By Leon Gettler >>

THE BIG buzzword in business is customer experience, or CX. How to attract them and keep them coming back.

Unfortunately, most businesses struggle with it. They don’t understand what it means.

Enter Tom Uhlhorn, who runs the Melbourne based Customer Experience consultancy Tiny CX. It has launched the first practical online CX course, known as the CX Academy.

It offers online and face to face services for customers. The mix of offerings includes small group workshops for start-ups and services to upskill marketing, product or cross discipline team from larger enterprises. 

Mr Uhlhorn said most businesses did not know where to begin and his academy was there to show them how to manage it.

He said customer experience stands on the shoulders of marketing and “provides a much more human centred approach to marketing and affiliated services”.

“Part of the problem is companies don’t know how to do it which is why we are feeling there is a very significant gap in the strategy and research piece,” Mr Uhlhorn told Talking Business.

“We focus on five key areas: we have brand experience, intimate understanding of customer, systems, processes and people, accountability and incorporating that into a systematic feedback loop to ensure your business remains customer centric as your business changes.”


Mr Uhlhorn said this focus on the five key areas was the framework his company had put together as companies transition into what he called the “experience economy”.

He said the mid-market was the CX Academy’s sweet spot. It will work with challenged brands.

“We won’t work with the big four banks, we’ll work with the fifth,” Mr Uhlhorn said.

He said his company looked at sectors where there was no clear market leader and businesses had a single digit percentage of market share. This allows companies to come in and learn how to differentiate themselves in the market.

The CX Academy also attracts a lot of start-ups.

Mr Uhlhorn said a quarter of the time is spent working with start-ups, including bootstrap start-ups. 

“We don’t make money doing that,’’ he said.

“We do it because it keeps our ear to the ground in terms of the most effective way to shake the market up. We treat that as an R&D exercise.”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at

By Margie Hartley >>

WITHOUT QUESTION corporate Australia is currently collectively belt tightening and, with that, spending on the non-essentials like ‘leadership development’ and ‘team offsites’ are often the first to be cut.

Team days can have a poor reputation as either boring ‘love-ins’ or as one government sector client claimed, “a chance to run around with ice buckets on our heads”.

To be honest, when these team off-sites are done badly this is in fact an accurate, cynical yet honest assessment. So, it would seem obvious and even sensible to cut team days from the budget or at least limit the time we spend on them when times are tight. 

In fact, we should be doing the complete opposite.

To succeed in a changing and competitive global economy, organisations and their leadership teams must have a deadly clear purpose and a crisply defined ambition for their team. They need agreed values and behaviours and ways of getting things done as well as a collective agreement of the goals and priorities. They need to communicate with respectful challenge constantly and be deliberate in every move.

This is a lot to ask of a group of people who have been placed together by an organisation and who inevitably have different working styles, personal values and ways of achieving results.

To help people perform at their best together it is important to prioritise with time, discipline and money, the deliberate development of teams.

Evidence shows that when done well, team off-sites will give the greatest uplift in your team’s collective performance and if it is the most senior leadership team then it will have a dramatic improved impact on the organisation’s bottom line.

But how? To excel in a complex and uncertain business environment, people need to both achieve and learn together. For a team to be effective they need to work on two important components, clarity and connection.


Teams must have clarity on their ambition, purpose, goals and priorities. They need to know:

  • Why they come together;
  • What they are there to do and;
  • How they do it together.

Great teams consistently strive for clarity even though some ambiguity always exists.

As Google discovered in their five year quest for the perfect team with Project Aristotle, perhaps the most important clarity is how we work and behave together. This is the fundamental heartbeat of a team.

Finding your norms cannot be done in isolation or via email. It requires a structured and professional approach.

Nor will it happen overnight. The process is as important as the result.

Developing the heartbeat of the team takes time and effort and should be revisited often and with a critical eye.


With advanced technology, flexible working arrangements, speed of work and geographically dispersed teams, disconnection in teams can occur very quickly. When teams don’t connect they often start to look like federated silos of individuals who only come together occasionally under the guise of a ‘meeting’.

Connection is so much more than coming together in a meeting environment. It’s clear and consistent communication, knowledge sharing, collaboration, genuine care and peer coaching.

Connection is about having quality conversations that promote optimal functioning.

So let me ask you ... are you clear on how and when you connect as a team? Are you trading off team connection for budget and time savings? Are you deliberate in the way you maintain the relationships across your team?

Clarity and connection are two simple to remember, yet very powerful elements to achieving a high performance team.

Neglecting the health of teams is simply not worth the perceived budget savings. Great leaders are never tempted to neglect their teams because they know the health of their organisation is at stake. 


Executive coach and founder of Gram Consulting Group, Margie Hartley, has launched a 14-part podcast series called Fast Track: Career Conversations with Margie Hartley. As an executive coach to 11 of the top 20 ASX-listed companies, Ms Hartley’s latest podcast focuses on the realities of career progression and includes career insights from some of Australia’s top CEOs and business leaders on how to overcome challenges and fast track your career. A new short-and-sharp 15-20 minute episode will drop each Tuesday. Visit


By Bruce Stronge >>

HIRE good people and place them in roles that play to their skills and strengths. Sounds like common sense, right? Bakers bake; designers design; and fitness trainers train.

Far too often, though, staff find themselves shoehorned into positions that don’t fit, placed on career paths that don’t lead to their end goal and tasked with jobs that fall outside their areas of specialisation.

Take, as an example, the successful 12RND fitness franchise.

Business is booming and they’re welcoming new franchisees at a growing rate.

Even with the support afforded by a franchise model, it can still feel daunting to build a new business from scratch.

12RND acknowledges this and uses Outfit to pull together launch kits with all the marketing and branding material new franchisees need.

Most of these franchisees are fitness instructors and personal trainers with little idea of how to engage a marketing agency or produce their own campaigns from scratch. 

12RND automates everything – it now takes only 10 minutes to launch the marketing for a new franchise – so owners can focus on what they’re talented in and that’s fitness and training.

When you look at the DNA of successful small businesses – be it a local gym or a tech startup with a global footprint – you’ll see the importance placed on organising teams and implementing frameworks so staff can self-manage and play to their strengths.

On this last point, there are incredible gains to be made when businesses let good people apply their unique know-how and follow their passions to investigate and innovate.

Staff should be encouraged to experiment and to trial new and better ways to do things, even if this occasionally ends in failure.

Sometimes the only outcome from experimentation is the absolute assurance that something can’t be done, but even that can be spun as a positive result.


Innovation needs to come from the top down and business leaders and owners need to lead by example.

The idea for Outfit – a cloud-based platform to automate the production of digital and print marketing materials – was conceived at a ‘hack day’ I held at my software consulting business, NetEngine.

It was the result of letting good people tap into their specialist skill set to innovate, create and experiment over beers on a Friday.

Outfit, in turn, lets design teams focus on designing, creating and innovating by removing the need for menial, monotonous and repetitive tasks.

Like 12RND and its team of talented trainers, so many businesses employ smart, talented designers and then, by necessity, have them spend most of their day on Photoshop, resizing images rather than focusing on the thing they are trained and talented in, and that’s being creative.

That ethos flows into the reason we built Outfit: to help employers reap the benefits of encouraging and channelling staff into their areas of speciality.

Often, business owners feel overwhelmed by the work they think is needed to transform their business, the budget required to innovate, and the time needed to structure teams so every member is playing to their individual strengths.

It doesn’t have to be a daunting task and sharing a company’s vision and business goals with staff is a sure-fire way to inspire them: transparency engenders trust and loyalty.

From an employer’s perspective, share plans and visions, thoughts and ideas, even business costs and revenue details with staff.

In turn, encourage team members to share their own passions, interests and ultimate career goals and empower them to suggest how they can best utilise their skills and specialities.

Even if now is not the optimum time to experiment or take a risk, make innovation and evolution a priority and share ideas with your team so they realise its importance and are perhaps inspired to develop their own ideas and solutions.

Sometimes they’ll surprise you!

Bruce Stronge is the founder and CEO of Outfit, the brand automation and marketing production platform transforming how businesses and agencies large and small create, collaborate, localise and distribute brand assets. More than 1,200 clients from across 40 countries use Outfit to reduce production costs, streamline workflow, allow for better team collaboration and accelerate campaign launches while guaranteeing brand consistency.

PAULA DUNN’s personal experience with bullying has been the driving force behind her professional life – and now she’s on a mission to make most workplaces healthier places to be.

The founder of No Limits Consulting has seen, first-hand, the damage bullying and toxic workplace behaviour has had on people’s mental health.

Ms Dunn has been on the toxic end of bullying herself. Born with a cleft palate, school was a nightmare for her and the workplace not much better.

That’s her motivation for wanting to teach businesses and leaders how to handle bullying in the workplace and manage derailing behaviours.

“There are many initiatives promoting mental health awareness, which is the first step,” Ms Dunn said. 

“However, education is still required to help leaders learn and implement the tools they need to create a healthier work environment.”

The impacts of bullying and derailing behaviours in Australian workplaces can be dire, according to Paula Dunn – from toxic cultures and low staff morale to negative impacts on business operations and financial returns.

“It’s my mission to ensure business owners and employees utilise their strengths to harness the right work attitudes in relation to their authentic selves to minimise bad behaviours that can cripple a company’s bottom line,” she said.

Ms Dunn’s business, No Limits Consulting, was a recent Finalist in the NSW Business Chamber’s prestigious 2018 Business Awards, in the Startup Superstar category.

“I didn’t intend to go out and start a business from scratch. I wanted to be a great leader within larger organisations,” Ms Dunn said.

“However, as a result of experiencing bullying in the workplace, I realised I couldn’t influence culture in a positive way while working for a company – nor did I want to remain on the sidelines. I decided I wanted to influence culture from the outside in. No Limits Consulting was born.”

Ms Dunn’s business card describes her role as a ‘business operations consultant – people and culture’.  

She can lay claim to a 17-year proven track record for growing high performing teams and delivering successful business outcomes.

Throughout her career in the medical industry, Paula Dunn forged a passion for leadership and development of individuals and teams, along with an ability to use innovation and creativity to achieve leading edge results.

Today, Ms Dunn has transitioned her career into leadership and business consulting, integrating scientific research and leadership abilities “as well as developing strong business acumen to enable consistent delivery of projects and people management solutions,” she said.



THE NEW Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa is turning out to be not overly different – in effect, but with a few key enhancements – to the 457 visa it replaced.

The 457 visa was replaced with the TSS (Subclass 482) visa on March 18, 2018 and a range of ‘enhancements’ were designed in, including the Global Talent Scheme pilot program. 

“Despite the media attention around the introduction of the TSS visa, it is relatively similar to the previous 457 visa and remains the preferred option for Australian businesses seeking to fill skilled positions which cannot be filled by Australians,” Mullins Lawyers senior associate Corina Chen said.

“The operation of the TSS visa supports Australian businesses in addressing genuine skill shortages, whilst safeguarding the Australian workforce and prioritising the employment of Australian workers.”

Key aspects of the TSS visa program include its targeted occupation lists, which are designed to better align with the Australian labour market, said Ms Chen, who is Mullins Lawyers’ migration law expert.

Also introduced in the visa conditions are minimum salary thresholds and mandatory Labour Market Testing requirements “to ensure that overseas workers are protected, and are not engaged to undercut Australian workers” according to Ms Chen.

Another key reform is the reconsideration of work experience and character requirements for visa applicants.

“With the introduction of the TSS visa, the Global Talent Scheme (GTS) pilot was also launched to provide Australia with easier access to the world’s talent,” Ms Chen said.

“The GTS allows Australian employers to access highly-skilled overseas workers for specialised positions, where there are no suitable Australians to fill the vacancies. 

“It is designed to be supportive of innovative and start-up businesses, aiming to facilitate growth, skills transfer and job creation as well as provide the cutting-edge skills that Australia needs to compete globally.” 

Ms Chen said the GTS niche pilot scheme can be accessed under the TSS visa program and runs for 12 months from July 1, 2018.

“The framework of the GTS protects Australian workers as any positions filled must provide opportunities for Australians, including the creation of new jobs for Australians and the transfer of skills and knowledge to Australian workers,” she said.

“If an Australian business has a vacant skilled position which cannot be filled by the Australian workforce, then the TSS visa program would be appropriate to consider.”


By Joan Lurie >>

WHEN there is conflict, dissonance or underperformance in an organisation, we assume that there is a problem with the person, be it their values, their personality, style, competence or ‘bias’.

This may at times be true to some degree, however, if we jump paradigms and understand behaviour from a systemic lens, then we start to understand our presenting problems in a different way, and our solutions and interventions to address these become quite different.

Our current understanding of behaviour in organisations is largely based on a psychological or interpersonal framework.

In a systemic lens it is assumed that problematic behaviour and underperformance lies in the system or context rather than the individuals alone. 

By ‘system’ I don’t mean the technical systems and processes of our organisations, the most widely accepted meaning currently. The ‘system’ is the complex web and patterns of interrelating between the members or parts of the organisation and the roles that they play.

When looking through a systemic lense at problems facing an organisation, we can create very different outcomes and results both for people, as well as for our organisations’ culture and ability to perform and thrive. This can be explained through an example of a client I have worked with recently.


Joe works for an Australian division of a successful global multinational company. He is technically very competent as well as being a great leader.

He had come up through the ranks of the company over years of dedicated service, and was extremely well respected by his team and peers. He was flagged as high potential talent. So much so that when his manager, the CEO of the Australian business and director of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, was stretched to the limit doing both roles, he decided to appoint a COO to help him run the Australian Strategic Business Unit and Joe was the obvious candidate.

The HR machine swung into gear and the new organisation structure was designed. The COO job was created and all of the Australian executives who once reported to the CEO, would now report to the COO.

A few of the Australian executive team, in functional roles, would also continue to report to the CEO, but in Joe’s APAC director role, those employees would essentially have two managers, and work with each of them depending on which context they were serving, just like in any matrix organisation.

It was anticipated that some of the decision making between the CEO and the COO may be tricky, so decision rights, for the two of them, were documented to provide clarity on which decisions would be made by whom – largely the CEO would make the strategic decisions and the COO the operational ones.

This new structure would be a good solution to ‘fix’ the overstretched CEO ‘challenge’, and help better manage the Australian business, which was underperforming and under pressure.

It was an exciting step up for Joe too, the next edge in his career and recognition well deserved. Joe was appointed, and the communications rolled out.


Quickly, ’noise’ started to surface in the organisation. The high-potential COO was struggling to lead the executive team. Murmurings were emerging everywhere.

What was wrong with Joe? Was he the wrong appointment? Had they misjudged his capability? Was he not up to the ‘bigger’ job?

He was even starting to doubt himself a little.

Joe started working with a business coach, where they stepped up onto the ‘balcony’ to observe and ‘map’ the system he was in, to understand what was going on. From this perspective, a ‘whole’ new picture started to emerge.

The ‘problem’ didn’t reside with Joe alone, but in the complex, messy, ambiguous system that had been created with the restructure. Of course, it had not been designed intentionally to set up the COO and system for failure, just the opposite. However, what was missed was the complexity and systemic, or relational, reset required between all the roles in the executive team.

Only one job had been added and formally changed, but all the roles of the executive and how they related to the COO and CEO, had to be reframed and repatterned to enable the new structure to work.

A new systemic contract and ‘rules of engagement’ had to be agreed and lived by the whole team. This was not just a simple ‘technical’ fix.


So, what did Joe and his coach observe from the ‘balcony’?

  1. The COO was technically no longer a peer to the rest of the Australian executive team, he was now their manager, but he was struggling to step out of the peer role, as were his new direct reports, who in the main were choosing to remain his peer as well; their pattern of relating remained the same even though officially the reporting line had changed.
  2. Some of the executives that Joe was now managing were actually still his ‘peers’. So, they were both his peers (in the region) and direct reports (in Australia) which made it trickier, as they didn’t always know from which role they were engaging with each other.
  3. The CEO was co-creating this pattern as he wasn’t entirely ready or prepared to stop being their manager and he continued to engage with the whole executive from the old role when he chose to. Behind the scenes, when Australian executives didn’t get the decision they wanted, or got one they disagreed with from the COO, they would triangulate the decision with the CEO, and often get it overturned.
  4. The CEO at times would attend the Australian executive meetings, but there were no ‘rules’ about when he would attend and in what role, so these became really messy, with both the CEO and COO leading the meeting and tripping over each other.
  5. Whilst the demarcation of decision rights had been documented between the CEO and COO, as strategic versus operational, the CEO would at times in Australian executive meetings, ‘publicly’ challenge and sometimes change operational decisions the COO had made, because these were ‘strategic’ decisions in his mind, or if he had a different opinion.

And so, the ‘system’ artfully said yes and no at the same time.

Reporting lines had changed, the restructure had happened, but the ‘system’ remained the same. The executive still ‘reported’ to the CEO.

Everyone was complicit in maintaining the old system of relating between the roles. The CEO and most of the executive team were as much part of the problem as the COO.

Unless they all stepped into a different role, in relation to the COO and allowed him to manage, the system would be stuck here in this ‘noise’, and the COO would probably become a casualty.

They were caught between these two ‘contexts’ one explicit and one implicit. The problem seemed personal and individual, with Joe, but really the system was the problem and had to be repatterned. In this newly created context Joe couldn’t shine, or do his job, no matter how competent he was. This was starting to impact business performance too and would only get worse!

A new pair of systemic glasses

Once this became visible to Joe, and he was wearing this new ‘pair of systemic glasses’, he knew exactly what to do. He needed to step into his leadership role, stop being a peer to his new team, and establish new ‘rules of engagement’ with the CEO for navigating the messy and ambiguous context they were both in.

A new way of making sense of our leadership and change challenges

We have a multi-billion-dollar leadership development and change industry mostly based on interpersonal, psychological and technical assumptions.

Human and Technical Capital, the ‘fill and fix’ model is how I describe it.

The research tells us that in the main we only get a 20 percent return on this investment, and yet we continue to use the same thinking, approaches and methods.

What if we were able to bring more of this systemic paradigm, thinking and methodology to our organisational change and leadership development models? Develop Systemic Capital?

Perhaps, the time has come to reframe our dominant assumptions and develop a new map for leadership and change in our organisations? Would we not get a better return on investment (ROI)?

In this case, the individual coaching initiative for the COO led him and his executive team to apply this lens and methodology to the wider business performance challenge they faced, which resulted in the business moving into organic growth for the first time in almost two decades.

About the author

Joan Lurie is the director of Orgonomix, one of Australia’s leaders in systemic change, organisational strategy and leadership development. She is also the creator of ‘Orgonomics’    – a proprietary systemic methodology, designed to help top-tier leaders fundamentally transform their businesses and thrive in the ‘gig economy’. Working with the CEOs of some of the country’s largest businesses, Orgonomix works to uncover and implement ground-breaking systemic changes, reframes roles and perspectives, and re-patterns organisations for new ways of operating to achieve higher order functioning and performance.


MOVES by the Federal Government to reduce financial reporting and audit requirements for businesses have been welcomed by accountancy and audit experts – but businesses are being warned that costs associated with poor corporate governance may outweigh any reduction in compliance costs.

Pitcher Partners Brisbane partner, Dan Colwell said while there would be some relief for businesses, most major mid-market privates may still need to have an audit undertaken. Recently the Federal Government announced it would reduce the reporting burden for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by raising the current financial reporting thresholds. 

“For many businesses with bank finance, the banks will still require audited accounts on an annual basis,” Mr Colwell said.

Mr Colwell also said businesses that were foreign-owned, or part of a large group, may also have an audit and reporting requirement for consolidated group reporting purposes.

Where the real advantage will come, Mr Colwell said, was that many private businesses will no longer need to lodge their audited accounts with ASIC.

“Lodgement has always been a commercially sensitive issue for private businesses, especially when it is presumed that competitors in the market are not complying with the law, putting the compliant company at a commercial disadvantage,” Mr Colwell said.

“ASIC has been quick to regulate companies that comply with their annual lodgement obligations, but slow to penalise those that don’t — although that’s changing thanks to improved data matching between regulators,” he said. 

Mr Colwell said the increased privacy of the new regime would be welcomed and this is something businesses have wanted for some time.

He urged SMEs to consider their options in continuing to get an assessment of their governance and strategic position, if not from audits then from other forms of independent assurance.

Currently, proprietary companies are considered to be ‘large’, for the purposes of ASIC reporting requirements, if they meet two of three thresholds for a given financial year: $25 million or more in consolidated revenue; $12.5 million or more in consolidated gross assets; or 50 or more employees.

The Federal Government now says it will effectively double all three measures of the requirements, which will allow around 2,200 firms to be excused from their current ASIC financial reporting and audit requirements.

The new thresholds mean firms will be considered ‘large’ if they meet two of the following three requirements: $50 million or more in consolidated revenue; $25 million or more in consolidated gross assets; or 100 or more employees.

Mr Colwell said while the move would cut compliance costs — estimated by the government at $81.3 million annually or an average cost of $36,950 per company — there would still be audits required for many businesses.

Companies that fall between the former and new thresholds will still be required to keep written financial records and may be required to prepare or audit financial reports if directed by ASIC —  or by five percent or more of their shareholders. 

Those with borrowing facilities, or looking to sell or exit as part of business succession planning, may also be required to continue being audited – but will be spared the requirement to lodge.


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