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Wouldn’t it be great if you could go back in time to tell yourself the things you know now! If you’re at the beginning of your startup journey, this podcast gives you the benefit of experience from two top founders.

Alex Louey is the founder of Appscore, the team behind Yarra Trams’ famous Tram Tracker app. Alex knew nothing about building apps when he went into business, but he knew all about project management. He recommends working with your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who can do things that you can’t.

Shan Manickam is the MD and owner of warehouse solutions business Cross Docks Australia. Shan tried to go into business through a management buyout which failed, but it pushed up the price for the buyer, so they sacked him. That was enough to put a fire in his belly to form his own company. He recommends hiring for culture rather than skills.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe, this is the Master Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. In this final episode of Season 2 of Master Series, we’re seeking an answer to the question “If I had known then what I know now, what would I do differently?” Part of the excitement of starting anything for the first time is the unknown-unknown. The things that you don’t know that you don’t know.

Shan Manickam: I work for a company that was up for sale. And I’ve tried to put together a management buyout, and I failed. Someone else bought the business and because I basically jacked up the price for them because I was in competition, I lost my job. My girlfriend and I were six months pregnant with our first child. So I went back to some of the people I knew and I went, you know what? I reckon we might be able to go up in competition against these people and we’ll give it a crack.

Serpil Senelmis: That’s Shan Manickam, managing director and owner of Cross Docks Australia. We’ll hear more from Shan shortly. First up, Alex Louie is the founder of digital services company Appscore. Now, if you’ve ever caught a tram in Melbourne, you’ve probably seen Alex’s work in the tram tracker app, which Appscore developed in 2012. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s, Wayne Lewis, Alex says things in business won’t always be good. So you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball.

Alex Louey: Starting 2010 I used to be a project manager worked all the corporate gigs and it just sort of got boring for me. I just moved from bank to bank. It was a good life work probably eight months a year and took three months off. I think that it goes 12 and then in 2010, I was actually living with my now business partner, Nick Bell and He’s always been an entrepreneur, and we just sat down and thought, let’s just do something and just do something other than work for other people. And I was like, f*** you, let’s do that sounds cool. And so we brainstorm a few ideas, everything from like that we’ve installed laundry because we were pretty lazy. So we want to be able to dry clean stuff for us. And we didn’t even want to leave the house. And we sort of went through a ton of ideas. And we sort of worked out that the easiest way for us to do something and the fastest way was for a service business, a service business, you can start quickly now a product business, a lot more time and effort required into it. So at the time, Apple released their iPhone, and everybody was building apps. And I was like, geez, let’s just start an app development company. And we started with $3,000 a website and rolled out from there. I can’t design, I can’t do anything required to actually build the app itself. But what I did have is I had a great business partner that was entrepreneurial. Was a great marketer. I had project management skills, I can run organizations I can execute. So the only gap is how do you start an app company with two guys that know nothing about software development, you hire. So back in the day, we couldn’t advertise and find an iPhone developer. So we went to uni’s, the only place that you find people that actually touch new technology at the time. So I ran around doing posters, putting them up looking for iPhone developers, and it was through uni’s that we found out as developer from them, all we need was sales. So Nick had a digital marketing company at the time. And funnily enough, our first app was a guy that wanted to grow his business, and he sold fertilizer. So the fertilizer that this guy made, was very specifically targeted at growing weed. So he had a ton of money. And it was like, let’s just build a weed growing app, which today is not that silly, given that the cannabis industry. So that was our first step. And we sort of worked in the startup space. For a very long time for maybe about three years, dealing with everybody with ideas, I’ve heard everything under the sun. And I’ve heard them multiple times.

Wayne Lewis: So some of those early days and some of the challenges that you faced, obviously trying to win that new business and those new clients, can you talk a little bit about that first?

Alex Louey: We did a lot of online marketing, which at the time was very new PPC, SEO and all that sort of jazz. We got a lot of clients because the market was right. Everybody wanted to build an app. And we cater to that market and we pick that market. At the time I did everything I had to sell, to project manage. I had to hire, I had to do the finances. We had to find it and do it but I had to oversee it. So I I had to do absolutely everything required to start and run this business. And it was tough. I paid myself no salary for three years. So absolute doughnuts. Every last cent was invested back into the business. My first salary check that I gave myself. I paid myself 60 grand a year after three years through that entire time. I lived off, I had a few rental properties and stuff like that, but I had no liability. So I could completely fail and walk away. And it not be an issue or walk back into a contracting job and just do that. But at the same time, I wanted it to succeed. So that’s why for three years, I didn’t live off nothing, but I was on a pretty shitty salary, that I was putting myself through other investments that are built up over time.

Wayne Lewis: And what was the feeling like when you won your first major client? What was that like and who was it?

Alex Louey: It’s awesome. Our first corporate client was Yarra Trams. It was amazing. It was like you’re working with all these startup companies with founders that are really passionate, but at the same time, the difference when you land a company that you know can sustain a business model. It’s just a different level. You know that when you deal with an enterprise company, right? They are skewed a little bit, but they’re not restricted by really tight budgets, which means you can get the team to do better work. They can spend more time on the design, they can spend more time on the development. We went out, we celebrated It was amazing. And you know, every time when a big deal, I love it just as much as my first deal.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, some of the constraints then, which been the red tape and get into the right person. And obviously that decision-making process. Can you talk a little bit of that for us?

Alex Louey: So you talked about dealing with corporates?

Wayne Lewis: Yeah.

Alex Louey: Dealing with corporates, even medium size and up, it’s often challenging. We have companies that want to work with us, or people inside that want to work with us, because we’re agile because we deliver something different, but they can’t because they’re restricted by that same procurement panel. But the attitude we take is there’s always an angle, if you’re good at selling with a good solid product, you will find a way in. It might not be the next week and might not be the week after. But you’ve got to constantly persevere to try to win those big clients. So we’ve been working on like the banks for a long time. They need companies to help them innovate. They’ve got big budgets, which means you can do some awesome stuff with them. But they can be tough to work with because there’s a lot of red tape especially in a bank or even government. But what happens is keep on persevering. So we’ve been working on for about five years. And literally by continuous networking, we hit the right people. And now we’re getting further with them than we previously would. And it’s just finding the right people finding the right angle. I’ve forgotten the number of phone calls I’ve made to ANZ and speaking to the number of GM’s and speaking to this and getting brushed off and yeah, now but not really, and then even doing work. And they loving it, and then suddenly get stopped by red tape. The number of times that’s happened to us is amazing.

Wayne Lewis: What some of the processes that you go through internally to drive that forward?

Alex Louey: So processes are critical. If you want to scale a company as a business, we’re very labor-intensive. And one of our biggest challenges at the moment is that there’s actually not enough good talent in Australia to support the amount of innovation and creative and digital that’s going on. And when you look at scale, you got to look at all facets from what are the key success drivers, right, so sales is one thing, right? But assuming we can do the sales, we still need to deliver, we’re going to work out if you think about supply chain, we’ve got to work out how we’re going to get that many days, hypothetically from overseas. That’s my biggest challenge is my I can’t find enough people to do the work that I’m being asked to do. So we’re looking overseas in Ireland, we’re looking overseas in South America, we’re looking over in Asia, and various different places. But other key thing is, as your company grows, I think it goes from where everybody is having fun and just getting the right shit done because you’ve got a small team, to suddenly you need to manage a ton of people and everybody works differently. People like different stuff. Not everybody reacts to the same sort of team events. Some people don’t like it, some people do. And what happens is, as you grow you need processes in place, so that everybody’s driving in the right direction, right. You could be an A‑team player in a five-person team, but when you stick him in a culture of 50 to 80 people is suddenly like a loose cannon. So these processes keeps teams in place. But you don’t want too much process that it stifles innovation you want closes the framework, so people know where the boundaries are. You don’t want to say to somebody, you need to design this way. ABCD because we’ve done it for five years, you will just give them a framework, give them a goal, and help them move forward.

Wayne Lewis: Can we talk a little bit about some of the difficult moments you had? So project management is something that you’re very skilled at. Is there any times you’ve been working with these large corporates, and that project management side has maybe not worked out too well?

Alex Louey: Happens all the time. If I told you every project that we did, went as planned. Anybody in software there would probably know that online because it doesn’t, right. But some of the challenging times that we have and we have more than time is we agree on something. And then the stakeholders want something different for political reasons. It just happens and I understand that it happens because you know this GM thinks that the app should go this way and do this but someone else thinks and we get stuck in the middle. Rather than talking specifically about a client some of the challenging times I had back in the day when the company was growing really quickly in a particular spurt. And you can argue to be complacent. Things were awesome. deals were coming in sales have been done. People being paid paying up big commission checks, Nick and I had this like corner office. I was like, awesome, right? What are we doing there? We’ve f*** around for so much. Like, we’d be on Google. We’d be like finding out shit to do on the weekend, right? Because we got complacent. And then what happened was one day, the finance kill comes in and we’re not going to be able to pay people salaries in about a month time. And that was like, yeah, that’s a serious issue, man. So Nick and I sort of looked at each other’s eye and we got to fix this and it’s not hard. Nothing in business is ever that hard. You just need the motivation to find it and fix it. So what we did, scrapped, the corner office went outside and looked at what the sales process was. So we had a sales process at the time where between the customer signing up and giving us a yes. And us getting the paperwork done and took about a week. In between then in sales terms a week is a very long time. Because customers get cold, they changed their mind. So we had a lot of deals dropping off, even though customer said yes. So my sales guys were booking all these deals that never came through. We’ll look into the numbers. Oh, yeah, we’re getting good sales, but the cash flow wasn’t reflective of that. So we scrapped the corner office, we moved in with all our sales data. And we spent 24 hours looking at where things were going wrong. And that process is what we looked at fixing, right? If you get a yes, that means somebody wants and then likes you. They want your service and they see that yeah, add value. How do we get that conversion done? Right. So back in the day before things like digital signing, we looked down I was like we’re going to get a lawyer to loosely review it. And the second that somebody said, yes, sending them emails with high-level terms and conditions, and then it would be written in basic English rather than legal jargon. And then all they need to do was return to us and say, yes, we agree. For us, that was enough for us to lock in the deal, which means that you’ve got customers whilst they want your solution. They excited about it, they genuinely feel the need, and they’ll give you their credit card to build. So that changed the seven day process into literally, I think it was about eight hours. That’s how sales came back up. And probably within three weeks, we were profitable again. Things won’t be good for a long time if you take your eye off the ball.

Wayne Lewis: And thinking about tonight’s topic, so if you knew them what you know now, can you touch a little bit on that for us?

Alex Louey: Probably the biggest thing is to never give up. The word entrepreneur actually sucks, but you’re not very is not cool, building something successful is cool. Back in the day, I thought it was all about just going to work and creating stuff. And I didn’t know what I was creating, right. But I knew it was hard. But I didn’t know how hard it was like, initially, I was like, yeah, I’m an entrepreneur and I’m building apps. How cool is this man, everybody’s talking to me. I’m a business owner. That’s not f****ing cool man, because you’re not doing anything. You’ve got no money. It’s a struggle. It’s hard. But if you continue to persevere, and keep on pushing and find the angles, you will succeed. The reason that Nick and I work together well, is because we’re not precious about the idea in a business sense. There is no place for egos like there is no place “I’m right because I’m the MD because I’m the boss”. You can still make mistakes. That’s probably the biggest one.

Wayne Lewis: Guys can have a round of applause for Alex Louey of Appscore. Thank you very much, Alex.

Serpil Senelmis: For finding out that he may not be able to pay off his staff for a month was a big wake up call for Alex. The key takeaway, don’t waste time in the corner office. Thanks, Alex. In just a moment, we’ll meet Sean Manickam, managing director and owner of Cross Docks Australia.

Ed Guy: Master Series is presented by WeTeachMe. With a goal of being the world’s biggest school without campuses, WeTeachMe is the perfect meeting place for students and teachers. Find face to face classes near you at weteachme.com. This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded. Podcasting is a way to build your business by reaching, educating and entertaining your customers. Find out who is listening at writtenandrecorded.com. And now back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ed Guy. Sean Manickam is managing director and owner of Cross Docks Australia. His company provides warehouse services and management to a wide variety of businesses. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis. Sean says he doesn’t think the customer is always right. He believes that’s a very fast way to go broke.

Shan Manickam: Back in 2004, I worked for a company that was up for sale. And I tried to put together a management buyout, and I failed. Someone else bought the business and because I basically jacked up the price for them because I was in competition, I lost my job. At the same time, my girlfriend and I were six months pregnant with our first child, and I didn’t have a job. And I did have four investment properties. And I was just about to become a parent. So I went back to some other people I knew and I went, you know what, I reckon we might be able to go up in competition against these people and we’ll give it a crack. So we gave it a crack.

Wayne Lewis: Obviously, it’s a stressful time, six months into a pregnancy. What was going through your thoughts at that time, if it didn’t work out?

Shan Manickam: Holy shit, that’s all it was holy shit. Do you know what, for me it was that survival mode that I went into. And you know, I knew we had some good ideas. I knew we had some great connections. So my business partners were well connected. They certainly gave me better connections than I’d ever had before. So from that point of view, I had the backing, we put enough money in the bank for me to live off for about a year. And so really, it was just all about meddling.

Wayne Lewis: And was it the connections that mainly contributed to this success?

Shan Manickam: Do you know what that was the interesting point. So these guys were all connected to large multinationals. So they were very well connected into organizations like Mobil, Caltex, Shell, BP, and you know what they open the doors and these people just loved hearing from us. But they weren’t interested in buying from us.

Wayne Lewis: So how did you make people interested in buying?

Shan Manickam: We went out and we canvass more the SME market. And we found organizations, that growth was stifled. And their growth was stifled because they were trying to be everything to everybody. They had a great product range, and I had an office up the front, and at the back there this warehouse and I had no idea how to run a warehouse. So we went to him and said, you know what, we can take that headache off your hands, and we will let you focus on what you do best. And it’s not running away house. And we slowly grew from there.

Wayne Lewis: Can you talk a little bit about that management system then and what went into building that?

Shan Manickam: So we actually invested in a warehouse management system. I’m not a big believer in luck. I certainly haven’t seen a lot of it in my life. But I can tell you one very lucky story in business, we needed to get this warehouse management system because what we needed to do, and the complexity of the clients that we’re dealing with, we need to get some serious software. So you know, we couldn’t build it. So we had to go buy it, and it was gonna cost us about 200 grand, we couldn’t fund it. So we went to the bank, and we said, you know what, we’d like to borrow the money for software, not hardware, for software. We’d sort of analyze and procrastinated and you know, we’d gone through the process and we build business cases and put a model together and you know, we’ve done all those exciting things. And somewhere along the way, we just went, you know what, we’re just gonna do it, right. We don’t think we can pay it off just yet, but we’re just gonna do it. So we sign up the documents, and we got the funding and we put the system in April 2008. They all remember what happened at the end of 2008. JFC, second I’d say if we procrastinate at another 10 months, we would never have got the funding, or would never be sitting here talking to you about logistics.

Wayne Lewis: Were there any kind of pitfalls in that dev company that you use for that? What was kind of the relationship like with those guys? Was it plain sailing over the headaches along the way when using this?

Shan Manickam: I mean, there’s pitfalls in every relationship, right? So it doesn’t matter what relationship you’ve got, there’s always going to be a pitfall. I suppose it’s how you manage them, that’s the key. One of the things that we did with them. And you know, it was partly by design, partly by default, but we became the guinea pigs for any new functionality they wanted in the system. And in addition to that, we also became the key site where they bring new clients to show them how the system worked. So we, in effect, formed a very strong relationship with this software company. And like any software company that always under resourced, always had a lot of great ideas. But getting things done could be tough. But you know what, it was less tough for us because of the relationship that we’d formed with them, because of the fact that they could ring us up and say, You know what, we’ve got a new client, we just like to bring him through your site, show them how the system works, are you open to it? So, I would spend probably three times a month sometimes helping them canvass their product in our warehouse, which ultimately got us a leg up, because when we did need that new functionality, or we need to get it pushed to the front of the queue, we had a little bit of leverage. So it definitely helped us, for sure.

Wayne Lewis: So being the guinea pig then, did that help with the innovation side?

Shan Manickam: Absolutely and you know, they were kind of smart, because they realized that we were kind of smart, and they went you know what if we actually listen to these people, and we take what they’re saying on board, we could get some of these things. in place. So yeah, we definitely contributed to their growth for sure.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah. So that feedback loop. Are you listening at the same time from your customers, the warehouses that you’re managing? And then feeding that back up? How does that work?

Shan Manickam: Yeah, absolutely. So our best relationships are collaborative relationships. We are an integral part of everything that they do. And they are an integral part of everything that we do. With most of our larger clients. We have weekly operational meetings, we go through the constraints that we’re creating, we talk about the constraints that they’re creating. And we work out what are we going to do to minimize those constraints for both of us, because at the end of the day, if we’re doing something that’s slowing them down, that’s a problem. But conversely, if they’re doing the same for us, that’s a problem. We’re just an extension of what they do, or what they used to do in house. So it becomes a pretty easy relationship. As long as we remember where the grass roots were.

Wayne Lewis: Can you talk a little bit about your values, maybe and where those grass roots lie for you guys?

Shan Manickam: Yeah, sure. I mean, our core values, we do like to keep things very simple. We’re a service business, we’re there to serve. And we’re there to make sure that we can help our customers grow. We don’t always believe that our customer’s always right. That’s a very fast way to go broke sometimes, we’re ultimately there to serve, and to listen to our customers. So you know, as long as we can instill that into our staff, then it helps us go a long way.

Wayne Lewis: And how do you manage them effectively? Assuming that you do now?

Shan Manickam: That’s a very good point there, Wayne. That’s a very good point. I think it all starts at the recruitment process. There’s probably two key things. It’s that recruitment process, so get them right on the way in, but to get the ride on the way in, you gotta know what you’re looking for, right? That’s definitely the key. You’ve got to really clearly define what it is that you’re looking for. We really look for skills, you know, skills isn’t the core component that we’re looking for. We’re looking for core values and fit. That’s the key thing, at the end of the day I didn’t want to pop in before was a very technical term for those people that you didn’t want in your business. And they’re called competent assholes. So they’re really f***ing good at their job, but they piss off everybody around them. That’s a very painful experience, right? And the problem is you get lewd into the sense of security of can’t do without them because they’re so good at their job. But it doesn’t help anybody. So I think the key thing is, you’ve got to understand what are you looking for first, and that’s where those core values come into it. Now, putting together a bunch of core values. That’s a piece of cake, right? Like that’s really easy. You get a whiteboard, you get everyone to put up their concepts. You pick the most famous ones or the most regular ones, and you put a few emojis up and bang you’re done, right? That’s easy. But the next thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got up believe in them and getting them instilled so that they’re being used on a daily basis to make decisions within your business. And once that happens, it then becomes a lot easier.

Wayne Lewis: What is it that makes you proud and your biggest achievement so far?

Shan Manickam: You know our business, it’s a service business. And when we do it right, we exist to help our customers grow. So one of my largest customers, when we first started with them, they were turning over just on $5 million, last year $65 million, and he sold his business for $50 million. Now, he openly states that one of the keys to his success was partnering with somebody at sourcing a factor of his business to somebody who could do it better. So I would say when you work with a client to help them grow and succeed that for me is a very proud moment. But I would say conversely though, when you can do that genuinely with your staff, and get your staff from this level, to that level, that’s an amazing sense of achievement. And then to top it off, to get that staff member to come up to you and go, you know what, couldn’t have done it without you. That’s again, an amazing achievement.

Wayne Lewis: Tonight’s topic, if you knew then what you know now, what would that be

Shan Manickam: Yeah, look, there would be a few but for me now, I’m on a mission with myself and also with my key senior leadership team, about managing people and setting clear expectations and making sure that with everything that we’re doing, we are making it very clear exactly what it is we expect. And that extends to customers, extends to suppliers, it extends to staff. It extends to you know, the people above you and the people below you. Because if you haven’t made that expectation clear, and that can be just as easily with a customer just because a customer says, I want this done, and I want it done by then, if we can’t achieve that for them, if we can’t create that experience for them, we’re going to make expectations clear. So the hardest thing to do is actually saying no, for too long. I surrounded by a whole lot of people saying yes Shan, yes Shan, yes Shan. That didn’t help. It may strike your ego, temporarily but that didn’t help. The best thing that I’m looking for is now those people go You know what, it’s not gonna fly. Not today. I’d be able to do it next week, but not today. So I think the key for us is, if I knew how to manage people better, back then. I’d be in a different situation now.

Wayne Lewis: Guys, come and have a round of applause for Shan Manickam. Thank you very much, Sean.

Serpil Senelmis: So for business, managing staff, finding the right people starts at the recruitment process. That’s a hot tip from Shan there. Thanks, Shan. And thanks, Alex as well. And that’s a rap, the final episode of Master Series for 2018. Thank you to everyone who shared their story and thank you for listening. I’m Serpil Senelmis, from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this was the Master Series.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Businesses connect directly with their customers through websites, apps, social media, and anywhere else that will hold some well-crafted content. The common thread among all these channels is words — words which can wield a lot of power! In this podcast, you’ll get a masterclass in the art of copywriting and a content strategy to put them all to good use.

Georgina Laidlaw is a copywriting specialist with the experience (and pedantry!) of an English teacher. Georgina works with brands like REA, Aconex and CyRise to help them express themselves clearly. She warns that the written word has no tone of voice which leaves it open to misunderstanding.

Hannah Kallady is a Digital Strategist with Ntegrity where she works with brands to get their words in the right place through communication strategies. Hannah believes strongly in the power of the story to connect and even stimulate our minds in ways we don’t quite understand.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. Words written well are the backbone of modern marketing, whether it’s on a website, an app, a blog, an EDM or a social media post, all of these methods of communication are at the fingertips of every brand, even if the words don’t come easy.

Hannah Kallady: So we talked about copywriting and sometimes it can just look like what words you’re using, how to approach it, but it’s about thinking about copywriting as storytelling, and that might sound a bit lame, because you’re like, I’m just selling a product. But it is really a story that you communicating with somebody, whether you’re telling a long story or short story, and it’s also very easy, especially in a new business to just want to create lots of stuff. Like, oh, I could create 20 posts and they’re just gonna be about all of these random things, but that’s actually not strategic and it’s not helpful. So that’s why it’s really important to have a strategy behind all the content you create. It actually takes a lot of weight off your shoulders too.

Serpil Senelmis: That’s Hannah Kallady digital strategist at Ntegrity. We’ll hear from Hannah shortly. First up, copywriting specialist Georgina Laidlaw. She’s been writing for web print and voice for over two decades, and works with businesses to develop style guides, train teams in writing, and to write customized text as a subject matter expert, Georgina says to connect better with your customers and users, right? Like you’re talking.

Georgina Laidlaw: So my presentation is called strange animals. I’m a copywriter. I don’t think we should really take it that seriously. But when I was preparing for this presentation, I was thinking for a copywriter this is a really big topic because as well as paying a copywriter, I’m an English teacher. I teach English as a second language. And so the power of words to me is much greater than copywriting. Words aren’t just there what we say. And we kind of have to walk the talk as well. So they impact on what we do. So first, I’ll be looking at the power of words, because I feel that’s a big issue. And then we’ll be looking at copywriting further down the track. So those are very different ends of the spectrum pair of words big deal out of copywriting, tiny, tiny micro deal in between this big space. And that will be filled in a moment by Hannah, who will be talking about content strategy and that kind of stuff. So let’s begin with the power of words. I was at a linguistics lecture not that long ago by a guy called Alex Costa Grits who is a professor of linguistics at Monash University, and he’s in the middle of this big deal linguistics presentation and then he suddenly says, We are just animals are After all, but we are strange animals and we are, strange animals. What makes humans different than the other animals? When you ask yourself that question, you might come up with a lot of different answers. Well, we talk on phones and they don’t we send people into space and they don’t. We write copy, and they don’t. That last point is probably a bit of a key. One of the things that humans have, that animals don’t have is language. I know what you’re thinking, I can talk to my dog, my cat now we communicate. Yes, animals have communication systems, but they’re called communication systems. And they’re different from what humans have, which is language. Originally, people thought there were 13 different ways that language and animal communication systems for different now we’ve narrowed it down with research to four. So four things that language has the ACS don’t have a displacement, productivity, cultural transmission and duality. I’m not going to go into all those great needs. But the first one there, displacement is important. One of my favorite linguists is Derek Keaton, who died this year at the age of like 92. He wrote this book more than he needs, maybe about five years ago. So this was a combination of a lifetime of linguistics research. He wrote this book because he was trying to understand and formulate a theory for why humans have language in the first place. Because as we can see, we’re sitting in a room that we have constructed this is crazy lots this paper with video cameras. This is going to be a podcast, it will be broadcast to people all over the world. We don’t need this to survive. This is not a biological imperative. And natural selection if we believe Darwin’s theory, if not Natural Selection. We don’t need all of these. So why do we have something this facility which is so much greater, then survival requires of us? This is what he was trying to answer. And he believes the key reason, the spark for developing language, which is so much brighter than we actually made for survival is displacement. Displacement is our ability to communicate about things that aren’t here now. And if we think about human creativity, it really depends on displacement, imagination depends on displacement. So we can be talking about things that are not here. Your cat is talking to you about wanting food, it wants food, it wants to sit on your lap, it wants to go outside, these things are in the present, but humans are the only animals that vocalize about displacement. Writing is recent speaking is in our bones speaking, is from a long time ago and we are much more adept at imperson spoken vocal communication than we are at writing. We’re much better at this all of us. Even the best copywriters in the world are, on average better at speaking. And if we think about how much richer a spoken conversation is that a written conversation that really comes home to us, my students often asked me, How do I use formal English and how can I be informal? And one of the things with formal English is that we use more words, but a critical key is tone of voice, particularly with English language. So we can use the same words and through inflection communicate a very different meaning. Let me give you an example. The question is did you invite her? Simple? If I write it it says, Did you invite her and you read it as did you invite her? If I say it, I can make that three different things. Did you invite her? Did you invite her? Did you invite her? Three different things. You know what I mean? The three different inferences. And it’s all through tone of voice. We cannot communicate this through writing. So that means we need to be really careful with our copywriting. What are we going to say? How are we going to create any kind of authentic communication, any kind of rapport, if we can’t use the techniques that we use to speak to people? It’s a good question. And one of the answers is conversational text. So if he years ago, there were a lot of buzzwords going around about content. When content became a thing people would talk about authenticity and storytelling and narrative people still talk about narrative narrative is now in the common lexicon. Like you watch a TV show. They’re talking about someone’s narrative. So how do we normally start a conversation? We asked questions. This is why search boxes are so often filled with questions. Like, if you get in a taxi, the taxi driver might say, where to? And this is probably the most informal way we can ask a question. We can also ask, Where are you going? So this is a critical technique we can use to start a conversation through copy. We can do it in a video script, we can do it through text on a page, we can do it in a product interface. So asking questions is pretty important. Shortening words and sentences, adding words is a great way to make English more formal. We don’t really have a lot of register in English, but the way we usually try and make things more formal is by adding words. If I’m sitting next to my sister on a bus and it’s hot, I’m going to say to her can you open the window? If I’m sitting next to any of you on a bus? I’m going to say, Excuse me, I’m so sorry to interrupt. But would you mind opening the window? So suddenly, this question, which is like four or five words long becomes four times as long. And we see this really commonly in copy, particularly with digital products, or new products that are coming out. Because often, the attention that is involved in that product launch can come through in the copy the person who’s developing the product or the team developing the product, I’m working with a number of teams that are in this situation at the moment, bring that tension into the copy if they’re running the copy.

Georgina Laidlaw: And so you get these really long sentences because they’re like, we really, really want you to like the product, and we really hope you like it, and we’re a little bit worried about maybe you won’t like it. So let’s add a few more words in here. If shortening your sentences draws your attention to the fact that actually this benefit is pretty generic. That’s probably a good thing. You need to look further for more unique benefits, or a different way to position the value that you’re presenting. But you cannot get around that by adding words, because it just puts people off. So definitely shorten sentences and shorten your words. The advantage of shortening words is that you will reduce the reading level of your text. People who are using your production line or reading your text online using your promotional materials, and not necessarily native English speakers. And even if they are, a lot of native English speakers have really low literacy. We sneak by, we get through it doesn’t really matter. But we have low literacy, and then we also have to cater for the kind of person who’s like me. doesn’t really like focusing too much on what I’m doing. Maybe I was stuck on the train. Trying to do my banking while I’m squashed up against the window. Maybe I’m sick, maybe I’m tired, baby, I’m just not interested. I describe it as limited cognition. So we want to reduce the reading level of what we’re writing as well if we’re trying to be conversational. And shortening the words you use is part of that. Fewer characters, fewer syllables, it goes in much faster and we can understand a lot more quickly. So it’s a good way to get your message across faster. Contractions are a hallmark of spoken conversation. The contraction is a really conversational way to engage with users. Think about the last report you wrote for a board or for a stakeholder, you probably weren’t using a whole lot of contractions. To that point, if you want to emphasize something by not contracting it, you can draw attention to it. So you can use these two things together, to either make people feel comfortable or draw attention to something that That’s important. This is an example of contraction. So I just wanted to give you because I think it’s really nice. With more than 850,000 members and 46 billion in assets, we’ve learned a thing or two about looking after our members. So this is a really nice way to give your credentials and then using conversational text to make it feel a bit more intimate or like we’re having a conversation since users want to have a conversation, and since super is a big, scary, ugly thing that no one wants to deal with. This is a nice way to get people starting to feel comfortable about what the product is and what it offers. And the last one is a bit of a catch all using natural language. I don’t know what’s going on in the cinema industry. If anyone works for a cinema company, we probably need to have a bit of a talk but cinema websites for some reason use really formal English and I can’t understand why it is. What do you think going to the cinema. I live in the country when I go to the cinema, I’m not getting dressed up like I’m wearing my armpits. And I’m going with someone who’s comfortable with me wearing my armpits. It’s dark in there, no one’s gonna see me with my chalk chalk dribbling on my top and my popcorn on my lap. No one’s gonna say that. So we want to feel I want to feel kind of cozy and intimate and friendly in the cinema. So I’m thinking rather than this lengthy, very formal language for how to use the interface, which is a problem in itself, you don’t want to use words to make up for design flaws or design issues or interaction design issues. But even still, we could probably just say choose a cinema say what’s on like, it’s not that hard. And when we listen to that, choose a cinema to say what’s on that’s the kind of thing we would say to each other. Do you want to say maybe, yeah, what’s wrong? So to be a good copywriter, and to come up with good conversational text? You meed to be able to listen, you need to be a really good listener. So listen to what people say. And I would say read novels as well, to understand how dialogue is written to communicate in a really conversational vocal kind of way. Don’t let it fall apart your calls to action. Calls to action are a really great place to use some conversational language, because it makes people feel like they want to respond, they want to interact. So that’s it in a nutshell. Thanks so much for your time. I hope it’s been valuable.

Serpil Senelmis: So the key takeaway from Georgina, don’t let your copywriting fall apart when it comes to your call to action. In just a moment, we’ll meet Hannah Kallady Digital strategist with Ntegrity.

Ed Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe. If you’ve got a skill to share WeTeachMe is your one stop shop to create your educational event. Reach your students and manage bookings share your gifts with others at weteachme.com This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded. Taking a journalistic approach, Written and Recorded capture your corporate language and tone of voice to write authentic words on your behalf. Read some copy that connects at writtenandrecorded.com. And now back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks, Ed Guy, Hannah Kallady is a digital strategist with Ntegrity. Working with the not for profit and for purpose sectors, Ntegrity are passionate about empowering all staff to spot and contribute to marketing opportunities. Hannah says our brains are wired for stories. You might just be selling a product, but painting a picture and telling a story can make a real emotional connection.

Hannah Kallady: I love storytelling stories since I was very, very small. I remember some of the first books my dad read me that went picture books were Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes and The Hobbit, which are very unusual choices for a child, but I loved them. And I also loved writing. I actually found a book that I wrote when I was maybe 10, the other day. So this full page watercolor illustrations, it’s about brumbies and a horse that gets lost. It’s terrible. Honest to God, awful. But luckily, I’ve improved since then. But anyway, the point of that is I really loved stories and storytelling for a long time. So it was natural that I got into communications and journalism. Unfortunately, the job market was not so great when I graduated. So a lot of internships and I ended up at an online magazine called my French Life, where I accidentally started doing this thing called Digital Marketing. I didn’t know what it was called. I was just trying to grow a magazine, reach people online and that’s kind of what I ended up doing, and that’s also where I met Crescendo, who is the founder of Ntegrity, we’re both working at the Yaak Butter Factory. And that’s how I ended up with Ntegrity. And I think even though it felt like some of my education, my master journalism and my comms degree were a little bit useless. At the end of the day, I’ve actually come to realize that storytelling has never been more important, and it’s actually incredibly relevant and important skill. And I’m going to share a little bit of why as Georgina mentioned, it’s that space in between what the words are that we’re using, and what should we be saying? it’s that big question of what’s the story, we’re actually telling? How do we talk about our brand in a way that’s relevant? And even though we’re talking about a highly digital space, word of mouth is still one of the most important drivers for marketing. So you got to think about how can I get my customers to tell other people about their experiences with me? A lot of the power is in the user’s hands. And so it’s not just enough for you to say what do I want to say to them that you’ve got to think about what are they thinking, feeling, doing? What do they want from me? What do they hope to achieve whether that’s addressing a pain point they might have or helping them to reach an aspiration. So it’s all about tailoring that story to what the user is really thinking and how they’re making decisions. So often what we’ll do is we’ll go through with clients and map out that process. And that’s you will have heard of customer journey mapping probably is a really great process to go through. And it’s one way of arriving at the biggest story that you should be telling. Another way to understand this. This is actually wired into our brains, which is really fascinating. But essentially, what happens when we hear information is that a couple of parts of our brain light up so our frontal cortex, which is all about judgment, decision making, the parts of our brains that are all about decoding language and understanding things light up so right now, they’re the parts of your brain that are working while I’m telling you this information. But if I was to start telling you a story, or you were to read a story about someone running through a pine forest, it just rained and you could smell the pine needles around to other parts of your brain actually start to light up too, so the parts of your brain responsible for sense, your sensory cortex and your motor cortex. So the parts that are actually light up when you’re actually smelling something, or when you’re actually running a lighting up as if you’re doing those things, but you’re not, you’re just reading about them or hearing about them. And the deepest part of your brain, your limbic system. So you remember that from Inside Out, if you’ve seen that bit there will in the limbic system where long term memory is stored, it’s where memories of close connection to emotions are stored. So we actually are engaging whole different parts of our brains that make us feel things that make us experience sensations, we didn’t know we could I always cry at Quantas ads and Telstra ads for this reason, because it’s all about that light connection and the families coming home and the beautiful Australian landscapes, so they totally get me in the right places. So it’s thinking about yes, so you might just be selling a product, but how do you enhance that and lift that up to become more than just a product but a story or an experience that you want somebody to be part of? What do they feel when they’re engaging with you? What frustrations do they have about you know, their accounting software? How much time do they lose every day trying to use that paint that picture of what life could be like if it wasn’t the case and get them to imagine themselves there. Lots of different ways you can use these stories to tell it might not be the right example for you. But it’s just thinking about what’s that bigger narrative that I’m putting people into. And sometimes it can just look like what words you’re using, how to approach it, but it’s about thinking about copywriting as storytelling. And that might sound a bit lame, because you like I’m just selling a product. But it is really a story that you’re communicating with somebody, whether you’re telling a long story or a short story. And it’s also very easy, especially in a new business to just want to create lots of stuff. Like I could create 20 posts, and they’re just going to be about all of these random things. But that’s actually not strategic, and it’s not helpful.

Hannah Kallady: So that’s why it’s really important to have a strategy behind all the content you create. It actually takes a lot of weight off your shoulders too. Because you can say actually, I’m free to not focus on all this stuff over here that’s not useful. And hone where I actually knows it’s going to add the most value for my business. So that’s a really helpful thing to think about. I was going to give a couple of examples of a couple of organizations we’ve worked with who have really interesting or challenging stories to tell. The first one is an organization called Australians Together and they have the very challenging task of getting non indigenous people to engage to their whole history, understand indigenous culture, understand where we came from, and where we’re going. And they do that a lot through education. They’re trying to work with schools and get things into the curriculum, work with workplaces and think about how we can do this better, in case with really scary topics like Australia Day, which is terrifying. And so we’ve been working with him for a few years. And the challenge was, how do we get people to engage with this topic that we all actually feel a bit guilty about that’s really scary, and we don’t know how to engage with. And so we’ve been through this process with them of looking at what are the elements that that story that we want to tell? What’s that journey that people are going on? To learn more about this topic and how do we get them to care? And so we started testing as well on Facebook. We put lots of posts out there just to see what would work. And what we learned was that when we got too complex or too complicated, it did not work out for us. It just confused everyone, we actually arrived at the best mix for their content on Facebook, which was all about positive stories, because you really don’t often see positive stories in that space about how we’re actually achieving things of how indigenous people are achieving great things. Some kind of shocking or emotional parts of our history that we might not know about, like the history of Rottnest Island, which I didn’t know about Google it after, if you don’t either. We found that there was a bit of a mix of just introducing people to the fact that there was something bigger going on and that was what we use this social channels for. And then they draw people into another space where they can have a deeper conversation. And they do a lot of their learning and education through sharing other people’s stories. So by getting indigenous people to share about their experiences as members of the stolen generation, or just as people trying to figure out how to live life, and they’ve realized that that is the biggest and best way to build connection with an audience. So, even though they’re in one of the most complex and challenging spaces, they’ve actually managed to find a way to tell that story. So it doesn’t matter if what you’re selling is hard, might not be as tricky as that. But there’s always a way to find that strategy that’s actually going to cut through. Actually, I was in an award ceremony a few weeks ago, a marketing one and a girl got up and she was like, marketing manager of a shopping precinct in a city that I won’t name. And she said, I have the hardest job in the world. And I was there with Australians Together. And I was like, oh, man, reconciliation. That’s a bit of a tricky space. So it’s a hard story, but you can tell it. The second example I wanted to speak to is a business based in Melbourne. You might have heard of them. They’re called YourGrocer. They’re fantastic and Morgan, their founder is awesome. If you ever have a chance to speak to him definitely do. He’s got a really big vision. So essentially, they deliver food from 65 plus local shops around Melbourne so you can get deliveries from the Queen Vic market from the Perenne market from a bunch of other places to kitchen bench. The idea is you can skip the supermarkets, but still do it in a way that’s convenient. He wants to create a fairer food system, which is a really big vision. It’s about making sure that the supermarkets don’t control prices that we can be a bit fair to our farmers that we can support small businesses, all of these kinds of things wrapped up. But it’s tricky because there’s lots of grocery delivery options out there. And people really mainly just care about saving time about doing something that’s easy for them. And if there’s an added bonus of feeling good about it, that’s awesome. That’s probably not the main reason that they might choose something. So we’ve been working with him over the last few months to shape that story and think about how do we take this big topic and this big mission and turn it into something that’s actually really meaningful. So I think the process here might be helpful for some of you guys, and that we started with really trying to capture his vision and his thinking, and turn it into that baseline narrative. And that’s what we did. First, we didn’t start by doing lots of posts or emails or trying to figure it out as we went. Now that we have that baseline pacing, we’re then able to cut it up and say, what does this look like for a welcome journey on email? What does this look like on a landing page? What does this look like for content strategy on social media? The important thing is you got to start with a strategy. Because otherwise you’re just doing a lot of stuff. And it’s not necessarily going to provide that holistic experience for your users and your customers. So that’s been really exciting. And we’re still in the midst of it, we’re still figuring it out. So what’s this space, but I’m really excited to be telling that story and to see what works there. And that’s the other thing. It’s a live process. You will know if you’re founding a business, it’s all about testing and learning about iterating about pivoting. And that’s exactly what you need to do with these stories in your marketing as well. So we talked about words and how they matter before, but there’s a couple of instances where we’ve seen that words can actually make a world of difference. So just two really small examples, and we’ve done some work with the Victorian Responsible Gambling foundation. After some research that we did with them, we found that there was one big thing getting in the way of them talking to people who really needed to hear this stuff. And that was the use of the word gambling versus betting. We don’t talk about gambling, we talk about betting, if you think about betting apps and things like that, they don’t ever use that word and they really need it to change the lexicon to actually speak, how they use as in customers or people who needed help with speaking, the other one was more recent, we’ve done some work with Department of Jobs and Small Business in Canberra, they found out that people don’t care about careers, especially older Australians, they just want a job. So we were talking about how you could get a start on your new career. They were like, oh, that sounds like a lot of effort. And I’ve already been through 20 or 30 years of work, I just want a job. And so just changing that a little bit a it helps them to understand that you get them and that you’re on the same page as them. But they it resonates with them, they’re more likely to stop and take notice. So think about what are those words that might be relevant in your context that people are using that you actually need to tap in to? You need to speak their language because otherwise it won’t resonate. But I guess the big takeaways are really just thinking about this as what’s that overarching story or strategy that I want to be telling my users and making sure that it’s really grounded in what matters to them, what they’re thinking about the stuff that keeps them up at night, stuff that makes a day’s hard and frustrating, all the dreams that they might have all the things that they want to achieve. Stop there, figure out what that story is, and then break it up and figure out how it sort of plays out across a range of channels. That’s all for me. Thank you.

Serpil Senelmis: Some useful advice there from Hannah, it’s really important to have a content strategy, and it’s all about testing and learning. Thanks, Hannah. And thanks, Georgina too. Next time on master series, my most challenging business years. Surviving your first year in business is a triumph. But what happens at two years, and then five years, we’ll hear from some successful founders about the most challenging years and if it’s possible to put them behind you. Until then, I’m set to Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. And for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

One of the best ways to start a business is to create a solution to a common problem. Then, rather than trying to convince people to buy something they may not need, you can offer something of immense value.

Ben Trinh is the founder of Life Ready Physio & Pilates. Fresh out of university, Ben realised there was a fundamental problem in the physiotherapist’s business model. His solution has grown to 30 locations and over 300 employees in less than a decade.

Demi Markogiannaki is one of the founders of WeTeachMe. Demi worked with her co-founders to create a solution to help teachers find their students — but that wasn’t the solution they were looking for. After listening to their customers, WeTeachMe grew to become the go-to marketplace offering hundreds of classes to thousands of students.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeteachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. If you’re looking for a niche to build your business into solving one of the world’s problems is a great place to start. If you can help people with their health, their heart or their hip pocket, be sure to find some keen customers.

Demi Markogiannaki: I think the fact that businesses will need to be slightly naive, especially the type of business that we started that marketplace, but you also need to be fast enough like you know, to know maybe 100% there is you’re putting yourself into so maybe identifying a problem and seeing it a bit more romantic way or like kinda Yes, I can do the second for vet the thing. We knew the difficulties and the pain points. I probably wouldn’t have gotten there.

Serpil Senelmis: That is Demi Markogiannaki, one of the founders at WeTeachMe. We’ll hear from Demi shortly. First up, Ben Trinh founder of Life Ready Physio and Pilates. Ben wanted to offer people more than a solution for bad backs and sore necks. He wanted to raise the bar to provide the best health care possible with 30 locations, 300 employees and recognition by BRW fast 100 as one of the fastest-growing health businesses in WA has all that and more senses it’s important to have a tangible vision of what your world looks like when that problem is solved.

Ben Trinh: The kind of inception of this story was effectively in 2011 when I graduated, I remember kind of graduating uni feeling a bit disillusioned. And I wake up one day and our last day we went to the university and there was a talk much like this and the CEO of the then-largest Physio Company stood on this platform and said, Look, these are the rules of our industry. Number one, you kind of been in practice when you’re a new grad, you don’t know anything. That’s a silly thing to do. Number two, you need five years experience. You need x y zed, you need to work for basically pitching this company. You’re going to come work here at our company, we bought this grant program. And I left afterward feeling a bit disillusioned. and a month later, I started work. I started working day after my exams, and I worked three jobs. I worked at a Medical Center, which was a typical kind of physio practice at the time. And I worked at a typical private practice for the state ballet, and then also work for Sporting Club for state soccer. The idea was I really wanted a snapshot of what our industry was like, and I couldn’t help shake this kind of deep is this what I this is what I studied for years for, you know, four or five years for me there’s something not quite right. And I remember one night working light as a lot of physios deals about 8pm and was dark and I walked out of my room and I see my boss in the next room tears streaming down his face. And I walked over to him and I said to him, what’s going on? Are you alright, there’s just two of us admin had gone home. He looked at me and he just said, Ben, you know, admin of fighting again, staff leaving, his IT was crashing, the phone system wasn’t working. And his wife just told him that she had cancer without before and he’s just gone and I’ve had a full day and patients, can you just take care of that stuff in sort of a desperate plea, so I can get home to be with my family. And I just remember going yeah, of course, you know, you get out of here or mockup or take care of that. I knew a bit about IT and I just took care that stuff. And as I stayed back late doing this stuff, something just occurred to me that his guys sort of the snapshot of the problem that I’ve been sensing with our industry. The story that was being told in our industry was that the physio is graduated, had to do it all had to be at all and I realized no one person can actually do all those functions well, you know, he was treating patients all day expected to give time and attention to his staff to manage the culture and expect it to be an accountant and a bookkeeper and a marketing manager and an IT person, whatever, all at the same time, and he was overwhelmed. And our industry, I realized the overarching story of the physio profession back then, was this was a bunch of fragmented businesses with people that had great intentions. But were incapable of actually running their businesses in alignment with their intentions. There was a misalignment between impact and their intentions. And the only solution at the time was maybe a franchise, but that wasn’t quite right for a lot of people, it was too systematic. What about that entrepreneur type? who just wants support? who just wants that help? And so that basically was the moment we came up with this idea. What if someone actually just came alongside these guys 50–50 no funny business. And actually just took care of that stuff, so they can focus on what they do best. Rewind the clock 2011, the IBM again, Boy Meets problem, I’m inspired by the problem. I’m captured by it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I start thinking, What am I gonna do? I’m a new grant that’s breaking the rules of the industry. People said, You can’t do this. You’re a new grad, you can’t start a business from scratch. That’s a stupid thing to do. And when you challenge people’s narratives, they’re gonna challenge you back with questions, but questions are just opportunities and problems to be solved. So I went out, worked out a way to kick it off. We bought a business that was struggling at the time the person wanted 60 grand for my accountant said, just lay it on the table offer 10. Like this is humiliating. I’m gonna go in this meeting and offer this person 10,000 bucks. I was a grad I said to this experience, much was busy. I said, Look, I’ve got 10 grand. She said deal, shook my hand on the spot.

Ben Trinh: I walk out to my car, okay this is a moment where you’re like what did I just do? Like I just bought a business she’s like all work out the legals for me thank God for her seriously she did all the legals. I literally went in there expecting no answer that she was not going to say yes, she accepted it and overnight we had a business settlement was like a couple of months later I caught on my mates’ word got out then I was a grad starting a business and you know I started hiring friends my lecturers are supporting us it really created a lot of momentum on the ground and it was really exciting and by the end of 2011 we had five practices. I have no idea how that happened. The first practice was profitable day one people just heard people were supporting us. I took a huge pay cut, obviously, nothing so when I say profitable, I just mean not negative balance in the bank account, but I lived at home I could afford to do that which is part of the story. My closest friends joined in overtime It started with eventually five of my closest mates at uni they kind of said look, we’ll get behind you Third practices where we really try this idea of actually me taking the back end someone doing the front end, and just started getting momentum from there. I kind of tried to break this up into a few sections. 2012 was a lot of growth scale, we had no idea what was going on. And we really just sat down, we used to meet every week and said, you know, we have to stop defining this, whatever this is, because I have no idea what this is like, why is it working? You know, what’s working about this concept? And so they decided to give me Saturday’s off. The commitment was I had to spend some time defining our values and vision to finding our boundaries defining what it is that my Russ is working so that as we grow, wouldn’t lose this and I spent every Sunday morning for a year. And then on Monday, I presented to the team get their feedback and go back and forth for that time. We held at five clinics for that year. Then in 2013 to 15 we decided that we needed help on formidable great people that I knew and they bought in a small stake of our business. And we kind of started growing from there. They helped me build systems, they helped me learn not to be a physio and learn to kind of build a professional business that wasn’t just friends doing everything that we wanted all day long, but actually stay true to who we are, and the company has got some traction, then in 2016, you’ll reach that point in your business where my rule of thumb used to be, if I can solve the problem by not getting paid, then it’s good enough risk. Because some of my staff get paid, I’m happy. But it reaches a certain point of scale where that’s probably not a good enough solution for the problems that you might face. So because of that, we decided we’re going to raise some money, we decided to bring in some great advisors. We ran that process for young and since then, companies continue to grow. I hate saying these kind of broad stories because there was tons of pain points inserted all the way in between there. But I tried to capture what one moment to capture the story would be. I remember being on a plane coming back from Sydney. And I built in some routine around making sure that I could take some time off to pause, reflect and stay true to that clarity. And on my way home, I was sitting with my wife, and we just had our first son is only two or three months old. I started just getting into spreadsheets, I felt like I needed to do get some spreadsheets and get to know the numbers of my business because my solution early on in the business was just grow the revenue, you know, there’s a problem, we’ll solve it by growing more, you know, there’s an operation so by growing more, and I just felt like this isn’t working for me anymore. I have no visibility. I don’t know anything about my business. And after about two or three days, it became sort of apparent to me that will effectively insolvent that we’d grown too fast. And I remember just looking at my spreadsheet just going this is not right, nearly insolvent, like borderline insolvent, like this business could collapse if I didn’t do anything about it. And it was a sinking gut feeling where I realized how just convinced my wife to leave a job to have a baby. By the way, she wanted a baby. But you know, she’s left a job having a baby. We just bought a house and settled in. What the heck do I do in this moment? And what do I do with my staff and I realized running the numbers, I probably fired three or four people, in order to keep the company alive or not pay myself anything for an indefinite period of time. And I just resolved in myself, I couldn’t fire anyone from my stuff up. And so I went home one evening, I remember so vividly. Linda was just holding our baby. And I just had to get it off my chest. And I just said to look, I have stuffed up. Basically, either going to not pay ourselves or get rid of employees, and I’m not going to do that. So we’re not going to have any income for sort of indefinite period of time until I can save the business. And I just remember leaving the room, come back about five minutes later, looking me in the eye and just saying, I forgive you. Get on with it. If you lose everything, you’ll always have me always have each other inside the business.

Ben Trinh: And remember that season now six months to six months to the dot, we had $300 left in our bank when the account was like, hey, we can pay you again and yes, you know, it’s just how it is. And two things. That’s the journey. There’ll be moments where you question, Why can I do this? And no one knows those moments. And in my wife, thank god, she’s far too good for me. There’s my wife there by my side, she had every right to walk out and say that I totally stuffed her but she didn’t. She showed me grace and showed me love. And in that moment, she gave me the strength to keep going on. And there’s so many lessons out of that, you know, but I wanted to share that because I didn’t want it to just be all here’s this guy. I had an idea I found a problem, but no the problem and the company’s massive that’s not the story. The story is this is a problem that It’s captured my very soul. I’m passionate about my belief in it. Now I’ll suffer for it. Even if I’m alone, I’ll be resilient. I’ll push through the pain. I’ll push through that stuff. If you’re just catching up solving a problem, you’re just doing charity. How are you going to make a living out of that problem? I want to be clear on this I’m very passionate about B Corp, one of our board members is one of the few B Corp ASX companies and these are my views on economics, but not every problem you can make commodity out of, but that’s alright. If you can great then how do you plug in that social impact into the business? We have a social impact arm could like for the open house, which is something deeply passionate to Jess and I, which is basically complimentary physio care for immigrants for people who can’t afford it. How are you gonna make money on that you can’t charge a poor person for something that they need. But what we can do is tap into the story that our physios tell about themselves. When we did this survey of we would volunteer 84% of our staff so they would volunteer extra hours to help someone. Which told me actually we need this in our story, because it aligns with their personal direction. And that’s a very exciting piece of the puzzle. We use something called the lean canvas to work out how to actually monetize this and who to work with. It’s from Eric Ries, you can just google it online, and how it all kind of fits together. At the end of the day is hope. There’s two personality types of entrepreneurs I found if you’re very bottom up details person, you’re going to run a perfect business, but it will be one business. So the way Jess and I my business partner say it is if she was on our own, she’d run one perfect physio clinic like it would be perfect. If it was just me I’d run 100 poorly run physio practices. Neither of them is what either of us want. But together we can actually build something special. We have 50 clinics that are well run in the middle, but you need that top line which is the vision and the hope so I call it height because every story has to have hope. Hope is what gives suffering meaning. One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and he talks about surviving in the prison camps. And he says, at the end of the day, it was actually people whose stories were something that the prison camp couldn’t take away from them. For example, you know, one of his friends, he uses a story about a guy that believe the war was ending on a certain day, that day came and went, and he couldn’t make it anymore. He couldn’t keep going. But for Viktor Frankl, he is looked inwardly of himself. And he had this vision of one day him teaching about this experience in Auschwitz. And nothing they did to him there could take away In fact, it actually contributed to that vision because it was more experiences for him to share. You will need this hope and this vision when you stop pursuing your problem, because you’ll need resilience, you’ll need grit. It’ll give meaning to those moments where you feel like giving up and so I’d encourage you how pieces together is you’ve got your vision, your passion, your strengths. Your mission, then comes out with your y which is your watch silence and x y if you haven’t already. And how those will connect with society is the vision. It’s a tangible descriptive picture of what the world looks like when your problem is solved. And it should be measurable. It should be inspiring. And it should be something that gets you out of bed every day that you can actually say, when someone says, what does the world look like when you’ve achieved your goal? What does success look like tangibly? And it doesn’t have to be on mass. It can be XYZ person impacted whatever it might be, but it has to be tangible and measurable. And this hope is what will get you through.

Serpil Senelmis: So, so many lessons learned for Ben pushing through his pain points and learning to be resilient. He brought the company back from the brink of insolvency. Thanks, Ben. We’ll meet Demi Markogiannaki one of the founders at WeTeachMe right after these messages.

Ed Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe whether you want to improve your photography, taste whiskey or painted teapot. WeTeachMe as a class to build your soft skills and have fun. Learn what makes your heartbeat at we teach me.com This podcast is produced by Written and Recorded. A podcast is an intimate medium where you can share your business story without anyone knowing that you’re blushing. Listen to more details at writtenandrecorded.com. And now back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks that Ed Guy. Demi Markogiannaki is one of the founders at WeTeachMe. Demi is a self-taught self person and has twice been recognized in shoestring media groups top 50 Australian female entrepreneurs under 40. In this fireside chat with a colleague Wayne Lewis. Demi says the gut feeling of questioning your own business is not a good thing.

Demi Markogiannaki: So I’m originally from Greece so you can hear a strong accent. So I came here to do a master’s degree in Melbourne University. And after I finished the master’s degree, I started working as a freelance writer or worked as a journalist for a newspaper. And I found it quite boring. So not as challenging as I wanted it to be. And then I decided that maybe to start this business. At that time, it sounded like a great idea. I think to start the business you need to be slightly naive, especially the type of business that we started that can marketplace, but you also need to be passionate like not to know maybe 100% that you’re putting yourself into so maybe identifying a problem and seeing it a bit more romantic way of like kinda yes, I can do this, I can solve it. I’m getting there is the best way to go. I would say I don’t know if this is some kind of good advice, but it’s definitely how you usually start a business. I think if we knew the difficulties and the pain points, I probably wouldn’t have gotten there. So I would say that the first thing that we did was we started looking for ideas that would feel passionate for. I met Kym. So Kym is my business partner. I knew him like three years before that. So he was one of my friends from uni. And he was working in a law firm and he was like, slightly, not as passionate, I guess, about law. So we both were like, let’s do something to be having fun together like we did at uni and we started a business. So part of it was obviously identifying a problem and trying to find a solution to it. So because we had the idea, but we didn’t exactly pinpoint the problem we felt straightaway. So one of the first things that we did was, we went there, and we tried to connect people that are passionate for teaching with people who are passionate for learning. The vision is still there, it’s the same thing. But this time, we’re actually solving a heap load of problems that they’re hiding behind the space. So one of the things that we did wrong starting was, we thought we knew what people wanted. So we built the platform. We said, Everyone, just list your classes here. And then we try to find people to attend the classes. And we couldn’t. So we called a lot of friends and we’re like, do you want to do a class? Everyone come into a class so eventually, we tried to like make money out of it, and it didn’t work. That was a good lesson for us. We didn’t get to achieve anything. And that was like maybe the first like five, six months and we said, let’s go back into the drawing board and try and find a solution for how to make this work. So we interviewed about 100 people who were running classes, and we just listened. So one of the main things that I would suggest for someone that wants to start a business to do is to listen. So listen, identify what are the actual problems that people are having, whether they are the people that you’re trying to service or your customers, the people you’re trying to target and understand what are the pain points for them, and draw on their feedback and create a solution that will make sure that we solve all these issues that they’re having. And that’s what we did. And then that was the first time I actually felt that I was actually solving a problem because people were willing to give me money for the solution that I had, up until then every time I was trying to sell something or invite people to participate in the class or like least on WeTeachMe, there was this feeling that I was like, why would they want to do this? And the thing, just that gut feeling of questioning your own business isn’t not a good thing, the moment that you feel that you’re proud of what you have in front of you, the moment that you feel that here are these I have built something and someone is willing to say, oh my God, this is actually really helpful to what I’m trying to achieve, and I’m willing to pay for it. Then you just have the beginning of a business.

Wayne Lewis: In terms of the skill sets and the partners with Kym, how did you guys then realize that you know, okay, we need to work on the next phase. How did you divide up your skill sets with the other founders?

Demi Markogiannaki: The resources were very limited. It was just four of us at that point. And we did everything we did. Talking to clients, onboarding them. I remember it like nights that we would spend onboarding over 60 classes with images with descriptions with everything sitting late at night and saying, how many have you done, have done five, we’ll never gonna finish this. And then like, wake up the next morning and talking to more people and doing customer support. And Kym like saying to me, I’m not really good at customer support. I was like, do you know anyone else that could do customer support? And he was like, I can’t deal with people that have issues. I’m like, well, I’m sorry.

Wayne Lewis: He’s got it in his own, right?

Demi Markogiannaki: Life is hard. I know now it sounds funny. But at that point, we’re really tired. So, so tired, and then I was thinking, you know, one day we won’t be this tired anymore. This is not gonna happen, you’re always gonna be tired. So we’re just with different issues. So I think at that point, we’re really tired with doing everything. And we’re looking for a way out, we felt that we’re constantly underwater trying to like, get up the top and like draw a breath. And it was really, really tough. But we kept going, and I think we kept going, because first, we saw that it was working. So that kept us quite passionate to just keep going, keep going and pushing through it. Second, we did this, which was quite risky, but we said we’re all gonna leave our side jobs because we kept doing something because we weren’t getting paid for the year. So we all said, that’s it. We’re gonna go full time on to this. And if it doesn’t work, we’re out. So we had to give it all otherwise, all this time, all this effort that we’ll have to spend will be for nothing, or that’s what we were thinking about that time.

Wayne Lewis: How did you then justify that to you know, with the people in your life at the time? I think we listened to Kym before and he’s obviously got family members that are thinking, are you doing the right thing? Were you faced with any of these dilemmas like, Okay, my family’s thinking this is way too risky.

Demi Markogiannaki: Yeah. So my parents didn’t know what I was doing for the first maybe three years after, like I finished university. My parents are quite traditional, the Greek people, they are both professionals. They have nothing to do with business. So I would go back and be like, well, we have a platform that is online. And we’re trying to connect people that would like to teach with people that would like to learn, they would be like, were you working from a black hole? We work from a library in the city. And they’ll be like, Okay, so how much money you make, we’re not making any money. So they kind of like thought I had gone crazy actually was the first time they visited after, like four years of me being in Australia, they came to see from actually okay or if I’m, I’ve gone completely mental. And Linda decided, you know, it’s her life, we let her make her own mistakes like the first time they realized what I was doing was when I won one of these awards of like being an entrepreneur amongst like, top female entrepreneurs, and then the creek media picked it up and I ended up being in a local newspaper, and then my parents were like, oh,this is what this is doing. Up until then he was really hard for me to explain because technologically, they’re not extremely advanced. But also, it was just really hard at that point, to put them to understand, so really hard for that. And then I think amongst us we were just saying whoever gets to the bottom first in terms of money in their bank account will have to support the other people. It was just like, okay, let’s keep going, let’s keep going a little bit of money more like, let’s make sure that everyone stays, you know, at the point where they are okay. And obviously, we want you to prioritize the people that when you or they had a family, they were like a little bit more vulnerable.

Wayne Lewis: In WeTeachMe we’re quite a diverse company, I’d like to say that we are we can celebrate that. And obviously, we’re almost 50–50 I think, male to female employees in a tech company. So can you talk about the early stages, obviously, you were the only female employee and what your experiences were as a female entrepreneur.

Demi Markogiannaki: Yeah, so this is an interesting thing. And I don’t have any horror stories on my side of being respected by the people that I’ve been dealing with. And I think that happens maybe, because I’m quite assertive, maybe that’s the Greek background or something like that. Like I tend to be I know about what I’m talking about. If I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I try to be quiet and listen or lead. I guess like I’ve been approached quite a lot by girls that they’re not sure about what they’re doing or they feel that they won’t be taken seriously. And I tend to say to them that you just need to push through. We tend to be emotional, but we also tend to be having other qualities. For example, in my company, it’s like Kym, Cheng, and myself are currently the founders and sometimes I just go around say, hey, guys, like, I think you should change their perspective and see it from a different point of view and I think it doesn’t really matter who you are the country you’re coming from. If you’re a girl or a guy or anything like this, I think what matters is what you bring into the company, your perspective and everything is valuable. Every opinion is valuable. And I think a lesson that I’ve learned is it doesn’t matter who you are running your business will toughen you up. Sometimes I’ll get really upset. Kym would be able to tell you on the first like these phone calls trying to sell people, I cried a lot, like cuz people would reject me, they would be like, oh, who are you like you have an accent, I don’t know, whatever. And I would cry a lot, and I’ll be very upset. But eventually, I would say, what do I have to lose? Like, at the end of the day, I’m here, I’m trying to do something good. There is nothing to lose or push through it all toughen up. And the more tough you become, the harder it is for things like that to get through to you. You have bigger expectations of yourself. You’re willing to help more people like you have been helped before, I guess, and I think it’s a great lesson for everyone to embrace who they are, whether that is gender or nationality or whatever because that’s what makes them special. And it’s a very, very unique perspective to bring into a business.

Wayne Lewis: Would you say? Obviously, you staff members are their proudest moment of your entrepreneurial background or career so far, what would you say is that proudest moment of yours?

Demi Markogiannaki: That’s a hard question. I don’t really know I get a lot of fulfillment by meeting the people that we service. I get extremely excited if I go somewhere and people would seem to know what I’m doing. So like, I’ll go to a party and someone will be what are you doing for a living and then I’ll try to explain and I’ll be like, oh, we’re doing to be like, oh, this sounds like WeTeachMe and I’ll be like, we are. I am WeTeachMe. You know, it’s just like that heartbeat that you get like people know what I’m doing. People know who we are. But again, I think like everything that I do, I see it from a humble point of view, if you can say I don’t feel important enough, I feel that I can help people talking from experience. But at the same time, I always see that there is another, something else to conquer someone else to help another issue to solve. So I’m really proud of the teams that have around me. I’m really proud of my business partners. I’m really proud from what we’ve built today and from the knowledge that I’ve acquired, but I feel like we’re still early on this journey, and there’s so much more to conquer.

Wayne Lewis: Excellent. So, guys, thank you very much, Demi Markogiannaki of WeTeachMe. Can we have a round of applause?

Serpil Senelmis: And the key takeaway there from Demi, it’s important to remember that different perspectives matter whether you’re female, male, have an accent or not. Everyone has something of value to bring to business. Thanks, Demi, and thanks, Ben, as well. Next time on Masters Series, The Art of copywriting, and the power of words, we’ll get some text tips to help your business and brand to express themselves and connect with your customers. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Failures are part of the business journey, but it’s nice to avoid them and even better to learn from the mistakes of others. In this podcast you’ll hear how one man is using his experience at the bleeding edge of digital marketing to help shape the startups of tomorrow.

Kristen Holden is the Startup Manager at MYOB where he helps founders to skill-up before they scale-up. He cut his teeth in digital marketing in the late 1990s before spamming was frowned upon and the holder of the most domain names controlled web traffic. Kristen explains the mistakes he made in his early career and describes his hopes for a new wave of startups.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. One thing we consistently hear from founders on the Masters Series is that whatever your business is, somebody’s probably done it before. This is especially true for things that go wrong. And in this podcast, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.

Kristen Holden: So those guys invented affiliate programs, I mentioned extra controls. These are things that they came up with, they innovated these things. I learned how not to conduct my life. Literally, these guys just went off the rails, most of them. I think three or four guys are in jail, or something happened to them pretty much because they just went too far. So I learned not what to do very quickly. But just learning how that mindset of what can we do what’s different. I didn’t learn from the university. I didn’t learn from somebody who’d come before me it was ready to go on visit whatever you want. Just have a crack. There’s no rules. Just think of something you can do it.

Serpil Senelmis: Kristen Holden is the startup manager of MYOB and has been working in the digital space for over two decades. He’s worked with some amazing success stories including 99 Design, Five Point, Commbank, and Sanitarium. And he’s worked at the bleeding edge of digital marketing at the turn of the century was revolutionary. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis. Kristen reveals it’s tough to balance looking after yourself and just going for it.

Kristen Holden: That’s how I got into this stuff was I met some guys from Brisbane who were making like $5 million a month each does about five of these guys that were just killing it. Man just went wow, this internet stuff, make some money. I was doing graphic design school. And I started doing graphic design for them. And that was pretty wild. 20 something-year-old guys unlimited money. Late 90s was pretty wild in every sense. Very different orders today is no such thing as ecosystem, or no such thing as a startup really nothing like this framework that just today that was there, there is no rules. There was no guides, there was no PR any of this stuff. It was running really successful on my businesses.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah. So no morals either then?

Kristen Holden: Yes. They’ve been questioned many times.

Wayne Lewis: What were some of the things that you were taken out of that at the time and absorbing off those guys?

Kristen Holden: So those guys invented affiliate programs, they invented exit consoles. These are things that they came up with, they innovated these things. I learned how not to conduct my life. Literally, these guys just went off the rails, most of them. Yeah, I think three or four guys are in jail, or something happened to them pretty much because I just went too far. So I leart not what to do very quickly. And then I just learning how that mindset of what can we do what’s different. I didn’t learn from the university. I didn’t learn from someone who come before me it was because do whatever you want. Listen, whatever you want, just have a crack. There’s no rules, just think of something and you can do it. Which I think is just always forward on. From that, that mentality of not oh, well, this is the way we do it. But what should we do?

Wayne Lewis: And how did you evolve your skills from the graphic design? And then how did that take you into the .com era?

Kristen Holden: I wanted to make money from what I was doing, which was better than just doing design. So the .com era let’s talk was ICQ first funny enough? I built an ICQ spammer.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, I don’t even know an ICQ spammer is?

Kristen Holden: This is before like all the crazy bots for doing Russian stuff. And there was heaps of spam going around. And I just built something that would literally fire off marketing messages to randomize ICQ numbers. This is before there’s any kind of spam filters or anything and promote some these affiliate programs. So there’s guys that I knew and, you know, pretty quickly, you’re making two grand a day from doing something like that, because there’s no one else marketing to this channel. That is literally no one else doing it. It’s like I’ve got a message. Oh, cool. I’ll click on it. It wasn’t like oh, this is crap. And it’s Viagra spam or something. Which is pretty common with like Hotmail or whatever you use these days. There was no one else doing it. It was great cut through. And then it came down to SEO. It was like wow, this Google thing, what can I do with it? So I’ve got a big background with domain names at the time. And we’re talking, maybe 99 2000, I probably had 5000 domain names. So I’ve got 1000 of them and ring-fenced them and built this not a spammer, but like a tool, which would link them all together automatically and create pages based on content, algorithms and interlink them all and pretty enough I have 20 million listings per domain name. So you’d search for anything and it would matter what the domain was, because there’s no domain relevance back then, it didn’t matter whether a domain authority was about a certain topic or not. You bought an expired domain name, it had some juice associated with it, and you’ve loaded with content and rank for everything. So I do think I was still the very first person to ever get a manual penalty on Google and the first I’ve ever heard of to get them all deleted because I sort of took the piss I guess you could say, I was just always pushing the edge with this.

Wayne Lewis: I was gonna say go down the boundaries is…

Kristen Holden: Because there wasn’t rules. Literally. No one have done it before. The rules don’t say you can’t have 20 million listings per domain name. There was just no guides, there’s no map outs out there telling people what to do or not do and there was no blogs about what to do. And there’s no one certainly saying it, the people that knew were doing it themselves and making money.

Wayne Lewis: Soon after that, didn’t the guidelines come into play after that?

Kristen Holden: We started slapping people like Google start deleting people changing the rules like trying to focus on search quality, versus just delivery of traffic. So it became clear pretty quickly that you had to build quality stuff. Two ways to run the business. One is you run it very quickly, and you just go screw it, it’ll get deleted at some point. And the second way is you build it from the start, but the idea of it being quality content that matters to people, and that came in mid 2000s, roughly.

Wayne Lewis: Now you’re all with MYOB. And obviously taking on the challenges with MYOB. And obviously, the ecosystem. And some of those businesses that you’re interacting with on a daily basis. What are some of the common things that they’re struggling with at the moment? What are some of the hardships they’re going through that you’re able to assist with?

Kristen Holden: So it’s a strange one because I think people have a pretty easy these days relative to back in the day, all the crap we used to have to go through in terms of starting a business like access to they say money’s pretty good now, things like WeTeachMe exists. People can learn stuff, stuff like side points, they can skill yourself up. It’s a matter of just execution in your ideas, I think from in terms of getting off the ground. I think financial literacy is a problem as well. In the female entrepreneurship space, there’s still a big problem with the stigma of a lot of our white men have the money, unfortunately. So getting access to capital, raising that early money is very hard. So we do support a lot of female entrepreneurship programs and a lot of things like that, because I think it matters, and someone’s going to do it. I think people just have to stop overthinking everything as well. A lot of people come to me with this 12 month crazy big MVP they’ve been working on then they’ve built like a marketplace platform from scratch. So why wouldn’t you use marketplace like ah, or why didn’t you build in WordPress and test the idea or why didn’t you that a lot of people just get caught up in this bullshit idea of it’s going to be perfect or it’s going to be this amazing brand or I’ve got to have this Instagram profile doing this. So instead of just doing stuff, when people just get caught up In that public version of it now, instead of like just launching businesses and trying them out,

Wayne Lewis: If you could go back and think about the mistakes that you’ve made, what would you tell yourself today?

Kristen Holden: Treat it like a business, like when I was a kid, I choose to waste a lot of money and waste a lot of time. And I think my biggest mistake was after 99, I was a bit cocky. Everything was coming pretty easy in terms of clients coming on whatever. And the grass was always pretty green. And it was sort of like not planning for the future. Being pretty plaza, and that kind of stuff was a stupid mistake.

Wayne Lewis: But in terms of when things actually go wrong for you, how do you deal with it? Are you somebody that dives into it head on, is somebody that needs a little bit of time away and come back to it? How do you tackle these big problems?

Kristen Holden: There’s been times I’ve done both of those to be honest. I’m generally pretty upfront and head-on, but there’s been times where I stick my head in the sand and ignore it. To be frank. I’ve always been an optimist. It’s probably my biggest problem. I always assume I’ll fix it or whatever happened. There’s this holy shit, the sky is falling and fix it. So I guess it’s probably a fault and a positive for my character. Just being an optimist.

Wayne Lewis: So, are you now somebody who thinks, okay, well people have got to be doing these long hours. Are you an advocate for people thinking, okay, work smarter, not work less hours that you know?

Kristen Holden: I’m the exact opposite work, work as many hours as it takes you to get the job done. Yeah, that’s another mistake too, as well. I learned by crashing my own soul by working 20 hours a day. That doesn’t matter. There’s always more stuff to tomorrow, there’s always another email is gonna come in, there’s always another 20 there’s another whatever that’s gonna happen. So that was actually what taught me to have work life balance. My wife hates it, she thinks I’m lazy because I sort of can shut off and just not decide to do it. But I had to learn that very hard lesson. Literally learned the hard way. There’s always more.

Wayne Lewis: So do you have certain types of rituals or habits that you put in place to get that balance? What’s some of the easy things people can implement in their life?

Kristen Holden: I think it’s just picking something you’ve done or awake or whatever. Just having a certain amount of stuff you want to do and not just always looking for more to do like having a set goal. You Want to achieve? And Gary Vee talks a lot about there’s always more, there’s always like another 50 years like you’re 20 what’s gonna happen if you’re 24 and you haven’t made your first $10 million, or whatever that mentality of takes time, work a bit slower work a bit smarter. To me, I think just having that mentality with founders 67% of founders have mental health problems in Victoria was like a snapshot, I think I remember hearing, it is always pressure. There’s always everything’s measured everything’s about shipping code, or launching a product or doing whatever, and just taking the time to actually have a laugh as well. I think it’s important, realizing that there’s more to life than work.

Wayne Lewis: Do you try and stress that to the people that you’re working with now? So these new businesses, are you having these open conversations with people around that?

Kristen Holden: Yes, is very straightforward answer with thinking of a program at the moment, which would focus on people’s mental health. And just figuring out how we can do that or how we would help them or whatever, we’re just trying to figure even things like childcare, trying to figure out how to mums and dads can go and do work, some things like that. would make a big difference which is coming online now, just in terms of stress levels.

Wayne Lewis: Guys, can we have around applause, Kristen Holden of MYOB?

Serpil Senelmis: How lucky for startups today to have access to the knowledge that comes from Kristen’s experiences, particularly that philosophy that no matter how long and hard you work today, they’ll still be work to do tomorrow. Just pace yourself. Thanks, Kristen. Next time on Masters Series, creating a business out of the world’s problems. Solving people’s problems sounds like a great premise for a business. We’ll meet a founder or two who are fixing the world, one customer at a time. Until then, I’m sad to Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Podcasting offers businesses a way to connect with their customers that is personable and valued. It enables brands to reveal their personalities and provides consumers with useful information and entertainment. This podcast about podcasting outlines the key considerations in creating a podcast for your brand.

Serpil Senelmis is the co-director of content creation agency Written & Recorded. As a journalist for hire with decades of experience in radio, television, newspapers and marketing, Serpil helps organisations to tell their story. She steps through the podcast creation process from concept to publication.

Corey Layton is the Content & Marketing Director with podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa, where he has led the production of successful podcasts from Mercedes Benz, Facebook, and the City of Sydney. Corey warns of the pitfalls in podcasting and names the secret ingredient in reaching your audience.

Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words that can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.

Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. Now I’m sure you’re already aware podcasts are an awesome way to learn, to be entertained, or just to catch up on the latest. They’re also an effective way for businesses to build relationships and communicate directly with their customers. And in this podcast about podcasting, we’ll explore how to create a podcast for your business or organization. Corey Layton is the content and marketing director with podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa has led the production of podcasts for brands such as Facebook, Mercedes, and City of Sydney.

Corey Layton 0:50
A company called gimlet who we represent here in Australia. They have a podcast called Jumpers, the brand podcast for our OB and the aim of it was you Okay, Google buy champions. And what it was was a tooth brushing companion for your kids. So it goes for, I think 90 seconds, and it tells a really great story that’s highly produced. And during the brushing, the voice will go. Alright, now brush the bottom of the teeth. And then says things like if you want to know what happens next, tune in tonight.

Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear from Corey shortly. But first, well, it’s me. As the Co-Director of content agency Written and Recorded. I make podcasts for large government organizations, individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes. So I’m stepping out from behind the scenes to explain how we make podcasts. Now, a good podcast has to be a little bit like a book, think about a really good book that you’ve read. It’s got rich characters. It’s got really great storytelling. It takes the imagination, it paints pictures for you, and the strength is that you get to paint those pictures and filling those gaps, that’s what a podcast does because you don’t have images that go with it. And a branded podcast if you considering a branded podcast has to have all of those elements as well, it needs to have compelling storytelling and a narrative arch. Three key factors you need to consider when making a good quality podcast is you need to really know your audience. Who are you talking to? And what do you want them to get out of? It needs to be passionate about the subject matter that you’re talking about, or at least have done research on the subject. So you are engaged in the actual topic that you’re talking about. And you need to bring in great storytelling elements. So knowing your audience will help you shape your whole podcast that will dictate what themes you choose what topics you choose. So before you start your podcast, you need to ask yourself, what’s in it for my listeners, and what’s the problem that I’m trying to solve for them. And then you need to show genuine interest because genuine interest is infectious, your listeners will actually pick up on that energy and will be enthusiastic along with you. And listen all the way you can’t fake enthusiasm if you’re not invested in it. Why would you expect your listener to be and you can’t just plug in a microphone and start recording. Like any good content. A podcast requires research, a plan, and a storyboard. And you need to hook your listeners from the get-go. The first 30 seconds are crucial, you need to hook them in. If you haven’t got them in the first 30 seconds, chances are they’ll switch off and they won’t continue listening. The rule of thumb is garbage in equals garbage out. So what you need to do is to create a good quality product that stands out from the pack. So how do we do that? Where do we begin to create a good quality podcast? First, you have to start with a purpose, or a business objective that requires you to be clear on what problem you’re trying to solve, or what opportunity that you’re trying to address. And be clear on what you hope to achieve with the podcast. You really need to be really clear on who your target audience is, if it helps create an avatar of them so that you know what sort of person that you’re speaking to, then do your research. Think about why would this audience listen in? And what’s going to keep them coming back and listening over and over again to this podcast? And while you’re researching, look at what else is out there. Is there a podcast that inspires you that you would like to emulate? Maybe it’s the tone that they’re bringing in, maybe it’s the gift that they’re bringing in so jot all that down. And see what you would like to emulate, then you’re ready to start planning. So come up with a concept and an idea, which will create your roadmap for the podcast. And then consider the types of guests that you want to get. Now this is really crucial in the industry we call good guests, the best talent, make a dream list of the talent that you would like to get not just anyone run of the mill because you want to get the best people in your podcast to have engagement. We had Nathan Chan here a few weeks ago. He is the founder of Founder Magazine. It was talking to us about how he got an interview with Richard Branson. Richard Branson didn’t know who Nathan was Nathan wasn’t a known brand at the time. But he tried, he kept on knocking on the door. He was tenacious, and he got that interview. If you don’t ask you don’t get put together your dream list and work your way down from your dream list. Then consider your tone. Is your podcasts going to be funny? Is it going to be instructive? Is it going to be investigative, this will all be determined by once again, your audience, and the types of guests you’re going to have, and what the purpose of the podcast is. Consider the format. Are you gonna have studio interviews, will you have field reports? Or will you have a bunch of journalistic reports stitched together? And then duration is really important? Is it going to be short, sharp, and snappy? And you’re just gonna roll out an episode for 15 minutes every week? Or do you want to really deep dive into a topic and pick some themes over an hour and release the podcast perhaps once a month? So these are all important considerations. And then think about the structure of it. Will it be narrative style? Would it be interview-based, will you have a co-host so you can bounce off each other so you don’t feel like you’re left alone? And then once you’ve done all of this It’s time to put on your editorial hat. And that requires storyboarding. And that requires a script. And your scripts have to be tight. You need to have tight intros, tight narrative links, tight outros. You can’t just be rambling. No one wants to sit there listening to your stream of consciousness for 40 minutes. It comes back down to the whole idea of great storytelling. And in the great storytelling, keep reminding your audience why they’re there, make it clear to them what this podcast is again, and again. Choose your style and your sound. In a podcast, you have all sorts of elements that come together. You have ambient sounds, you have music, you have interviews from different sources, and you have to think about it as if you’re putting together a beautiful composition, a beautiful musical piece that you want to sing. If something sounds jarring in that mix, rip it out. Just leave it out because it will stick out and make the rest of it not sound cohesive. And then have a call to action. Think about what you want your listeners to do. At the end of listening to each episode, then you’re ready to record. Now you may have read on the internet that it’s pretty easy to record a podcast, right? Don’t trust the internet. You do need high-quality equipment to record a podcast, you need a high-quality microphone, and you need editing capability. If you don’t have any of these things. It’s best to call in the experts or at least learn how to use these things.

Serpil Senelmis: Think about it if you’ve ever recorded a lecture or a presentation on your iPhone, and then you’ve listened back to it the next day. It sounds pretty terrible, right? You’re listening back to it. It sounds really scratchy. It’s not the most pleasant listening experience. Why would you offer that to your audience, as something to listen to week in and week out. You don’t want to do that. And in terms of the way sound works you’re listening to my voice at the moment, can you hear anything else? Someone pointed out that the aircon, yeah. Can you hear the traffic outside? No, because our ears are not like microphones. Our ears are trained for selective hearing wars microphones aren’t like that. Microphones are sensitive little things, they pick up everything so this microphone on my chest, it’s picking up that air conditioner, it’s picking up traffic noise, and every week when we edit the Masters Series podcasts we use editing techniques to edit out that low hum conditioning frequency so that when people do download the Masters Series podcasts that they have a pleasant listening experience. So all these considerations are important. Editing is important for two reasons, one for quality. So there are many, many examples of bad editing. Some of the ones that come to mind uneven levels or popping or outside noises bleeding into the interviewees’ voice while they’re talking. And it just sounds horrible. No one wants to listen to them. So you need to consider all those factors when you’re editing a podcast. But the other factor you need to consider is from an editorial perspective. Say you’ve spent 40 minutes recording an interview and you’ve had a 40-minute chat with someone. Do you need to upload 40 minutes of that conversation for your audience to listen to? No, chances are, the person said five minutes of gold, five minutes of key takeaways. You need to be really harsh with your editing and offer your audience only the key takeaways they need to hear. They don’t need to hear the rest of the 35 minutes because they’ve got a life and you just want to give them the key points and give them quality. So once you’ve done all of that, it’s time to get your podcast out there, and this is easier said than done. So once you’ve done a good quality podcast, upload it to a podcast platform such as Whooshkaa. But then after that, you can just leave it there, you need to let people know that it’s there, you need to use all of your marketing power, you need to put budget behind it, to communicate to your prospective audience that you’ve created this podcast specifically for them. And that means first and foremost using all of your marketing power. Start with branding first, give your podcast a clever title. Have nice, compelling artwork that’s going to stand out in the podcast mix. And then use all of your channels whether it’s your social media channels, it might be Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, whatever social channels that you’re actually already engaging with your customers or your potential audience with on, use that to notify them that you’ve created this podcast, make it easy for them to access the podcasts, put a badge on it so that they can immediately click on it and download and subscribe. Do the same thing if you’ve got a website hosted on your website. So use all of your marketing channels if you’ve got an EDM communicate through EDM. And then if you have got the budget, and I would say put money behind it, because if you’ve spent money making it, you should spend money marketing it to get it out in front of everyone. It’s like any other medium. If you don’t market it, people aren’t going to know that it exists. So why don’t we do it under a blanket? It sounds like it’s technically easy. But there are a lot of considerations in making a podcast that’s of high quality. The thing that I can say that is the same or similar is other markets such as advertising or search engine optimization or website design. You can basically have a crack at all of these things. And in fact, we probably all have had a crack at all of these things. But once you call in the experts, you’re going to get better results. Because you are competing with radio stations, you are competing with newspapers, you are competing with commercial brands that are pumping out podcasts. So to be able to play in their league, you need to think like they do. And in summing up basically, some key points have a clear purpose. What’s your business objective? Make sure you plan, research, have a roadmap. Record your podcast, have fun while you’re recording your podcast. But also make sure your editorial hats on all the time as you editing. And then it’s crucial that you consider distribution and marketing as part of the entire mix, not just making the podcast Thanks, guys.

Serpil Senelmis: So what do you think? Did I do okay? We really enjoy making the Masters Series podcast and our aim each week is to capture the mood of the event and wrap you up in it. We hope you find it both informative and entertaining. Up next Corey Layton from Whooshkaa. He offers a broader perspective on the whole podcasting phenomenon.

Ed Guy: Masters Series is presented by WeTeachMe. In addition to offering a wide range of classes, WeTeachMe is a booking system that helps teachers and schools reach their students. If you have a skill to share, you can find your pupils with weteachme.com. This podcast is produced by written and recorded Did you hear the one about the journalists that started a podcast company to capture and release the stories of businesses? You just did? Well, head over to writtenandrecorded.com to find out how you can get your story out there. And now, back to the podcast.

Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ed guy, Corey Layton was a bit of a radio wunderkind before he joined the fledgling podcast hosting platform Whooshkaa. Over the past few years, he’s led the production of some very successful branded podcasts, including tough conversations from Mercedes Benz. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis. Corey says a good story is not enough to build an audience. To do that, you’ll need to rely on good old fashioned marketing.

Corey Layton: Simple had it a 100% on the money, podcasts are really hard, like really hard. In fact, the advice we give to a lot of people in fact, most people that come to us are going hey, we’re thinking of doing a podcast is, maybe you shouldn’t, because building an audience and doing it consistently, and doing it with hot production is really difficult. There’s 550,000 podcasts in the world that are active right now. And all free, and so vying for your piece of that pie, and knowing how to shout out to your particular target in whatever nation is, and to cut through that noise is really difficult and unless you committed and are in it for the long haul, I’d say go, go try something else.

Wayne Lewis: And when you create that content for the people, what are some of the key things that you know you like to hone in on obviously Serpil talks about a lot of things in terms of the plan and the script and everything else? What is it that you see as being the most successful ones and what gives them?

Corey Layton: The ones that are most successful are probably the ones with money behind them because they have an inbuilt megaphone to shout out and go we exist, we’re here to whoever that target is. Beyond that the ones that actually take care in telling a story and adding production values is integral. We are a podcast host. And we have a lot of podcasts on our network where someone goes, right let’s talk record, and then stop at the end. And I upload that and they expect people to be driven to it. And while your family and friends might, getting people to stay and have them engaged for the continued amount of a podcast, takes a trick. And so, production and knowing how to tell a story absolutely is key.

Wayne Lewis: And telling that story is that enough to build the audience and the community. Would you say?

Corey Layton: No, no, no. So if your cover-up is crap, and a lot of people don’t even think about their cover-up, they get to the very end. They’re like, Oh, we’re launching in three days to get to that cover-up. The thing about podcasts is people judge them by their cover. And so if you don’t have a great piece of cover-up, no one will even press play because they’re surrounded by great cover-up that’s out there, and it’s free. And they’ll just go somewhere else. They won’t even listen to your first second. And so your packaging is really key.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, we actually got some good advice on that. From WeTeachMe Masters Series podcast about the title and keeping it clean and simple, getting that cut through so…

Corey Layton: And don’t have an image of a microphone or headphones on. Because people know it’s a podcast.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, exactly. So that takes us maybe onto you must have seen obviously some, we don’t have to name any names, but where has gone wrong for people if you’ve got any horror stories of where you know, people put a lot of cash into this?

Corey Layton: I do, any I can share? Not really, um, there are. I did say earlier, having a megaphone is helpful to get a great podcast, but the moment someone might press play and they may engage if it’s not great. People decide if they’re going to stick with the podcast in the first minute or two, they will decide if they’re going to stay on or not. And there are a lot of podcasts where by the time you hit the two-minute mark, they’re still teasing what’s coming up. And so we’ve come across, and there are plenty of big publishers out there that break those rules. And even though they have the megaphone to shout from, they still don’t convert into listeners, because word of mouth is the most dominant way that people get recommendations from podcasts beyond social media, it’s all about friends recommendations. And if someone samples something, and they got no guy, they’re not going to talk about it and no one’s going to find it.

Wayne Lewis: We had a little chat with Serpil before and we were talking a little bit about trends in terms of coming over from the US. Is that something that the Australian market looks towards and should people be following some of those trends as a way or is it more focusing on what they’re branded?

Corey Layton: Look, the content that resonates most worldwide is true crime. We look after podcasts like a teacher’s pet and dirty john and these massive juggernauts that females in particular here in Australia cannot get enough of. And now there’s a lot of people going yeah I’m gonna make a true-crime podcast and some of them don’t work as well if they miss had to tell a great story. There’s a few out there that are beautifully packaged but still miss it, and I just don’t grow the teacher’s pet. That story has kept divided the nation and from a podcast perspective, some may question how it’s been told. The story is so powerful that audiences globally continue to listen to it. And it’s the first Australian podcast to ever dent anywhere around the world. They were number one in the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, you name it. So true crime is a big one. Also. snackable formats, so connected speakers Google Home Amazon Alexa where that is shifting not just here in Australia but globally and the ability to create different podcasts for different moments in your day. They are podcasts, they’re short form. The best example I’ve come across comes from a company called Gimlet, who we represent here in Australia. They have a podcast called Jumpers. It was a brand podcast for Oral‑B. And the aim of it was you put one of these devices in your bathroom and in the US prevalent, and you say, okay, Google Play Jumpers. And what it was was a tooth brushing companion for your kids. So it goes for, I think, 90 seconds, and it tells a really great story that’s highly produced. And during the brushing, the voice will go alright, now brush to the bottom of your teeth. And then says things like if you want to know what happens next, tune in tonight, and so it builds in how long to brush your teeth for and entertainment for when you’re in the bathroom, brushing your teeth. That’s a really clever ID. And as these smart speaker devices gain traction here in Australia, and they’re rapidly doing so, the ability to start to think about not just podcasts, but short-form audio content that can be your companion at different moments in your day. That’s the really exciting spice.

Wayne Lewis: So that kind of leads on to Whooshkaa as the distribution channel. And what people should be looking for in a distribution channel. Can you share some thoughts on Whooshkaa?

Corey Layton: We’re Australian vice the high majority of distribution channels are all in the US and to be able to pick up the phone, just talk to someone and get some advice is often really helpful. We’re free platforms. So if you understand podcast use us, it’s free, and then people go, but why are you free? How do you make money and so we make money by monetizing the top 10% of podcasts on our network. We work with those podcasters and brands to connect them and there’s often podcasters in our top 10% that don’t want that or are quite picky, and that’s fine.

Wayne Lewis: Yeah, the analytics that go into the back end of podcasting. I’ve been looking at the website myself and the AI and everything that’s going on around voice. So should people be delving into the analytic side of things?

Corey Layton: If you’re looking to produce a podcast analytics are essential. One of the realms you can get some stats via Apple analytics talks to you about your time spent listening. Now if you make an hour and 20 minute podcast and your time spent listening is 20 minutes in, you got a problem. Equally if people are skipping over a certain segment that you think is really funny every week you can see that skip and then you like maybe I’m not so funny. Analytics are key via Spotify, you can get an understanding of your demographics based on gender and also age. It helps you understand where your stories are resonating most, and the sort of demographic that you need to continue to pitch at or grow. And also the download source. So you will start to see, are people listening to my podcast via my website via Facebook, or Apple viral, etc, etc. that will also help you if you can put some money behind it understand where are the channels that are converting nice for me.

Wayne Lewis: So would you recommend then based on that our audience if they’re looking to partner with somebody else, is it more like a courting and dating process where they should be asking certain questions when they’re having these meetings to think is this person suitable for me to be working with?

Corey Layton: Absolutely. So you’re talking about a guest on someone’s podcast or?

Wayne Lewis: Guest or partnering with them as a brand.

Corey Layton: So from a guest perspective, yes, often thinking about the distribution like as simple spark about go high go for Richard Branson, if you want, think about who is the talent that is huge in your niche, and then look at who has the biggest social followings because they gonna be the way that you get to convert people to listening as far as brands and having a brand fund your idea if that’s what you’re looking to do, it’s difficult because unless you’re a name, or you have something established behind you, you’re asking your brand to take a leap of faith into come on this journey with me. I’m going to make the show about x, it will be great. And then they say to you, sure, how many listeners will you get? You need a crystal ball to answer that question. If you have an established show, it’s much easier to then get brands on board to help you but from the outset, it’s difficult.

Wayne Lewis: So selling the vision and the story enough would you say?

Corey Layton: I would say, depends on who you are that’s selling as in are you recognizable and respected name with credibility in whatever the niche is that you’re going to talk about. Then there’s a reason to back that horse but if no one’s ever heard of you, and you’re just getting started in the industry, with a brand put money behind you probably not.

Wayne Lewis: Awesome. Guys, can we have a round of applause for Corey Layton of Whooshkaa.

Serpil Senelmis: So like any digital marketing, analytics are key to podcasting success, and those short daily podcasts for smart speakers sound amazing, don’t they? Thanks, Corey. Next time on Masters Series business oops, things that went wrong. There’s nothing like a good disaster story and the recovery story that hopefully follows Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series.

About Masters Series by WeTeachMe

Masters Series is a show about inspiring entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionary dreamers, and the stories behind how they built their companies.

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Question of the day

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.