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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

Oh look, another conference...

On Friday last week, I was lucky enough to attend Collective Hub’s Kick.Start.Smart conference in Sydney. It was a last minute opportunity that, had I been given the time to truly consider, would have undoubtedly found all the excuses under the sun to justify why I couldn’t step away from work for a whole day. But I’m glad I did. It was one of the better conferences I’ve attended in my career.

Whether a budding intrapreneur, an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned businessperson, the one-day conference served up a fresh dose of inspiration and education to help equip attendees with the tools, skills and community to thrive in work and life. With key-notes from unbelievable individuals including Dimmi’s Founder Stevan Premutico, Stylerunner’s CEO Julie Stevanja, Xero’s CMO Andy Lark, Gelato Messina’s Declan Lee and Atlassian’s Head of R&D Dom Price, the conference covered a range of topics and lessons vital for all of us and our businesses. Whilst some were obvious and some felt instinctive, they were all still incredibly valuable. I’ve captured some thoughts below (in no particular order) that I feel are relevant for everyone.

Never stop learning.

Somewhat unbeknownst to us, we live in a digital world that only serves up more of what we’ve already been served up. Our social newsfeeds are coded and generated by preferences to ultimately ensure we’re constantly delivered what we like, or have liked. Our news outlets publish stories surrounding things we’ve indicated we want to hear about or responded to the last time. Our social circles are mostly made up from people just like us with beliefs and opinions just like us. We’re rarely exposed to the new, or at least, not by choice. And because of this, there’s so much out there that’s just out of reach unless we proactively go out looking for it. Phil Nosworthy, MC of the event couldn’t stress enough the need for us, as individuals and as communities, to continue to invest in self-learning. It’s how we as people and as businesses will grow.

A successful business is 10% the idea and 90% the people.

Dimmi’s Steve Premutico quoted this, and it was echoed in sentiment across all the key-notes. I’m not telling anyone anything new here, but at the heart of everything discussed was just how important the right people are. And not just the right people by way of skills and experience, but the right people by way of belief and purpose. It reminded me of Simon Sinek’s TedTalk when he captured this notion so perfectly, suggesting that you need to hire people who believe in what you believe and why you do what you do - “if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears”.

What sort of bunz would I be looking at? Bunsen burner, nice little earner...

Act more like a child.

Seb Eckersley-Maslin from Blue Chilli talked about their ‘Kidpreneur’ initiative – a club that aims to fire the entrepreneurial spirit within young children. It’s a brilliant idea and the results are staggering. But rather than talk about the learnings from the initiative and its brilliance, I found the key take-out to be around why we as professionals, need to act more like children. To act on a child’s fearlessness. To nurture a child’s unrestricted creativity - an imagination that hasn’t been influenced by years of mistakes and anxieties. To truly buy into the thought that anything is possible. We spend our first years of parenthood telling children to grow up, but perhaps it’s them that should be telling us off.

Be a brand 100 people love, not a brand 1,000 people kind of like.

It’s impossible to be everything to everyone. If anything, by trying to be so, you end up being nothing to anyone. You’ll never be relevant or perfect to everyone, but by being focused and consistently aligned to your values and vision, you have the opportunity to become a part of your customers’ hearts and minds. Remain grounded and true to who you are and set out to make them feel something every time they engage with you. Xero’s CMO Andy Lark couldn’t have painted this scenario any better - what is ultimately a piece of bookkeeping software, Xero, both through its service offering and design, makes their customers feel something.

Stories have it that once upon a time, the CEO of Harley Davidson told his stakeholders that “the company wasn’t in the business of selling motorbikes” and paused. His stakeholders gasped. He continued, “we’re in the business of allowing 40 year old accountants to dress head to toe in black and ride through the streets of their town feared by all”. As a Harley Davidson owner, that feeling couldn’t be truer and one that speaks volumes of the product and experience of using it.

Would I rather be feared or loved? Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

We’re rationalising creatures not rational creatures.

I’ve written a lot about behavioural economics, so it was relieving to see this message front and centre of the day’s learnings. Whilst we all like to think we’re in control of our decisions, and are systematic and considered in making them, we’re really not. We’re not rational when it comes to most of our decisions, and in fact can be completely irrational in doing so.

Matt Newell from The General Store captured this essence perfectly when he told the story of one of his research sessions. In the centre of the focus group table was a pair of women’s shoes. He asked the group to outline what they’d pay for them. Approximately $120 (for sake of this recount). He then told the group where the shoes were from and asked them again how much they were. $350 was the new response. What? Why? Same pair of shoes as the ones they initially valued at $120 but now they know where they’re from? The responses varied but ultimately worked tirelessly to justify the change in value. We’re not rational in our decision-making but we’re damn good and rationalising why we make such decisions.

The world needs more makers, not more managers.

Just do it. The most important piece of advice handed out across all the key-notes on the day. It’s so easy to find excuses, to procrastinate, to let fear rule, but the message was clear – if you have an idea, if you know why and what you’re setting out to do, then back yourself, believe in yourself and just do it. Be brave and be bold. The world needs more doers, more makers. More entrepreneurs that set out to challenge the status quo and shift what is normal. At the end of the day, we’re more likely to be defined by what we don’t do rather than what we do do so roll the dice and go for it.

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

There is enough to go around.

One of the more encouraging messages to come out of the session was that there really is enough to go around for everyone. Regardless of the marketplace your business plays in, or your idea is born out of, there really is enough room for everyone to prosper. But, if you’re not doing it better, or setting out to do it better than your competitors, then you’ll make hard work of that opportunity to co-exist and probably cease to exist in short time.

If anyone else attended, I would love to hear what you took out of the day and the learnings that stood out most to you.

To those who were involved in the day - thank you!


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