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Gifting - present

Eight gifts for eight occasions

At The Remarkables Group, we send a LOT of gifts.  Not in a bribey “please spend money with us” kind of way, but as a thank you for someone’s support or to congratulate them on a special event in their lives.

It’s a great way to make someone feel appreciated, and I know personally I probably get more out of giving a gift than receiving one!

The importance of sending a thoughtful, well-timed gift cannot be overestimated.  Particularly in our industry, clients and influencers are “love-bombed” (as I call it) daily by various different companies trying to get their attention or their money.  So the more unique, special, thoughtful or touching gifts are, the more unique, special and thought-about the gift receiver will feel.

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Sofa

It’s not all about the money

Sorry Meja.

Since I started my business, I’ve been fascinated by how you go about selling your company.

The steps that happen in the run-up to that point where you say: “Ok, the money’s hit my account – it’s yours” intrigued me.

Mainly because I was so focused on what we needed to get done, worrying that we’d make enough money so I could feed the cat; and facing down the “OMG WHO GAVE ME A BUSINESS, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!!” moments that – really – the point where someone wanted to buy my business felt like it was not just years, but light years away.

What fascinated me most was how that initial contact takes place.

Do you just get a call one day and someone says: “Hey, I’d like to buy your company?”

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Morning affirmations

Stuck for affirmations? This should help

Are you an affirmations person?

If so, you are going to love these!

I see the amazing Nicole Bayliss for a tarot reading each year (and have introduced a lot of friends to her too).

I get her newsletter and these little babies popped into my inbox last week.  I knew I had to share them with you all, and happily Nicole agreed.

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7 lessons on success from the movie Joy

Yesterday I finally got to see a movie I’d wanted to see for months – Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence.  I took my fake little sister Jenny as my date.  I say “fake” as I also have a “real” little sister Jenny, but by strange coincidence I got paired up with another Jenny back in 2011 as part of the SISTER2sister mentoring program.

It was exactly the movie we both needed as a big year of big plans stretches out ahead.  I LOVED it – JLaw was completely fantastic in her role and the random assortment of characters around her were fascinating in all their flawed glory.  The movie is based on the true story of entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and many other products since.

Watching the story unfold, I was in awe at the standing start the main character was coming from as she sought to fight her way out of the less-than-ideal existence she was leading.  I had a fresh appreciation for the supportive people around me and the savings I had when I started The Remarkables Group almost four years ago now (!!!).

I spotted some marvellous lessons on success woven throughout the movie.  I don’t think there are any major spoilers here beyond what the trailer shares.  If I do give anything away…. Sorreeeeeee!

Lesson 1: In order to succeed, you need to tune out all those who say you can’t do it, who think you’re less than you truly are and who haven’t had success themselves.

Joy’s family in the movie are, well, pretty horrible.  They take her for granted, question her ideas and tell her she can never amount to much.  They are completely oblivious to the raw potential and pure guts she has, which makes her success all the sweeter!

Joy scene 2

Lesson 2: Cherish those who want to see you fly, and keep them near you.

Conversely, Joy’s best friend and ex-husband give her their full support and encouragement from the very beginning, then throughout all the negativity and challenges she experiences.  The movie closes with both these people still her closest aides and advisers.

Lesson 3: Get rock solid legal advice.

Joy goes with her investor’s lawyer to make the legal arrangements to patent her idea, which results in a shambles of a situation.  Finding a lawyer who was a specialist in patent law would have prevented the whole disaster.

Lesson 4: In the early days, you can sell your product better than anyone.

Joy manages to get QVC onboard to sell her mop invention, but the presenter screws his spot up and doesn’t get a single sale.  Joy wangles her way onto presenting it herself live on air, and does a pretty crap job initially.  Once she finds her voice and begins to talk about her product though, she comes alive and the sheer belief and passion she has for it shines like a beacon.  The result?  50,000 mops sold!

Lesson 5: If all else fails, get a new haircut and kick absolute ass

When everything has pretty much gone to shit and she is at rock bottom, it’s pretty clear that Joy feels she has nothing left to lose.  She hacks off her long hair and gets on a plane to Texas in one last attempt to save her business.

Joy scene 5

Lesson 6: Rock a power pose for extra confidence

In Texas Joy faces her VERY intimidating business adversary, who is the instigator of the whole mess she’s in.  In what is probably the best example of a power pose I’ve seen in my life, she stands her ground and tells him how it’s going to be.  I’m a massive fan of the power pose when I’m speaking.  Just by planting my feet further apart than normal and facing the audience squarely, it tricks my brain into thinking I’m in control and confident – even if inside I’m terrified.

Lesson 7: No matter how hard you think your life is, there is an alternative reality waiting for you if you believe in yourself and are willing to step outside your comfort zone.

As I already mentioned, Joy had the odds stacked against her starting her business – and she could very easily have pulled her head in and remained a broke mother of two with limited prospects.  However a little voice told her that she could be more, could do more, and create a life bigger than she even imagined.  That voice got her through seemingly impossible challenges.

Joy scene 1

Pretty inspiring, yah?

By the way, if you’re like me and the first thing you do after watching a movie or TV show is to Google the “real” person behind the story, here’s Joy Mangano.  And you might also enjoy this Vanity Fair story on the similarities and differences between the movie and real life.

Joy Mangano

Five movie stars from me – if you see it, let me know what you think!

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Our first ever Annual Planning Day

As I mentioned in my last post, I am determined to be as organised as possible this year – it’s seriously the only way I’m going to be able to get everything I want to do done!

We usually plan quarter to quarter, which to date has proven to be very effective.  This year is my (and by extension the business’s) Year of Adventure and as such there are some chunky – and frankly some terrifying – moves we want to make.

It’s imperative that we map out all of those things so we can properly plan the next twelve months, giving ourselves the best chance of success in the process.  As a result, I booked the team out for a day in January to buy us the thinking time we needed to hatch a plan.

Jack (Delosa) very kindly said we could use his place for the day, which has stunning views over the water in Mosman – perfect for getting this inspiration cranking!  An added bonus was Bear the puppy, who demonstrated a fabulously can-do attitude when it came to cuddles and sniffing out the smallest trace of food.

AP Bear

AP Bear 2

I thought it might be useful to any of you who have strategy days coming up with your teams to share the sessions we did.

First up, I did a quick welcome and set out what the outcome of the day was – to have a good map of what 2016 is going to look like, and for us all to be inspired and aligned in order to make it all happen.

Session 1 – Personal Goals – 1hr 30 mins

Next, Ashleigh led a session on sharing our goals for the year.  I had given the team my headings – listed in this post – and they used them as a basis to identify what they’re each aiming for in 2016.   We went around the table one-by-one and each of us shared what our goals were.

I love to know my team’s goals outside of their career!  Firstly, as it helps all of us be more fully-rounded humans.  All work and no play and all that…  Secondly, it helps them and me to be accountable to making those goals a reality.  And lastly, as it means I can give birthday presents and thank yous that will move them closer to their goals – e.g: one of our past team members Emily had a goal of learning to surf, so we gave her a surfing lesson for her birthday present.

Part of this session also asked each of us to prepare a statement starting with: “It’s December 2016 and the three things I spend most of my time doing are…”  Then we listed three activities that we’d like to be doing more of by the end of the year.

Session 2 – 2016 overview – 1hr 45 mins

I took the team through what I see our top priorities being for 2016 as a business, our revenue and profit targets, and what the organisation structure should look like by the end of the year.

I allowed plenty of time for this session so I could break each priority down in detail – I had worked on the plan with the management team in advance, however some of it was news to the rest of the group.

I also think it’s really important to walk a team through financial targets, rather than just presenting them with numbers.  Ours are bloody ambitious this year; so spending time walking through the numbers, breaking down what comes from where and getting the group’s buy-in means that everyone sits a little more comfortably with them.  Of course, people are still nervous about stretching targets but this process makes them that bit more manageable – almost like we grip the target up together and tell it who’s boss!

AP whiteboard

Lunch – roast chicken and salads from Chargrill Charlie’s.  Key details here, people.

Session 3 – Big Ideas – 1hr 45mins

James got us into brainstorming mode with some brilliant optical illusions and tasking, then we each shared one big idea that we’d like to see the business tackle this year.

To whittle down which ones we wanted to look at in more detail, we were each given an imaginary $100 to spend on “ideas shopping”.  So we could spend our entire $100 on one idea, or spend $50 on one idea and $25 on two others.  It wasn’t the most useful of tools in this case, as the general consensus was that they were all worth looking at!  We agreed to scope out five of them over this quarter, and make a decision at that point on which ones we’ll coax into reality.

Session 4 – Quarterly Planning – 1hr 15 mins

Sarah took us through an analysis of the last quarter of 2015, and using this and the overall annual plan we pretty easily identified what our top five “rocks” would be for the three months ahead.

AP Sarah session

We work to Verne Harnish’s approach in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (if you haven’t read it, READ IT – it transformed my business).  This means that each quarter we select five big things we need to make happen in the immediate 90 days following, then break down the individual tasks that we need to complete within them.

We also allocate a theme for the quarter and set a corresponding celebration to it.  As this is the Year of Adventure, we’re adopting one famous adventurer as our theme each quarter… starting with Indiana Jones!

When we complete all our rocks and hit our budget target, we’re going on a treetop adventure.  I’ve ordered some Indiana Jones hats that we’ll wear in our Friday meeting to keep the theme alive and kicking.  Will share a photo when they arrive….

Session 5 – Team Development – 1hr

At the start of 2015, we made our team learning a priority and started a weekly training and development session – just 45 minutes before our weekly meeting on a Friday.  It alternates by week between our Book Club and Street Smart Sessions – where we learn from another person on the team or an external expert about a particular area.

Eddie and Chelsea had canvassed the team on key areas we’d each like to focus on and had narrowed the votes down to four key areas.

From that, they prepared a shortlist of potential books and we took a team vote on which ones make it into Book Club this year – with the aim of reading at least one book a quarter together.

First up for this year is The AlchemistTechnically this wasn’t on the list but as our other book this quarter is very small, I used my executive sway to sneak another one on there.  This book should be compulsive reading for everyone – it’s essentially a manual to manifesting what you want from your life.

Rather fittingly, this print was our thank you for being able to use the house – the entire text of the book on one page.  So cool!!

The Alchemist print

We definitely got the outcome I was after in terms of having a big annual plan that everyone is onboard and excited about.

What I didn’t necessarily plan on was the huge morale and energy boost that the day gave the team.  Between the day out of the familiar environment of the office, the fun hanging out together and the brain collaboration, the team was bouncing off the walls on Friday morning.  “Energised”, “excited” and “pumped” were words on high rotation all day – which was just brilliant to hear!

AP team [oc

I hope this peek behind the scenes to our planning day will help you with your team strategy sessions….

I’ll tell you at the end of the year if ours worked.  😉

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New Year goal-setting part 3 – making goals a reality

I am BACK in Sydney.

It felt very strange to come back to the city after our week in the Outback – no red earth, no 4WDs everywhere, cool air, noise… My favourite thing about living in Sydney is that it always feels great to come back, regardless of where I’ve been travelling.

The three days after I got back were major sort-my-life-out days, all about getting set up for the year ahead – and seeing friends in between. There was a major healthy food stock-up, a bedroom zen-ifying and the first stage of my new hair.

Cupboard

Hair 1

Cab selfie for Wade!

 Cover image credit: watchfit.com

Back to the office on Monday, and it was so nice to see the team. We’ve got our annual planning day on Thursday this week so we’ve each got a session to run for that. This is the first time we’ve done a day like this – normally we have a loose plan for the year and then do an offsite quarterly planning session every three months.

This year we’re going to be a LOT more organised, so we’ll have the whole year mapped out as much as we can at the end of this week. We have our key dates in the diaries for the year as well – so the team retreat, quarterly planning sessions and even the Christmas break for next year…. I’ve diarised my business trips and holidays, and the overall result is that I’m feeling I’ve got a good visual of how this year (hopefully) will go.

Anyway, onto the final stage of annual goalsetting…

Now I’ve got my goals set for the year, it’s time to make them happen!

A US study of millionaires and billionaires found that millionaires looked at their goals once a day, and billionaires twice a day. It’s key that you put your goals somewhere that you’ll see them. Every. Single. Day. Without. Fail.

My trick in our last house was to stick them up in the shower – achieving a double whammy of me being a captive audience to my goals, but it’s also the place that many people get their best ideas!

I bought a $15 laminator a few years ago, which makes it super easy to laminate important documents for the office… and home. Sticky dots keep your goals in place even in the hot and steamy shower, and can peel off easily if you move out or want to shift them about.

The shower may not work for you – so think about where you are without fail every day: your wardrobe door, car, dressing table, car or above your desk in your office.

I’ve moved mine now to my dressing table as the layout of our new shower didn’t work as well in our new house. As I do my make-up in the morning, I scan through the list and make a mental note of which goals I can move forward that day.

The next thing we need to do is kick in our Reticular Activating Cortex – we make our goals visual! Humans are programmed to seek out something we can see – ever wonder why you see a certain breed of dog everywhere once you decide on the puppy you want? Or maybe you buy a Toyota Prius, and all you seem to see are Prius cars on the road?

That’s your RAC at play. It’s also why vision boards are so effective.

Take the time to look at your goals and pick some key images that together paint that picture for you.   Some people spend days putting their vision board together, snipping inspiring images and quotes out of magazines, and they’re beautiful works of art.

I am not one of those people.

Mine was built using Google Image searches and a blank Powerpoint slide – it doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to do the job! Select some images that portray the vision you’re working towards, and look at it every day. You’ll be amazed at how you start to make those images a reality.

My vision board captures all the key things I want to make happen in 2016 – health, success, spirituality, style, travel and relationships.

By doing these two simple things – putting our goals somewhere we see them every day and having a vision board alongside it – we can effortlessly keep ourselves on track to where we want to be.

Here’s my dressing table this morning (note calm new bed linen – love!!):

Dresser

I hope these little tricks help you have the most successful year yet in 2016. Let me know how you go…

 

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New Year goalsetting part 2: Setting the goals

Another hotttttt day here in Kununurra.  I’m finding it fascinating how the people we’ve met here work their sleep around the heat of the rainy season.  The entire household is tucked up in bed by 8.30pm and up and at it by 6am at the latest – then everyone has a nap in the afternoon.  Yesterday morning we had hiked up Kelly’s Knob, showered and eaten breakfast all by 7.30am.

Kelly's Knob

Then in the afternoon we took a sunset cruise around Lake Argyle with about 15 friends.  It was just magical – it’s the largest manmade freshwater lake in Australia, is 22 times the size of Sydney Harbour and is 40 metres deep in one part.  It was one of those days that I was truly in awe of the beautiful world we get to live in.

Lake Arglye Cruises 1

Lake Argyle Cruises 2

Anyway, back onto the topic of goal-setting…

After doing the Wheel of Life exercise a couple of days ago, today I’ll be starting to get down to the nitty-gritty of articulating what my goals will be for the year – in between glugging down this stuff (just discovered it here, soooo good!).

Cocobella WM

Distracted again!!

The question I’ll be asking myself is: “What do I need to achieve in the immediate next 12 months to improve on those areas and get me closer to the ultimate vision I have for my life?”

My annual goal setting evolves year-on-year.  The first time I sat down and properly wrote my goals, it ran over two pages.  The problem was that it included goals but also habits – which are different things.

For example: “get super fit” is a goal, but “go to the gym four times a week” is a habit.  So the goal is what we want to achieve, but the habit is how we do it.  Having both goals and habits on there might work for you, so if so – go for your life!   I like my annual goals concise enough to squeeze onto one A4 sheet so I’m economical with what makes it on there.

I separate them into headings – Business, Personal Mission, Friends & Family, Wade, Travel, Wellbeing, Self-Development, Giving Back and Finance.

I then allocate specific, measurable goals to each of those headings in bullet points.  You will no doubt have read about S.M.A.R.T goals.  This approach states that goals must be Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

I subscribe to S.M.A.R.T.E goals, which goes one step further and says that goals should also be Ecological – meaning they must be kind to you yourself, but also those around you and the planet.  There’s no point in setting a goal of tripling your business’s revenue if it means you’ll be a burnt-out shell of yourself by the end of the year and your partner hates your guts.

Here are some examples of goals you might set:

  • It’s the 1st of July and I’ve left my job to start my own business (this is a great one!!)
  • I will buy an investment property by the end of March
  • I will read ten books on business by the end of the year
  • I’ll increase the revenue of the business by 30% by May
  • I’ll be able to do a 50kg deadlift by my birthday
  • I’ll have two weekends away with my friends – one in March and one in November
  • I’ll visit three countries this year

An example of some of my goals for 2015 were:

  • Business – do a rebrand, recruit an assistant
  • Personal mission – write a book
  • Friends & family – see one Sydney friend a week
  • Finance – seek out tax advice
  • Self-development – do a fact-finding mission to the US
  • Wellbeing – do a one-week retreat
  • Wade – move to a bigger house together
  • Travel – trip to New Zealand with friends
  • Giving back – donate at least $10,000 to charity

My list of goals above from last year all have a deadline of the end of the year, however this year (2016) I’m going to break them down into quarterly plans and set a reward at the end of that quarter to give me an added incentive.  I’m thinking a bespoke handbag from Mon Purse for Q1…

If this goal-setting lark is all new to you, please don’t panic.  It can be really bloody difficult to predict 12 months out a goal that you can realistically achieve, but will also stretch you enough to make it worth doing.  You also don’t have a crystal ball that can predict the various hurdles, plot twists and changes of circumstances that might crop up while you’re earnestly out there trying to make magic happen.

However, a loose goal is better than no goal at all!

Do the best you can with the information you have to hand right now.  You can always modify the goal in time if you need to, but at least you’ve got a rough address in your GPS system that you’re working towards – you know what suburb you’re driving to, but maybe not the street just yet.  As time goes on, you’ll get a feel for what approach works for you and you’ll modify it to serve you best.  Just start somewhere!

I’m off to find a quiet corner with my notebook and pen… and another litre of coconut water.

Next up: New Year goal-setting part 3 – making goals a reality (AKA the weird things I do to keep myself accountable)

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New Year goalsetting part 1: Where are you at right now?

It’s the first day of 2016 and time to put some thinking into what I want to make happen in the next twelve months.

The first step in my New Year goalsetting is always having a good hard look at where things are at in my life right now.

I learned the Wheel of Life tool via some Tony Robbins training a few years ago, and it’s hands down the best approach I’ve found to checking in on how the key areas in life are going.

We actually did this as a team in a Street Smart Session (our fortnightly training and development sessions) earlier this year and it prompted one of the most honest, supportive and enlightening conversations we’ve ever had as a collective.

Here’s how it works…

There are eight key areas in our lives, which all stack up to us feeling like we lead happy and successful lives.  Note: I’ve tweaked these slightly from the ones Tony uses to be in line with the wheel below.

life_wheel

Image credit: time-management-techniques.com

They are:

  1. Career/business
  2. Health
  3. Wealth
  4. Family & friends
  5. Fun, play and hobbies
  6. Physical environment (home and surroundings)
  7. Romantic relationships
  8. Spirituality & contribution (giving back)

When each of these areas is plotted on a diagram like the one above, we essentially have a scorecard with which to evaluate our lives right now.  Think about each area one by one, allocate a score out of 10 to it (10 = it’s excellent, 1 = it is really, well, crap) and then draw a line across the corresponding increment on the graph. 1 being the mark closest to the circle’s centre and 9 being the one next to its diameter.  Once you have completed all eight areas, you should have the rough outline of a wheel.

As we all know, a wheel needs to have reasonably smooth edges to roll along.  If one particular area is falling especially short, our imaginary wheel won’t be able to roll – meaning that that area is affecting the overall quality of our life.

Inevitably one area of my goals goes much better than another – for whatever reason.  At the start of last year (wow, 2015!), I completed a Wheel of Life on where I felt I was at.

The Business, Health and Romantic Relationships areas were the highest, but Friends & Family was the lowest as I felt I had neglected those relationships in order to get the business going over the previous 2.5 years.  As a result, I knew I needed to place special focus on that area in 2015.  I set specific goals on how I could do that – e.g: starting to send birthday cards to loved ones.

However I also tried to be actively conscious of those relationships, which saw me co-host a friend’s baby shower, stay in contact more regularly with my family in Ireland (and have three visits to Dublin – not all planned) and take some trips to visit friends.

Due to the energy I was channelling into that area of my life, I felt so much closer and better connected to family and friends.  It was almost like me holding the intention of being a better friend/daughter/sister/cousin/niece/grand-daughter opened my eyes to opportunities for me to nourish those relationships.

That is the beauty of doing this exercise, as it shines a bright (and sometimes confronting) light onto what areas of my life needs some TLC.

I’ve just completed my Wheel of Life here in Western Australia on the first day of 2016 and I’m thrilled that my Family/Friends area has moved up from a 6 at the start of the year to a 9 now.  Hooray!

This year, it seems that my first priority needs to be Contribution/Spirituality – coming in at a 6.  I’ve got a pretty good idea of what steps I need to take to improve that.  I’m thinking more formalised mentoring (maybe starting a menteeship circle, whatever that might look like – let me know if you have any ideas!), building on the money and energy I give to charities, taking my meditation practice to the next level with some teaching and increasing the amount of time I spend in Nature (the official word for which is biophilia, as the fabulous Lola Berry told me).

The second two areas – at equal 7s – are Health and Playtime/Hobbies/Fun.  Health as I’ve got some niggling jaw issues that a LOT of money and pain didn’t fix in 2015 and I’ve realised I basically have zero hobbies!

This evaluation will inform what my goals will look like for the year ahead, and I’ll consider these three areas specifically as I pull my goals together over the next few days.

I’m hoping this nifty tool might help you chart your course as you think about what YOU would like to achieve over the next 52 weeks – good luck!

Up next… New Year goalsetting part 2: Setting the goals

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My 37 best decisions of 2015

Well, that’s a wrap!  I’m awake very early on New Year’s Eve (try 4am) due to my first morning waking up in the Western Australia time zone.  We’re visiting friends in the “proper Outback”.  There’ll be waterfalls galore, and some activities that sound suspiciously like canyoning….

On the flight from Sydney to Darwin a couple of days ago, my trusty notebook came out.  Inspired by the incredible Danielle La Porte’s post a few months ago, I thought it would a good reflection on the year that was 2015 to list out what I thought were my best decisions of the year.  Some of them are tiny, some are huge, some are utterly superficial and some changed my outlook in a significant way.

I firmly believe that both happiness and success are made up a series of decisions – not momentous ones that feel like a huge leap forward, but the small steps that we take every day.  And what can be just as important is deciding to let something go, or change course.

So let’s get onto it…

1. Taking The Remarkables Group team on our first ever annual retreat – three nights in the Hunter Valley were the best investment we made as a business all year.  It resulted in an incredibly bonded team and our most financially successful quarter ever followed immediately after.11225746_10153201803220754_97236488529436355_n

2. Moving office (even if it was just around the corner) – giving us the space to grow and a much more collaborative seating arrangement.

3. Going to the US in April for a fact-finding mission – meeting 15 industry experts in influencer marketing was a brilliant learning experience and fortified us with international learnings and insights to improve what we do.

4. Starting Street Smart Sessions – these fortnightly 45 minute training sessions meeting meant that we could learn as a team about specific areas that we wanted to improve on or know more about.

5. Saying yes to speaking at the first Business Chicks conference, Movers and Breakers – my talk was one of the best I’ve ever done and spending three days in Uluru with amazing women was one of the highlights of my year, plus getting to know CEO Emma Isaacs and her kickass team.

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6. Writing my book – this was one of my massive goals for this year and it’s written, all 92,000 words of it!  In talks with publishers for it at the moment, so I’m hoping my words will see the light of day in 2016.

7. Wrapping up a business partnership that wasn’t working out – resulting in us finding a different solution to what we wanted to do, and the ex-partner’s business is flourishing.

8. Entering The Remarkables Group in the BRW Fast Starters list – and debuting in there at no. 78!  When I started the business, I would despair at the almost exclusively male lists in BRW and resolved that if I ever could, I would show that women could be on there too.  Massive tick box for me personally.

9. Rebranding the business – I LOVE our new look, even after the rebrand in May.  Three years into the business felt like a good time to shake up its appearance and I feel the new branding will comfortably see us through the next three years and all the big plans we have for them.

10. Managing someone out of the team – we had a team member who was a wonderful person, but whose skillset wasn’t a match for the role involved.  They exited the business, had a great holiday and are now in a role much better suited to them.

11. Hiring a PA – this was another of my goals for 2015 and my assistant started with me in February, and has freed up at a conservative guess 50 hours a month for me.

12. Airbnbing our spare room – we didn’t expect our front bedroom to be as popular as it has been, and the money coming in for that is building up nicely to pay for a dream trip to Scandinavia next year for Wade and I.  This will feel like a big luxury as funds will be tight next year as he has just started his own business.

13. Putting the car on Car Next Door – having moved into the city in March, my poor car was feeling very unloved.  This savvy service allows people to book it while I’m not using it, resulting in completely passive income every month. Score!

14. Continuing to grow the business ballast account – this my coach Ronan’s name for a savings account.  The business has gone through a rapid growth spurt this year (the team has doubled) so offsetting bigger monthly outgoings with a sturdier ballast means I can sleep at night!

15. Offsetting GST and super each month – another one that helps with the Zzzs, especially when that lovely BAS statement lands each quarter.

16. Getting good tax advice – this was something I hadn’t done until this year and it has resulted in me becoming a lot more educated about the tax system.

17. Becoming a mentor – I’ve been incredibly lucky to get a lot of advice from people more experienced than me, so this year I wanted to give back by helping other people.  So rewarding.  I probably over-extended myself with six mentees, so I’ll be a bit more balanced in my approach next year.

18. Flying business class from Abu Dhabi to Sydney – I finally cracked into my Virgin Velocity points and treated myself to an upgrade for what is generally the shittiest leg of that European trip… and it was heaven!  Resulted in zero jetlag and being able to go the distance on the team Christmas party the day after I got back.

19. Taking the trip of a lifetime with Wade at the start of the year – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, an Irish Christmas (no snow, despite his orders), safari in Tanzania and beach time in Zanzibar.  It was fucking amazing and we loved every minute of it.  Lifetime memories made and treasured.

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20. Having a weekend of time away with Wade every quarter – we knew this year was going to be busy so we booked three weekends together at the start of the year into our diaries.  Queenstown with friends for a wedding, a cottage in the Blue Mountains and a Gold Coast mini-break gave us a chance to just “be” together.

21. Moving house – we both set a goal to move to a bigger house than our cute-as-a-button one in Woollahra.  The perfect house popped up on Domain on a Saturday in March and two days later, it was ours.  The bucketloads of space has resulted in a general feeling of opportunity and expansiveness in every other area of our lives.

22. Surprising Dad for his 60th – Dad turned the big six oh on the 29th November and I decided in mid-October to fly to Dublin to surprise him.  Jumping out of the cupboard under the stairs was one of the highlights of my year!

23. Flying to Dublin to say goodbye to Nana – I got word that our darling Nana was very ill when I was in New York on my fact-finding mission.  My sister Jenny was there as well, and we flew back together and went straight to the hospital.  I got to go back that night and spend most of the night with her and she passed away at 9am the next morning.  I’m so, so, so glad I went back and that I got to be with my family in the days afterwards.

24. Buying a king-size bed – I’ve wanted one for years and the new house allowed us the space to have one.  Game-changer.

25. Sending birthday cards to friends and family – one of my goals this year was to make the special people in my life feel more special, so I resolved to go old-school and send birthday cards.

26. Getting into a green smoothie habit – these are pretty boring in that they’re generally the same ingredients every day, but having that shot of alkaline goodness mid-morning has felt like a good thing to do.

27. Rejoining Body Mind Life – this was the first yoga studio I ever joined but we parted ways for a few years.  I signed up again in June and I’m loving the blend of yoga and pilates, the fact that it’s super close to the office and my house, and the endless class options.

28. Buying a bike – this was a very spur-of-the-moment decision, that turned out to be a great one!  It’s opened up a whole new side of Sydney as I nip up side streets and I’ve been cycling to meetings too.  Exercise and saving the business money in one!

29. Taking a full week retreat to Bali – I’ve only ever done a weekend retreat before, and never been to Bali.  This was seven days of pure bliss, inspiration and rest.  Definitely doing this again next year.

30. Buying gorgeous exercise clothes – I spent up at Dare To Wear in Seminyak and now have three beautiful and colourful mix ‘n’ match outfits for yoga or pilates.  I love wearing them and I swear they make me better in my classes!

31. Discovering Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Cream – this instantly made my annoying little dehydration lines disappear and I faithfully slather it on every night now.  I also discovered that it’s amazing on flights.  I buddy it up with the Q10 booster when my skin needs even more TLC.

32. Giving myself permission to dress more casually – the bike prompted this new casual Lorraine, but I’m loving my new Adidas trainers with a cute little dress and denim jacket.  It’s like I realised that I could wear whatever I want and that no boss was going to pull me up on my sartorial choices (only took me 3.5 years!), and it’s been liberating.

33. Buying shithot red shoes – I bought these to speak at the Business Chicks conference and I LOVE putting them on.  They make me feel powerful, sexy and feminine.

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34. Getting into a habit of earlier bedtimes – bedtime used to be around 11pm but now I aim to be in bed by 9.30pm and asleep by 10.00pm.  This has been brilliant as it cuts out pointless pottering in the evening time and means I’m waking up naturally between 5.15am and 6.00am.

35. Discovering What I Know For Sure – my friend Anna mentioned this book by Oprah on Facebook and I bought it straightaway on my Kindle.  SO much wisdom and spiritual insights.  I love it and have read it about four times since.

36. Seeing Oprah speak – another Oprah decision.  She was an incredible speaker and it only hit home hearing her talk how completely miraculous her achievements have been given where she came from.  It was also insanely encouraging to see thousands of people showing up to see one woman simply speak for two hours (during which she took no break, not even a sip of water!).

37. Putting this post out there – I’ve had it on my annual goals to put this site out into the real world for two years now, and have written posts, tinkered with the design and generally done some champion procrastinating.  I refuse to put it on my goals for 2016, so here it is – in all its imperfect glory and on the last day of 2015.  I have a truckload of content in my head that is geared at sharing what I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey in the hope that it helps other people doing the same.  Every journey of a thousand miles starts with one single step, so this is mine.

I also thought during this little reflection on what the bad decisions I made were.  I came up with a few, but realised that making those decisions ultimately taught me something that I didn’t know before.

Overall, my biggest learning this year was not to delay making a decision – some of the situations that arose could have been much more quickly remedied if I had taken more immediate action.  But again on looking at those instances, they were the best decisions with the facts I had to hand in that moment.  And when I finally made the decision to change things, another solution presented itself.

That’s not to say I didn’t make shedloads of mistakes this year (hell no!), and they came with their own learnings as well.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year’s Eve, wherever you might be – and a super start to 2016.

I’d love to hear what your best decisions of 2015 were – care to share?

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How to be an award-winning business

Award wins deliver credibility, it’s that simple.  They also boost the profile of a business and its team, as well as getting the phone ringing with potential clients.  And they’re a sure-fire way of propelling a business head-and-shoulders above its competitors.

Every business should be entering awards – no matter if they’ve been in business for 12 months or 12 years.

I started The Remarkables Group on the 16th May 2012, and scooped my first award two months later.  Since then, we have been very fortunate to win four awards – Emerging Agency of the Year, Australian Start-up of the Year, Women in Media and 30 under 30.  We’ve also been finalists for another two and were nominated for Telstra Business of the Year this year.

The impact of this recognition has been remarkable.  My business was not only a start-up, but a start-up with a new offer for Australia.  I had my work cut out for me proving the value of what we were offering, and gaining the trust of the industry.   The hard work paid off.  In our first year in business, we secured revenue of $1.1million – much of which I attribute to creating a highly visible brand in the market.

I’ve also been honoured to judge a number of industry awards over the last year or so, so I’ve seen the other side of awards now – the great, the average and the downright “you call this an entry?” ones.

Based on my experience on both sides of the fence, here is my tried and tested system to becoming an award-winning business:

1. Research relevant awards

You need to be actively searching out awards opportunities – if you wait for them to come to you, you’ll be waiting a hell of a long time.  At the start of every year, start an awards calendar so you know what’s coming up when – and add to it as you find new awards to enter.  Ask your friends and industry contacts to share any that they find, and return the favour.

2. Plan awards into your budget

Many awards are free to enter, but some will require an entry fee.  You may also have additional expenses like design time or printing.  Include entering awards as a line item into your annual budget – that way if you do have expenses arising from them, they’re planned for.

3. Enter them

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  I never fail to be amazed at the reasons businesses find to not enter awards.   “There’s too much work on for me to write the entry” is a frequent one.  But sadly the most common one by far is this: “We don’t have a chance of winning”.  People allow this belief to prevent them from entering and at least having a shot at being shortlisted (a coup in itself) or taking out the main prize.

I entered my first ever awards two days after I started my business – still sitting in my spare bedroom.  I did it as clients weren’t exactly banging down my door yet and I figured that entering was a way of forcing a panel of industry influencers to read about my business and getting the word out there about what I was doing.  Amazingly, I got shortlisted and at the awards party six weeks later my name was read out as a winner.  I don’t think there was a more shocked person in Sydney that night.   Last year I was a judge for a very well established industry awards and booked out a full day in my calendar to do my category’s judging online.  it took me 90 minutes.   I was incredulous at how few entries there were.  You have a much higher chance of winning than you think – but you’ll never know until you enter!

4. Diarise time to work on the entry

Awards entries can be time consuming, but don’t let that deter you from entering.  Get started early.  Most awards allow four to six weeks for their entry period.  Diarise the deadline and spend some time upfront reading the entry requirements and making a list of all the information, references and financial data you’ll need.  Then block out time each week to work on the entry.  Battling printer issues, or waiting for a critical reference on the closing day for awards is a one-way ticket to stratospheric stress – so do yourself (and your team) a favour and be organised.

5. Answer the questions asked

If the entry requires you to prepare a presentation or document, structure it in line with the sections in the requirements – e.g: a section for financial performance, another for culture.   Treat each section like an English comprehension exam at school – answer the question asked with specific information and back it up with examples.  When I’ve judged awards, it’s patently clear which businesses took the time to read the questions and which ones dashed off their entry and failed to provide the information needed to gain points.

6. Tout your own horn

This is not the time to be modest.  You have one chance to wow the judges, so you must give it your very best shot.  Do not be reluctant to share wins, what makes your business so special (because it is), what the vision is for the future and how you see the business contributing to society.   As the American entertainer (and founder of the Ringling Circus) PT Barnum said: “Without promotion, something terrible happens… Nothing!”

7. Make it look pretty

If it’s an online entry, copy the questions into a Word document and write your answers there.  Take the time to proofread it or even better, get a grammar-savvy colleague to check it too.  If it’s a written entry, consider getting a graphic designer to add some visual polish and have it professionally printed and bound.  This will set your entry apart from the competition and demonstrate your commitment to quality.

8. Follow up

So you’ve won the award (or been a finalist) – congratulations!  Before you commission the trophy cabinet, say thank you.  If you don’t already know, find out who the judges and awards organisers were and send them a note thanking them for their hard work – this extends to people who have provided references as well.  I can pretty much promise you’ll be the only winner that does, and it puts you on their radar for future opportunities – maybe next year you’ll be asked to be a judge…

9. Leverage the win

Include the award logo on your email signature, your website, send out an email to all your clients letting them know (and thanking them for making it possible) and make sure you refer to the business as being “award-winning” in all marketing materials.  Feels good doesn’t it?

Happy awards hunting!

This piece first appeared on Smart Company.

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