious, tireless trainer who works from her heart. She is 100% authentic and what you see is what you get. She is as terrifying as she is inspirational! I have used the word ‘terrifying’ because it’s the only word I can think of when your tasks aren’t done and you have a session booked with Ali. She is not up for ‘the dog ate my homework’! Ali believes in what she says, and she has the experience and background to back up her teaching. I understood from the beginning that it was my role in my learnings with Ali to set aside the time to do the work and set the tone.

To what extent have you relied on technology throughout this process?
Heavily! Technology has enabled us to learn with Ali through the Virtual Scholar program. That’s been the great strength in the way we’ve done things. Simply parachuting in to learn in one hour will not grant the paradigm shift we’re now seeing unfold. We have the technology, so we use it!

How valuable do you think your investment to date has been?
I believe I have invested wisely in engaging Ali. Not only is she a fantastic resource, but she has become a friend, and I look forward to continuing our journey. Sure, it’s a business decision to invest in staff development, but already there are outcomes and a level of maturity on-site that was not seen before. We are thinking before we act, and we are empowered and confident as a group.

To find out more about coaching options for your business, including our remote Virtual Scholar offering, get in touch with Ali at
enquiries@kiikstart.com or phone 0428 593 400.