Before Seek was a household name, the go-to platform for job seeking and one of Australia’s biggest start-up success stories, it was a couple of guys around a table scheming about how to make it happen. Co-founder Matt Rockman told StartupSmart there were some tough moments he didn’t think it was going to work, but the scariest period was in the first few years as they clambered their way towards profitability. “The scariest bit for every start-up is that couple of weeks, months or years of wondering if the revenues come. I definitely had days where I thought maybe we wouldn’t get there,” Rockman says. “You spend a long period of time biting your nails waiting for the market to pay you for the value of your service, and that was years not months.” As a marketplace model business, the Seek team had focused on building up users and customers on both sides of the offering. But leveraging their user base into viable revenue streams was proving to be challenging. Rockman says they were focusing on converting free trial ads from recruiters and corporates into paid ones to create the habit and the relationship between their two user groups. “We were a total afterthought for our first clients, a completely marginal business. They had such a long habit and strong relationship with newspaper advertising. They didn’t get us, weren’t sure it was going to work. You’d go knocking on doors saying ‘Hi I’m Matt Rockman from Seek’ and they’d say ‘yeah cool, what’s a Seek?’.” He adds it was especially stressful as locking in consistent revenue streams is how founders know they have a business, and they were grappling with huge competitors. “Our biggest risk was taking on News Limited and Fairfax. They could’ve and should’ve squashed us. But you can’t really be in two places at once, and they were still print rather than digital,” Rockman says. “And credit where credit is due, we were obsessed.” According to Rockman, keeping your paranoia about competitors in check is a skill founders need to learn fast and never forget. He adds Seek now is probably as paranoid about LinkedIn and Google as the original team was about the major news media groups who used to dominate classifieds. “You don’t want to be looking backwards not forwards because you’ll run into walls. But you don’t want to be so full of confidence or arrogance that you feel like the challenge is over when it’s not. Always play as number two in the game, because if you play as number one for too long, guess what?” Rockman says. The other fundamental skill start-ups need to make it through the early terrifying days is the ability to maintain their confidence, tempered with a strong sense of reality. “You’ve got to careful, there is a lot of confidence and blind enthusiasm that is good, but there is a level of confidence, arrogance and hubris that is not good. You’ve got to get the balance right,” Rockman says. While the newspaper groups’ monopoly on classifieds was one of the early casualties of the internet, Rockman says there are still plenty of industries ready for a shake up by tech-enabled start-ups who are up for the hard work. “This internet thing was a very powerful disrupting force then, as it is in many other market segments today,” Rockman says. “Was making Seek work a smooth-sailing, risk free, easy ride? No way. Were the tough parts worth it? Absolutely.” This is the fifth instalment in our week-long Start-ups are Scary series, which included the toughest and most terrifying moments of younger, successful companies 99designs, Canva, Thank You Water and Vinomofo. We will be continuing the Start-ups are Scary stories as a weekly series. If your start-up has survived a difficult period, please get in touch so we can celebrate and share your story with the wider start-up community: rpowell at startupsmart dot com dot au
LinkedIn is way more than just your online resume and Rolodex. LinkedIn is now a go-to source of business news, a content publishing platform and a contact relationship manager (CRM). Find out why LinkedIn is the best social media platform for start-ups, hands-down. If you’re undecided, check out these six reasons to get on-board straightaway! 1. LinkedIn is your auto-updating Rolodex Back before LinkedIn we’d all keep a Rolodex or maybe an online database of contacts, but if that person changed jobs or businesses, we’d lose contact when their details changed. Nowadays, LinkedIn means we don’t need to worry about losing contact with people or losing their business cards. 2. Now it’s your free CRM Since the recent rollout of ‘contacts’ functionality, you can now tag contacts, add notes and reminders, and record how you met them. That is a huge improvement in how we can manage our ever-growing network of business contacts. Note: you can install this new functionality on your LinkedIn for free, but it doesn’t happen automatically. You’ll be prompted to install it when you login, and it takes a few minutes to process all your contacts into this new format. The invite to install it does look like a banner ad, so keep an eye out for it and don’t accidentally ignore it! 3. It’s the place for business news LinkedIn is fast becoming the go-to place for business news. You can read unique articles written by a wide range ‘influencers’ and well-known business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington. In addition, it also has the LinkedIn Today feature where they publish popular content from all around the web. 4. LinkedIn is your free content-sharing platform It is now as easy as ever to share your content with your entire professional network. You can also submit your best articles to LinkedIn Today and if they decide to publish your work, you’ll be exposed to thousands more readers. And publishing your articles to LinkedIn Groups is the perfect way to introduce your content to new readers, and engage with them. 5. You can connect with fellow professionals My colleague Selina Power got me thinking about better ways to use LinkedIn in her recent podcast. Until my subsequent discussions with Selina, I’d been quite closed in my approach as to who I accept as a ‘connection’ on LinkedIn. My reluctance to accept people that I did not know personally lay in the fact that it may be seen an as endorsement of that person, when in reality I didn’t know any more about these people than what they say in their bio. I was initially sceptical about connecting, but since LinkedIn is becoming much more of a content publishing platform, it makes sense to broaden my network, so more people can read and interact with my content. After all, we are marketing a business, and this is the perfect content marketing tool. My rule of thumb now is to accept people if they have written a personalised request. 6. LinkedIn is improving everyday LinkedIn continues to get better and I’m sure there are many exciting improvements in the pipeline. I still wish that LinkedIn had the ‘follow’ functionality for individuals like it does for Company Pages, because it would allow for people who you don’t know to still opt-in to receive your content. That way it would still mean you could limit your connections to people you actually know but share your content far and wide. Maybe that will be next. To help your LinkedIn marketing you may also like to download the LinkedIn 5-Minute Daily Marketing Plan – there’s a version for beginner, intermediate and advanced.
More and more businesses rely on social media to advertise their products and services. Many now use their employees to promote their businesses through their blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn and on Facebook. The pluses to this are great as it is essentially free advertising, having employees engage on another level with clients and to have employees more actively and directly involved in the promotion of the business. But beware: there are risks that go with the benefits. 1. Plus: Social Media can be inexpensive effective advertising Employees are good ambassadors for promoting your business. They can give your business both personality and a human face. Businesses have been using employees more and more as a means of promoting and advertising their products. They primarily do this through their personal social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It has proven to have some great success and the benefits can be enormous. But you need to be aware of the potential problems with this. 2. Minus: Impact of social media personal accounts For the benefits that businesses are seeing with their employees promoting the company through their social media accounts and interacting with clients, there are also potential negatives: Time wasted on social media for non-work, non-productive activity Inappropriate use of social media for personal negative comments such as defamation, harassment, etc causing reputational impact as well as other legal implications for the company. Management of social media risks is becoming an increasingly critical area to maintain control over the numerous consequences that arise from the unrestricted and undefined use of social media by employees. But this is not the only major consideration that businesses have to deal with. It can get worse. 3. Problem: What happens when the employee leaves? What do you do if your employee who is leaving your company has LinkedIn, Twitter and other personal social media accounts which they use to communicate with clients? Who actually owns the account and the correspondence on the employee’s personal social media account? These social media accounts often contain business information and client contacts. This is an increasing area of litigation with it being more difficult as the regulations have not yet caught up. In addition, there has been very little to no judicial commentary in Australia regarding the ownership of social media accounts. There has always been clear law that client lists belong to employers when their employees leave the company but there is no clear direction of precedent cases either in Australia or other countries to follow. It is now clearly under the microscope, with companies attempting to terminate employees for inappropriate comments about the company on social media but there has been no clear direction as yet and each has been determined on a case-by-case basis involving other external factors which sets no clear guidelines. So how can businesses minimize their risk? Here is what businesses can do: Ensure you have a social media policy for work. Otherwise it’s difficult to show its use at work/during work hours (even excessive) as grounds for dismissal. The social media policy should define the scope of “acceptable use” and ownership of content. This means employers specify that any social media used during hours of or in the course of employment is owned by the employer and indicate that social media accounts are given up or terminated when the employee leaves the business. Ensure all your employees are aware of company policy in relation to social media and that they are enforced within the company. And keep up with the latest developments - they, like social media, are a moving feast!
Social networking giant Twitter has filed papers with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission ahead of an IPO in which it seeks to raise $US1 billion. The company revealed that it had 218 million users as of June 30, compared to around 1.2 billion for Facebook and 240 million for LinkedIn. Twitter also revealed it lost $US69.3 million during the first half of 2013, compared to a $US49.1 million loss for the same time last year, but revenues grew to $US254 million from $US122 million. Turnbull names Switkowski as new NBN chairman Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named former Telstra and Optus chief executive Ziggy Switkowski as the chairman of NBN Co. The German-born nuclear physicist replaces current NBN chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, while also temporarily replacing Mike Quigley as chief executive until a full-time replacement is appointed. “In appointing Dr Switkowski to the board as chairman, we're appointing one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia ... someone who's been the CEO of not just Telstra but Optus as well, a very distinguished company director and chairman," Turnbull says. Retailers renew calls for GST threshold cut as online shopping figures are released The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing consumers spent more than $7.6 billion on online retailers on purchases below the $1000 GST threshold, prompting calls to remove the low-value threshold. Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says the higher than expected sales point to an uneven playing field in the sector between local retailers and overseas-based online retailers. “The concern isn't that people are spending money online – either locally or overseas. The concern is that it's not a level-playing field,” Zimmerman says. “We believe that the firm of online [shopping] generally will grow, and as that figure grows, there will be a bigger loss of income to the states and territories if they don't do something about the low-value threshold.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down .9% to 14996.48. The Aussie dollar is at US93.96 cents.
Six finalists, including a couple of start-ups, have been announced as finalists in the 2013 Australian Mobile Awards competition. The finalists were selected from over 200 projects, based on scores achieved from industry review and crowdsourced scores. Awards director Mark Bergin told StartupSmart the two-tier scoring system allowed them to stay ahead of the curve with design trends and in touch with the market. “The finalists are decided from both what the industry and the marketplace is looking for. Rather than having a grand jury of judges and making all the decisions, we open it up to voting. This way we get a much broader perspective but also divide the results up to understand the difference between what the industry and marketplace think are best,” Bergin says. The finalists include a range of companies such as Milipede Creative Development, Oneflare, Nomad, Evolution 7, Falinc and Willow Ware Australia Pty Ltd. Bergin says while the apps cover a range of topics, those that are the most user-focused and human perform better. “Generally the projects that do extraordinarily well have one attribute ahead of their contemporaries, excel at being people-focused and making people’s lives better,” Bergin says. “Mobile apps are very close to your personal space, and in many ways you may have more reliance on key apps than your closest friends. You rely on them to get your through life.” Bergin recently returned from the London Design Festival and says next year they will be offering a category exclusively for start-ups. “They’ve all been on the same playing field this year but next year we’ll be looking at making an emerging organisation category. We’re not going to have someone with less than a million downloads and less than $5 million in turnover up against something like LinkedIn or Spotify,” Bergin says. Bergin says they’re exploring how to celebrate app ideas that are still in development or beta testing. The winners will be announced in two weeks at the awards ceremony in Sydney. Bergin says the awards are about celebrating new ideas and the courage to experiment. “We’ve avoided a prize pool style competition because this is about celebrating the courage of everyone who has been involved in proposing their projects and seeing them rated by their industry,” Bergin says.
Australian start-ups are increasingly attractive to international investors as the technology and start-up sector evolves, especially if they’re leveraging their geographical location and have solid plans to go global, says internationally renowned venture capital investor Bill Tai. Tai is in Australia as part of the OzAPP roadshow, giving a series of talks about big data and entrepreneurialism around the country. He told StartupSmart it mattered less and less where tech start-ups were based. “In the past, it wasn’t really viable to have start-ups that were competitive with those in the USA because the kind of start-ups that are happening generally speaking today are different,” Tai says. The first few overlapping waves of start-ups (from the late 70s to the early 90s, and the late 80s the late 90s) usually required more than $50 million in start-up funding and required larger teams of specialised skills. “These waves laid the foundation for the kind of start-ups that are possible now, because now everything start-up is essentially a user interface (UI) for data from the cloud. So LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, they’re just UIs. And you can start UI companies anywhere,” Tai says. “So now the big question is can you scale it into a big company or not.” Two of Tai’s Australian investments have been design software Canva and customisable online fashion site Shoes of Prey. Tai says both jumped out as unique, well-timed ideas with global potential. “Because the market here is small, the start-up companies that succeed will have to be players in the broader English language markets,” he says. “Shoes of Prey was amazing because the people were fantastic and had a good heritage as they had been very successful at what they had done in the past and had a very unique business model at the time and proof that they could execute because they had already developed revenue without any venture money,” Tai says, adding Shoes of Prey had a competitive advantage over US-based start-ups with similar ideas given Australia’s proximity to China. “Shoes of Prey is in a geographic position to leverage heavy manufacturing assets in China on the same timezone. If you tried to execute the same business in the USA, and had your team having to work in the middle of night, it’s just not workable so they had a natural competitive advantage,” Tai says. Tai says his questions for Shoes of Prey before signing the cheque were about how much venture capital they would need to scale to a point where they would become self-sufficient. Tai says both Shoes of Prey and Canva stood out because both founder teams had business experience. “I’ve funded many, many extraordinarily smart entrepreneurs in the United States with basically valuable outcomes that have never made a penny before, but these two had built a business and knew what it meant,” Tai says. He adds the educational system, well developed gross domestic product, a high standard of living, and mobile phone penetration means Australia is a good test market for software and tech start-ups. “There is proof you can scale companies from Australia, such as Atlassian, which is a world-class leader in its space but started here,” Tai says. “Now we’re in a world where if the cloud infrastructure really becomes commoditised, then it really is possible for Australian start-ups.” Given the need for Australian start-ups to go global from day one, Tai says aspiring founders should stop wasting their time not going for big markets. “It takes the same amount of time to build an app for five family members as it does to build one that will serve a billion people,” Tai says. “Because if it works you’ll have a shot at a really big outcome rather than a huge success in a small market, so I’d encourage Australian start-ups to think big.”
99interns, an online platform to enable easier access for interns and start-ups, has launched this week in Sydney. The five co-founders – Yvonne Lee, Sarah Maloof, Dave Michayluk, Alex Rahr and Javier Temponi – all enrolled in the most recent program of the Sydney chapter of international accelerator program The Founder Institute with their own start-up ideas. Lee, who started the program with an online classifieds platform idea, told StartupSmart they combined forces to focus on an intern connection platform as they each struggled to locate good interns to help them launch their idea. “We found we wanted interns to help us with our start-up, and as we spoke to more new companies we realised it wasn’t just us. When we started interviewing interns, we realised they were keen to get involved but there was no easy way to connect,” Lee says. “It’s very frustrating to look at the job ads that all say needs experience, and this will also help the start-up community.” Connecting start-ups to interns is an increasingly popular idea at the moment, with the launch of the Tin Alley program in Melbourne and universities increasingly creating direct connections for students with start-ups. Lee describes the brand name as a nod to successful Australian design marketplace start-up 99designs, and says they’ve spoken with the team there who weren’t concerned, but the name is still subject to change. The platform is currently a newsletter that goes out to 250 students who are keen to intern. The students apply to 99interns, who sort out applications and forward them to a small but growing group of start-ups. “With start-ups we’re going a bit slower because we don’t want a deluge of requests without enough interns,” Lee says, adding the start-ups involved in this beta round have come from their own networks. The 99interns team will be developing the platform and automating this process, as well as reaching out to universities in the next few months. “We’re going to build up the user base and the product,” Lee says. “We’re going to create an intern program that start-ups can just plug in so we know the interns are getting a good experience.” Interns graduating from the program will receive badges they can display on their LinkedIn profile. Lee adds while they’re still exploring business models, the fees for the platform will be paid by the start-ups.
Lessons from the catwalk: Models in skyscraper heels on New York Fashion Week runways may seem a far cry from running a boots-on-the-ground business in Australia, but there is a big lesson to learn from how the world’s best style-setters use social media. Writing for inc.com, Stephanie Meyers unearths six of the best tricks they use to keep their fans, far and wide, captivated on their every move. Embrace rejection and five other business lessons: Columnist and New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs writes on LinkedIn that some of the best things we can learn and do for our businesses can be inspired from the most unlikely places and figures from history. Soap in a pump, who thought of that? The man’s name was Robert R. Taylor, and his simple idea revolutionised people’s behaviour across the world. He was also behind Calvin Klein’s famous fragrance, Obsession, and the ground-breaking advertising style that promoted it. The New York Times reports that he died this week aged 77, but his entrepreneurial spirit has certainly left a mark. Forget the four-hour work week, 72 is the new norm: Most people respect and admire Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour work week for encouraging businesspeople to work smarter, not harder. But Jennifer J. Deal writes for Harvard Business Review Blog Network that, in the US, some professionals are connected to work 72 hours a week. Demands by the boss to have meetings at 9pm on Friday night or be responsive to communication on weekends are key to this. As a business owner, where do you draw the line?
Entrepreneurs can grow faster and better with more than one mentor, according to Jon Bebo, a management consultant and international start-up mentor. Bebo told StartupSmart entrepreneurs need to seek a variety of mentors suited to their needs and the stage of their business. “It often takes a village to get a company off the ground,” he says. “The type of support the entrepreneur should seek will depend on what stage they’re at in the cycle. At the very start, entrepreneurs might seek mentors that can help with product-market fit or how best to tell their story in a pitch. “Later on, mentors with greater specific domain expertise come into play, depending on the challenges the entrepreneur is facing at the time.” Bebo coordinated a “Mentor Relay” via telecast from Silicon Valley at the Melbourne Launch48 start-up event over the weekend. “All start-up ideas change as the company develops, but by holding this interaction early in the weekend, Launch 48 makes sure they get maximum impact from their mentors,” says Bebo, who adds early stage mentoring and feedback is key. Join the community to connect to possible mentors Taking part in start-up weekends, incubators and co-working spaces is the easiest way to meet a variety of possible mentors, Bebo says. “In terms of finding a mentor, the best way is to join in. All put you in the right environment to meet a whole variety of potential mentors and people who can support your project.” Put the work in to connect with the right mentor Bebo says it pays to do your homework before approaching possible mentors. “It takes five minutes to look at a mentor’s LinkedIn profile so you can explain in your introductory email why you want to talk to that person. Sometimes, it helps to ask for help on a specific question first and then see if the relationship develops naturally into a mentoring one.” Remember your mentor is human too “Don’t expect a mentor to necessarily have all the answers, or to be right. Remember that you will have spent days and weeks thinking through your idea, so the mentor won’t necessarily grasp the details as well as you do,” Bebo says. “Ultimately, launching a start-up is about testing your assumptions as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and mentors can be invaluable in doing that.”
Content marketing is being hailed as the holy grail for marketers and start-ups everywhere. But what we often overlook is that it’s hard work and time-consuming, so it’s easy to see why time-poor entrepreneurs simply don’t get around to it. That’s why there’s an easier way to reap the benefits of content marketing without needing to do all the grunt work yourself. Here are six tips: 1. YouTube interview Too busy to dream up your own content? One of the oldest tricks in the book, and still one of the best, is to interview someone. Some people use this technique to build entire careers and they never have to create their own content! If you’re in person, use your smartphone to record it – there’s no technology excuses anymore. If you’re not in the same location, you can use Skype for free and Skype Call Recorder for $20 to record it. Then use a low-cost online service like Elance or Fiverr and get someone to convert it to a YouTube video. Or use iMovie if you want to do it yourself. 2. Use the audio version as a podcast You can also just take an audio version of your interview and embed it on your website as a podcast for people to listen to. 3. Get a transcription for your blog Take the YouTube URL of the interview and use a tool called Speechpad to transcribe it for you. From $1 per minute of audio, this sure beats hitting play and rewind and typing it all up yourself. You can spend that time running your business or lining up the next interview. 4. Take a handful of transcriptions and turn it into an eBook You’ve already got all the content you need to release an eBook and you don’t need to pick up a pen (or open your laptop). Compile four or so video interview transcripts and shoot it off to your designer on Elance or Odesk to whip it into a PDF eBook. Some of the bestselling books of all time are just interviews. This format means you’re the author, but your guests have provided all the content – perfect for us time-poor entrepreneurs! 5. Email the top five insights to your subscribers You wouldn’t usually send 40 pages of content via an email but why not send the ‘eBook highlights’ via email and attach the entire eBook for people who want to read the whole thing? 6. Do the final 1% of sharing it around My final tip is to remember that the “easy wins” occur after you hit publish (which is when most people think their job is done). It takes minimal extra effort to post your content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram once it’s live. And the biggest goldmine of all is LinkedIn groups. Share your valuable content in the appropriate LinkedIn groups you’re a member of and interact with the readers who are kind enough to leave a comment. It’s no secret that it’s hard work running a business and hard to do good content marketing, but leverage your time and use these tips and it gets easier. Feel free to download this free editorial calendar template to help keep yourself on track too!
One of the biggest challenges small businesses face with social media is finding the time to actually using it. Most businesses never get around to developing a full social media strategy, opting to use just one platform (usually Facebook) or none at all. Last week’s release of the annual Sensis Social Media Report revealed that just 30% of small businesses have a social media presence. Of this group, 88% are using Facebook. (For a detailed review into how SMEs are using social media based on this research, read this article published on StartupSmart last week.) With 95% of Australian social media users on Facebook, it’s a no-brainer that your business should have a presence here. It’s not even a nice-to-have anymore; it’s a huge opportunity missed if you don’t have a Facebook Page, especially if your business does B2C selling. But there’s so much more to the social media landscape than just Facebook. The following table taken from the report shows the breakdown of social media sites used in Australia by gender and age. Quite often, Twitter is seen as the next priority channel after Facebook. But with 20% of all social media users on LinkedIn, this channel is clearly overlooked. All businesses – small and large – should be set-up on LinkedIn with a Company Page. A Company Page allows you to post updates on behalf of the business, raise awareness of your brand, develop a follower community and showcase your products and services. For an added cost, you can also set up a Careers Tab on your Company Page for recruitment purposes. OK, so I’ve said that pretty much all businesses should have a Facebook Page and a LinkedIn Company Page. Now, what else? This really depends on your target market. Instagram: This photo-sharing platform is hugely popular with 16% of all social media users uploading and adding filters to their photos of food, sunrises and selfies. The site is most popular with the under 30s, with a whopping 41% of 14-19 year olds using it. If this is your target market and your business has a visual element (think fashion, food and travel), then Instagram should definitely be considered a part of your social media marketing mix. Twitter: 15% of social media users are on Twitter, with more males (19%) than females (12%). The site is popular across a broad demographic between 20 and 64 year olds. However, the most popular age group is 40-49. Twitter is definitely worth considering for a wider range of target markets, especially males in their forties. Given the short life of a tweet, it’s only worth pursuing if you have lots of regular content to share. Google+: With 15% of all social media users claiming to be on Google+ it’s certainly not a social media network to sneeze at. However, with it’s largest demographic being the over 65 group (32%), I have to wonder whether our seniors had confused Google+ with the Google search engine. According to the report, this channel is not worth pursing if your target market is under 30 years old, though it has a respectable 18% of social media users in its community between the ages of 30-49. Pinterest: Last year’s social media superstar Pinterest has the lowest numbers with an average of 7% of social media users pinning. However, these numbers have been rapidly growing since the site first launched in 2010 and is largely dominated by the fairer sex (11% of females to just 1% males). If your business has anything to do with weddings (think flowers, bonbonniere, decorations, etc), fashion or home décor, then Pinterest is a must for you. What’s great about this insight is if you know your target market well, you are able to start building a strategy based on their social media habits and behaviour. What social media channels do you use for your business?
Any person working on a business while employed by another company must be extremely careful while working on their idea or risk potentially devastating financial consequences, one legal expert warns, following a recent unfair dismissal decision. The Fair Work Commission found drain and sewage technology company Pipe Hunter unfairly dismissed two employees who had registered a company name, with the owner arguing the pair were preparing to open a competing business. The case represents a common issue for employers – staff leaving a company having been so well-trained that they open a competitor and perform extremely well. The owner of Pipe Hunter, Nat Dunn, was contacted by SmartCompany this morning but declined to comment. The Fair Work Commission heard both Daniel Mahoney and Anthony Russell were terminated on September 12th, 2012. The company alleged the applicants – based on the act of the pair registering a company name – were planning to open a competing business. But the Commission ruled there was no valid reason for the termination, saying there was no proof the pair had “deliberately set out to undermine the business”, or even entice existing clients of Pipe Hunter. Both men were awarded 16 weeks’ pay as compensation. M + K Lawyers principal Andrew Douglas says this is a common issue, with many entrepreneurs opting to start on a new business “on the side” while working for another employer. Douglas says there are certain rules about what can or cannot be done. “Workers owe a duty to their employer, and that includes dedicating 100% of their time to the work they do, and they shouldn’t do anything which would be in conflict with that.” “The employer in this case alleges the employees were going to usurp the business prior to the end of employment. In contractual law that would be a breach of duty.” However, Douglas points out the pair had only registered a company name, and on their own time. “Therefore, there was no valid reason [for termination],” he says. “Even if the company was right, it still would have lost the case because there was no procedural fairness,” he says. If the pair had spent company time or assets registering that company name, it would be a different story, Douglas says. “If an employee utilises business assets to compete against an employer, that is a breach of good faith,” he says. He points out using assets including computers and even phones to form a company while working at another employer can be enough to constitute a breach of good faith. “I’ve seen spreadsheets for companies made on Excel while at the previous employer, cases have brought up hundreds of emails, changes to LinkedIn profiles, and a whole range of behaviour that occurs during work time.” “These assets are usually designated for private use, which would be something like telling your wife you’re going to be home late.” There is also a financial risk to consider. Douglas says if a business finds out employees have been working on a business using company assets – even when the new business has been established – it can demand to see an account of profits. “That account would be the gross profit from the work undertaken as a result of working on that company. That’s the killer, and it will be a big disadvantage to the new company.”
So you have your website, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account… but do you have a LinkedIn account? And if you do, are you keeping it up to date? Recently, I've noticed a lot more engagement taking place within the platform, such as sharing of content, commenting and activity within discussion groups. LinkedIn has really shifted over the past year from being a tool for job-seekers to a tool for networking and content discovery. Creating new, relevant connections is a great benefit from using LinkedIn, and for start-up businesses the ability to connect with potential partners, investors, suppliers and customers is second to none. Here are my top five tips for using LinkedIn: 1. Upload a profile picture This one should be obvious, but the number of profiles I see without a photo is astounding. When using a platform where building relationships is key, you should humanise your profile with a picture, just as you would Facebook or Twitter. Ensure that the photo you choose fits the professional nature of LinkedIn and clearly shows your face (head and shoulders is ideal). 2. Don't use your job title as your headline Sell yourself and your capabilities by expanding here. For example, 'Eco-friendly Product Specialist, Homewares Designer and Owner at eHome Design’ is better than just ‘Owner at eHome Design’. Sometimes your headline and name will be the only thing a person sees while they’re browsing LinkedIn – make sure you capitalise on the space you get here. 3. Join groups Networking is one of the greatest strengths of using LinkedIn and this is a great place to start. Groups also stimulate great debate and conversations, a fantastic way of staying in the loop within your industry or area of interest. There are also plenty of small business groups which will connect you with other entrepreneurs. The ability to learn from their knowledge and experience is invaluable. And you don’t even have to leave your desk to go to a networking event! 4. Share useful and relevant content Position yourself as a subject matter expert by sharing content on your LinkedIn profile that is interesting and relevant. For example, the Owner of eHome Design would share an article about the importance of not having chemicals in the home. If you create your own original content (e.g. you have a blog) you can be posting this as well as sharing third-party content. 5. Keep your profile current and login regularly! A LinkedIn profile is not a resume any more, as it might once have seemed. It should be a living, breathing representation of your professional life that is constantly being updated and tended to. One of my biggest tips is that the first thing you should do after a business meeting is connect with those who were present on LinkedIn. Aim to share content or participate in group discussions 2-3 times a week. You will be amazed with the value of the connections you make and information you acquire. Have you made any valuable connections for your business through LinkedIn?
Australian entrepreneurs are being encouraged to write a 25-word submission for the chance to sit on a panel with Sir Richard Branson at a University of Queensland Business School event.
It’s important to clarify that not every start-up needs to use social media for customer service.
As we outlined recently, Twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world, while Facebook is still picking up considerable numbers of new users despite seemingly reaching saturation point.
The average age of companies that the owners sell at more than $1 billion is seven years, according to US venture capitalist Jacob Mullins, who has revealed the common characteristics of $1 billion consumer tech companies.
This article first appeared on June 26th, 2012. “If you're not embarrassed by your first product release, you've released too late,” wrote LinkedIn founder and start-up guru, Reid Hoffman.
Buying Twitter followers, Facebook fans or email lists often seems like the easy option.
I had lunch with some close friends of mine who own a gym.