Belief Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

2 years, 10 reflections….what I’ve learnt from striking out on my own

By | Business, Leadership, Results

The Light Head. Silhouette of young woman on sky background with sun in her head.

This month I reached the 2-year milestone of running my own business. The day came and went with a team lunch, congratulatory messages and thoughts of wow that went fast. Other than that, it was a normal day and business as usual.

I was made to reflect on this achievement this week when I interviewed an executive who is at a crossroad.  He is deciding between pursuing a leadership career path to CEO or to continue as a sought after expert in the management consulting space.  I made a suggestion of a third choice “you could build your own business empire” and he laughed and said “I respect people who put their own homes on the line to build a business – but that’s not for me!” It hit me in that moment; I was included in that reference. I made that decision 2 years ago to back myself with a vision of creating something great. That optimism in my DNA kicked in and I never considered that it wouldn’t be a success or the depth of risk, if it went pear-shaped. This is not egotistical. It’s encompassed belief, capitalising on opportunities and a desire to make a difference.

Before you jump and put it “all on the line”, here’s 10 things I’ve learnt from taking the leap 2 years ago:

1. It’s up to you – I find being in control and 100% accountable for direction and results thrilling and motivating, but understand that this sort of risk and accountability might scare the bejesus out of you. There is no regular monthly pay, or leave provisions, if you like being the master of your destiny; you can put a tick here.

2. Do what you love – waking up excited about what the day may hold, who I’ll met and be inspired by is a rare commodity for the majority of the population (I know through many interviews!).  You want to be sure that you are dedicating your energy to something you know you are passionate about. You can’t fake a love for what you do.

3. Conservative growth – I read an article in the first month of being on my own that said entrepreneurs should not hire any staff in the first 12 months – only when you are desperate for more hands. I was tempted many times – but only hired my first team member 6 months ago.  The benefit was getting my hands dirty in every aspect of the business, defining the business strategy, knowing the pipeline was full and having clarity about who I wanted to work with day in and day out.

4. Vision – I didn’t take the plunge of starting my own business for a long time because I could not get crystal clear on the vision of what I wanted the business to look like. Let a vision evolve, just start doing because being in action allows the cream to come to the top. Sometimes it’s okay to not know all the details (take note control freaks!).

5. Culture – in my experience, culture drives everything in a business. The type of people who work with you, the type of clients you attract, the business decisions you make and the behaviours you demonstrate.  Know your own values – do a personality profile and don’t try and be something you’re not.

6. Clients – without them, I don’t have a business.  I make developing my connections and relationships a priority. I know at the core, these relationships are everything.  If you don’t have the discipline to “walk the walk” as well as converse with people, building a business is going to be incredibly difficult. In 2 years, it gives me a buzz to be working with some exciting, innovative and generous business people who are like-minded in the quest for finding and keeping executive talent.

7. External support – I was able to identify fairly early on that I wasn’t able to do everything on my own.  Outsourcing, asking for help and paying for expertise has been a great investment.  I have learnt many business lessons from listening to others – ongoing learning is an essential success ingredient.

8. Brand – you don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do need to stand out from the crowd. I met a brand expert recently who told me that your brand could only be world-class in one of three areas – excellence, reliability or innovation. Having this focus means your brand brings something others don’t and then you have to leverage that. The past 2 years I have consistently been told our brand is authentic, relationship focused and progressive.

9. Be healthy! When you run your own business, there is no calling in sick and asking someone else to cover for you. Being top of your game and staying healthy across all aspects of life – physically, mentally, emotionally is critical to staying optimistic in the tough moments!

10. Reward & enjoyment – no point waiting for a rainy day to enjoy the business success – whether that’s an indulgent purchase, time out or just doing the things you love most.  A very clever friend of mine said “pleasure is an absolute necessity for long-term success and it is essential to do things that make you feel delighted, delicious or just plain good.” I’m slowly learning to embrace this!

Since leaving my corporate role 2 years ago, I have consistently been told “you’ll build an empire again”, “it’s who you are”, “it’s in your blood”. I wasn’t so sure, but I can say it’s been a ride and the best is yet to come. I feel like I’m only half way up the mountain and I’m keen to see the view from the top.


5 tips to pitch to clients fearlessly

By | Communication, Performance

This is a guest post written by Dr Gemma Munro, an Adelaide-based life coach and facilitator and the Director of Inkling Coaching. Gemma has a PhD in performance psychology and extensive experience working with senior-level leaders to maximise their performance and enjoyment at work.

I know a number of women recruiters and, to a tee, I would describe them as capable, charming and confident. I also know that this confidence can crumble rather quickly in the face of the dreaded client pitch. I have experienced this firsthand, having spent a number of years in executive recruitment. The palms start sweating, the heart starts beating faster, and suddenly all our usual confidence and charm seems to sink into our stockings.

Over the years, I developed a number of techniques to start enjoying client pitches – and what do you know, my success rate improved phenomenally. I’m now a coach and facilitator, but client pitches are one of my favourite parts of the job. Here are my top five tips to shine in front of clients and make the most of every pitch opportunity:

1. Create a pitch that captures your clients’ attention

Most clients have one question going through their minds when listening to a pitch. That question is ‘what’s in it for me?’; in other words, how will this recruiter make my job easier?’. To pitch well you need to put yourself in your clients’ shoes – what problems are keeping them awake? Shape your pitch around what is going to make your clients sit up in their chairs and listen. Address their needs, never yours.

2. Engage in some armchair rehearsal

Did you know that the great Laurence Olivier used to walk on stage before almost every performance and announce to the empty auditorium, “You are about to see the best show you have seen in your entire lives. And I will be delivering it. You lucky people”. Being not quite as famous as Laurence Olivier, most of us will need to say something similar to ourselves quietly before we step into a pitch. An equally useful technique is to spend a few minutes each day before a meeting visualizing ourselves in the pitch meeting looking, sounding and feeling confident. Works a charm.

3. Do the wall stand

Just before you meet your client, stand up against a wall so your body is flat against it, then walk into the room maintaining this posture. It’s amazing how it calms your nerves and centres your body (and, as a bonus, standing this way makes anyone look assured and at ease).

4. Fall in love with your client

A quick disclaimer – this tip is metaphorical, not literal! But it’s amazing how well it works. Think back to how you communicated when you were falling in love. You maintained intense eye contact for long periods of time. You looked at your lover as if she or he was the most fascinating thing in the world. Do the same with your client – look them in the eyes, be genuinely interested in them. Most people are seeking one of two things; to feel valued or to feel important. Your client is exactly the same.

5. Reframe your pitch as a chance to help your client

One of the most useful things to remember is that your clients won’t be thinking about you much at all. Like most people, clients are wrapped up in their own world and are just looking for some help or hope – this is something you can give them. Take the emphasis off yourself, and place it on making a difference to your client.

As a motivated, accomplished recruiter, what you have to offer is of exceptional value. The trick is to know it, but then to remove the focus entirely off yourself and onto your client. And the other trick? Over time, give yourself permission to have fun in pitch meeting. Pitches always represent an opportunity to help your clients tremendously. What a privilege.

To the smart, savvy women out there

If you’re interested in building your confidence and skills as speakers, I am running my Speakeasy program on June 18-19 in Adelaide. Speakeasy is a two-day workshop for a small group of women who want to communicate and pitch more confidently, effectively and authentically. Designed and facilitated by Dr Gemma Munro, the program is specifically for women who are smart, self-motivated and positive in outlook, but who believe that they do not communicate their full potential when speaking to a group.


About Gemma Munro

Gemma is an accomplished public speaker herself. She is known as a highly skilled facilitator with an engaging, energetic and compassionate approach. She has presented her research nationally and internationally, and has won several prizes for her speaking. Gemma is also a long-time performer, having toured Europe, the United States and Asia as a classical and folk singer. She understands performance nerves, having experienced them first-hand, and she is deeply interested in helping others to get the fear out of the way and experience joy and success at work.

Visit www.inklingcoaching.com for testimonials from clients and participants who have worked with Gemma.

Beauty vs brains……does it have to be a competition?

By | Results, Success

The Adelaide Advertiser ran an article on Saturday titled “The Ugly Side of Being Beautiful”.  It revealed research stating that 47% of US Recruiters believe women can be penalised for ‘being too good looking’ and attractive women who attach a photo to their resume were less likely to secure an interview than their ‘plainer rivals’.  On the flip side, Chief Economist Darryl Gobbett said, “the aesthetically gifted will always reign supreme”. So is beauty a help or hindrance in getting ahead?

Just last week I spent a coaching session with a female recruiter who is both young and attractive – a combination that she perceives is proving a little tricky in securing more senior work.  The assumption is that she doesn’t know what she is talking about, doesn’t have as much as experience and couldn’t possibly do as good a job as the more ‘seasoned’ recruiters in the market.

A CEO (a man in his mid 60’s) told her that she would have a tough time ‘making it’ in the market. When she enquired why, he said being young and good looking would mean that a lot of people would automatically think she lacked substance! Really? Isn’t that a little old fashioned? Aren’t we past that day and age of outdated thinking? Perhaps not and truthfully people generally won’t admit to making these assumptions or give you the time to prove them otherwise.

I decided to play devils advocate.  How can you prove to me that you are capable of doing this type of recruitment I asked her? What confidence can you give me that you will do a good job and deliver results? After our 90-minute session, here is what we uncovered:

  1. Mind set & belief – you can’t buy into someone else’s incorrect perceptions of what you might or might not be capable of.  If you belief you can, then you can.  If you wavier, doubt or demonstrate insecurities, you will never convince a third party of your abilities.  Be clear on your knowledge, ability and results.
  2. Walk the talk – I had a consultant who worked for me many years ago who was beautiful, young and had a high-pitched voice.  She was convinced that clients didn’t take her seriously once they saw and heard her.  To combat this, she wanted her physical presentation to represent her ability (she was extremely capable and delivered top performance results).  Small things like tying her hair back, wearing glasses, dark coloured suits etc all helped her own confidence in walking the talk – portraying the image she felt was more representative of her abilities.  There is nothing wrong with a “fake it until you make it” approach which involves exuding confidence, remaining calm and delivering an educated response.
  3.  Tell them – having your elevator pitch ready is critical to answer “…and why should we use you?” What makes you different from the last Consultant? This pitch should describe your offering, differentiator, benefits and the results you deliver.  However, let’s face it, most Consultants’ say similar things, which is why you need to be able to communicate this with passion and conviction to then back it up with real examples.
  4. Show them – actions speak louder than words! Using visuals in a pitch is very convincing.  Get really specific – show an example of a campaign, search methods used, how many candidates you had, where you found the successful applicant, timeframes etc.  Any piece of data (think facts & figures) is going to help build your pitch and show the client you have done this before and the results speak for themselves.
  5. Risk-free – giving the client a “what have you got to lose” enticement is helpful in getting them over the line.  What can you offer that your competitors won’t? Is it a longer guarantee, testimonials from a similar campaign or client? Less financial commitment upfront or a timeframe deadline? Entice them to take a risk and give you the opportunity.

Regardless of industry, role or level of experience, we all have to prove our capabilities, demonstrate our experience and be able to articulate our offerings in a compelling and convincing way that brings long term opportunities and results – regardless of looks.

I don’t know about you, but with any service offering, I would much prefer to deal with someone who is enthusiastic, shows commitment, has the ability to do the job and will bend over backwards to deliver the results.  Of course, having beauty and a brain appears like the ultimate combination –but this is business, not speed dating!

Perhaps being genetically gifted gets you in the door, but brains may ultimately win you a place at the table?


Nicole is a Fellow of the RCSA and a current RCSA council member in South Australia. Nicole combines her recruitment, leadership and coaching expertise to work with other recruiters and organisations to achieve their own success through increased performance.  

How to get the X factor of presence

By | Confidence, Success

At the end of last term, it was my daughter’s turn to be the VIP for the week in her reception class.  This is a confidence building strategy which involves the girls being interviewed by the Principal at the front of the class being asked about her family, favorite things, hobbies etc. Parents are invited along, the session is completely documented and then a full wall display including photos and quotes from the VIP is put up in the classroom.  It is truly impressive.

There were two things that really stood out for me.  The first was the process, where everyone, (her teacher, classmates, Principal and us as parents) was asked to contribute by saying what they admire about Charlie.  It was amazing to hear the perceptive things girls at the age of five were contributing. Quite frankly, it floored me. I can only imagine what this does for their self-esteem and confidence. The second thing was what the Principal said about Charlie …… she has presence.  Of all the beautiful things she said, she mentioned ‘presence’ three or four times.  She said that every time she sees or interacts with her, she is struck by the mere presence that she commands in a room or situation.

It got me thinking about this intangible presence and how to get it.

I like to think of it as charisma, the x factor, that something you can’t quite put your finger on.  That feeling when someone who has presence walks into a room and you feel their energy. Put simply, it is that unknown factor or the unexplainable thing, which adds a certain value to that person where you are drawn to listen to what they have to say.

I believe having this presence goes a long way to making a successful Recruiter.  I have seen those who ‘have it’ and those who have had to develop it and the difference in their success can be significant.

When trying to define it with Consultants in the past we have discussed public speakers, sales people, celebrities and people in our own lives to help us get clear on what this presence is and how to develop it.  I think some people are just born with it – and maybe this is already Charlie (think of me when she’s about 15!) and others can develop it and fine-tune it to assist in business meetings, presentations and winning new work.  There is just something about it that makes us want to be around these people and hear what they have to offer.

After a brainstorming session with Consultants on presence and how to get it, a range of ideas came flooding forward and the five main themes included:

  1. Body language – stand tall, look confident, carry yourself in a way that attracts attention. One Consultant mentioned that image is still really important in making a great first impression.
  2. Communication – speak with conviction; be concise and sharp in delivery.  It is rare to be engaged by a waffler!
  3. Listening skills – ability to make everyone feel important and heard.  I’ll never forget my interaction with a particular speaker some years ago. After her talk I went to speak to her, and while I was talking to her, she kept looking right past me to see who was more important in the room that she could be talking to.
  4. Know what you want – be able to lead and control a conversation to stay on track and gain an outcome.  Being clear on your message and what you stand for.
  5. Demonstrate with stories and real examples – people with presence have the experience to back up the theory.  They can easily share a story or re-count examples to demonstrate their point, making it easy to connect with them.

People who have presence inspire, engage and more often than not, educate others in a way that stimulates our thinking and questions the status quo.  As a Recruiter, you need to stand out from the crowd just to be given an opportunity to deliver your presentation.  Presence can be a significant competitive advantage.

Who do you know that has presence and what advantage do you think this gives them?


The Fortunetellers wheel of fortune…..what does success mean to you?

By | Change, Results, Success

Last week I was flying to Brisbane to run a workshop with an up and coming HR Consultancy. To kick start the first session I opened with the topic of success and what it means to their business and the individuals within it.  Before getting into the nitty gritty of achieving top performance and putting action steps in place, I felt it was a pre-requisite to know what success means to those making the contribution.

I find through my coaching that success ultimately is very different for everyone and it can be quite a personal definition.  Mainstream success usually equates to financial wealth, asset generation, career climbing and social status. But is that your definition?  I like Christopher Morley’s “there is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way”.  That is, what you want it to be and what you’re striving for.

It has propelled me to reflect on my own journey as it has been 8 months since I decided to leave my executive role to start my own business (Quit while your ahead….10 tips for going out on top).  I know from the outside, it appeared like I had ‘everything’, but on the inside I wanted to contribute more in my own way and create something unique, that not only I could call my own, but live and breathe my offering that genuinely makes a difference to others.

Chris Savage’s blog post got me thinking last week (you can read it here) about success and living life authentically with no regrets.  He talks about ‘people on their deathbed living with no regrets’. I can honestly say I haven’t been that in touch my ‘spiritual’ side – always choosing to invest in my health, family, career and personal development as a priority.  However, I have to admit that a month before I actually made the decision to go it alone, I was at a corporate function – a fundraiser for the Julian Burton Burns Trust when I experienced something quite unusual.  There was a tarot card reader there and my team thought it would be fun to have our ‘futures told’.  I didn’t think twice – a bit of fun!

My cards read that I had an amazing opportunity, something that I had wanted to try for some time and that I should trust it.  This spinning wheel of opportunity was going to affect other areas of my life (family, finances etc) initially, but it would ultimately be successful.  Now, for you skeptics, yes this could have been referring to anything and been a “generic” reading, but does it matter? Sometimes we need a push and even if it comes from an unusual source, perhaps we should be more in tune with the messages the universe sends us! Of course I didn’t make my decision based on a fortuneteller, but it certainly gave me some added inspiration to propel me into action.

I realised I was in my comfort zone and it was a nice place to be (Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?) but someone once said to me “sometimes being safe just means we live in the shadows of how great we can actually be”.  That being said, success to me means driving forward for my own purpose, living authentically with the intention of positively contributing to others.

It took some time, but I feel immense satisfaction that I took the plunge and like Chris Savage says, I have no regrets!  Sometimes we spend so much time focused on building the success of what others want or the image of what others think success is, that we forget about actually doing and achieving those the things that are important to us and actually make us happy.

Set your own agenda, define your own success and then enjoy the journey of making it happen!

Taking the ‘sales’ out of salesperson…10 ways to increase performance

By | Performance, Results, Sales

“I’m not a sales person” “I don’t like cold calling” “I can’t sell” “sales is not a strength of mine”…are all typical to hear around the Entrée Recruitment office. My Consultants don’t see themselves as sales people, yet we have just achieved our most successful financial year in our 10-year history.  They think sales is a dirty word associated with the image of a used car salesman – someone who is annoying, not particularly helpful and is just trying to make a quick buck! I roll my eyes and mostly just laugh because my team can think they aren’t sales people, but they are and they do it without reallising they are doing it.  So how does a team of non-sales people achieve such high sales results?

Observing the behaviours of these Consultants, I have consistently found the following:

  1. Action – the Consultants making the most sales are always taking action. They are never wondering what to do next, who to call or procrastinating the day away. They just do it. They get on the phone; they get face to face and make decisions quickly.
  2. Feedback – I’ve got a Consultant who has worked in the industry longer than me and she is still consistently wanting to know how she is going, what could she do differently and is welcoming of joint visits and interview observations.  The benefits to her far outweigh the possibility of her feeling uncomfortable. She tells me it is a small price to pay to gain one extra piece of advice that may increase her sales and bring her more success in the long term.
  3. Referrals – my team use an effective face-to-face technique that involves asking existing clients to recommend other people that they think we would enjoy working with. It takes courage to ask and discipline to follow up. Much easier than making a cold call!
  4. Relationships – building longstanding relationships results in repeat purchase clients.  When you have a huge number of clients and are always seeking new ones, you can often forget about existing ones.  Our strategy is fewer clients – stronger relationships.
  5. Curiosity in people – one of my team members says “I hate the sales stuff…but I do like meeting new people and finding out what they do”.  She has a natural desire to ask questions and learn about businesses and people, so the end result is that she is building relationships and selling without realising that she is even doing it!
  6. Listening skills – the best ‘sales people’ at Entrée are the best listeners. They usually have a ratio of 80/20 of listening and talking. They understand they get the best information when they actually shut up. The worst performing Consultants I’ve had over the years like talking mostly about themselves and clients don’t buy!
  7. Reasons to call – you will rarely hear a top performer at Entrée saying “I’m just calling to touch base”.  No client has time for this, we certainly don’t! What is the purpose of the call? Get to the point as quickly as you can as not to annoy the other person with irrelevant chitchat.
  8. Belief & confidence– top sales people have a natural self-confidence. They don’t have huge egos and can articulate their value proposition without being overly pushy.
  9. Organisation – people who are naturally good at sales always know what they need to do, write it down and work from 1 daily to do list. These tasks are very specific and the hardest things are done first as not to distract them from their day. For example, one of my consultants the other day seemed a bit off her game. By 11am, she was noticeably irritable and when I checked in, she hadn’t ticked anything of her list and she was feeling unproductive.  It turned out that she had to make a difficult call to a client and was putting it off.   As soon as she had made the call, she felt clear and didn’t have this hanging over her head, clouding the rest of her day.
  10. Deliver quality – you can’t be a top sales person without delivering what you promise at the pitch.  High performing Consultants at Entrée consistently deliver what they say they will. If they say they will call back in 24 hours, they do. If they say they will be back in 3 weeks with a shortlist, they are.  Some sales people can talk the talk, but fall down in the actual promise of walking the walk.

In any business, being able to sell is an essential skill to achieving long-term financial success. Being able to communicate your value effectively for people to buy your product or service is critical.  In the early days of my career, it was a long hard road and  some days seemed impossible.  The turnaround for me was being persistent, consistent and determined.  I made my sales activity an every day task that I incorporated in my daily agenda rather than it being a one off event when business was quiet.

At the end of the day, successful sales is about building rapport initially and then establishing long term relationships with people.  Let’s not complicate this…. if people like you; they will spend money with you. Ask great questions, listen, deliver and your sales will sky rocket.

On reflection, maybe I should be happy in the fact that my team don’t think of themselves as ‘sales people’ – with this mindset they are focused on what really works – building relationships, delivering a quality service and being passionate about what they do. The outcome…increased sales!

“Show me the money”……9 tips to profitable growth

By | Profit, Results

A few weeks ago in my blog Belief Critical to Business Success, I mentioned a business owner had asked for my advice on growing a business.  I met her on Friday and I was impressed. She has built a solid business foundation, identified a niche market, boasts a modern website, uses the latest technology and demonstrates a strong belief in what she does.  So what’s missing? I entered the conversation with no preconceived idea about what I was going to say or what magic advice I may have for her , but as we spoke, I found there were 2 key things she wanted to know – how to grow the business and deliver more profit?

I take it for granted that if you’re in business, you’re making a great income. I can’t quite believe the number of businesses that are running because the owner likes what they do, but they aren’t making any money. I can think of 5 women in business who I have met only over the past few months who without telling me exact numbers or figures, it is obvious that they aren’t making the money they would like to.

How does this happen? They have great ideas, they are passionate, they have great quality products/services – but they aren’t making the dream income that they thought owning their own business would bring. Or in some cases, their expectations are too low. One commented “I’ve only been in business 5 years so I know it takes time and I’ll get there”. Rubbish.  It isn’t the longer you are in business that the money and profits will magically appear just because your doors are open.

By talking to these women individually, it frustrates me that their great ideas and hard work are not being rewarded financially. How can they become more profitable and take their businesses to the next level of performance?

  1. Ask for the business – in my post why is confidence still an issue for women at work?  I express my frustration with women who self-doubt their ability in sales, meetings or negotiations. Being profitable means asking for the business and not just having a coffee, touching base or having a chat.  At the end of every meeting, be clear about asking for the order right now or in the future. Is there any reason Mr Client you wouldn’t give me your next opportunity? Confidence in asking for the business screams “expert” and belief in what you do.
  2. Take a risk – doing the same thing the same way is going to deliver the same result, so if your financial results aren’t what you want them to be, it means changing tact or trying something different.  This will inevatibly feel uncomfortable which is good! This means you are learning something new.  For me, at Entrée Recruitment  this has been promoting the temp and contract side of our business when I personally had a stronger tendency towards permanent recruitment. This change in focus was a huge driver in delivering greater profits.
  3. Build relationships – I often get asked how I win new clients and how I’ve cracked the corporate market? One step at a time, one client at a time. Having one solid relationship with a CEO is more beneficial that having five relationships with non-decision-makers.  Once you have an established relationship with someone who loves your service – duplication becomes easy through testimonials, referrals and targeting like-minded organisations and individuals (you do have to ask again remember)!
  4. Build a brand & profile – marketing in this day and age has never been easier with social media.  Your business needs to be in the press (ads & editorial), on the web, talked about through word of mouth and have a clear strategy on how you want to be perceived in the market.  Whenever I am going out to see a new business, I always Google them, look at their website and try and find out who the key people are.  What happens when you Google your name and your business? Be clear in your positioning and then tell the world!
  5. Discipline – making money in business means taking the right action every day and committing to your high pay-off activities. Highly profitable business owners don’t procrastinate and fill their day looking busy – they are disciplined to do the important things that will generate the biggest results. For me at Entrée Recruitment this is coaching my team and business development.  Ask yourself what are the top 5 activities that aren’t urgent and without them, your business will not grow – then do them consistently.
  6. Hire right & retain the best – the biggest cost in most businesses is staff.  Getting this wrong is going to cost you significantly in real dollars, leadership time, re-training, reputation, culture and delivery.  Getting it right is finding that sweet spot in business – leadership will feel ‘natural’, you stress levels float away and this empowerment brings you work/life balance, confidence and profit.
  7. Invest in your leadership skills – this was one of the biggest turning points in my “growth” journey at Entrée Recruitment.  I constantly invest in books, conferences, mentors and a business coach. Learning from others and being coached to greater individual performance has a direct impact on the bottom line.
  8. Be tight on costs – one of the PA’s at work jokes “here comes Nicole with her calculator!” as I approach my meetings.  As a rule of thumb, I focus on the top line as generating revenue is always going to result in greater profit, but I keep a very close eye on costs, don’t spend unnecessarily and always negotiate with suppliers.
  9. Love what you do – it’s virtually impossible to have financial success without a passion for your business. How can you convince people to spend money with you if you don’t ooze excitement for what you do? I don’t mean over the top bubbly gushing – I mean you are educating your clients every chance you get and presenting the value you can bring to their business.

In my first year of Entrée Recruitment, we generated $3 million in revenue with very low overheads and start-up costs.  This wasn’t by accident, it wasn’t luck and it wasn’t through an established client base. We simply did it better through discipline, relationships, top talent and through making mistakes.

Since I have been talking to these business owners – one has taken a risk and moved out of a home office leasing her first corporate space, one has started building on her relationships by asking a current CEO client for a referral and another has invested in her own development by engaging a business coach.  Financial results don’t just happen by being in business and doing the same stuff – moving forward always involves taking different action.

Become profitable, be disciplined and take action.

Belief Critical to Business Success

By | Results, Success

This week I had a new business owner track me down on Linkedin and ask if they could buy me a coffee to pick my brain about how I’ve “grown the business so successfully”. Apart from the fact that I’ve recently given up coffee (my adrenal glands are running over-time!) – I have agreed, because I know in my own experience learning from others can sometimes be the most inspiring way to take an idea or business to the next level.

This happened for me late 2001 when I was working at another recruitment firm where things were going really well from the outside.  I had a great team, a group of repeat-purchase clients and revenue targets were being overachieved.  However, on the inside, it was a different story.  We had a new CEO, who was less than inspiring and had zero recruitment experience, the culture was changing significantly, staff were being treated like second class citizens and I was becoming disengaged.

I was reading Richard Branson’s “Loosing my Virginity” autobiography at the time and I was inspired by his road to success and his theories about growing business. His beliefs included small is beautiful, look after staff first, clients second and shareholder interests last.  He stressed that your key asset is your people and you must give them every opportunity to work at their best.  As I looked around I could see that the opposite was happening in this national recruitment firm – it was very much about the share price, winning volume tenders, cutting costs and reaching the number one position in the market.

Coincidently, I was headhunted at the same time by well known Adelaide businessman, Mark Hender to join his consulting firm.  Although highly prestigious and reputable in the executive space, I was reluctant to move into a sole consulting role again since I was thriving in leading a team of people.  That is when he offered me the opportunity to set up a new business.  A very exciting proposition that I didn’t refuse.

There I was, all of 23 being offered the chance to develop something from inception, put in place everything I had learnt and make the people the focus instead of just the profits.

The recipe for success was clear.  I had something to believe in – a new business where people and quality were going to be the differentiator, I had someone who believed in me and was prepared to take the risk with me and finally I had the confidence and belief in myself to get it off the ground.

The results were generating revenues of $3 million in our first year of business and creating a new recruitment system where clients paid for part of our service upfront and where candidates were king – treated with honesty and respect and very much just as important as the paying client.

I celebrate my 10th year at Entrée Recruitment  this year and as I reflect on what I will say to this business owner over coffee next week – it is very clear that belief is a critical ingredient to business success. You need to believe in yourself, you need others who believe in you and finally you need a business idea that you believe in.

Why is confidence still an issue for women at work?

By | Confidence, Results, Retention

Over the years I would have mentored and coached more than 100 women formally and informally in business. It still puzzles mehow many successful women still suffer from both a lack of confidence and self-belief at work.  Some of these women openly admit this is what is holding them back, while others suffer in silence and it is proven through their behaviour of self- doubting and not believing they can achieve or are worthy of success.  When they achieve a record result or win a new client, it is nearly brushed aside as no big deal or anyone could have done that.

It has been one of my biggest frustrations leading a team of all women.  These women are amazing. They inspire me on a daily basis with what they achieve in the corporate world, at home and outside of work. To be surrounded by such talent and enthusiasm makes it easy to come to work every day.

So how is it that on nearly a weekly basis, a coaching session reverts back ultimately to a lack of self-confidence around a sales pitch, negotiation, making a call to a new contact or giving professional advice? Why do they often doubt their expertise around what they know and have successfully practiced for years and years?

As a Leader, it presents a daily and immediate challenge to coach on. I find myself continually coming up with new techniques and tactics to reinforce what I already think and believe about these women, expecting that they start believing it themselves. These include:

  • Facts – giving them facts and figures about their performance that can’t be argued. For example, you have won 8 new clients this month, you have achieve $30K in revenue for the business, you won 80% of the proposals you submitted and you have a 99% retention rate on all placements you have made. Hard to argue with real data!
  • Give them something to believe in – I have found that women in particular are more effective when they are working towards a greater purpose, to achieve an ultimate goal, other than just making money.  They need to believe in something greater than their individual performance to see they are making a difference in business, themselves and ultimately in the lives of others.
  • Reward and recognition – a verbal recognition at a meeting, a group email praising their achievements or a tangible reward such as a piece of jewellery, a dinner with their partner or clothing seems to generate a greater response than an increase in salary or a  large commission cheque (although that works too!).
  • Expect confidence – treating team members as confident professional and expecting they can do the things they may hesitate to take on. You get what you expect.
  • Being uncomfortable – sometimes I have had the best success asking them to do something that they really don’t want to it and it pushes them way outside their comfort zone.  So much so, they learn the most and their confidence sky rockets.
  • Fake it until you make it – sometimes when you don’t feel 100% confident in a situation, I encourage my team to “fake it until you make it”.  This is not about lying your way through a situation, it’s about exuding confidence, remaining calm and delivering a rational response. I remember being 21 conducting a meeting with a CFO in large blue-chip organisation and being drilled about the current market conditions and salaries.  Instead of being intimidated and bumbling through answers, I was clear and confident and if I wasn’t 100% sure, I said I would find out and get back to him. It won me this client until this day purely because of my confidence.
  • Role models and inspiration – I encourage my team to read books, seek out mentors outside of our business and to learn from others’ success.  The best mentors can be those that have achieved the results you aspire to and follow their recipe for success rather than reinventing the wheel.   Surround yourself with these people and learn as much as you.

Can self-confidence be learnt or re-built? Can we coach to overcome it? In my experience the best we can do is nurture the talent that we have, believe in people and hope to inspire them to things they didn’t even think they were capable of.