First Impressions Count

“In the first five seconds your image influences the people you meet”.

It’s a statement we have endorsed for a long time and in our line of work (if you can pardon our bias) it’s the first and most effective advice we provide our clients.

The recent media article by Fiona Smith illustrates well how, also in our experience, first impressions are nearly everything and it’s supported by an academic study by UK Professor Karen Pine called The Effect of Appearance on First Impressions.

Never again doubt the power of first impressions, they are real and make a huge difference on your career and business no matter what level you are… and not something that comes in and out of fashion like some people might like to think.

I’d love to hear your views.

Want to get to the top? Wear a skirt suit or cufflinks

Fiona Smith | 9 July 2014 | BRW

Want to get to the top? Wear a skirt suit or cufflinks

Police and crime reporters have one of the most difficult jobs in journalism. Each day they come into the office, they don’t know if they will be sent to a train wreck, a murder site or a gang battlefield.

I once worked side-by-side with a crime writer for a tabloid newspaper. He was a very nice man; mild-mannered and unobtrusive. A study in brown, usually.

But he had an interesting way of coping with the emotionally confronting work of interviewing people who were dealing with fresh tragedy. He had a collection of the lairiest ties imaginable.

These were flapping fabric tongues of bright orange swirls, clashing stripes and comic-strip figures.

He was gently teased about them in the office, but he once confessed to me he found it easier to do his work if his subjects were transfixed by his tie – and were not looking into his eyes.

Our clothing is also our armour. For so many, it is the ninja-style black of a corporate warrior.

Others proclaim themselves with conservative blue or rabble-rousing red.

Women know the confidence that a fresh coat of lipstick can bring. A switch from buttoned shirt cuffs to cuff links can signal a man’s intention to rise to management level.

When I was starting out, I overcame my nervousness with a pair of big, electric blue glasses, which I thought made me look older. The principal of Arup Australasia, Robert Care, grew a beard for the same reason. (Studies show people think glasses-wearers are smarter, more competent and industrious, while bearded men are considered more confident and aggressive.)

Bespoke suits, skirts score highest

What we wear can dictate whether we make a good or bad first impression – and that first, one-second impression can be very hard to change.

For many Australian men, the cut of their suit is irrelevant, yet research shows that people have a higher regard for men in made-to-measure suits.

The researcher, Professor Karen Pine, says the differences between the suits were subtle, yet had a very different impact on the “perceivers”.

In the same study, women in skirt suits were perceived more positively than those wearing trousers. “Women generally have a wider choice of dress style for work than men, but still have to maintain an identity that balances professionalism with attractiveness, and the skirt suit may achieve that balance without appearing provocative,” says Pine in her study: The Effect of Appearance on First Impressions .

Pine is a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

On an average day, people should wear what they like as long as it is appropriate for their work culture.

But if you are heading to a job interview and your future depends on making the best first impression, it is worth giving it some thought.

© 2014 BRW | This article first appeared in BRW on 9 July 2014.

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IGI in the Media: Nick Kyrgios: The average kid who has won the hearts of Australia


Nick Kyrgios has won the hearts and minds of Australians with his gutsy performances at Wimbledon, none more so than his amazing victory over World no. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Kyrgios is the next potential heir to the Australian tennis throne and has the integral hallmarks of becoming a superbrand over time.

Nick Kyrgios spearheads new generation of Australian tennis talent

Aaron Langmaid, Jessica Marszalek, Herald Sun, 2 July 2014

Nick Kyrgios celebrates his win over Rafael Nadal.

Nick Kyrgios celebrates his win over Rafael Nadal.

WIMBLEDON wonder kid Nick Kyrgios has been heralded as the future of Australian tennis.

Critics say the 19-year-old, who sauntered onto the world stage this week wearing headphones and listening to R & B, will spearhead a group of emerging talent set to deliver another green and gold era for the game.

His parents and siblings joined a chorus of support today for the Canberra kid who is on track to become one of the biggest names in Australian sport.

But sister Hali was among family members who said he’ll always be the knockabout teen who loves shooting hoops and playing computer games.

“When he comes home his friends come over and they just play on the Xbox all day,” sister Hali said. “I come in and out of the house and he’ll still be there.’’

Kyrgios tops a long list of up and comers that now include James Duckworth, his Australian Open junior doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis, Jordan Thompson, Alex Bolt, Luke Saville, Ash Barty and Storm Sanders.

Nick Kyrgios’s mum Norlaila with a photo of her son as a newborn. Picture: Gary Ramage

Nick Kyrgios’s mum Norlaila with a photo of her son as a newborn.

“He’s the next great player on the block and it’s great for us,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said.

“His game has always been big but now he has been able to put all the pieces together and is having some great success.

“He hasn’t taken any short cuts.

“As a player he is as good as any.’’

Channel 7 Wimbledon host Todd Woodbridge said Kyrgios’s arrival was a sign of big things to come.

“He has made the all-important breakthrough, cracking the top 100 and announcing his arrival on the global tennis stage,” he said.

“It’s great news for Aussie tennis to have another player to take the pressure off Tomic.’’

An overnight sensation in the eyes of fans — Kyrgios’ rise to fame and fortune has been a long slow road for his family who have been by his side as he worked on his monster serve on crooked courts at competitions across the nation.

“He believes in himself and his strengths and his capabilities and it’s just great to watch,” his mum Norlaila said.

“He loves the stage, he loves that atmosphere, the grand entrance.

“I’m just so happy for him because it’s all gelling.”

Critics have also credited the 19-year-old for his easygoing attitude — something often lost in a sport tarnished by some players and their problems.

“He is respectful and grounded and has maturity beyond his years and isn’t plagued by the kind of problems some players have brought along with them in the past,” Image Group International’s Jon-Michail said.

“He’s a great example of multicultural Australia.’’

Kyrgios’ success has reverberated online — his name was mentioned 205,000 on Twitter in recent days. Actor Hugh Jackman was among his 35,000 new followers since the start of his Wimbledon campaign.

“Aussie Aussie Aussie @NickKyrgios,” Jackman posted. “Such composure and class!’’

© 2014 Herald Sun | This article first appeared on the Herald Sun on 3 July 2014.

A personal brand success story to watch… I’d love to hear your views.

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How technology reinvents Monica Lewinsky and her personal brand

During a past coaching session with a “dishonoured” client that had reputation issues, the discussion turned to how we can positively reshape their perception in the marketplace due to past indiscretions.

We started by defining their current-personal brand DNA, and then devised a strategy that tackled the tricky path to redemption via offline and online branding methods. The results to date have been beyond the expectations and helped this client find new solace by presenting their authentic self in their own unique way, a manner that they never imagined prior to their personal brand problems.

This experience reminds me of the following story in Vanity Fair about Monica Lewinsky. Sometimes in life you can get it totally wrong and it takes extraordinary events, your making or otherwise that challenge you to take a personal stand and share your story with the world in an authentic way by re-inventing yourself, controversial past or not… and that is your human right.

Like our client, Monica Lewinsky has finally arrived to share her story in her terms.

The Branding of Monica Lewinsky

By Amanda Hess | 8 May 2014

How technology helps Monica Lewinsky reposition her personal brand.

During a past coaching session with a ‘disgraced’ client with reputation issues the discussion turned to how can we positively reshape their perception in the marketplace due to past indiscretions?

Once we defined their current personal brand DNA, we devised a strategy that tackled the tricky path to redemption via offline and online branding methods. The results to date have been beyond the client’s expectations and has helped this client find new solace by presenting their authentic self in a way that they never had imagined prior to their personal brand problems.

Their experience remind me of the following story in Vanity Fair about Monica Lewinsky. Sometimes in life you can get it totally wrong and it takes extraordinary events, your making or otherwise that challenge you do take a personal stand and share with the world your greatness even with a controversial past.

Like our client Monica Lewinsky has finally arrived to share her story in her terms.

The branding of Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky has spoken. Or more accurately, she will speak, by way of a personal essay in the June issue of Vanity Fair looking back on her ‘90s relationship with President Clinton. (Oh — you hadn’t heard?). So far, Lewinsky has not said much — the magazine teased just a few short blurbs of her forthcoming piece, plus a stylish pic of Monica in repose under the headline “Shame and Survival” — but let’s be honest: most readers who will eagerly click through to this “exclusive” don’t care what she actually has to say.

Lewinsky has dared to appear in public and open her mouth, and that’s enough to send the internet back into a Clinton-era time warp of free-association intern-shaming: gold-digging (“’It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,’ says the girl who’s been cashing in on them since ‘98”), total has-been (“16 years ago! Your 15 minutes were up a long time ago!”).

And what else would we have Monica Lewinsky do? In the years after the scandal, Lewinsky travelled from London to Los Angeles to New York to Portland, earning a master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics, then hunting in vain for communications and branding gigs with a focus on charitable giving. But “because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as my ‘history’, “she writes in the snippet Vanity Fair has released, “I was never ‘quite right’ for the position.

In some cases, I was right for all the wrong reasons, as in ‘Of course, your job would require you to attend our events.’ And, of course, these would be events at which press would be in attendance.” Lewinsky is 40 years old, but she’s been allowed just one career track — disgraced former mistress — and now we’re dinging her for attempting to make a living from it. (Side note: don’t you just love Bill Clinton? What a rock star.)

When we talk about relationships between superiors and their workers, we often focus on the power differential. In what I’ve seen of the piece, Lewinsky is adamant that her relationship with Clinton was consensual, and that the extreme gulf in power between a President and an intern revealed itself after the fact. “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship.

Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position,” Lewinsky writes. “The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”

While powerful men have the ability to rebound from their “indiscretions” and secure their fortunes, young women — who are often singled out for sexual attention at a time when they have little career experience and even less cash — can be branded forever by the incident. As Bill Clinton rakes in cash off of book deals and speaking engagements like any other former president, Lewinsky is left to feed on scraps from the scandal.

While she may forever be a national joke, the Vanity Fair piece reveals that Lewinsky is clearly a sharp and funny woman, as evidenced by her quibble with her appearance in the Beyoncé song Partition: “Thanks, Beyoncé,” she writes, “but if we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d.’”

She’s right, but Beyoncé’s slip-up is understandable: we’re still living in a world where women are defined by the sex they have, while men are defined by, you know, other things they say and do. Now, Lewinsky is attempting to mine an alternative angle on her scandal to forge a different career path: as she writes in Vanity Fair, “thanks to the Drudge Report, I was … possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the internet.”

Her current goal “is to get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums”. I hope she is paid handsomely for her time.

©2014 The Washington Post —By arrangement with Slate — This article first appeared in The Washington Post on 8 May 2014.

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IGI IN THE MEDIA | Australia’s newest F1 ace, Daniel Ricciardo, wins with a smile of steel

“Authenticity is about being yourself but sometimes that doesn’t fit the mould of expectations” - Jon Michail.

Aaron Langmaid | 14 June 2014 | Herald Sun

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his first Grand Prix victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in Mo

In the final moments of the 2012 Australian Grand Prix, representatives of the world’s media adjusted their microphones and jostled for position in a frantic final race of their own.

British ace Jenson Button had taken line honours that day, holding off Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and leaving his McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton, to claim third place.

Their faces lit up by live TV feeds, the drivers smiled into lenses and manoeuvred through the same old questions as if still behind the wheel.

The chassis handled well. The medium-compound tyres, a good decision. The win, yes, it felt amazing.

But anyone peering beyond the bright lights of that press pack might have spotted a rookie emerging from the far end of the Formula One paddock.

Daniel Ricciardo had just claimed a top 10 finish in his maiden assault at Albert Park. Beaming, he had walked almost the full length of the pits before one journalist finally made an inquiry: “Your first home race, Daniel, how did it feel?”

“Ridiculous,” came the reply. “That last lap was so cooool.”

It was the kind of blissfully unscripted reaction you’d expect from any loose-lipped young Aussie.

Then 22, Ricciardo’s efforts for his new Toro Rosso team were duly noted by F1 writers the world over.

He had narrowly dodged the carnage off the grid, pitted on lap one with a damaged front wing and was subsequently forced to the back of the pack.

Daniel Ricciardo (far left) with other members of the 2006 Newman College Senior Boys soc

Daniel Ricciardo (far left) with other members of the 2006 Newman College Senior Boys soccer premiership squad in Perth.

But by the final lap, the West Australian had made up enormous ground and ended the race in ninth place ahead of his French teammate to secure his first two world championship points.

“It was a bit of a fairytale end,” he would say later. “To come back from the first lap and finish the race was something I didn’t expect.’’

Aside from his determination in the driver’s seat, Ricciardo was also being noticed for his relaxed demeanour — rarely seen in an F1 driver.

His easiness was altogether lacking in Aussie predecessor Mark Webber, a master of steely composure and sterile response.

Even when the veneer of his tense relationship with teammate Sebastian Vettel started to crack at the Malaysian GP, Webber stayed on-message, summing up their working relationship with short, sharp adjectives.

It was a rigid media manner that polarised opinion long before he’d backflipped into a rooftop pool after winning in Monaco.

Ricciardo needn’t bother with acrobatics.

Such was his popularity at this year’s Australian GP, his life-size poster was stolen from the Avenue of Legends.

Ironic, say pundits, because the young star is anything but a cardboard cut-out.

Daniel Ricciardo drives through the course on his way to winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo drives through the course on his way to winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

“Ricciardo has already established himself as an authentic brand,” Image Group International chief Jon-Michail said.

“He doesn’t need any polishing. He is a world champion in the making but he doesn’t act like a big shot. He’s very likable.’’

He said the challenge for Ricciardo now would be to keep his mentors close — and to avoid being manufactured by new advisers.

“Authenticity is about being yourself but sometimes that doesn’t fit the mould of expectations,” Jon-Michail said. “I think Daniel is intuitive enough to find the right balance.’’

IT was only eight years ago that Ricciardo stood on a soccer pitch in north suburban Perth and prayed with his teammates.

The Catholic school squad had nicknamed the midfielder Richie — not because of his surname, but for his seamless impersonation of cricket commentator Richie Benaud.

A few token lines from the young mimic could have the boys in stitches.

But on this particular day, all jokes were put aside.

In each of the two previous years, the Newman College senior squad had been runners-up, and they were determined to claim the premiership in their final year.

Coach Dante Bonarrigo still has the team picture sitting in his office.

“That elusive trophy had just been out of our grasp,” he said. “We won the game and became the number one senior boys soccer team in Perth. It was euphoric. It is still a personal highlight in my life and I sometimes run into some of the players and we fondly reminisce about that day.

“I like to think that some of the discipline, sportsmanship, tenacity, humility and success of winning may have contributed, at least a little, to Daniel’s winning ways,” said his former coach.

“He was a pleasure to teach. He had a discipline and humility beyond his years.”

Those qualities run deep in the Ricciardo clan.

Despite the whirlwind of F1 fame around their son, parents Joe and Grace are as grounded as ever. They run a busy earthmoving business and even if they could get to every race, they probably wouldn’t.

Joe Ricciardo proudly says his son remains level-headed.

To him, the F1 rising star is still the same wide-eyed toddler who rode on his grandfather’s shoulders at the Targa Florio in Sicily;

The same kid who flashed his pearly whites to the camera after he won a go-kart grand prix as a 10-year-old.

“I know he’s my son and people would expect me to say it, but Dan has always been like that,’’ said his father.

Even in March, when Ricciardo junior was disqualified despite notching up a podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix, he still managed to showcase his relaxed approach, says his dad.

Yeah, it sucked, but there would be another opportunity.

“We went to see him at the hotel that night and I think Grace and I and our daughter were probably more upset than he was,” Mr Ricciardo said. “He doesn’t dwell on things. Never has.’’

RICCIARDO still phones his old mates when he lands in Perth between seasons. They head to the beach or go camping. He gets to spend the downtime with girlfriend Jemma Boskovich. They’ve been together since high school.

It’s a near-normal existence for a kid who insists that he never pursued a career in F1 for the glamour.

“He just loves the cars and the competition,” Mr Ricciardo said. “Everything else that goes with it is just secondary.’’

His apartment in Monaco is squashy. Contrary to popular belief, says his dad, there are few frills yet for this champion racer. The one-bedroom flat in the tax haven is barely wide enough to swing a cat.

“He has quite the HECS fee to pay back to Red Bull,” Mr Ricciardo said. But he acknowledges that their investment is starting to pay off in plenty of other ways.

Since signing with the team, Ricciardo has cemented his relationship with Vettel like Webber never could. The pair are similar in age and personality, and share the same sense of humour.

The German four-time world champion was the first person to congratulate Ricciardo after his Canadian GP win, hugging him and lifting him off his feet.

There is more respect there, Mr Ricciardo admits. And he says that’s something his son has earned with just as many others.

In the moments after winning last week’s race, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso walked into the Red Bull garage to shake Ricciardo’s hand.

Crossing between garages is a rarity among the F1 elite — but this, it seems, was the exception

“To me, that says a lot,” Mr Ricciardo said. “I mean, Daniel was driving go-karts when Alonso entered F1. And yet here he is congratulating my son. I asked Daniel how that felt but he just didn’t seem daunted by it.’’

The sun hadn’t even come up last Monday when Joe and Grace Ricciardo stumbled from their bedroom, still in Perth’s northern suburbs, and switched on the television.

Daniel had qualified in sixth spot to contest the race in Montreal but had openly expressed doubts about whether he or Vettel would be able to cut through the pack. His mum and dad were as surprised as anybody when the Red Bull rookie overtook leader Nico Rosberg on the penultimate lap.

And their phones went into meltdown.

Daughter Michelle and her husband were at the front door before they knew it, followed by a steady stream of wellwishers and a contingent of media camped on their front lawn.

“We didn’t expect that we would be cracking the champagne after the Montreal race … but Daniel came around a bit quicker than we thought,” Mr Ricciardo said.

Ever since his son left for Italy to test his potential with some of the world’s top racing teams, Mr Ricciardo said it was clear where he was headed in the sport.

And Daniel has said so himself.

“I don’t want to just get into Formula One,” he once proclaimed.

“I’m not here to make up numbers. I’m here because I want to be world champion.’’

© 2014 News Limited | This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on 14 June 2014.

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And they say politics doesn’t pay… Brand Clinton a money making machine.

Politics in the 21st Century is a money making profession no matter what the poiticians have us believe, and why not?

If you have real value and contribute to society why shouldn’t you be paid well after you have re-entered everyday life.

Hillary Clinton gives some insight into her family’s success on the speaking circuit and the value of Brand Clinton in the marketplace.

Clinton targeted after crying poor

Phillip Rucker | 11 June 2014 | Washington Post
Backfired: Hillary Clinton talks with Diane Sawyer before the release of Hard Choices. The book gives her a chance to shape the debate about her record in the Obama administration.

Backfired: Hillary Clinton talks with Diane Sawyer before the release of Hard Choices. The book gives her a chance to shape the debate about her record in the Obama administration. Photo: Reuters

On the eve of a cross-country book tour seen as her opening gambit in the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton has caused a political flap by saying her family was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House in 2001 and “struggled” to pay their mortgages on two homes.

Republicans seized on the comments to argue that the Democrat – now a multimillionaire who charges $US200,000 ($214,000)  per speech – is out of touch with middle-class Americans. The episode is the latest reminder of the increasingly partisan aura that surrounds the former secretary of state as she gets closer to making a decision about 2016.

During a one-hour prime-time special on ABC, Mrs Clinton also told news anchor Diane Sawyer that she considers the sharp criticism of her role in the terrorist attacks on US outposts in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 an argument in favour of a campaign.

"Dead broke" in 2001: The Clintons released tax returns during the 2008 campaign, showing they had earned $US109 million over eight years since they left the White House.

“Dead broke” in 2001: The Clintons released tax returns during the 2008 campaign, showing they had earned $US109 million over eight years since they left the White House. Photo: AFP

“Actually, it’s more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball,” she told Sawyer. “We ought to be in the majors. I view this as really apart from – even a diversion from – the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world.”

Mrs Clinton said there was nothing she could have done differently to prevent the attacks.

“I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions,” she said.

To promote her new memoir, Hard Choices, which hits stores Tuesday, Mrs Clinton is travelling from coast to coast this month giving speeches, signing copies and sitting for network television interviews. The first, with Sawyer, aired on Monday night.

Sawyer asked Mrs Clinton about reports that she has made an estimated $US5 million delivering speeches since she left the State Department last year and that her husband, Bill Clinton – who earned $US200,000 annually during his eight years as president – has made more than $US100 million since leaving the White House in 2001.

“You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt,” Mrs Clinton said. “We had no money when we got there and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”

“Struggled” to pay for education: Hillary Clinton with her daughter, Chelsea, and husband Bill. By 2001, they had accrued an enormous legal debt, much of it owed to Mr Clinton’s attorneys. Photo: Bloomberg

Sawyer followed up with a reference to Mrs Clinton’s typical speaking fee of about $US200,000.

“Do you think Americans can understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?” she asked.

Mrs Clinton answered: “I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company, as so many people who leave public life do.”

Her comments bore echoes of comments that caused political trouble for the past two Republican presidential nominees. In the 2008 campaign, Senator John McCain said he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, owned. Four years later, Mitt Romney – a successful private equity investor – was criticised for making a $US10,000 wager during a debate and other wealth-related gaffes.

Shortly after portions of Mrs Clinton’s interview were previewed on ABC’s Good Morning America, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus tweeted: ”How out of touch is Hillary Clinton when ‘dead broke’ = mansions & massive speaking fees?”

America Rising, the leading Republican super PAC attacking Mrs Clinton in the run-up to the campaign, posted pictures of the Clintons’ “multimillion-dollar mansions” in Chappaqua, New York, and Washington on its website.

When the Clintons left the White House in 2001, they had accrued an enormous amount of legal debt, much of it owed to Mr Clinton’s attorneys during impeachment proceedings.

In 1999, the couple bought a house in Chappaqua to establish Mrs Clinton’s residency in New York before her 2000 Senate campaign. But they had so much debt that they needed a friend and campaign fund-raiser, Terry McAuliffe – now Governor of Virginia – to put down $US1.35 million as collateral on their $US1.7 million loan.

Soon enough, however, both Clintons cashed in. In December 2000, Mrs Clinton signed an $US8 million advance to publish her first memoir, Living History. Mr Clinton hit the paid speaking circuit and received a reported $US15 million advance for his memoir, My Life.

By 2004, according to federal financial disclosure forms, the Clintons had paid off their debts. During the 2008 campaign, the Clintons released tax returns showing they had earned $US109 million over eight years.

©2014 Washington Post | This article first appeared in the Washington Post on 11 June 2014.

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Australian Tax Office staff told they’re dressing too sexy

Noel Towell | The Age | 5 May 2014

Staff at the ATO have been told they're dressing too sexily.

Public servants at the Taxation Office have been told they are dressing too sexily for their jobs.

Bosses at Taxation have cracked down on the “revealing” or “immodest” outfits some of their officials were wearing to work, with a warning employees might be sent home to change clothes ruled too titillating for the office.

It is understood the nation’s top taxman, Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan, has personally ordered workers home from the ATO’s Sydney CBD building, telling them to come back in more appropriate attire.

The men of the ATO have not been spared the style offensive, told to smarten up or go home, with a specific warning that boardies are for the beach, not the office.

Likewise, a taxman in thongs will be considered an intolerable fashion faux pas under the new enforcement regime.

The smarten-up directives have been felt across a number of the ATO’s divisions around the country and have come as a culture shock for many of its public servants, who are unused to managers taking in interest in their workers’ appearance.

Insiders say the crackdown is another example of Mr Jordan’s growing influence as he tries to bring the culture of his former workplace, private sector accounting firm KPMG, to the 23,000 public servants of the ATO.

Taxation’s service delivery chief Robert Ravanello started rocking the new look two months ago, telling his officials to cover up or smarten up.

Mr Ravanello sent a memo to his workers, saying the there was too much bare flesh on display or too many street-casual looks around the service delivery offices and it was all cramping Taxation’s style.

“There are examples of service delivery employees dressing too casually or immodestly, therefore impacting on the perceptions of the professionalism of the ATO,” Mr Ravanello wrote to his staff.

“Our professionalism is displayed through our values and code of conduct, but also through our appearance and dress.

“Items of clothing such as thongs, board shorts or revealing attire, are just some examples of clothing that are considered to be too casual and therefore inappropriate for the ATO workplace.”

Managers at the tax practitioner and lodgment strategy business unit in Newcastle in New South Wales have recently had “discussions” with several workers, advising that if their appearance did not improve, they would be sent home.

At Taxation’s Latitude East building in Sydney’ CBD Mr Jordan is understood to have personally intervened, telling individual workers to go and get changed, although it is unclear whether it was board shorts, thongs or skimpy skirts that spurred the commissioner into action.

A spokeswoman for Mr Jordan would not comment.

“We won’t comment on rumours, but we do expect people to dress professionally,” she said. The spokeswoman confirmed that Taxation wanted its workers to use “good judgment” when getting dressed for work.

“Our appearance and dress should reflect our pride in the ATO and our respect for those we work and deal with, particularly the public.

“We expect staff to exercise good judgment on what is appropriate to wear and if they are unsure we encourage them to ask their manager.

“Information for staff on expectations around presentation at work can also be found on our internal website.”

© 2014 The Age | This article first appeared in The Age on 5 May 2014.

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How much does multiculturalism improve the Australian economy?

Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” And I believe that best sums up the spirit of the migrant. A bit of logic for good measure, but an imagination in the hope that life will be so much better in the new lands.

Multiculturalism has benefitted Australia dramatically and the facts speak for themselves.

According to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Australia’s post-war migration program.

Since 1945, more than seven million people have come to Australia as new settlers. Their arrival has had a marked influence on all aspects of our society.

Courage, perseverance and the will to do their best no matter what, defines a migrant well.

Like Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Migrants, by taking the plunge and having the courage to follow their hearts and intuition, has benefitted Australia significantly in the last 100 years with Australia being the ultimate winner.

Study the BRW Rich List of entrepreneurs, business leaders and other notables and you will discover that six in the top 10 are either first or second generation migrants.

Dig deeper in the list and you will find a similar pattern for the Top 200 – about 10% only come from established old money, the rest have created wealth by their imagination and by creating value for our community.

In May 2006, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission released a research report entitled Economic Impacts of Migration and Population Growth. The report found that migration has been an important influence on Australian society and the economy.

The impact and benefits of immigration Economic Immigration affects the demand side of Australia’s economy through:

  • Migrants’ own spending (food, housing and leisure activities).
  • Business expansion (investment to produce extra goods and services).
  • Expansion of government services (health, education and welfare). It also affects the supply side of the economy/
  • Labour, skills and money introduced into Australia.
  • New businesses developed by migrants.
  • Migrant contributions to technology.
  • Adding productive diversity through knowledge of international business markets.
  • New infrastructure projects that have created thousands of jobs for locals and new arrivals.

Social The make-up of Australia’s population has changed dramatically over the past 200 years, from an almost total Aboriginal population to (after 100 years of immigration) a predominantly Anglo-Celtic one by 1900, to its present mix of about 74% Anglo-Celtic, other European 19% and Asian 4.5%.

Some of the social effects of this change have been the introduction of more than 100 languages into Australian life (while retaining English as the common language), the growth of community language schools, ethnic media, businesses, new foods and diverse religious and cultural activities.

Finally, are there any negatives for Australia? Yes, there have been numerous, mostly undesirables being admitted who are incongruent with Australia’s ‘values’. That’s an important issue for politicians to work out, but overall the benefits for Australia as a whole have far outweighed the negatives and are obvious for all to see.

Jon Michail is CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. IGI supports people and their organisations to monetise their personal and corporate brands.

For more information visit:

© 2014 Business First Magazine | This article first appeared in Business First Magazine in May 2014.

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Australian Entrepreneurship in the Asian Century

Asia is booming and there has never been a better time for Australian entrepreneurs to capitalise on the opportunities in the region, writes Jon Michail.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently told an ASEAN business forum that “trade means jobs” and his latest visit to the region, that included attending Australian Week in China, proved to be a success for the simple reason that there is extraordinary scope for Australia and Asian countries in general to mutually benefit from growing relationships.

During the visit, Mr. Abbott and his political colleagues were joined by an unprecedented delegation of ministers, state premiers and heavy hitting billionaires James Packer, Kerry Stokes and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and more than 630 business people. They also toured Japan and South Korea; these two countries, plus China have a combined population of 1.5 billion, a GDP of $15 trillion and buy more than half of Australia’s exports. China is our biggest trading partner, followed by Japan and South Korea in fourth place. The opportunities exist not only in Asia but also in Australia; Australians by nature are world class in terms of aptitude and professionalism and are recognised as such in the region despite having an image of an informality.

Australian Entrepreneurship in the Asian Century

Although our entrepreneurial spirit can always get better, I believe we (entrepreneurs, government and NGOs) are all in an excellent position to leverage our formidable skills via services and products because of our location and better understanding of Asian cultures than European or American businesses. The Prime Minister recently echoed some of these sentiments when he said, “For Australia, the tyranny of distance has given way to the advantage of proximity.” Our overall appreciation of Asian cultures and multicultural diversity is already producing many great results – our experience the ground points to countless success stories, large and small, that have helped capitalise on this unprecedented growth.


The Asian economic strength has helped the Australian real estate market rebound mostly because of the influx of Chinese immigrants and their money coming into the country. That has been good news for developers, builders, estate agents, banks and others because it has among others things generated activity and created jobs. Other positive home grown stories include:

Ruslan Kogan: Founder and CEO of Kogan Technologies. Now 31, Kogan started eight years ago in his parents’ garage in Melbourne with little money, importing electrical goods from China rebranded to the Kogan brand. He is and now rated as one of Australia’s leading online retailers. According to BRW, Kogan is now valued at $315million, not bad for a kid from the suburbs.

Janine Allis: Founded Boost Juice in 2000 and now has a revenue of $200million plus. With 250 stores operating in 14 countries including Asia, the company’s future growth will come from expanding into the Asian region.

Carolyn Creswell: Founder of Carman’s Fine Foods who started a small business with $2000 and has now successfully launched it internationally. Carolyn knows the company’s future growth prospects will be fuelled by exporting across the region. Ms. Creswell won the 2013 Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award in recognition of her entrepreneurial efforts.

Alec Lynch: Founder of crowd-sourcing site, Design Crowd, also started in his parents’ living room and is currently expanding globally, first buying a US company in 2012 and then moving into Asia.

Matt Barrie: Founder of Freelancer, the popular crowd-sourcing site with over $50million revenue and 4.3million users where talk of a public listing is on the agenda.

Dr Sam Prince: 30 A medical doctor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He started the Mexican restaurant Zambrero Fresh Mex Grill at age 21 while he was at medical school, believing a market existed for healthy Mexican food. By 2009 there were 17 stores in Australia and the company had generated more than $13.7 million in revenue. Soon afterwards, Prince set up the Emagine Foundation, through which he’s built 15 schools in Sri Lanka and Vietnam and plans 100 more in the Asia-Pacific region by 2014. Prince is also chairman and founder of One Disease at a Time, set up in 2010 to work on eradicating scabies, a disease rife among Indigenous communities. His prodigious achievements saw him named as the 2012 Young Australian of the Year for the Australian Capital Territory. Prince is an entrepreneur with a social conscience and much heart. “Sam Prince does the work of 100 men, improving the lives of thousands through his innovative medical, business and aid projects,” stated GQ in naming him the 2011 Man of Chivalry in its annual Men of the Year list.

George Calombaris: As a judge on MasterChef Australia, George Calombaris has become one of the world’s best-known television chefs, with an audience numbering in the millions. His personal brand influence has added much to his fortunes and helped to re-ignite an industry that at times is difficult to succeed in. MasterChef Australia, which heads into its sixth season in 2014, is seen in approximately 50 countries worldwide, including Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Opportunities exist in numerous ways including sport The 2015 Asian Cup – now just a year away – not only offers a unique opportunity to engage neighbouring nations in a world-class festival of football, it could help Australia take a footing in the Asian Century itself. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in January 2015 will be the largest football event ever hosted on Australian shores. Staging a marquee event for the 47 nations of the Confederation comes at a time when there is growing recognition of the potential to leverage football, and Australia’s membership of the AFC, to broaden and strengthen engagement in a region vital to Australia’s future prosperity.

Asia’s extraordinary ascent, which has already changed the Australian economy, society and strategic environment, will continue to drive transformations and deliver opportunities for growth throughout the ‘Asian Century’. Leveraging the appeal of the world’s most popular sport to tap into Asian growth markets has already been put into practice. In 2011, for example, Australian footballer Joel Griffiths, then a star player in the Chinese domestic league, helped draw a crowd to a business breakfast in Beijing to facilitate trade engagement.

The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) has also staged trade promotion and business-networking events for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and will do so again at the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 2015 AFC Asian Cup Local Organising Committee says that hosting Asia’s largest sporting event and festival of football brings a raft of exciting opportunities, as well as responsibilities. With a potential television reach of 2.5 billion people, they are acutely conscious of the stage for both national and destination image building that they have taken carriage of. The evidence points to Australia being the ideal location and the timing is right to capitalise on the boom of our Asian neighbours.

© 2014 Business First Magazine | This article first appeared in Business First Magazine in May 2014.

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Building your personal brand in the Asian market

Most sustainable relationships between Australia and Asia are primarily based on interactions and associations. Therefore it is important to have a credible personal brand for instant impact writes Jon Michail. 

There are three components in building a credible personal brand. These are:

  1. Credibility
  2. Dependability
  3. Trustworthiness.

Which in turn will deliver you:

  • Relationships
  • Respect
  • Prosperity

To build your brand, you have to create a system that works for you. While talent will get you so far, this is only one aspect of success. The most important component of success is the practical systems you build. No matter how disruptive certain systems seem, they are the key to your growth.

Every- one from Richard Branson and Steve Jobs to Lady Gaga created a system that tended to their business growth and brand. They had/have talent, that goes without saying, but they also had a successful system that leveraged their talents by creating personal brand value beyond what the average business leader or entrepreneur is able to create. When considering your systems and brand in Asian countries, the fundamentals are the same, however you have to consider how the brand translates, i.e. names, colours, taglines, styles and cultural nuances that may offend. You must decide who you want to target and how your brand reflects the market or individual that you want to influence, and then adjust to suit.

We touched on behaviours in the last issue. In this issue, I want to look at how to maintain your brand. Put simply, there are two ways you need to look at your brand:

  1. Offline – visit your market regularly (face to face preferably) and have your people on the ground do the same.
  2. Online – Create an online platform to regularly communicate with your stakeholders.

Let’s look at your team on the ground. It is important for them to understand that business throughout Asia is not always conducted in the same manner. Doing business in Singapore is different to doing business in Indonesia or China. Therefore your team must understand the culture. Recruit a team you can trust, people that also intimately know the culture, language and how business is really conducted there.

Any entrepreneur or business leader with hands on experience will give you real world insights if they are honest with you. Get really picky in finding your team; it can take time but in the long run will give back awesome returns. A good team will ensure that to the best of their ability, the brand will survive and thrive.

However as every leader knows, circumstances can conspire to hurt the business. If the brand goes wrong, it’s time to enter into the crisis management phase. It’s time to take a deep breath and contain your losses. You must have a strategy in place before the event. Having a plan in preparedness makes good business sense. Once you have set your crisis management plan in place, you can then work to re-position nearly anything if it falls into the parameters of your well thought out plan or system.

No matter whether you are a big or small organisation, you will face similar disruptions particularly in overseas markets. Some industries may find it harder to recover. The food industry is one that has to perform major repairs to its brand when something goes wrong. Remember the milk substitution racket in China. That cost to manufacturers financially and in reputation was disastrous; the cost of human lives was tragic. That’s a disaster that any respectable brand or leader should ever let happen. To mitigate these disasters, your brand values must be congruent with what you claim to be. In the example above it’s clear that these manufacturers did not follow their own mantra – they destroyed trust in the brand through unethical behaviours.

Brand Building – personal or corporate – is not a strategy for short-term profits, it’s a well thought out plan or system with steps in place that need to be followed to maximise brand value for the longer term. Your personal brand is a reflection of your leadership. Trust is one of the most important character traits missing today from our communities. From business leaders to politicians to your local church, people are suspicious of what they are being told as they have been let down too often. Your personal leadership brand is the ultimate tool to build business because you:

  • Understand yourself better
  • Increase your confidence
  • Increase your visibility and presence
  • Be the go to person in your industry, attract investors, media and powerful connections
  • Differentiate yourself from your peers
  • Increase your compensation
  • Thrive during downturns in the economy


So when looking at the Asian markets, it’s important to remember the following:

  1. Be clear on your values and what you stand for (and what you will not stand for).
  2. Know your target market and position your brand accordingly.
  3. Decide what you need to do for impact.
  4. Plan how you will reach them effectively.
  5. Back your team / representativeness to be congruent with your personal brand. They must be a reflection of what you represent when you are there physically or not. Remember everyone must speak the same ‘language’… in their own voice; create congruency along all the brand communications channels.

“Set a standard for excellence, with- out distinction there is extinction.”

Jon is the CEO of Image Group International and has been working with Asian businesses for over 20 years.

© 2014 Business First Magazine | This article first appeared in Business First Magazine in March 2014.

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Image in the Asian Century

Australian entrepreneurship in the Asian Century will open up many opportunities. Historically, there has never been a better time to engage Asia writes Jon Michail.

Understanding culture and image plays an integral part in conducting business in different Asian countries, but you should never assume that doing business in these countries is the same in each region. China is different from Thailand and even more so than India. And dependent on what business you are in, there are also large differences you can’t ignore. For instance, large businesses and government will engage differently from SMEs or non-profits.

The one thing that does unite the Asian region and that Australian businesses should be aware of is that businesses in these regions are very entrepreneurial and hungry to do a deal. They are highly competitive, ambitious and engaging. Yet, there are several different elements we must understand about the different cultures. Singapore is regarded as clean and above board with very professional and Western processes in play. Indonesia on the other hand can be quite duplicitous – have you ever been ripped off changing Australian currency at an exchange in Bali? That’s a good indicator of the business culture that exists there starting from a very low base.

Duplicity is common in Asia in general from politics to business. Yet Indonesia is becoming one of our most important allies, which means we must be respectful of their practices and understand how to deal with them. China is vast and booming, but there are so many aspects in play across a broad range of industries that it is difficult to keep up with their processes.

One of the most important things to remember is that image is vitally important. In Chinese culture a solid gold Rolex at times speaks much louder than the colour of your money. I have launched several eclectic businesses in China on and off for over 20 years. The most important lesson I have discovered is to pick the right partners. For instance during my involvement in China as an importer, business was conducted in a fairly straightforward manner; you buy their goods, haggle, pay their price and wait for delivery.

There were the typical importing problems including quality control, products delivered that were different from sample and under delivering. These are common problems, but can be negated by choosing the right sources. In recent times I have been exporting our services. This is a much more difficult practice as the Chinese do not like to pay for services if they perceive they can get those services for nothing. This is where a good partner will make a difference in building your business by positioning and selling the value of your proposition – especially if it’s a new concept. This is also where image comes into play. Asia and China in general are very image conscious. You can’t afford to openly offend your hosts. There will be severe consequences if you do. For instance one client I have was invited to dinner.

Now there are certain foods that don’t naturally appeal and you don’t have to eat them, although sometimes it doesn’t hurt to go with the flow. However if you are to decline you must do this in a very sensitive manner. If you are too rigid in your approach then you offend the host. My client has a strong personality and failed to realise there was a sense of etiquette involved. She insulted the cuisine, dressed too casually for the meeting and missed her opportunity. She noted to me that her host contacted others in the company and politely mentioned if they could send someone else.

There are other etiquette-based protocols including the consumption of alcohol and invitations to clubs, where sometimes it is import- ant to attend. However, if you must decline, do it politely and with respect. Some academics or government leaders may try to underplay these differences in culture, image and etiquette, however in my experience every Australian business planning to enter the Asian market must observe these protocols. Unfortunately, my client who is a renowned businesswoman in Australia did not understand the hierarchies in play and the nuances that she should for someone in her position. She failed to make the right first impression.

To understand the image and culture you are dealing with, you must again find an able and willing partner. Keeping with China, your partner must speak Chinese and side with you when in discussions. However, it’s not uncommon to have a duplicitous translator, agent or associate, therefore always be aware that all may not be what it seems. Always remember Asia is not Australia. You can negate some of these problems by displaying strength, excellent branding, maturity, respect and an association with wealth. These will be seen to be in your favour.

The ultimate respect is doing business yourself: don’t send a young kid to do the job of the senior executive. Maturity in personality and age are big advantages. Social awareness is an imperative. Understanding the protocols and etiquette of your hosts is paramount even if you are the buyer. For a long time to come the Asian region will offer the world business opportunities that will create extraordinary wealth for the disciplined and well-planned. To take advantage of this be professional, well researched and always look the part even if your host doesn’t. You will be judged constantly, even if the relationship ‘feels’ perfect.

Top 5 Best Practices


  1. 1Relationships are essential – elitism is rife – getting introduced by the ‘right’ contacts makes a huge difference.
  2. Don’t embarrass your hosts. A direct no is rare – when they say YES it doesn’t always mean yes. Don’t criticise your host – remember the concept of saving face.
  3. Be patient – build trust. Negotiate win-win and aim for a resolution via compromise.
  4. Always include extra fees in your budgets – your commissions, introductions or favours – remember this is common practice and not regarded as bribery or corruption as it maybe in the west – however be clear of all the ‘rules of the game’ and Australian laws.
  5. Understand the protocols and etiquette – including after hours – as much business networking is conducted then.


  1. Don’t expect business to be conducted similarly to your country. “When in Rome do as the Romans.”
  2. Don’t rush the relationship – don’t expect a deal to happen from one or two meetings.
  3. Don’t ask direct family questions unless they have volunteered them.
  4. Don’t turn down refreshments during a meeting – go with the flow.
  5. Don’t expect them to be your friend – they are some of the world’s best negotiators therefore be clear of your end game before your start.

© 2014 Business First Magazine | This article first appeared in Business First Magazine in December 2014.

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