Monthly Archives: June 2017

3 things never to talk about


People say you should never talk politics or religion with friends (you could throw footy in there with some).

I’ll add schooling preferences in there as well. It is an argument not worth winning.

You’ve probably heard it before, “I didn’t go to a private school and I’ve done alright” or “so and so went to the local high school and he’s a multi millionaire”.

I read an interesting article in a Saturday newspaper recently comparing kids coming through public and private schools in regards to their readiness for the AFL (Australian Football League) system.

Looking at the data, players from private schools are coming into the system a long way ahead of those from public schools in terms of coping with the professionalism required.

The debate around public vs private school regularly comes up with people I associate with, usually after a few drinks have been consumed, and it was this article that spawned my last “conversation” on the topic and reasoning for putting down my thoughts.

Before I go further let me lay out these things:
1. I went to a catholic high school, definitely not private and not public;
2. My kids have/are attending a private school; and
3. I sometimes question the cost/wisdom of our choice for number 2

The reasons I have chosen to send my kids to private school are the experiences, opportunities and beyond all, playing the percentages; if this isn’t the advantage of a private school education then there a lot of highly educated, smart people wasting their hard earned (not to mention the parents busting their backsides, going without to give their children a leg up).

I suppose the gist of the before-mentioned article backs up my argument.

My friends usually bring up 2 topics that stem from talking private schooling:

1. Private schools are a waste of money, they know heaps of people from public schools who have done better than people they know from private schools.

2. It isn’t fair that private school education holds more weight than a public school education – this is in reference to comparing two resumes of people you do not know and having to choose one to interview (maybe a bit of unconscious bias here, which we all have).

The unfortunate reality is that we are not all in a position to have the choice to send our kids to a private school; I know and respect that and it is probably why I didn’t go to one.

And yes there are some who make the choice not to; we are different and it would be a boring place if we weren’t.

When someone has a choice and another doesn’t, the conversation usually goes just one way and not the good way, again especially in a social setting with a few drinks.

From a job perspective, should the school one attended come into the equation? There are a lot of factors as to should it or shouldn’t it.

From my perspective sending my kids to a private school is an investment I made in them as people and I would hope that the rounded experience gained from this would help them get the jump on those that haven’t. If I haven’t achieved that then my investment decision hasn’t been great has it?

Like politics and religion, discussing the merits of sending your kids to private schools when you are and they aren’t (and visa versa) can only lead one way and it is a way you don’t want to go.


Why Australia was different in online auto


Around 12 months I wrote a post titled “Why Australia was different to the US, UK & Canada”.

Here’s another angle to why Australia was different in the online auto classifieds space.

From an auto, jobs and real estate classifieds perspective in Australia, the old school media giants missed out online, big time.

With the exception of News Limited’s $2.2m acquisition for 40% of Realestate.com.au back in 2002 (which is now risen to 61% of over $8b value at time of writing), the media heavyweights in Australia being News, Fairfax and later Sensis (Telstra), especially with their $636m acquisition of the Trading Post in 2004, really missed the boat.

I can make educated guesses about how/why News and Fairfax failed in jobs and real estate classifieds online but I’ll concentrate now on the auto online vertical where my experience is much stronger.

The way they approached it was different and they did different things wrong.

News were too late to the party with Carsguide. Their first online auto go was Newsmotoring which didn’t even leverage their Carsguide offline brand and when they launched Carsguide online in 2003 it was too late. This should have been done in 1995! Isn’t hindsight beautiful.

Fairfax launched Drive online early but (in my opinion) didn’t leverage offline anywhere near well enough. Maybe this was because they were trying to protect the riches of their offline asset?

To highlight my point, when carsales started it was called Carz.com.au because you couldn’t register a generic name as a domain in Australia back then.

Then one Friday the Drive newspaper lift out had a computer on the front with a car crashing out of it with the caption which read something like “carsales.com.au – the end of the used car salesman?”.

So here we have Fairfax through its Drive newspaper brand brandishing an alertnative auto domain to their drive.com.au brand on the front of their lift-out and worse, no one owned the carsales.com.au domain – for long……the guys at Carsz.com.au saw the lift-out, checked the status of the domain, registered it and carsales was born.

Additionally, in both News and Fairfax’s cases, they had opportunities to acquire carsales early and didn’t. Again, I think they were trying to protect offline.

Sensis did a few things wrong. The number one thing was that an online classifieds site was way out of their core competency (I would have thought that they learnt that lesson 5 years earlier in 1999 when they spent millions trying to launch an auto online classifieds site and failed).

The second thing was that with Auto being the biggest part of Trading Post, by 2004 it was too late to win Auto online, especially with their lack of online expertise.

But from an operational point I actually don’t think they did too much wrong in terms of execution except that their thinking was protection of their print legacy rather than online first.

Could they have really done anything more than they did? Maybe but I’m not really sure what; the horse had bolted very, very quickly and before they knew it, the game was over.

The fact is that each of them did what has been done in virtually every other country but they ran into the perfect storm that carsales created.

As soon as carsales moved from the “pay per listing” model (which was/is used by 99% of online classified players) to the “pay per lead” model the game was up for News and Fairfax’s online auto transition from offline and Sensis’ new foray into online classifieds (even before they had started).

carsales made changes to its website to drive leads to dealers, at the same time the model encouraged dealers to put all their inventory online and the inventory was always refreshed because dealers didn’t want to pay for leads on sold cars.

In the same year carsales moved its private seller to pay until sold which saw a sharp increase in private sellers which in turn drove traffic and brought more buyers of dealers cars. The perfect storm.

For dealers, leads quickly became the way that online automotive websites were measured and no site could get near carsales for the number of leads a dealer would receive.

The reality was that no matter what the competitors did at that point and moving forward, the horse had bolted, carsales had won.

Traffic kept on growing as did leads and as a result, revenue just kept growing too.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all roses for carsales and did not come easily. They were incredibly smart and worked incredibly hard, after all the business decisions they made are what made them!

If the big media players did anything wrong (apart from the acquisition thing) it was not realizing earlier that the game was up; each of them kept throwing good money after bad thinking they could win.


We are all salespeople


I’m not a salesperson but I reckon I can sell anything….and I reckon most people are in the same boat, they just don’t know it yet!

I know that we are “selling ourselves” all the time and I am not referring to that sort of sell here. I am talking about actually something (i.e. product and/or service) to a client in return for something (i.e. money).

“getting a job, a pay rise, a date or just selling something to earn a living – usually you are selling yourself”

The absolute key and number 1 thing for me is having a real passion and believe in whatever I am selling. Here’s when I realized I could sell anything, even as a software developer!

When we started Digital Motorworks in Australia back in 1999, a data & web services business, I brought technology and subject matter expertise to the table while my business partner brought sales and business experience to the table.

We felt we had a good mix and most certainly his experience was a guiding light for me.

Almost immediately we had a potential opportunity with one of the largest companies in Australia who were looking for something like our expertise. Because my business partner was living interstate at the time, I was front and centre with the client making sales pitch after pitch before moving on to negotiating a deal. These were things I hadn’t been involved with before.

It wasn’t a case of learning on the job; it was a case of just getting the job done – a multi year, multi million dollar contract within a few months of starting our business. Not only did it get the startup moving, it got me moving and gave me the confidence to tackle whatever came in front of us.

What it showed me was that we are all salespeople when we want to be – getting a job, a pay rise, a date or just selling something to earn a living – usually you are selling yourself so you need to believe in yourself!

I’m not down playing the art of being a salesperson here, not by a long stretch. It is another skill all together to be able to sell something you don’t have a passion for or more to the point, don’t have a passion for on any given day and having to do it day in day out.

I’ll leave that to the experts.