Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Business the 'Sprinters' seem to get all of the glory! We live in a world where 'faster is better'.

I don't think that we give enough credit to the Marathon runners of the Business world. It's a tough job to survive out there, especially with how quickly the world is changing. Internet and social media allow brands to change their direction within seconds, and we're only as good as we were 5 minutes ago.
In the past, marketing campaigns took months to plan, and business owners could safely plan the year ahead. Time is a luxury that we simply don't have any more, unless we are very smart and create it ourselves.

Business is now a battlefield that happens in real-time, and the longer you stay still the more you have to lose. The flip-side to this is that with great speed, also comes great risk.

We're more empowered than we've ever been, with the best professional development resources at our fingertips. But with all of this extra knowledge, and the ability to learn from other people's mistakes we continue to push ourselves to our physical and mental limits. For some, stress is like an extreme sport that is bragged about in the office.

How is it, that we live in the age of personal enlightenment, and yet we aren't winning the battle against stress?

Who are the Marathon runners, and which of them are still ahead of the pack after years of racing?

Which brings me to Siimon Reynolds. If I could pick three things about Siimon that I really respect, these are what they would be:
1. His tremendous staying power in the business world. 
2. His ability to re-invent himself and continually grow and change with the world. 
3. His holistic views on business and life, and how the two can be integrated together. 

I hope you enjoy this interview with Siimon as much as I did interviewing him. He is one of the loveliest and liveliest people I have had the privilege of speaking with. 


BW: You became the Creative Director of an advertising agency at 21 years of age - what did you present that convinced them to take a chance on someone so young?

SR: Well you know I think they were really brave, the Managing Director Gary Murphy was really brave to take me on. And you know the truth is when I first went in there and said that I wanted to be Creative Director he said “Look you’re too young.” And I had to keep fighting inside the meeting to get him to even listen to me, and greatly to his credit the next day he said ‘Ok I’m going to give you the job.’ So, incredible bravery really. And what were they looking for? I think they were looking for several things, a better standard of work, I think they were also looking for a new beginning, a new sense of excitement, and someone who could bring energy and optimism and new hope to the company. And you know I think in some respects I represented that to the company, and I was lucky enough to be given a chance.  

BW: 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is a term frequently talked about here in Australia but have you encountered it in your career?

SR: Constantly. Absolutely. And the first 20 times it really shocked me. But after a while, you get pretty used to it. It’s almost a test of when you want to achieve, whether you can handle it. I remember a few months ago I had a negative article written about me, and with almost, very little to do with me. It was all about this person disliking me from the word go, and I was quite irritated about it and my girlfriend said ‘Anyone who ever achieves anything is going to be disliked by somebody.” and she said “Come to the computer and type in Steve Jobs and then the word ‘hate’.” And so I did that, and amazingly there were just hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of websites and Blogs saying how much they hate Steve Jobs. She very elegantly showed me that basically as soon as you do anything in life, someone is going to go after you and hate you, and normally someone who is mediocre and sitting on the sidelines.

BW: Why do you think we have a culture like this in Australia? Do you ever experience this working in the U.S? (Tall Poppy Syndrome)

SR: There’s far more respect for people who achieve in the U.S, undoubtedly. As to why, I think it’s just a culture that is in many respects more mature and more sophisticated than the Australian culture. You know certainly amongst people who achieve, and why do some Australians feel that way? I think it’s important to note that most intelligent Australians don’t feel that way. It’s normally the people with chips on their shoulders, or who haven’t succeeded themselves to the level that they’d like who attack others. Then there’s also other people who’ve been brought up by their parents with the view that people who have money or success are just lucky, or that they hurt people to get that way. And so you know they grew up with those feelings, and they manifest in their own lives and the beat goes on.
But all I can say is that it’s just yet another obstacle that someone who wants to succeed has to face, and if someone isn’t strong enough to take the criticisms of fools on the sidelines then maybe they don’t deserve a high level of success.

BW: You spend a lot of your time living and working between Australia and the U.S. What do you enjoy about working in the U.S?

SR: You know I just love the new place, it’s a new challenge, no one knows me, I’ve got to establish myself, I’ve got to grow and become more to succeed over here. And I love that, you know it gets me out of my comfort zone and it also gets me out of the mental rut that I was in somewhat when I was in Australia. Purely because I’d lived there my whole life, so I drove the same streets, mostly went to the same restaurants, saw the same people, and life was very sweet and comfortable. But when you move to such a giant, massively large country, and you are completely unknown there it wakes you up and keeps you fresh I think.
BW: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

SR: Well the first thing I’d say about that is, I don’t know if I have had the wisdom to have taken notes of the very best pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given. There’s probably been countless pieces of priceless advice that have just gone over my head. But of the ones that I remember, let me give you three:
The first is that you become what you think about most of the time. If you can just sculpt your thoughts and discipline yourself to think about how you want your life, and what does it take to get there then you tend to make a lot of progress. Versus a lot of people who focus on what they don’t have, and who’s to blame. So that’s the first piece of advice which I found very useful for me.
The second piece of advice is to have a growth mindset, to always be growing and learning. There’s all kinds of research done, and there’s a great researcher Professor Carol Dweck who’s written a book on mindset and she shows that it’s not necessarily the most intelligent people who get to the top, it’s the people who keep learning and growing.
And then the third I think is that happiness is like any other area you have to study it and focus on it in order to get it. And a lot of work has been over the last 25 years in the area of positive psychology and now there’s quite a large body of scientific data that can tell you all the things you need to do to be happy. And many of them are surprising, for instance money plays almost no part in happiness, after your basic needs are met. And so that was a great piece of advice, I got to study happiness and treat it as an area that could be learnt like any other area.

BW: In your latest book, 'Why people fail: The 16 obstacles to success and how to overcome them', you talk about finding a career that best uses your strengths. For those wanting to re-design their life, where do you suggest they begin?

SR: Well I think first of all they need to identify what their strengths are, all the research shows that if you do a job that utilizes your strengths you tend to do really well at it and you tend to be happier. So firstly you’ve got to identify what your strengths are, and there is some good tests available to do that. If you go onto Marcus Buckingham’s website he’s got a good strengths test, and then there’s another one called ‘Strengths Finder 2.0” and then there’s another one called the ‘Kolbie Index’, and there are many other strengths identifiers.
Another thing you can do is ask your friends ‘What am I good at? Or ‘What am I not good at it and tell me honestly?’. And also ask your workmates, and work out what your strengths are, and what your weaknesses are. And then figure out ‘Ok what do I enjoy?’  And ultimately when there’s something that is both on your enjoyment list and your strengths list as far as careers go, then you are likely to have a great new direction.
BW: Is there a place in life for regrets?

SR: That’s a good question. Look I think regrets are a compulsory part of life, and particularly a life where you are striving to achieve, and the reason is that most of the time when you are, what a lot of people don’t realise is that the people that are highly successful are actually failing more than failures. So they have probably increased regrets, not decreased regrets, but they certainly have a different quality of regret, it’s the regret of maybe not trying hard enough and maybe not doing different things. The successful people often have the regrets of that they’d wish they’d done different things, whereas the unsuccessful people often have regrets that they wish they’d tried harder, or focussed more. I think successful or unsuccessful, rich or poor, life is a school and I believe we are here to learn and to have fun. And I think it’s impossible to avoid having regrets, it’s like it comes from getting older.
BW: What strategies work for you in the quest to maintain a good work/life balance?

SR: Another good question. Look I think first of all to have a leaving time, to have a time that you leave work, a lot of ambitious people have a time to get to work, but they don’t have a leaving time. So I think once you do that you start working far more effectively, faster, and you value your time more. The 2nd is to have a list of fun things that you like to do, most people never have that list, they kind of know that they like going to the movies, or going out to dinner, but there’s probably a list of 10 or 15 things that you could write out and have where you can see it and then plan and schedule and put in the calendar times when you actually do those things. And just doing that can create a lot of balance and joy in your life, and thirdly I think it’s to actually schedule meetings with people you care about like you schedule meetings at work. And I think that what happens is most people will be quite organised at work and then they try and squeeze in their family life, or their personal life, or their health if they have time. Whereas, if they treat it like any other meeting or appointment, they tend to happen. 
BW: What is the most powerful skill an entrepreneur can have?

SR: I think the most powerful skill an entrepreneur can have is action orientation. They just try a lot of stuff; generally speaking entrepreneurs tend to get a lot of stuff done. So in the course of a month, they might try 5 different things, whereas someone else may have just tried one. But it’s really by trying many, many different things that you work out the two or three things that work, and so you know there are just mountains of cases of people who open businesses and weren’t doing well, but just kept trying different stuff until finally it works. I was only listening to an interview today actually where the guy was talking about how the Flickr service started and it was a completely different type of Software Company, and by accident they happened upon the method of doing this with photos and switched the whole business around and did it around that. So it’s not how you start, it is how you adapt that makes all the difference.
BW: What characteristics do the most successful entrepreneurs have in common?

SR: I think they’re all optimistic. I think it takes huge persistence to succeed as an entrepreneur, so being an optimist through the downtimes is absolutely vital and you know it’s worth saying that optimism is a choice too. You can learn to be optimistic, and second of all I think they are realistic as well. They are very practical, so they balance the optimism with realism and looking at the dangers and worst case scenarios as well. So that they manage to keep their ship afloat if things get tough. I think that they’re normally very clear and confident. They are clear about their goals, they’re clear about where they want to go and are confident they are going to get there. That’s really vital. And then finally they dare to innovate. They are daring, they dare to compete, they dare to open their company in the first place, which takes a tremendous amount of courage. There are many qualities, and they’re some of the leading ones for sure.
BW: If you could give 3 pieces of advice to the dreamers of the world, what would they be?

SR: The first is whatever you do, give it 100%. One of my greatest mistakes that is sometimes in my life is being in something, and wishing I was somewhere else. So even if you are somewhere that isn’t the best, make the most of it while you are also planning where you should go. Just have a philosophy of giving everything 100%, and that will ensure a success.
2. Make sure you always read inspirational books and books written by the best people in your industry, and about the best people in your industry. Because unless you see in a world where a lot of the people around you are mediocre, unless you are surrounded in your mind at least with examples of people succeeding, then it’s very easy to forget the dream after a while; but those kind of books not only teach you, they keep the dream alive.
And thirdly, I think it is to choose to believe in yourself, choose to pump yourself up, be your own best coach, talk to yourself each day, visualise success. Make yourself passionately believe that you can do it, and if you do that I think that your brain works in all kinds of advanced ways to find you the information and opportunities you need to achieve your dream. That kind of passionate belief is an almost miraculous ingredient that has created some stunning and statistically highly unlikely, but momentous successes in life just because people kept on believing until they found a way to make it work. 

You can check out Siimon's work on :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Peta Pledger...Love is in the details.

Love in business can be seen in many different ways. You might feel it in the enthusiasm of its leader, or see it in how a business treats its staff. It is common to find love in one area of a business, because every idea is born from passion.  It is, however, extremely uncommon to feel love across all aspects of a business. When I refer to love, I'm not talking about pretend love, or the kind of love you 'should' feel because you are paid to, but real love! The kind that bursts from your chest and sets off the twinkle in your eye. I'd like to refer to this phenomena as: THE TOTAL LOVE PACKAGE, or if you want something catchier, 'THE LOVE EXPLOSION!'.  
In my humble opinion, the success or failure of every business depends on how much of the total love package it can give its customers. If you think about it, being in business is like being in a relationship. You can be the man or woman of your customer's dreams, be the one they settled for, or much worse than that, the one that never had a chance! What sort of business are you? And if you are a customer, when was the last time you felt truly loved?

Being an avid spectator of businesses, and a hopeless romantic, I am always excited to find businesses that are the total package. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Peta Pledger, of Melbourne's  'Peta Pledger' fashion label. 
Since 2003, Peta has been dressing women from all over the world in her made-to-measure figure flattering garments. Peta draws inspiration for her designs from vintage patterns, Australian 50's housewives, pin-up glamour, rock-'n-'roll and tattoo culture. Fancy a bit of 50's breeziness and glamour in your life? Then you may have just met the right woman, and I can tell you for myself, love abounds in the world of 'Peta Pledger'!

BW: How does the 'Peta Pledger' label differ from other clothing labels? 
PP: The label is not limited to one age or size group.  I make clothing for children, size 4 women up to size 26 women.  I also offer a custom-made service, so if you see a style that you like, you can have it made in a different fabric and to your own measurements.

BW: Everything about your business exudes a love for what you do, from the exquisite finish of your garments, to your Blog. What importance do you place on detail?   
PP: Attention to detail is my priority.  I was really lucky to have tough dress and pattern making teachers in college (I did the Advanced Certificate in Designer Dressmaking from 1990 to 1993), we all heard the words "unpick it and do it again" over and over and we were encouraged to strive for perfection, which I still do to this day.
My website needs alot of work, but when it comes to my clothing, every garment must be perfect or it does not leave my studio.   There are hundreds of people making the kind of clothing that I do and the only way I can really stand out is by having really well-made garments using traditional techniques, many of which are slowing being phased out to allow for faster garment construction by other companies.  

BW: When designing the imagery of the Peta Pledger brand, what was it you wanted to communicate to your customers? 
PP: I wanted to communicate that most of what I make is inspired by the 1950's and 1960's.  I also wanted people to know that I use traditional dressmaking techniques on all of my garments and that I strive to give every person old-fashioned service.  The thing that is most important to me though is that I don't want anyone to feel left out.  A lot of clothing labels only cater to women that are a certain size, I want women of every body shape to feel that they can come to me - if there is something that I can't do, I have a collective of creative people like me, that I can refer them to.

BW: With your business having a focus on custom-made items, how do you prioritise your time between creating garments and building the label? 
PP: The custom-made side of the business is what finances the label.  Having a profitable clothing label that produces locally made clothing is really difficult, especially because so many boutiques prefer to consign stock over buying it outright.  Our material and labour costs are much higher here than offshore, so that makes local garment manufacture difficult too. So, for me, the custom-made clothing is my priority and I manufacture for stores in-between.

BW: What has been your proudest moment?  
PP: It's a long story, but in 2003 there was a time where I never thought I would sew again.  Gemma Jones, a Melbourne Pop Artist that I was - and still am - a big fan of, came to my studio to order a dress.  She had heard that I wanted to pack it in and had a conversation with me that literally changed my life.  Having someone who you look up to tell you that you are good enough to go into business on your own and to reach for the stars is a pretty good feeling.

BW: Can you describe your most challenging experience in business, and how you overcame it?  
PP: The most challenging experience for me has been doing work for friends.  You find yourself wanting to make something for everyone you love for free or for next to nothing, but as my accountant pointed out, at what point do you draw the line?  So, I overcame the problem by giving my friends a written quote as I do with all clients and letting them decide if they wish to proceed with the job or not.

My accountant has also asked me to stop giving away ready-made clothing away for free, but I am still finding the urge hard to resist! 

BW: What are your hot tips for promoting a creative business? 
PP: Have an online presence.  It sounds lame, but if people cannot find you online, you don't exist.  Have an interesting blog that supports a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an online store.  If you can't afford a website with a built-in shopping cart, a blog with a big cartel or an Etsy store attached to it is a great way to start.  Keep your posts relevant to your business and interact with like-minded people online.  Try and find a balance though, people will switch off if you're too in their face or too 'spammy'.
Outside of the internet, postcards are good as you can leave them in record stores or cafes.   If you choose to have a market stall, they are a great way to introduce yourself to potential customers without being pushy.

BW: Peta Pledger dresses women all over the world - how did you go about breaking into the international market?  
PP: My first international break was from a company based in New York called Killspeed - NYC.  My friend Jane introduced me (by email) to the owners, Marisol and Jens in 2006.  After that, I opened up an Etsy store in early 2007 and doing that exposed me to the whole world.  Thanks to Etsy, people in at least 15 different countries are wearing 'Peta Pledger'.

BW: What plans do you have for the 'Peta Pledger' label in the future?  
PP: The plan is to eventually have a store here in Melbourne that stocks independent labels and a made-to-measure service.  I would like to break into the US market, where the audience for what I make is much greater.  It's a hard time to predict where I am going to go in the future, but that's the plan for now.  Doing this will require a lot of money.  So I will eventually need to look into ways to get financial backing for my business, which I currently know nothing about!

BW: Is there a pattern you follow to make your dreams come true?  
PP: I didn't follow a pattern.  I have been very fortunate to have a collective of friends that really believed in me and helped me to get my business to the stage it is today.  You need to be prepared to work really hard (I worked a full time job and on the business up until I had a baby in late 2006), you need to be prepared for a lot of knock-backs and when you do get knocked back, you have to dust yourself off and get up and try again even harder.  Oh, and you have to believe in yourself.  If you don't have faith in your work, no-one else will.

You can check out Peta Pledger at:
Twitter: @petapledger
Facebook:  Peta Pledger 

Photo Credits: Nicole Reed,
*I have the Peta Pledger 'Sara' shirt in red and white gingham, it is my favourite clothing item, and I am convinced it has super powers. :) Thanks Peta!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

CAN I BE 'FriendsWithYou'? An interview with Sam Borkson

I was joking with some work colleagues the other day, telling them about when I was young and had two different characters I liked to transform into. For my Australian readers, one of them was Louis the Fly. Louis was the mascot for a particular brand of bug spray, and I would race around the house singing his song with scarves as wings attached to my arms, and goggles as my fly eyes.
You could say that Louis was an odd choice, considering his theme song was:
 ‘I’m Louis the fly, I’m Louis the fly, straight from rubbish tip to you, spreading disease with the greatest of ease, straight from rubbish tip to you! I’m bad and mean, and mighty unclean. Afraid of no-one, ‘cept the man with the can of Mortein!’
 When I felt like ruling the world, I was Skeletor from the He-Man series. If you can imagine a 6-year-old girl slinking around the house in a purple cape, with a sword and skeleton mask, that was me. Evil characters were how I rolled.
What I can’t remember is when I stopped doing those crazy things. I mean, I do crazy things now, like signing off my work emails as ‘Skeletor’. But when did I cut off that super powerful part of my imagination that allowed me to be whoever I wanted?

Do you remember when that happened to you?

In my adult life, every now and again I find someone, or something that allows me to connect with ‘little me’, little Skeletor. Late last year, it was an absolute privilege to discover a company based in Miami, called ‘FriendsWithYou’. With the goal of spreading Magic, Luck and Friendship around the world, ‘FriendsWithYou’ is a group of people that work to plant a seed within all of us, that rather than growing up, we can grow back into who we were as kids.

I was given the opportunity to pick the brain of ‘FriendsWithYou’ co-founder, Sam Borkson.    

CAN I BE 'FriendsWithYou'? My interview with Sam Borkson. 

SAM AND TURY: Founders of "FriendsWithYou"                                                             
BW: Sam, when you wake up in the morning, what do you think about?
SB: Usually about the dream I just had. Sometimes I feel like I went through something pretty serious and other times it's beautiful and magical.

BW: When you go to sleep at night, what do you dream about?
SB: Wow it's so random. I used to have such insane battles every night where I know I would be tired again even after sleeping because of the energy drain from the dream. Some of those still happen but I also dream of complex ideas like weird situations my head is trying to figure out inside the grander illusion. Sometimes it's a beautiful construction that I made with Tury or it's just too weird to talk about.


BW: What is your advice to those that have a unique and 'way out' idea that they want to bring to the world?
SB: Keep working hard and never let anything stop you. Even if you fail every single time you will gain strength and knowledge from that.

BW: As kids we have no limits, and everything is possible. As we get older, our dreams seem to get further away, and harder to reach. I think the saddest part about this is our childhood dreams are the purest, most magical parts of us. How can we, as adults, get those dreams back?
SB: It's essential. You need to retain that magic, if you lose it you're already dead. This is a huge part of our mission as artists to provide this on a platter for people, but we would love to see people spreading this on their own. We are spiritual beings and need to connect and dream, it's so important.


BW: FriendsWithYou has a strong culture of Magic, Luck and Friendship. When a new person joins your team at FWY, what do you do to unleash their creativity?
SB: Dance with them!

BW: At what point do you believe that you captured the minds and hearts of commercial America? You have worked with the likes of Coca Cola, MTV, Red Bull and Nike. What do you think they saw in you, or that they found in you, that they couldn't find anywhere else?
SB: We help connect with people, and it's something many corporations have forgotten how to do. We love working with brands and corporations because they are like the kings of old helping us march forward on our mission.

BW: Sam, in your eyes, what are the most important characteristics a leader should have?
SB: I think a leader needs to inspire, be an example, act kindly and with passion.

BW: On Twitter, you tweet about amazing ideas like 'Riding the rainbow' and 'Sparkle power!'. How has FriendsWithYou impacted on how you live your life?
SB: It's kind of like a mantra I'm always telling myself. The quotes I post are things that help me and since everyone is more similar than one would think they may help others as well.

BW: What ideologies have been critical to your own success?
SB: Maybe a bit of all of them or at least the good bits. The simple truths of life and how to live happily and be supportive and loving of the people around you.

BW: You say your main goal is to culturally engineer and spread simple spirituality. How can the rest of us practice and spread this spirituality on a daily basis?
SB: Just do it. I think you are doing it right now with this interview and helping us spread our ideas. We are doing it by free forming our creative into a myriad of outlets from fine art, experiential performance installation, to entertainment, products and more. We don’t hold back anything. We love being unrelenting!

FriendsWithYou is currently creating magic across Toronto with their "Wish Come True" Festival!

You can visit the world of 'FriendsWithYou' by visiting
Twitter: @friendswithyou