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.


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.


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.

daniel_barnett2 (Large)


Originally published on SmartCompany on March 4, 2016.


International tourists are flocking to Tasmania – and that’s a good thing for small business

Image supplied by Lark Distillery

Tasmanian SMEs are reaping the benefits of increased international tourism to the state, with the latest report from Tourism Research Australia showing a fifth more international tourists visited Tasmania in 2015 compared to the year before.

Across all Australian states and territories, Tasmania recorded the largest increase in international visitors in the year to December 2015 of 20%, meaning an additional 212,000 people visited the state compared to 2014.

In the same period Victoria recorded a 14% increased in the number of international tourists, followed by South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, both of which saw international tourists numbers increase by 10%.

Queensland recorded a 9% increase in the number of international visitors, while New South Wales witnessed an increase of 7%. In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the number of international tourists to visit in 2015 increased by 3%.

International tourists spent a record $36.6 billion in Australia last year, with $351 million of that amount spent in Tasmania. This amount is 34% higher than figures from 2014.

Robert Mallett, executive officer of the Tasmanian Small Business Council, told SmartCompany the influx of international tourists is extremely positive for SMEs across the state.

“It’s excellent news for small businesses and I think what it demonstrates is the combined effort of all tourism sectors and the government,” he says.

Mallett says attitudes towards Tasmania have shifted in the past five years, with both international tourists and mainland Australians showing more interest in visiting the area.

Tasmania was also the only part of Australia visited by the Chinese President in November 2014, which also helped put Tassie on the map, says Mallett.

“All those sorts of things combined ensure that Tasmania is definitely on the international map and that it’s a desirable place to come,” he says.

So can the other states take any tips from Tasmania?

“I’m not sure I want them to take too many tips,” Mallett says.

“It’s taken us some decades to get to this enviable position and in some respects we need to consolidate and build on it so our economy is assured for some decades to come.”

“We can’t keep up with production”

Lark Distillery is a boutique whisky distillery in Hobart that is benefiting from tourists bringing their cash to the state. The business turns over between $5 and $10 million annually.

Tony Kibbery, head of marketing at Lark Distillery’s told SmartCompany this morning tourism in Hobart has noticeably increased, particularly from cruise ship tours.

“[Tourists are a] significant portion of our business and our tourism visitors also drive our national and international sales,” she says.

Kibbey says there has been an increase in retail, cellar door and bar sales at their boutique distillery, which also incorporates distillery tours.

“There’s a huge demand in whisky and craft whisky in Tasmania and as a result we can’t keep up with production,” she says.

“It takes five years to make a quality craft whisky and we didn’t see that demand five years ago.”

Kibbey has previously worked for Tourism Tasmania and believes Tasmania has a lot to offer visitors.

“Both through its tourism marketing and offerings such as Mona, [Tasmania] has built a really strong industry that all works together with the same message,” she says.

Another large draw card is the growing appetite for craft drinks and the world-class golf courses Tasmania has, says Kibbey.

“Definitely the craft drinks industry because we’ve got cider, beer, wine and whisky and increasingly gin,” she says.

“Also for Mona and events such as Dark Mofo, which is a Mona mid-winter festival … we’ve got a huge amount of events that drive people to visit Tasmania.”



Article originally published on SmartCompany March 3, 2016.

Meet the restaurant owner who shames no-shows on Twitter

No-shows are a common problem for restaurants but one business owner has decided to take a stand by naming and shaming diners on Twitter.

Erez Gordon, owner of Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills, Sydney, has been using the hashtag #noshowshame on Twitter when diners book a table, fail to show and don’t answer their phones when the restaurant calls.

Erez with arms crossed 2

“I thought if it’s okay for a customer to come in and air their views about a restaurant … then why doesn’t it work in the reverse?” Gordon told SmartCompany.

“So if I’m unhappy with how a customer behaves, then why am I not entitled to use the same medium to express my unhappiness and to have that person learn from that experience?”

Bishop Sessa has an annual turnover of between $1 million and $2 million.

Gordon says he started the campaign just over three years ago, and the decrease in the number of no-shows means today he rarely needs to use the hashtag.

“To tell the truth I don’t do it very much anymore,” he says.

“We seem to have much less of an issue.”

He has also never heard back from a single person he has shamed on Twitter – although that leads him to believe they might not realise they’ve been publicly called out.

Gordon says his restaurant also has a detailed reservations procedure that takes full names, phone numbers and email addresses for each booking.

The system also flags anyone booking who has previously been a no-show or made a cancellation, which means Gordon is extra diligent in following up and confirming whether the diner intends to turn up for their meal.

The restaurant owner also says he is more strict with previous no-shows and if a booking is for 7pm but they haven’t arrived by 7.02pm, that table is open for other diners.

No-shows, says Gordon, have always been a key problem for restaurateurs from the beginning.

“Different places have different attitudes to it and a lot of it depends on the kind of business you run,” he says.

Before the rise of online bookings, the business owner used to call up each reservation the afternoon of their booking to try and lessen the amount of no-shows but technology has since streamlined that process.

Gordon says the feedback on his Twitter shaming has been mostly positive and has garnered some media attention for his business.

However, his main purpose is to draw attention to the impact no-shows have on restaurants.

“Most people who don’t cancel a reservation do so ignorantly, not maliciously,” he says.

Gordon says he would never ban anyone from his restaurant, even no-shows, but would appreciate people cancel their booking, even at the last minute rather than not at all.

“We get that cancelling a reservation is not a crime even cancelling on the day, an hour before, or half an hour before,” he says.

There are many situations that prevent people from making their reservations, which all restaurant owners understand, says Gordon, like when recently a table for five didn’t turn up and Gordon called with no answer.

The customer automatically received an email saying “sorry you couldn’t make it”.

“She called about half an hour later and said ‘sorry, I won’t be coming I’ve just gone into labour’,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on March 3, 2016.

How Assetic co-founder Ashay Prabhu built a $10 million strategic management business in 10 years

Name: Ashay Prabhu

Company: Assetic

Based: Melbourne

Ashay Prabhu first came to Australia as a cricket player and university student in Tasmania. Today, he leads a multi-million asset management business.

This year marks a decade since Prabhu launched asset management business Assetic with co-founder Joel Brakey and the business on track to hit $10 million in revenue for the anniversary.

Assetic is a software and service business that specialises in strategic management of infrastructure assets.

“Basically what is does is it solves a trillion dollar infrastructure problem globally caused by an infrastructure gap,” Prabhu says.

The business began primarily working with local governments, which is still its core business. However, in the past few years it has diversified into other industries such as rail, water and power.

Assetic has a staff of 75, with a head office on Collins Street in Melbourne and international offices in Seattle, Toronto and London.

Prabhu first began working as a young engineer in the late 1980s.

“I was part of a New South Wales Government team that embarked on building the world’s first asset modelling system and then the government sort of ran out of appetite in a couple of ideas leaving me the option of continuing in the government or looking at the asset management role,” he tells SmartCompany.

“The appetite for strategic asset management was rapidly increasing in the Australian local government market because of rising cost and high expectations from the community and I was itching to convert that into a commercialist outcome”

“The entrepreneur in me said there’s an opportunity to make change – the passion [was there] to do something that can make a difference and commercialise it.”

Prabhu was still working with local governments in the early 2000s. It was at his wife’s instance that he met with a plucky young software engineer – his future co-founder Joel Brakey.

After spending the whole day together hashing out what an asset management system looks like, Brakey came back within three weeks with all of Prabhu’s ideas on a web-based platform.

“I will never forget that day 14 September, 2003,” he says.

Prabhu describes his co-founder as a “genius” and the “absolute backbone” of Assetic.

“When we become a $1 billion company we’ll write a book called ‘Behind every successful founder is a co-founder’,” Prabhu says.

SmartCompany caught up with Prabhu to find out why he doesn’t have his own office and how he manages to find time to write a series of children’s books.


For Prabhu, part of the attraction of owning his own business is not being restricted to conventional work days.

“I’m not a 9-5 person and it was just too frustrating working in that type of environment,” he says.

Prabhu’s typical morning begins with getting up and having a cup of tea.

“[A] cup of tea is my pre-cursor to checking what’s gone on in the US the night before,” he says.

The global reach of Assetic means that after this ritual, Prabhu spends much of his mornings checking emails and WhatsApp.

Daily Life:

A typical work day for Prabhu combines both structured and unstructured activities.

His morning could be spend going over a deep-routed science query from one of his developers. In the afternoon, you might find him doing a demonstration, followed by a video conference at night and spending time with customers in between.

Although Assetic has an entire floor for office in Melbourne, Prabhu himself doesn’t have an office.

“I’m probably the only founder-CEO I can think of that does not have a physical office,” he says.

“I prefer to work on the iPad on the iPhone. I’m not necessarily in the Melbourne office any day, I’m anywhere in the country. I was in Singapore last week and India the week before,” he says.

Prabhu relies heavily on technology and the ability to work remotely from wherever he is.

The rise of the smartphone and internet banking has made operating businesses remotely easier over the past 10 years, he says.

The Assetic office has also been designed to foster creativity and innovation, whether it’s in the yoga room and the innovation room that people use to work on their ideas.

Prabhu says his business philosophy has always been to back his employees.

“Backing people, not backing a product, and allowing people to be crazy and innovative,” he says.

“I encourage people to send me emails at 1am, which happens all the time.”


Whilst many entrepreneurs don’t get as much downtime as they would like, Prabhu has a range of hobbies he is passionate about pursuing in the evenings and weekends.

His hobbies include canvas painting, being a part time singer and writing poems and children’s books.

In fact, Prabhu is currently working on a series of children’s books called The Class of ’84, which he was inspired to start after reconnecting with school friends and learning how differently they have all grown up.

Prabhu has written eight of the books, which cover what a class of 60 people have gone through from grades one to 10, and is looking at getting his works published over the next three years.

“Drama, acting, writing has been in my DNA since day dot,” he says.

Prabhu is also still a big cricket fan – with an equally cricket mad 12 year-old-son – and never misses a game.

He also plays socially, coaches a junior cricket team and sends his staff weekly newsletters that feature cricket analogies for business, because he believes there are plenty of similarities between losing runs on the cricket pitch and business pitfalls.

“I find just having a brainwave and sending an email to everyone at Assetic during a cricket match is better than having a meeting for 2 hours,” he says.

The future:

Assetic is continuing to expand, having recently launched a cloud-based suite of asset management software, which Prabhu says is the future for business.

He sees Assetic continuing to use the cloud and continuing its expansion into the US and Europe in a way not backed by the traditional business models.

“The more rapidly we can scale that, the more likely we can become a global business,” he says.

He believes the business will look and feel completely different in another two years and will be supporting on a cloud based system 24/7.

However, something that won’t be changing is the three things taught to Prabhu by his grandfather, which he’s never forgotten.

“One – never venture outside your area of expertise stick with what you do and just keep doing it better and better,” he says.

“Two – always back people, don’t back your product back people and let them innovate

“And three – don’t give up. Sometimes the trick is to just hang in, and hang in and it’ll happen.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 26, 2016.






Why this clothing brand signed a 94-year-old model for its latest advertising campaign

Australian clothing brand Blue Illusion has won praise for embracing diversity in advertising, after signing 94-year old American style icon Iris Apfel to be the face of its new ‘ageless’ autumn/winter advertising campaign.

The campaign is centered on the idea that style is not defined by age but rather attitude.

Blue Illusion is a French inspired women’s clothing brand established by husband and wife Donna and Danny Guest, with more than 120 stores across Australia, New Zealand and in California.

Blue Illusion also sell shoes, accessories and homewares.

Apfel is perhaps best known for her association the interior-design firm that furnished the White House for Presidents Truman through to Clinton, as well as her iconic oversized black glasses and eccentric style.

Blue Illusion co-founder and creative director, Donna Guest, said in a statement Apfel is a modern day icon.

“She has liberated women from the ideals of age as a limitation; rather inspired them to not even question it,” she said.

“Her wonderful obsession with colour and pattern is eye catching, she is eye catching. So to me, Iris is Blue Illusion.”

Blue Illusion has previously featured artist Mirka Mora and film star Juliette Binoche in advertising campaigns.

“[Iris] has this ‘what’s your number?’ attitude where the higher the better. Her confidence is equally empowering as it is elegant,” Guest said.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer at Melbourne University and advertising expert, told SmartCompany this morning the Blue Illusion campaign seems different because it veers away from stereotypes of clothing models.

“From my perspective, the biggest shortcoming in advertising is diversity,” she says.

“Therefore, having women that fall outside of the typical young/thin/white standard is crucially important.”

“The selection of models in advertisements elevates a person to a position of esteem and, often, desirability. Using a 94-year-old in such a campaign is a small contribution to fuelling the idea that beauty comes in a lot of different presentations.”

However, Rosewarne says a key part of advertising for businesses is standing out from the crowd and Blue Illusion is very much taking advantage of this.

“Let’s not forget that advertising is about getting noticed and getting attention. While it is great to see an older model used in a campaign – and this should be applauded – it’s also necessary to recognise that Blue Illusion just wants us talking about them and helping do some of their marketing legwork.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 25, 2016.

Why you should give thanks to an engineer you know today

Today is Global Day of the Engineer and Australians are being asked to thank an engineer for their contributions.

People have taken to Instagram to thank engineers for things like mobile phones, Google and Wi-Fi.

Global Day of the Engineer aims to celebrate the accomplishments of engineers and give the next generation of engineering students a chance to learn about the innovations possible in their field.

Engineers Australia chief executive Stephen Durkin, a civil engineer, told SmartCompany the achievements of Australian engineers should be celebrated.

“We think it’s really important that we work alongside the international engineering community to work along and celebrate the contributions of engineers and to share with the community at large some of the innovations engineers are involved in every day,” Durkin says.

Durkin has a number of personal favourites among the achievements of Australian engineers, including the cochlear hearing implant, the iconic hills hoist and the black box recorder.

He says the role of engineers will be increasingly important as the population in Australia continues to grow.

“Engineers will play a key role in terms of infrastructure planning,” he says.

“Part of why we’re wanting to reflect on the role of engineering because quite frankly we don’t have enough engineers for all the work coming in the next decades.”

Durkin is also keen to portray a more contemporary picture of engineers, with much of their work different than what the general public might imagine.

“The modern engineer is very much about innovation, creativity, teamwork and about leadership,” he says.

Engineers Australia is the peak body for engineering, representing more than 100,000 members across Australia.

Durkin says working as an engineer can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

“My advice would be that you can do some really exciting things in your career working as an engineer. You get to travel a lot, personally I’ve worked as an engineer in Canada and many parts of Asia,” he says.

Durkin says Engineers Australia have just opened a new chapter in the Middle East, with opportunities for students to work on projects overseas.


Here’s a list of 6 innovations made possible by Australian engineers

  1. The electric drill

Arthur James Arnot travelled from his home country Scotland to Melbourne to help build a power plant for the Union Electric company in 1889. That same year, he was awarded the patent for the electric drill.

  1. Cochlear implants

Invented by Professor Graeme Clark, the first cochlear implant was implanted in Melbourne man Graham Carrick in October 1982. After switching on he was able to hear for the first time in 17 years. Today the bionic ear restores hearing for thousands of people.

  1. Dual-flush toilet

In 1980, with $130 000 government assistance, Bruce Thompson, an employee at plastic company Caroma, developed a cistern with two buttons and flush volumes. Today the dual flush is used in more than 30 countries.

  1. Black box flight recorder

In the 1950s Dr David Warren, a scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne, came up with idea for a machine that would record the voices and instrument readings in the cockpit of an airplane.

  1. The baby safety capsule

Baby capsules have been keeping newborns safe since 1984, when Bob Btell and Bob Heath developed the ‘Safe-n-Sound’ Baby Safety Capsule. It was designed to lock into a standard-sized car seat, and is still considered to be one of the safety child restraints on the market.

  1. Polymer banknotes

Polymer banknotes were first developed by the CSIRO in conjunction with the University of Melbourne and the Reserve Bank of Australia, and have been used since 1988. Polymer banknotes are harder to forge and are much better for the environment because they last longer than money made from paper.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 24, 2016.

Live performance revenue has dropped by 40% in Sydney CBD since lockout laws: Music industry

Live performance revenue at venues in Sydney’s CBD has declined by 40% since the introduction of the city’s controversial lockout laws, according to data from the music industry.

Figures released by Australian Performance Rights Australia (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) through the Live Music Office, show a 40% overall decline in value of door charge receipts and a 15% decrease in venue expenditure on live artist performances across all premises during a two-year-period.

The figures are based on an analysis of APRA AMCOS licencing revenue from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2015.

The lockout laws were introduced in March 2014, as a response to alcohol fuelled violent behaviour in the CBD.

Read more: Lockout laws passed in Queensland: “Prepare to see family run businesses go bankrupt”

The laws mean venues cannot serve shots after 10pm, with no drinks to be served after 3am. New customers cannot enter venues after 1:30am.

Other venues with a Live Artists Performance licence that includes hotels, bars and nightclubs have seen a 32% decrease in door charge receipts, according to APRA AMCOS.

Attendance figures to APRA-AMCOS licensed nightclubs and dance venues have fallen by 19%.

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle told SmartCompany the figures are of serious concern to venue owners, musicians and audience members.

“[The data] indicates that for touring artists, for profile acts, for ticketed shows in the city of Sydney, the loss is dramatic. The decline is dramatic,” he says.

“The international impact from the lockouts, and the narrative around the lockouts, I’ve been surprised at just how widely known this is. Most days I’ll get contact from an international colleague working in policy asking me what’s going on in Sydney.”

Wardle says the impact on SMEs is serious, with many performance venue owners having to shift their programming from two shows a night to just one.

The lockout laws are also having flow on effects beyond just venue owners, according to Wardle.

“I hope we’d be including musicians in small business owners affected as many people are no longer employed in these businesses … now there’s staffing, suppliers, reduced trading hours, loss of employment across the hospitality industry generally and food businesses,” he says.

“The narrative is that Sydney is unsafe. It’s a place associated with harm and risk and for many small businesses who are presenting live music, they see themselves as being a really healthy and happy and contributing part of the diversity in the night economy.”

Wardle says Live Music Office is looking to work with the New South Wales state government on solutions to support the live music industry in the Sydney CBD and would like to see changes to the 1.30am lockout for some venues.

“More generally we’d like to have the sort of regulation roundtable that exists in Victoria and South Australia,” he says.

“Regulation roundtables in place in these states provide a standing committee where the live music industry can work with states government agencies across liquor licensing, planning, environmental protection, law enforcement as well as local government to not only work for better regulation together but also build relationships, understanding and capacity.”

The APRA AMCOS figures come as around 8000 people gathered in the Sydney CBD over the weekend for the Keep Sydney Open rally to protest against the state government’s lockout laws.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 22, 2016.

Hearing a speech at a leadership conference led Brendan Moloney to found $4.2 million business Darlo

Name: Dr Brendan Moloney

Company: Darlo

Based: Melbourne

Academia is a key aspect of Dr Brendan Moloney’s life and business.

Moloney spent many years working in administration at the University of Melbourne before leaving to start Darlo, a consultancy business that helps smaller education companies utilise the skills of academics.

Moloney, who turns 40 this year, has also spent his fair share of hours in lecture theatres, with a bachelor degree in history, a PhD in education, and even half a business degree to his name.

“I dropped out probably on verge of being kicked out, but I learnt a lot there,” he says.

Today, Darlo has several businesses under its umbrella, including businesses that provide consulting, technical writing and proofreading services and a division that helps employers find staff in higher education.

“There’s three or four good ones [businesses] and three or four under development,” he jokes.

Between degrees Moloney spent half a dozen years travelling around the globe, visiting and living in Canada, Japan, Korea, and Europe.

In 2011, upon completing another PhD in marketing Australian education in Asia, Moloney attended a conference for fellow Melbourne University PhD graduates, where a speech by economist Professor Ian Harper inspired him.

“Ian Harper’s chat put it to us that if we weren’t going to lead in business in our fields, then no one else was going to,” Moloney says.

“And I thought to myself ‘do I want to stick it out at Melbourne University and have a career in administration or academia or go into the big world and try to start a company?’ ”

Moloney left behind the ivory tower and launched Darlo, which now turns over $4.2 million annually.

“A lot of people I knew would create better quality work and companies that would support Australian professionals rather than a consultancy that started in America and spread around the world,” he says.

“I noticed a lot of people underemployed in precarious employment, casual lecturers working four hours a week, extremely talented people, and I thought there must be a better use of their time.”

SmartCompany caught up with Moloney to find out his passion for diversity in the workplace is setting up Darlo for further expansion.


For this Melbournian, every morning starts with a leisurely walk to work that Moloney finds relieve stress and helps him get on top of each day.

He walks for about an hour, before getting into the Darlo office right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.

Moloney’s first part of the morning is then spent talking to his staff, as he says a good workplace culture is vital to Darlo’s philosophy.

“[It’s] going around the office, finding out how people are doing, checking if they’re looking too stressed or not stressed enough, and if they’re feeling well and productive and comfortable and ready to go,” Moloney says.

“[It’s about] aiming to ensure work conditions are great and people are happy.”

Daily life:

For Moloney, the rest of his days are spent checking up on various reports about project management and sales, accounting and assessments of where staff members are at working on different tasks.

Half of the employees in the Darlo office are under the age of 25 and a third of all staff hold PhD qualifications, predominantly obtained at The University of Melbourne.

“It’s a bit of snobbery I guess but I just find we get good people from there,” Moloney says.

Moloney is passionate about hiring young people as well as staff from culturally diverse backgrounds, with many of the younger staff involved in hiring decisions and overseeing projects.

His advice to other business owners is to get younger employees involved in hiring people and engaged in projects.

“People like to work in a growth company because the work is meaningful and the journey’s a little bit unwritten,” Moloney says.

“The productivity problem in Australia might be related to not being able to build or create things.”


Although Moloney says leisure time is “not really compatible” in the first stages of setting up a business, taking time out from work is something he advocates for himself and his staff.

“Usually I tend to escape to nature and the environment, when I can,” he says.

“It’s really important when growing a business, growing really rapidly for yourself and other people to step outside the company.”

Moloney enjoys hiking, visiting remote areas of Australia, driving to new places and swimming.

“[It’s] important to be involved in life as well, and not too caught up in the business,” he says.


Moloney sees big things in Darlo’s future and predicts an office change in the next six months as the company continues to outgrow its office spaces.

From small beginnings with a staff of just three at the start of last year to now having 45 employees, Darlo is continuing to evolve and expand its services.

Maloney is looking to New Zealand and South East Asia as Darlo becomes a more global business, but he says Melbourne is still home.

“I think we’re pretty lucky to be based in Melbourne,” he says.

“Melbourne’s such a great education city and being involved in education in Melbourne [now] is at the right place at the right time.”

Moloney would also like to expand within Australia, ideally setting up offices in Sydney and perhaps Brisbane in the future.

But Moloney says it’s essential for Darlo to remain true to its essence: caring about the link between the individual, the company and the community.

“The key aim for Darlo is to have a nice place with nice people and nice projects … if we can achieve these three things customers will be happy and we’ll be happy,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 19, 2016.

Sixty percent of international students underpaid in Sydney: Research

More than half of the international students working part-time in Sydney earn less than the minimum wage and more than a third are being paid $12 an hour or less, according to research from the University of Sydney Business School.

The survey of 1433 international students found 60% of international students with part-time employment in the New South Wales capital earn less than the national minimum wage of $17.29 an hour and 35% earn $12 an hour or less, according to The Guardian.

The biggest offenders appear to be in the hospitality and retail sectors, with many of the international students surveyed being paid below the base level award wage and not receiving the appropriate casual loading or penalty rates.

The research was conducted by University of Sydney Business School academic Stephen Clibborn, who told SmartCompany the prevalence of international students being underpaid in Sydney is “shocking”.

Clibborn looked at a mix of different businesses, from small privately owned cafes to high-end swanky restaurants, and found the underpayment was “across the board”.

Three quarters of the sample were Chinese students, with Clibborn finding students are aware the minimum wage is around $17 but feel unable to assert their rights.

“Because of their inexperience in the labour market, because of how they perceive their own English language skills they feel that they are not able to find a legal paying job … so they do feel stuck in these jobs that do not pay the award pay,” he says.

Chinese students also suffered the highest rates of underpayments, with the survey finding more than 70% report being paid below the minimum wage.

Three quarters of the students surveyed were aged between 20-24, and for many, this is their first time in the workforce.

“Business owners have a responsibility to follow the law, the regulators definitely play an important role in both providing information to workers and businesses, and ensuring that businesses comply,” he says.

Almost half of the $3.7 million in recovered underpayments from the Fair Work Ombudsman last year related to overseas workers, according to the Fair Work ombudsman’s annual report.

“I think the Fair Work Ombudsman is doing a very good job with the limited resources they have been allocated by the government,” Clibborn says.

“Because those resources are really limited given the scope or the size of the problem they need to be allocated more resources.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman also has information translated into 27 languages to assist international students.

However, Clibborn believes the solution to the problem will rely on all business owners understanding and living up to their legal responsibilities.

“They should pay what the law requires them to pay and they should find other ways of maximising their profit margin through productivity gains rather than through undercutting wages,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 17, 2016.

How two friends from the Mornington Peninsula got their reusable water bottles in the Oscars gift bags

A reusable water bottle that started out as a crowdfunded project just 18 months ago has now become an international brand featured in the gift bags that will be handed out at the 88th Academy Awards at the end of this month.

The Memobottle is a rectangular plastic reusable water bottle that resembles small notebooks in either an A5 or A6 size and is made to fit into satchels and back pockets.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign in August 2014, which saw Memobottle exceed its $15,000 goal with 6,118 backers giving more than $260,000 in funding, founders Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy received an email from Los Angeles marketing company Distinctive Assets, which puts together the celebrity swag gift bags for the Oscars each year.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Byrt says the aim of the gift bags is to provide something unique to each of the nominees and Oscars host Chris Rock that is relevant or “jumps out as being cool.”

Getting Memobottles in the bag

Byrt says Memobottle was approached by Distinctive Assets after the Kickstarter for Memobottles gained momentum online throughout Australia and the US.

Each Oscar nominee receives a gift bag, which will include one of each sized Memobottle.

Each nominee will be getting a personalised note from Memobottle, but Byrt and Leeworthy are particularly hoping three socially conscious celebrities will take notice: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo.

“They’re our faves, they’re our top three. We love what they do from a social point of view,” Byrt says.

“It would be really nice if each of the nominees were to open their gift bags and have a read of the notes and not just pass them onto their assistants but it’s got the potential.”

The exposure alone has been “fantastic”, says Byrt, well worth the cost of providing two bottles for each of the 26 gift bags, along with what he says is a “ridiculously low” admin free for the products to be included in the gift bags.

How a reusable water bottle became a fashion accessory


As primary school friends, Byrt and Leeworthy grew up in the picturesque coastal town of Red Hill on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where they saw the effects of single use plastic water bottles washing ashore along the coastline.

After Leeworthy completing an honours degree in product design engineering at Swinburne University in 2012, which focused on single-use bottles and the effect on the environment, the seed for what would become Memobottles began to grow.

The first design for the Memobottle was scribbled by Leeworthy on a scrap piece of paper and the first bottle was shipped in June last year.

Today, Memobottle products are sold by more than 100 retailers in over 70 countries, with more than 50,000 bottles sold to date.

Byrt estimates the company’s revenue for this financial year will be between $1.5 and $1.8 million.

Compared to plastic bottles, the Memobottles have a hefty price tag – $34 for the smaller A6 design and $39 for the larger A5 – however, Byrt says the price point was a deliberate move to position the Memobottle as a fashion accessory.

“It is a premium water bottle. It’s designed to be more, I guess as a fashion accessory,” he says.

“Our pricing always stems back from manufacturing costs and from that we had to work out what margins we needed – basically what was just sustainable for the business and who our target market was.”

“Bottled water is something like 1400 times more expensive than tap water … I haven’t bought a [bottle of] Mount Franklin for ages but [if it was priced] at $2-$3 a bottle … buying one of them a day … [for] less than two weeks is the cost of Memobottle.”


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 17, 2016