Saturday, March 31, 2012

Growth Summit - Jim Collins

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be invited by Pricewaterhouse Coopers to attend the 2 day Growth Summit at the Sydney convention centre. 3 of the 5 presentations particularly stood out and left a mark on me, so I thought I'd share my notes over a series of 3 posts.

The first presentation was by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall. Jim has spent his entire career studying what differentiates great businesses from all the rest, and his books are regularly listed in must read lists of business books.

Following are my notes from his presentation.

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. It's a function of choice and discipline.
1. Get the right people on the bus and in the key seats. The most important executive skill = pick the right people and put them in the right roles. Spend 50% of your time on people.
2. Determine where to drive the bus.

Leadership has nothing to do with charisma and personality, it's irrelevant.

Eg. Darwin Smith, Kimberly-Clark. Darwin was quiet, shy, reserved and unsure if he was the right choice as CEO. He said after his tenure, 'I was just trying to be qualified for the job'. He was a great decision maker. He made the difficult decision to sell their 100 year old mills business which was how the company was founded at the right time, free up funds to move into consumer goods.

Eg. Anne Mulcahy, Xerox. Ann was hugely charismatic however she didn't have a personal ego. She viewed her leadership role at Xerox as a privilege rather than a responsibility. She was a great decision maker and would do anything to ensure Xerox would succeed.

Eg. Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines. Herb was weird. He once resolved a trademark dispute in front of a stadium full of people with an arm wrestle against the CEO of the other company. Despite weirdness, he would fundamentally do anything to ensure that Southwest and it's culture, people and values would win.

These 3 leaders were all incredibly different in terms of their charisma and personality, however they were all hugely successful business leaders. Charisma and personality are irrelevant to being a great business leader.

The 5 levels of leadership:
Level 5: Level 5 Executive
Level 4: Effective Leader
Level 3: Competent Manager
Level 2: Contributing team member
Level 1: High performing individual

What differentiates level 4 executives from level 5 executives:
1. Humility
2. Will

Level 5 executives are ambitious, egotistical and energetic, but not for themselves, for their company. They channel this into a goal bigger than themselves. Level 5 leaders:

  • Hire people better than themselves
  • Confront the brutal facts
  • Choose with great clarity what to do and not to do
  • See themselves in the service of their company, not your company in service to them.
Great leadership is when people follow, who don't have to follow.

Stages of business decline: 1. Arrogance and hubris at the success of the business 2. Overeaching, doing too much 3. Denial that there are problems within the business

How to avoid decline and build a great company:

Fanatic discipline - eg. Robert F. Scott and Roald Amundson getting to the South Pole. Amundson targeted 15miles per day rain, snow or shine. Scott went hard on good days and didn't move on bad days. Amundson made it to the pole and back. Scott and his entire team made it to the south pole 30 days later then died on the way back. Lesson: stick to goals regardless of barriers. Do that in the bad times and also the good times, to the point of holding back in good times to avoid overreaching. Amundson started what could have been his final day 45miles from the South pole. He didn't know how far Scott was from the pole and whether he was about to be beaten if he held back. He could have pushed and made it that day as the weather was great. But his fear was there would be a storm and he'd be caught in the open exhausted. So he held back and took another 2 days to get there. He beat Scott by 30 days, and lived.

Empirical creativity - Amundson had the humility to be empirical. He made a point of ensuring he first understand what worked in South Pole conditions, so he went to live with eskimos to learn as part of his preparation. They taught him to use dogs rather than horses to travel in extremely cold conditions. Horses sweat. Horse + sweat + wind + -30degrees = frozen horses. Innovation is important, but don't bet your company on an unproven innovation. In addition to horses, Scott also took motor sleds which were a brand new technology and untested in such cold conditions. The motors cracked. With dead horses and broken motor sleds Scott's team had to pull their supplies themselves, and they died. Amundson made it easily with his dogs which empirical analysis taught him.

Fire bullets, then fire cannon balls - once you've found something that works, focus on it with fanatic discipline. Only 9% of first to market innovators were the most successful company in their space. 64% of the pioneering innovators go out of business. Be innovative enough to be in the game in your industry. Beyond that, it's more important to marry discipline to creativity such that the discipline amplifies the creativity rather than destroying it. This discipline is more important than overextending the innovation.

Productive paranoia - Amundson was always worried about what could go wrong, and built buffers into all his plans. He determined how many supplies his team needed, then multiplied it by 3. He not only put flags on his return trip supply depots, he put pennants out 10miles in every direction from the supply depots in case his navigation was off and he missed the original flag. Bill Gates ran Microsoft conservatively enough that the business could go 1 year without revenue. Plan and keep cash on the balance sheet. The most successful companies hold 3-10x the cash of comparable companies, even when they're small. If they had to hold growth back so they had options in tough times they would do so. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Great companies have values they stay consistent to.

How do you define your values? Ask yourself questions like, "what would be lost if we disappeared? What would society lose? Who would miss us and why? What's our distinctive contribution and why?" Those who have the biggest impact on changing the world are the most consistent in their approach. Eg. Apple.

Identifying values: "The Mars Group." Pick 5 people from your company you'd send to the planet Mars to form the core DNA of your company to be set up on Mars. Ask them for their personal values. Those should be the values of your organisation.

You should answer 'yes' to all of the following for each of your values:

  • If you were to start a new organization, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
  • Would you want your organization to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future, no matter what changes occur in the outside world?
  • Would you want your organization to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage—even if in some instances the environment penalized the organization for living this core value?
  • Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently—simply do not belong in your organization?
  • Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?
  • Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
  • If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?

Jim and his team studied the impact luck has on great companies. It's not the luck itself, it's the return companies get on luck. Great companies will get a great return on good luck, and minimise the impact of back luck. They do this through fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia.

For more:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Measuring the ROI from our Facebook competition

We've been running competitions on Facebook for Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck with 3 goals:

1. Increase our Facebook likes
2. Add to our email newsletter subscriber base
3. Increase sales

If you'd like to enter you can enter the Sneaking Duck competition here, and the Shoes of Prey competition here. The competition ends 31 March 2012.

Given the competition ends in a couple of days I thought I'd take the time to analyse the return on investment we're looking to get from the campaign.

In total the competition has cost us:
1. ~$500 cost of the prize
2. $6,300 in Facebook advertising

What have we received for this?

1. Increase our Facebook likes
We had ~20,000 new likes over the month we've run the competition. While Facebook reports that 12,572 of these came via ads, the Facebook ads system reports that 17,687 of these new likes came via ads. The ads system records anyone who saw an ad and subsequently liked the page, whereas the page insights records people who click on an ad then liked us on the page as being an 'On Page' like.

The ad system's number is the better one to use, so we only had ~2,500 new organic likes for the month which is about normal, so the competition didn't drive any of these.

So for our $6,800 spend we had ~17,500 new people like us at a cost of $0.38 per like. We need to do some further work to understand the value of a like to our business, but my understanding is $0.38 per like is not bad compared to industry norms of around $0.50. If anyone has industry figures they've seen on this, particularly for other fashion brands I'd love to learn more.

2. Add to our email newsletter subscriber base
We had 4,000 people enter the competition. Part of the entry process involved subscribing to our email newsletter, so that's 4,000 new email subscribers at a cost of $1.70 per email subscription. We're only just starting to delve more heavily into the world of email marketing, so we don't yet know what the value of an email newsletter subscriber will be for our business, however talking to other online fashion brands they're generally willing to pay around $4-$5 for an email newsletter subscriber, so we're well under that figure. Again, if anyone has figures from other fashion retailers about the value of an email newsletter subscriber I'd love to learn more.

3. Increase sales
According to the Google Analytics assisted conversions report, Facebook drove $3,900 of sales in assisted and last interaction conversions over the month. We're not entirely sure how much of this was driven by new likers in the month who clicked on our ads versus existing likers, and unfortunately Facebook doesn't allow any tagging of their ads to help with this. We'll likely try turning off our Facebook ads for a few weeks and measure the baseline sales so we can understand this better. The only number I can go on is the 'Talking about us' figure Facebook provides on our page. Before we started running ads heavily a few months ago this figure sat at around 1,000. It's currently on 6,000 so for now it's a reasonable estimate that 5/6 of the sales were driven by the ads, or $3,250.

It's important to note that the above three results are cumulative, so for $6,800 we received 17,500 likes, 4,000 email newsletter subscribers and $3,250 in sales. Given we would happily pay $6,800 for the results from each of 1 and 2 on their own, overall that's a very good return on investment and a successful competition.

The next step is to work out how to do this on a larger scale!

Cross posted to StartupSmart.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wanted: Sneaking Duck Customer Service and Operations Assistant

We're extremely excited to announce that we're looking for a full time Customer Service and Operations Assistant - if you're interested, please email Mark at including your CV. If you know others who may be interested, please forward the job description below:

Sneaking Duck is a new online optical dispenser and a new eyewear brand. We’re an internet start-up that’s growing fast whilst having fun. We love cool glasses and we love having a pair for every mood. We’re tired of one mega-expensive pair bought only because the last pair died.

We launched our website in October 2011 and have been growing ever since. Our site allows people to browse frames, try them on ‘virtually’ by uploading a photo and then purchase by entering their prescription. We deliver frames in just a few days and offer a generous refunds policy. Delighting our customers is key to us - we send out frames for people to try-at-home, and contact optometrists to get prescriptions on their behalf.

Our offices are located in Surry Hills and our work environment is relaxed and informal (pets welcome), but very much focussed on delivering the best possible service and product.

Attributes, qualifications and experience
  • Self motivated - both in your core role, and to make our company better
  • A desire to thrive in a fast-moving, fun, occasionally chaotic, go-get but friendly start-up
  • High attention to detail - every order needs to be double-checked and accurate
  • A passion for going the extra mile with customers - no matter the issue raised, you need to love building a rapport and delivering a solution - whether it be a technical query, styling dilemma or complaint our customers deserve prompt, warm and knowledgeable service
  • Computer literate with email, documents, spreadsheets and CRM
  • Experience working as an optical dispenser a bonus, but not required - fitting lenses, guiding on lens choice, style advice, problem solving customer issues.

Key tasks and responsibilities
  • Managing customer orders, liaising with our optical laboratory to get glasses shipped accurately & promptly
  • Quality control, packaging and dispatching frames to customers
  • Contacting customers to obtain credit card details and manage their try at home deliveries
  • Contacting optometrists to obtain prescriptions on behalf of customers
  • Responding promptly to customer emails, calls and IMs in a super-friendly, enthusiastic, warm and knowledgeable manner. Going the extra mile on this aspect is the top priority.
  • Managing complaints, returns and refunds
  • Stock management of frames, cases, cloths, packaging and all parts of our operations
  • Day-to-day relationship management of suppliers

Full time position based in office in Surry Hills, flexible working arrangements possible. Competitive salary.

Image credit

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

Fantastic Harvard Business Review article on the leadership lessons from Steve Jobs. Written by his biographer Walter Isaacson.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dollar Shave Club video

Possibly the most awesome online retail marketing video ever:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Call for entries: NSW Woman of the year 2012

Minister for Women, Prue Goward has invited me to be on the panel of judges for NSW woman of the year awards this year.

Awards like these are really important in helping foster better journeys for businesswomen. I recently had the pleasure of hearing the business journey from a woman who built the path I now walk on - Ita Buttrose. We've come an enormously long way since Ita commenced her career in 1957 (which at 70 years of age, is still going strong). For those of you who aren't familiar with her, here are some of her career highlights:

  • Ita started Cleo magazine.
  • She had her own magazine, titled Ita.
  • Ita is still the youngest person to ever be appointed editor of Women's Weekly, which was during her reign per capita, the largest-selling magazine in the world.
  • Ita was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph in 1981, making her the first female editor of a major metropolitan newspaper in Australia.
  • She has been awarded an OBE, OAM and the Centenary Medal.

Trailblazers like Ita broke ground for women in business today in innumerable ways from choosing to go back to work after getting married (yes, after being married, not after having children) to providing Australian women with a frank source of information on female sexuality through Cleo magazine.

Although we've come along way since then, we've still got a great opportunity to make the journey for business women even better. And we need to do this because the numbers show that we're still a long way from where we should be. More than half of Australian university graduates are females, and almost half of the Australian workforce is female. But the Equal Opportunity for Women in the workplace Agency's 2010 Australian Census of Women in Leadership, conducted by Macquarie University, shows:

Women hold only 8.4% of board positions and 8% of Executive Key Management Personnel positions. There are just six female CEOs and five female chairs in the top 200 Australian companies. Even more alarming is that only 4.1% of line roles are occupied by women, those which are largely considered to be the pipeline to the Executive Key Management Personnel and CEO roles. There has been no increase in these figures since 2008. The proportion of companies with no women board directors has increased from 51% in 2008 to 54% in 2010. The proportion of companies with no women Executive Key Management Personnel has declined slightly to 61.9% from 65.1% in 2008. Compared with New Zealand, UK, Canada, US and South Africa, Australia has the lowest percentages of women in the most senior positions.
(Note that this report is only carried out every 2 years, so we'll see the next one this year!).

Some of the opportunities to make change come from recognising differences. One of the differences we've discovered is that women the world over are not great at owning their achievements, especially in the workplace. Women will say "I was lucky" or "I had a great team". An award like this is a chance to help make a change in this area by publicly congratulating a woman on her journey and achievements to date.

Entries close at midnight on 23 March 2012 and the award will be presented during the month of May (date yet to be confirmed). If you know an amazing woman or you are an amazing woman, please nominate now! I'd love to see applications from some 22michaels readers :)


Monday, March 19, 2012

Growing email marketing subscribers

This was first posted to Power Retail.

Now that Sneaking Duck eyewear is up and running, a key priority is to grow our mailing list. We have found that many people love our products, but aren’t necessarily ready to buy right away. However, these potential customers are often very happy to opt in for the occasional, well-targeted email with product announcements and offers.

We’ve tried a few tactics to grow our mailing list. Some have worked well, some haven’t. What’s great is that it’s incredibly easy to measure your success – you can literally watch the email addresses arriving!

Email marketing is effective as a cost-effective way to tell people what’s new – our emails often get open rates of over 40%, and click rates vary from 18% to nearly 50%. Important stuff!

What Didn’t Work

Sign-Up Box on Our Homepage
We thought our sign up box was wonderful and appealing. We highlighted it, let people know what they could hear about, told them ‘they’d be the first to know’.

  • Result: Fail! It wasn’t so popular. We moved it to the top right of the page, but still only received moderate sign ups. Though what was interesting was that when we suggested people joined whilst talking on IM or the phone, they nearly always did – this persuaded me there was untapped demand for being on our list.
  • Self Diagnosis: With no clear reason to sign up, people were literally blind to the existence of the option. Interesting to learn that people, when prompted, were keen to share details.

Posting to Facebook
A couple of times I’ve posted messages reminding people that we have a mailing list, and the benefits of being on it.

  • Result: Fail! We had literally a handful of fans subscribe, despite a Facebook fan base in the thousands.
  • Self Diagnosis: Low virality post, so not widely seen and no reason to join. Facebook is about engagement, not trying to bend people to your will.

By this point, I realised this was something we needed to prioritise – people were happy to join . . . but that we hadn’t found the right way to do it.

What Did Work

Pop-up Mail List Subscriber Box
Our analytics told us that the most engaging part of our site is our virtual mirror page, where you can try our glasses online. A lot of our visitors go there, and it gives them value. Given this, I thought we should test the option of subscribing to our newsletter, while customers were clicking through to this page. We were all nervous about forcing people, so we put in a ‘speedbump’ where users see an easy to dismiss option to subscribe.

  • Result: Win! Around 6% of visitors to our site subscribe to our newsletter using the pop-up and there’s no discernible decrease in time spent on-site, with only a small increase in exits from this page.
  • Self Diagnosis: Good idea! We’re adding hundreds of email addresses to our subscriber database, and what’s great is that the more traffic we get the more subscribers we get!

Facebook Competition
We have a competition running on Facebook where you can win 10 frames. To enter, you need to join our Facebook community, tell us why you should win and share you email address. You also have the option – not the obligation – to opt-in to our mailing list.

  • Result: Win! Over 80% of people opt-in to the mailing list. It’s too soon to see if they are as engaged as the rest of our community, but expectations are high.
  • Self Diagnosis: We have a prize and brand combination that’s big enough to engage people, and persuade them that it’s worth sharing their email address to hear more.

So what’s next? We have a few ideas, but I’m very keen to learn from you what has and has not worked for growing a mail list of engaged potential customers.

Image credit

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Conversion rates by channel

I love this Westfield slide showing conversion rates by channel. Impressive that 92% of people who walk into a Westfield mall make a purchase, if only we could get conversion rates like that on!

Still, it would be tough building a physical retail store that could handle a day like our 297,000 visit record. ;)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

STM Bags Contact Us Page

I love this language on the STM Bags Contact Us page.
Contact Us
Crazy thing … we will answer the phone when you call (usually within two rings). We’d be happy to hear from you.

Followed up by:
We do our best to make sure we earn your business. If we are successful in that endeavor, then just maybe you will recommend us to your friends and family. We’d also love to hear your feedback and comments. This helps us to continually improve the products we make.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey Facebook Competitions!

We're experimenting with a couple of competitions on Facebook for Sneaking Duck and Shoes of Prey to see if we can acquire more fans and email newsletter subscribers at a reasonable cost. It's working quite well so far.

I'll post more details of the results once the competitions are over but in the meantime if you'd like to enter you can win a wardrobe of 10 pairs of Sneaking Duck glasses here and 5 pairs of customised handmade shoes from Shoes of Prey here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friends & Family Sale Next Week

We're holding another friends and family sale next week. Come along to our Sydney headquarters to select from over 900 pairs of one-off, hand-made designs that we have on hand*, ranging from a size 2.5 to 15.

Ballet Flats: $220 $80
Heels: $275 $100
Ankle Boots: $375 $130

5:00pm - 8:00pm, Thursday 8 March, 2012
10:00am - 3:00pm, Saturday 10 March 2012

Shoes of Prey Headquarters
Studio 12, Level 1
285A Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(30m from The Winery)

*Please note that this sale is only of samples that we have ready-made in our headquarters. It does not extend to custom-made shoes.

Cash and EFTPOS available.

You're welcome to pass this invitation along to your friends and family.