Sneaky sound system

‘Headphones in, world out’ is a common gym-junkie mantra and there’s a reason why it’s such a popular Facebook meme. Jogging to the beat on a treadmill can increase your exercise endurance by up to 15 per cent, according to studies published in 2008 and 2015.

And while simple distraction from cardio pain plays a part in these findings, a study from Kent University shows texting or talking significantly reduces your exercise intensity while running – so there must be other aspects at work.

Health and exercise sciences researcher, Matthew Stork, is a big fan of HIIT training and music – so much so he’s made them the focus of two published studies from the University of British Columbia. “I think interval exercise has become a really hot topic and a big avenue for public health.

“There’s a lot of interesting commentary between sprint-training or HIIT for promoting public health, not just for athletes anymore but for people with illnesses such as type 2 diabetes or a variety of cardio metabolic diseases,” says Stork, whose studies saw participants self-select music and attend two sessions of sprint interval training (sprint training in 4 x 30 second bouts) – one with music and one without it.

“We looked at power output and found that, despite the fact participants felt they were exerting themselves just as hard, they weren’t performing as well without music.”

Stork also found that participants self-rated their training enjoyment to be higher with music than without and people had more positive attitudes towards sprint interval workouts after trying them with a tune.

And with greater enjoyment comes a greater sense of fun, potentially improving healthy eating habits – yep, listening to Queen Bey might just prevent you from eating that hazelnut brownie post-run.

One study found that reframing a workout as a well-deserved break or a ‘fun run’ meant participants would eat less afterwards.

Conversely, thinking of your lunchtime walk as a workout could lead to overeating as you disproportionately reward yourself.

The type of music you select will depend on the type of activity you are participating in, as well as your personal preferences.

That said, leading sport and education researcher Dr Costas Karageorghis says there are four essential qualities to look for in motivational beats for best results.

The first is the rhythm response, which links to the beats per minute of the song and how well it matches the movement or the heartbeat of a runner. Second is the musicality – how the melody and harmony make the song sound.

The final two factors are the cultural impact and association – that is, our own emotional responses to the song.

This depends on your own cultural background and preferences for certain types of songs, including what style of music you associate with particular artists.

A study from Liverpool John Moores University found just how critical the beat is to your performance.

A group of cyclists were asked to pedal to the same song over three different trials, not knowing that the researchers played the song at three different speeds – normal, faster and slower.

Speeding up the music by 10 per cent increased the cyclists’ distance by 2.1 per cent, power by 3.5 per cent and pedal cadence by 0.7 per cent.

On the flipside, when listening to the song at a pace 10 per cent slower, cyclists’ distance travelled dropped by 3.8 per cent, power dropped by a staggering 9.8 per cent and the pedal power dropped by 5.9 per cent.

The take home? You actually increase or decrease your efforts to match the tempo of the music you’re listening to, and this is reflected in your performance.

Try software such as popular platform Tangerine, which integrates your iTunes library and builds custom playlists based on a BPM range. It can even arrange the songs in tempo sections such as ‘warm-up’ and ‘cool down’.

BEST BEATS

So what are the best types of songs for your particular workout? A 2015 study suggested personalised playlists where the music’s tempo matches the exercise pace increases adherence to cardiac rehab by 70 per cent.

Moving in time to the beat pushes you to take that next step, cycle that next rotation or extend into that next warrior pose.

We asked the experts for their best advice:

HIIT

For HIIT, Stork says you need to pump it right up with fast beats, particularly those that have a build-up and a drop that will surge you on. Think techno, electric, pop and hip-hop. Or go for a remix of your favourite radio tunes.

LOW INTENSITY STEADY-STATE

For your more casual jog around the block, choose music that suits the lower intensity of your workout, like some soulful RnB or slower pop songs. Dance and aerial yoga teacher Maria Trenton says it’s worth keeping an ear out for songs that motivate you personally and that make you feel stronger. Not necessarily something really upbeat, but something that you really love to listen to. Anything with good vibes or songs with nostalgia that’ll keep you moving. Power songs or ballads work here.

WEIGHTS

Music for weight lifting should both inspire and push you forward. Stork says you want something upbeat, but not as high energy as a HIIT playlist. Dial back on the remixes, and maybe consider adding some rock, especially a few guitar riffs.  A 2006 study at York St John University found students could hold a 2.4 pound (one kilogram) weight in front of their body 10 per cent longer when listening to motivational pop or rock songs.

YOGA

Slow it down with soulful sounds. Slower music during yoga practice allows you to really breathe deeply and push into the stretches. For her yoga classes, Trenton steers clear of top 40 hits or beats native to your radio. Instead, she finds diverse music, songs from different cultures and underground music artists ideal. Tempo is key here – make sure you can match your movements to the beat of the song, so slow is the way to go.

Sneaky Sound RR from WHF2308_August2017-16

 

Originally published in the August 2017 edition of Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine.

How Mon Purse’s Lana Hopkins and Andrew Shub combined technology and fashion to make $1 million in three months

Name: Lana Hopkins and Andrew Shub

Company: Mon Purse

Based: Sydney

Business ideas can strike at the strangest of times – even when undertaking a build-a-bear workshop at Bondi Junction.

At least, this is how Lana Hopkins had the idea for Mon Purse, a luxury handbag and leather goods business that allows customers to monogram, customise and design their purchases themselves.

In the past three months Mon Purse has turned over more than $1 million, and Mon Purse co-founder Andrew Shub told SmartCompany the business expects to turnover in excess of $10 million by the end of 2016.

“If it wasn’t for Christmas we still would’ve done over a $1 million,” he says.

When Hopkins, 32, was building a teddy bear for her nephew in January 2014, she was coincidentally looking for a high-quality handbag at the same time.

Hopkins found looking for a classic bag she can keep for years was difficult. She might like the look of one bag but would wish it had gold zips or accents to better match her skin.

“[It was] always little things I’d been thinking about that made a bag not quite right for me,” she says.

Price was always the other issue for Hopkins, with luxury European bags retailing for $4000-5000 dollars, yet she found the cheaper mid-range bags usually fell apart within a few months.

Hopkins took inspiration from other businesses that offer customised products – including teddy bears – and thought why not apply the same model to handbags?

The result is Mon Purse, which uses 3D technology to allow customers to build and design their own bags online.

“Lots [of other businesses] are doing monogramming but this is next level, it’s not just monogramming it’s customising the bag to how you want it,” Hopkins says.

Hopkins says building the Mon Purse platform took a lengthy six-to-nine months. But at the time, Hopkins was running another startup, smartphone case and accessories business iCoverLover. She sold iCoverLover early last year.

After a successful website launch for Mon Purse in September 2014, Hopkins met her co-founder and retail specialist Andrew Shub.

“Lana and I actually met interestingly enough by a mutual friend utilising LinkedIn,” he says.

Shub had just sold a business and was interested in how technology was disrupting the fashion industry. Hopkins was looking for a co-founder and once the pair joined forces, Mon Purse began to take off.

Mon Purse’s first retail outlet opened in the Sydney suburb of Paddington in October last year and in the same month, Hopkins and Shub opened a concierge store in Myer in Melbourne, with an outlet in Myer in Sydney following in December.

SmartCompany caught up with Hopkins to find out how the Myer and Mon Purse partnership came about and why taking Mon Purse global is her next goal.

Mornings

What does a typical morning look like for Hopkins?

“I wish there was such a thing,” she laughs.

Most mornings Hopkins is up by 5.30am, catching up on her emails and setting her focus for the day.

“Usually by 6.15am I’ve grabbed my banana and I’m out the door,” she says.

Then it’s onto one of her many fitness activities – going for a run, having a session with her personal trainer or doing pilates.

Mornings are hectic and Hopkins tries to squeeze in a coffee by 10am before jumping into a “whole bunch of calls” and preparing presentations for the day.

Hopkins describes Mon Purse as an “omnichannel retailer”, which is something she says Shub helped move the business towards.

While more than 50% of the company’s sales come from online, the duo have prioritised creating an unique in-store experience for customers as well.

“How do we make sure people walk into our stores and smell the leather?” she says.

“[We] give them the option to monogram [a bag] on the spot or go to the next level and customise.”

Daily life

Days are always busy for Hopkins, and like many entrepreneurs, she travels a lot for work.

“I love to travel, I’m a big traveller that’s one thing I love about this opportunity that I’ve got,” she says.

But Hopkins days are set to get even busier in the next six months as Mon Purse rolls out into an additional six Myer stores.

Mon Purse has an exclusive retail agreement with Myer in Australia and Hopkins says the deal came about after she was invited to speak on a panel at an online retailing conference in July 2015.

As part of the conference, Hopkins and Shub attended a leaders breakfast event and it was there they met Myer chief executive Richard Umbers, who became very interested in the Mon Purse business model.

The expansion of the Mon Purse business also means Hopkins is busy relocating to larger premises, with the company having out grown its current space.

Mon Purse currently employs around 30 employees, with more positions opening up as the company continues to grow.

Leisure

In her downtime, Hopkins enjoys catching up with family and friends.

Her parents live in Coffs Harbour and her in-laws are in Southern Highlands meaning her and her husband frequently travel to see them.

She is also a keen reader.

“I love reading I recently renewed my passion for reading and I love exercise,” she says.

“On weekends I usually go for long walks. I think it helps me to really think about things and catch up with family and friends.”

Some of her favourite walks around Sydney’s eastern suburbs include anything along the coast, such as walking along Watsons Bay or from Rushcutters Bay to Manly.

Future

When it comes to the future of Mon Purse, Hopkins isn’t thinking small.

“The sky’s the limit, right?”

“We’re really focused on the momentum and the momentum we have right now is absolutely incredible,” she says.

This year Hopkins’ focus is o

n creating and cementing the Mon Purse brand.

This is also the year Mon Purse looks global, with impending launches for the brand overseas.

According to Shubthe company’s strong online sales and its relationship with Myer means Mon Purse is well-placed to succeed internationally.

“[The] arrangement and relationship with Myer is very strong and with top management, we believe we’re a good case study with Myer that proves we can operate globally with a level of humility,” he says.

Shub says Mon Purse’s strategy of not discounting is also a strength.

“We don’t go on sale at all,” he says.

“The success of this business is we’re never on sale. We’re giving you an offer of a range of items which you can customise and adjust to your preference.”

For Hopkins, at its core is about creating an unforgettable customer experience and continuing to innovate by combining fashion with technology.

Hopkins is continuing to utilise tech dev

elopment and the tech engineering space to create unique custom designed products.

“We stand on our European factory floor…

thousands of bags all different, being produced at the same time,” she says.

“We couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams to be sitting where we are.”

Originally published on SmartCompany on March 30, 2016.

Woolies to ditch Homebrand name for private label goods: Is it just an “easy fix”?

Woolworths is overhauling its Homebrand range in a bid to improve the range’s perception in an increasingly competitive market for private label grocery products.

According to Fairfax Media, Homebrand generates $1.4 billion annually across almost 1000 product lines for the supermarket but it will soon be rebadged as part of the lesser-known “Essentials” line.

See more: Woolworths is no longer the most valuable brand in Australia

Homebrand has long been perceived as the cheap option for shoppers but Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci previously indicated the supermarket giant has a “perception problem” with its red-and-white coloured product line, according to Fairfax.

“The issue we’ve got with Aldi is providing the same value experience in our store as you would in an Aldi, which requires us to rethink and re-engineer some of our entry-level products,” he said last year.

Private label groceries are big business in Australia and now account for around 20% of supermarket brands, according to market research from IBISWorld.

Canstar Blue research in January showed 65% of Australians prefer to buy private labels, with Aldi the preferred choice for staples like white bread, wholemeal bread, butter and eggs.

The iconic Woolworths red and white Homebrand will slowly be phased out in favour of the new Essentials branding, which will feature red and yellow packaging. The supermarket plans to making the switch on a category-by-category basis.

Essentials is currently used on a range of non-food items, but the first food item to switch from Homebrand is honey.

A spokesperson for Woolworths confirmed to SmartCompany the Homebrand and Essentials ranges will be “consolidated into one improved value range called Essentials” following a review.

“We have been reviewing the products in all of our brand ranges to ensure we deliver even greater quality and value for our customers,” the spokesperson says.

“The Essentials range as the name suggests are products every home needs, both food and non food. When customers see each product move to the new Essentials packaging they can be assured the product will offer market leading value for money for our customers.”

Is Woolworths taking the “easy fix”?

Branding expert Michel Hogan told SmartCompany the switch from “Homebrand” to “Essentials” appears to be a re-naming and not a re-branding move, which is aimed at changing perceptions without repositioning the products.

“What they see as the front line of doing that [changing perception] is to give it a makeover, which is essentially all they’re doing,” she says.

“There’s an epidemic on this. It seems every other week I’m asked about this type of thing,” she says.

“It’s in the same process [as] calling themselves Susan instead of Tracey.”

Hogan says is it appears Woolworths is only changing the name and not the products themselves and as such, a long-term change in sales is unlikely.

“My general reaction is while that certainly it can drive a [sales] bump short term – usually a bump in traffic and interest – I tend to think people are smarter than that.

“I think the reason people are going to Aldi or preferring Aldi is [for] a whole bunch of reasons,” she says.

Hogan believes Woolworths should instead be considering what is driving the overall shift behind more people preferring Aldi’s product lines.

She says buying a product is about the experience in-store, the placement of the product and a number of other reasons aside from the name on a label.

“Customers are not quite as dumb as companies appear to think they are,” she says.

“If all the products that were called Homebrand are now called Essentials, they wont figure it out?”

Hogan believes the reason Aldi is seemingly doing better with its private label line has little to do with its name.

“One of the first things they say is its really great quality. There’s a payoff that people respond to and recognise thats actually what you’re combating,” she says.

“It’s important to look below the veneer of something to change the way a customer is responding to it.”

For SMEs, Hogan warns against taking the easy fix by only changing a product name.

“Changing the name is the easy fix. It’s the sexy, sparkling, shiny stuff. It’s easier to do that and think that’ll fix the problem,” she says.

Hogan suggests businesses look at featuring other product elements, such as how the product is made or how it has been sourced as a way to speak to the product’s quality.

“But that takes work,” she says.

“That’s something that you’ve really got to think about and you’ve got to have a story to tell.”

 

Originally published on SmartCompany on March 29, 2016.

Two Aussies make Fortune’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders

Two australians have been included in Fortune‘s third annual list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.

Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has been ranked 33rd on the list, while Mina Guli, chief executive of Thirst, has been ranked 45th.

The list comprises men and women who Fortune says are leading and inspiring others in business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Batty is well known to Australians for her work raising awareness of family violence and is the founder of the Luke Batty Foundation.

Guli, 45, is a corporate-lawyer-turned-activist. She launched Thirst to educate consumers about water conservation and this year she ran 40 marathons across seven deserts in seven continents in seven weeks, finishing on World Water Day on March 22.

Taking out first place on the list is Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, beating out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the top spot.

Also making this year’s list are entrepreneur Reshma Saujani,  founder and chief executive of Girls who Code, at number 20 on the list and Salesforce chief executive Mark Benioff at number 37.

Here’s the top 10 World’s Greatest Leaders, according to Fortune

  1. Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon;
  2. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany;
  3. Aung San Suu Kyi, Leader of the National League for Democracy;
  4. Pope Francis, Pontiff, Roman Catholic Church;
  5. Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple;
  6. John Legend, recording artist and activist for the Show Me Campaign;
  7. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
  8. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives;
  9. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court; and
  10. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

The full list is available from Fortune here.

Originally published on SmartCompany on March 29, 2016.

How Anthony Wright created $2 million ‘lawyer on call’ business Lexvoco in just 14 months

Name: Anthony Wright

Company: Lexvoco

Based: Melbourne

Just 18 months ago Anthony Wright was working as a lawyer and drawing up a business plan at his kitchen table.

After 15 years working as a lawyer for other people, Wright saw a gap in the market for businesses that need lawyers but cannot afford to pay for in-house counsel. His business, Lexvoco, aims to address this need by providing on-call legal advice.

“I enjoy helping other people understand and leverage their legal position and then helping other lawyers improve their work,” he tells SmartCompany.

Wright launched Lexvoco in January last year and the business has grown to a team of 175 staff in five offices around Australia. The company offers legal counsel in a number of countries including New Zealand, Asia, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, France, Netherlands, and parts of South America.

“Whether that lawyer is sitting in Melbourne or London they can still have exactly the same level of skills,” Wright says, adding that for businesses in the UK and US, utilising Lexvoco’s Australia lawyers is often more cost effective.

“The fortunate aspect of Lexvoco and professional services compared to some industries is it’s a lean business model and it’s not capital intensive,” he says.

“It’s been 14 months now and in that time … just in the first 12 months, we’re just shy of a $2 million turnover,” he says.

As a lawyer, Wright had a special interest in mergers and acquisitions and he says this continues to fascinate him when it comes to the world of business.

“For every transaction that you’re looking at as a lawyer, whether you’re buying or selling something, you’re looking at the merits of that company, that really interests me,” he says.

But while Wright had often entertained the idea of starting his own business, it took him two decades to take the leap.

“For 20 years I worked for other people, some big businesses, some very impressive people from McDonald’s as a 13-year-old to being a lawyer for a billionaire,” he says.

SmartCompany caught up with Wright to find out what a typical day in a fast-growing startup looks like and how he is finding the time to work on his business, as well as in it.

Morning

Wright has two small kids at home – a son aged three and daughter aged one – so his mornings start bright and early between 4.30am and 5am.

“My wife and I have an arrangement where we alternate our days for exercising and looking after the kids,” he says.

“First day I cycle, ride my bike with mates, second day I’m on dad duty and I’ll normally take the kids and go for a run with the pram or go skating with the kids.”

It’s then into the office in the heart of Melbourne CBD on William Street, arriving between 7.30 – 8.30am.

Wright eats breakfast at work before diving into his daily tasks.

Daily Life

Each day is a balancing act for Wright, who continues to work for clients directly while also managing the business.

“I try my best to split my time 50% actually doing work for clients, so whether that is hosting a workshop or [working with] an in-house legal team,” he says.

“The other part of the time I’m trying to grow and lead and manage the business and our staff.”

Wright says it’s important for entrepreneurs to find the right balance between these two objectives.

“I’m a bit torn by what the right balance is,” he says.

“I read plenty of different opinions from very experienced business people who talk about not working in the business but on the business, but I find that I have much more meaningful and fruitful discussions with clients and staff if I understand what they’re going through.”

Leisure

Like many business owners, down time isn’t always a common occurrence for Wright as he balances putting in “the hard yards” and having a young family.

But Wright has set himself some guidelines to ensure he can switch off from work.

“[I] try my best to always be home before the kids go to sleep because that’s really important for me,” he says.

Wright’s also a keen cycler and golfer.

“I love the beach, I love surfing, riding my bike, playing golf and thankfully my son is into most of those things already,” he says.

“[Both] fortunately and unfortunately, golf and cycling take up a bit of time.”

The future

Wright says the future is bright for Lexvoco for two reasons: the business has developed a strong team and the passion for helping other businesses access affordable legal services is alive.

“I think or I hope that we’ve got very good prospects,” he says.

“[I’m] so pleased with our performance and that fact that we’re helping people that have got challenges with currently getting their legal services performed. And because I enjoy what we’re doing and we’ve got really good people who enjoy what they’re doing, we’ve on a good pathway.”

But Wright won’t be resting on his laurels, saying the speed at which Lexvoco can deliver its services will be key to the company’s future prospects.

He says the concept for Lexvoco is simple: offering fast legal services to clients with a substantial need for services but can’t justify employing a single person for the position. Lexvoco promises its clients it will return queries within 24 hours.

“Speed is absolutely key as the reality is most legal issues are unexpected and business is fast,” he says.

“The last thing you want as a business owner or general manager is to be held up by the legality,” he says.

Wright believes the biggest downfall of many aspiring business owners is simply not taking that first step, which he admits held him back from starting sooner.

“Give it a go. It took me years if not a decade to have the courage to do that,” he says.

“I spoke about this a lot with my wife, if it doesn’t work it’s not the end of the world,” he says.

“Sure there might be some tough times, you might need to rent rather than own [property] and you might not be earning as much money … but back yourself to make it work if you have an idea you think there’s a need for in the market.”

And once you have taken that first step, Wright recommends surrounding yourself with the best team possible.

“I’ve never said [I’m] founder or CEO – sometimes I say director and sometimes I say principal [lawyer] – I’ve never every referred to myself as the founder of the business because nothing ever happens from just one person,” he says.

 

Originally published on SmartCompany March 11, 2016.

How Sydney entrepreneur Han Lam traded in his stockbroking suit for a mop and bucket

Sydney entrepreneur Han Lam wears many hats. He is the co-founder of cleaning company The Marigold Group, juice business The Juice Stop and student concierge group Goldridge Group.

Lam is a self-proclaimed “wheeler and dealer”, having co-founded a number of businesses – both successfully and unsuccessfully – over the past five years.

Lam and business partner Jason Tran left successful careers as stockbrokers to become full-time cleaners and their business, The Marigold Group, turned over close to $2 million last year.

SmartCompany caught up with Lam before he headed to China for the Shanghai Expo to meet investors for his latest student concierge venture Goldridge Group.

I started a degree in commerce but I dropped out.

My business partner and I met at a stockbroking firm, which we gave up to pursue our cleaning business. It started as a part-time thing … getting cleaning contracts in the morning, having business meetings and then going to work.

I think we just sort of fell into it. It was a low capital start-up and you can clean at night and work during the day.

Eventually I just sort of eased out of stockbroking and turned cleaning full time. [Our families were] obviously not too impressed. We got a lot of resistance, with people actually saying we were dropping the suit and picking up a mop.

We left a lot of security at this point.

In our first month we made about $3000 between us and that’s pre-tax, pre-expenses and what not. And the first year we came in at about $80,000 turnover between us.

It was a tough slog for the first year as we realised we were targeting the wrong market. I think it really started to take off after two-and-a-half years. Now we have roughly between 60 to 70 staff.

I think a lot of people talk about passion. We didn’t really have a passion for cleaning to be honest but we have a passion for business.

I was born in Queensland but I pretty much grew up in Sydney. We came from a sort of poor background, that’s all you can say on that.

I started working at Woolworths [as a teen] so I was good at saving money and was a little “wheeler and dealer” doing things like selling phones.

Something I did while I was working, even finishing high school, was I found cars. When I bought my first car I was on, let’s call it, a learner’s licence. I knew about the market and so I started fixing the cars and on-selling them for a profit. Of the 50-odd cars [I sold], there was only one I didn’t profit from.

It shows the model of business hasn’t really changed. It’s just finding a product, fixing it and selling it for a profit. Working in the services business [with Marigold Group or Goldridge Group] is the same.

My mornings start about 6am. Waking up with a coffee always helps – that’s a must for me – followed by a quick workout session and then really it’s all in from there. I do pop into the juice bar every morning and then work from home for a bit. [Next] it’s a really intense phone and email gig, attending meetings throughout the day and entertaining clients if need be.

Dealing in the business world is a bit funny in a sense that you come across the opportunities and a lot of people say “stop bouncing off walls and focus on one thing”. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do that. In terms of the opportunities I’ve had, I’ve had two start-ups that have failed because of that lack of focus.

We went through a phase where we were looking at opportunities to put our profits into. We purchased a frozen yogurt place and we fitted it out slightly to turn it out into a juice bar. We called it The Juice Stop.The flagship store is in Coogee Beach and we’re opening two more stores in Chatswood and Sydney CBD.

After opening The Juice Stop I was approached by the daughter of the owners of the Murray Spring Brewing Co [Ashleigh Howe]. They’re quite a large brewer in Australia and we were supplying cleaning services to their business. She wanted to use my Chinese background and Western background to target the student market. So we started The Student Concierge business.

I sold that student concierge last year. I’ve been approached from investors from Singapore to replicate the student concierge market. I don’t think there is a shortage of opportunity right now.

I think the businesses sort of overlap. We started with the juice bar, moved onto the cleaning business, and then brought it back to the Chinese business [student concierge business Goldridge Group], with 90% focus on that right now.

Because I have a business partner I can trust, I know he can manage the cleaning business while I manage the Chinese market company.

The people coming through the Chinese market are so entrepreneurial and driven; it’s good energy to be around.

I think in the sense that money is much more accessible in China, the entrepreneurs movement is only just starting to pick up in Australia. There are the tech hubs but we are still small in comparison to the United States or Singapore.

What I want to do [with Goldridge Group], and part of my vision, is to incorporate this Chinese market. We created a business to service a need and that’s the concierge service.

With our business model being that we are able to help them [people in China] migrate, relocate or purchase a property in Australia, then that’s the first element of trust on our end. Hopefully we can help them for a lifetime.

The natural progression is that you come here [from China], you get a Visa and then there’s no after support from your migration agency and you get sort of left alone to find home stays or a place to rent.

We said look that’s a service we can do. Then maybe we can sell these people a property or a business if they’re entrepreneurial down the track and then we can service their parents moving here.

I’ve been blessed to be able to push my way into networks to meet a lot of people and pretty much tap into those opportunities. 

I’ve been able to meet people like the “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort. I’m meeting the private banker for the Saudi King on Monday and I’m meeting two Singaporean billionaires on Monday. This is just the start of networking.

What’s the best bit about my job? I won’t say the lifestyle because that’s a bit too cliché but it’s the opportunity to work with likeminded people in the business world. The people you come across and network with is great.

If you asked me if I could ever go back to working for someone else the answer is a big fat no. A lot of people say it’s a lifestyle – yes, every day is different and there’s never two days the same – but it’s really just about creating something. And the time spent creating things. You’re in the position to employ people, educate and train people, lead by example, and hopefully they can create something by themselves.

I just hired four staff for Goldridge and I said to them: “If you’re still working for me in two years then I’ve failed because I want you to be running your own business”. Yes it’s a risk but chances are they will work with you and want to hold onto a business relationship and that’s what I’m looking for.

My advice is to just get started. If you can’t do it full-time, do it part-time but be keen to stick with it. I’ve seen this a lot where people give up by three months but you’ve just got to commit to it.

It is a long term play, it’s a long term haul and if people can’t stick it out then you’re not going to create anything.

 

Originally published on SmartCompany March 9, 2016

App aims to get Australian workers up and moving

The Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne has released an app that encourages regular movement in a bid to get office workers up and moving.

The team behind the Rise & Recharge app hopes the app will highlight the dangers of sitting for long periods of time, suggesting regular movement can help to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

After downloading the free app, SMEs and workers will have their sitting time tracked and will be reminded to get up every 30 minutes.

App users get rewarded with credits each time they getGif_satchel_sidebend up and move more than 15 steps, with credits culminating in the award of “chair boss”.

The Rise & Recharge app is available from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

According to the institute, the average adult sits for nine hours a day and office workers sit for two thirds of their working hours.

Here are seven tips to reduce the time you spend sitting:

  1. Stand up when the phone rings
  2. Eat lunch away from your desk
  3. Walk over to your colleague’s desk instead of emailing them
  4. Move your bin away from your desk
  5. Have a standing or walking meeting
  6. Take the stairs instead
  7. Stand at the back of the room during presentations

 

Originally published on SmartCompany on March 9, 2016.

Australia’s top 30 female entrepreneurs 2016

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By Broede Carmody, Ronelle Richards and Eloise Keating

They lead retail empires and technology powerhouses. They employ thousands of Australians and inspire countless others. They are hardworking, dedicated and passionate.

They are Australia’s top female entrepreneurs.

Each year SmartCompany publishes its list of top female entrepreneurs to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.

This year’s list features several exciting new faces, including Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed and fitness entrepreneur Michelle Bridges, as well as women who have long been at the forefront of Australia’s business community – and who continue to inspire.

SmartCompany’s annual list of top female entrepreneurs is ranked according to the revenue of their business.

This year, the combined revenue of the businesses on the list is $10.67 billion, up $200,000 from last year.

Wherever possible, revenue figures have been provided by the entrepreneurs themselves.

If not, SmartCompany has relied on publicly available sources, industry contacts or internal estimates. An asterisk shows when revenue has been estimated.

Here are SmartCompany’s top female entrepreneurs for 2016:

1. Katie Page

Company: Harvey Norman

Established:1982

Revenue: $2.71 billion (with Gerry Harvey)

Katie Page began working as an assistant at Harvey Norman in 1983 and has been chief executive since 1999 of a company with almost 200 stores in Australia and 86 stores overseas. Harvey Norman Holdings encompasses stores and franchise of Harvey Norman, as well as furniture brands Domayne and Joyce Mayne.

Harvey Norman’s revenue of $2.71 billion for 2014-15 comes from company operated sales revenue (not including franchises), as well as other venue and income items. The ASX-listed company, which is controlled by Page and husband Gerry Harvey, also has an estimated $2.32 billion in property portfolios.

Harvey has previously referred to Page as “the mastermind behind it all” in media interviews. Page is also a director at The Retail Council and the Trustee of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust. Page also recently signed Harvey Norman as naming right sponsors for the first all-female Bathurst 1000 entry since 1998.

2. Gina Rinehart

Company: Hancock Prospecting

Established:1955

Revenue:$2.04 billion

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has slipped to second place in SmartCompany’s list of top female entrepreneurs, after previously hanging on to first place on the annual list since 2012.

Mining had a tough year in 2015 and Hancock Prospecting did not escape impact. Weak commodity prices have contributed to revenue slipping more than 22% to $2.04 billion in 2014-15 according to Business News. Although there was a 14% increase in shipments at the half-owned Hope Downs mine, the fall in iron ore directly impacted on profits.

Much has changed in the past year as Rinehart is no longer Australia’s richest person, having been unseated by reclusive American heiress and Australian resident Blair Parry-Oaken on Forbes’ annual Rich List. Rinehart’s personal net worth is estimated by Forbes’ to be $9.4 billion.

3. Vicky Teoh

Company: TPG

Established: 1992

Revenue: $1.27 billion (with David Teoh)

Vicky Teoh founded a computer hardware retail business Total Peripherals with husband David Teoh in 1992 and that company continues on as one of Australia’s largest telecommunications providers. The Teohs remain the biggest shareholders in TPG with a combined stake of 35.69%, or more than 291 million shares.

TPG recorded a 31% increase in revenue, from $970 million to $1.27 billion, in the 2014-15 financial year. The biggest gains for TPG have been taking acquisition of internet provider iiNet Group in September. Now combined, the telcos provide broadband services to over 1.8 million subscribers and we’ll be watching closely how this impacts on TPG’s revenue in the next six months. TPG also recently stuck a dual agreement with Vodafone, including a major dark fibre transmission network expansion and migration of TPG’s mobile customer base to the Vodafone network.

4. Lesley Gillespie

Company: Bakers Delight

Established:1980 (becoming a franchise in 1988)

Revenue: $619 million (with Roger Gillespie)

The Gillespies have taken their “baked today sold fresh that day” philosophy and built a chain of more than 700 bakeries in Australia, New Zealand and Canada (as COBS Bread). An estimates 2 million customers stop into Bakers Delight stores every week to pick up their bread.

Bakers Delight began with a single Hawthorn bakery back in 1980, which by 1988 had grown to 15 bakeries all owned by the Gillespies. Moving into franchising proved to be a winning move for the couple, with revenue increasing from $585 million to $619 million last year.

Gillespie previously worked as a teacher, with a bachelor of science degree from Monash University. She has an Order of Australia award for her support of charitable and sporting organisations.

5. Maxine Horne

Company: Vita Group

Established: 1995

Revenue: $601.4 million

Maxine Horne has more than 25 years experience in the telecoms and technology industry, having established one of the first mobile phone stores Fone Zone back in 1995. Vita Group celebrated its 20th birthday last year with a 34% increase in revenue for the 2014-15 financial year.

In the 2015 annual report, Horne reiterated her “simple formula” business philosophy for looking after team members to create a positive atmosphere for customers.

“Twenty years ago, when I founded this business, I knew that we needed to stand out from the crowd – and we have certainly done that,” she said.

“The key ingredient for our success has always been our people, from the very beginning through to today.”

Horne is known for her philanthropy, last month announcing a company commitment to allocating 1% of the Vita Group’s annual net profit after tax to charity through the Vita Foundation.

6. Naomi Milgrom

Company: ARJ Group

Established: 1939

Revenue: $490 million*

Naomi Milgrom is chief executive officer of the ARJ Group, which is the parent company of retail chains Sussan, Suzanne Grey and Sportsgirl.

Recognised for her ongoing contributions to the fashion, art and retail industries, Milgrom has previously been named one of Australia’s top 25 business leaders and in 2009, was named a Champion of Entrepreneurship.

Speaking at last year’s Retail Futures Forum in Melbourne, Milgrom recognised the increased pressure on bricks-and-mortar retail stores, as reported by Fairfax.

“The second issue that’s developing is that the internationals are pushing prices down, which is going to cause some hardship. And I think with the dollar sitting where it is, that’s going to cause even more hardship,” she said.

7. Yenda Lee

Company: Bing Lee

Established:1957

Revenue: $490 million*

Yenda Lee is the chair and public face of electronics retailer Bing Lee, which was founded by her late husband businessmen Ken Lee and his father Bing Lee. Bing Lee was started in the late 1950s in Fairfield, Sydney, and now has around 40 stores in New South Wales and Victoria.

Yenda Lee continues to run Bing Lee with her son Lionel and dedicated team as a family business, treating all staff, suppliers and customer as family.  The company has an annual turnover of $490 million according to The Border Mail.

8. Janine Allis

Company: Retail Zoo

Established:2000

Revenue: over $350 million

The last twelve months have been hectic for Janine Allis, who is continuing to grow Retail Zoo – the parent company to Boost Juice – as well as featuring as a judge on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.

Allis continues to be active in growing the Retail Zoo business and has previously told SmartCompany that focus and persistence are imperative to business success.

“Your business journey might take very different routes but you have to just keep at it like a dog with a bone,” she said.

“Then you will come out on top.”

Among her Shark Tank investments, Allis now owns a 30% stake in food delivery service The Dinner Ladies, a 10% stake in the Scrubba Washbag and a 35% stake in bassinet and pram canopies Flybabee.

9. Charlotte Vidor 

Company: Toga Group

Established:1963

Revenue: $285 million* (with Ervin Vidor)

Charlotte and Ervin Vidor founded hotel business Toga Group in 1963 after migrating to Australia from Poland and Hungary.

The company has transformed into a property empire that a number of hospitality brands including Adina Apartment Hotels, Vibe Hotels, Travelodge Hotels, Rendezvous Hotels and Medina Apartment Hotels. The Toga Group’s revenue was estimated to be $285 million in 2013.

10. Sue Hollis

Company: TravelEdge

Established:2000

Revenue: $250 million*

Sue Hollis has an extensive background in travel, having worked for both British Airways and Qantas prior to co-founding TravelEdge in 2000.

Hollis has previously told SmartCompany travel is am industry with tight margins and that staff culture is key to the TravelEdge business.

“It’s the key driver behind everything we do,” she said.

“We hire and fire on values. Values fit is equally important, if not as important, for us as a technical fit. That, for us, is critical.”

11. Lorna Jane Clarkson

Company: Lorna Jane

Established:1990

Revenue: $200 million* (with Bill Clarkson)

Lorna Jane Clarkson founded activewear brand with husband Bill Clarkson in 1990, leaving her job as a dental therapist and part-time aerobics instructor.

Today, operates up to 217 stores in Australia, the US, Austria, France, South Africa and the UK.

Lorna Jane has become renown for its social media presence, with more than 1.1 million Facebook fans and more than 600,000 followers on Instagram. However, the activewear company has also copped flak on social media in the past year for advertisements for fit models and been dogged by a bullying lawsuit from a former employee.

The bad press has taken its toll on Clarkson who in an interview last year described the affect of the criticism.

“When you build a brand that is so much about you and who you are as a person, it hurts,” she said.

12. Iris Lustig-Moar

Company: Lustig & Moar

Established:1971

Revenue: $171 million*

Property developing business Lustig & Moar was established in 1971 by Iris Lustig-Moar’s late father Ted Lustig and former husband Max Moar.

Both Iris Lustig-Moar and Max Moar remain directors of the company and have been responsible for high end projects like the Grand Hyatt Hotels in Melbourne and Hong Kong, as well as the Chatswood Chase in Sydney.

13. Gillian Franklin

Company: The Heat Group

Established:2000

Revenue: $130 million

The Heat Group was established in a coffee shop back in 2000 after founder Gillian Franklin secured consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble as a client in just three weeks. Originally from South Africa, Franklin married an Australian and worked for a number of major cosmetics companies like Revlon and Australis before starting her own wholesale business.

The Heat Group sells 11 million pieces of stock each year, employs 170 employees and has annual turnover of around $130 million. One Heat product is sold in Australia every 2.8 seconds.

Franklin previously told SmartCompany leaving the corporate world to start her own business was both exciting and scary.

“There was a huge amount of anxiety; I had been in a very senior role for a long time, with the salary package and comfort and security of corporate life,” she said.

“I learnt very quickly different skills and expertise are needed when you own your own business.”

14. Diana Williams

Company: Fernwood

Established:1989

Revenue: $106 million*

Diana Williams is credited with ushering in a major change in the Australian fitness market, after recognising a desire among women to have access to their own workout spaces.

Since founding the women-only gym chain Fernwood in 1989, Williams’ business has grown from a single site in Bendigo, Victoria, to almost 70 fitness clubs situated in every Australian state that offer more than 3000 fitness classes every week.

15. Sarina Russo

Company: Sarina Russo Group

Established:1979

Revenue: $106 million

Sarina Russo founded her own typing school with just nine students in 1979.

Today, the Sarina Russo Institute sees 5000 students graduate annually and Sarina Russo Job Access places 25,000 people into employment. The Sarina Russo Group now employs over 1100 people.

Russo previously told SmartCompany in life you should wish for either inspiration or desperation, and the latter was what pushed her.

“I was pretty desperate. I had $2600 in my name. I took out an overdraft for the business of $3000, which had a security on it of $2000,” she said.

“You have to be prepared to take a leap of faith and back yourself.”

16. Jo Horgan

Company: Mecca Brands

Established:1997

Revenue: over $100 million*

Mecca Brands has come a long way since its first South Yarra cosmetics store. Jo Horgan has grown her concept for a cosmetics haven into 67 stores and is reported to be planning to expand a further 20 stores this year.

Mecca is estimated to hold 12% of the $4 billion cosmetics and beauty sector in Australia. The business includes the brands Mecca Cosmetica, Mecca Maxima and Kit Cosmetics, as well as an thriving online business.

17. Barb di Corti

Company: Enjo

Established:1994

Revenue: over $100 million*

Austrian-born Barb Di Corti began selling ENJO cleaning products in Australia 1994 after discovering how the environmentally friendly products helped her asthmatic son.

Today, the entrepreneur leads she a cleaning products empire that allows more than 1000 “ENJOpreneurs” to work flexibly as consultants selling ENJO products.

ENJO is also committed to a Zero Waste movement, claiming that switching to ENJO can help reduce up to 50% of household waste.

18. Carolyn Creswell

Company: Carman’s Fine Foods

Established:1992

Revenue: $100 million

Former Telstra Business Woman of the Year Carolyn Creswell has made a fortune from people’s love of muesli.

The entrepreneur started her business with a $2000 investment back in 1992 and Carman’s Fine Foods is now turning over around $100 million with products sold in more than 30 countries.

So what’s her formula for success?

Stay focused on the bigger picture.

“You need to be organised, get the clutter out of your life so you can focus on strategy and risk,” Creswell previously told SmartCompany.

19. Kristina Karlsson

Company: kikki k

Established:2001

Revenue: $60.9 million

Stationery queen Kristina Karlsson started kikki k 15 years ago and since that time has managed to turn her business into a household name.

The company has 80 stores across Australia and sells its signature Swedish stationery and gifts to customers in 137 countries. According to Fairfax, kikki k returned to profit for the first time in four years in 2015, with sales increasing by 28% to more than $60 million.

Kikki k recently appointed former David Jones chief executive Iain Nairn to oversee the brand’s international expansion, including in the UK.

20. Naomi Simson

Company: RedBallon

Established:2001

Revenue: $60 million

Naomi Simson founded experience and rewards company RedBalloon back in 2001.

Today, Simson is involved in many businesses, including RedBalloon offshoot Redii and a number of other companies she invested in as one of the judges on Shark Tank Australia.

Simson also writes a popular blog where she shares tips and advice relating to company culture, as well as musings from her time in business, and is the author of a book called Live What You Love.

21. Penny Spencer

Company: Spencer Group

Established:1998

Revenue: $60 million

Penny Spencer started working in the travel industry when she was 19, working her way up before cashing in some Telstra shares and starting Spencer Travel in 1998.

Today, the corporate travel agency employs more than 50 people and turns over more than $60 million.

Spencer is also renown for rewarding longstanding employees with a one-carat diamond.

22. Michelle Bridges

Company: Michelle Bridges

Established:2010 (12 Week Body Transformation)

Revenue: $60 million

Fitness entrepreneur Michelle Bridges shot to fame after staring as one of the trainers in Channel 10 show The Biggest Loser.

Since she first appeared on the show, Bridges has launched a range of products, including the ONEActive clothing range stocked in Big W stores, several books and DVDs and popular diet and exercise program 12 Week Body Transformation.

Her numerous brands turned over around $60 million in 2014, according to BRW.

Bridges was also awarded the NSW excellence in women’s leadership award last year.

23. Cyan Ta’eed

Company: Envato

Established:2006

Revenue: over $50 million (with Collis Ta’eed)

Cyan Ta’eed is the co-founder of 10-year-old digital marketplace Envato, which employs more than 170 people.

To date, Envato users have earned more than $300 million and in 2014, turned over more than $50 million. On top of all this, Envato was last year named the coolest place to work for women.

Ta’eed and husband Collis Ta’eed wanted a business that would allow them to quit their successful freelance life and run a business from their laptops while enjoying some overseas travel, so they launched Envato with their best friend Jun Rung in 2006. The business made $10 on its first day of operation.

Ta’eed also speaks regularly about the need for tech leaders to tackle diversity in the workplace.

24. Lilly Haikin

Company: Max Brenner Australian franchise

Established:2000

Revenue: $50 million* (with Tom Haikin)

Lily Haikin and her husband Tom Haikin brought chocolate chain Max Brenner to Australia back in 2000.

The chocolate brand, originally from Israel, has been highly successful in Australia, with the Australian arm of the “bold man” chocolate chain recently expanding into Western Australia.

Haikin told Perth Now last year the chain was looking to enter the WA market for some time.

“Australia is full of chocoholics,” Haikin said.

“We really wanted to spread our unique chocolate culture to as many choco-lovers as possible, so it was only a matter of time before we brought Max Brenner to the west coast.”

25. Nicole Eckels

Company: Glasshouse Candles

Established:2006

Revenue: $50 million

Nicole Eckels founded her candle business Glasshouse Fragrances in 2006 after moving to Australia from New York.

Today, Glasshouse Fragrances is one part of Eckels’ Sapphire Group, a company that employs more than 100 people and turns over around $50 million a year.

So how did the entrepreneur’s business become such a success?

Speaking at a conference last year, Eckels said it all came down to spotting a gap in the market for premium candles.

“We moved very, very quickly,” Eckels said.

“I knew there was something missing in this market and if I didn’t do it somebody else was going to do it.”

26. Jo Burston

Company: Job Capital

Established:2006

Revenue: $37 million

Jo Burston started recruitment company Job Capital back in 2006 and the business currently turns over approximately $37 million annually.

These days, Burston is spending more time and energy on Rare Birds, a project aimed at inspiring female entrepreneurs across the country. As well as celebrating the stories of female entrepreneurs, Rare Birds has also created a digital funding platform aimed at connecting female tech entrepreneurs with investors and venture capital funds.

The idea is to help ensure there is a community of 1 million female entrepreneurs worldwide within the next 10 years.

27. Tammy May

Company: MyBudget

Established:1999

Revenue: $34 million

Tammy May left a comfortable job at an Adelaide law firm when she was 22 to start her own business.

The risk paid off, with May’s budgeting service, MyBudget, now turning over around $34 million a year.

The business grew by 50% year-on-year for its first 10 years and today services more than 50,000 clients.

Last year, May was awarded the League of Extraordinary Women’s award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

28. Grace Chu

Company: First Click Consulting

Established: 2005

Revenue: $33 million

Grace Chu always wanted to start her own business.

After a stint at eBay and McKenzie Consulting, Chu started her own search marketing agency in 2005 at the same time as having her first child.

Today, First Click Consulting turns over around $33 million.

Its clients have included numerous household names including Toyota, National Geographic and Australia Post.

As if that isn’t enough, Chu plans to grow the company to eventually have an annual revenue of more than $100 million.

29. Carla Zampatti

Company: Carla Zampatti

Established:1965

Revenue: $30 million

Carla Zampatti is one of Australa’s most influential fashion designers and the leader of a multi-million dollar business.

The Italian-born businesswoman established the company back in 1965 and was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987.

Today, her 50-year-old business turns over around $30 million each year.

30. Jenny Paradiso

Company: SunTrix

Established:2009

Revenue: $26 million (with David Hille)

Jenny Paradiso started her multi-million dollar renewable energy business SunTrix seven years ago with her husband, David Hille.

The Adelaide-based company enjoyed fast growth in its early days, with its turnover jumping to $7.3 million in the first 12 months. Today, SunTrix turns over around $26 million.

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for those in the solar industry, Paradiso told SmartCompany last year.

“In an industry like ours we are reliant on government incentives,” Paradiso said.

“Rather than throw in the towel in, we’ve looked at how we can diversify and go into new markets.”

 

Originally published on Tuesday, March 8 2016 on SmartCompany here.

Why entrepreneurs and business owners are doing Vedic Meditation twice a day

If the word meditation still conjures up an image in your mind of a person sitting cross-legged humming, then you’re living in the past.

Meditation today, particularly the Vedic or Transcendental branch of meditation, is becoming increasingly popular amongst business owners and entrepreneurs as a way to relieve stress and enhance focus.

Read more: How meditation can make you a better salesperson

Vedic Meditation (VM) is it is an “effortless” technique that is usually practised for around 20 minutes twice a day.

The meditation requires you to sit comfortably with your eyes closed and repeat a mantra or sound inside your head.

This type of meditation was introduced to the Western world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s and is hailed as simpler to undertake than some other forms.

“The highs and lows wear you down and make you tired”

Gary Tramer, co-founder of LeadChat, has been consistently practising Vedic Meditation since May last year.

“I’d heard about it in a bunch of different blogs and articles and [they] raved about it and I always thought it was one of those really weird voodoo type things people do,” Tramer tells SmartCompany.

But then Tramer went on a corporate retreat in Byron Bay that included three days of Vedic Meditation training by teacher Gary Gorrow.

“It was one of those defining moments, to unlock another dimension to life,” he says.

Gorrow has been practising Vedic Meditation for 17 years and teaching it for 11 years mostly around Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay.

“I was first drawn to VM because I was quite stressed and was finding it difficult to maintain balance, which probably isn’t surprising given the fact that I was running three businesses at the time,” Gorrow says.

“Learning to meditate profoundly shifted things within me, so much so that I felt compelled to dedicate my life to teaching this technique to others.”

Gorrow told SmartCompany the common perception that meditation is difficult doesn’t apply to Vedic Meditation and that with the right teaching, anyone can do it.

“I think there are a number of reasons for the surge in popularity of Vedic Meditation,” he says.

“Stress is certainly one.”

“Entrepreneurs are typically inspired, hardworking people, committed to achieving their lofty goals. Many business owners push themselves to achieve their success, but this very often comes at the expense of their health [and] relationships. Many of my clients utilise meditation as a practical means to neutralise stress and enhance their overall wellbeing.”

Tramer, who has a degree in neuroscience, now wakes up at 5am daily to make sure he has time for 20-minute Vedic Meditation session and says he is seeing the many benefits of it, particularly as a business owner.

“Particularly with the rise of entrepreneurialism there’s more and more people who are doing their own things, which comes with a lot of pressure, a lot of hours lot of stress,” he says.

“There’s many moments of seeming failures, issues crisis that will happen every other day to make your stomach churn and your anxiety rise. Then there’s days where you’re on top of the world … the highs and lows wear you down and make you tired.”

“I find it balances. So where you have a situation like a key staff member quitting, or a client unhappy, the negatives don’t seem to faze you as much, and equally a good outcome, you don’t jump for joy either.”

Tramer says the simplicity of the VM technique appeals to him, as it’s not necessary to be in a quiet spot or a dark room and there’s no need to sit in a particular way.

“[I’ve] meditated in a plane, on an Uber, at home whilst the kids are falling asleep in their rooms – it’s very portable,” he says.

Gorrow agrees, saying the effortless technique can be mastered quickly in just a few sessions.

“It’s free from dogma and brings immediate benefit to anyone who practices it,” he says.

“The only requirement is that you can sit for 20 minutes and close your eyes.”

Tramer believes VM is becoming increasingly popular in business circles, noting that VM is now being associated with Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs.

“When you’re looking to buy a car you’ll suddenly notice everyone else is driving the same car … now it seems everybody is doing [VM] too,which is quite telling I think,” he says.

Gary Tramer, co-founder of LeadChat
Gary Tramer, co-founder of LeadChat

How Vedic Meditation can improve your business

Lea Waters, director of the Positive Psychology centre at the University of Melbourne, is currently completing a meta-analysis on the impact of meditation in the workplace, compiling the results of 100 studies into meditation.

The research will be completed over the next six months, in time for it to be presented at the European conference in Positive Psychology to be held in France in June.

“We’re definitely finding that people who engage in meditation either in a formal program the workplace has provided or on their own are showing higher performance at work, they’re showing better cognitive functions and there’s higher levels of wellbeing,” Waters told SmartCompany.

“I think there also is an emotional element. If you’re a business owner, there’s a lot of emotional investment. You want to be able to think clearly but also manage and control the emotional response in the ownership of your business.”

Waters says research shows regularly practising meditation – half an hour daily for eight weeks – starts to change the structure of our brains.

According to Waters, the amygdala that processes fear becomes thinner, as the brain is able to calm itself down, while the hippocampus becomes thicker, making it easier to regulate our emotions.

“Our pre frontal cortex, which also plays a role in that cognitive function piece like problem solving decision making and the ability to pay attention, has become more active in people that engage practice in meditation,” she says.

Gorrow says organisations that are implementing meditation programs are no longer seen as laughing stocks. Instead, meditation is now considered to be a practical tool that can ultimately help businesses increase the bottom line.

“I’m seeing a new paradigm emerging within businesses where more and more organisations are understanding the vital role the mind plays in proceedings,” he says.

“Neuroscientists estimate that we use only 9% of our brain power and VM is a science-based technique known to increase the grey matter.”

“The benefits are irrefutable. Thousands of scientific studies have proven meditation transforms the brain, dissolves stress and improves all aspects of mental functioning.”

“One of the greatest assets to any organisation are its people and if there was a way to develop the full and clear functioning of the minds of those people which makes it something worth investing in,” he adds.

 

Originally published on SmartCompany on March 7, 2016.

How Daniel Barnett saw a problem for SMEs and turned it into $2.5 million business WORK[etc]

Name: Daniel Barnett
Company: WORK[etc]
Based: Sydney

Daniel Barnett says the idea for his business management platform WORK[etc] came to him while he was running a different small business.

After finishing university, Barnett was leading a web design business that quickly grew to 14 staff.

He was travelling regularly and needed ways to operate his business remotely.

This led to him to develop a few “rudimentary tools” for remote work but it took several years – including time when Barnett worked as a management consultant – for these tools to flourish into a new business.

“I produced around 30 small business plans and my brain sees patterns,” he says.

“I kept seeing the same patterns in [the] plans, whether it was for a landscape architecture company or a marketing company.”

WORK[etc] was launched in 2009 as a way of providing small businesses with the tools necessary to operate online or in the cloud and the company is now turning over $2.5 million annually.

For Barnett, the aim of WORK[etc] was to coordinate all of the tools small businesses need to manage their teams in the one place, including email, timesheets, invoices, project management and sales.

However, he says the business has “changed significantly” since 2009, particularly as the team at WORK[etc] “drink our own champagne” as Barnett puts it, which means they use the product to manage and work their own business.

“If we don’t like something about the product then we’re the first person to complain to ourselves … we live and breathe our own product,” he says.

“Every single new customer is an opportunity to improve our business.”

Barnett grew up in Western Australia, where his father Colin Barnett has served as Liberal Member for Cottesloe since 1990 and the state’s premier since 2008.

For the past 12 years Barnett has lived in Sydney. He says being in New South Wales and having a large international client base for his business means people rarely make the connection.

“I think if I had stayed in WA it may have helped and hindered the business at the same time but being based in Sydney, I’m quite removed form WA politics,” he says.

SmartCompany caught up with Barnett to find out how he keeps his team motivated and why emotional resilience is essential for all entrepreneurs.

Morning

Like most entrepreneurs that run a business in multiple locations, Barnett says his “day isn’t your typical work day”.

Each morning for Barnett starts bright and early, with conference calls with the US starting around 5.30am.

“I obviously drink a lot of coffee,” Barnett says.

A Toby’s Estate strong flat white is his standard order, although his current workspace is around a two-block walk from his local coffee shop.

Barnett is currently working out of the co-working space Work Club Global in Sydney, overlooking Hyde Park with what he describes as “beautiful views”.

While the flexibility of working in a co-working space currently suits Barnett, he plans to shortly open a head office in Sydney and employ five people to fill it.

WORK[etc] employs a global team of 16 employees, with 65% of employees based in the US, in addition to development teams in Perth, China and Manilla in the Philippines.

The WORK[etc] support team is made up entirely of stay-at-home parents: three in the US, one in the UK and one starting shortly in Sydney.

Daily life

Barnett’s days are long – often around 14 hours – as leading a global business means keeping up with employees and customers across different time zones.

The middle of his days are typically spent working with his Australian customers, while the evenings usually involve one or two calls to Europe or the UK.

These long hours mean Barnett is conscious of taking time out in the middle of the day.

“My working days about 14 hours long, but I always make sure I have two hours away …just to refresh the brain,” he says.

“The middle of the day is actually quite quiet with the different [time] zones.”

WORK[etc]’s support team operates 24/7 and to keep motivation levels high, each day the sales team sends an alert to the entire support team to answer four key questions, says Barnett.

The questions are: What did I did today? What challenges did I face? How did I overcome them? What am I doing tomorrow?

Barnett says asking these daily questions is a method for bolstering team support, particularly when many team members work in isolation, like the stay-at-home parents, and are based over the globe.

Leisure

Barnett’s leisure time is in short-supply but that’s part of being a business owner, he says.

“I get very little down time but I don’t see that as a negative,” he says.

“Starting a small business or any business just requires so much thought attention and focus.”

Even on the weekends, you’ll find Barnett getting up early so as not to fall out of his sleep patterns. But this time is spent working out in the gym or surfing near Bondi, where he lives. He tries to surf or swim every few days to stay active.

Barnett does allow himself holidays but admits work is never far from his mind.

“I can go on holidays but I can’t enjoy it if I’m not answering one or two emails a day,” he laughs.

“I love what I do, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

The future

Barnett is ambitious about the future of WORK[etc].

“I actually want to build a large business with a $100 million dollar revenue and it’s not about the money, it’s the ambition or desire to build something big that will have a big impact for small businesses,” he says.

“Every small business relies on their livelihood for them and their employees. The more we make WORK[etc] better, the bigger the payout for small business.”

Barnett says his idea is to create a large business that helps “literally thousands” of SMEs, if not more.

But if there was one thing about his business journey he could change, it would be not addressing what he calls his “technical debt” early on as the small low-priority issues begin to snowball as the business grew rapidly.

“It’s not until you start to get thousands of small issues every week that [I think] I should’ve put effort into solving that infrequent problem,” he says.

Barnett believes it’s key to not get too hung up on the emotional roller coaster of starting a small business.

“[You] ride the high highs and the low lows,” he says.

“It’s about emotional resilience, not to get too invested in the day-to-day happenings and just moving forward.

“If you don’t have strategies to deal with that at an innate level of resilience then maybe you do need to turn off and go on holidays for two weeks and recharge.”

Barnett also advises entrepreneurs to “think global” and that the adage about businesses needing to dominate their local area first isn’t necessarily how an SME has to think.

“There’s no reason you can’t sell your products internationally from day one,” he says.

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Originally published on SmartCompany on March 4, 2016.