Burbank Group of Companies: building success

Formed of a host of subsidiary companies that cover the full spectrum of building industry services, including the award winning Burbank Homes, the Burbank Group of Companies is reimagining the format of a home and property group.

The group’s Managing Director, Jarrod Sanfilippo, talks about the diversification that interlinks the companies and the continuing expansion that has seen the group continue to go from strength to strength.

All in the Family

“It was a business started by my father,” Mr Sanfilippo says. “Everything we do is linked through to property or built form assets, in one way or another.”

The group consists of companies that deal with the land needed for building, trade firms that help build properties, storage firms helping people store items when work is underway and a finance business that helps customers pay for their homes.

“My father was an accountant, and his step-brother was an electrician. Obviously, the major two sides of building are the sales, marketing, accounting side of the business, and then there’s the trade, supplier base. So, together they formed Burbank Homes, to start with.”

This first company, a firm that has since grown to become one of Australia’s leading builders, began as a modest weekend project. Years of hard work helped it develop in size and stature, and from there the Burbank Group of Companies grew with it.

“They ended up deciding to make it a business,” Mr Sanfilippo explains. “It started from just one display home in the nearby suburbs to their home, and it’s now grown to spread right across Victoria.” Mr Sanfilippo’s uncle left the business nearly a decade ago.

Burbank Homes started a slow but steady migration across the country, and has since moved into New South Wales and South Australia over the last five years.

Mr Sanfilippo and his father spent some time running the company together, with the former concentrating on developing the group into other states in Australia, while the latter focused on the group’s land development company.

“That allowed us to both grow together,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “having a separate focus but also interlinked, because obviously working as father-son, but also the two crucial parts of the group.”

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The Burbank Group of Companies is reimagining the format of a home and property group

With the intention of not only helping grow Burbank Homes, but also of creating a business that could develop in its own right, the company started selling land off to other builders and customers. This developed into offering a full service in property development.

“The two trades required for certificates in the building process are plumbing and electrical. So, to control that process and to understand it, it was decided to start plumbing and electrical businesses which now carry out all of our work, plus have their own clientele outside of Burbank Homes.”

As well as undertaking all work for the group, these companies are mandated to work outside of the company structure. It is important that all businesses within the group stand alone, and not rely solely on another part of the group for trade.

A key part of the group is National Pacific Finance, a privately-owned company that acts as a brokering service for the group’s customers to buy Burbank homes, as well as anything else they might want to finance.

“We created National Pacific Finance to not only help customers obtain loans,” Mr Sanfilippo continues, “but also provide us with the avenue to be able to understand more about our customers.  And, the group just continued to grow organically.”

The size and diversity of the group has meant it has been able to acquire many smaller companies over the years, and is now made up of a long list of firms working across several different industries.

“The Burbank Group is our parent brand, which has all the other companies underneath. So it includes Storage Box, National Pacific Properties, Dynamic Technology Solutions, Vault Plumbing, National Pacific Finance, Beacon Building Services, Digital Minds Software Solutions, Urbanedge Homes and Eight Homes—all those companies which are in the group, but we also have Burbank Homes.”

The group itself is made up of eleven companies, one of which is Burbank, which is further split into several smaller companies that work across the different territories and the three different areas of the building process.

National Footprint

Following the passing of his father last year, Mr Sanfilippo has now taken over the reins of the business. In the past half-decade, the transformation from Victoria-based company to one of national renown has been quite astounding.

“It was really off the back of a very strong business in Victoria,” he explains. “Expanding into Queensland first, we’ve always done it slowly but carefully. We grew naturally, not just going out and expanding at a big rate. It was just one step at a time really.”

Burbank Group of Companies
A key part of the group is National Pacific Finance, a privately-owned company that acts as a brokering service for the group’s customers

The solid base of Burbank Homes and National Pacific Properties, the two major Victoria-based firms, helped the group significantly. It was able to lean on these resources from a corporate perspective, while simultaneously expanding with General Managers in each state.

“Each state start-up was all going very differently. Queensland started by myself going up and searching for office space and display locations, and then starting the construction off that and recruiting someone to be on the ground for me.”

The start-up in South Australia came out of the purchase of Japanese home builder Sekisui House, owners of residential developers AVJennings. As a result, Sekisui House decided to pull out of contract housing in NSW, which likewise left an opening for Burbank to move into.

“There was an instant team, an instant book of work and a process in place already. So NSW and SA were closely linked in terms of us taking over another business that was already operating.”

The size of the operation moving into South Australia worked as a perfect small-size test case, allowing the group to work out its management methods and carry them over on a larger scale into the business in New South Wales.

But although this kind of acquisition was beneficial for effecting a quick and smooth start-up in these regions, it did not come without challenges of its own, most specifically the lack of brand awareness in new territories.

“At first,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “nobody knew us, and a lot of the challenge was, when they opened the doors in Queensland, or NSW, or SA, the reaction often was ‘who’s Burbank’? The name was not known or trusted, so there was a lot of work to educate the customers.”

This meant the group had to invest a lot of time in ensuring potential customers in new territories understood the history and values of the brand, to send the message that it wasn’t just an inexperienced start-up.

“Off the back of us expanding interstate, a lot of the way we market is how we have been building for thirty years. The fact that we have that stability of history and growth and also have the group structure behind us which we can all lean on, helps us grow.”

Other USPs for the group include the offer of an extended warranty on its homes, which other places do not provide. Burbank homes are guaranteed for fifteen months rather than the industry standard of three months.

“That’s our point of difference,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “is fixed costs, so there’s no surprises. We’ll lock that total price in with no more variation. We also offer a thirty year structural guarantee and a fifteen month maintenance pledge and we’ve been building for nearly thirty-five years.”

In addition, the company is one of very few able to offer experience and knowledge in the three key areas of residential construction, these being detached homes, townhouse developments and apartment buildings.

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Burbank Homes started a slow but steady migration across the country, and has since moved into New South Wales and South Australia over the last five years

Mr Sanfilippo can’t name another organisation in the country that offers all three of these areas of expertise, and therefore cites this as being the group’s biggest selling point. But the group’s diversification also has a big effect on how it gains custom.

“When you become a player in a certain industry, you understand that industry well enough, and there are a lot of trends and information that you learn, so you can put those together and paint a more solid picture on how to strategize each company moving forward.”

Owning a finance business, for example, allows the group to see what is happening with banks and at the financial level, and to use this information to influence things happening at the level of the build. The same can be said for other parts of the group.

“We can see what’s happening in land, when land’s coming up, what the strategies are with government proposals or regulations, how fast things are selling, pricing intel, and how that links in with building a residential dwelling.”

By following and recognising trends over time, the group can see how they correlate and use the information to better inform every part of its business, to make the business smarter, both collectively and at the individual level.

“For example, if sales start to slow down in land, it follows about 6-12 months later in the building arm, because they need the land first and then they need to start building on it. Things like that we need to monitor and be more aware of.”

This gives the group a significant advantage over its competitors, as it can often put Burbank significantly further ahead in a building process than those who don’t have such close ties to other areas of the industry.

Key Milestones

“To grow across the Eastern Seaboard over five years has taken a lot of focus and time and strategy from the management group, so that’s definitely a key milestone. Queensland was five years ago, SA was two and a half and NSW was one year ago.”

Within this time, the group is proud to have become a shareholder in Urbanedge Homes, a high-end architectural firm in Victoria with over a decade of experience building premium service and luxury new homes.

“All of our expansion meant we are one of Australia’s top ten home-dwelling construction businesses,” Mr Sanfilippo explains, “which was [another] big milestone for us.”

Another of the group’s key achievements comes in the form of software development company Digital Minds Solutions, a company started and operated in India, and created for a very specific role in the day-to-day running of the group.

“Digital Minds was created because for all group subsidiaries to efficiently linked in with each other, our IT-based requirements are high. Digital Minds is responsible for all of our software development within the group, helping us streamline our digital environment and improve efficiencies.”

Because of the high volume of digital expertise available in India, the group came up with the idea of developing and building a company capable of handling all the group’s IT requirements, rather than outsourcing to a firm in the same area.

“Whether that’s support, whether that’s website creation, whether that’s computer-generated imagery. For example, if we’re to build an apartment building or townhouses, they create the renders of lifelike computerised images for our marketing material.”

All of these extras help the group get ahead in an industry that, like all others, experiences several issues that need to be overcome by those working within it. Mr Sanfilippo believes most of these issues are arising from the problem of housing affordability.

“The prices are rising massively across the industry, from the price of land through to the homes. So, overall a house and land package, or land and dwelling that they’re buying separately, are costing more and more.”

Much of this rising cost is fuelled by the strength of the economy, although in the last two years there has been a significant increase in the number of active building sites across the industry, putting huge pressure on the trades needed to keep the industry moving.

“Whether that be drafting, estimating, or whether that be bricklayers or carpenters, there is really a need for greater training in that space, because all builders are short on trades that can meet the demand. Supply and demand is becoming very critical.”

Another issue in Victoria is related to the costs of building and the amount of time it takes for a project to get started. When a home is sold now, on many occasions the land cannot be titled for another 12-18 months.

“If we sell a home today, it doesn’t get to site on average for 10-12 months. So you’re selling at today’s price, but the price rises that happen with trades and regulation changes—it really squeezes your margin by the time you go to build it.”

Mr Sanfilippo admits this is a huge challenge for the industry in general, with single firms unable to control the timings from sale to the start of building, meaning many of them are looking for regulations to change for protection.

In the long term, the group intends to bring land and development projects into the other states, moving across the other companies in the group to replicate the model that has been so successful in Victoria.

“Our goal is really to replicate the Group businesses we have in Victoria into the other states,” Mr Sanfilippo concludes, discussing the group’s future plans.

“We do have our Dynamic Technology Solutions, Vault Plumbing and Beacon Building Services in some states other than Victoria,” he continues. “But over time, we want to expand to have a whole Burbank Group presence in other states.”

LBT Innovations (ASX:LBT): expansion and development in artificial intelligence platforms

Brent Barnes LBT Innovations

Brent Barnes is the CEO of LBT innovations (ASX: LBT), an artificial intelligence company which has made its mark as a designer of ground breaking advanced automated technologies for microbiology laboratories.

Brent Barnes’ career in technology began at the Sydney-based global headquarters of Cochlear, tasked with moving the company’s paper-based configuration and document management processes to an electronic-based system over a period of two and a half years. His time in Sydney led to an opportunity to relocate to the North American head office of Cochlear in Denver, Colorado. His list of diverse responsibilities moved to include running technical service operations and logistic functions, start a manufacturing subsidiary and also run sales.

“A company like Cochlear exposed me to an extensive range of skills and opportunities, not only from an internal product development perspective, but also from a field and operations-based perspective, in being responsible for revenue and having access to live in certain countries,” Mr Barnes says.

After four years in the US, Mr Barnes moved back to Australia in 2011, remaining with Cochlear, he took on a role as the Director Asia Growth Markets and Operations in Asia-Pacific. His main role was to expand into new markets and grow sales and revenue growth in a diverse range of countries predominately in South East Asia as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“It’s really interesting looking at the different markets that exist in Asia, I had a really varied range of responsibilities which included going to countries such as Myanmar, which required establishing medical disciplines such as Audiology that didn’t exist, yet was required to market and sell cochlear implants into the country.”

As his skills strengthened and diversified, Mr Barnes was headhunted to become the CEO of LBT Innovations. The company was moving into a transitional phase toward commercialisation on a global scale. Knowing Mr Barnes would have the necessary skills and experience to not only help market their newest product, APAS, to global markets, however also establish a company strategy for future growth.

“It’s important to have someone with some background who understands the regulatory environment and the quality processes required for product development. More importantly, I had the experience with global markets and ability to navigate the sales process and commercialisation of distributors and direct sales teams. It also helped being successful in revenue generation.” Mr Barnes says.

 

LBT Innovations has collaborated closely with the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies (ACVT)

LBT Innovations

LBT Innovations are an artificial intelligence company distinct in their field for having technology which is patent protected and FDA cleared. They made their first impression in 2009 with an invention which would later become MicroStreak, a technology for automated culture-plate streaking and inoculation which obtained the largest share in its market within just five years of global sales.

“During the past 11 years, we have brought two products to the market. The first is automating the inoculation in the streaking of the specimen on agar plates. Rather than a human needing to put the specimen onto an agar plate, we developed an instrument that did it automatically, and provided some automation with respect to that first step. That product was launched in 2009 and resolved between 2009 and 2015.” Mr Barnes says.

In parallel with their first product, LBT began work on the Automated Plate Assessment System, known by its acronym, APAS. APAS is an artificial intelligence technology that reads and interprets colony growth on an agar plate following incubation. “After incubation, the agar plate comes out. Rather than a scientist or a microbiologist needing to handle it, we’ve developed the technology that is able to automate that process.”

“The technology itself is quite unique, we have developed a portfolio of patents where we have global coverage on our core technology. We have some patents around the imaging apparatus that are unique to our own technology, and we have used artificial intelligence specifically to train our algorithms to interpret the colony growth on the agar plate. We have entered into a 50/50 joint venture and created the company Clever Culture Systems (CCS) who are the legal manufacturer of APAS products and responsible for bringing the product to market globally.”

The superiority of their technology was demonstrated in a recent FDA clearance announcement on October 10th of 2016 following a clinical trial consisting of 10,000 patients. 7,500 patients from the US and 2,500 patients from Australia took part in the global multi-centre study. The clinical trial and data were submitted to the FDA in December 2015 and the clearance was obtained to approve a “de novo” submission. “The ‘de novo’ necessarily indicated that there is no predicate device or no other similar technology that has received clearance for its intended application and use within the United States. Receiving that clearance in October last year was a really significant milestone.”

“The market, both from a capitalisation share price perspective and also from a microbiology perspective really saw this as a validation to the clients that it absolutely works. We worked collaboratively across a ten month period, and having gone through that process satisfied the FDA that the achievement of the output of the technology was successful.”

LBT Innovations Brent Barnes
Brent Barnes is only the second CEO of LBT Innovations

The FDA clearance was a great milestone for LBT Innovations, but the company was still twelve months away from having a product available for sales. The span between the FDA announcement and their marketable product caused major fluctuations in their stock value, and Mr Barnes described their stock market fluctuations as a “double-edged sword,” as their share price spiked significantly over a short period, signalling day trading, and created uncertainty in the investor’s minds as to what the company was doing.

“The positive part around all of this is that we ended up more than doubling the value of the company.” Mr Barnes says, noting that, since the FDA clearance, the company’s market cap peaked at ~$100 million, although has stabilised over the subsequent 12 months into “normal levels” of around $40 million.

The first APAS to go into a laboratory was in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, “This is the first APAS Independence instrument in a laboratory for clinical evaluation. Over the last 12 months we’ve been running an accelerated engineering schedule where we’ve had an instrument at trade shows which has been working, but it’s been a demonstration instrument at trade shows in an exhibition centre. St Vincent’s is the first time that the instrument has been installed into a laboratory, and they have successfully completed an independent evaluation of their APAS Independence instrument. The evaluation being the first in situ installation of the instrument globally.”

“Placement in St Vincent’s Hospital, a highly regarded centre of excellence, enabled the evaluation of the instrument’s performance within a diagnostic pathology laboratory in an end user style setting with pathology scientists using the APAS Independence instrument over a six- week period.” Mr Barnes says, “The evaluation included over 3000 urine samples which were automatically read and interpreted, and the instrument was successful in triaging the negative plates, allowing microbiologists to focus on positive plates only. The APAS Independence will deliver efficiency savings in the reading and interpretation of urine cultures because all of the negative plates are removed from the workflow, allowing skilled scientific staff to focus on positive samples. In addition, the APAS Independence facilitated significant upstream efficiencies in specimen processing, which we did not expect.

“The evaluation provides further validation that the foundational technology works, and the instrument does deliver efficiencies in a laboratory.”

Expanding their technologies

LBT Innovations have established their technologies in microbiology, but Mr Barnes and the company do not intend to limit themselves to a singular field. Looking out toward humans and human blood samples as well as applications in agriculture, the company is working to extend the training of their algorithms into other specimen types. “We’ve done the work with respect to the algorithms for urine, but there are other specimen types that we will still need to train to further expand its clinical use. So, blood, MRSA, sputum, wounds, swabs are all examples of specimens that we will need to further develop as part of our portfolio of what we call analysis modules, which we can provide to the market.”

“When joint venture company CCS release this instrument next year for sales, we expect to cover the majority of specimens and the majority of volumes. We want to make sure that we’re covering around 60 – 70% of all specimens that go through this culture plate workflow. We’ll then look to further expand the other specimen types.”

CommSec’s Tom Piotrowski speaks with LBT Innovations CEO & MD Brent Barnes about the company’s Automated Plate Assessment System which automates culture plate screening

Another upcoming groundbreaking technology in its prototype stage is in woundview. The technology implements LBT’s FDA cleared artificial intelligence platform to look at chronic wounds and automatically calculate the surface area of the wound using a 3D camera alongside algorithms which identify tissue constituents and tissue types on the wound. “The focus is within the clinical microbiology segment, however woundview demonstrates that our platform technology can be applied more broadly.” Mr Barnes Says.

Commercialising APAS

“A microbiologist will typically do between 40 to 60 reads per hour. The APAS Independence will be able to process 200 plates per hour. That’s at least three times faster than a human. This efficiency gain for the lab allows the scientists or microbiologists to focus on all the value-added activities that you really need them to be working on.”

“Globally there are around 27,000 pathology labs, however, based on market segmentation the addressable market size for labs to purchase an instrument is around 13,000 labs.” Says Mr Barnes, “Our return on investment calculations indicate the payback on a lab processing 400 plates per day is a little over three years. So we are focusing on those labs who process more than 400 plates per day. When labs get up to 800 plates per day, the return on investment is between one and a half and two years based on primarily headcount savings alone.”

As these technologies make their way to the market, LBT have stated that the product would be available worldwide through international distributors. “Our joint venture company CCS plan on selling the instrument through distributors in the global market. LBT has been appointed the distributor for the Australian market, and the Australian market is very representative of other global markets. Going direct here makes a lot of sense.”

LBT Innovations’ products will be available globally through a network of distributors

Clever Culture Systems have made plans to develop comprehensive training tools which will train distributors based on customer feedback.

“We expect Europe to be in the first half of next year, and the US to be in the second half of the next calendar year, 2018. We expect to commence our first European centre of excellence evaluation, similar to what was done at St Vincent’s in the first quarter of 2018 calendar year.”

APAS Independence will be available in Australian markets by January 2018, following the St. Vincent’s evaluation. LBT Innovations is actively talking to other labs in the region in order to line up the next location to receive the instrument from the beginning of next year. Their product will be sold at a one-off cost of USD$300,000 and an annual software licence (SAAS) fee of around USD$30,000.

Mr Barnes intends to expand the capabilities and applications of LBT’s platform technology through opportunities to partner, merge and acquire other companies. Amongst these opportunities is their partnership with Chinese company Autobio, “We’ve been working with this company in China called Autobio, they have a market cap of around $4 billion and are listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. They are the largest culture plate manufacturer in China and they operate within the microbiology space.” Mr Barnes said, “We have transferred the patents of our founding technology, MicroStreak, over to them, and they will look to redevelop the instrument and bring it to market in China. They have taken a $2 million strategic placement in LBT to own around 4% of the company. Having a technology partner sitting on our share registry as a top shareholder is really positive and there is absolutely opportunity where we can cooperate and co-develop products.”

Mr Barnes’ effect and vision as CEO of LBT Innovations is to handle both the expansion of their company into world markets and development of their products in tandem. In his time as CEO he has focused on how he can bring the broad skills and understandings he has developed throughout his career into the new field of artificial intelligence. His role as the CEO is now to create an inflection point which builds on their past success and looks to build new opportunities for their groundbreaking APAS technology across global markets.

“What we are doing to scale up the company is really focused around building core capability and expanding the application of our platform AI technology, which builds on what we’ve achieved over the last 11 years. We’re also looking to really develop this platform technology, and that is through the employment of new resources to transition to insource capability rather than outsource to expensive engineering companies. I’ve built some real bench-strength in our organisation over the past 15 months and we are bringing science and technology together.”

CQR on the importance of certification in an increasingly interconnected world

CQR online digital security

When they were first invented as business structures, companies tended to operate as stand-alone entities. Each would carry out all the activities required to create the goods or services provided to their customers.

During the 1980s, this situation started to change. The concept of ‘outsourcing’ became popular and companies began to offload elements of their operations to external parties. The rationale was that they could do it faster, better and more cost effectively while the company itself focused on its core competency.

As a result, organisations found they no longer operated in isolation but instead had a web of links to other companies. These links became vital for their ongoing operation and growth. Any disruption in one area could have rapid and significant flow-on effects in others.

The importance of trust

As this outsourcing trend grew, the importance of inter-company trust came to the fore. Companies realised they needed to be able to trust their chosen third parties to carry out functions professionally and securely.

This was particularly the case when it came to outsourcing the IT function. A company needed to be sure the selected third party had the qualifications and knowledge required to ensure systems were maintained and secure at all times.

Today, this subject of trust is particularly acute when a company opts to make use of a cloud service provider. The company must be confident the provider has in place the necessary systems and processes to ensure the service is reliable and resilient to cyber attacks.

Certification is key

One of the most effective ways of creating trust between companies is through the use of certifications. A potential provider must be able to demonstrate that they have been reviewed by an independent party and found to be operating in accordance with industry best practices.

Unfortunately, there is currently no legal requirement for such certification. Indeed, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a cyber security expert. There are companies offering security services without any qualifications or certifications at all, and this should be a very real concern for anyone making use of their services.

Before establishing links with any external party, a company should carefully review its certifications and ensure they are operating efficiently, effectively and securely. A failure to do this could result in business disruption and loss.

Inter-company trust has never been more important and it has now become the bedrock of the modern economy. That bedrock needs to be hardened with proper certifications.

CQR are a Cyber Security Service provider. Working with our clients to produce high quality outcomes throughout the globe from our offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Oxford (UK) and New York (USA).

CQR was founded with the mission of MAKING THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE. We exist only to ensure our clients’ businesses and people are protected so they can thrive.

To learn more of CQR and our services visit www.cqr.com or contact us directly on 1300 277 001.

FCM Travel on keeping your staff safe when they travel

corporate travel with FCM Travel Solutions

What you need to do to keep your staff safe when they travel

It’s quite surprising the number of organisations that don’t have a full travel risk management plan and a crisis response plan. Both are important components in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff when they are on the road.

Whilst catastrophic events, such as a terrorist incident, natural disaster or an outbreak of Ebola may grab the headlines, it’s the high-frequency and low-impact events, such as a traffic incident or stomach upset from contaminated food, that are most likely to affect staff when travelling. This is why both ends of the frequency-impact spectrum should be considered when employers look at duty of care for their travellers.

Of course, emergencies do happen and knowing where your team are at any one time is essential if there is a local or transnational incident where immediate follow-up is needed to establish if staff in the area are safe. Appropriate actions can then be taken swiftly to aid those affected. In the more likely event of a minor incident, further stress and delays can be reduced by employers ensuring their travellers know where to seek help, using expertise from their TMC, insurer or travel risk management provider.

Putting together an effective travel policy

The first step is to think about the risks impacting your particular business and industry sector, and what your organisation’s risk tolerance level is – for example, an aid organisation is likely to have a high travel risk tolerance because they are sending workers into warzones or places where there may be civil unrest, famine and disease. The risks these workers face are likely to be very different from a banking organisation sending staff to Singapore, New York, London and Sydney.

Encouraging your staff to book travel via your preferred TMC

Whilst the benefits of protecting staff safety and wellbeing are clear, employers need to be proactive and even repetitive in communicating what the travel risk policy is to staff so that they are aware of the protocols in place and why they are there. This should encourage traveller compliance and hopefully reduce off-channel bookings via travel websites that do not collate and report on flight times, location of hotels and itineraries, rendering employers ‘in the dark’ and less able to respond promptly if an incident occurs. Primarily, engagement should be sought by communicating with staff about travel risk management and what systems are in place to protect their safety and wellbeing when they are travelling for work. Employees feel supported by companies who invest in their health and wellbeing. Ensuring that the travel policy can be easily accessed, easily understood by staff and that bookings can be made easily through the preferred TMC will also help ensure compliance and avoid bookings via other platforms.

In cases where a traveller has booked their travel via other means, employers should enquire as to why and seek feedback – is it a perception of cost differential or are there delays getting through to the travel management company’s consultants which need to be addressed?

Ultimately, there has to be reasonable follow-up with non-compliant travellers, which should be tangible and some organisations use gamification as part of that. There’s nothing more incentivising than a leadership table of strong performers within your organisation showing loyalty to the travel policy, where percentages of bookings made off-channel or without pre-trip approvals, are made known. There is an element of competitive spirit about this approach which may appeal to your staff.

From travel risk policy to testing crisis response

Once a travel risk policy is in place, organisations should consider how they will respond to a variety of critical incidents and then test these response plans. A crisis response plan needs to be pro-actively and robustly tested on a regular basis to ensure that it is fit for purpose – companies need to answer questions such as ‘how do we work with our chosen travel management company when an incident occurs?’ and ‘how do we ensure there is 24 hour coverage in our organisation?’ If something happens in the middle of the night in your organisation’s time zone with a traveller who is in another part of the world – how are you going to respond to that?

Consideration also needs to be given to the pros and cons of using smartphones as our world becomes more mobile. A travel-risk platform and its technology should be linked up to staffs’ mobile phones for ease and accessibility on the go, enabling travellers to report their exact location, rather than leaving their employer to rely solely on itinerary data. However, there are also challenges with mobile safety reporting in that mobile networks can quickly go down if a major incident occurs, so this should not be seen as a catch-all solution on its own.

Something to think about

Ultimately, the legal duty of care for staff whilst they are working, whether they are on site or on the road, lies with their employer. Whilst implementing a robust and dynamic travel-risk policy may seem daunting, travel management companies like FCM Travel Solutions and risk providers like iJET International are on-hand to offer support and guidance to ensure successful implementation of this policy. Similarly, when the worst happens, a well-constructed crisis response plan with the buy-in of all necessary stakeholders, that has been rehearsed, tested and socialised will go a long way to ensure that an organisation is doing all it can to reasonably keep their travellers safe.

Capsifi on doing business in the digital economy

Capsifi digital cloud solutions

Across the globe, digital initiatives are enabling new forms of doing business at lightning speed, anytime and anywhere.

Digital business offers profound new opportunities for personalised, contextual customer interactions. This sort of transformation is not just a technology shift; it requires entirely new thinking about how you do business.

• 90% of large enterprises have digital business initiatives underway
• CEOs expect digital to contribute approximately 40% of their revenue by 2019
• 44% of CEO’s believe their current business models will be completely disrupted within the next 2 years
• 73% of business and IT executives surveyed said the biggest challenge to their digital transformation efforts is execution

It’s well acknowledged that executing a digital transformation can be complex, expensive, involve a significant exposure to risk and can often fail. A key reason for failure is that the blueprints for how the business runs, are generally fragmented, imprecise and ambiguous. Where it exists, business documentation from previous projects is mostly inconsistent, out-of- date and rarely reusable.

 

Where does your business model live today?

Most businesses do not have a tangible business model that explains how they operate. The only detailed explanation for how everything works, is typically buried inaccessibly in aging enterprise systems. All technology platforms inevitably succumb to the tyranny of legacy, becoming inhibitors rather than enablers of business agility.

Capsifi business models – precisely explain the semantics of what you do from strategy through to execution

Capsifi provides an intelligent, cloud-based platform that generates semantic models explaining precisely what a business does from your business strategies all the way through to execution. This integrated knowledge-base aligns information, people, processes and business logic to provide a single, consistent, expression of the business operation. Like the language we speak, a Capsifi model establishes the vocabulary and grammar of the business; defining business concepts and articulating business capabilities. The result is a dynamic and integrated view of your enterprise that not only accurately explains the “as- is” situation of today but also where you are planning “to-be”.

Capsifi has been described as “CAD/CAM for business”. Just as an engineer would develop detailed digital models that precisely explain the designs for a building before it is constructed, Capsifi helps business architects design precise models of a business before it is automated.

Capsifi business models a core strategic asset that insulates you from ongoing technology disruption

A Capsifi business model is a core strategic asset that encapsulates the business model and protects that knowledge to support ongoing adaptation to change.

Technology is not an enduring asset; your true strategic asset is the business model. An intelligent business model allows you to rapidly assimilate and embrace innovation, insulating your business from disruption and minimizing the impact of ongoing technology advances.

This allows you to focus on your core business; the things that you do, not the technologies you need to do them.

With the pace of technology innovation, it’s not about transforming the business, but building the capacity to continuously transform. The value of a Capsifi intelligent business model endures way beyond the life of a single program into a dynamically evolving explanation of how the business operates.

Capsifi future-proofs your business with an enduring, incrementally evolving knowledge-base that helps you adapt and keep pace with the constant pace of technology innovation.

Capsifi business models – accelerate business transformation

Capsifi completely inverts existing paradigms for developing technology solutions – placing business first.

As an integrated explanation of the future state operating model in a dynamic consolidated platform, a Capsifi business model is the single source-of- truth guiding and de-risking the transformation journey with integrated knowledge that is entered in one place, once, consistently explaining all aspects of the program.

Returns on investment accrue exponentially with each subsequent piece of knowledge captured. Each new project reuses and builds incrementally on previous projects without ambiguity. All changes to the model are dynamic and instantly ripple throughout the platform.

Capsifi business models helps customers to:

• Dynamically explain how everything works – never analyze the same thing twice!
• Reduce waste, eliminate duplication, maximize reuse of business knowledge
• Gain insights into business bottlenecks and inefficiencies
• Eliminate layers of development effort.
• Rapidly transition legacy business transactions onto digital platforms
• Dramatically reduce the cost of technology deployments

With Capsifi everything is consistent, everything is connected, everything is aligned.

Find out more by visiting www.capsifi.com.

Maxxia on plugging the gaps in your employee value proposition

Successful businesses know the importance of investing in their employee value proposition (EVP). Many have comprehensive performance metrics and KPIs to measure and report on multiple aspects of their EVP including benchmarks for salary and incentives, training and development and employee engagement and satisfaction. According to Andrew Daly, Group Executive Customer Development for Maxxia, your benefits program could be the element that’s holding you back from creating that perfect package to attract and retain talent.

Why do employee benefits still matter when businesses have so many ways to make staff feel valued?  

It’s no secret that human capital is the most critical asset for any organisation. Brands compete on their customer service, innovation and R&D talent. At the same time recruiting staff is time consuming and expensive. So once you’ve found the right talent, retaining that talent is a good investment.

To stay competitive organisations are making a big commitment to getting the right staff on board and keeping them – from defining and developing workplace culture to career progression and training. Employee benefits are just one of many elements that can make or break that sense of value and engagement we want staff to experience through their work.

Some of these benefits – such as the superannuation guarantee – are mandatory, a box to be checked as part of the on-boarding process. Others, like health insurance, might be discretionary but are often treated in much the same way. Perhaps that’s why all benefits tend to be seen as standard perks an employer is expected to offer rather than something that can deliver substantial value to both employees and the business.

So while “employee benefits program” might be the words that make new staff glaze over during the induction process, they can actually be very effective in securing engagement from the outset. By providing access to salary packaging benefits that enable savings on a range of goods and services like owning a new car, or the cost of living in a remote area for work, staff can feel as if they’ve enjoyed an unexpected windfall. And if they’re thinking about leaving in the future, reliance on a range of salary packaging benefits for cost-effective, tax efficient extras and essentials can be an important reason for staying put.

What can a best-in-class benefits package contribute to the employee experience?

There are two main areas where employees can reap the rewards of a really strong benefits package. They give back to staff in terms of both time and money saved and that’s why they can make such a big difference to quality of life when you deliver these benefits to a much higher standard.

Maxxia salary packaging

With novated leasing of vehicles for example, the immediate dollar value comes from savings in tax which can be more or less substantial depending on the marginal tax rate of the employee. But there’s also a whole raft of further savings that come from competitive pricing on purchase and insurance and genuine value from a trusted network of service and maintenance providers. So the financial savings are there from the outset and for the life of the vehicle.

The less tangible, measurable value is in the convenience, both immediate and ongoing of having every aspect of managing your vehicle taken care of by a third party. When one company were making the call on whether to withdraw novated leasing from their benefits package, we surveyed employees on what they valued most about the offering. What we found was how much importance they placed on not having to be concerned with the hassle of securing a vehicle, organising service and maintenance and registration renewal. Most of all, they don’t need to have the headspace or discipline to budget for these large occasional expenses because they’re all included in a regular pre-tax payment.

Car ownership is likely to be in the top three household expenses for many employees. If they also own a home, paying off the mortgage takes perhaps the greatest chunk of anyone’s wages. For one of our clients with staff spread out across remote areas, we investigated the potential savings for salary packaging home loan payments. The average tax relief per staff member was expected to put $4,000 each year back in their pocket. When you present anyone with that kind of incentive, it gives them a sense that their employer is really looking after them by making something as fundamental as housing more affordable.

When it comes to measuring performance, why are employee benefits packages so often overlooked?

When talent is scarce, it’s very important to keep tabs on how likely your people are to stay in their jobs. Investing a substantial share of HR time and resources in monitoring the full gamut of employee engagement metrics has become the norm for businesses in the 21st century. Reporting on performance against KPIs and benchmarks for job satisfaction, career progression and alignment with organisational values is considered a vital early-warning system for potential problems with productivity and staff retention.

As a provider of employee benefits, we’re constantly finding that the same standards of scrutiny just don’t apply to this segment of the whole employee value proposition. The general measure of satisfaction with an existing employee benefits program is that no complaints are received and therefore it’s achieving a desirable level of performance!

Unfortunately, this lack of negative feedback usually signals a widespread lack of engagement with and take-up of employee benefits. Given their significant potential to provide value to employees and drive their engagement, the absence of employee benefits from the metrics dashboard is something that’s important to address.

Maxxia designs programs with measurable financial value

This is why we offer industry specific benchmarks an employee benefits program should expect to achieve. We find this to be a critical part of reaching an absolute verdict on how a program performs, both in terms of actual savings to each individual employee, but also as a measure of overall value to the business. When our benefits assessment process shines a light on the comparative value a company is realising from their own offering, it really changes the whole conversation about how satisfied they are with what they’re delivering.

What should a business be looking for in an employee benefits package?

Achieving or exceeding that benchmark can be a major challenge in a number of ways. Part of the formula that drives participation in benefits programs is offering a broad range of perks that suit the demographic composition and lifestyle of employees. Setting up multiple benefits has often been taken on by HR, who might engage a whole range of sub-contractors, from the gym around the corner to the fleet management company. When there are problems, with staff complaints about car service arrangements for example, or reconciling benefits and liabilities when a member of staff leaves, no one wants to accept the responsibility or financial fallout.

Outsourcing salary packaging transactions and their associated risks to a single expert provider is just one of the ways a business can counter the internal perception of program delivery as being more trouble than it’s worth. When payroll no longer see salary packaging as a task that stretches the capability of their current technology, then at least one of the barriers to scaling up delivery of your employee benefits program is taken care of.

Another significant advantage of getting the experts involved is securing the capacity and commitment it takes to get staff educated and motivated about what’s in it for them. By segmenting communication to different groups of staff according to their age and lifestyle needs, an internal campaign can use a whole range of channels – emails, posters, face-to-face and online – to increase awareness and participation. With this type of internal marketing approach, companies can soon reach the point where reaping the benefits of salary packaging is the rule rather than the exception, and the savings for staff are something worth broadcasting.

High standards and a consistent, professional level of interaction with employees builds the foundation for delivering intangible value that can be the difference between success and failure in the employee engagement stakes. Staff will feel both cashed up and cared for if they’re given multiple opportunities to interact positively with their benefit provider – from reports and updates on what they’ve saved to reassuring reminders that all ongoing responsibilities for their vehicle, home or chosen service are well in hand. It’s by providing peace of mind in an uncertain world that businesses can be seen as caring for employers in a way that has real meaning for them.

Let’s not forget that peace of mind for all company stakeholders relies on a stable financial position. A Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) shortfall, adding up to as much as $600k for large corporates, can become a big problem when not accounted for in financial forecasts. By monitoring FBT liability that can arise from employee benefits, a premium provider can ensure there are no unpleasant surprises for balance sheets and profit & loss outcomes.

To find out how your benefits program performance measures up contact Andrew Daly and his team on 03 9097 3361 today or visit business.maxxia.com.au/performance

Oxmar Properties: building relationships

Queensland-based property developer Oxmar Properties is committed to developing land into attractive and well-planned residential estates, with allotments for family living available at reasonable prices. The company boasts nearly three decades of experience as a property developer, striving to find Queensland landscapes that will offer dream lifestyles.

Company Director, Phil Murphy, is the driving force behind the business, and spoke to The Australian Business Executive about what the company means to him.

Starting Out

“I was a jockey as a kid going through school,” Mr Murphy says, “[in order] to get enough money to do law at university. I actually rode 100 winners before I turned 17, most of them in the bush. I had my first ride in a race when I was 13.” After suffering an accident in a track gallop, Mr Murphy damaged his spine and was in a plaster cast for five months. Because of this, he only passed three subjects during his senior, and never got the chance to do law. This meant he had to work even harder to earn a living. “At 21 I had five jobs. I was at BCC, Brisbane City Council, as a clerk. I was working selling furniture on a Saturday morning, I was riding horses trackwork. I was training two race horses [and] I was pouring beer at the Hamilton pub four nights a week.” Mr. Murphy’s strong work ethic hasn’t diminished over time, and there is little doubt he is fiercely dedicated to his job. This is made all the more impressive by his admission that at a very young age he experienced significant financial troubles.

“Years and years ago I started bookmaking as well, and then I started punting. I went through a quarter of a million dollars in six months in 1977, and I had to declare myself bankrupt. I came out of bankruptcy and had to plead to get a job as a car salesman.”

As a condition of getting this job, Mr Murphy promised that he would work for free for a month, in the hope of beating the sales record of 20 cars. He achieved this by working every night and every weekend for a month, and as a result was given the job full time. Mr. Murphy insists that only this kind of hard work can produce success, and that nothing in life just falls into your lap. He went on to spend several years working in auto sales, before deciding it was time to change direction.

“I had a Toyota/Mercedes Benz dealership in Bundaberg, sold it and came back to Brisbane. My brothers had been developing land and I thought that was a good way to go. I wasn’t certain what I was going to do, so I thought I’d have a crack at developing land.”

Oxmar Properties is currently selling blocks of land in several projects across Queensland, including Narangba Heights, Narangba, lots at Griffin Crest, Griffin, and lots at Bridgeman Hilltop, Bridgeman Downs

Over the following years, Mr Murphy single-handedly contacted more than 2,000 land owners within 15km of the Brisbane GPO, sending letters, knocking on doors and making phone calls in order to pursue his new venture.

“I finished up acquiring a site at Cashmere, which was my first big development. It was 115 acreage lots, half with town water. I also acquired a site at Wellington Point, which was less than 30 lots. Most of them had views of Stradbroke Island and were close to the ocean.”

In following this new career path, Mr Murphy attended an auction one day where he ran into an old friend, Peter Bettson. Mr Murphy had purchased vehicles previously from Mr Bettson’s firm, Brisbane Motor Auctions.

“I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years,” he says. “As a business relationship, it was a friendly relationship. We got talking over the next few months, and eventually he said: ‘can you show me some of the stuff you’re doing?’”

Over the coming months, the two men drove around viewing properties that Mr Murphy had been working on, having already had meetings with surveyors, engineers, councils and consultants, getting a feel for whether the properties would be suitable for development.

“The shotgun approach that I had in contacting so many people led me to some properties that had various impediments that could not be overcome through an approval process, such as lots of trees and wrong zonings.”

As time went by, Mr Murphy identified the properties that he felt had value, weeding out those with too many issues. By taking these properties to consultants and speaking with councils, he was learning the ropes of his new career.

“Peter Bettson spent lots of time driving around with me. In a matter of months, we became close friends. He sold Brisbane Motor Auctions and we realised that each of us could stand on our own two feet. One day he said to me, out of the blue: ‘do you want a partner?’”

Mr Murphy accepted straight away, and the partnership was sealed with a handshake. After some discussion, the company name was decided upon, a combination of the two streets the men lived on: Oxlade Drive and Marlene Street. Oxmar Properties was born.

“In that time we had built up about ten projects together, that we’d bought in two names. We never had a partnership agreement signed, we never had a joint venture agreement signed. We never had anything at all that represented any legal obligations.”

When Mr Bettson took the decision to leave the company for personal reasons, the two men agreed upon an amicable split of their assets and went their separate ways. Mr Murphy tells of how they have remained the very best and dearest of friends, catching up weekly.

“Since that time,” Mr Murphy says, “Oxmar has grown bigger and bigger. So much so that I’ve probably got more than 25 land projects, some with townhouses, ready for sale now, and currently at the moment we’ve got eight projects live, selling land.”

Sunvista Homes Oxmar Properties

Queensland Lifestyle

Mr Murphy is perfectly aware of the benefits people experience by locating to Queensland, particularly South East Queensland. He is a genuine advocate of the area, describing it as offering a wonderful lifestyle and true value to its inhabitants.

“There’s a buzz in Queensland that won’t die,” he says. “The culture is a spirit that the State of Origin [rugby league] team shows year in, year out. That’s the lifestyle of Queensland through and through. Determination and persistence to achieve and get positive results.”

Mr Murphy takes this spirit with him into his business, describing his office and his team as being like his home and family. He has always been of the opinion that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.

“No one human being can be what they are, when they’re successful, without surrounding himself or herself with good people, particularly having a loving family.”

He goes on to make a particular note of his wonderful wife Diane who has been by his side since 1978 while adding “at the moment there’s an election coming up, and some are promoting family. I think that’s what Queensland is. I believe Queensland is family.”

Oxmar is also in the habit of forming long term relationships with the people involved in the company, both staff and consultants. Some of the team have been on board for 20 years or more, and Mr Murphy greatly values this sincerity and longevity of commitment.

“We believe we’ve got wonderful consultants around us,” he says. “Such as engineers, surveyors, planners, landscape architects, contractors. We’ve managed to stick solid with a lot of those people from day one.”

Oxmar Properties is currently selling blocks of land in several projects across Queensland, including 1,200 lots at Narangba Heights, Narangba, about 500 lots at Griffin Crest, Griffin, and 200 lots at Bridgeman Hilltop, Bridgeman Downs. All three land estates have sales teams on site.

The median house price in Brisbane is currently around $550k, which provides investors with a rent return of around $450-500 a week

“My son has been with me for twenty years, he manages Griffin Crest, plus Murrumba Castle, which is at Murrumba Downs. The Narangba Heights estate is managed by Cam Haag, who also has been with me on and off for about twenty years.”

In addition, Oxmar Properties has on the books a seaside development at Burrum Heads, called On the Beach, a 1km beach frontage estate which consists in total of over 700 lots and 170 villas.

“Bridgeman Hilltop is a couple of hundred lots. It’s the seventh development I’ve done in Bridgeman Downs. I’ve lived in that suburb for more than 15 years, and my office is at nearby Aspley. I work five minutes from home, and ten minutes from most of my estates.”

Another property, the Samford Royal Estates, located in the south-eastern Brisbane village of Samford, will soon begin the last stage of development. This project consists of acreage lots with town water, with sizes up to 8,000sqm, and is located 14km from the city.

“We’re building townhouses at Carseldine, which is again five minutes from Aspley. I have another estate at Bridgeman Downs called Bridgeman Heights, which only has half a dozen blocks left.”

The Investor Market

Oxmar also has a property in Bray Park which is a little more unique, being one of the company’s only estates that operates at 50% investor and 50% owner-occupier, making it extremely affordable.

“We strive to maintain at least 80% owner-occupiers in most of our other estates. We screen very closely our buyers, which takes a lot of extra effort and time, but the effort is reflected in the calibre of the estate. It doesn’t cost a lot extra to achieve great street appeal, something you simply don’t get in investor-driven estates.”

Mr Murphy explains how many estates are dominated by rental properties, sometimes with 90% of the homes sold to the growing Sydney or Melbourne investment market. Oxmar Properties doesn’t want its estates to be so heavily investor driven.

“If you had a house out at, say, Liverpool, or in the Hills District or in Newcastle, or any place close to Sydney—you could come to Brisbane and be a lot closer to the city, and could buy two of the same thing for the same price as the one property you’ve just sold in Sydney.”

The median house price in Brisbane is currently around $550k, which provides investors with a rent return of around $450-500 a week. This is in contrast to Sydney, where the median price of around $1.15m gives a rental return of approximately $800 a week.

“So you’re getting a higher rent return for the two properties in Brisbane than you do for the one in Sydney, and the most appealing thing to the investors, particularly from Sydney and Melbourne, is they’re getting two products against one. So they’re spreading their risk.”

As a result, the company makes sure to screen all investor inquiries for its properties. Mr Murphy meets personally with any potential investors to make sure that the company requirements will be honoured and accepted.

“Our requirements are not too onerous, and they don’t make houses unaffordable, but it’s critical that when you drive through any of our estates the homes always look appealing and presentable. A huge percentage of investor estates or rental estates are not cared for anywhere near as much as estates which are occupied predominantly by owner-occupiers.”

Mr Murphy understands the need for many more people to be renting in the current climate, but insists that if people come to rent in the area in which he has estates, the aim is to have them renting in the best possible conditions.

“I’m sincerely passionate about that,” he says. “Anyone who buys land from us, and builds in our estates, receives our promise to do our utmost to protect their security for as long as possible.”

The purchase of a home and land is always one of the most significant commitments anybody will make throughout their life, so it’s critical that buyers are able to trust the company to protect their security.

In practice, this means a salesperson going through each clause in the contract with the buyer, whether they are an owner-occupier or investor, making sure that all of the specific covenant conditions Oxmar needs in order to protect people are agreed upon.

Murrumba Castle located 35 mins south of the vibrant Brisbane CBD, another one of Oxmar Properties developed suburbs

“Even as far as solar is concerned, a developer cannot prevent persons putting solar on their roof, and we wouldn’t seek to, but our covenant ensures that we try to get the solar in the best position, so its least visible as possible from the streets.”

The covenant standards are not designed to restrict buyers, but to allow the company to continue providing the best living environment available for those who buy from it. It is clear that Mr Murphy cares about every one of his buyers.

“I try and meet as many buyers as I can,” he explains. “My mobile phone number is available to every single buyer, and our office number is given to every single buyer, so that they have access to me.”

Keeping it in the Family
Away from his work life, Mr Murphy is just as active. He is at heart a family man, and speaks with great fondness about both his own family and those of his employees, who he treats with the same level of love and respect.

“We’re a very, very close-knit family set up at Oxmar,” he explains. “All my staff have young families. We celebrate each staff member’s birthday with a lunch in the boardroom, which everyone enjoys together. We all sit round the table and everyone writes little poems and tells jokes. We all enjoy these fun times.”

Members of Mr Murphy’s own family are also deeply involved with the business. His eldest son Justin has worked for him for many years, and his daughter Stacey also came on board about four years ago.

In addition to his position as director at Oxmar Properties, Mr Murphy is also heavily involved in the world of sports, owning 22% of the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team, as well as being the major sponsor of Australian World Champion boxer Jeff Horn.

“One of my hobbies is watching great jockeys compete in racing. I enjoy a red wine two or three nights a week with my dear wife, and I don’t mind the occasional Mount Gay rum with ginger beer. My life is my family and my work.”

Mr Murphy’s main pleasure is derived from his relationships with family and co-workers, and he speaks fondly of the Oxmar Christmas party, where staff bring their children along to be involved in a close family celebration.

It is an appropriate note to end on to mention another of Mr Murphy’s great passions, that being for chaplaincy. As a man of faith, he believes in the power of this service for children who go through hard times at school, often caused by drug- or alcohol-affected families.

“No-one knows the amount of children’s lives that are saved by a chaplain at schools. For kids who are going through hard times, a chappy is a shoulder to cry on, provides a caring listening ear, is available, and is a good friend or mate.”

Hard work, compassion and family are mainstays of Mr Murphy’s life. In this respect, all these things feed into Oxmar Properties, making it not just a successful business, but a business that truly cares about all the people it comes into contact with.

The parents of 765,000 school children are watching with interest

The Federal Government has just released the Terms of Reference for its review into the way it calculates funding for non-government schools.

The review of the socio-economic status (SES) score methodology – by the newly minted National School Resourcing Board – will be significant for the Catholic sector, the largest non-government provider of schools in the country. One in five Australian children attend a Catholic school.

At stake is a foundational principle of Australian public policy – school choice for parents.

The NSRB therefore needs to produce a more accurate way to assess the capacity of families to contribute to the running costs of their schools – the basis on which the Commonwealth decides how much public funding each non-government school receives.

We all want a fairer system; the current system assigns each non-government school an average SES score based on factors such as parents’ postcodes and their educational level. The problem with this approach is that it treats high and low income families at the same school as though they are able to contribute equally.

The 2011 Gonski report highlighted the shortcomings of this methodology. Even the architect of the model, Professor Stephen Farish, has said it’s not working and needs to be made fairer.

The Commonwealth is the major funder of Catholic system schools and therefore the main reason our schools are able to provide quality, affordable education for most families. Catholic school parents, therefore, have a major stake in the outcome of the review.

The parents of Australia’s 765,000 Catholic school children will be watching with interest.

Dallas McInerney
CEO
Catholic Schools NSW

The shift from sales to revenue

shanto-4790-sq

A key opportunity and challenge for companies today is streamlining and fine tuning their revenue generation operations. While on a broad basis it could be argued that this involves everyone in the company, most focus on two key groups or functions, sales and marketing.

Traditionally when revenue improvement initiatives were introduced, each group went about delivering in their own way, with little discussion or regard for the other. While they may have been present at the same initial strategy meetings, the rest was done within their own silo, with little or no consideration or input from the other. In some companies, the only purpose one grouped served for the other, was as a scapegoat for failure.

Over the years there has been talk of, and some steps taken several to aligning and bring the two organizations together, but few companies achieved much traction. Often the catalyst was less will, than other drivers, both internal and external, forcing the two to work together. Sales and marketing failed to realize that many of these unsuccessful efforts were a direct extension of market and customer expectations.

Some did break down barriers between the two groups, but it most quickly went back to their assigned lanes. Marketing, looked after branding, lead generation, more recently “content”. Sales, filling their pipeline, often with leads they generated, instead of those generated by marketing; then moving those opportunities through the cycle to close. Marketing rarely if ever actively participating beyond the point where the “Marketing Qualified Lead” was handed off to sales.

It is not surprising that the most successful companies are those that are responsive to the market and their clients, and focus on innovating and getting ahead of customer expectations, and winning new customers by delivering an experience that exceeds customers’ demands and expectations. Something difficult to achieve when two key groups who should have a singular focus and purpose, are marching at different paces, and not always in the same direction.

Alignment Is No Longer Enough

Talk of aligning sales and marketing is interesting, but no longer enough. Sort of like saying that Blackberry is a smartphone, when everyone expectations are guided by iPhone or a Note. Smart companies are past alignment, and have moved to eliminating two groups in favour of one organization, Revenue. Within the revenue team, there still specific functions that reflect things traditionally associated with sales or marketing, but they are all on the same team, same responsibility and accountability, namely revenue. There is more to this than assigning someone at the top with the title of Chief Revenue Officer, while allowing for business to go on as usual. Revenue teams need to have the same accountability and be responsible for revenue success and growth.

Shared Accountability

A good start is incentive, it has always been strange that these groups are often rewarded in different ways, for different outcomes, which at times are not aligned. For example, marketing may get measured and rewarded on the number (and at times even the quality) of leads generated. Yet in practice, only a small percent of these leads are ever worked by sales, many put it at single digits. Both arms duplicating efforts, expenses, and squandered resources and time. While there are a range of reason for sales not wanting to depend on marketing for leads, the reality is that it is less likely to happen if both were tied to the same outcomes.

The above is a symptom of a widely held, yet erroneous view, that marketing is responsible for one part of the buyer journey, once buyers reach a specific point in the journey, they are punted over to sales. Unlike football, the best results are achieved when everyone brings their expertise to bear throughout the buyer journey.

Sales needs to realize that they can do a much better, and I would add, easier job of helping the buyer to make the right decision if they worked with marketing to ensure that buyers are receiving the right insight at each stage, from pre-lead to close, and, beyond. Sales also has to understand that they don’t need to carry out the “latter” part of the journey alone, that marketing can seed their path, making it easier for buyers to move towards close.

This requires clear and ongoing communication between sales and marketing throughout the ‘client life cycle’. While some may not like the analogy, but one needs to think of it as Marketing providing air cover for the ground troops, Sales. To be clear, we are not hunting prospects, we are hunting revenue, and that is serious business. There needs to be clear lines of communication, sales need to feedback to marketing what is happening on the ground, and why. Marketing in turn needs to provide sales and the buyer with insights that facilitate the buyer’s understanding. This feedback loop allows sales to have input not just in what they need to win current deals, but have a direct influence on the type of leads marketing should be targeted to achieve collective revenue goals.

A key opportunity for marketing is to provide insights to both buyers, and their own sales people. Insights that go beyond curation of content, and generic information, to elements that spur interaction and reliance on the salesperson subject matter expertise; expertise that itself is supported by marketing.

At one company I worked with, we involved marketing in deal post mortems. These are easy for sales to conduct when they win the deal, but not so when they lose one. The knee jerk response from buyers who choose another vendor, is to point to price and features, after all, the buyer has transitioned from decision to implementation. Yet, when marketing approaches these same buyers, with a well-crafted set of question that are aimed at understanding the outcome rather than relitigating the sale. The insights gained help both sales in terms of specific steps they can take in the next similar sale. Helps marketing fine tune their messaging throughout the sale, and right down to leads targeted, and new upsell/cross sell opportunities. In other words, a singular revenue process, versus the typical asynchronous approach most take.

It is not just about getting along, and all about integrating and working as one revenue generating unit.

About Tibor Shanto

Tibor works with leading B2B companies including Bell Mobility, Imperial Oil, Pitney Bowes, and others, helping them improve their sales execution and results. Called a brilliant sales tactician, Tibor works with clients to translate sales strategy to reality. Tibor develops sales people who understand that success in sales is about Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

www.TiborShanto.com

If your marketing function is not driving growth, you’re not doing it right

Trinity-P3-Darren-Woolley

One of the big issues facing marketing is the perception, commonly held in businesses, that it is nothing more than the ‘colouring in department’. It is a demeaning phrase and one I heard most recently earlier this year when I was invited to participate in a CEO Forum in the City by one of the accounting firms.

It was a breakfast meeting with a speaker presenting on how to drive business growth in low growth economies. There were about forty CEOs all enjoying pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt. Most were from medium to large private businesses predominantly with a business-to-business focus.

The presentation soon gave way to an open discussion between those present on the drivers of growth, with a heavy emphasis on the sales function as the real driver of revenue growth. Marketing did not get a mention until the speaker asked about the role of marketing and one of the CEOs delivered his knock-out put-down of marketing, which was met by the general consensus of the others in the room.

Reflecting on this, I considered how the marketing and sales function works seamlessly in our own B2B professional services business. It is a seamless and integrated approach that starts with defining the business requirements and the revenue and growth objectives and identifying the segments and services we believe will deliver this growth based on past data and informed by market changes and customer trends.

Six years ago we implemented a major change in marketing direction, moving from a traditional out-bound marketing approach to an in-bound marketing strategy. This meant we went from a sales support model for marketing to one under which content marketing, SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media drove customers to our website and content, at which point automated marketing would help identify those customers and score their sales potential with encouragement to make an enquiry and become a lead. This lead would then be handled by sales to discuss the needs of the client, propose a solution and convert the lead to a sale.

The change in strategy had a significant impact in the first year leading to a 300% increase in traffic to our website and a 30% increase in revenue in that first year. You can read about this in more detail on our site here https://www.trinityp3.com/2013/05/website-visitor-growth/ including specifics on how it was developed and implemented. Under our outbound marketing strategy we were averaging a conversion rate of 26% – considered quite healthy. But with the in-bound marketing strategy our conversion rate is now 64% as in many ways the prospect is self-validated at the time they decide to become a lead.

For those interested, follow ups on those that do not convert indicate that it is usually because the prospect does not have the budget required or have decided to take a lower cost option or even undertake the process themselves.

At the end of last year we had over 200,000 unique visitors to the site from around the world and the site visitors continue to grow, which is terrific for a relatively niche consulting business in marketing management consulting. You can read more about how we achieved this visitor growth here: https://www.trinityp3.com/2017/02/200000-website-visitors/

The quality of those visitors is also high, based on the number of pages visited and time on-page, which all goes to calculate their Lead Score. We are continually testing the process of turning visitors into leads, looking for ways to optimise lead generation and conversion rates.

While some marketers will wonder where the role of brand building fits into this strategy, the fact is the content and the brand presentation is integrated into all aspects of the process to ensure every interaction builds on the brand positioning. All parts of the marketing and sales process are measured, optimised and reviewed to ensure we are achieving our short, medium and long term growth objectives, creating interest, driving leads, converting customers and building and reinforcing reputation.

So, it made we wonder how these other CEOs manage their marketing teams? What is the role of marketing in an organisation where the leader is comfortable describing it as the ‘colouring in department’? Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating in-bound marketing for any other business and not suggesting that we are in anyway the perfect example of business building. But the starting point for us was a recognition that our traditional out-bound marketing process of database cold and warm calling along with advertising and public relations and sales support materials was not delivering the leads and sales conversions we needed.

It meant we needed clearly to articulate our business objectives and then develop a marketing and sales strategy that would attract the customers we needed. It was not a sales-led strategy or a marketing-led strategy, but a customer-led strategy. The sales people and the consultants who are closest to our existing customers inform the content and content marketing strategy and marketing focuses on maximising traffic and optimising leads, leaving sales to convert those leads into sales and revenue. All parts of the business share results and review performance on a weekly and monthly basis. There is no point marketing increasing leads if conversions drop, so both must work together to drive revenue and profitability.

Hopefully the next time you hear a fellow CEO refer to their marketing team as the ‘colouring in department’ you’ll share with them the fact that if they have set up their marketing function simply to colour in their sales support materials then they are really not doing it right and then direct them to this article or our website. Having the right marketing and sales strategy working together has clearly driven growth for our business and will absolutely deliver the same results for yours.

Darren Woolley is the CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants www.trinityp3.com a micro multinational with offices in Sydney, Singapore, New York and London.

How to help others see your vision

One of the hardest tasks that you will be faced with in an entrepreneurial endeavor—or any journey that involves leading others—is helping people to see the end product of the vision that you have in your mind. Since you cannot simply transfer your thoughts into the minds of others, you have to face the non-trivial challenge of communicating past their personal biases and individual perspectives. No two people see the world in exactly the same way, but you must find a way to help others see at least a glimpse of your inner world in order for them to understand the bigger picture of what needs to be done.

Hiring purely obedient contractors or employees that have no commitment to your larger story, and don’t really care about the end goals of their work is fine in some cases, but you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle to get people motivated and to understand the meaning of their role in it all. On the other hand, a person who sees your vision is much more likely to not need to be micromanaged, to be more adaptable to changes, and to understand intuitively what it is that you are looking for.

In order to guide people towards your ends and help them to see your vision, it takes more than simply rational explanation. As much as the pieces seem to fit perfectly well in your mind as a logical whole, the truth is that people need a narrative to be the emotional glue that will hold all of these truths together for them. How do you do this, though? How do you induce people to see your project the way that you see it? Nothing you can do will guarantee it, but there are a few tactics that you can employ to help communicate your intent in a much better way than simply relaying a linear set of instructions day after day:

1) First, establish the team’s identity

People have much more of a sense of mission when they identify with their role. This sort of thinking is both a positive and negative trait in human beings; it has built empires as well as destroyed them. Use this powerful source of motivation to your advantage. Tell your team stories about what kind of people you are and what sort of character your organization has. Tie this identity to the kind of goals that you want to achieve. Take a cue from the likes of Walt Disney, who was very specific in that his company produce media that embodied a quality of childlike wonder. Observe Steve Jobs and how he demanded nearly inhuman results from his team of “pirates” during the microcomputer revolution.

“Who am I?” is a very important question to every person, and if you can at least partially answer that question for members of your team, you will gain devotion in return.

2) Explain the path towards your goal as if it has already happened

Describe things as clearly as if the finished product were sitting before you. Even if plans change, people work best when they feel that there is always a direction, something definite to shoot for. Speak in concrete terms, and see the goal the way you would if it was already done. A little haziness can happen sometimes, but you can’t expect people to latch onto fog. Tell them stories of what you want and exactly how you plan to get there.

3) Allow your team to give input every step of the way

People can get behind something much more easily when they feel a sense of ownership. They are also much more likely to understand what your goals are if they are an active participant in discussions on how to get there. Reward your team members for good suggestions and constantly ask for their input. This might even help you to expand your own limited perspective when it comes to your projects.

4) Show concrete examples of what you want

Sometimes your vision may be for something that does not yet exist in this world, but a case like this is very rare. More often than not, there will be examples of other companies with similar goals who have achieved their ends. Offer real-world examples of the results that you want, and the members of your team will have a much easier time understanding you. As you compare the abstract ideas floating around in your mind with the concrete results of other organizations, you may even realize that you didn’t have it as well figured out as you originally thought.

5) Give your team a big “why”

You can try to communicate the path to your goal, and you can try to influence your team to personalize their roles, but ultimately this may not be enough if the individual members don’t have a big enough “why.” You may have observed that morale is particularly low in people who feel that their work has no meaning. If your team is struggling to find a meaning to what they’re doing, then they probably don’t understand your vision well enough. Sometimes the very thing that will snap everything else into focus is revealing why you are ultimately pursuing your specific goals. The why is what determines the how, and so it will allow your team members to better understand the anatomy of your goals.

For example, if you decide that your business should enter a very untested market, then explain to your team members why you think that you will meet success on the other side. Give specific reasons and share all of your research with them. Do not let the direction of your projects be a huge mystery while you play the dictator. No one works well if they believe they are being led to their possible doom.

Ultimately, though, the best thing that you can do to clarify your vision to others is to first clarify it with yourself. As you write down your plan, think of all the details as carefully as possible. Does anything seem fuzzy? Are you having trouble putting something into words? Do you have any negative gut feelings about possible obstacles in the future? Perhaps these are areas where you are not yet clear yourself. Once your vision is fully articulated in your mind, it is much easier for others to get on board. An obvious confidence in what you want will almost always induce others to follow, and you might find that your actions and demeanor will do much more to explain your vision than your words.

Written by Raul Betancourt.

How to handle conflict among your employees

boardroom-dispute

In a perfect world, every person you’ve ever hired is a completely mature adult who is very socially aware, takes almost nothing personally, and has a nearly super-human ability to turn the other cheek when others don’t display similar qualities. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world—we live in this one. Sometimes you will be faced with having to deal with professional (or unprofessional) conflict among your employees, conflict that may even detract from the normal productivity in the workplace.

While you may feel, as many do, that you can’t be bothered with your employees’ personality clashes, these are the sorts of problems that can escalate and affect the company’s reaching its goals. Morale can slowly erode over time as problems are left unaddressed and your employees start working against each other instead of as a team. Workplace politics can be very costly, and you will want to limit this kind of inefficiency as much as you can. So if you find that employees turn to you when they feel that there are unresolvable personal issues on their level, you might want to step up to the challenge and stamp these problems out at their root using some tried and true guidelines:

1) Don’t paint a rosy picture.

It’s easy to delude oneself that a conflict doesn’t exist by sweeping it under the rug. For many people, this is their very definition of “professionalism”–to essentially pretend as if human nature and conflict is non-existent, rather than to address it directly in a mature way. You may be tempted to simply chastise your employees for their in-fighting, or to encourage them to ignore the seething problems underneath, but this will only lead to the illusion of peace. You might very well find over the long-term that your denial will come back to haunt you. Allow your employees to be honest with you about what is happening, and don’t try to compel them to sugar-coat things.

2) Strive to be non-judgmental.

Do you want the truth? If you do, then your employees need to feel that you won’t over-react or otherwise make snap judgments about what they will share with you. Get both sides of the story during conflict-resolution, and try to remain as impartial as possible during your information-gathering phase. Even if you hear about an employee doing something highly inappropriate, suspend your reaction for the moment, and listen carefully. This will encourage people to tell you the whole story, rather than just what they think you will be able to tolerate well. To truly get to the root of the problem, you will need the whole story.

3) Examine issues as quickly as possible and as they come.

If you preferred to ignore conflict in the past, you may have noticed how it can seethe and blow up over time. Sure, some problems can “take care of themselves,” but this isn’t usually the case, so address conflicts as you become aware of them and smother them before they become bigger problems.

If John comes to you complaining about how he thinks Karen took all the credit for the last major project, take this small resentment seriously and bring it out into the open before it turns into an all-out war of egos between two employees.

4) Help your employees see their common ground.

When discussing the problem with your employees, try to see where they might agree amongst the disagreement. Using this starting point, you might actually be able to discover that the conflict was due to a misunderstanding. Often times, it is exactly as the cliché says: 10% of arguments are due to a difference of opinion; 90% are due to a wrong tone of voice.

5) Make a plan together that ends the tension.

Ideally, all parties are involved when you come to a decision about some kind of resolution. Beware, however, of “compromise,” as it has a tendency to give both sides of the conflict less than what they want. It is much better to think win-win, and try to find a way for all employees involved to save face and have their needs met if possible.

6) Be pro-active about conflict resolution.

One of the best approaches is to simply address problems before they even happen. If you see an employee being negative, stepping all over the boundaries of others, or simply behaving in a way that invites conflict, bring it to his attention. Many people aren’t aware of how they affect others, and they may not even realize that the way they act causes the people around them to resent them.

In particular, examine employees that are in leadership or managerial positions. Power—even in relatively tiny quantities—can enhance personality problems, and an accumulation of small injustices against employees that are lower in the hierarchy can be disastrous for morale. For these sorts of people, do your best to encourage self-awareness.

7) Screen problematic people from the beginning.

When assembling your team, it is extremely important that you take personalities into account as much as you do technical ability. It would be great if people could always put their differences aside and focus on their work with the precision and depersonalization of a fleet of robots, but technology is not yet that advanced. In the meantime, you will have to screen your employees as best you can before you even hire them.

While you are interviewing potential team members, ask them about their personal relationships with coworkers at their previous place of work. Ask them about conflicts they’ve had in the past and how they handled them. If your prospect seems to pit the blame on others and seems to take no responsibility for his hand in things, then think twice about bringing him in.

8) Lead by example.

As someone with a lot of influence, you could easily out-muscle anyone who disagrees with you by invoking your rank. Instead, show understanding towards others. Don’t take things personally when your employees have differing opinions from yours, and give each idea respect and consideration, even if you don’t personally agree.

Mediating conflicts between employees and dealing with other similar human problems can be one of the more difficult parts of being in a leadership position. Simply remember to remain calm and address the problems directly, rather than trying to ignore them, and half the battle is already won.

Written by Raul Betancourt.