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I love a success story. As you may remember I met Scott in one of the earlier episodes of Channel Ten’s Shark Tank.  We have come such a long way in such a few months. Today, a Qantas plane packed full of the fabulous #HEGS left Australia bound for the US. This is such a moment for Scott Boocock and all his team – a great story of Aussie Innovation, Manufacturing and Export.

HEGS is your perfect example of homegrown excellence. When Scott came to the #Sharks he had just turned his business methodology into a more sustainable one, securing an Australian manufacturer after originally opting for an overseas player. Keeping the Australian economy strong…and who would have thought pegs would have been such a lucrative market!

It is also demonstrates that Shark Tank Australia has had such an impact on these businesses. (Even those that don’t get invested in – also get amazing exposure and I have heard great stories of what that exposure has meant.)

HEGS  was presented at an international homewares show in Chicago about six weeks ago just after the program aired. Having a connection with such a well respected show in the US certainly interested local buyers. HEGS was named as one of the top 10 products at the exhibition as a result.

This is the day that led to today’s very special Qantas flight carrying this precious cargo over to the US. The US distributor didn’t want to have to wait the 45...

There are still so many ideas, businesses and concepts that are coming before us. Each time those doors open I wonder – “What will I learn about this time?” With every pitch we learn not just about a different industry or market – we also learn more about people and what drives them. We get to witness passion and persistence in action – and tonight’s episode was no exception. Here are my notes from when I was on set.

Hipsta – Nice design, fun logo – committed and passionate people. This is a little device that you can  use to attach a water bottle to anything. It looked good – could work well in the promotional goods  space. However it could also be a single product company. This makes a great in expensive promotional product. I come back to the question do these people want to run an enterprise or do they want to be inventors.

Flexsillid  – There are people who dream and people who do – this man so believes in his product ‘lids for catering trays’ that are water tight and non stick that he has put $700k into the project. Albert was a larger than life character who is so focused  – but sometimes...

I find myself in a fortunate position of regularly being able to speak to audiences about my passions and sense of purpose. And as I shared today with the Chartered Accountants Business Forum, that a considerable part of why I do what I do is about promoting people’s well being at work. I explained about my commitment to great work places and that recognition was a key part of that…

For those who did attend the session today I did give you my word that I would publish the 10 steps to building a great recognition program.. (because we did not have time to go through them in detail)

  1. Build a brilliant business case.
  2. Get yourself at least one executive sponsor.
  3. Involve employees from the outset.
  4. Identify the behaviours that you want to drive.
  5. Keep it super simple.
  6. Create a universal foundation.
  7. Develop a communications strategy.
  8. Measure and report.
  9. Give it time.
  10. 1Have fun!

Want more? Download here.

Also as mentioned we have built a wonderful social, mobile and peer to peer platform – take the free trial and let me know what you think…


Redii is a simple, intuitive employee recognition platform that you can set up in minutes.

Sign up for your free trial at or follow us: @getredii

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How many positive experiences did you have at work today?

I have spent the last few days at the Spire HR Summit in Singapore, learning from renowned HR experts about the challenges and issues, but more importantly the opportunities in today’s market of “people”. My plenary session was on Day 1 and I chose to challenge the audience to this very question: “So You Want To Be An Employer Of Choice?”

RedBalloon was not always a great place to work – as I shared with the audience. It was challenging and confronting as we went on our growth journey. There was much we learned along the way… and ultimately we got more right than wrong and ended up listed as a BRW’s Best Places to Work five times.

I am so happy to share what we learned and how we did it… and as I mentioned to the 2000 people in the audience (the largest HR event in Asia) I talked about my passion for the work we do at REDii  (which can revolutionize the way people feel about their work). Of all the things that leaders worry about – it is people that cause the most pain.

I challenged the audience to ‘make sure people know what they are there to do – that they are noticed and that they go home feeling like a winner.’


Here is an international success story… which is humbling – and has left all RedBallooners quite ‘Blu’. I post this here to answer a question I had today in my session at EY. What does WorldBlu or a democratic business look like?

Way back in 2001 when RedBalloon was founded, I had so many hopes and dreams for what the business could be. I wanted to change gifting in Australia forever and to encourage ‘good times’ over more ‘stuff’. After working for so many serious corporations, above all else I was intentional about creating a workplace where people genuinely wanted to wake up and come to work in the morning.

And well, we must have got more right then wrong because RedBalloon has been a BRW Best Place to Work five times in a row and I am proud to share that under the guidance of CEO Nick Baker we’ve been officially named one of the world’s most democratic workplaces. Making the WorldBlu List of Most Freedom-Centred Workplaces has once again proven our deep commitment to RedBalloon’s most important ‘competitive weapon’ – our people!

There are 10 principles that are looked at: purpose, transparency, listening, fairness, accountability, individual + collective, choice, integrity, decentralization and reflection.

It’s an honour to be included on this list alongside other international businesses we have admired for years. Businesses like ZapposDreamhost where employees elect their CEO; 

Life is too short to miss out on new experiences; routine can be wonderful but new things stimulate our creativity, conversation and the richness of life. 

What have you got on your ‘one day some day maybe’ list?… What is it that you have always wanted to do but have delayed because it is too far away, too expensive or you just don’t have the time. We are all given 24 hours in a day… how we choose to use them is the only difference.

Experiencing African animals was a ‘one day dream’ – not urgent – but it would be really amazing to experience. I thought to do so would mean flying to Africa and taking a photography safari.

Animals teach us about who we are… when we observe them we can see the responsibility we have to look after the planet, their eco-system – and the diversity of all things created.

I’ve always, always, always wanted to do a safari, perched on the back of a 4wD taking photos with a zoom lens but the truth is you wouldn’t be able to get as close and personal as you think you would. So when I was invited to be upfront, close and personal with the wilds of Africa without needing my passport, I jumped at the opportunity….

Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra was born when in 1998, a local family started building a large zoo...

I often look at people and think – “Wow how did they get to do what they do?” “What choices did they make?” “What luck came along the way?” Fundamentally I think we are all interested in what and how other people live their lives. I read with interest a Business Insider list of what “21 highly successful people were doing at age 25.” Trump had just taken the reins of his father’s company, Hilary Clinton had just graduated Yale law school, Huffington was a reporter for the BBC & Mark Cuban was a bartender…..

I’m in two minds as to whether I would want a crystal ball to be able to see the future – would I want to know? Or is part of the excitement of life discovering new things and taking opportunities when they arise? I guess the real question is did they have a plan? Did they have a vision for their life?

At 25 I was working for Apple. I saw my future as a businessperson – climbing the corporate ladder. The indicators that I might end up running my own show did not occur to me until I was in my early thirties. In my book Live What You Love I take about 70,000 words to tell my younger self all the things I wish...

I’m on the road a lot. In fact, as I write this, I’m about 2,500kms away from home sharing what I have learned for the Northern Territory October Business Month. And, as anyone who has to travel for work knows, you often feel isolated and not part of the team.

I’ve learnt how to adapt to being on the move and can now work from anywhere, but one of the things that comes to mind constantly is how technology has the power to connect as well as disconnect us. I can be in my hotel room and have as many as six conversations happening at once (via email, Slack or any social media channel), but I could just as well be sitting in an office surrounded by a hundred other employees and be so caught up in my inbox that I don’t have the time to say hello to the colleague next to me. My daughter is in Istanbul and I can pick up the phone and call her (although I don’t know if she’ll appreciate that right now, as I don’t know what the time difference is) but we WhatsApp every hour – sending pics and messages, including each other in what is going on. Is it because she is on...

I recently spoke to The Start Society in it’s space for tech startups in Sydney, and one of the questions I was thrown was: “When you are looking to hire people in your business, how do you do it effectively?”

My answer was very straightforward: “I hire adults. I hire people who share my values, my passion — and most importantly are aligned to my purpose — but I don’t want people just like me.” I need to know who they are… beyond their “capability.” I ask:

  • What do you believe in?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How do you want to make the world a better place?
  • What are your aspirations?

Unfortunately, some leaders have a tendency (some call it a complex) to hire people who are “like them.” Why? They want to work with people that share the same tenacity, that shared sense of purpose, passion and persistence in everything they do. Sometimes this comes from a genuine place of protection — being burnt by employees who do not share the strong work ethic you have can be very disheartening, and when it is your “baby” they are not as obsessed about as you are, it is understandable to take offence to this — but it is not the foundation to a successful recruitment strategy.

It can be quite confronting when you realise that you (as the leader) are not...

I sound like I am try to sell a used car… Actually I’m not trying to sell anything… if there is one thing I have learned it is people need to choose to buy  – and in this case need to choose to ‘play’.

As I have been touring around for Small Business Victoria and at other recent events, when I encourage people to join us in the tank for the next series of Shark Tank… many times I would hear the response… “but what if I make a ‘dill’ of myself… ?”

The point is you will not make a fool of yourself if you have done a little work… and there are plenty of blog posts we the Sharks have written to let people know what we are looking for.

As I have said many times “If it is easy everyone would do it.” But if you have an idea, a start up, or a business that would greatly benefit from national exposure, and investors who have done it before, and know how to grow businesses… Then why would you not give it a ‘crack’? Nothing ventured, nothing gained… as they say.

And just pointing out that we the Sharks are so not scary – but they could hardly call the program “bunny rabbit tank’ – just does not have the same ring to it…

Anyway I had a little more time to to explain the benefits on Studio 10…. take a look below – I feel very privileged to...

People often ask “Did you ever imagine RedBalloon would become what it is today?”  In all truthfulness, not really…. but I do remember that it is a long time since RedBalloon was a startup. Back in 2001 there was no such thing as social media; digital photography was rare; no smart phones; the tech industry looked vastly different than it does now… there was no TechCrunch (we had computer daily which would fax it’s daily roundup – but I digress)…

Back in 2007 was the moment that I realised that things were getting a little out of hand… I wrote this blog “Growing Pains“. I am not that specific about what exactly was going on… just to say that I learned a deep and ever lasting leadership lesson. I had to bring people with me on the journey… I was beginning to focus on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’ or ‘how’. What I mean by that is when I inspire people with a deep sense of purpose i.e. ‘why we do what we do everyday – how we are making the world a better place,’ then the ‘how’ we do business (our values) and the ‘what’ e.g. product, customer experience, tech development etc. all fall into place.

But what I did have (that has not changed) is a clear vision (I wanted to change gifting in Australia forever – which we have probably done) – but I had to keep talking about it. I knew that how...

I get mine from the local shop…

It’s fast and a few minutes walk from home… this is a far cry from what Nick Sherry predicted in 2011 that book stores would no longer exist in Australia by 2016. From where I sit as an author and reader, they appear to be thriving… in fact we are now well into 2015 and about to be celebrating another National Bookshop Day for very good reason. Maybe it is a case that all things ‘old’ are new again. I for one love flipping pages and finding wisdom.

In fact there are more than 900 dedicated bookshops in Australia that bring in $1.1 billion a year. and this weekend there is a festival to celebrate just that.

National Bookshop Day is this Saturday, the 8th August, and I thought it was a perfect time to reflect on the importance of a) physical books and b) supporting our local booksellers. That is the love for books amidst the relentless amounts of information available to us.

Both Brays Books and Hill of Content are my local booksellers they are institutions of our village – a meeting place for like minded people – curious about what they can discover in books.

There is something special about walking into a local bookstore. My memory is filled with images of rows and rows of wonderful smelling books, going rather high up the walls – some even with the elaborate touch of a sliding...


A bit of give – and you will also get..

I’m a big advocate of ‘win win’. However you might wonder how on earth walking during the month of September, or ‘Steptember’ as we call it, delivers so much more than you getting healthy and raising money for a great cause… what about this: it could in fact build the connectedness of teams at work.

I have been sharing with business leaders in recent speaking engagements how I (and others) see workplaces shifting and evolving. For some it will feel more like a revolution than an evolution:

What is needed in this shift, is connectedness; a critical component needed for any organisation to succeed, and for it to keep its employees engaged, and feel rewarded, despite the physical distance between them.

With connectedness comes an inextricable link to company values. You must bring your people on your journey with you, and allow them to truly share the values you stand for. Furthermore, you want your employees to hold...

 When ANZ invited me to hear The Hon. Julia Gillard, tennis great Martina Navratilova and former Chief of Army, General David Morrison speak I was all ears. Putting such a panel together means that they had something ‘big’ to share in the  ANZ Women’s Report.

Primarily ANZ is asking the question; “Are our systems, and processes designed to disadvantage half of our population?” Could they start a movement to redesign systems to help women succeed?

I have written about this before arguing that we need a balanced voice in all aspects of our community.

During the launch, we heard from former Prime Minister, The Hon. Julia Gillard, tennis great Martina Navratilova and former Chief of Army, General David Morrison. They all shared their thoughts and experiences on the important role that women play in all areas of society, and how together we can re-shape the future for generations of women to come.

One of the more powerful moments of the launch revealed this collaboration with Joyce Phillips and Jane Campion:

The most sobering moment for me, was when the beautiful 8 year old Japanese girl Mahiro Takaho, who has a Karate Black Belt, shouts “Enough!!” – what a strong and fierce message; a reminder of the need to act now for change – something that ANZ is working so...

I heard Megan Quinn share her entrepreneurial journey at a City of Melbourne business lunch recently (raising money for SecondBite). The audience was deeply engaged with her story and felt really comfortable to ask questions.

The first question came from a woman who said:
“I have recovered from breast cancer and I find myself risk adverse – how do I find the courage to do what I really want to do?”

Megan firstly thanked the woman for the courage it took to ask the question. (Maybe that was her first step to courage.) Then Megan shared:
“Please don’t look at me, or any other leader and think we don’t have problems too. That we have everything sorted out. Any of us at any time could be having health issues, financial problems, family crisis’ etc… our lives are not perfect. And comparing yourself to us when the full story is not available is not really constructive… what might be constructive is knowing that we do not have the answers to everything – but we still took the first step on our journey, our calling, our destiny… we followed our passion and we did give it a crack.”

Emma Isaacs says something similar in this piece for B School… it is worth the 1 minute to have a look:

No one likes getting yelled at, but there might be a reason. What appears to be anger may in fact be frustration – on both sides.

The phone rang at 2.00pm on Friday afternoon and I note that it is Matt Barrie– this is only the second time he has ever called me personally, even though I have known him since 2011 as part of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program. Every time we see each other we always have a great catch up. I stepped away from the people I was having lunch with to take the call.

But Matt was in no mood for small talk. His team from SydStart had brought to his attention that I had been promoting on Twitter an article from Women’s Agenda, which highlighted the lack of diversity in the line up for their upcoming meet up. The article went further to list 20 potential female tech founders who could potentially speak.

Matt had reason to be upset. I had been one of the first speakers that they had approached (whilst my assistant sent two emails and left two phone messages – they never connected). In fact, he said that SydStart had approached more than four times as many female speakers as men, and two had agreed, but one pulled out the day before the schedule was released.

He lamented, “What are we to do if we simply cannot get women to speak?” He continued, “I’m not prepared to put a lesser quality...

I was recently asked back to Studio 10 and as part of the many and varied topics we covered was the “what do you do when told what to give as a gift” question. I know personally I struggle when my friends are getting married, and they say “we just want cash to go to our honeymoon.” I want to give them something that is memorable and special. Something that represents our relationship and how I know them… Okay so I want to be more considered than just ‘part of the gang.” And every time I do this, the couple delight in the surprise of the gift…and I always get a special thank you – which of course makes me feel great.

I’ve even found at Christmas that sometimes I get a note from a supplier saying “we would have given you a gift, but we donated it to this ‘cause’”. Now I am all for supporting causes… but if the gift was about building the relationship that the supplier has with me – perhaps I would have been able to select my own ‘cause’ for the charitable donation… then at least they would know a little more about what is important to me – and build the relationship.

One of the topics broached on Studio 10 was about  kids birthday presents, the parent ‘requesting’ what was an appropriate gift. And the concern is that it can also get expensive…

Some time ago,

Sometimes life presents us with rare gems, people who are put in our path, that with a few quite words speak so loudly to what you need to hear in that moment.

This week my great friends at Saxtons hosted a few of their speakers at an ‘open house’ for the event industry. And I had the chance to chat with Nadine Champion. I had not met or heard Nadine’s story before, but from the first moment I was spell bound by her deep conviction; her courage and gratitude.

I have since watched her recently published TEDx Sydney talk for which she received a standing ovation. Her story was deeply authentic…. and vulnerable. A woman able to sit comfortably with how she would make her self appear (as a world champion kick boxer) versus how she really felt on the inside….

It is not the ‘what happened’ in her story that makes it riveting, nor even the lessons that she shares so eloquently. It is who she is ‘being’, who she is for others – her contribution as a role model, teacher and guide. Her ability to show up, and deeply know that 10 seconds of courage is what it takes to get started on the toughest battle – and we all have them.

She says “It does not hurt any less if you close your eyes.” Quite frankly, facing fear and pain straight on with deep conviction will deliver the greatest outcome. I spend a considerable time in my...

I shared with business leaders this morning how I (and others) see workplaces shifting and evolving. For some it will feel more like a revolution than an evolution.

  • Teams will be brought together – who may never meet… working anywhere on the planet.
  • People will work concurrently for several and many employers.
  • People will want to work part time, and flexibly as we live longer and want to stay meaningfully employed.
  • Supervisors might not see or be present when team members do amazing work.

Yet what we know is that customers are demanding increasing transparency and authenticity from the organisations they choose to buy from.

So the challenge has become “how do I keep employees as brand advocates, connected to each other when physically they will be disconnected?”

As in most organisations, performance reviews are part and parcel of reflecting on the year that has been, along with looking forward into the next financial year. The challenge with performance reviews is that we tend to look at things in terms of past and future – they are definitely not enough to ensure that people feel connected.

How we got started at RedBalloon in connecting the team was working with the five pillars of well-being as set out by the New Economic Forum. I believed that if I look after my people’s well being, they will have the energy and capacity to look after our customers. (My presentation this morning was in part about how organisations participating in the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Steptember tick...

Small businesses are essential to economies around the globe; we the little guys – serve our local communities, we too can serve the world because we can access customers anywhere. I find myself in a fortunate position almost as a spokesperson on behalf of small business because of my role on TENs Shark Tank Australia.

In Australia small businesses (turning over less than $2million) represent 96% of all business and employ 63% – almost two thirds – of the working population, making us Australia’s largest employer. So, what’s going to challenge and affect our growth? I think there are three trends that business owners need to be aware of. How you respond to each is going to distinguish the good from the great.

1. The rise of millennial and iGen workforce

The people coming into employment are highly educated, highly mobile and highly connected – and they expect way more than a pay check in exchange for their ambition, knowledge and discretionary effort. Loyalty and job stability are not necessarily as high on their agenda as a positive work experience, exposure to stimulating challenges and the need to have something exciting to tell their friends and social networks about. They also need to believe in the leadership.

Trust and transparency are becoming essential for all employers.

The labour market has become more fluid; the 2014 report...