Category Archives: Business

Business lessons from Kokoda

Tanya and I the day after we had made it to Kokoda. We set the challenge and we made it.

I knew I would learn a lot about myself from walking Kokoda but I never expected the friendships and the lessons that I got and continue to get from the experience.

Second day in, one of our group died in front of us, so quick, so unexpected and so young.. that was a life changing experience to be part of.   With Chris dying before our eyes it made me realise that life is short and what am I doing to ensure I am getting the most from my life?

I know I need to get a better balance to my life… my business is not the be all and end all. I need to do some things for me as part of the journey.  I need to do some things for others too.

I feel good that I have done my dreams list and I think I really need to concentrate on getting the things done on the list that are the most important to me first, because you really don’t know what is round the corner. I would hate to die before I experienced what it was like to own a Fiat Dino Spider 2.4 and to have kids.

I learnt the importance of mateship.  When the chips are down or the going gets tough you rely on your mates to be there to help you, to encourage you and to make sure you are staying hydrated.  It is so important to invest time in nurturing relationships so you will be the one who will be there to help out your mates should they ever need it.  I am glad that Tanya and I could help comfort Darren at a time he needed it most.  Sometimes life seems so surreal.

We have a bond with our fellow trekker that is hard to explain. We have suffered the same hardships, experiences and fun times. We also had a sense of what it was like for the diggers who had been in these parts all those years before.

It was your mate that was there who really were like family to you… and you fought for them like they were your family. I can’t help but wonder is this the ‘edge’ the Australians had over the Japanese in the war?

I found the Kokoda track is an analogy for business. There are many ups and downs, highs and lows, there are hills that you seem to walk up forever, never getting to the top, and just when you think you can’t continue on this way, you find the drive and you make it. What a feeling.

You have people around you that are there to help you out, carrying things for you just like suppliers, they are the people you rely on to get the job done, there is no way you could make it without their help. But they have to be offering you the right type of help, I know sometimes in business there are people who are suppost to be helping you that are not in fact helping. It would be like having a porter who you were carrying!

There are things that happen unexpectedly that no matter how much planning, testing and preparation you do, they just happen. They are challenges that have no reason for appearing but challenge our thinking and question our reasoning for doing things.   Finishing the track is like achieving a business goal you have set for yourself… you have outlined exactly in your mind what it is you want to achieve, you do the work that is required to set you up for the goal and then you start on the tasks you need to do each day in order to make it to the end. The end is in site and you are in pain… it is so easy to just stop and stay where you are, not making it to the end, a lot of people would give in at this stage. I realised that with enough mental strength and enough encouragement from the people around you, you can achieve anything. Making it into Kokoda was the most amazing feeling. Kids running out yelling, Welcome to Kokoda…. Welcome to Kokoda…. a priceless moment and that is what it feels like to achieve a goal.

I believe that there is more out there than that can be explained.  I know that in the emotion of the dawn service on Anzac Aay in Menari there were fire flies buzzing around over the gully near where we were standing. It was almost like they represented the spirits of the men that had died on the track, remembering the day with us. As the last post was being played and the dawn was breaking they started to fade.  I didn’t see any fire flies again until we were walking into Kokoda. We had been walking for 13 hours and the pressure on my feet was extremely painful and had been for the last 6 hours!  I was talking to anyone who would listen about anything to keep my mind off the pain. I didn’t think the pain in my feet could get any worse and believe it or not, there was comfort in that!  I was really starting to dig in deep to my  mental side to keep on trekking though the now darkness when I saw the fire flies again. Was this encouragement to keep on going?  I took it as a sign and said over and over to myself what I am going through is nothing compared to what had been endured on this track before me.  You do find the strength and keep on going, the goal becomes the most important thing in the world and in the end you almost have tunnel vision on succeeding.

I felt incredibly liberated while on the track as I didn’t take my phone, not that it would have worked anyway and I didn’t even wear a watch. I literally lost track of time and even what day it was. But you know what, it really didn’t matter!

I often wonder if we over complicate our lives. We get so hung up on keeping up with others that it is easy to loose track of what is really important to us. We really start to worry what others think of us and we hold onto little things. I learnt life is too short to be worried about these things.

We can’t forget what it is to dream. What can we do with our life? What difference can we make to someone?, to a group of people?. The men that fought for what we enjoy today, the men whos’ lives were cut short by war, I wonder if they had the chance to really dream? Did they dream that they could make a difference to the next generation? did they have any level of understanding of the impact they made? to their family and to the people who retrace the steps that they took. Sometimes I don’t think we are tough enough anymore, we are soft, it is so easy to give up, someone else will take over from where we left off.

There are always two sides to things and we get the chance to decide on what we will focus on. The negative or the positive. I have realised that I have the chance to make a decision, therefore I will endeavour to focus on the positive side, things will happen for a reason, the unexpected will occur and that is something that I will deal with when it happens. I know that there will be challenges like Kokoda that will pop up from time to time and I know that with enough planning, support and mateship, anything is possible.

Yours in Design

What is Eco-Design?


Eco-Design is an initiative brought about by Design Victoria. Launched at the end of April, ‘What is Eco-Design?’ is your complete guide to sustainable design. Why is this such a great thing for designers? Because we are always challenged by our clients to find environmentally friendly and sustainable design solutions. At ‘What is Eco-Design?’ you will find everything you need to adhere to the current principles and practices of sustainable design for all areas of the industry, including graphic, textile, fashion and industrial design.

‘What is Eco-Design?’ could become the best place to start when nutting out those tricky environmentally friendly client briefs…

Yours in Design,

Recession: a time for re-invention

Here’s a great article I read which talks about branding and business growth in times of economic recession…


You probably smiled the first time you heard someone say, “Flat is the new up,” and maybe even laughed when someone else replied, “Down is the new flat.” But the reality is that in a recession —when most businesses are either stalled or declining—growth can seem unattainable. But for smart companies, recessions have also proven to be periods of rich reinvention.

Here are a few insights from Rick Wise, Lippincott CEO and author of How to Grow When Markets Don’t (Warner Books):

Q. What’s wrong with the way most companies pursue growth?

A. Many companies compete in markets that are totally saturated, and focus on increasingly challenging traditional growth areas: Acquisition, international expansion, the occasional blockbuster, or specialized brand extensions. It’s hard to find meaningful growth with such moves in mature and flat-to-declining markets.

Q. How can recession help?

A. Besides shaking out the weakest players, downturns serve the valuable function of forcing companies to admit that their usual growth avenues are exhausted. Management talks a lot about hunkering down, sticking to their knitting or getting back to basics. But the core business is usually a slow or no-growth one. The sooner management admits they’re stuck in a no-growth model, the quicker they can move on to new strategies.

Q. So where can they find smart growth?

A. It takes a Darwinian leap, and the decision to push past product-centric models. People have to start looking for the next generation of customer demand, the higher-order needs that you and your competitors aren’t meeting but that represent opportunities to create new value in adjacent markets. What are the time-hassle economics that your customers face, and what new services or products would help?

Our client Walmart is a great example. It’s applied its core strength—low prices—into new categories and services, like groceries, pharmacy, and financial services. But it’s also adapted that value message to new formats. Its new Marketside, for instance, is a smaller store designed to cater to fill-in shopping trips poorly served by large Walmart Supercenters. It broadens the customer base and the market opportunity by bringing its core competency of providing great value to helping families answer the pressing question: “What’s for dinner?”

Q. What’s the most important quality for growth when your competitors are shrinking?

A. Rethinking the cultural definition of risk diversification. This is the time to be expansive—sticking to your knitting can be very dangerous when markets become so volatile. You can’t wait for the sunny day. You need to take measured moves to expand the scope of your business—and strengthen your customer relationships—now, when business is tough.

– Rick Wise, Lippincott CEO


Yours in design,


Twitter and the political campaign

Twitter is quickly becoming the most talked about social network around; with celebrities, business entrepreneurs and politicians all getting in on the action.

The recent Queensland state election saw Premer Anna Bligh used this platform to voice her polices, updates and personal comments, to retain her position as Premier. The Premier took on a diplomatic use of the social medium, with more thankyous and hellos then slanders, Premier Bligh has taken on the same approach as some of the most popular twitters. I was interested to see that Premier Bligh has over 1,500 followers and will be keeping a close eye on how she makes use of this technology now that the election is over.

Global entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson (SirDick) has over 11,000 followers. SirDick uses this platform to speak openly to his fans about what he is currently doing, business decisions he is pondering, and thankyous to people who inspire and help him through his day. 

While twitter has gained much positive media exposure, prominent identities are falling victim to copycats who are stealing their identities and posting unauthorised comments. While these tweeters are fairly easily identifiable, it still raises much confusion and speculation.

Twitter is vastly becoming a global brand that is making daily headlines and infiltrating peoples minds and thoughts.

There is a place and purpose for twitter’s function in every business and as popularity grows, the number of tweeters on line will draw a massive appeal to this audience.

You can follow me on twitter;

Yours in design

Database Design

I’ve had twenty years Database experience on a wide variety of both applications and hardware.  If I’ve learned anything when it comes to databasing the secret to success is three simple rules.

Simplify where ever possible. 

Plan plan plan!

Always have the end result in focus.

So  many times over the years I’ve been asked to design a database system that covers off and includes every single little thing the client can think of.  While it’s a great ideal and at times makes me look somewhat cleverer than I really am, it doesn’t always produce the results you are chasing.  Remember that for every field that data can be entered into to, some person actually has to enter the data.  While I’m a huge fan of Databases  and I believe they are a fantastic tool for organising work flow and reporting on critical functions.  I’ve also seen and been guilty of at times, creating a huge work load for data entry that really will never be used.  So just keep that in mind when planning one.   A tip for DIY Databasers.  One of the simplest things that is often overlooked is the name field.  Make sure you have two separate fields – one for first name and one for surname.  This way, when you go to personalize letters and the like you can easily have only their first name as a saluatation.  Seems simple I know but I’ve come across many databases where this is not so.

Keep in mind too staff training and turnover.  Whilst some operators are very clinical and enjoy having emense detail about every little thing possible, not everyone is like that.  Far too many times I’ve seen new staff come in and not only have to learn a new system but flounder trying to keep up to date remembering to always have to update the file every step of the way.  Sometimes it can create more work than necessary.  So whilst its important to capture the important information make sure it’s not over kill at the same time.   

 Before you design a database or ask a contractor to do one for you.  Sit down and write an overall plan.  Nothing is worse than beginning a database and then 6 months down the track when you need to do a report you realize some data is missing and for ever more when ever you use that report you analysis won’t be accurate for the yearly overview.  By planning reports you may even then realize some of the fields you first thought you would need, you actually don’t as you won’t be able to use that data in a useful way.

These are some of my tips to assist in designing a Database.

1. Write a list of every field you think you will require.

2. Prepare a list of reports you want to be able to ascertain from the collected data.

3. Calculations.Specifiy how you would like the calculations on the reports to work, ie Do you need the same calculations for sub sections or just the overall grand totals.

4. Ask the end user.  The poeple that use the reports need to have some input as to if they would be happy with the coverage of information.  Do they need more fields? Are the calculations how they imagined. Are there too many fields.

5. Layouts.  Think about simple design.  While more complex designs can sometimes appear to be “flashier’ think of the practical side of actually using them.  While more data fields can always to added at the end of a database design, depending on where the data will be used it can often be very time consuming to slot results into layouts and reports later.

Yours in Design


Key Performance Indicators

Whether you are designing a logo or selling a website, you need KPI’s .
Key performance indicators (KPI’s) can be a great help in allowing you to measure all sorts of areas critical to business success. Here are some useful points that have worked for me
1. Set goals & objectives. Once you can identify key areas, for instance customer focus, staff, new design ideas or financial performance, you can sit down and set some goals around these success factors.
2. Draw up a table that lists all your KPI’s and make sure that all your team know what is expected of them to meet the relevant KPI’s
3. Make sure you regularly review and measure each KPI and ensure that your team is aware of the results.
A great resource to start you thinking is the KPI library, where you can look at the kind of things other people are coming up with as a measure of their business progress, and it is free!
Yours in design

Become more organised – To Do Lists that work!

I love a good To Do List. Why? I’ll admit I get a bit of a rush each time I cross something off. A feeling of mini achievements throughout my day/week! Why is it then that some people have all the intentions of a to do list yet you feel as if you get nowhere. Maybe you just don’t have the right sort of lists. You need to spend a bit more time constructing them properly. Time to take charge of your time and here’s how..

1. Construct the Big Picture To Do List first. Put down every project you have on the boil. Then prioritise the list giving them numbers.

2. Make up the next days Action List beginning with your top priorities. Tasks need to be specific. Not things like “get that major report done”. Break them down into smaller more achievable tasks. Prepare your list as if you were writing instructions for someone else. In our example it might be, “ Send email to XYZ to get info for the report”, “Get the templates worked out I need to use for the report”, “Ring Bill Blogs to let him know the report is coming and will be there in a x days”. If you need to phone someone put their number down on the list – put some notes on important things to ask them. The point is the easier your list is to follow the more likely you are to do it.

3. Keep your lists practical and relevant to that day only. Mine is normally only 10 or so things. Remember the list continually rolls. As things get crossed off at the top, new things get added at the bottom. Once you get to the end of your Action List, return to the Big Picture List and again construct some simple steps to follow. For large multi step projects just put down a few steps at a time.

If you follow these simple steps you will start to see and feel achievement right away. Always keep your “Big Picture Lists”. These show the tasks you have completed as well as what lay ahead. That way if you have those doubting thoughts of “I’m not getting anywhere”…look at your list and you’ll know you have, which might just be enough fuel to spur you on for another big day! Good Luck

Yours in Design


Buffett says brand is the business


Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, now says that brand is the most important factor in deciding where to invest. The Financial Times on 11 October reports on a recent talk to investors in Germany, where Buffett asked what might be the criteria for deciding whether to buy a company. ‘Traditionally, the first criterion Is a strong balance sheet. But Buffett only put that in third place. His second criterion was a good management team. In first place, he put brand’. Even in hard times, brand is the key to long-term growth. That, presumably, is why Buffett is backing Goldman Sachs. And that’s why businesses in trouble – while of course fixing their balance sheets and clearing out their management teams – must also urgently invest in their brands.

Courtesy of Brian Boylan, 13 October 2008,

Yours in design, Janet-eratops