Welcome to Western Sydney Business Access

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David Ross and Anthony Moss. David Ross and Anthony Moss.


Guiding growing businesses

Anthony Moss (session chaiman):  Good morning everybody – ladies and gentlemen. Thank you to Michael Walls, Publisher of Access News Australia for organising today’s event.  Thank you to David Pring and KPMG for being our sponsor for the event, and also thank you to David for being our host of the event today, in this luxurious Sebel hotel, resort and Spa Hawkesbury which is excellent. We want to have a robust discussion today about strategy, it’s relevance to business, what’s a good strategy, what’s a bad strategy, how do businesses drive and develop new strategies, why should they bother anyway –. So, only a couple of Simple rules – which is: One, please jump in, please engage, and two, every idea is valid. Sound reasonable?  Are we ready to jump in – everybody feeling pretty cool and relaxed and happy to share their ideas and their views?  David Pring, can we start with you, with an introduction if we may?

David Pring:   Hi.  I’m David Pring.  I have the great privilege of leading the KPMG office in Western Sydney.  For us, Western Sydney is an absolute unprecedented growth market that we think is unparalleled in Australia in terms of growth, diversity and talent pool.  There’s no other market like itSo, from our point of view, we’re helping companies to grow, become relevant in a global economy, as opposed to just in a domestic economy, and looking to provide an opportunity for our people that is very different from the other opportunities that they might have.

Anthony Moss:  Thank you. Michael?

Michael Walls:  I’m Michael Walls.  I’m a journalist and publisher. We publish Western Sydney Business Access which most of you here know of. WSBA has been going now for about sixn years. We also do assorted custom publishling projects. Western Sydney is far and away our biggest focus. As David says this region is expencing unprecendented growth unlike anaything else in Australia.

Ben Smith:  I’m Ben Smith, a colleague of David’s at KPMG.  I’ve recently joined the company to help build out an enterprise advisory consulting capability across NSW.  And, as David said, it’s a massive opportunity for us across the GWS region.  I’m really excited to help build up a practice with David and share some of my experiences, having done a lot of consulting work, most recently in Perth and also across Europe and the US. 

Peter Higgins:  My name is Peter Higgins.  I am the Co-Founder and Director of Mortgage Choice . I have a company called Mainlinepower.com which is a manufacturing company which I started 13 years ago.  I have three factories in China and we distribute power and data products, creating the world’s first universal power system, into over 100 countries. I am also the Chief Executive Officer of the World Polo Championships which we are holding here in the Hawkesbury in late October 2017.  I also own Sydney Polo Club on 400 acres in Richmond which is in the business of Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, where I see significant potential growth.

Alex Hezari:  Good morning.  Alex Hezari from Taylor Nicholas. I’m the Managing Partner of Taylor Nicholas, Hills District which is a franchise of Taylor Nicholas group of seven  offices spread out through the Sydney Metro area.  A bit like David. I see a lot of opportunity in the property sector in the North West and the Hills District of Sydney. Exciting times.  And I see our role as – what I have been doing with our clients is just providing the intelligence and the information data because I believe that, over the next five or 10 years, there’s going to be some significant changes in the area.  And I think as individuals who have their fingers on the pulse, we could potentially play a significant role in sort of facilitating that growth and making sure that the growth meets the demand and we make the best out of this what I call once in a lifetime opportunity.

Anthony Moss:  Excellent.  Thank you, Alex.  And you’re also a Board Member of the Sydney Hills Business Chamber.

Alex Hezari:  I’m trying to stay under 60 seconds.  Yes.  I have the privilege of being with the Sydney Hills Business Chambers for two years.  And I see it as an opportunity for personal growth, as well as giving back to the business community that has been so generous and kind to my business and my team mates.

David Ross:  My name is David Ross, General Manager for the Sebel Resort and Spa, where we are today.  Been here five years.  Have transitioned the hotel through from Mirvac management agreement to Accor management agreement.  Excited about how this place has changed and how it works in with the Hawkesbury Business Alliance to the Hills and to the Blue Mountains. I guess the most exciting thing is to see how this property has actually changed in its identity from those five years to today, and the educated risks that we took then, the way we’ve evolved and going from 89 staff to 122 staff.  So we’re pretty excited about that. So definitely looking to get some ideas and create stronger fostered relationships for the next few years. 

Anthony Moss:  Excellent.  Thank you, David.  I should introduce myself too, because I might not have done that right at the beginning.  .  My company is Lead Your Industry Pty Limited. I work with high growth, privately owned businesses really to assist them to develop an inspiring vision, develop a winning strategy and to assist them to navigate global opportunities.  I’ve been doing that for many years, both here and also in the United States.  And I also have the privilege of being the Chairman of the Sydney Hills Business Chamber.  So, that’s me. Justin?

Justin Herald:  Hi.  Justin Herald.  I sort of sit across a lot.  I’ve just launched – well, about a year ago – a brand new way that any business can get their customers to refer for them, by putting their referral system on their phone with their brand.  That’s gone global, and it’s tapping into all of your customers’ reabeh, like we were talking about before, and growing businesses in a huge way – 'cause referral has to be the No: 1 way of business growth or else it’s not going to grow. I speak at 100 conferences a year.  And I have another company call Customer Culture, which is a service and sales training company. I’m all about customer service which seems to be rare these days in Australia.  But – and then I have another 12 business, but I don't have that long to talk about them.

Jacqui Gibbs:  Jacqui Gibbs.  I’m the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Sebel here.  I’ve been here about  foure months.  And I am looking forward to positioning this property as a key component of the Hawkesbury and also helping to drive the Hawkesbury as a destination for people to come, to do business, to holiday, leisure. 

Steve Sebbes:  I’m Steve Sebbes and I, too, have a number of companies.  17 years with Telstra – don’t hold that against me.  We won’t bring that up today.  However, I can offer you some telecommunications perspectives for small to medium businesses right throughout this region.  The company I represent today is PBO Global, which is an international outsourcing organisation which also supports medium businesses to grow and develop.  Thank you.

Shaira Ismail:  Thank you.  So I’m Shaira.  I’m from KPMG’s R&D Incentives business. I work out at Parramatta with David and with Ben.  So my focus area is really on innovation within business and how they can harness that to grow.  Unfortunately, I don't run many businesses.  But hopefully, there’ll be some good insights that I can offer from an innovation perspective.

Anthony Moss:  Excellent.  Great, everybody.  Thank you.  Well, you can see that we’ve got a wealth of talent in this room.  We’ve got lots of people that either own, drive, and have built many businesses by the sounds of things.  So this  is a topic that everybody is extremely familiar with.  The 5 Strategic Ideas that Businesses Can Implement Today..  So that’s our  objective to work through.  This session is really around strategy, what are the elements of a great strategy and I guess the  thinking process around that. So, let’s put this subject into context if we can.  Why do we need to worry about strategy?  What’s the relevance of strategy to business? So, I’d put that into context in the sense of what are the challenges and what is the wellspring of challenges and opportunities that are happening in the market in Australia today, and even beyond, that really ensure that strategy is something that businesses should be thinking about. David Pring, I thought you might have a comment about that, given your experience with many businesses.

David Pring: My points on this one are pretty brief  in terms of why have strategy.  Without a strategy, we’ll end up doing a whole lot of things without necessarily having focus and without necessarily ending up with a result that we may want. I sort of come back to a fairly simple process around – you know – if our strategy is to catch yellow buses, then we know it’s pretty clear what we’re out to do.  Without that, we don’t know whether we’re chasing cars, trucks, buses, motor bikes or in fact something else.  So, for me, that whole strategy piece comes back to having a plan, knowing what you’re trying to achieve, and then how do you keep that adaptive and alive.

Anthony Moss:  The economy, the environment, the world’s an interesting place at the moment, isn’t it?  And that’s not a reference to the change of Donald Trump, the President-elect in the States.  But I mean, there’s lots of activity, lots of change happening in the global economy . Even with a plan and a strategy, what are the things that are affecting business today, what are the changing dynamics?  You might have to jump in, Ben?

Ben Smith:  I can probably add something to this. We get the opportunity to work across many industries and many companies of various size, from high net worth individuals up to quite large companies.  And we’re seeing a common thread across all of those.  And that is, that the world is a much smaller place. We hear words like “disruption”, “innovation”, being thrown about a lot.  And it’s really impacting on every size company of any age.  How that relates to the development of a strategy is we’re no longer seeing strategies that are five years in their planning horizons, but really breaking it down to very short term initiatives, opportunities and being a bit more agile about not only definition then execution of strategies.

Justin Herald: It’s quite funny you say that because I do a lot of mentoring with business owners and small business owners, essentially, which I love.  It’s funny now that larger organisations are now realising that the way to grow a business is how small business actually have always grown a business.  And all these words that are out there like “disruption”, that’s always been the norm for most small business. I’m probably the odd one out on this table.  I’ve never had a strategy.  My strategy is no strategy.  But my first business – that’s by design, I guess – and default.  My first business, I started with 50 bucks and I had no clue what I was doing.  So I found it easy then to grow a business that way.  So all of my businesses that I’ve started since then, I’ve never started with any money.  But I do a lot of stuff inside corporate.  And you look at the structure that they’ve got going on.  And I sit there and go:  You are kidding me.  And especially with the Refer Us stuff, having big level meetings with corporates. There’s meetings about meetings about having a meeting and then having a meeting.  And you’d sit there – you wouldn’t survive in small business doing that.  And I’m glad that, now, larger organisations are starting to see – you can call it disruption – call it whatever you want.  But that’s just the norm for many small businesses. I’m not sure about anyone else in small business here – that’s the norm.  You’ve just got to adapt every single day. And I agree:  the long term strategy or goals days ar going.  But that’s always been for small business.  My goal is doing better than I did yesterday.  That’s about all I can control.  But that’s my type of personality, which I’ve then put into my business. So, I’m a simple person.  I think you’ll figure that out over a very short time.

David Ross:  I think one of the weaknesses we have with our strategies in medium to larger size businesses is the fact that it’s not nimble enough that you can change it quickly.  So a lot of businesses will stay to their path, and then eventually get shoved in a direction without having any clue that it’s happened.  And they’ve dropped off that wave.  And then they face a whole lot of change that they don’t want to put forward. Smaller business probably is forced in a direction moreso because of lack of money where the larger businesses will have a little bit that they can back them. And then, with the medium to larger size business, the other issue then is that you already communicate to a whole lot of staff that don’t make decisions or even follow that practice through.  So, it does take a lot longer.  So that whole – the theory about strategy, there’s no strategy, is probably interesting right now – especially in the hospitality and retail sectors where right now we are all talking about the fact that it’s all very last minute business, it’s not typical business, patterns are not long patterns.  So you can basically throw a lot of things in the bin.

Justin Herald:  Does that mean, then, you would consider more entrepreneurial type employees when you’re interviewing?

David Ross:   Virtually, each area becomes that entrepreneurial kind of thinker.  And you try to grow them because that’s the only way you can survive.

Justin Herald:  Back in the old days, you wouldn’t employ something like.

David Ross:  They were hard to handle.

Justin Herald:  Oh, absolutely.   

David Ross:  So instead of having one person that was driving that, you have – well in this property, 11.  And I am sort of just; I’m the coach. 

Peter Higgins:  I think if you don't have a strategy, you’re stuffed.  And that’s the reality of it – whether you’re a small, medium or large business.  And it all boils back down to doing a basic SWOT analysis of your company – as an example to ascertain whether something like digitisation is a looming threat.  If it is, adjust your strategy accordingly. And I think, regarding defining the strategy, it depends on what size business it is.  But it’s got to be constantly reviewed.  And you’ve got to have a strategy to start with.  I think there are three things you need. You need a high-performance management team, a clearly defined plan/strategy, and “excellent” execution of the strategy. If you have those three things, you can conquer anything – whether it’s lack of funds or challenges from competitors and so forth

Steve Sebbes: One of the main issues I see in small business is that incredibly passionate people build a business and get caught up in doing and not actually business building. They maintain momentum and grow but along the way they forget to measure and monitor their business. Most small businesses lack the tools to effectively manage their business and this is  contributing to high number of business closures across the country.

Anthony Moss:  In fact, we’re certainly going to work through all those points that you’ve identified. But I’m going to come back to this definition of what strategy is again because it’s one of those words that’s bandied around a little bit, but do we really know what strategy means? And Shara, you’re nodding at me.  So you obviously trying to communicate on that.   So to perhaps frame that, what’s the difference between a strategy and a plan,  Is there a difference between them?

Shaira Ismail:  Well, I’ll go back to how I look at a strategy – especially in this era.  And I think it’s almost bringing it back to the individual. It’s understanding where you want to get to.  And, I don't know about everybody else, but these days everyone’s doing everything differently and exploring every opportunity.  It’s very easy to get distracted from where you know you want your business to go to.  So, having a strategy of – a kind of a broad one  that allows a little bit of change and flexibility along the way, is important.  It’s a goal.  And that way, when you get all these meetings, coffee catch-ups and ideas coming at you, you have a way of filtering it for what’s important and where you want to take your business. And there might be an opportunity that could take your business in a different way.  But then you need to revisit your strategy to see if that’s the right way, instead of spreading yourself so thin that you’re not moving your business forward.  You’re just keeping busy.

Anthony Moss:  OK.  Anyone else like to comment on that?

Alex Hezari:  Well, what I’d just like to add I guess, for me strategising is very important, regardless of the size of the business, in my opinion, I think – the difference being is you probably don’t get the time to sit down and have a strategy session.  I think small business is a lot more flexible and versatile.  And I guess that’s about the only way you can survive in such a competitive market. In terms of strategy, I see strategy as a – if I may call it a “sub-vision” of a business.  So it’s sort of like the concept of beginning with the end in mind.  And it gives, not just the leader of the organisation, but the people involved within the organisation, some clarity and vision and foresight into what they’re actually trying to achieve.  So having strategies that are in sync and in line with the vision of the business I see as critical. And in terms of, I guess, the challenges for most business – and this probably goes back to a previous point, technology these days is the major disruptor.  And a lot of the larger organisations – and I haven’t had exposure to that sector – but from what I have seen from the spectator point of view, is decisions and the implementation phase take much longer. So, by the time a strategy has actually gotten to the point where it’s expected to come to fruition, it’s expired. And that’s the challenge.  And that’s why the approach when it comes to taking on new team members – and they’re looking for more leaders as opposed to managers, because even in a larger organisation environment, they’re required to make quicker decisions and probably eliminating some of those – if you want to call it “meetings” – those processes involved with coming to making those critical decisions because what’s working against them is time, and it changes in the way business is carried out.

David Ross:  So, a strategy versus planning.  So, if I was to sit with my team and have a coffee and break it down into nuts and bolts, I’d say strategy is the decision you made that you’re going to sell apples, pears and oranges to a certain group of people that may be a bit slightly different.  And the plan is, OK, how are you going to go about those steps, internally/externally, who you need to use to get to your end goal. 

Anthony Moss:  Thank you.  Great.  I think that’s well said, David.  I would  also posit that I think strategy is around choice.  The execution of a strategy is all around the implementation.  But strategy defining in itself is around “choice.”  And I would encourage everyone, if you haven’t read it, to read an excellent book called:  Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works, by Lafley and Martin.  That it is about making the higher level decisions.  And that separates strategy from what typically happens and I see it very often where strategy sessions within organisations are really “business improvement” sessions.  They’re  mosty about, :  How do we get slightly more revenue, how do we reduce costs slightly better, and how do we enter those kind of markets – which are valid and appropriate, but are not necessarily strategic.  Does that make sense?  I think the way David summed it up as the two different things was good.

Justin Herald:  I think it’s surprising.  So the two businesses that I have, we cover about 30,000 small-medium businesses right throughout Western Sydney.  And the one big observation – well, I’ve written a stack of observations, really – but, when we go into businesses, you can sell most business any stuff you want to sell them , right?  A decent sales pitch and a reasonable price will get you across the line in most instances. But, having a reasonable business discussions and understanding how their businesses work and operate, the people within them, their customers, their target audience, takes a greater conversation.  I don't believe that in most instances small to medium business are actually well positioned to have those conversations.  I honestly don’t believe that.  And there are plenty of examples of great distances – both small, medium and large.  But we’ve got examples on a daily – almost hourly  basis where we’ve got no measurements in a business, no CRMs in a business, no regular communication in a business.  The lack of technology that they have in their business, they don’t even use it. And then they’re grabbing applications for three bucks off iTunes to see if they can run something, which will probably work for about three minutes before someone in the business gets bored of using it and stops using it, and then they throw that out and then a clever sales person comes in and sells them a $50,000 package.  So, no-one has the idea how to implement, execute, roll out, train people on. So strategies, for me, in small to medium businesses – there are some people that run by the seat of their pants, and they do it really, really well, because they’re reactive and they’re quite astute to the market and their business.  But I’m with Peter.  Without the strategy and without someone guiding a small business through strategy – because it’s one thing to even have a great strategy session, and the execution is a real problem, but staying on track and being able to react to your strategy. So, it’s not five years or 3 months.  It’s:  I’ve got a strategy, and a whole heap of things are going to happen to me, and the business, and the people, and our customers.  And it’s OK to still have that strategy, and the end goal, but how do we navigate?  And I don't know that small to medium business have a very good understanding around that navigation process.

Peter Higgins:  I’d like to add to that, Anthony.   I think Shaira is the only one that really said this – and I think it needs to be included in strategy discussions – more goals.  If we talk about Mortgage Choice, for example, we’ve just finished a strategic planning meeting over the last two days.  And it’s all about increasing market share. We process around $2 billion in home loans  every month, and we’ve only got 3.5% of the National market. In some regions we have 11%.  Some regions we have 20%.  How do we increase our national market share? So, our goal is to increase our market share.  It’s got to be timebound, by when and how.  What’s the goal, by when, how are we going to do it?  It’s really simple.  It’s not complicated.  And it hasn’t been any different to that for the last 20 years.  I mean the company’s been going for 25 years. The first five years was creating the model.  What’s the model we set up?  What are the KPIs?  Increase the distribution and the productivity within the distribution – organically and through acquisition.  It’s about goals. So, it’s not complicated.  And if we complicate it, then it’s going to be difficult to achieve.  And if you don't have a strategy, then you are like a ship without a rudder, as they say. So I think it’s about:  What are the goals?  By when?  How are we going to do it? Keep it simple.

Anthony Moss:  I think that point about simplicity is very valid.  A lot of businesses get distracted by the detail of looking at the elements of their business.  I guess that’s the point about choice.  The choice is:  What goals do we want to achieve?  And then, how do we want to achieve those – which is really the kind of elements of strategy.

Shaira Ismail:  I mean just in terms of simplifying things, for you to really achieve your strategies, you need your entire organisation to be onboard and understand what they need. Simplifying it means everyone – all the worker bees down the bottom – understand what you want of them.

Justin Herald:   I think the issue, too, on that is there’s a lot of people – and you will see this – a lot of people in business that don’t know how to manage staff, that are accidental business owners  and they shouldn’t be in business in the first place, to be very honest. Back in the olden days, you went into business and it was deliberate.  Now, sometimes it’s by default that they end up in a business and they’ve got to manage staff.  They don’t like people, so they can’t manage those types of scenarios.  So, I totally agree with that.

Anthony Moss:  So, if we think about context again – so, there’s a macro context in a sense of there’s disruption, there’s innovation happening – our markets are changing, customers’ preferences are changing, etc – those things are happening around every business anyway.  And we have certainly a sense that the speed of those things is happening faster now than they perhaps have in the past, which is one of the aspects.  And the reasons for that is technology, etc.  We’ve also got a sense of the old planning days of taking three years to develop a plan for the next three years probably isn’t relevant any more, and there needs to be a better process around that. So, can we think about that what are the elements that make a successful strategy?  What are the key elements that need to part of that process?

Ben Smith:  Clarity and simplicity, we’ve covered.  I think accountability as well is important.  So, making sure that everyone’s aware of the strategy.  It should be simple, so everyone gets it.  And then making sure that any actions that are required within the business are clearly owned. 

David Ross:  It also has to be outcome based.

Michael Walls:  Should be realistic, too.

Jacqui Gibbs:  And measurable.

Anthony Moss:  So clarity, simplicity, outcome based.  What do you mean by that, David?  .

David Ross:   When you put a strategy in, you’ve got to decide what the outcome is.  Is the strategy going to be about awareness, communication?  Is it financial?  Is it change of image?  So, there’s got to be some sort of an outcome.  You don't want to put a strategy in play, it costs you money.  So, you’ve got to have something from it.  It may be just people sitting at a table.  But that costs money as much as someone pumping $1M into a brand.

Anthony Moss:  So how do businesses approach developing a strategy?  Do we just sit around and say:  OK.  Well, let’s figure out what a strategy is now?  What are the inputs that have to be there to the leadership team, ownership team, to be thinking about strategy?

Michael Walls:  I’m curious in people’s personalities to the extent that how much people’s personalities influence the shape of a strategy.  Like you mentioned before, Justin, your business is actually your personality to a large extent

Justin Herald:  Well, how you execute might differ because personality types have a point to plan execution.  I’m not a detailed guy, but I come up with a lot of ideas.  I drive people very hard and, from a measurements perspective, we measure everything.  We can’t help ourselves.  

Steve Sebbes: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. We live by it, all aspects of our business are measured, from profitability, labour, normal expenses, customer service levels, right down to how many calls are made, conversion rates and how long we spend on the phone. Its not always possible for a small business to measure everything but reviewing the critical success factors and always holding you and your leadership team to these is the only way to ensure your business will compete.

Michael Walls:  Is that good, though, to measure everything?

Justin Herald:  Well, I think you can’t make really clear decisions if you don't have enough data.  Now, people can procrastinate.  So then, there’s the personality piece coming in again.  So, if you’re someone that likes to get into all the detail, and then you struggle to make decisions for all the detail, then you’ve got a different problem.  But, leaders have got to have data really quickly, so they can pull the right levers to change your business.

Anthony Moss:  What I’m hearing, Michael, when you’re saying that too is there’s an inherent bias.  How do organisations ensure that they’re not myopic? Can I throw that out to the table?  Myopic, in the sense of when we drive a business, when we run a business, we get to know what we do, we know where our markets are, etc.  But how do we ensure what systems, processes,  and information is necessaryfor a leadership team that’s going into a strategy session to answer the question:  Do we really know what’s happening in the market?

Justin Herald:   I employ smarter people than myself. 

Anthony Moss:   OK. 

Justin Herald:  I’m probably very similar to you.  I’m a stop/go guy.  I’m the big picture guy.  Like, owning a software company, I just know how to turn a computer on.  So, I know what I want it to do.  I have no idea how it’s going to be done.  And, it’s been quite interesting beause we obviously are with tech people and code is – they’re all detail type people.  So, if I said to one of them:  How is your day going, four hours later they’re still talking – right?  So I’ve had to learn how to manage that.  But then, they’ve also looked at how I manage the whole thing.  And they’ve started to adapt to that a little bit.  But they’re the smart people. So, they’ve got their own little things that they do.  So I think it’s about allowing them, and giving permission for your staff, or ... your team – whatever you want – to be able to do it somewhat their way, because they should be smarter than us.  So to me, what you just said makes sense, because I didn’t need another me.  And I needed someone that had that thing - to me, that was just a commonsense approach to it all.  So, whether I fell into it or not, I’m not too sure.  But that’s the same way that I now employ.  If we get two people coming for the same or two different positions, and the same type of person applies, well we don’t need that.  We need some bit of difference there.  So otherwise it becomes a nightmare to manage that. 

Jacqui Gibbs:  I was just saying you’re now talking about the attributes of a good leader, which is a little bit like you’re talking about.  So, if you’re a good leader, then you are going to do all these things, which is why you can know your strengths, know who you are, have your own posture and move forward.  I think the myopic comes from small businesses, because usually it’s the one person, and they’re not able to reach out and say:  I need help with finance, or, I need help with IT, or, I need help with these sorts of things.  And they try and do it themselves.  And that’s where they come a cropper.

Anthony Moss:  I think that’s a very common theme for small businesses – but I would be positive that it equally applies to larger businesses too. David, your business?

David Pring:  I was just going to jump in there.  So that myopic thinking – I think to avoid it, organisations need to be very well connected to markets, to people who are different from themselves – be it a small business sole operator, to a larger organisation that has a management team or a leadership team that all thinks the same can very much end up with that same myopic view.  So I’m always looking for people who are well connected outside of each other, but also well connected to market and will bring different viewpoints.  Whereas that whole sensing piece, then that different information coming through gives you an idea on how the market itself is actually moving and changing and how you need to adapt to or to sense where opportunities may be coming up.

Peter Higgins:  I have set it up in three ways.  We have a Management Team, an Advisory Team which are really the foot soldiers, and a Board.

Anthony Moss:  Are they part of your strategy review team?

Peter Higgins:  Absolutely.  So, it’s a matter of challenging the status quo all the time.  And they all come from different perspectives with their experience. Now I think that is a good way of doing it – by having the independence, if you like.  Everyone has a different experience, but heading in the same direction.

David Pring:  It still requires the organisation to be willing hear and to take some of that stuff on. 

Peter Higgins:  Yes

David Pring:  I’ve seen organisations that have been set up that way, where it’s surprisingly, over time, all of the information that’s coming back from independent sources converges.

Peter Higgins:   But these are all internal.  These are all within the group for me.

David Pring:   Oh, for you.

Peter Higgins:  We only go external if we really need intell that we don't have access to.

David Pring:  But I mean to say it doesn’t matter whether it’s internal or external. 

Peter Higgins:  Yes.

David Pring:  If you’ve got a leadership group that doesn’t hear, then it doesn’t matter what’s coming in.

Peter Higgins:  I sack them.

Justin Herald:  But then you go back to Michael’s point around the personality traits of a leader.  So, a strong leader is going to be able to take all that stimulus from different departments, different boards and gather enough data internally or externally to make some great decisions. But we come across so many businesses that are literally frozen, because the leader can’t make a decision. And it’s not just happening at a leadership level.  It’s happening in multiple departments.  So, no-one’s providing the correct information because they’re too afraid of what might happen.  And it’s not the fear of being sacked.  It’s the fear of looking silly which is crazy.

Peter Higgins:  That comes back to culture then, doesn’t it?

Justin Herald:  It comes back to culture and that leader at the very, very top, driving that culture down the team, and the various team members pushing that culture back up.

Peter Higgins:  Be careful where you get your intell, but, is the message that comes out of that.

Steve Sebbes: Ensuring that you are communicating effectively and enabling your leadership team or manager is critical, you will not always be there and you need great decisions to be made for your team, business or customers. Growth, development, new markets only comes from clear thinking and fresh air, without that space because you have capable people in place you are likely to become stale, stagnant and risk failure. Without having your eyes on the ball your competitors are likely to work faster, better and more effectively and before long your customers will move.

Anthony Moss:  I think that’s the key.  The point that I was trying to make is my own perspective is, for a strategy to be useful, it has to be focussed externally, not just internally – not just getting internal information.  There has to be a source of external perspective onto a strategy, just to minimise that potential for myopic bias, because we can get very good at analysing our own activities and how well we’re doing right? And succes in  business  is not necessarily the greatest teacher. 

Justin Herald:  And then they start blaming their internal staff.

Anthony Moss:  There are plenty of examples of very successful businesses that all of a sudden didn’t see the disruption happening in markets.

Shaira Ismail:  So it seems to be good to have a mix of a team leading the organisation, and then back that up with good data insights on how you’re tracking, which markets are doing well, which sectors are doing well, internal and external data.

Justin Herald:   And then to Peter’s point, taking in some of that and also then going: Well, what other external data are we getting to chase a new market or a new target or a new goal.

Anthony Moss:  OK.  Excllent.  So we’ve got external perspective, we’ve got data management, we’ve got leadership – these are all the elements of what would make a successful strategy.  Obviously, the success of a strategy is only dependent upon its implementation.  But, in terms of the elements of developing a successful strategy, we’ve captured those things. Clarity and simplicity, so that the strategy can be understood by everyone within the organisation, and also externally to the organisation.

Alex Hezari:   If I may just quickly add a point to that.  Sort of an important niche is the why behind the strategy.  I find that with, particularly in the small to medium sized business, that will come into play down the track when it comes to the implementation phase, because the rest of the team will be singing off the same song sheet, so to speak.  So there will be more buy-in if there’s a reason and they can relate to the why for the particular strategy.

Anthony Moss:  OK.  Great.  Excellent.  Any other comments on that – on successful elements of a strategy?

Ben Smith:  I think it’s important to define boundaries for the strategy development if you like, but also allow some scope for disruption and innovation. I think Peter mentioned earlier the need to do a SWOT analysis, a competitor analysis, are fairly traditional elements of a successful strategy. I think, looking forward, you also need to think about what are the potential disruptors for your organisation.  If you look at the most talked about disruptor in Uber, as an example.

Michael Walls:  But you couldn’t have predicted that. 

Ben Smith:  That's right. You’re right.  Well it’s certainly disrupted the taxi industry.  Everyone knows about that.  Think about what’s going to happen in the future, though, in terms of disruption as a result of Uber, as a result of Uber moving into driverless cars.  So, a good one is the insurance companies – insurance market. 

Justin Herald:  There’s some really interesting disruptor trends taking place at the moment. 

Peter Higgins:  Consumers will no longer get car insurance.  The insurance will be between the manufacturer and the taxi company, let’s call it – but not the consumer. 

Anthony Moss:  Or on an hour by hour basis. 

Peter Higgins:  And the manufacturer won’t be an automotive manufacturer.  It’ll be a computer company.

Justin Herald:  It’ll be a tech company. I think the risk though is, because this disruption thing is now the big thing, that everyone’s going to start trying to find the disruptive way of doing something, just to be a disruptor and then miss out on just the normality of just doing business well, I think.  And I see that a lot.  You look at some of the larger organisations.  They’re all trying to come up with the next Uber.  Just do your job well, look after your customers, and then your business will grow – and have a better plan than just getting by.

Ben Smith:  But Justin – the term itself – disruptor – OK, it’s a modern term.  But if we go back a few years, all it was was great entrepreneurial change. 

Justin Herald:   But it was after the fact.

Ben Smith:   It was just called something else – right?

Justin Herald:   But it was more after the fact.  Now it’s before the fact is they’re trying to do that instead of doing something and you look back:  Yeah, that was quite entrepreneurial or that was quite disruptive.  I think it’s more they’re putting that in the forefront now:  Let’s come up with a strategy inside our business to disrupt the norm, instead of:  Let’s just do what we do now, better.  And if that disrupts, that’s great.  You know what I mean?  It just seems to be this big push at the moment for disruption. 

Ben Smith:   I wonder whether it’s because you can be copied, replicated and replaced so quickly these days that what people – businesses – whether it’s small, medium or large – what their intention to do with a new product, new market or a new service, is see whether they can leap in front of where they are going to start. So, almost have the third position, so that when someone replicates them quickly they go:  We don’t really care, because here’s our next offer.  And here’s our next offer.  And keep chasing us, because that’s where you’re going to remain.  One of the biggest disruptive changes, to keep using the word, is AI.

Steve Sebbes:  AI is a critical next step. Advancments is this area are seeing quantum leaps now. Take Amelia for example, her ability to predict and respond to emotion with emotion is the next leap in AI. Humans inherently make mistakes, they get tired and angry, even hungry, these cause you to make a mistake or say the wrong thing. Can you imagine the pressure for 000 operators or a kids suicide line, these require a human to get it right more often than not. What if a computer using learnt AI could predict and respond more accuratly? The future is not coming, its here. The job we see ourselves in now are already on the way out. Major computers building homes out of bricks, faster, more accuratley with no issues around back injuries, weather or staff sickness. 3D printing removing the need for major manufacturing. The list goes on, we need to be on the forefront of efficiencies and businnesses need to invest in tech, applications and consider how outsouricng can help them get into and stay in markets longer.

Anthony Moss: OK that’s great. We might end it there. A lot of great ideas coming out of today. I’d like to thank KPMG and David Pring for sponsoring and also the magnificent Sebel Hawkesbury for being our venue sposnor. It’s been a very informative session. Thank you all.



Michael Walls
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