Lift etiquette

Lifts. They were invented to make our lives easier, faster. And if I were to die in one, I’d push the up button first. Yet some people get on board leaving their brain and manners in the loading dock.

Here’s what I mean.

Scenario 1: You’re already in the lift, heading up to level 22. Someone gets in at level 7 and elects to disembark at level 15. Fair enough.

Until you get to level 15. The doors open and this fool stands around, idly admiring his comb over in the mirrors, unaware that he’s supposed to get out. But I guess not every oyster contains a pearl.

“Oh, is this my floor?” he ends up spluttering, all the while checking the LED display just to make sure. Was he expecting a red carpet, some form of fanfare, a media opportunity perchance? Just get out.  [Read more…]

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You’re fired

firedMy first job was at Big W at Carindale. It was waaaaay back in 1980, when I was in Grade 10. Yes, grade. We hadn’t upgraded to ‘year’ at that stage. Thursday night and Saturday morning.

Back then, in those halcyon days, the shops only opened late on Thursdays, and at 12.01pm Saturday, they were locked up tight and everyone either went to the footy, the pub or the uni library to study.

My daughter once asked me how I ‘coped’ with such restricted access to retail opportunities. But it’s the same stock answer anyone who’s older gives to anyone who’s younger when they ask how we ‘coped’.

We didn’t know any different.

My career at Big W started with the checkout, [Read more…]

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Self-confidence tips

Tip #1 – Make Decisions
• Think outside the square to make decisions
• Reflect on what outcome you want and show discipline achieving them

Tip #2 – Set Goals 
• Remember your reasons why [Read more…]

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Marketing explained

People constantly ask me what I do, how do I earn my money. At heart, I’m a writer, but often that doesn’t get the dollars in.

So I do marketing, communications and training for companies big and small. I help them get their message “out there” using a variety of platforms.

Which is why I loved this list below. It explains marketing in relative terms. It is both true, and quite funny. Read on…

Marketing explained:

1. You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, “I am very rich, marry me.” That’s direct marketing.

2. You go to a party, and your friend walks up to a girl while pointing at you, and tells the girl, “He is very rich, marry him.” That’s advertising.

3. A girl walks up to you and says, “You are very rich, will you marry me?” That’s brand recognition.

4. You say to a girl, “I am very rich, marry me,” and she slaps you. That’s customer feedback.

5. You say to a girl, “I am very rich, marry me,” and she introduces you to her husband. That’s demand and supply gap.

6. Before you get a chance to say to the girl, “I am very rich, marry me,” your wife arrives. That’s restriction from entering a new market.

Got it?

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Working the network

Last night, I was at a function to launch the next edition of a business magazine. It was a mixed crowd, borderline eclectic (possibly because one punter was determined to stay hunched over in his black overcoat and another punter wore red tartan trousers with matching scarf and driving gloves).

The industry types were just as eclectic, from funeral planners and home-based marketing businesses to travel agents, pilates instructors and business advisors. We collectively clutched our copy of the mag, a handful of business cards and the requisite glass of bubbles.

Now, I have a headstart on the majority of the other punters because I write a regular column for this particular tome. So, in networking terms, this is like going directly to GO and claiming $200. I could confidently walk up to groups and say, “Hi, I’m Bron, I write the customer service column,” and straight away we had an opening for a conversation.

I mean, there’s always the risk they’ll turn to me and say, “So you’re the one who writes that crap?” but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Like wearing heels to a garden wedding, opening a third bottle of wine or voting for Abbott.

Being in business for myself and working from home means networking functions are a necessity. Sometimes they are the sole reason I change out of my pajamas that day.

But the more I go to, the more I see such a stark difference in the way people – men and women alike – go about networking.

Without creating a spoiler alert, you need to know that this blog is not about male-bashing or the like. Quite the contrary. I think men are adorable. Especially when they take out the rubbish and put air in my tyres (thank you Alan). I even thought one of them was so spectacular that I married him for a long while. And I’ve now got another one who is even more spectacular so I reckon I’ll marry him too.

OK, now that’s cleared up, I’ll tell you what happened at this function. And I have to tell you, none of this is made up. Like some of my other blogs are prone to be…

I’m standing in a group of women, I think there were four including me. We were chatting, and it doesn’t matter whether we were chatting about the school pick up run or the fallout from the federal budget, we were chatting.

Then in bursts a male, business card brandished, with the stellar opening line, “G’day there girls, I think it’s about time I got around to telling you lot about my business.”

What a charmer. I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it. We may have two ears and one mouth but this fellow definitely doesn’t use them in that order. He was in the baby boomer category, is that relevant?

I couldn’t stomach such arrogance, so politely nodded my farewell and went in search of a champagne refill and a new group.

I’d been selected to give a short welcome address to the group at the start of the function, so en route to the bar, I was waylaid by another business card brandishing fellow who complimented me on my speech (which was lovely). In the next breath he asked if he could share my client data base because he was convinced that his wealth creation strategy would be needed by them all (which was not lovely).

Parched, I lurched stiletto first into the next group I spied. This was quaintly mixed – two boys and with the advent of me, two girls. The boys were trying to outdo each other in terms of football knowledge, Amex card colours and, I am sure, penis girth.

I’d clearly picked the wrong group to join. I don’t have a penis.

I quickly assessed my combatants and subtlely winked at my co-conspirator. We drifted off to the bar, claimed a refill, complimented each others shoes/earrings/eyeshadow application technique, and gave a précis of our business in 25 words or less. We chatted about working while raising kids and propping up husbands. We spoke about corporate raiders, live beef exports, the commonalities in our work and Lady Gaga. Swapped business cards and agreed to keep in touch. A brief air kiss and we diverged.

Shouldering my bag with a view to making a speedy exit, I heard the words, “Bron, can I have a word with you before you go?” A charming man, in a pastel shirt and rimless glasses, offered me his business card and a coffee meeting to put forward his idea to leverage our separate business skills with joint clients. Brilliant idea, brilliant concept and brilliantly conveyed. The only thing that was different from the lady I just previously met is that we shook hands instead of sharing an air kiss. Oh, and we didn’t talk about eyeshadow. I would have been mildly worried if we did.

I was nearly out the door, when one last woman waved a cheery hand and thrust me her business card. I quickly scanned it and learnt she was a personal stylist. It made me think she had a target market with this down-trodden crowd who mostly looked like they had dressed in the dark without the benefit of a mirror. Or deodorant.

“Give me a call,” she cooed in some faux French accent, whilst noticeably eyeing my outfit. “I can have your wardrobe sorted in a day so you never have to go out looking like this again.”

I had to look down at my clothes to assure myself I hadn’t accidently left my pajamas on. Oh blimey, I thought, do I look that bad? Either way, insults are not a great way to drum up business lady!

And had she seen Ms Red Tartan Trousers yet?

I like to do business with people, not companies. If I need a particular service – be it a document printed, a legal opinion, or my nails painted – I like to deal with a person I like. A person I can relate to, feel comfy with and even enjoy a laugh. Nudge nudge wink wink etc.

It doesn’t matter a jot to me if your printing firm won a major national award, or your legal company is currently putting the defence strategy together for Ricky Nixon, or even if your beauty salon does Miranda Kerr’s nails. If you don’t warm to me, I freeze you out.

Even if I’m wearing pajamas!

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As time goes by

When I first started working, it was a part time job at Big W Carindale, way back before Carindale Shopping Centre was the unsightly gangly monolith it is today. It was 1980, I was 15, and Thursday night trading had just commenced in Brisbane and shopping after dark was considered very avant garde. Oooh la la.

Silly checkout girls like me reported to an austere humourless lady called Mrs Hickey. Nothing could humour that lady. She was about as funny as a fire in a children’s home. We thought we were hilarious by referring to her as “The Hickey” but the passage of time has made me see how lame that was. She recurrently used the royal “we”, perched her spectacles on the tip of a pointed nose and sniffed in disdain a great deal.

She clearly didn’t have her spectacles on when she typed my name badge on the Dymo wheel, and for a year I was known to the Carindale public as “Brown Vowles”. Mmmmmm.

One time, she called us all to work 15 minutes early to do the 1980s version of team building. We had to answer the question, “Why do I come to work?” and she said that if anyone answered with “for the money” she would fire us on the spot.

What a stupid question. And what stupid repercussions. That was back in the days when you could fire someone on the spot. This is pre-industrial relations and no one sued their boss.

When I was at university, I left the shackles of Big W and Mrs Hickey to sell flowers out of a basket at Brisbane night spots to support my studies. Eliza’s Flower Service would load up cars with buckets of flowers and send pretty young girls out into the night to tote their wares.

First it was to the public bars, where late husbands would scrounge up $5 for a cheap bunch to take home as a peace-offering. Restaurants with cooing couples were ripe for sales, especially with my opening line, “Sir, that’s a beautiful woman you are dining with tonight and I am sure she’d really appreciate a flower.” What a crock.

At the nightclubs – hands up my generation who remember Sibyl’s in Adelaide Street, General Jackson’s under the Crest and the Underground up where that posh get-up The Barracks now is? It was at these spots that I’d be accosted in a gentlemanly way by the single boys who’d failed to score. They’d buy me the flowers, which is sweet. And even sweeter because I’d pocket the money and re-sell the flower the second his back was turned. Wouldn’t you?

When it was time to get a proper grown-up job, I found myself in the badlands of Acacia Ridge working with transport giant Linfox. Everyone smoked at their desk, everyone swore both passively and aggressively, and girls regularly got whacked on the butt.

“This pretty young thing is Bron,” was how my boss would introduce me. Where was Pru Goward when I needed her?

Kevin Bloody Wilson and Rodney Rude were making a fortune screeching profanities out of cassette tapes, and the warehouse crews blasted their obscenities as blithely as they hung the People magazine centrefolds above their desks.

We had no mobiles, faxes, modems, internet or smartphones. If we wanted to tell someone something, we picked up the phone and told them. After we’d asked them how their football game went, and how their daughter’s birthday party was. And laughed about something funny on television the night before.

If we had something a bit more formal to tell someone, we typed a letter. On a typewriter. In duplicate. For people like me, I always made a typo on the second last word, and my attempt to fix it would render a hole in the paper so I’d rip the thing out, swear out loud, and start again. Back then, swearing at a typewriter was an everyday occurrence.

Later I ended up working for one of Kerry Packer’s companies, and although by then the butt smacking and the office smoking had ceased, maternity leave entitlements hadn’t even started. After enduring a job interview that included the question, “Do you have any immediate plans to fall pregnant?” I worked for two years until I did, by chance, fall pregnant.

It was 1991, and I worked until I was 39 weeks then took as much holiday and sick leave as I could. There was no obligation by the employer to keep my job open, nor for them to pay me any form of allowance. You just hoped and prayed and did a very tight budget.

Was it better back then? Maybe not the butt-smacking and the cigarette smoking, and we may have had more challenges, but there was fewer imagined problems.

Some things haven’t changed though. At one place I worked, the service manager was getting it on with the lady who ran accounts payable (things like that still happen today), a long Friday lunch was great fun (that still happens today) and there was too much fortnight in each pay period to make the money last (yep, that sometimes happens now too!)

And I still smile everytime I walk into Big W Carindale.

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