Tag 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?


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.


1 out of 3 ain’t bad, apparently


To find a used car to buy before the Internet world we live in now, you would read the Trading Post or newspaper Classifieds and/or visit a good strip of multiple dealers close by so you didn’t have to run around too far.

Today it is so much easier to see all the cars for sale online in the one place but that in itself can make it somewhat harder as you second guess yourself and try to do everything to ensure you are getting a fair price.

I’ve just been through the car buying process again and can confirm that buying a car can still be hard work and stressful, even with all the information available today.

This was the process I recently went through.

The first step was to narrow down a few makes and models. I did that by searching through carsales, saving the cars in the member area, reviewing, culling and finally coming up with a model choice.

This part is definitely easier with lots of photos, information and great tools to help the search for the right car.

The second step was to visit a dealer to test drive the model I selected. As soon as got to the dealership another model jumped out as “car of interest” so I test drove both models. The new choice of model got the nod.

The third step was to get back onto carsales to find the right deal. I narrowed it down to three cars so I submitted enquiries on two of them as the third one was at the dealer I visited the previous weekend. Both dealers were prompt in contacting me which was great and I indicated to both that I would be visiting their dealership the coming Saturday.

The third step was to visit the dealer to check the cars out. I went out to the first dealer and headed into the new car sales as the car I had enquired on was listed on carsales as a new car demonstrator vehicle with a few thousand kms.

When I asked for the sales person I spoke to on the phone I was directed to the used car section. This was strange. Even stranger was the actual kms on the car – 27. Not 2,700, not 27,000, just 27. This was a new car. Being sold in the used car section. WTBH (What The Bloody Hell).

I asked the sales person the obvious question – Why? “The new car department is too busy so we are helping them out”, was the reply. It didn’t gel. I checked over the exterior of the car closely and found an obscure little divot that looked very much like a hail divot. This has to be why it is in the used car yard.

I asked the sales person if this car was a hail damaged car. “No, we don’t have hail damaged cars” was the response. I showed him the divot. He looked surprised, reiterated his answer, I questioned again so he said he’d check and waddled off to the office.

He came back five minutes later and said “Yeah, well it is a hail damage car. That’s why the price is so great. There’s only the one divot, it’s a new car in every aspect with the 5 year new car warranty, capped price services and all that”. Yes there’s only one divot, that we can see now. How many were fixed?

Ok, so 3 questions and 1 straight answer. Further to that, the car was advertised online as a new car demonstrator vehicle with a few thousand kms on the clock with no mention of it being a new car with hail damage. This is clearly misleading.

I ask the question now – which approach is better? To mislead and lie per my experience just described or to have advertised the car as “A great deal to be had, brand new car with minor hail damage, 5 year new car warranty, capped servicing, don’t miss out!”.

I don’t quite get it out but then again as I have had pointed out to me many times before, I’ve never actually sold a car (my previous cars sold themselves)


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.


carsales – if it was easy, everyone would do it


The carsales story is a tale of many things coming together to create the business it is today.

One of those things is foresight; fundamental to building a successful dot com into an ASX Top100 company.

I have watched the business start and grow from near and at times little further away. Right at the very start my first business trip overseas was July 1997 to the US to review two new technology products with a view to make a recommendation on which path to take.

I was working with Reynolds & Reynolds Pty Ltd (R&R) and had just been giving the job of getting their E-Commerce business going.

Over the previous 3-4 years I had been designing and developing software to that utilizes the new DealerLink private network that would revolutionize the dealer management software services in Australia.

The software products I were to review were touch screen kiosks; a new technology showcased by a few vendors at the NADA convention earlier that year in San Francisco.

A dealer had seen the technology at NADA, immediately saw some benefit in helping his dealership and grabbed the CEO of R&R to show him.

The value he saw was the ability to have his inventory from all three locations available to be viewed at each location complete with photos. At the time, this was ground breaking.

The first place I had to visit was the Reynolds & Reynolds Inc head office in Dayton, Ohio. As they still had a small strategic stake in R&R and had a kiosk solution, it seemed prudent that we considered their software.

Their kiosk software was slick and worked well with the only downside being that each kiosk was standalone meaning the only way to update each kiosk was to load the inventory by disc each time.

The second stop was to Austin, Texas where Digital Motorworks Inc (DMi) had built the kiosk software our Australian dealer had been wowed by earlier in the year.

Whereas the Reynolds kiosk solution was standalone, the DMi solution utilized the Internet to update its inventory automatically.

Remember this was 1997; using the Internet to drive your business solution was somewhat new and deemed to be somewhat risky.

What this did was not only fed the kiosk solution, it also immediately enabled an internet strategy for the dealer – their inventory could be searched online within the dealer web site and it enabled individual dealer inventory to be aggregated together.

This was groundbreaking stuff back in 1997, especially in Australia and my mind was made up so I started preparing my recommendation paper.

The one hurdle was the cost of each – the DMi solution was over 4x the Reynolds solution up front and considerably more ongoing. I didn’t know how this would work as I put together my findings and recommendation.

Well on my return the decision ended up being clear cut – the Internet driven DMi solution, despite the relative cost, was chosen very quickly without too much debate – The leaders at R&R had bigger plans.

The last software piece I had developed before heading over to look at the kiosk software was the automated aggregation of dealer inventory direct form their dealer management system to a centralized database with a view to creating a wholesale vehicle sourcing system we called StockLink.

We used this software to populate the kiosk inventory database automatically and within months had kiosk systems running in each of the dealer’s three locations and searchable on the dealer’s new website.

Little did we know (or maybe we did) what this was the start of what would become carsales.

We thought touch screen kiosks would be a big hit, be in every dealership, shopping centers, airports, etc so people could find the car they were after, wherever they were at the touch of their fingertips.

Well the touch screen kiosks didn’t last but the Internet did, carsales was born through this technology and we are where we are today.

So, who had the greater foresight here?

Was it me for creating the software to automatically aggregate inventory and recommend the internet based solution? Hell no, I was merely following directions from my esteemed leaders at the time although I can take solace in that I didn’t hesitate in recommending the Internet based DMi solution.

Was it the car dealer who had the foresight to see the value of a networked solution? Yes he has to have some of the credit as he had a vision and whilst it ended up a little different to what was originally envisaged, he saw some value at the start.

Was it the leaders of R&R? Yes most definitely. They saw the vision of what this could bring to R&R, dealers and consumers.

It would have been much easier taking the Reynolds solution to fill a need. It was far cheaper and developed by trusted partners but it didn’t provide a platform for the future.

The fact that they took the harder, more expensive option was not the first time they would a similar road. They had the foresight to be brave in their business decision making.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. Amen.


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.


6 moves that drove carsales


With carsales turning 20 this year, everyone seems to forget or fail to realise that for the first 5 or so years, carsales was not profitable and was fighting for the number 1 position with a number of (much bigger) players.

carsales had a (seemingly) unique advantage from the outset in terms of access to dealer inventory by virture of starting out of the number 1 dealer management system provider, Reynolds & Reynolds.

This is a snippet from the carsales’ website in February 1998 when there were just 9 dealers online (1 from South Australia, 4 from Western Australia, 4 from New South Wales):

But this wasn’t the silver bullet everything thought it was (some still think it is today funnily enough), things didn’t just happen for carsales though – they happened as a series of good, calculated business decisions that weren’t necessarily popular or seen as the best way forward at the time but each of them were winners.

Who have thought the “I’m Interested” Form would have been so influential:

Here’s 6 influential moves that drove carsales to where it is today:

Private Listings (2000): Despite having a seemingly huge advantage with unparelleled access to dealer inventory, carsales needed to find a way to drive traffic to the dealer’s cars especially since it didn’t have the seemingly huge advantage it’s competitors had – offline marketing presence. It’s leaders understood that “buyers are sellers and sellers are buyers” so if they could attract private listings on carsales these sellers would also be buyers (of dealer cars). Of course the dealers did not agree with this thinking as they were worried that nobody would look at dealer cars if cheaper private cars were also available for sale. We know who was right.

carsales September 2000:

Sell Your Car Until Sold (2002): Most automotive websites around the world are products of media groups, usually newspapers migrating online. Their model for selling was/is “pay me now for this edition, if it doesn’t sell pay me again to advertise again…and so on”. Translated, this means if I do a bad job helping you sell your car, pay me again. This makes sense for a newspaper as there are costs associated with re-publishing each edition but there is no (cost) reason for this model online. When carsales introduced a flat fee to sell your car until it was sold, private sellers lapped it up. It now made sense to sell your car where you are looking to buy.

Lead Model (2002): Like the previous point, the media groups and their online automotive off-shoots were all about sellers advertising their cars “for sale”. If carsales followed this lead, it would be tough to compete as there was no differentiation to its competitors who being propped up by their offline assets. The carsales leaders decided to change the paradigm by moving from “fee per listing” to a “fee per lead” model. Almost instantly carsales changed the currency of online automotive to leads and created a differentiation that helped propel the business. For dealers, the proposition was now not about “advertising” online but it was all about “selling” – the better they worked the leads they were paying for, the better their closing ratio and more cost effective their online “advertising” would be. It was a true win-win-win for dealers, consumers and carsales.

Acquired Trader Assets (2005): For a number of years there was speculation about “who was going to buy carsales”. Yahoo was the first to take a small stake in carsales in late 2000 which they on-sold to Fairfax in early 2005 but for the carsales’ leaders, each inquiry for acquisition was a takeover bid, something they did not want. The approach from PBL and the end result was different as it was about merging the complimentary assets for both sides to get a win-win (one plus one equals three…or ten as the saying goes). carsales acquired the Trader online assets in the deal in return for 41% of the business giving it the number 2 online auto player as well as number 1 online assets in bikes, boats, trucks, machinery, etc. adding an unparalleled depth to the business.

Mediamotive (2009): The move by carsales to create its own direct corporate sales presence was pivotal in the growth of the business around this time. By taking control of the display sales and recruiting seasoned experts, carsales was able to take its product directly to the buyers using analytical data to ensure a premium marketplace. The Mediamotive business has been a show point for carsales to all automotive classified marketplaces around the world such has been its effectiveness in delivering in a results driven environment.

carsales May 2009:

All Car Search (2009): This may not seen significant to some but by including all cars in the one user search was a great success for carsales. Once again they were ahead of curve in understanding that “all car buyers are new car buyers, it’s just some of them are used” (credit to Greg Roebuck for that quote). For the first time a user could search dealer used, private used, new cars in stock and new cars available in the one search meaning consumers who thought they couldn’t afford a new car, were presented with new cars directly comparable to used cars. There was a fear by some that leads on dealer cars would go down if a consumer could directly compare dealer and private seller cars in the one search given dealer cars are usually a little more expensive (to cover warranties, overheads, etc). Well the opposite was true, interest on dealer cars (new & used) increased and a whole new consumer experience was the result, another win-win-win.

Finally
Running an online business like carsales doesn’t just happen, it takes hundreds if not thousands of constant decision making moments (big and small) to ensure it first of all gets ahead of the curve and then stay there.