The next 12-months is going to be incredibly different for people who work at Marketing Eye. After years of working hard at establishing a product and service that is unsurpassed by industry standards, driven by technology, systems and processes, we are now working tirelessly on how to build the right culture going forward.
There have been many hit and misses and lots of unnecessary frustration, but finally I think as a team we have hit the nail on the head and I am about to test it to the enth degree.
Flat Organizational Structure
Weaning employees off hierarchy-driven decision making has been a test of both patience and perseverance. Gen-Y's have been told that they need leadership in order to be successful, yet some of the most successful companies in the world, like Google, are saying quite the opposite. Their investment in a flat organizational structure has not only shown dividends on the balance sheet, but it has created a workplace and culture that the world-over admires and respects.
I had to laugh when I came into work today and found these three balloons. It's so true that in a consulting company, if clients are happy, employees are happy and the end result is "boss is happy".
But it is a tough gig and anyone who says otherwise must know something that I certainly do not know.
Today, I have an amazing team of people. They are bright, energetic, young, vibrant, thought-leaders. That's right... thought-leaders. They are not just sitting there doing their jobs, but instead they are thinking about what's next for our clients and how can they help grow Marketing Eye in new, exciting directions while fulfilling their own career goals.
When I started Marketing Eye more than 9 years ago, I had a vision to be the world's best small business marketing firm. I dreamt that I would open offices all over the world that would sell marketing services backed by sophisticated technology platforms, media and education, to businesses that had revenues of $1 million to $200 million.
Primarily, the companies that would be ideal clients were one's that were entrepreneur-led, like me, and who had a dream to significantly grow their businesses and mostly be industry game-changers - although the latter wasn't exactly necessary.
In the early days, we had hurdles. The first was our own mind-set of being use to working with funded startups or medium to large corporations and shifting the way we interacted, engaged and nurtured our clients to success to cater for burgeoning SMB market.
It took time. More time than I ever imagined.
It wasn't until more than 5 years later that things took real shape and my original business plan came into play. There wasn't an obstacle that I didn't face and no amount of hours in the office seemed to help get Marketing Eye to the level that it needed to be to fulfil our business plan.
Then, somehow it became easier, and I had more time up my sleeve to get back to doing the things I should have done in the start and that is "working on the business, not in the business".
This is where my life became very exciting and every single time I achieved one more piece of my business plan, I had a real sense of accomplishment. Suddenly everything became easier and there was enough money in the coffers to do what we needed to do. No more watching cashflow to the level that we needed to do in the early stages, and more investment placed in areas of the business where it needed it most.
We had a lot of changes that we needed to do in the business. I had made a lot of mistakes particularly in the recruitment stakes and had senior management who were not well-suited to marketing, let alone a senior management position, that were steering the ship.
Hard decisions needed to be made and I was making them - with confidence.
Now it's a different story. I can safely say we are well on our way to realising our business goals and achieving everything that I set out to achieve in that very first business plan.
We are smarter, faster and better than any of our competitors, and on top of that, we do everything in-house with no outsourcing and have our own proprietary technology to back it up. Then of course, we have a company magazine which is really taking shape, and I love the fact that we are able to give our clients a voice.
Expanding to the US market has been very hard both personally and professionally. I have lost the last few years on planes, living in hotels and putting myself out there in very uncomfortable situations.
One of the big changes for Marketing Eye right now is to forget that we are a small business, and to act global. If you want to be global, you have to behave like a global company. That means business structures, management structures, planning sessions, meetings, reporting and so on.
The knowledge that you need to have to expand globally is exhausting. I still cannot get my head around all the different tax laws and government regulations of the US, preferring to hire it in rather than invest the time in expanding my knowledge in this area. Somehow I took for granted the fact that in Australia I seem to know more about tax and business structures than some of the outsourced companies I employ. Likewise, with law, it feels like I am telling the lawyers what to put in contracts and they are just taking orders. Both of which may mean that there needs to be a change, but nevertheless, this is how I feel.
Finding the right partners in overseas markets is imperative, but remember, the partner you have today may not be the same as the one that takes you to where you want to go. Make sure you learn as much as possible and give them every opportunity to be successful in what they do, powering your company to the next level.
Get across foreign exchange because currency can make or break you - and you just have to ask Billabong about that one.
Marketing in the US is different to Australia. It is far more aggressive, technology savvy and immediate, whereas in Australia, it is more relaxed.
This journey continues to be exciting, but it is important that if you are a global startup, beware that you don't act like one. Fake it until you make it and treat your company like an entrepreneurial corporation that is fast tracking global expansion.
It's a Saturday and I am sitting in my friends living room talking business while at the same time reading emails and catching up on the latest in business news.
As we talk I realize that entrepreneurs are no different from celebrities, movie stars, singers, musicians or any other career that is centre stage.
The reality is we all have a bit of neurotic behaviour in us - whether we like it or not. Some entrepreneurs are more neurotic than others - micro-managing, controlling, double A-Type personalities that find it hard to accept another person's way of doing things, and then others just tip the iceberg.
Many entrepreneurs have a goal, or an idea of where they want to be. They are achievement orientated and often lack discipline, needing to hire the latter in to complement their existing skill base.
It's Monday, and I have already worked one day of the weekend, yet I haven't touched the surface.
Why is it that when you really are passionate about everything you do in life, that something always holds you back. In my case, it's time.
I always say, that time is the most important thing you can get from someone in your life. If you have their time, there is nothing else you will need. But time is harder than you think. With running an international business, having my fingers in quite a few different business pies, dedicating time to charity, trying to get a little bit of training in and developing technology - writing books and painting has definitely been put to the way-side.
Today, as I was making a post on Facebook with one of my marketing blogs, I noticed a headline from one of my friend's wives: "I lied to my child."
Apparently, as I read further, she had lied to her child by saying that she couldn't wait until her 5 year old started school, when really she knew that she would miss her dearly and would prefer for her small, adorable young daughter to continue to stay home.
There are many types of lies, but statistics show we all tell several lies per day, often without realizing it.
Lying is so common, yet for many of us including me, it drives us crazy.
I realized on the weekend that I have been fooling myself. In my mind, I have told myself that everything is fine and as it should be - but the reality is that it isn't. There are things that are not being done or are not going ahead at the rate I would like them to - and that's just my personal life.
In business, its a huge mistake as a small business owner to not be on your game. I put things that pop up, to the way-side - and pretending that they never happened. Constantly, make other things priorities over things that should be at the top of the list and I still don't trust my gut instinct - because if I did, my life would be easy.
We are all in this game to win; whether it is creating a lifestyle business, building an international empire or making huge profits.
I am not sure about you, but I have often been completely dumb-founded by the way some employees believe the world revolves around them and working for an organization isn't a two way street. I am sure every entrepreneur and business owner can attest to having at least thought this at some point in their business life.
The truth I have learnt - the hard way, I might add - is that all employees have employers up against the wall.
We all know:
It's easier to work with what you have and less costly then employing someone new
Hire slowly, fire fast
One negative person can cause a virus
Performance is linked to employee happiness
Some employees feel "entitled" and there is nothing you can do about it other then put bandaides on it
With all of this in mind, smart employers are realizing that if they don't like being up against the wall, then they have to lay the right footprint to exceed employees expectations and deliver an environment conducive to productivity and excellence.
1. Not willing to do the hard yards: People want everything yesterday and are no longer prepared to work hard for it and make sure that they have ticked all the boxes to get to where they want to go. Instead they believe "their own bullshit" and think they have already made it and are good enough - yet the proof is in the pudding that they are perhaps a bit short of where they would like to go.
Last night I caught up with my good friend, recruiter Michelle Fish, a new friend Chocko Valiappa and a couple of other people.
As we sat down and enjoyed a bite to eat and a glass of wine, I began to talk to Chocko about Ashrams in India. I have been wanting to go for some time and wanted his insight into which ones were the best to investigate.
Chocko is a spirital man - and although he didn't say as much, I could tell. I gravitated to him and before long we talked about different aspects of spiritality. He then mentioned that he read handwriting. Within seconds I was writing on a napkin hoping that he would pass on some wisdom about myself that would enlighten me.
"I am level headed and connect well between my head and my heart"
Hopping on another plane and all I can think about is the future. You know that thing that is going to happen, but hasn't quite happened yet?
The road as an entrepreneur is hard enough, without having to be a woman on top of that, nearing the ripe age of 40 years. I am without doubt in the most uncomfortable position I have ever been in in my entire life - and you know what - it's exciting.
This morning I was a little shocked. Someone who I had never had a conversation with, who is an indirect competitor of my business, said something that was defamatory about my character.
12-months ago, I would have fallen in a heap, so devastated by someone actively going around (in this case internationally) to deliberately try and ensure that an opinion was made of me that is not only incorrect, but is made to ensure that others have the same opinion.
It's never nice to hear something being said about yourself, but after years of growing thicker skin, it now takes a bit more to stop me in my tracks. I now "get" that not everyone is going to like you, nor are they all going to think you are good looking, interesting, smart or that your business is anything to write home about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Where this becomes grey is what they do with that opinion.
The once applauded "Tiger Mom" has taken a fall from grace in the past few years, receiving criticism from psychologists around the world.
It's a parenting style that is all too familiar for anyone over the age of 40 years, and still exists in some countries that continue to support this method of parenting.
For those who are not familiar, the Tiger Mom has come under scrutiny and criticism, due to her stricter parenting styles and the authoritative voice of the parent. It promotes conformity over creativity and the child does as they are told.
"All women are crazy and all men are stupid," said a well-known author when I recently met them at Atlanta's St Regis Hotel for a cocktail.
How true. I know many women will throw their arms up in the air at this one and it is a gross generalisation - but if you think about it, it actually is closer to the truth than most women entrepreneurs would like to admit.
While I try in earnest to be consistent, without too many overwhelming changes to my personality, I think most people who know me well, would say I am a tad crazy - just like all my other female friends. I won't react quite like I use to when it comes to anything emotional or otherwise, because as you get older, the chances are you can hold it in a little more, but YES I do over-think things and I definitely react irrationally at times when I would prefer to not have reacted at all.
I don't know about you, but when I went to school, the coolest kids in the class who were destined for greatness somehow fell short of their schoolyard celebrity status and became, well, um, not as successful as their parents and friends first thought.
I remember all those cool kids who seemed to have it all at the ripe age of 14, while I sat in the library reading a book because, quite frankly, I wasn't as cool, nor did I win any particular popularity contest to speak of.
Instead, I wrote my weekly debates and hoped that the cool kids' "coolness" would somehow rub off on me and overnight, I could hang onto their coattails too. But that was not to be - instead, I spent every free hour at school secretly hoping that one day I would be cool too.