with thanks to

While endlessly fantasizing about The Next Big Thing in the wondrous world of consumerism can be inspiring, execution beats everything. Which is why an easy-to-apply trend like the rising importance of perks and benefits should be on your radar this month and beyond.

Consumer infatuation with perks and privileges isn’t new. For years, airlines, hotels, credit card companies and private banks have been cleverly rewarding their most valuable customers with surprises, status symbols and convenience.

But as we move towards a consumer society that’s based more on experiences, on status stories, on the ephemeral—and in which, for many, time is now the only true scarcity—expect perks and privileges to become an integral part of every B2C industry and sector.

We’ve dubbed this trend PERKONOMICS…

PERKONOMICS: A new breed of perks and privileges, added to brands’ regular offerings, is satisfying consumers’ ever-growing desire for novel forms of status and/or convenience, across all industries. The benefits for brands are equally promising: from escaping commoditization, to showing empathy in turbulent times. One to have firmly on your radar in 2009.

read on…

my entrepreneurial mother story!…

an extract from the entrepreneurial mother “free agent” chapter in the “Secrets of Inspiring Women Exposed”…

You say that your life resembles the Frank Sinatra song, ‘I did it my way’. What do you mean by that?
For the first 30 years of my life, I pretty much followed societal norms. After taking six months off work and returning from a cathartic adventure in Africa, I realised that things weren’t right, and that I had to do it my way. This realisation probably had something to do with the ‘ah ha’ moment I experienced in Africa, and the conclusion reached that I didn’t like where my life was heading and that I really wanted to do something about changing it upon my return. And change I did! Within a two-week period, I sold my apartment, resigned from a regular paying job, and had a pregnancy test confirmed. So all of a sudden, at the ripe old age of 36, I found myself unemployed, homeless and pregnant. Despite asking myself a lot of questions and going to hell and back a few times, I eventually got to a point where I knew I could do it, and I could do it my way.

To give a taste of what happened next, I opened myself up to opportunity and alternative ways of living and working – I was no longer going to follow the traditional path but rather find my own! I was able to secure my first solo consulting project (with a little morning sickness to add some colour) and arranged house-sitting gigs for most of my pregnancy while allowing my body to do its thing. All worked out swimmingly, and as for the future details, I continue to have fun working those out as I go!

Why did you start your own business and how did you choose what field to go into?
Wanting to do my own thing led me to my own business. At the outset, I was doing more of the same but on a much smaller, independent consulting scale. I was then approached by an ex-Proudfoot Consulting colleague about setting up a Melbourne office of the Sydney-based aCE talentNET (then aCE Resources). After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that it was a great opportunity, something I could do around my baby (being pregnant at the time) and a way of building an asset for the future… perfect!

As good fortune would have it, as my daughter has grown so has the business. I took over the entire aCE talentNET business in 2000 and it is now a lot bigger than me. It grows and thrives both nationally and internationally.

With your own business comes a need to be a smart money manager, how have you been able to do this?
A smart money manager indeed! It became evident that I needed to be one when I was not on a regular salary for the first time in my life (and doesn’t that make you focus on money matters?!). I had to seriously review my financial responsibilities for myself and my child, so cash flow (current and future) did become a key consideration. I read many books and articles, attended seminars, talked to targeted and talented people, and progressively built a knowledge bank, which enables me to now feel reasonably comfortable when making financial decisions. Examples of key financial decisions that I have subsequently been responsible for are the development and growth of aCE talentNET; the purchase of three properties (one has since been sold); the trading of shares; the growth and sale of another small business; and the partial ownership of a racehorse (all at the same time as continuing to finance significant overseas trips for two). Not bad in ten years!

What steps did you take to get to where you are now?
Fundamentally, I broadened my horizons. That is, I:
· travelled
· took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves
· experienced many wonderful adventures from which to draw on
· read and read and read
· received formal education
· followed my nose and backed my decisions
· ran with the luck
but as they say, luck is where opportunity and hard work meet)
· took calculated risks!

Throughout your business success, you also raised a daughter. What issues, if any, did this present?
Having a daughter presented many issues to me as a businesswoman. The major shift was the focus from ‘me’ to ‘us’ and ‘I’ to ‘we’, and the resultant restructuring needed. In fact, having another human being solely reliant on me got me incredibly focused. And of course that worked hand-in-hand with treading new territory, exploring ways to earn money, creating a workable life mindful of having a dependent, and accentuating the need to back my own judgement even more. I was also (and still am) blessed that I had the loving support of family and friends through such tumultuous times. Sometimes they would roll their eyes at me and wonder what the hell I was doing. But I’m pleased to report that most have stayed with me for the ride.

What is the most important thing you have learnt about being a mother, role model and businesswoman?
I’ve learnt that all of these roles are important and that all of them require mastering the ability to ‘go with the flow’. I tend to bundle these roles together because I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference in what each is trying to achieve.

As Jack Welch says, ‘Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others’. Doesn’t that apply to each of these roles? Isn’t one of the key functions of being a mother to remove as many obstacles as possible to enable a child to grow into the human being they are capable of becoming? Is that not the same for role models and businesspeople alike? A mother’s role is to love and nurture, is that not what is also required of role models and businesspeople? Granted, the ‘love’ element is in a different context and intensity, but isn’t it worthy of similar consideration? Is it not one of the key functions of businesspeople to create relationships and processes that enable successes as frequently as possible? Is that not the same for mothers and role models as well?

For me, each of these roles is similar and therefore requires similar qualities for success.

What do you think holds people back from achieving their goals?
When the characteristics of successful people have not been or are not being cultivated, goal creation and achievement will be held back. Therefore, you run the risk of not doing what you want to do because you are too fearful, and/or because you are not confident enough to believe you can. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If identifying and achieving goals is a true driver, then educating yourself by finding out ways, means and tools to do just that will assist in getting you where you want to go. If you don’t have age on your side (and let’s be honest, sometimes that doesn’t help!), then find talented, sharing people who do.

What do you think has been the secret to your accomplishments thus far?
Would you believe it – age! Or perhaps a better word is ‘cultivation’. By that I mean becoming a more educated and more rounded human being. It’s about making the most of your time.

Given that I went through the same education system as most others (and presumably a fairly similar parental system too), I believe my education was completed without really having the tools I needed to have a major go at living. I did not truly understand how, or even if, I could stand on my own two feet. I’ve had to work that out for myself. Fortunately, I have been around long enough now to have had amazing highs, coupled with flat spots, and done many things to ground myself so I can continue to launch. Let’s face it, it’s not always in the best interest of institutions, such as schools and large corporations, to teach and train what it truly means to be entrepreneurial and to follow dreams.

What I have learnt is that being opportunistic and bold will get you so much further ahead, and will point you in directions where you can work out the rest! I have also been blessed by being surrounded by people who support and love in ways that continue to inspire me.

What is the biggest mistake you have made and how did ‘going with the flow’ help you overcome it?
I define a mistake as a ‘mis-take’. Fortunately, my life has been a never-ending series of mis-takes, as they are what I have used to chart my life’s course. The situation I placed myself in at 36 could have ended up being my biggest mis-take, however, I have learnt (and continue to learn) that going with the flow is the real and only way to live. I now have an innate belief that all works itself out as it needs to. It’s not the mis-take that matters, it’s the recovery. One of the main responsibilities of my life is to set sail, strive to ‘do it my way’ and, in essence, enjoy the ride!

In your opinion what are the characteristics that make a successful person?
To borrow heavily from Dr Martyn Newman (and his research) of Emotional Capitalists – The New Leaders fame, much of it is about emotional intelligence and more specifically about:
· Independence – self-belief and self-reliance.
· Assertiveness – giving clear messages and having self-control.
· Optimism – looking for the benefits and possibilities and seeing valuable lessons.
· Self-actualisation – having a passion for what you do and creating the life you want.
· Self-regard – self-liking and self-competence.
· Interpersonal relationships – treating others as equals, creating win-win situations for all, and providing autonomy.
· Empathy – understanding what others want to achieve and the emotional dimensions involved.

Is there a significant quote or saying which you live your life by?
Based on the vast amount of material I have absorbed over the years, I have a million of them, from a variety of inspiring people. A selection of my favourites include:
· ‘Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business!’
· ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’
· ‘The pain is in the indecision.’
· ‘Break it down into do-able tick-box chunks.’
· ‘If someone shows you who they are, believe them.’
· ‘Don’t fall in love with potential.’
· ‘Imagination is one thing; action is another.’
· ‘You can’t ‘think’ when you ‘feel’.’
· ‘We can never outperform the image we have of ourselves.’
· ‘Hope is not a strategy.’
· ‘It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’

What are some of your goals for the next five years?
I always have goals and plans listed in some form or another (I am a journal writer from way back). I usually critically review those around New Year, and tinker with them along the way if need be. Key headings I review are:
· family life
· social life
· business life
· income
· education
· health
· spiritual life
It does sound rather structured, doesn’t it? Still, I find it a most worthwhile and rewarding exercise to do. It always surprises me how far my thinking can shift within a 12-month period.

From your many years of experience, what advice would you give to others about change?
· Feel the fear and do it anyway!
· Embrace it!
· Live and breathe it!
· Enjoy it and have fun with it!
· Bring it on!

Where do you see yourself in 20 years’ time?
Swanning around the world as I please, playing grandmother, receiving bucketloads of passive income, and being healthy, wealthy and wise!

What do you love most about being where you are today?
That I was and I am capable of participating in life, in its many and varying forms. The comfort of knowing that my history is providing the catalyst for creating my present and my future is most reassuring.

read on

The Greatest Risks They Ever Took

What is anything worth? Easy: The amount of fear, pain and suffering you are willing to risk to get it.

But of course we know the math is infinitely more complicated–especially for those suffused with fear, greed and hubris that inevitably fog the equation.

The crisis on Wall Street, now coursing like a virus throughout the broader economy, is testament to our collective innumeracy when it comes to estimating risk. Complicating matters: a vast web of impenetrable financial contracts putatively designed to “absorb” risk (and reap billions in transaction fees) by sprinkling it throughout the entire financial system. Thanks to such securitization, thousands of people moved into homes they couldn’t afford. No cash? No worries–there’s plastic. And the band played on.

So the question remains: What’s worth the risk? In search of illumination, we asked a slew of strivers–entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes and show-business types–what they consider to have been the riskiest moves of their lives…read on

so… what risk are you prepared to take?
if you’ve not done the prework in terms of addressing what you would like life to look like, then that’s a little hard to answer… however
an answer is required nonetheless

some of what I do is deemed risky
“you can’t be serious!” is quite often the response
or the other…
“how did you even know you could do that?”

risk taking is like any other skill…it is a learned craft
the more you do, the better you get at it
you learn one step at a time
and when the first risk doesn’t work as well as planned, that is not the time to give up, that is the time to learn…
what happened? why did it happen? what can I do much better next time?

so… again I ask the same question, what risk(s) are you prepared to take?

aCE talentNET – The Professional Edge September08

The Human Capital Magazine published an interesting article this month on ‘Contracting – is it the Kiss of Death?‘ The article highlights some of the pros of cons of contracting and/or consulting and is a most worthwhile read. But I would also like to offer my own experience and thoughts on the matter. At aCE talentNET we are often approached by clients and associates who are considering becoming an independent consultant either through immediate circumstance (ie job restructure) or a general discontent with working the 9-5pm (or should I say 7am-8pm!) grind in the corporate jungle. For many, the appeal of becoming an independent consultant is enticing but most do not know how to go about it. My advice to these aspiring ‘independents’ or ‘free agents’! is as follows:

Build your Network! It is essential that when starting out as a consultant you have as wide a network as possible on which to draw, including past colleagues, associates, managers across a range of companies and associations. Many can get bogged down in day to day activities and decline or opt out of opportunities to expand their network. So when next considering whether to attend that networking opportunity or stay at work to write that report… the report can wait another day – go network!!!!

Be clear about your consulting specialties or preferences. When starting out as a consultant it is enticing to accept any project that comes along… all too often you can then find yourself gaining consulting and project experience in an area that is not your preference – making it difficult to then get opportunities in other specialties as too much time has elapsed since you last had tangible experience. Do not be afraid to say no to a client and recommend them to another consultant that can help them (not forgetting aCE talentNET of course!!!).

Be prepared to DO the work! All too often I hear from consultants that they want to be strategists, identifying the problem, researching the solution and making the recommendations to address. Unfortunately in many cases companies aCE work with are quite capable of doing this work themselves, what they need are the resources to implement the identified solutions. So be prepared to be the DOER!

Be strategic about building your client base and what you commit to. It is always understandable to commit to a 1-2 ongoing consulting engaging with a client (very useful for regular cashflow) however be aware that this can work against you when other full-time opportunities come available. In many cases, aCE talentNET clients require consulting full-time resources for projects ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months – consultants who do not have availability of at least 4 days per week are generally not able to be considered for these interesting and lucrative projects.

Be smart about how you use your time. If working with clients is why you want to be a consultant, then it doesn’t make sense trying to do all the others parts associated with running your own small business. Think about finding alternative arrangements for doing the administrivia around bookkeeping, invoicing and follow up, BAS, tax returns for example, and subscribe to key web sites and blogs etc which will in turn not only keep you current but also can help build your networks. Always ask the question – do I need to be doing this or can someone else?

Be realistic when rate setting. Research consultants or contractors that you know or have worked with to get a good feel for the ‘market rate’ for consultants with your skill set. But be realistic and consider too, the length of time and experience these consultants have had in the market place. Consultants who have years of experience and multiple project experiences in their CV are worth a higher premium in the marketplace. Corporate experience in 2-3 organisations over 10+ years does not translate necessarily to charging daily rates of $1200+ from the outset. Again, be realistic!

Maintain and grow your Network. I know networking has been mentioned already, but this is also important once you become a consultant, particularly if you are a very busy one! It is essential that you join relevant associations, attend seminars (many are free these days and only take 1-2 hours of your time) and keep in touch with your original network… you just never know when you will need them!

Don’t forget your Professional Development. Even as a fledgling consultant it is important that you have a strategy to keep up to date with professional development in your field. As mentioned above, you don’t need to invest a lot of money, but you do need to make it a priority to attend as many events as possible. But the best way to keep up to date is to read, read, read! This is not hard, there are a plethora of professional development forums that you can subscribe to that will keep you updated on a daily or monthly basis (including aCE talentNET!!!).

Manage the Pipeline! When times are good and you are nice and busy and earning money, it’s easy to forget about what is happening next month. But any consultant will tell you that you need to prepare for lean times as they happen to everyone! Make sure you put funds aside for when this happens but also ensure you maintain that network and manage lead generation as much as possible. Even if it is dashing off an email or two to stay in touch with potential projects/client to let them know what you’re doing and when you will be available to work with them. If this something that you really don’t want to be doing yourself, then tap into corporate talent agents such as aCE talentNET, to help do this for you.

And finally, it’s OK if consulting is not for you! It’s not for everyone… some find it too stressful to manage the pipeline on an ongoing basis or some just get too lonely and miss the daily camaraderie that comes with being a full-time employee. And that’s OK! In fact, many of our most successful consultants enter in and out of the consultant market as a way to keep themselves and their careers invigorated.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for this month. I hope the above hints are useful for those of you considering a career change to an Independent Consultant. And like my Dad always says…FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY!!!

Have a great month!

Deirdre Gruiters
Corporate Talent Agent

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