Category Archives: Management

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 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?

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.

I Survived Business With Family & Friends, You Can To

We’ve all heard it before, “don’t go into business with family or friends”.

Well I mustn’t have read the memo too well because I went into business with family AND friends! Overall the experience has been a positive one for over 10 years now but that’s not to say we all haven’t learnt a few things along the way.

In 2005 I went into business with my best mate when we acquired my father’s small, successful business that he ran with a business partner. They were ready to retire and the proceeds of the sale were to be their superannuation.
Within months my brother and brother in law entered the business. The three of them were to work in the business and each of them having skin in the game made sense to me as I was to be the only passive shareholder.

The first thing we did was put together a Shareholders Agreement to set some governance and protect our collective interests in the case of an exit (read problem). Of course controlling an exit was an important piece but being the only shareholder not working in the business, I also wanted to ensure I had some comfort around governance, things like:

  • What required unanimous board approval like the cap on a capital expenditure item, cap on services to be agreed to, hiring employees or altering salaries over a dollar amount, etc
  • Setting expectations for directors meetings, forecasts, plans, etc
  • Creating the process and rules for an exit by a shareholder

It is one thing to have a Shareholders Agreement and it is another to adhere to the specifics with friends and family. This is where conflict can occur especially when you are the only one of the shareholders not working in the business.

It can leave you with a choice to make – dig your heels in and make sure it was followed to the letter OR suck it up a little since they are doing a good job, making money and was it really worth jeopardizing relationships with family and friends over? I chose the latter potentially sacrificing some money each year for the bigger picture (for all of us I might add).
What would I have done differently? The easy answer to this question is “don’t go into business with family and friends” but I don’t look badly at that decision. I should have ensured that every detail of the Shareholders Agreement was followed for the benefit of all of us; after all what was the point of it?

A business needs to be run as a business and when you have multiple shareholders you have responsibilities to each and every shareholder to do the best thing by all. A Shareholders Agreement is constructed to ensure this objective was met and we failed ourselves by not adhering to it all the time.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!

It’s all a state of mind and anything where more good than bad can come out can’t be a bad thing.

Leadership and People – Same, Same But Different

Whether it be in life, sport or business, I think recognising and appreciating that we are all different can give you an advantage over those that don’t.

I’m an avid people watcher; I’m fascinated by the way in which we are all different. I love sitting in a cafe or bar in a different country (as I’m usually on my own) and just watching people. What are they doing there? What are they thinking? Are they on a first or third date? What is their relationship? Married, business, selling to a client? What are they talking about?

I used to describe coaching senior football clubs as “leading 50 blokes who all need to be treated by the same yet all differently”. This is no different to business. Different people have different drivers, different tolerances, different personalities, etc, etc.

Sounds logical doesn’t it? Why then do we get upset when it appears some people seem to treated differently to others?
That’s more of a rhetorical question. I do not know the answer but I am sure we can all have our opinions. My opinion is simply that we are all different which is why some get treated differently and why most get upset at this. Confusing?

I believe the answer to managing this from both sides is with the leader. In the case of a football club, the coach must give as much time to players ranked 25-40 as they do to the handful of top players. It is just that the time is/should be spent differently.

The key is transparency. To make a general statement like “anyone who doesn’t train won’t be playing this week” is pretty stupid. Let’s get serious here.

Same in business. Should a leader spruik a culture, not actually live it themselves or worse, allow a few to not live it and expect all others to live it?
I love the quote “the culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate” (Gruenter and Whitaker).

Worse still, what about when it appears the leader(s) are more content to keep a few happy at the expense of many others?

It comes back to transparency and the recognition (or lack thereof) that we are all different, think differently and act differently. It is ok to treat everyone the same but different.

Leading in a Global World

Not everyone aspires to be a leader or sees themselves as a leader but I bet in some part of their lives they are leading the way – and are good at it.

I’ve said in other posts and I’ll say it again, I feel lucky that over the journey I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done and what I do.

My role as carsales Director International is multi faceted in that I am a leader in the carsales core business as part of the Executive Leadership Team, I am the leader of our International team and I get to be the leader of some great businesses in other countries.
I used the word “leader” three times there; not to be egotistical, the word isn’t in my title or job description but because it is a part of my role that I consider the most important; and it is one I enjoy.

So what does a leader mean? No doubt you would have read a few posts defining leadership and comparing a leader to a manager. I see it as setting the vision, the strategy, coaching, being part of the team, making the tough calls, not always being right, listening and sharing your experiences.

Most of all it is about making the right connections with people. I’ve said it before that I inherently believe “people do business with people they like”. This includes the leader and doesn’t mean you don’t make tough decisions that aren’t going to please everyone; it does mean that you need to earn their respect in the process.

I “got out of the way” of the best players and let them play

Leading is something I have undertaken from a business perspective and in my football career. You’ve probably read about how leaders should “hire the best people and get out of their way” and I completely subscribe to that.
When I first joined carsales I had the task of bringing our LiveMarket product to life. I really enjoyed the first few months of not having to lead a team or worry about anything but the task at hand. This didn’t last long as I soon found out that I really missed leading a company, leading a team. Now I get to lead multiple, diverse teams and enjoy the challenge!

From a football perspective I was never the best player (or second or even third best) in any side I played in but I was able to successfully lead sides from a very young age (senior playing coach at 26) by getting the respect of my team mates and leading by example. I also ensured I “got out of the way” of the best players and let them play.
This is the way I approach it from a business perspective as well. For instance, we have a controlling interest in Soloautos in Mexico and Chileautos in Chile. The first part of leading these businesses is to get to know the people, understand them and develop a relationship with them. This is essential to be able to lead these businesses from Australia with our carsales International team showing great leadership in taking these businesses along the journey.

it’s not that we are smarter than you guys, we’ve just seen it before

Our two minority positions in Webmotors in Brazil and Encar in South Korea are not too much different because as strategic investors in these businesses, the people inside look to us to show leadership in best practices to accelerate the growth of their businesses.

As a strategic investor in these businesses, carsales is using its experience and intellectual property as leadership pillars but it is all wasted without “walking the walk” after “talking the talk”. As I have said many times to our global friends “it’s not that we are smarter than you guys, we’ve just seen it before”.

If we can’t lead the way with this as the cornerstone, we’re in a bit of trouble (just my opinion).

A Key Component of an Acquisition

I’m a firm believer that in general, “people do business with people they like“. I know there are exceptions but as a rule I stand by this.

In order to like someone in a business sense does not mean you need to be mates; there needs to be a mutual respect between each other that business will be conducted in a manner that you both expect.

When carsales looks at an international acquisition target, local management is a key component of the decision making process. Very early on in the process I like to understand what the local management structure is going to look like and ascertain if there will be issues from day 1 after closing.

People do business with people they like” takes on an extra meaning when the management you are relying on to run the day to day operations of a business you have invested in is on the other side of the world. A true mutual respect as people first is important in this.
This is why dealing with and forging close relationships with local management is a key component as a strategic investor. The structure of our partners in our 4 international acquisitions ( in Brazil, in South Korea, in Mexico & in Chile) are somewhat different but the relationships we have/are building are very similar. In each business we are very close to the executive management; talking on an almost daily basis and sharing more than just business.

When we started Digital Motorworks, very early on we did some business with News Limited’s then new digital arm called News Interactive (News Digital Media) for their online jobs platform Careerone. We saw our personal relationships (we didn’t know them beforehand) as important and worked hard on it. Our work with Careerone expanded (and then exploded) and before we knew we were performing the same services to The Times of London (News International) which then spread by recommendation to TES Education and Emap (also both in the UK). When News were looking at starting an online automotive platform they came to DMi first.
Yes DMi had some nice technology that served their needs but I have no doubt the relationships we formed within News Interactive were the driving force behind establishing our brand within their business.

Even internally, it is hard having a workable business relationship with someone you simply do not like, trust and/or respect.

People do business with people they like” can take on a number of meanings. It may be “just business” but business involves people and where people are concerned, it is better to like people than not.

2 Pieces Of Career Advice


I found a great article recently through a LinkedIn post titled “Is My CareerOn Track At Age 30” which had some significance for me.

When I was in my 20’s the age 30 held something for me. My first goal was a financial one where I was determined to be earning a dollar amount as my base salary by the time I was 30. This was a benchmark for me for whatever reason (I have no idea or good reason for it other than that’s what it was). My second goal was to run my own business.

As I got closer to 30 and not closer to my goals I started to look at what I had to do to get there and beyond.

My father had given me a couple of pieces of advice when I started work:

1) be loyal, work hard and you will be looked after; and

2) if you want to get somewhere you need to do it yourself, take charge
So it was with hitting 30 and the second piece of my father’s advice that I left my 10.5 year secure employment (where I believe I had been very loyal and hard working) to take the chance on a start-up even though I had to re-mortgage my house with our second child on the way. I am fairly risk adverse and to this day unsure how I managed to take the jump!

As it turned out, within 1 year of starting my business I had achieved the salary level I had set at age 30. I was happy with myself that I had taken affirmative action to achieve both goals.

Fast forward to when I was approaching 40. I had sold my shares in the business I had started and was running the same company for a US based company. Whilst the previous 6 years as CEO had seen good growth with CAGR for Revenue at 31% and EBITDA 24%, I could see the writing on the wall for a decline as our legacy services were being replaced and the investment started we required to reinvent ourselves was drying up.
I didn’t want to be running a business that wasn’t growing so it was time to be in charge of my own destiny again and start the next chapter of my career. Was it coincidence that this was at 40 when I then joined I don’t think it is a coincidence either that my boss at carsales was my boss for the time I was with Reynolds & Reynolds (see the first piece of advice my father gave me).

Does this mean that over the next few years I need to start looking at my next career change? You never say never and I do have new goals and expectations but given the passion I have for role and the company and given the short, medium & long term goals we have in place, I don’t think so.

I think the two pieces of advice dad gave me are applicable to most; and they can be interpreted in different ways. At the end of the day attitude and aptitude overrides skills and for me, these two things are the essence of what the advice means.

2 Lessons on Diversity


Ok, I’ll put my hand up to say that until less than a year ago I was ignorant about diversity.

As part of carsales‘ programs, I attended a session called Unconscious Bias. I went in to the session negatively I have to admit because I had been told it was about diversity so I immediately put my unconscious bias hat on (even though I didn’t know I had one).

I was ignorant on two fronts in particular and learnt a lot about them:

1) I had no idea what diversity actually was. What would happen if I had to solve a real world problem and I surrounded myself with people just like me? I’d get answers that would be similar to what I was already thinking. Now what if I had a diverse group of people around me to solve this problem? I’d most likely get a much more diverse discussion with lots of points of views that I would never have thought of and most likely get a better result. Pretty simple philosophy in hindsight. Lesson learnt.
2) I had no idea what unconscious bias was. Well, it is a bias that we are unaware of, happens automatically and is outside of our control. To get the most out of any situation we are faced with, we need to be aware of the unconscious bias that we have and how it influences what decisions we make. For instance, we were advertising for a job a while ago and had 8 male applicants. HR told me that they’d prefer if I could interview at least one female in the candidate short list. “How can I when only males applied?”, was my call. Our unconscious bias when we penned the job ad lent itself to male applicants. By tweaking the ad (i.e. adding we are an equal opportunity employer) and re-posting, we quickly had a female applicant. Lesson learnt.

And here’s one tip I learnt and I liked which I think has a practical use in the office for everyone:
Get people to write down ideas in brainstorming sessions rather than getting them getting influenced by the first talker. This will give the introverts the chance to show their wares.

Again, pretty simple stuff in hindsight.

Well, it ended up being a fantastic 3 hours as I found enlightening answers and meaning in learning about two of my ignorance’s.

Managing Up Is A Skill Worth Mastering


I read an interesting article on LinkedIn recently by Dr Travis Bradberry titled Curious Things That Will Kill Your Career. One of the things listed was “Sucking up to your boss” and says “Some people suck up to their boss and call it managing up, but that isn’t the case at all“. I couldn’t agree more!

(A disclaimer before continuing – I do not profess to be an expert in this area, these opinions are purely based on my experience.)

While sucking up to the boss could kill your career, managing up is a skill that most professional people will need to master (in my opinion) to get to the top but not everyone realises the need, know how to go about it and/or really want to go there.
There is a fine line; spend too much time or not enough time and the result can be the same. You need to be able to do it well; some just don’t get it right and that can also be a career killer. So what do you have to do?

Here’s my two pointers to getting it right:

1. Think about what the boss needs/wants (what’s important for him/her); if you can be the person that is helping your boss achieve what they need/want then you are on the way

2. Keep front and centre; that is communicate regularly in a format your boss enjoys (not what you enjoy), building your relationship with him
And here’s what to avoid:

1. Trying to achieve the two points above to the detriment of your peers or your boss’ peers

2. Trying to “over-impress”; this isn’t about sucking up, this is about it being all about “me”

Getting to an executive level of a reasonable size company means that you are probably good at at least one of the two pointers to getting it right and usually that would be the first one, after all this about providing value. It’s the second one that is the hard one to get right because to do it properly requires a focus and discipline to make it part of what you do.

Managing up can be pretty simple really but also easy to get wrong. It’s also not a negative and guess what, I reckon if you get the balance right, your boss will like and appreciate it (probably stating the obvious there!).