Category Archives: Business

Does a business card, title and office define you?


Business Cards – like job titles and an office – some people love them; it can define them – or so they think, remembering perception is reality.

Years ago business cards were a must have and in a lot of cases today they still are. Swapping Business Cards when you meet somebody in business can be an important ritual in most instances.

I’m now doing business regularly in many countries and no matter which country I have a meeting in, the handing over of business cards is part of the process.

I was chatting with a friend recently and the topic of Business Cards came up. He was putting the case forward that they aren’t needed in today’s LinkedIn world.

I countered that maybe putting your Business Card into your LinkedIn profile can somewhat “legitimise” it? Just a question.

It’s funny because I’ve never really thought about them but take a look in my drawer and there they are dating back to my first business card in 1998.

Does that make them important to me? I can’t say no because the prove is there…. for me they define and remind me of the path I have taken.

Today we do that pretty easily through LinkedIn where we have our professional history laid out for all to see.

Like a Business Card, LinkedIn has different meanings and uses for each person but here’s what a Business Card does that LinkedIn cannot – Anyone can created their own LinkedIn profile and have a license to tell their own story, not so with a Business Card (in any reputable business that is); in most cases you have to earn a Business Card. Not everyone gets one and not everyone needs one – ok maybe I’m putting a little bit of sauce on this!

My Business Card progression is similar to my LinkedIn profile experience progression, as it should be I suppose.

My first Business Card was a big deal to me. I’d been a developer/product manager for nearly 10 years and stepped into heading up the e-commerce push for Reynolds & Reynolds in 1997.

I then had the first ever carsales.com.au Business Card created in early 1999 for my trip to San Francisco for the NADA Convention whilst I was working for Reynolds & Reynolds.

Is a business card still a required item in today’s business world? Of course it is!

I still like to read the printed version of the newspaper on weekends too; it is still a ritual at the start of a business meeting with people you are meeting with for the first time no matter where you are in the world.

And what would your LinkedIn profile look like with an image of your business card there in each position?

Would it legitimise it, cheapen it or just look stupid?


The things successful people do…..



“I exercise in the morning like nearly all the articles and blog posts I read……and I’m not getting more successful!”

First thing in the morning, is really the only part of the day that I fully control and own.

And what do I choose to do? Exercise. I love exercising in the morning, particularly before work.

Things come up during the day – meetings, calls, the unexpected but you control the start of the day and I find it a great way to start each day.

I can’t work it out though; I exercise in the morning like nearly all the articles and blog posts I read about “the things successful people do” and I’m not getting more successful!

I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek here; yes I do exercise in the morning but no, I don’t do it because I think it will make me more successful.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson talks passionately through his social posts about getting up at 4am every day to hit the gym as his “anchor” and this is his edge over his competition. He urges everyone to find their “anchor” that works for them.

I love this quote from him – “We’re all busy, we’re all tired, we all got families to feed and work to get done. Whatever it is, find your anchor. Use it and and project it. It’ll help bring your balance in this crazy thing we call life. For the records, your anchor does NOT have to be weird shit like big heavy chains that look like they belong in the next SAW movie.”

I love the feeling of starting work having exercised, it is empowering – for me. I feel like I have something over my peers and people I’m dealing with because I’ve already worked hard before getting to the office.

It’s funny how people who like to sleep in or stay up late (is it the same thing?) are absolute in their belief that you accomplish more late at night. Then again I’m just as absolute that you get more done first thing in the morning because I control that time.

Two men said they’re Jesus, one of them must be right……..

Ironically enough, the most successful (from a status/financial perspective) people in business I have worked with closely have been night people and the opposite to me – up late with office hours of 9:05am to 7-8pm (and no morning workouts!).

But then again, what is successful? It is different for everyone as we all have different goals. For some it is status or money. For some it is just being happy and healthy. I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing and where I’m at so I think I’m successful. Some may disagree and that’s ok, we’re all different.

The main point here is not about exercising and it’s not about whether you get up early or stay up late, it’s about finding something that makes you feel good on a regular basis that can enhance you.

I’m getting better at finding, recognising and acknowledging what is important to me and ensuring that these things are given priority.

Maybe it’s because I exercise in the morning.

Maybe I need to exercise for longer.


Before you can help me, please sign the NDA


I’ve come to see you about a new business venture I have because I think it could be a great opportunity for your business.

This is usually code for “I’ve got a great idea but need your help to make it a great outcome”.

The next thing they usually ask for is for you to sign a NDA.

But hang on, you’re asking for my help and I have to sign a legally binding document before I can help you?

It’s a funny concept when you think about it in the context above; well I reckon it is.

I regularly see entrepreneurs, startups, etc coming in to get advice on and/or present the next big thing that is going to help “make carsales a lot of money”.

The first thing they want is a NDA signed to protect their idea and fair enough I suppose, I would expect the same thing but that’s not to say I can’t help but ask myself “Really; aren’t you asking for my help?”

There is, however, a very good chance that a large online player – not just carsales, I’m sure this applies to all leading online players – has already explored ideas very similar and/or has plans to execute on similar ideas at a point in the future. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they have not.

Of course the online company is not at liberty to say at the time if they have or haven’t looked at similar concepts (this would be commercially sensitive) and in order for them to pursue anything there would need to be documented proof before that meeting and/or signing of the NDA.

Therefore any NDA has to cover this off which can be difficult to understand for the entrepreneur!

I am sure this scenario would be pretty “standard” in any online company of a reasonable size especially with teams of people charged with the responsibility of keeping the company “ahead of the curve”.

I had an example recently where a couple of guys came to see me about their new business. They took me through the plans for their new business showing me their point of difference to anything else out there – “they had done their homework”

“This is leading edge; no one is doing it online and it is waiting to be exploited”, they said.

Before we went to the next step of doing some due diligence on the concept, they wanted me to sign their “standard NDA” which was fine and I explained that it needed to be looked at by our legal experts first.

“But this is a standard NDA that everyone uses”, they said. I countered that “there is no such thing as a standard NDA and I need the right people to look at it first”.

We made a couple of changes that are somewhat mandatory for our business; the changes were pertaining to protecting the business from doing something similar. To them this implied we were going to steal their idea.

What they didn’t realise was that we had looked at a similar technology process some time before – whether we were going to implement the same or a similar process hadn’t been decided but the business reserved the right to do it themselves not remove that right because someone came up with the same idea and wanted to make money from it!

I’ve been a party to literally hundreds dozens of NDA’s and never seen two the same, the other side always needs something changed although the end result sees them usually have the same meaning. They may not though.

Of course getting a NDA signed off before giving away too much detail on your idea is seen as an important step for entrepreneurs and startups; just make sure you always have a legal representative working for you, give you advice before signing one and most importantly, understand that not all ideas are “new”.


2 “same same but different” philosophies I use in business & sport


Employing people means you must treat everyone the same but everyone differently.

Ask anyone in business and they’ll tell you employing people is great if you didn’t have to deal with people.

It can be hard work because we are all different with different views, wants, needs and goals.

Ask anyone who has coached junior sport a similar question and you’d get a similar response except that the “different” can be two or three (or more) fold (I’m talking parents, divorcees, grand parents, etc).

Both can be rewarding though and one of the great joys I have is watching the growth in people you coach or employee (yes employing people can be like coaching) over the long term.

In the case of business I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a few companies where I/we have employed people at their start of their career or ready for their next professional challenge.

I’ve always had the philosophy of employing people being a win-win-win (link to post) for the employee-manager-employer where one of the techniques I like is helping to build their resume (link to post) as a way of growing them professionally by seeing it visually.

At DMi we employed quite a few young people who didn’t have much experience but certainly had good attitudes to want to have a go and learn.

I loved coaching them in a way of bring them along the journey and giving them the opportunity to swing high or hang themselves. I challenged them to always improve their resume; that is, improve their value and their resume was a tangible way they could see it.

I love even more to see, over 10 years on, where they are now and it gives me satisfaction knowing that I may have played a part in the base skillset they are using that makes them a valuable commodity to the current business they are working for.

Same deal since I’ve been at carsales; I love seeing those who I have worked with or mentored kicking some goals years after coming into the business.

My philosophy for coaching junior football over many years was to give kids the skills and passion for the game to keep involved over the long term (senior football) as opposed to teaching them skills that a kid can/should practice on their own if they have the desire – this is not too dissimilar to business.

For instance, in my opinion, a more important skill to teach to juniors is not to fall over in a competitive situation rather than kicking on their opposite foot (which they can practice themselves).

Seems pretty simple but go to a junior game of football and hear the parents clap the kids who make an unrealistic attempt to get the ball falling over in the process – “Good effort Johnny” and then “C’mon boys, all try harder like Johnny” – when in fact once they fall over they are out of the contest and can’t win the ball.

These efforts are not good enough as they get older and play higher level football or just senior football no matter what level.

If junior players can grasp this concept early they are not only ahead of the curve they have developed a skill that a) they can’t learn/practice on their own and b) will take them through as senior players, my ultimate goal.

The goal is necessarily not to produce players that will be AFL stars as that is a possible by-product but rather the skills and understanding of the game that will stand up as the competition gets bigger, quicker and better.

So my measure of success and satisfaction out of my junior coaching is to see how many are still playing football beyond the junior years as this is usually a drop off point.

This is a similar measure of success for business.

Yes employing people or coaching kids can be tough but it is the rewarding parts that keeps us doing it.


Equity – Who do you work for?


I have always been one to consider the company I work for as “my company” in a sense that I’ve always treated their money as if it was my own.

This has a little bit of a moral compass about it and not for everyone but hey, we’re all different.

I’ve worked for employers in private and public companies, started my own business which I divested to work for employers again and invested in private businesses as a passive and non-passive shareholder and/or director.

From an ownership sense though, a company can only be your own when you own 100%; the moment you have partners the company is not yours.

I remember a conversation with the owner of a competing business years ago who was insistent that partnerships in business didn’t work and he had to always have 100% of the business so he could do what he wants. Isn’t control good enough?

I put this to a work colleague recently – “You have a business with a few shareholders of which some work in the business and some don’t. If you were one of the working shareholders would you consider that you were working for yourself since you owned the company?”

His answer was “yes” very quickly with the argument that he didn’t care how much percentage he owned of a company, he would consider that he owned the company.

So I put another question to him – “What happens if you as a shareholder don’t work in the business yet the shareholders working in the business decide to purchase a capital item worth $80,000 when the clear written agreement is that any capital item over $10,000 requires unanimous shareholder approval and when you question the process the answer is ‘it is my company and I have this benefit being my own boss’?”

A smile came over his face. “Good point”, he said.

How can you be your own boss with business partners and/or shareholders?

Isn’t your responsibility to all shareholders to follow corporate governance?

What’s stopping you from buying whatever you want with the company’s funds?

Most people going into business want to do so to “be their own boss”. A lot of people do not think about the fact once you have other shareholders you are working for them and that you can only be your own boss when you own 100% of the company.

It should feel good to the passive shareholders that they have partners with “skin in the game” working in the business keeping on top of things.

Either way, I am adamant that unless you do own 100% of a company then you do not “own your own company” and you work for the shareholders.

Having “control” of a company through majority equity or greater then 50% shareholding is a whole other topic; I’ll leave that for another thread as it is/can be a whole new beast.


7 vital things that made my startup successful


What makes a successful startup?

There aren’t too many startups like Google and Facebook or even carsales, Seek and REA and the stats tells us that 9 / 10 startups fail (remember 90% of statistics are made up) so my definition of a “successful startup” is growing into a profitable, sustainable business and/or having a successful exit.


I’m sure every one is different in terms of the steps they took, road they traveled and end result so here’s 7 vital things that I found were fundamental to Digital Motorworks Pty Ltd (DMi) being a “successful startup” in 1999:

Identify the market opportunity.
As this will be your focus. This seems simple and it is more than wanting to do something because it’s what you know or to be your own boss. There has to be a gap in the market that you can fill or simply do it better and most importantly, it has to make commercial sense. The market opportunity for DMi was the gap of an independent inventory aggregation and dealer web services player for the big media players wanting to propel their online automotive sites, especially once Reynolds had made the decision to keep their inventory capabilities in order to push carsales (remember the quote “If it is this f&@king hard for us imagine how f&@king hard it is for them” in my post The Hard Decision carsales Had to Make).

Develop (and live by) the Business Plan.
My business partner is a finance guy and started us off straight away with the discipline of creating a financial business plan. I found that by thinking about and collating all the costs upfront and ongoing that we would incur, forced us to articulate a plan for getting money through the door (i.e. revenue). We went hard on the costs and realistic on the revenue because the costs were always going to be incurred but the revenue had to be earned! The importance of this step and ongoing revisiting of it cannot be underestimated.

3 Securing finance.
Most companies need to raise some money to get properly going, be it from family, friends, VC’s or the bank. Most certainly with the latter two and most probably with the former two, the before mentioned business plan is imperative. My business partner and I each secured finance to be used as working capital through the bank as second mortgages on our houses and the business plan was critical to making this process as straight forward as it could be.

Getting out of your comfort zone.
This is stating the obvious because you literally have to do everything no matter what your previous experience or expertise. Almost as soon as we started we were served legally by our former employer. Now this threw me straight out of my comfort zone and made me confront it head on which we did and got through, growing me enormously. My business partner took up a short term contract to get some money through the door with Esanda as they were trying to build Eauto.com.au while I pulled together our technology infrastructure and worked the sales process to secure our first client. This was again jumping out of my comfort zone as my background had only ever been technical. With the help and guidance of my business partner, I made it through the other all the better for the experience and most importantly, it secured the immediate future of our startup business.

Working bloody hard.
Again, this is stating the obvious but until you are in the position where the business survival rests on what you are doing, you don’t really know what hard work is. We just didn’t have enough hours in the day to get through everything we needed to. While my business partner would travel backwards and forwards from Adelaide to Melbourne putting strain on his family life, I would be working on securing clients by day and through our technology requirements by night. Mouth ulcers were a common side effect for me; and those don’t kill you!

Having a passion for what you do.
This one cannot be underestimated. It’s one thing to work bloody hard and it’s another to work bloody hard on something that you have a real passion for and love. We both loved doing what we were doing and our passion for it shone out as I’m sure it helped us secure new clients. This was when I learnt that I could sell anything – if I was passionate about it.

Having the right business partner.
It is ok not to have a business partner, in fact some people believe that you have to have 100% control to make something work. For DMi I had 2 business partners – a former colleague and Digital Motorworks Inc out of Austin, Texas. Having the guys from the US was vital in our time to market and helping us to secure our first big client. They provided the technology platform which I then had to take on, setup, maintain and adapt to Australia and later transform from auto to jobs. This was a great leg up but everything else was on our shoulders in Australia as a startup.

For me getting a startup off the ground with the experience and confidence (or lack thereof) I had at the time, having a business partner on the ground with me was vital. I have referred to my business partner multiple times in the previous points because we really did work as a team. First thing was that I probably wouldn’t have gone into this on my own or been able to get through without his expertise, experience and being able to talk things through. His background was finance and sales in the automotive space. My background was technology in the automotive space and playing/coaching football. We made a good team because our skills complimented each other, we had the same goals and we actually had a good time doing it.

These 6 things were vital in making DMi a success. We were profitable within 6 months, grew to employ over 30 permanents and 60 casual employees and had a successful exit. We were no carsales or Seek or REA but then again they are no Google or Facebook either.

Nonetheless, we started a business from scratch and made it as one of the 1 out of 10 to succeed. For me, that was pretty successful.


Have you hit your Earning Potential Ceiling?


People pay for value. I love this as it applies to people as much as it applies to services.

What happens when people are getting paid for the value they bring but they want/expect more? It means they’ve hit their Earning Potential Ceiling.

We have a great mentor program at carsales where I’ve been mentoring carsales’ employees for a number of years and it’s been a great experience for me – and hopefully some value to them!

I like to keep our catch-ups real with nothing off limits as I’m there to assist them in their journey.

“you’ve forgotten about what makes you valuable so that you become…..a commodity”

One common topic of discussion is their job tenure and more specifically, whether they should explore new opportunities.

This topic comes up in a number of different ways. Some are ambitious; some want more money; some are naive; some are deluded; some don’t appreciate what they have; and some just don’t have their goals clearly defined.

More often than not it is a mixture of these reasons and quite possibly they tick every box!

One thing I don’t like hearing is that an employee I have been mentoring leaves for another company for a 10% or 15% or even 20% pay rise – and I hear after they have gone.

“Your earning potential is your responsibility”

These young people are ambitious but more often than not, don’t have a plan of building a solid foundation for their future employment.

They can all get more money elsewhere – look hard enough and you will find someone willing to pay you a little more.

Do this a couple of times and all of a sudden you’ve got the pay rises you (think) you’ve wanted but more often than not you will hit your Earning Potential Ceiling.

What does this mean? It means that you have been so busy chasing those incremental increases that you’ve forgotten about what makes you valuable so that you become (or more accurately you have made yourself) a commodity that can be bought anywhere because you are getting paid for the value you are bringing.

Like most things, I didn’t realize the lesson I was learning early in my working life. I was seeing other developers leave for new opportunities which usually was a little more money. Make no mistake, I looked at those opportunities as well, nearly left, tried to leave but for some reason never did.

We had a regular catch-up group of ex-employees and they would tell us how good it was but the next time you saw them a lot had moved on again; it didn’t seem right. Quite a few of them eventually found their way back to where they started, literally (ie more than just the employer).

When I left after more than 10 years I did so to start my own business and build my own experiences. It wasn’t for more money at the time because in fact I wasn’t guaranteed anything – I went without a salary for many months after.

What it did was taught me so many more things in the business world that made me more valuable because of my experiences and of course, achievements.

You don’t have to start your own business to get that experience. You can get it by digging in and being valuable to your employer, making sure there is always a win-win-win there for the company, your manager and of course you.

Your earning potential is your responsibility but don’t think that job hopping for incremental change is the way to enhance this or is at all sustainable because you will quickly find your ceiling.

You need to make yourself valuable because people pay for value. Or you will invariably hit your Earning Potential Ceiling.


Moving into Jobs Classifieds from Auto


When we started Digital Motorworks (DMi) in Australia in 1999, our total focus was the automotive industry.

This made sense since our experience was automotive and the DMi technology base out of Austin, Texas was developed for the automotive space aggregating inventory data from over 6,000 car dealers in the US at the time.

So how then was our revenue split 35% auto and 65% jobs classifieds just 3-4 years after starting?

It was about pivoting our niche core competency and getting out of our comfort zone, quickly.

Within 6 months of incorporating the company in Australia, we had signed a significant sized contract with a leading Australian media company giving them exclusivity over our data aggregation and normalization services in the automotive classifieds space for the next 3 years.

We were precluded from working with other major media players in the automotive space although there was still scope for more expansion in auto.

Pretty soon after this, we learned that News Limited’s new digital arm, News Interactive, was keen to get all the job ads advertised in all News newspapers around the country seamlessly into their Careerone.com.au website.

Could our data aggregation and normalization services be used outside of automotive? There was no reason why it couldn’t but it was big change to the business focus and to our head space.

We were given some sample job feeds to test and the results were encouraging but News threw another curve ball – the vast majority of ads are encapsulated in a pdf, image or an image in a pdf. Can we extract the jobs from these file types as opposed to a more logically formatted text file?

Long days and nights followed experimenting with OCR (optical character recognition) software to integrate into our systems and the results started to come slowly at first but the samples were encouraging.

Before we knew it, The Times of London newspaper group (a News International company) had heard about our technology and sent us samples to send back. It was starting to move.

Fast forward a couple of years, thousands of man hours, lots of perseverance and DMi was processing display and lineage job ads from every News Limited newspaper in Australia, The Times of London, the UL’s largest educational group TSL Education (UK) and Emap (UK) for display online in searchable formats.

Was this in our detailed business planning that we used to underpin financing and starting the company? Not even close.

It would have been very easy for us to not try our hand at this new business and stick with automotive, after all we were automotive people with automotive technology.

Sometimes stretching your niche core competency is ok as long as you have a handle on the effort versus reward and more importantly, a handle on what it might do to your business good and bad.


The Hard Decision carsales had to Make


Very early in in the founding of carsales.com.au, it’s founders had a pretty big business decision to make which had an easy option and a hard option; the answer would have a material effect on its life span.

Here’s a little snippet that I believe is a great example of sound business decision making.

The rise of carsales.com.au was no accident and showed how the leaders at Dealer Management System provider Reynolds & Reynolds (R&R and now Pentana Solutions) were/are extremely astute business people who used business nous and previous learnings to make the right decision to forge what has turned out to be an incredible journey.

carsales grew out of R&R back in the late 90’s leveraging the DealerLink network between it’s dealers to seamlessly collect used car information.

R&R had a choice to make between two alternatives very early in the life of carsales:

The Easy Decision
Was to partner with one (or more) of the biggest media players in Australia to supply inventory as the infrastructure was already in place to collect the inventory and it really was just incremental revenue for not doing a real lot as well working with some of Australia’s largest and most well known brands, which could have been attractive to a small(ish) software house in Mt Waverley.

The Hard Decision
Was to go hard with carsales.com.au which was going into the unknown of competing against these media giants (at what they considered was their “bread & butter”) as a small software services provider.

Here’s my take on two important decision points that drove R&R to making the Hard Decision to turn their back on the media giants and compete against them with carsales.com.au:

1. “If it is this f&@king hard for us imagine how f&@king hard it is for them.”
This quote has stayed with me for nearly 20 years now. R&R had been trying to get dealers to list their cars on carsales.com.au for a little while and the process was a difficult sell even though there was a seamless, automated inventory feed from the dealer’s computer system to carsales.com.au. So when the big media players and newspapers came looking for (exclusive) inventory data deals, the leaders at R&R realised that if it is so hard for us to get inventory with our setup and relationship with the dealers, just imagine how hard it is going to be for them. They realised they had something of real value to build on.

2. They were quick learners.
R&R US acquired DealerNet.com in 1995 and was one of the first automotive sites in the US list used cars (cars.com and Autotrader.com started in 1997). In 1997 R&R sold DealerNet.com to The Cobalt Group so that it could focus on it’s non-equity strategic partnership with Microsoft’s Carpoint.com which was launched in 1996 (an excerpt from Automotive News, 1 December 1997DealerNet was a pioneer in providing dealers with Web pages in the early 1990s. But Reynolds wanted to sell it to focus on its relationship with its new partner, Microsoft CarPoint. ‘With CarPoint, we’re better able to fulfill our mission of linking dealers to buyers,’ said Kevin Distelhorst, Reynolds director of online services).

Fast forward a year to 1998, R&R US knew they had given up something that was potentially huge and missed their first mover opportunity (imagine their grief now, 20 years on when they see carsales.com valued at ~$2.6b). Generally speaking the US market is 2-3 years ahead on the take-up of new technology and/or processes which gives us in Australia an opportunity to learn.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s easy to say now that the right reign was pulled when the wrong one could have been so easy had the media companies in Australia actually got their act together.

I take my hat off to the leaders of R&R who made it happen.

Note: All views are my own and not those of carsales.com Limited or Reynolds & Reynolds (now called Pentana Solutions)


Careers – Why did you leave?


9 January 1986 marked an important day for me – it was my first day of my working life after leaving school.

Just recently I “relived” my journey from that day and the decisions I made along the way; holidays are good for that (sometimes). More on these decisions further on.

It just happened to be exactly 31 years later on 9 January 2017 when I was sitting in a restaurant with friends including three 17 year old boys (including one of my own) while on holiday in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast when talk turned to what these kids were going to do in life.

With the three of them heading into their final year of high school this year, the discussion turned to how big a year it is for them, that they get a decent VCE score that will enable to have more choices in what they can do at university and/or in the work force, etc.

They asked me how my final year in high school was, what I studied at university, what my first job was and finally how did I get to where I am today.

Immediately I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want them to know that I didn’t do my final year in high school and didn’t go to university (until much later anyway). Why? Simply for me, I believe the professional world has changed and finishing high school with an eye to further education is much more important for these kids; I didn’t want to give them an out.

I didn’t want them thinking “if you didn’t do it and have done ok then it can’t be that important”. So what did I do? I preceded to tell them the whole story – why I left school, why it was different then, what I did, what steps I took and what chances I took.

Did it help them? I hope so. Did it help me? Yep. I actually found it very therapeutic to trace back my steps from my last days in high school, exactly 31 years to the day.

Today with LinkedIn it’s pretty easy to get a quick overview of someone’s work experience path but what we don’t always see and appreciate is the decisions or reasons each takes in each “fork in the road”.

Here’s a quick snippet of some of my big decision points:

Leaving school
I didn’t mind school, my marks were good and wasn’t looking to leave after Year 11 but dad thought that since he left aft Year 11 and had done ok then maybe I should. A job as a trainee computer operator was up at a company a friend of his was at and he “strongly” encouraged me to apply.

I got the job at Idaps Australia and started 9 January 1986 when I was 17 years 42 days old. As a comparison, my son was 17 years 75 days old for the chat described earlier (my older boy was 20 years 44 days old on this day, has completed high school and two years at university).

I must point out that although I started as a trainee computer operator my interest level and/proficiency in computers and technology was very close to zero.

Leaving Idaps
Life as a trainee computer operator (on IBM mainframes) at Idaps was great – 3 weeks of shift work, 2×12 hour shifts every 4th weekend and then 7 days off, again every 4th week. It was during 1986 however, that I found myself at Richmond Football Club at about Round 9 playing in the U19s which then led to me being appointed Captain in 1987. Juggling shift work with U19’s football was ok but as I entered the Richmond senior pre-season I had to make a decision.

I left Idaps (or more to the point I left shift work) after nearly 2 years so I could train properly for football and during 1988 I undertook a Diploma in Computer Programming at the Control Data Institute. This was a 6 month “intensive” course which I finished in August 1988.

On 10 October 1988 I started life as a computer programmer with Reynolds & Reynolds under the tutelage of Greg Roebuck. I was still only 19 years 316 days of age.

Leaving Reynolds
I spent over 10 1/2 years at Reynolds helping to develop, support and grow the best Dealer Management System in Asia Pacific. I got to spearhead some of defining products for the company including parts priority orders which became the building block for us to build CLERA, real time automated parts ordering between dealers. The technology used here then led to real time automated vehicle uploading and not long after that, carsales.

This was around me turning 30 though (this was significant to me for whatever reason) and I was fighting with two lessons from my dad – 1) keep loyal and you will get looked after and 2) if you want get anywhere do it yourself.

It was at this time that a colleague probably saw that our skills matched to do something ourselves. He didn’t talk me into leaving but I highly doubt I would have left without his influence. During May 1999 we started Digital Motorworks in Australia (DMi as it was known) and left Reynolds.

Leaving DMi
Like Reynolds I learnt an enormous amount running DMi from startup. The first 4 years saw me looking primarily after the technology side but with high interaction in deal making. We were acquired by ADP and then my partner left the business meaning I was CEO from July 2003 through May 2009.

DMi grew top and bottom line healthily each year but investment was drying up and we were servicing primarily a legacy environment so I completed a Masters in Business Systems as “personal insurance”. During 2008 I started talking with Greg Roebuck about a range of opportunities at carsales including partnerships, JV’s, etc and finally he said “come and work for carsales”.

I started at carsales on 9 June 2009. Greg Roebuck has announced his retirement this week and Cam McIntyre steps into the chair. I’ve worked directly for Greg for over 18 years so it feels like the start of a new journey and I have lots of unfinished business with carsales under Cam.

In reality, the decisions I’ve had to make in relation to may career have been pretty straight forward compared to many. I’ve never jumped around for more money, there’s always been much more to it. I like it that way.

NB Please don’t associate this post as anything predicating me leaving carsales.


Don’t Burn Bridges


In my blog post “2 Pieces Of Career Advice“, I talked about my father giving me two pieces of advice as I started my working career which I believe have held me in good stead.

There is actually a third one that wasn’t as implicitly said as the first two were but nonetheless was something that has stuck with me – “Don’t Burn Bridges”.

I have a lived through a couple of great examples where I have benefited from not burning bridges where I very easily could have.

Example 1 – Leaving an Employer

I started with Reynolds & Reynolds just before my 20th birthday as a software developer, working hard and gaining trust over 10.5 years to be driving and building some projects in the company’s history that have truly been game changers (ie CLERA for Parts and their Internet strategy incl carsales).

When I decided to leave Reynolds with a colleague to do our own thing, we weren’t popular with the owners, board, executive, etc and then the fact that we ended up working with practically all of carsales competitors heightened any tension that was there (as carsales was born out of the Reynolds business).

Fast forward another 10 years and I found myself with the opportunity of re-joining that same ownership, board, executive, etc at carsales which I ultimately did and now feel once again part of the “inner sanctum” helping them build and run great businesses.

I could have quite easily behaved in a manner in my exit from Reynolds and even further in my competition with carsales that would have “burnt the bridge”. The fact that I (sub)consciously didn’t and acted in respect of this is something I am happy about and has proven to be the right action.

Example 2 – Re-engaging a Client

When I left the employ of Reynolds and started Digital Motorworks (DMi) as described in example 1, the first client we captured was Pacific Access who through their Yellow Pages field force, had visions of an auto classifieds vertical.

Just under a year into a 3 year contract DMi worked with Pacific Access to execute their plan which at that point they concluded it was harder than they anticipated and made the decision to close.

Pacific Access had signed DMi to an exclusive deal over this 3 years and considering we had forgone other opportunities even the short period of the contract, we were not in a position to not exercise our rights of the contract and therefore had to ensure the contractual commitments were met.

Fast forward 8 years and Trading Post (now owned by Sensis, formally Pacific Access) approached DMi to re-engage for our inventory services. The result was a very satisfactory 3 year agreement to provide these inventory services for the Trading Post brand.

Again, the manner in which we handled the contract exit the first time around could have been terminal for our relationship with the business. The fact that it was not is testament to being aware of not “burning bridges” and acting with integrity.

Moving Forward

In reality not burning bridges is not and should not be a conscious decision; you can’t agree or please everyone but the way in which you conduct yourself should be enough that repeat business not be an issue and if it is an issue, it’s probably not your problem!


Football v Career – Actions Defined by Subconscious Thinking


Have you ever thought about your subconscious actions and how they affect the course of your life?

I am amazed at how our subconscious thinking defines our actions; when I think back now to the late 80’s, early 90’s it was my subconscious thinking that drove actions that set the shape of my professional life.
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This was when I commenced my employment with Reynolds & Reynolds in the automotive technology space (the space I am still around today) and played my first AFL Senior season in that same year (VFL back then).

Now looking back, the path that both of those took is a lesson in itself. This is not about me looking back thinking “what if” (maybe a little, sometimes) but more a real lesson in what shapes our beliefs and ultimate actions.

Football
I loved football and still do but it has never been my life nor did I ever set out for it to be my life. I didn’t work hard to play AFL, it just “happened”. One week I was playing local U18 football (no training, out on Friday nights before a game) and the next week I was playing with Richmond U19s, appointed Captain the following season and played my first senior AFL game the year. Yes I did all the hard training including the long pre-season but nothing extra or out of the ordinary (unfortunately). Football was just meant to be fun.
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Technology
Now I compare that with my software development career which kicked off in the same year. Almost from the start I was driven to do more and be better than the other programmers. I quickly got a reputation for not letting something go before it was done. That meant late nights, weekends, etc, going above and beyond, doing the extra work.

Dad always said to me about working to “work hard, be loyal and you’ll get looked after”. Football to me was always short term thinking. Work, my profession, has always been thinking about the long term.

What if I worked my butt off in football to get every bit I could out of myself? What would I be doing now? It might be exactly the same. It might be different. I don’t really care and don’t dwell on it because I made that choice many years ago subconsciously and divided by effort/time accordingly (or maybe I subconsciously knew where my talents really were….).

I still love football and I am still involved today as a Board member of the EFL and through my kids playing. It is and always has been an outlet for me. Would I have loved to have played more senior AFL football? Definitely but not necessarily at the cost of what I’m doing today. Remember too, it wasn’t fully professional back then either and let’s face it, I was never going to be in the elite bracket!

I like to think I’ve “worked hard, been loyal and been looked after” to get to where I am today so I’m pretty happy with my lot and it was my subconscious thinking that defined it for me.

Have you thought about your journey and how you made it to where you are today?