Dropping the mic on Tropfest 25

With headlines in the press leading into the festival like, “Can Tropfest make its big comeback”, and “Film Festival faces crucial test” the pressure was on.

Add to this, predictions of the highest temperatures in history leading into and during the Festival, there was a great deal of anxiety building.

But, we did it!! So, today I sit and reflect on the last 16 months of working to rebuild Tropfest. I helped create a strategic approach to the future, negotiated to secure long-term partnerships and establish destination partners that will enable Tropfest to develop and grow well into the future!

Tropfest transformations over the last 16 months:

  1. Transformed the strategic direction of Tropfest by building the 2020 strategy, then aided the transition of the business to a Not For Profit and introduction of a Board.
  2. The 2020 strategy and plan re-established the Tropfest brand in the marketplace enabling it to rebound, while re-engaging with the Industry in a big way.
  3. Led the successful negotiation of multi-year partnerships with great brands (and teams), in it for the long haul with a genuine connection with the Tropfest audience.
  4. Reshaped the commercial model to create diversified revenue streams, including the ability for fans to buy a ticket for the first time ever – Pick Your Patch – enabling fans to arrive when they want!
  5. Impacted the diversity of filmmakers by introducing an Inclusion Framework, with a transparent judging process. Leading to 50% female representation of the 16 Tropfest Finalist for the first time in its 25-year history.
  6. Strengthened Tropfest’s position as a global innovator by securing a world first broadcast deal with Red Bull TV and created a Tropfest first with a 3-way broadcast (on Channel 11, RBTV and live in Parramatta Park).
  7. Expanded the program to make Tropfest a 5-day Festival, creating new programs and opportunities for filmmakers to share their stories, learn from others in the industry and collaborate with those with a love of film.
  8. Finally, we pulled a crowd of over 35,000 on the hottest day on record in Parramatta Park to enjoy short films made by emerging artists!

Thank you to the team I have worked with along the way, especially Ben Bartlett, Scott Young, our internal team, the Board and the extended partner team – it’s been an incredible experience. To John Polson, thank you for the trust and faith you placed in me (and Ben) to share the custodianship of this amazing brand in delivering all that we have.

For Tropfest 25, not everything worked, some things were ahead of their time, but so many things were transformational for Tropfest. I truly believe, if Tropfest can fill a park on the hottest day in history, the future is very bright indeed. I proudly say I have helped to secure the future of the World’s Largest Short Film Festival. I am extremely excited for the future and I look forward to watching it grow and grow.

Improve your win rate, invest in chit chat

Here is a blog recently published via Linked In about how to increase you win rate: Improve your win rate, invest in chit-chat.

Something to consider this week…

Improve your win rate, take a client out to lunch.

The good ole days of long, boozy lunches are well and truly over, sadly. But the reality is a quick sandwich or even a walking meeting can deliver great results.

Call a client on Monday and invite them for a quick catch up later in the week – that way it’s impromptu and they are less likely to cancel.

Use this time to help them brainstorm a problem they are struggling with, talk about something that is on the horizon they haven’t had headspace to consider, or discuss the economy/weather/whatnot.

The challenge is not to expect work off the back of it – play the long game, invest in your clients and your big targets. An investment of 40 minutes once every month or two will help keep the value you deliver top of mind.

With a complete lack of ‘spare’ time and constant demands to deliver, these types of meetings can be re-energising and are greatly appreciated from those on the other side of the table. Your perspective, expertise and advice can really change their day, and they will remember that when the time comes.

So, if – It costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one, Bain & Company – then a sandwich is a pretty good investment, right?


This article was originally published via Linked In : Improve your win rate, take a client out to lunch.



Turn first day apathy to energy

Meh to energyLast week was my first week back after a fabulous break, and I really struggled with apathy. Now, it may have had something to do with the fact that I have a 10 week old puppy that keeps my attention longer than anything else at the moment, but I knew I had to snap out of it. So, here are my top 5 tips for converting apathy to energy to kick start 2015:




  1. Write a list of the most exciting deals/projects you will work on this year
    • highlight the most exciting ones and start something on 1 of them today.
    • See if you can palm the not so exciting ones; or reshape them so they are a little more interesting; or get them done quickly so they are off your plate.
  2. Consider your resources, who do you need on your team to deliver these deals/projects
    • Do you have the right mix of skill and knowledge in your existing team.
    • Can you pull someone in from another team or externally to ensure success.
  3. Start the ball rolling on the year, set up meetings for the next week that will kick start some of these projects/deals.
  4. Call people
    • Hearing about what everyone has been up to in their break can be energising.
    • Also, there are a tonne of others out there suffering apathy, so will be happy to hear from you, especially if you can give them some direction.
  5. Change your environment, a new desk location, new note pad, etc – a change is as good as a holiday. Also, if you have to re-write your to do list in a new note pad it will help get your head back in the game.

If all else fails, buy a puppy and enjoy her madness for a while.

Happy 2015, here’s to a huge year of successes!!

How to write a workable, base-line business plan in a day

A lot of business owners hear the words business plan and block their ears – “I don’t need one of those, I’m not going for a loan”; “It’s too hard to write a business plan and it’s only going to sit in the bottom draw!”; “26 pages that I never refer to – waste of time and money”; “That’s all just SWOT analysis (whatever that is) and financials, I don’t need that” – these comments are true, if you think about a business plan in a traditional sense; and if you are creating a plan for the sole purpose of raising capital.

However, a plan for your business should be all about the people who are going to execute it, you and your team. It needs to be in your language and in a format that works for your business. It needs to be simple and goal orientated. But be clear – without a plan you probably won’t get to where you want to be, because without a plan how do you know where ‘there’ is?

It can be hard to step outside the day to day ‘doing’ of your business, it’s hard to think big picture when your To Do list is really long and you have a team who really want your attention. BUT, the time you invest in putting together a plan will pay dividends, no doubt. Below is a suggested agenda for how to write a workable, base-line business plan in a day – you will need to dedicate one day, shut the door on a quiet space and document where ‘there’ is.


On the day you have set side, spend your first 67 minutes (timed) thinking about the next 12 months and think beyond this by no less than 3 years. Then, write down – what will the business look like; what will you be doing; what will the team look like, think in detail – be descriptive.

They will not be new ideas, you would have had these thoughts for a while, maybe even a long while, but you haven’t extracted them from your mind and given them oxygen. Yes, it’s true, once they have oxygen there is a chance of failure – but if you don’t do anything, you are guaranteed not to fail, but at the same time you are highly likely to live with regret.

To work this out you might need to stare out the window for a little while; you might need some white noise in the background (maybe loud and heavy rain sounds); or put some classical music on in the background, whatever you need.

Now, take a break to clear your head before the next session.


Spend the next 86 minutes thinking about how you can reach ‘there’ – you need steps along the way, milestones to reach, to celebrate, and then to look ahead to the next goal. What are the targets over the next 12 months – set up 5 goals for the business to reach for, and make 2 of these stretch goals (the ones that make you really nervous). Here is a list to get you started:

  • $xx annual turnover

  • xx% of market share

  • xx number of new clients or xx number of clients at a high value per sale (move the smaller clients up the scale or gift them to a supplier who is smaller than you)

  • xx number of products/services (a reduction of or introduction of new)

  • xx% decrease in staff turnover

  • xx number of new staff or new stores/offices

  • $xx savings in operational costs

  • Etc, etc

Be brave and back yourself – try not to beat yourself before you start, try not to worry about the headaches that winning more business can bring – block out thoughts around hiring more staff, increased floor/office space required, etc, etc. This is a time for thinking big, dreaming a lot, and being honest about what you want for the future of the business.

Also, spend some of this 86 minutes considering what the goals are for you as the leader of your organisation. Separate your goals, from the business goals (often these have become intertwined) – think about ways the business could run without you, jobs that other people could manage (outsourced or within your team). Then think about what you would do with the extra time this might free up, set a target/goal for this too.

Maybe at this stage you need to talk of this through with someone; or, if this is not your strength maybe you need to hire a specialist who can help take the information out of your head and put it into a workable document for you, however, draft it as best you can first.

Again, it’s time for a break, a good break – go for lunch and relax.


Dedicate the next 47 minutes to reviewing what you have documented re-read it and be sure that you have identified the ‘end game’ and the milestones along the way. Now congratulate yourself – you have the outline of your business plan – you have taken a brave step and should feel a mix of terror and excitement! This is normal, this is why we call ourselves entrepreneurs right? If we didn’t enjoy that combined feeling we would chuck it in and work on someone else’s vision.

It’s time to build out the detail of your plan as required – start with 1 page that summarises your business; then look at the elements you have noted below and note how they will come to life; what will you focus on; when will things happen; how much money will you need for each aspect of the plan; and who will do what; also give some thought to your goals in context of what else is going on in your industry. You should also create an actions list or spreadsheet noting who will do what to make it happen, by when, etc.

And, relax.


Finally, each plan needs input – so take time out with your team, allow at least 90 minutes, and present the plan to them – really share the vision you have for your company, get them excited. It is reassuring for staff to know there is a destination you are all working toward and, as your team have lots of great ideas, this is an excellent opportunity for them to contribute to the plan, for them to own it too, before you finalise it.

As you want everyone to use your plan, pull out the key points and goals, put them in a format that works for your team, and post it up around the office. Finally, schedule time in your diary each quarter for the next 12 months to check-in on progress, make any required changes; and to celebrate your achievements.

NB Please be clear, this document may not be sophisticated enough to be used to secure financial investment, but it is an excellent workable document for you and your team.

Good luck!

Being your own player manager

As a business owner it sometimes feels like you are a player manager – telling everyone everything is OK, even if your man has turned his ankle and might be out for the season. This is natural, fake it till you make it, and the power of positive thinking – it’s a good thing – as long as you don’t bury your head in the sand about the extent of your business problems.

  • If the reality means you need to be honest and say it’s not working, do it;

  • If the reality means you have to take some risks, spend some money and call in those who can help, do it; and

  • If the reality means you have to make some cuts that will mean you can survive, it sucks, but you have to do it.

The first step is acknowledging the problem – do you have a list of all the things that are on your mind. If not, pull out a piece of paper and write them all down – allow 47 minutes to do this, set your timer. Be as specific as you can, but don’t think too hard about the details, you are simply wanting to get a picture of the current position. If you know the solution note that down, if not, star it as a job to work out who can help you find the solution. Once you have the ‘challenge’ list ponder it for a day.

Next, set yourself another 47 minutes and prioritise your list, then apply Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog

Principle 3 – apply the 80/20 rule – rationalise your list, be honest and ruthless, only 20% of the things on the list will deliver greater results than 80% of jobs on the list, so only do them!?!

Next step is to invoke Principle 12 Take it One Oil Barrel at a Time – sometimes when things are bad, we need to compartmentalise the problems, deal with them one at a time. Once you’ve knocked off one ‘Oil Barrel’ things should get a little easier, firstly there is one less problem, secondly the knock on effect is that your mind is a little freer to consider the next most important problem and consider what your options for solving that. Also you are one ‘barrel’ closer to your end goal.

Also, to be your best player manager, you should take this opportunity to make some changes to ensure you don’t fall back into bad habits. A good habit is to follow Principle 17 Do the Most Difficult Task First – set aside time, first thing every morning, to Eat that Frog. Get the ugliest job of the day done first, you will feel better, your mind will be a clearer, and your shoulders will have less of a weight on them.

Good luck!

Why do I need to know that?

As an entrepreneur we find ways to save money and often the upside is that we get to learn how things work along the way. For example I recently learnt how to build a website, I was pretty determined that I wasn’t going to pay someone 3 grand to create something that I felt didn’t need to be too fancy, it just needed to say what we did. The upside was that I learnt how it works, I also learnt that I didn’t want to do that again! Our new site is so much better, and I got help – you can tell, right?

Well, there are things that I can’t learn, there are things that I really, as much as I’d like to cut corners and save money, I know it ultimately won’t save me money. We see a lot of business owners do this, for all the right reasons, but what we really need to focus on is why?

As a business owner there are just some things that, once we’ve given it a crack, we need to be honest and say, I don’t know about that, but often we forget to face that fact that this should mean: “so I think I should find someone who does”. I think I should cut myself some slack and accept that I don’t need to know that – I just need to know someone who knows how to do that. We see a lot of business owners trying to do it all – why should you be good at everything??

Why do people specialise? Why do businesses that are a niche inside a niche succeed? Quite simply because they know what they are good at, and they focus on that, and it’s what the digital age has enabled, we can find a dietitian that specialises in allergies to foods with night shades – image the size of the Yellow Pages© if we listed these things today….

As business owners this provides great opportunity to help us lighten the load, however business owners are their toughest critics and often really expect too much of themselves. Let’s take an example of preparing your business strategy: there are a million free templates for this, and some of them really are great, where things come unstuck are with industry terms that as marketers or strategists we ‘get’ them, but as with your industry terms, they don’t make a lot of sense to other humans. Exhibit A: a SWOT analysis, this is our way of saying: what are you great at (Strengths); what are your competitors better at (Weakness); what have you yet to maximise within your business (Opportunities); and, where are you at risk from your competitors or industry changes (Threat)…. Simple? Even as I write this and read it back, I’m not sure it’s that easy to explain without talking specifically about your business, working through both pairings together. So the point is, if you took the time to understand the theory behind this principle, how would it impact your business; are you better off finding an expert and working it through together – if it’s of interest to you to learn, then give it a shot, but consider if it is the best use of your time?

Sit down today for 27 minutes (set a timer) and think about what you are good at? Write it down. Note down what you like doing within your business and what you don’t enjoy. Write out what you don’t have a clue about, that you think you should. Then, review your list, think about the other people in your team, what are they good at? What can you hand over to them? What do you want to learn about and find a course/event/coach who can help you learn more. Be clear about what you really need to outsource – who can help? Who are the specialists? And what return would you expect if you spent money on these people, products or solutions?

Come back to this list tomorrow and discuss it with your team – make it happen!

Rekindle the spark

Being an entrepreneur is an exciting title and one that all who hold it, quite rightly do so with a sense of pride. And for many years that feeling carries us through the days when we only have ten dollars in the bank; it makes the toughest days ok; it helps us laugh when we really should be in the corner on the floor. For most business owners this is why we get up every day and see what adventure the day has in stall for us, and we love it!!

So, when did the feeling of being an entrepreneur fade? When did you become a business owner and no longer an entrepreneur? Well, it seems to us that this switch occurs when owners feel they are no longer building something; when it has turned into a job; and when owners spend more time working in their business than working on it.

The realisation of this situation can be extremely enlightening. Unfortunately, a lot of business owners take years to reach the point where they realise they’ve fallen a little out of love with what they created and it’s time to take a moment to sit back and review what they’ve achieved; consider where they are now; and decide what the future will look like.

If you are a business owner, have you reached this point?

If you have been through it, congratulations, I hope you are again reinvigorated for your creation and are looking to the future with renewed passion based on the path you have chosen for your business – growth, exit, or sale.

If you are currently standing at the edge of this consciousness – get ready to enjoy the ride! This can be a very exciting time for you. Of course it’s no picnic – there are some really difficult questions you will need to answer and some major challenges you will need to face. You must be ready for change and open to seeking input from people who don’t love your business like you do, but their input is necessary to give you a fresh perspective; to help you see the future clearly; and for you to be in a place to embrace change.