4 Tips For Hiring New Employees For Your Business

Tips for Hiring New EmployeesIt’s a common misconception that the hiring process ends with the selection of a successful candidate. Hiring new employees is a lengthy process that begins with identifying skills gaps within the workforce and only really ends once that employee is a well-adjusted and performing, engaged, motivated and committed member of the workforce.

If you’re responsible for any part of the process of hiring new employees, you need to be aware of the risks associated with poor hiring — high costs, poor performance, high employee turnover — and put into practice these tips for hiring new employees that give you a return for your investment.

4 tips for hiring fantastic new employees that you retain

1. Prioritise integration into the corporate culture

“When you’re hiring, cultural fit matters as much as skill set,” says Fiona Dorman, BCD Facilitator and Director of The Part Time People Pty Ltd. In simple terms, skills can be acquired but personalities can’t be changed. Therefore, one of your highest priorities should be to hire employees that will mesh well with your company culture.

To achieve this, consider what are the daily tasks and responsibilities associated with a new hire’s role and who are they going to be working with; does the candidate have the personality traits required to perform well in the position? Do they ‘fit’ your organisation’s culture?

You might look for social skills and the ability to get along with others, a willingness to learn and accept constructive criticism, or a demonstrable capability to handle pressure. Once a good fit is established, you’ll need to make sure their onboarding experience integrates them well within the company.

Good onboarding is so much more than orientation. “Have a great induction and introduction process in place,” says Fiona. “Let all of your new staff – in fact, all staff – know that they are a valuable part of the team and that the whole team is there to help. Support – especially in the early stages – is imperative to any company hiring process.”

2. Focus on being a desirable employer

According to a recent recruiting report, more than 75% of professionals aren’t currently looking for jobs but are open to new opportunities. Positioning your company as a desirable employer not only reduces employee turnover by 28%, it can also attract these passive candidates to your company.

When you focus on developing a respected and well-known employer “brand”, you won’t have to devote as much time to active recruiting. As a highly desired organisation, you’re more likely to be flooded with applicants.

3. Prioritise those with long-term potential

You may find yourself “panic buying” candidates when somebody leaves unexpectedly, new client work requires additional resources, or the business goes in a different strategic direction. But these scenarios are a breeding ground for poor hiring practices.

Try not to be blinded by what resources you need now. Make sure you always maintain your focus on what your candidates’ aspirations are for the future. A person who is dedicated to her or his career is a candidate you want to hire.

Somebody who switches careers or jobs frequently demonstrates lack of loyalty and/or commitment, and are not traits that you want in your business.

4. Embrace technology

9 out of 10 companies now prefer to recruit through social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In fact, nearly half (45%) of the Fortune 500 list of companies put job openings on social media. Why? Because it positions your job vacancies right in front of your ideal candidates. Social media advertising has extremely powerful targeting capabilities, so you can whittle down applicants by job title, location and age before you’ve even received any CVs.

You can also use social media to get to know your candidates before they walk into the interview room. Bear in mind though that it’s legally risky to allow a candidate’s social media activity to factor into your hiring decisions.


In many ways, hiring new employees is like dating; you don’t want to invest your time and energy in someone that isn’t the right fit. Do they have the long-term commitment, passion for your product and/or service, personality, values and skills that are right for the role in question and right for the business?

“There is so much more to each of us than what can be expressed on a few pages of a CV,” stresses Fiona Dorman. “When we’re hiring, we make a point to get to know the candidate and a sense of their strengths and interests beyond their hard skills.”

If you’re looking for support and knowledge to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support network. Sharing knowledge and experiences with other professionals and peer mentors is an ideal way to learn and test theories.

We would love to hear from you re your hiring experiences. Until next time…

Warmly,  Donny

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Claire Parkinson, Executive Member in Focus

Claire Parkinson

Claire is a highly experienced and commercially focused executive; who specialises in directing

strategies, brand and reputation repositioning, complex negotiations and crisis management. Claire is driven by a passion to help businesses to build on their success and positioning their future growth.

Claire’s Career Journey:

Whilst working as a UK Senior Public Servant, Claire was head-hunted to run a prison in South Australia and migrated in 2011. Shortly after her arrival she became Head of Justice Sector Reform for the State. Her insatiable appetite for change saw her leave the comfort of government, launching an incredible journey of success as an Executive for hire in some of Australia’s most powerful boardrooms.

Before life working with clients from the: Mining, Energy, Oil & Gas, Banking, Membership, Government and Not-for-Profit sector; Claire was a Prison Governor. It was during these 17-years – working across three countries – that she gained a passion for people, culture, commercial negotiations and rapidly changing landscapes that required outside-the-box solutions to thrive.

Claire strongly believes that building relationships is the cornerstone of good business.

Claire’s Advice for Women in Business:

The role as Governor of a Prison is not one that anyone partakes and doesn’t face significant challenges but being a woman in this role added a new and tricky dynamic – especially in male prisoner environments. The key knowledge that Claire learnt in this role was “to be resilient and stand firm but fair; and that a sense of humour is critical to surviving the gauntlet for sure!”

In her current role, building her own consultancy, one of the biggest challenges is to build a pipeline to secure regular, ongoing work. Claire’s advice for other women looking to build their own business is that building on-going relationships is critical to success. “Following a piece of consulting work, I follow up not only with the invoice but I also raise the potential next wave of work, that will help further develop their business.”

Claire’s final piece of advice for building successful business relationships, is to work with clients whose values align with yours. “I decline work for clients whose values do not align with mine; therefore all of my clients are fundamentally great people both professionally and personally.”

Claire’s Role Models:

Andrew Cole CEO and MD at OZ Minerals, has been a great role model for Claire. He is an incredibly talented individual who walks the talk. He is able to celebrate difference and sees the value diversity creates to continuous improvement. Andrew is not only a successful CEO of an ASX100 company, he is also a humble human who treats everybody in his business as a contributor and partner.

Claire’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations:

Claire committed to never reading another book until she published her own; a promise she made to herself as a child after reading Charlotte’s Web, at age 7. Claire has honoured this strategy and has now completed her first novel, for which she is currently in negotiations with publishers. Stay tuned!

Claire’s BCD Experience:

As a migrant to SA and working in a field where Claire had little exposure to the outside world “BCD came to my rescue. Not only have I been exposed to the commercial sector and developed a new narrative around my value proposition to business, it has linked me to new clients and new friendships. The experience has been invaluable to my success in SA. BCD does exactly what it says on the tin and I am forever in its debt.”

Claire is an Executive Member in Adelaide.


SYC’s Liz O’Connell Awarded 2019 Executive NFP Scholarship Adelaide

Liz OConnell 2019 ScholarshipDirector for Young People and Practice at SYC, Liz O’Connell, has been announced recipient of Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) 2019 Adelaide “Profit for Purpose” Scholarship. Since the first scholarship was awarded in 2015, BCD has now provided 13 executive women in the sector a fully funded 12-month membership.

Founder and Managing Director of the respected professional development and peer coaching & mentoring company, Donny Walford, said the Scholarship was awarded to a successful female executive in the Profit for Purpose sector to further expand and challenge current leadership and business practices.

“Profit for Purpose organisations are critical to our society and we are delighted to provide an opportunity to a female executive working in the sector.” Ms Walford said.

Liz O’Connell has a ten-year history working at SYC starting in frontline positions including receptionist and working her way through to Executive level. Her driving motivator to be successful through achievement of her purpose – to equalise the opportunity for all to access housing, education and employment.

In application for the Scholarship, Liz said she would value the opportunity to be exposed to a diversity in points of view and Executive expertise.

“Being involved in BCD will provide me the opportunity to be challenged in a supportive environment, to ground myself as an Executive and to take further steps towards a Board appointment. ” Liz said.

Ms Walford said “The BCD Executive membership will provide Liz with a professional sounding board of peers to help mentor and coach her both professionally and personally.” 

BCD Executive Members meet with a small cohort of like-minded women 11 times a year with a highly skilled and experienced Facilitator and Program Director. Members are challenged to set goals, be held accountable and aspire for greater levels of achievement in both their professional and personal life.

The award recipient receives a 12-month fully funded behind closed doors membership valued at more than $7,500. 

A runner-up award, providing a complimentary one-hour mentoring session with BCD Founder and Managing Director Donny Walford, was awarded to Kylie Fergusen, CEO Community Centres SA.

Behind closed doors, a national network founded in Adelaide, has been supporting women in business since 2008 and has awarded more than $350,000 worth of Scholarships since 2012.

Entrepreneur Scholarship 2019: Adelaide and Perth

Marie Sulda 2016 Entrepreneur Scholarship WinnerBCD’s Entrepreneur Scholarship program is not an Award for the best, most accomplished and impressive business woman, but rather a scholarship to provide an opportunity to a female looking for a challenge and avenue to grow and develop herself and her fellow members.

In 2019 BCD will offer an Entrepreneur Scholarship in Adelaide and Perth.

Applications for 2019 Adelaide and Perth will open October 1, 2019 and close at 5pm November 5, 2019.

To apply you must complete the online application form here. 

Entrepreneur Scholarship

The recipient of the Entrepreneur Scholarship will receive a 12-monthly fully funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership. Two Entrepreneur Scholarships will be awarded in 2019 one each in Adelaide and Perth.

Congratulations to 2018 recipients

About BCD Entrepreneurs Membership

The behind closed doors Entrepreneurs membership was created in response to a need for female business owners and entrepreneurs to have a support network where they can discuss strategies, issues and challenges in a totally confidential environment, while at the same time encourage each other to extend themselves further to achieve and succeed in their business ventures.

The membership aims to:

  • Deliver practical management and leadership sessions to generate more effective business owners and leaders.
  • Provide a confidential business owner’s support network.
  • Expand and broaden networks and business relationships.
  • Extend individuals personally and professionally.
  • Encourage and support members to nominate for Board and committee positions.
  • Mentor peers to accept greater business challenges.
  • Assist members to participate in awards programs such as the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
  • Increase the expertise of female business owners and entrepreneurs.

What will the Entrepreneur Scholarship recipient receive?

The Entrepreneur Scholarship recipient will receive a 12-month membership to behind closed doors Entrepreneurs membership. Groups meet 10 times a year for a three-hour peer mentoring/coaching session at a Boardroom located on the premises of one of our supporters.  As a bcd Entrepreneur you will also receive:

  • Automatic inclusion into the BoardDirect register
  • Access to a select executive and business owners women’s network.
  • Professional and personal development in a stimulating environment.
  • Exposure and introductions to senior people in business and government.
  • Private sessions with local identities and guest speakers.
  • Opportunities to discuss strategies, issues and challenges in a supportive women’s forum.
  • Invitations to Businesswomen’s Connexions (network) functions.
  • Opportunities for Board Directorships.
  • Mentoring with a behind closed doors Executive group member.


behind closed doors Entrepreneurs is designed for female business owners and entrepreneurs who are leading a team of employees. To be eligible you must currently own and operate a small to medium size business, with a minimum turnover of $250,000 per annum, and can demonstrate:

  • Entrepreneurship and leadership ability
  • Why the scholarship will benefit you
  • How the scholarship will benefit your business


To apply, you must complete an online application form by 5pm November 5, 2019.  

Apply by completing the online application form here.


If you know someone that would benefit from a behind closed doors membership, why not nominate them today.

To nominate a business woman for a behind closed doors scholarship, please email the following four items to scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com

  • Name of the business woman you are nominating
  • Their Title/Company Name
  • Their Business contact details, including email and telephone number
  • Your name and contact details

We will let them know they have been nominated and request them to complete an application.

Finalist Interviews

Shortlisted finalists will be invited to present their eligibility to a panel of judges.

The 2019 panel interviews will take place November 19, 2019. Applicants must be available to attend panelist interviews in the location they are applying for: Perth or Adelaide.


The winner must be:

  • Open to receiving publicity for winning the Scholarship
  • Available to attend the public acknowledgement at a Connexions networking event:
    • Perth: TBC early 2020
    • Adelaide: November 21,5:30pm


For scholarship enquiries, please contact Susan Williams, behind closed doors Scholarship Manager on 08 8333 4303 or email scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com

For enquiries of how you can obtain an Entrepreneurs membership, please contact behind closed doors on 08 8333 4303 or email info@behindcloseddoors.com


Executive Member in Focus, Elaine Ratcliffe

Elaine RatcliffeElaine Ratcliffe

Elaine Ratcliffe is an experienced and versatile General Manager and MBA graduate with over 20 years’ experience in the food & beverage sector, in organisations ranging from small business, not-for-profit, industry organisations and regional bodies to global corporate entities.

With proven ability in planning, developing and delivering strategies, Elaine is a Board Member of the Tourism Industry Council South Australia and SA Tourism Award Judge. In her current role as the General Manager, Barossa Farmers Market, she is inspired by the creativity, hard work and passion of small family farmers and artisan local food producers across South Australia.  

Dealing with over 50 small businesses on a regular basis is not without its challenges. However, Elaine finds it incredibly rewarding to work with farmers and producers, delivering support that helps them to become successful farmers-market stallholders and obtain the business outcomes they are seeking. 

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Career Journey: 

Elaine has spent the last 20 years of her career working in the food, wine and tourism sectors of South Australia.  After moving from the UK in 1995, she wanted to work in an industry that was dynamic and growing and realised the McLaren Vale Wine Region provided just the opportunities she was looking for.  Within a few years, she moved with her partner to Coonawarra, and was managing the administration and cellar door at a new winery being built near Naracoorte.  Six years later she moved to the Barossa to take on the role of managing what was then South Australia’s busiest wine tourism site – Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre.  

After seven years managing the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre, also with the role of Chair of Tourism Barossa, Elaine took long service leave to commence an MBA. After a short return to Jacob’s Creek, and subsequent redundancy as part of a major corporate restructure, Elaine took the opportunity to follow her passion for locally grown food and utilise her experience to move into the role of General Manager of Adelaide Farmers Market.   

Elaine has successfully held a number of Board positions, initially as the Chair of Limestone Coast and later as Chair of Tourism Barossa. This led to her current membership on the board of the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia.  Elaine has also been a judge for the SA Tourism Awards and SA Food Awards for a number of years, which provides a valuable opportunity to keep up to date on industry trends and to see innovation firsthand. 

Last year Elaine moved into the part-time role of General Manager at Barossa Farmers Market.  This allowed her to also embrace the opportunity to become a part-time lecturer on a Bachelor of Business degree at the International College of Hotel Management.  

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Advice for Women in Business: 

The wine industry is a very male dominated industry and although there has been progress to reduce discrimination, unconscious bias was definitely an issue.  

Elaine clearly recalls a conversation with an HR Director within the business telling her there were limited opportunities for future roles in the business where communication and public relations skills (ie soft female skills) were needed.  Her response to this was “I saw my strengths as financial management, leadership and staff management and site management. I was managing multiple large stand-alone sites, a number of budgets and core team of 30-40 staff.   Unfortunately, it didn’t make any difference to his entrenched ideas.” 

Elaine’s advice is to ensure you take opportunities to point out to senior management what you are achieving so that it doesn’t get overlooked. “Entering awards or gaining external recognition can be very useful to demonstrate that your peers have acknowledged your achievements even if others within the organisation can’t see it!”   

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Top Business Book Recommendations: 

Most of Elaine’s reading in recent years has been text books for her MBA studies, and there are two that stand out:

  1. Organisational Behaviour: Core Concepts and Applications by Jack Maxwell Wood,  Rachid Zeffane, Michele Fromholtz, Retha Wiesner, Rachel Morrison, Aharon Factor and Tui McKeown. “As the system of shared beliefs and values that guide and direct the behaviour of members, culture can have a strong influence on day-to-day organisational behaviour and performance”.
  2. Strategy from the Outside In – Profiting from Customer Value by George Day and Christine Moorman. “Superior customer value is the ‘true north’ of an outside-in strategy.  It is a centering concept that keeps that whole organisation focused on what matters.”

Elaine Ratcliffe’s BCD Experience: 

Membership of a BCD group has helped Elaine think more clearly about work problems and to clarify issues to help find solutions. “Bringing problems to the table for a confidential discussion has meant having to clearly articulate the issues, which helps to identify and clarify the core, underlying causes. It has also helped me to understand myself more, to be clear in what I want (and very importantly don’t want) to do in my career in the future.”

For Elaine, talking through different approaches to the challenges and problems faced in business and using a group setting to explore and understand different perspectives, has been valuable in creating perspective to help identify practical solutions to issues.  

“The opportunity to meet other professional women, having networking opportunities with people from a very wide and diverse range of sectors, and hearing about the achievements and areas of expertise of SA business women has also been inspiring.”

Find out more about the Executive peer-mentoring membership and enquire about joining today.

Meet more of our members:

Sally Woolford

Sheree Sullivan

Jo Taskas

How To Achieve Gender Equality & Close The Gender Pay Gap

Gender EqualityIn 2015, when Justin Troudeau became Canadian Prime Minister, he appointed 50% of his cabinet as women. A journalist asked him why. His response was, “because it’s 2015.”

Back then, this attitude towards gender equality would have been considered by many as progressive, even outlandish. After all Australia had experienced it’s highest gender pay gap in 16 years only the year before.

However it only took another year for David Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Department of Treasury and Finance in SA, to announce his and the Department’s commitment to gender equality and how he planned to achieve it.

Achieving gender equality in leadership and pay

The Gender Equality in Leadership (GEiL) strategy aims at achieving a 50/50 gender split in leadership positions in the Department of Treasury and Finance (from ASO7 and above) by 2020.

It’s based on the diversity dividend principle that you get “better outcomes when you have diversity around the table.” It’s not about tokenism. It’s simply about fair and equal representation.

After all, more or less 50% of the Australian workforce is female. So why are only 17.1% of CEOs women?

The goal is to create a workplace where women can access equal opportunities in the workplace based on merit, without prejudice and without being forced to choose between family life and rewarding paid work.

By achieving gender equality, not only in leadership but in industry and occupation, we will also make great strides towards closing the gender pay gap.

The national gender pay gap is currently 14.1%, a record low. It measures the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings (expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings).

The pay gap is reported to be a result of the following gender inequality issues (Mail Champions of Change):

  • Leadership gap – more men than women hold higher paying leadership roles
  • Occupational segregation – a higher proportion of women in support roles that are paid less, while men are more likely to be in higher paid operational roles
  • Industry segregation – female-dominated industries (eg teaching and caring) attract lower wages than male-dominated industries (eg engineering)
  • Flexible work and perception of part-time work – women are more likely to work part-time or flexibly and therefore find it more difficult to access senior roles; they may be perceived to be less ambitious and fall behind in responsibility, promotion, and prestigious work
  • Career breaks – women are more likely to take career breaks resulting in them missing out on career opportunities, promotions and salary increments

The gender pay gap is a source of great resentment nationwide and with good reason. But anger is pointless without action and movement for change. “Don’t get mad,” says Reynolds, “get even. Get even numbers.”

The Department has been making changes to achieve gender equality since 2016, some of which are outlined below. If your organisation believes it’s time to change its culture to one that’s more gender equal, it’s time to take action.

3 changes that need to be made to achieve gender equality

1. Redefine merit

The question of merit is a challenging issue. We have a preconceived idea of merit that needs redefining in order to achieve gender equality goals.

Merit is not only about hiring the best person for the role, it’s about getting the best outcomes for the organisation. These outcomes include the best diversity and the best opinions. So gender balance has to be a key consideration when it comes to recruitment in order to develop a well-rounded, diverse organisation.

2. Remove unconscious bias

Unconscious bias are impossible to remove from our thoughts, it’s part of human nature. But it is possible to remove bias from our decision making. One way to do this is to ensure there is an equal number of male and female interviewees.

3. Celebrate flexibility

It is important to get rid of the guilt that surrounds part-time and flexible working. We need to celebrate flexibility, not consider it a compromise. Men and women shouldn’t feel awkward or nervous about requesting flexible work options. But it’s not surprising that they do, since it often acts as a disadvantage to people in their careers.

It’s up to organisations to take the first step to dispel this guilt culture. By proactively asking all employees every 6 months whether they would like to accept some flexible working conditions, the SA Department is signaling that this is a discussion they welcome.

Until action is taken, change will never happen. Don’t expect beliefs to evolve without proactive measures by influential people and bodies. Organisations must start now, if they haven’t already, by setting gender equality targets and continually measuring their progress.

There need to be major changes in recruitment. Changes in outcome based performance. Changes regarding flexibility in the workplace. Changes in training. This is how we’ll achieve gender equality and close the gender pay gap.

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing about your expereince in driving change at your workplace, in achieving gender equality and closing the pay gap.

Warmly, Donny

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Member in Focus: Sally Woolford

Sally Woolford SA PoliceSally Woolford, Luminaries Member in Focus

After backpacking in Australia Sally Woolford, and her future husband, knew they wanted to migrate and be a part of Australian life. With a degree in psychology but not wanting to become a practising psychologist, Sally wasn’t entirely sure where to apply her skills and start her career.

Sally enjoys helping others, coaching and supporting them to develop their potential or to implement a change they never thought possible. For Sally anything that requires a change, and a really challenging change like cultural reform in the South Australia Police, sparks her excitement.

Sally was the recipient of the behind closed doors 2018 Luminaries Scholarship which provided her with a 12-month fully funded Adelaide Luminaries membership designed for women in managerial roles.

Sally’s Career Journey:

After working for the Dorset Police in the UK Sally migrated to Australia where she has worked in numerous different roles for the Minister for Road Safety Office, the Chief Executive of the Fire and Emergency Services Commission, and the Department for Child Protection.

Sally is currently a Senior Project Manager implementing the 38 recommendations from the Equal Opportunity Commission review into sex discrimination, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour in SA Police. Sally describes the role as “we are quite literally transforming SAPOL in terms of culture and practices – SAPOL is seen as a ‘boys club’ and so taking on this role has given me some excellent challenges and opportunities in the past two years”.

Simultaneously with working at SA Police, Sally also provides consulting services; something that her behind closed doors Luminaries facilitator and peers encouraged her to consider and that she is now thoroughly enjoying.

With her skill and expertise in Project Management, Sally is often asked to ‘make things work’ frequently with short deadlines and with significant change aspects. Sally thrives on the feeling of implementing something that everyone thought impossible.

Sally’s Advice for Women in Business:

As a confident person Sally is happy to challenge or call out if she sees something unfair or inappropriate. Her advice to others “is always strive to be the best person you can be, and ignore gender as much as you can. A good worker is a good worker, and your efforts will always stand you in good stead.”

Through her various different roles Sally has realised that it’s important to know yourself and then be yourself. Once you have identified what you’re passionate about, commit to this, without apology.

Sally’s Role Models:

  1. My Manager at Dorset Police – he was a very experienced business professional, extremely strategic but very empowering to up and coming managers. He taught me the value of enabling everyone to put forward ideas and discussions and then bring it together, for the team to have one, consolidated position. He taught me that you should always have a new role every 3 -5 years – often your best input and innovation is in the first 2 years, a consolidation of that for an extra year but that you must move to the next role within those 5 years or else you won’t be bringing anything new to the table.
  2. Kate Thiele – my mentor through behind closed doors. I appreciate her guidance and advice. Kate has had an extremely successful career and is inspirational. She is a fantastic person who has helped me consider a career path and instil confidence in my skills.
  3. Kate Berry- my group facilitator at behind closed doors. Kate is a kind person who only has your best interests at heart. She is a fantastic sounding board for me when I might be looking at next steps in my career; Kate provides me honest and frank advice.

Sally’s behind closed doors Experience:

When Sally joined BCD she was at a point where she needed to be challenged about her career, her desires and where to go next. For Sally, “BCD has an amazing ability to support, coach and mentor me while learning how to support others in my group and in the wider BCD network. I’ve met some amazingly fabulous people who are awe inspiring.”

Sally “thoroughly recommends BCD membership of any type – connecting and engaging while challenging each other in a safe space is worth its weight in gold. You absorb the energy and passion of those around you in the group and feel reinvigorated to achieving personal success.”

To learn more about the Behind Closed Doors membership options, view the details via this link or for any specific questions, email info@behindcloseddoors.com

Meet other BCD Members

BCD – Entrepreneurs Masterclass

Sheree Sullivan

Bringing female business owners and entrepreneurs together to share experiences, develop networks and receive support and mentoring in a welcoming and relaxed environment.


Express Your Interest

BCD Entrepreneurs Masterclass

The behind closed doors (BCD) Entrepreneurs Masterclass is a series of four workshops offered exclusively to female entrepreneurs, business owners and directors with employees.Each year the program will focus on key areas for the business and its female owner. Launching in 2019, the first set of topics will include:

  •   Financial Nous with Marisa Schulze
  •   Succession Planning with Sheree Sullivan
  •   Marketing, Scaling and Growth with Kelly Jamieson
  •   Protecting your business and yourself with David Steel

To offer deep content and maximum continuity, Facilitator Kylie Bishop and subject matter experts, will facilitate different sessions during the program. This is an exclusive opportunity to hear real experiences from business leaders and entrepreneurs who are willing to share their insights, failures, and tips for success with you.

The group will have open and engaging discussions, and there will be time to identify key takeaways, action plans and accountability options for each member.

Unique Peer Mentoring

How often do you have the opportunity to sit down with your business peers – people who have walked in your shoes, who can offer constructive, unbiased feedback and a different perspective to solving the most challenging leadership and business ownership issues? BCD meetings are not another networking event, it is a peer working session where real business issues are tackled by tapping into the powerhouse knowledge in the room to generate new insights, ideas and solutions.

Members support each other to be more effective in their business and provide the tools to expand and grow. This is time invested outside of the business thinking about the business on a strategic level and can deliver insights and “light bulb” moments as well as offering assistance with operational and life issues, professional development, mentoring, business and connecting/networking opportunities, and support with nominating for awards and attaining board positions.

Meet Adelaide Entrepreneur Member Sheree Sullivan of The Udder Delights Group who tells about the support and value she has received from being a BCD member for a number of years whilst her business went through an amazing transformation.

Express Your Interest

To hear direct from other BCD members, take a look at our member video testimonials as they share the value and benefits of their BCD membership journey..

Meet Adelaide Executive Member Marie Sulda, Kaliedoscopic Travel, who won a 2016 Scholarship and has seen first hand the power of the peer mentoring.

Members are placed into a group of a maximum 10 business women – each from a different and non-conflicting industry sector – providing a powerful round table peer group sounding board.

Express Your Interest

Members of behind closed doors Entrepreneurs Masterclass are provided with:

  • 4 x 3 hour session 9:30am – 12:30pm on a Wednesday
  • Sessions facilitated by high profile Business leaders:
  • Subject matter experts presenting on focussed business topics: Marissa Schulze, Sheree Sullivan, Kelly Jamieson and David Steel
  • A confidential and safe environment to discuss experiences and challenges with like-minded women
  • Models for future business success and growth
  • High levels of accountability
  • Real life experience, knowledge sharing, and opportunities for personal development
  • Allocated time to work “on” the business rather than “in” it
  • A chance to be inspired to take action to deliver better business
  • Connections, collaboration and networking

“We need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economics in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women.”

-Hilary Clinton

Group Framework

  • Four sessions in 2019
    • August 28, November 27, February 26, May 27
  • Three hours 9:30am – 12:30pm on a Wednesday
  • Venue: Rose Park
  • Each Group is capped at 10 members
  • Investment – Contact us today for details

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn”
-Mary Catherine Bateson

How To Manage A Cross-Cultural Business

Cross Cultural ManagementDid you know that the fastest growing languages in Australia are Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi? Participating in a diverse workplace is no longer a possibility; it’s a certainty. Nearly half (45%) of Australians were born overseas or at least one of their parents were. So it’s more important than ever that Australian business leaders understand how to manage a cross-cultural workforce. 

Tips for managing a cross-cultural business smoothly

1. Be able to identify cultural differences and sameness

It can be difficult to identify cultural differences, because you are often “unaware of your own cultural assumptions,” says Art Markham writing in HBR. So make an effort to learn about the different cultures operating within your business and find out what their norms are, what is impolite and what is respectful. 

Find out about the social dynamics of their different countries. Dutch social psychologist, Geert Hofstede outlined a number of ways in which cultures differ: Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation and Indulgence vs. Restraint. For example, American and Western European cultures tend to be individualist (valuing the action and freedom of individuals), while East Asian cultures tend to be collectivist (valuing the needs of the group). 

However, ethnography researcher Xiaoran Song proposes that Hofstede’s dimensions of national cultural value differences do not provide effective guidance for understanding cross-cultural business communication, particularly where Chinese culture is concerned. Instead, he says, “it is the sameness that provides the conceptual bridge and the common ground for communicability and manageability.” So, try to find the commonalities between different cultures and use them as the context for building your own team identity (see tip number 5).

Compare individuals not with your own expected behaviour and cultural norms but with their own behaviour exhibited at different times. For instance, if someone is usually energetic and passionate, it should be a red flag when they respond in a downbeat or indifferent manner.

2. Pay attention to communication

86% of employees in a recent survey cited ineffective communication as the root cause for workplace failures. And you need to pay extra special attention to communication in cross-cultural business teams. 

It’s a good idea to encourage open communication around the cultural diversity within a team. Use ice breakers in a team meeting to get everyone to share their cultural background and expectations about communication and working style. 

You may want to use standard operating procedures for certain aspects of collaboration and communication to avoid inconsistency and confusion; for example, timeliness of email replies, frequency of team meetings, even communication templates. 

Practice and encourage active listening. Be sure to watch your nonverbal communication. And when it comes to electronic communication, err on the side of over-communicating and be careful with word choice. Use clear and simple language, and check the other party has understood what you said by asking them to rephrase it back to you. Always try to cultivate an environment where questions and clarification are welcomed. 

3. Stay up-to-date with technological innovations

Technology has made managing a multinational, cross-cultural business much easier. So if you are experiencing issues, consider how digital tools can help to solve them. 

Here’s a quick example: Qtok is a recommended business translation app, with over 546 live interpreters to provide full translations within seconds. A tool like this could dramatically improve your cross-cultural communication. 

4. Promote and celebrate diversity

There can be multiple challenges presented by different religion, customs and communication within a workforce. It’s important to treat diversity not as a problem, but a strength. Promote cultural diversity openly internally and celebrate it. 

Embracing the differences and commonalities between cultures can be a powerful thing, particularly when pursuing common goals and a shared business vision. A truly diverse and culturally-dextrous workplace requires effort by everyone. A top tip is to develop a diversity training program throughout your company.

5. Prioritise team building 

Since there could be many culture-based differences within your team, it can be helpful to develop a team identity. This avoids confusion, promotes teamwork and develops pride in pursuing that shared goal.

Within cross-cultural businesses, team building is an extremely useful exercise. Building meaningful relationships between employees keeps everyone engaged in the tasks at hand and performing well together. Video games are an increasingly popular tool for team-building because of their ability to transcend geographical barriers. You could try a weekly gaming session to build camaraderie and encourage open dialogue. 


The goal of the above exercises is always to bond your team and cultivate trust between its members. It’s about creating an environment in which everyone feels safe so they can better collaborate with each other. Finding common ground, celebrating diversity as a strength, paying attention to clear communication and having a common goal help build unity within a team.

Australian business leaders should prioritise getting to know their team members. Try out Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Personal Histories’ exercise, which is available for free on his website. By learning more about one another, we understand each other better and work together more effectively.

If you’re looking for support to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and leadership network.

We welcome your comments and experiences in dealing with multicultural workforces.  In our experience leaders are still grappling with managing multi-generational teams!

Warmly, Donny

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Thilan Legierse – Member in Focus

Thilan Legierse, Entrepreneur Member in Focus

Thilan LegierseThilan Legierse came to Australia almost ten years ago, after enjoying a wonderful career that spanned 17 years working as a barrister and a lawyer for the United Nations on human rights and war crimes globally.

Thilan loves empowering others by helping them grow and reach their full potential. She is passionate about helping people become unstuck in life or career, about helping people fine-tune their leadership skills as well as helping people resolve conflict and work together collaboratively.

Thilan is an Entrepreneur Behind Closed Doors (BCD) member. 

Thilan Legierse’s Career Journey: 

After arriving in Australia and working several years as a Human Resource Manager Thilan felt the strong urge to follow her passion, bundle up her expertise and experiences, to start working as a Consultant, as a mediator and leadership team coach. Through her business, Thilan focuses on helping business to improve internal communication, address conflict resolutions and improve leadership skills.

Thilan explains that starting was the hardest hurdle “I was super scared to let go of my paid government position, especially as the breadwinner of my family. However, I am a risk taker and thought I would regret it later if I didn’t take this step. So I handed in my notice feeling, literally sick in the stomach but I have not looked back since. I love what I do, I meet wonderful people and keep growing both professionally and personally.”

Along the way one of the biggest challenges was learning to become comfortable with uncertainty. You can no longer take for granted that you have an income, work from 9-5, have sick leave and normal leave etc. However, on the flipside, the most rewarding thing is to have the freedom to do what you love, to pursue your dreams and to birth new ideas into the world.

Thilan Legierse’s Advice for Women in Business: 

According to Thilan “being in business is like driving to your destination at night. You know where you are going and you need to trust that the road will take you there even if you can only see the next 100 meters in your headlights. You just need to keep on driving”.

When Thilan started her career as a young barrister there were certain assumptions made by people, however, she has never allowed these scenarios to hold her back. Thilan’s advice to women in business is to always stay in your own power, to put up boundaries and speak up when you feel disrespected, to show others how you want to be treated. 

Thilan Legierse’s Role Models

Oprah Winfrey is a significant role model for Thilan. Oprah empowers others, dares to take risks, dares to be vulnerable and confident and always speaks her truth and has been doing this consistently for a long time.

Thilan Legierse’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations: 

  1. The Big Leap by Gay Hendrick: helps you understand how self-sabotage works
  2. Profit First by Mike Michalowicz; helps you focus on your finances
  3. Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill: helps you become determinant and never give up

Thilan Legierse’s BCD Experience: 

It is important for Thilan to be able to ask other females for business advice. “Having your own business can be lonely. If you put women together they nurture and support each other and I love that. It has helped me improve my business skills and my business worth.

I feel very honored to have the opportunity to mastermind with likewise women and to receive their love and support.”

To learn more about the Behind Closed Doors membership options, view the details via this link or for any specific questions, email info@behindcloseddoors.com

Meet some of our other members

Toni RichardsonLuminaries Member

Kathy Drogmueller – Entrepreneur Member

Joanna Andrews – Executive Member

Forget Office Politics!

Forget Office Politics! Learn To Play ‘Your Own Game’ — Here’s How To Be A Serious Player

Did you know that more than half of US office workers think playing workplace politics will get them promoted? Yet, on the other side of the world, a third (33%) of UK workers cite office politics as a major contributing factor to feelings of unhappiness at work.

Here in Australia, there are thousands of blog articles that’ll tell you how to nail or avoid office politics. However, I don’t subscribe to either advice. I believe it’s a far better strategy to forget about what other people are doing and focus on what’s really important: your career progression.

When we think of office politics, we usually think of power struggles, back-stabbing and malicious gossip – manipulating other people for our own personal gain. It’s a nasty game to play, instead you should be focusing on: your end game. Unlike toxic office politics, it’s an honest and merit-based one.

By focusing your energies on playing your own game, you can work the corporate ladder and further your career, without losing your credibility and reputation, here’s how.

Office Politics4 tips for working the corporate ladder without office politics

Getting to executive level is hard and it’s even harder to stay there. So, when you start playing ‘your game’, remember you’re in it for the long haul. There’s very few places at the top and many people vying for those roles.

1. Share your knowledge and skills

The most essential component of working the corporate ladder is performing well in your own role. An important aspect of this, in a corporate team environment, is sharing your knowledge and skills.

A colleague once shared some advice they had been given ‘If you share your knowledge with others and do this well, you will never be redundant.’ It might seem counterintuitive to help others learn the information and skills that set you apart. However, doing so builds trust with your colleagues and respect from your seniors. It also opens future opportunities for others to be willing to share the wealth of their knowledge with you.

2. Get noticed

You want to get noticed for the right reasons. There’s an old saying that goes, “if you don’t do your own PR, nobody else will.” All it means is that you can’t rely on your successes to be known by others, unless you own them and promote them. You can do this without arrogance. When you do something well or achieve something important, let people know about it and why it’s a success for the business and not just for you.

Career coach Lea McLeod recommends that you put your personal achievements in the context of how they progress the company. This demonstrates your commitment to the team rather than your own selfish ends.

Remember to look for opportunities to credit others too. Rarely are our successes down to us alone. So praise the people that helped you along the way. This will get you noticed as a fair team player and it’ll encourage the people you praised to praise you back when it’s their turn for success.

3. Embody success

Have you ever noticed that successful people tend to share common traits? Successful people:

  • Know their purpose, their ‘why’ and have clearly defined goals
  • Are able to build relationships with many and varied individuals
  • Have drive, determination, persistence and long-term commitment
  • Admit they don’t know all the answers and have a willingness to learn
  • Are dedicated to their work and self-motivated

The most successful people are able to work with others without being pressured or influenced to join a “click”. They’re identifiable as collaborative individuals, rather than compliant groupies.

Remember, you’re playing a long game. It’s going to take time to come to fruition and even then, it’s easy enough to lose. So, take every opportunity to build and maintain professional relationships, expose yourself to a variety of environments in which you can learn and develop new skills, and commit to your goals wholeheartedly.

4. Set standards

Setting standards of behaviour is a great way to incorporate structure and “rules” to your game. They outline clearly what you do and what you don’t do. When you’re clear about your values and those of your employer, staying focused on your agenda becomes a straightforward affair.

Your standards will allow you to lead by example. They also make it easy to avoid all the pointless politics. Michelle Laforest, a senior executive at Wolters Kluwer, explains:

“…if somebody around you is trying to play organisational politics, is this person doing it for the good of the organisation or is it self serving behaviour?

“If they’re self serving…that is when you say, ‘ok, I don’t want to be involved in this’. Give yourself permission to escape.”

Play your best game and success will come

People mistakenly think that climbing the corporate ladder is about being something you’re not. In actual fact, it’s about being authentic, genuine and the best version of yourself.

Do well, for yourself and the good of the business, and you’ll get noticed. Remember to own your successes and praise others for the part they played in them. Develop the traits that define successful people. Be purposeful, willing to learn, determined and collaborative. Set clear standards for yourself and remember you’re in it for the long haul.

At the end of the day, you’re playing ‘the game’ not to beat others but to improve your own knowledge and experience, and therefore grow your career. If you’re looking for support to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and professional development network.

I would love to hear how you navigate organisational politics and whether you have any tips for others.

Warmly, Donny

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Focus on Connecting-Up To Progress Your Career

Did you know there are only 14 female Chief Executives in the top 200 listed companies in Australia? And only 24 female Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). These are the latest figures from the Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX200 Senior Executive Census 2018.

And yet, women comprise nearly half (46.9%) of the Australian workforce. Perhaps even more shocking is that 35.2% of Boards and governing bodies have no female directors, whereas only 0.9% had no male directors.

With men in such a dominant position in corporate Australia, what can we as women in the corporate world do to improve our chances of moving into senior leadership roles? Through my business journey, I have learnt that a very important aspect of achieving this, is through, connecting-up.

Executive WomanWhat is connecting-up?

When I talk about connecting-up in business, I’m talking about the things you do to establish a personal connection with influential people at work. A lot of employees enter and leave the workplace but the majority of them will not make their mark on the C-suite. They might be fantastic at their jobs, but unless they reach out and connect-up with the key influencers, they’re unlikely to be remembered.

If you want to fast-track your career in the corporate world and be taken seriously, you need to be memorable. You need to work the corporate ladder by making your career your responsibility. Why? Because it’s as hard as it’s ever been for women to reach the top in Australia. Roles like CFO and other profit building responsibilities are by and large the domain of men. So if the position of CEO is your goal, you need to be strategic about connecting-up and what stepping stones are going to get you there.

How to connect-up and make your mark: 3 top tips

1. Look for suitable mentors and sponsors within your organisation

Finding mentors and sponsors within your organisation who are in senior positions is a fantastic way to set yourself up for rapid career progression. Not only can an influential mentor give you valuable advice and career guidance, they can also give you access to opportunities that may not otherwise come your way.

For example, if the C-suite is looking for a more “grassroots” view of a proposed change initiative, or a representative from outside the ranks of senior leadership, you’ll be at the top of their list of people to include in meetings and transformational change discussions.

You’ll gain access to data that is out of reach for other employees of your seniority, which gives you a competitive advantage. Not only that but senior members of the organisation will get to see what you’re capable of first-hand, which is information that rarely filters through the managerial layer of an organisation.

A sponsor will promote and profile you and your achievements to their senior colleagues when you don’t even know they are talking about you.

2. Take the initiative and reach out

Tip number 1 isn’t just going to happen for you. You need to make it happen by taking the initiative and reaching out to senior leaders. Take your time to observe and do your research first. Is there someone within the senior ranks with whom you share a common trait? Where you grew up, hobbies you like, personal values and philosophy are all potential touch points for connecting-up.

Take care to ensure the connection is genuine. Senior leaders don’t want their time to be wasted by inauthentic “ladder-climbers”. Consider what you have to offer, the value you add to the business, to possible mentors in return for their advocacy. The best relationships are always two sided.

You could be valuable by helping them break down a perceived “us vs. them” barrier between the leadership ranks and other employees. Perhaps it’s something more personal than that. Determine what it is that they want and how you can help them to get it.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask

Operate on the basis of the mantra, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” Women in the corporate world can make the mistake of believing that if they work hard and do their job well, good things will come. Of course, that’s true to a degree. But unlike men, women are not as frequently upfront in asking for what they want.

Ask senior executive leaders to meet you for a coffee. Ask for a secondment or promotion. Ask for more responsibility. Ask for a pay rise. If you want these things, you have to ask. You need to clearly articulate your value and why you deserve the pay rise or promotion. Example, if you ask for a 10% pay rise you need to articulate how you grow revenue by more than 10%.

Kathryn Fagg, president of Chief Executive Women, believes companies need to move more women into operational roles early in their careers. Not only that, women need to ask for the opportunity to switch into business units where they are responsible for a P&L that will help them move up the ranks. Many female CEOs have moved out of functional positions, such as strategy and legal, in order to rise to the top. Remember, the worst that can happen is your request will be declined. This is not the end of the world. It may even be an opportunity to receive constructive feedback.

So stand out, be memorable, reach out, connect-up, seek advocacy, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. These are the things that will advance your career to the next level.

If you’re looking for a peer coaching and networking group to help you connect-up, contact Behind Closed Doors for practical and valuable learnings, to help build your career success.

Other than the top three tips above, what tips do you have to help women get into CFO and CEO roles in corporate Australia? I would love to hear from you.

Warmly, Donny

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Member in Focus: Kathy Drogemuller

Kathy DrogemullerKathy Drogemuller and her husband Paul, launched Paracombe Wines in 1992. Kathy’s journey has not been all wine and sweet rosé. However she has learnt a lot along the way, from both the highs and lows.

Kathy loves her role, building the business through sales and marketing. At the local level Kathy promotes her business by engaging with people face to face. Building relationships based on trust and integrity have been integral to their business success. Today her role includes working with export markets such as China, which although challenging, it’s also rewarding learning different negotiation and communication skills.

Kathy has always been motivated by sales, and has never been scared to ask for business, so long as you believe in your product and can deliver on any sales promises. She is also community minded and is passionate about building a business that gives back.

Kathy Drogemuller’s Career Journey + Biggest Challenges:

As an only child from the country, Kathy has always been independent. Kathy began her career working in different industries and it was through a chain of events that she landed in the wine industry. During Ash Wednesday a dairy farm in the district was devastated by the fires and put up for sale, and Kathy and Paul decided to buy it.

They initially started growing grapes and selling them but after a few years began making their own wine and after a few years and two children, Paracombe wines was launched.

In the beginning Kathy drove to restaurants and pubs to sell their wine, often with her two young children on board. Still responsible for sales Kathy advises that it is wonderful to distribute your own wines, but hard work.

Kathy Drogemuller’s Biggest Professional Challenge:

For Kathy, the biggest challenge for her is juggling the roles of mother, wife and business owner within a family business. Managing the dynamics of work relationships with family members, balancing boundaries whilst maintaining professionalism takes effort. Additionally, organising succession and staffing are more personal in a family business, so Kathy needs to be additionally mindful when navigating the management of personal conflicts.

Another challenge, specific to her industry, is the huge number of wine makers in Australia, especially SA, which makes it an incredibly competitive market. There is constant pressure within the industry, especially through large retail chains to discount wine prices, which would negatively impact the integrity of the brand. Kathy is constantly required to protect the brand and worth of Paracombe.

Kathy Drogemuller’s Advice for Women in Business:

From early in her career, Kathy faced challenges as a female, in one instance she was asked to resigned from her job because she was pregnant. It was a rude shock but she used her faith to find courage, to not let the difficulties debilitate her. Through the difficult times she found strength and resilience that she didn’t realise she had.

Kathy’s advice to women is to have good female friendships, surround yourself with a network of women who can understand situations from your perspective and give you insight. By sharing problems and allowing yourself to feel vulnerable but in a safe environment, you learn that others also experience challenges – you are not alone.

“In business, the best advice I received was to avoid focusing on the problem, look instead for the solution” says Kathy. Following this advice has helped Kathy to be more open-minded, to look at things from different angles to achieve positive outcomes. Today, Kathy focuses less on the negative and more on how to get the desired results.

Kathy Drogemuller’s Behind Closed Doors (BCD) Experience:

Joining BCD was important to Kathy as it was an investment in her own personal business development, it has given her the opportunity to talk about her business challenges in a confidential environment. It also provides the opportunity for her to help other women, gain insight and wisdom from guest speakers, and enabled her to make some wonderful friends.

Of significance to Kathy, is that through BCD, she met Donny, who helped her recognise and appreciate her skill as a storyteller, which she began using successfully in her business.

“Being involved in the BCD community has given me wings to soar, that I don’t believe I would otherwise have achieved, it has helped me lift to the next journey and go further” says Kathy.

Kathy Drogemuller’s Role Models:

Kathy’s professional role models are:

  • Julie Bishop who she admires greatly because she is professional, intelligent, driven, and articulate.
  • Donny Walford, because she loves how Donny is using BCD to encourage and build up other women. Through using the sisterhood in a positive and powerful way, Donny is genuine in wanting the best for other women.

Kathy regularly recommends BCD to other women because she wants other women to feel empowered and reap the benefits in the same way she has. Not only for themselves but also for others around them “if you empower and assist one woman with her business, the ripple effect is very powerful and positive, across the whole community” says Kathy.

Kathy was a member of the behind closed doors Entrepreneurs memebrship which provides peer mentoring and coacing for female business owners. Kathy continues to be a part of the BCD network through and Affiliate membership as as the official wine sponsor for BCD Connexions networking events in Adelaide.

To find out more about the Entrepreneurs and other membership, visit behind closed doors website. www.behindcloseddoors.com




Finding a Mentor: 5 Top Tips

Finding a MentorDid you know a new small business is created in Australia every 100 seconds? Did you also know that approximately two thirds stop operating within 3 years?

Greg Hayes from Hayes Knight Accountants & Advisers told The Huffington Post Australia that cessation rates are largely due to a lack of strategic planning and training, as well as failure to ask for help. 

Meanwhile, data in the US shows that 70% of mentored businesses survive more than five years. The argument for finding a mentor to give your small business a better chance of success is compelling. However, it’s not always that easy to put into practice.  

Finding a Mentor: Common problems

Business mentoring was a lot easier a few decades ago. The main problem cited today is that people are time poor. The demands and pace of the digital world mean that potential mentors have precious little free time to mentor or, the ones that are happy to give their time are often already mentoring other people. 

Another issue is that entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners don’t know how to broach the subject. Asking the question, “will you be my mentor?” can be awkward and often doesn’t get the desired result.

So, how do entrepreneurs go about getting the valuable business advice and support they need?

Finding a Mentor: 5 tips to help you find the right mentorship for you

Here are 5 top tips to set you on the right path to finding great mentorship for your business.

1. Don’t limit your options geographically

You don’t need to physically meet somebody to be able to learn from them. The internet allows us to connect with anybody, anywhere. It’s a practical way to have a mentoring relationship with people outside your immediate vicinity. Online, you can access business brains and leaders, all over the world, giving you extraordinary choice so you can find the perfect mentor. 

Zoom, Skype, email, social media, WhatsApp, or the good old fashioned telephone – whatever communication method works best for you, makes mentoring across oceans and continents possible. 

2. Don’t ask for a mentor! 

Let’s return to that dreaded question for a second: “will you be my mentor?” Nobody likes that question. If you imagine someone saying it to you, what’s your initial gut reaction? Is it, “I’d love to but I have too much to do already?”

I don’t blame you. Simply put, that question implies a commitment that not everyone is going to want to make. However, if you ask somebody you admire what e-commerce platform they use and why, or what’s their number one tip for improving SEO, you’re much more likely to get a response.

In other words, ask direct questions about specific problems. They’re easier for busy, successful business people to answer. 

3. Be a genuine fan and follower

If you look up to someone and have your heart set on them mentoring you, you need to demonstrate your genuine admiration of their work. Buy their books, watch them speak, follow their social media, engage with their content, even become a customer if relevant.

Not only will this show them that you’re serious about their advice, it will also provide you with plenty of tips through the consumption of their content.  

4. Be open to multiple relationships

Be open to the fact that you can learn all the time and not just from one person. Many heads are better than one, so why put so much pressure on just the one relationship? Learn from several people. It’s about surrounding yourself with a support network of advisers and individuals whose opinions you respect and trust. 

Don’t underestimate the guidance you can receive from your peers. They may have skills you want to develop, or perhaps they recently went through what you’re tackling right now. Often, they’re in a position similar to yours, so their tips and strategies are likely to be super relevant to you.

5. Join a networking group that provides mentoring

Behind Closed Doors was established because I recognised a serious gap in peer supported networking, coaching and mentoring, designed specifically for businesswomen. Our unique model provides business owners, Executives and Managers the opportunity to openly discuss business strategies, issues & challenges and support each other to attain greater professional and personal success. It’s the ideal way to gain in person, mentoring support.

The peer networking and mentoring provided by Behind Closed Doors (BCD) delivers practical and valuable lessons, to help build your success. Entrepreneur Member, Sheree Sullivan says that through her years of attending BCD sessions, she has built the confidence to tackle difficult conversations head on. “Through the strong leadership of Donny Walford and my Facilitator Kylie Bishop – who both call a spade a spade, I have learnt to just act on difficult issues, I don’t overthink it, I just get on and do it.”

If help, support and guidance are what you’re after, there are many ways to get it. Whether you opt for a single, face-to-face mentor, a network of online advisers, or a networking group such as Behind Closed Doors; get the most out of your interactions by asking pertinent questions. Soak up the knowledge and experience offered, act on the information that resonates with you and park the advice that doesn’t feel right. 

Remember to follow your own intuition. At the end of the day, it’s your business, so it’s important that you do, what’s right for you.   

Please share with me your experiences in business mentoring and coaching and what works for you. 

Warmly, Donny

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5 Ways To Manage Stress Effectively As A Female Entrepreneur

Donny CyclingOne in five Australians (21%) has taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. That’s according to the Heads Up ‘State of Workplace Mental Health’ report. But what about entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurs have the longest working hours of any occupational group. They’re forced to develop new skills, fast, just to manage their fledgling businesses. High workload and work intensity, plus financial concerns, are top of the female entrepreneurs’ stress list. Then, of course, there’s balancing relationships and family life. 

Just over one third of Australia’s business operators are women (34%). And around 45% of women business operators have dependent children living in their household. In fact, female business operators are more likely to have children than any other employed people.

Major wellbeing risks to female entrepreneurs

Being a female entrepreneur is both highly demanding and rewarding work. Many of us become so engaged in our work that it becomes an obsession. So it’s essential that female entrepreneurs understand how to manage their stress and allow time for recovery. Prolonged exposure to work of this sort of intensity can actually take a physical toll on our bodies.

Research shows that happy entrepreneurs are less likely to give up and close down. They are in a better position to run more successful businesses. Not only that, but their stress levels has a significant impact on their partners’ and children’s wellbeing. 

So, how can female entrepreneurs help themselves to juggle their responsibilities better, reduce their stress levels, and be more successful business owners? 

5 top tips for managing stress levels as a female entrepreneur

1. Start the day right

Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement address at University of Texas was fantastic – did you watch it on YouTube? He said: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

“It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

It doesn’t really matter whether you make the bed or not. What matters is having a morning routine that gives you a sense of accomplishment, which you can take with you into the rest of the day. Whether it’s with meditation, walking the dog, or a gym session, start the day right.  

2. Exercise/Creativity

For me, there is no better stress buster than exercise. It releases endorphins, which make you feel good. It can also act as meditation in motion, commonly referred to as active meditation . By being absorbed in an activity, like cycling, running, yoga, walking or tennis, your mind is distracted from daily worries. It can even widen your perspective and allow you to realise solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. 

Exercise also promotes good natural sleep, which we all need to be successful female entrepreneurs. Just 20 minutes a day of moderate cardio activity is recommended by the Australian Department of Health. So the time commitment is low but the benefits to your stress levels will be great.

Exercise may not work for you so do something you enjoy, like opting for a creative outlet such as arts, music, dancing.

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is all about being present in the here and now. Yes, you can learn from mistakes and plan for the future, but rumination and worrying is pointless. Or as it’s said in the piece written by Mary Schmich and made famous by Baz Lurhmann’s hit song, Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen, “know that worrying is about as useful as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”

It’s not worth worrying until something bad happens. Then you take action. Many  entrepreneurs are chronic worriers, which affects their business success and their quality of life. Ask yourself, “what can I do now?” If the answer is “nothing”, or you’re already doing everything you can, let go of the worry. Easier said than done, I know… 

4. Equip yourself

The antidote to stress is often knowledge and/or preparation. If you feel stressed because you don’t know what you’re doing, invest some time and/or money into improving your knowledge or skills in that area. 

Time is always going to be an issue, I get it. There aren’t enough hours in the day. So you need to consider how much that additional knowledge is worth to you. If it’s going to vastly improve your confidence, speed and/or efficiency in a certain area, make it a priority. 

Take an online program, a short course at your local business school, a workshop with a specialist, or meet up with a business coach/mentor. By improving your confidence and capability, you’ll find that a great deal of stress just melts away. 

5. Embrace the fear of failure

It’s an often quoted statistic that 9 out of 10 startups will fail. The Small Business Association (SBA) puts it at 50% (within the first 5 years). Whatever the exact percentage, the reality is that as an entrepreneur you need to be comfortable with the idea of failure.  

Adopt a strategy that allows you to “fail fast”, learn, then move on, as this is key to reducing stress. It doesn’t matter if you fail. View failure as a learning opportunity.  It is part and parcel of entrepreneurship. What matters is what lessons you learn from those failures and what you do next.  And above all, in my opinion, failure is giving up, so persist and remember, you don’t have to do it by yourself.

I wish you much success on your entrepreneurial journey. Remember your purpose, why you’re doing what you’re doing. Smile. Give yourself a break and laugh in the face of challenges and so called failure! Stress is designed, evolutionally, to improve our performance. But only temporarily; we also need time to recover. So if you’re looking for support to be better equipped to look after yourself and your business, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and learning network.

I would love to hear about your top ticks for managing stress effectively.


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Jade Meara, Emerging Leaders in Sydney

Jade Meara was always fascinated in tech and computers since a young age and always knew she’d end up working in that field. Jade also loved all the creativity, challenge and speed of a marketing career, which she had already commenced, but she was marketing non-IT products. When given the opportunity to join a company marketing enterprise-grade IT and software, she took the opportunity, even though it meant a significant pay cut and step down a title grade to do so. Within months, the move paid off and Jade was promoted to Group Marketing Executive and running her own team of marketers.

Jade Meara’s Career Journey + Biggest Challenges:
Jade loves the speed and pace of change in her role, and the fact that tech is still a very “human” industry. “Everything we offer has to cater to people, and it is also is a fascinating ecosystem of businesses and people in itself. I love building networks and communities, and the IT industry allows me to do that.”

Due to the pace and speed of change in tech, projects can be highly unpredictable, and tech marketers are often under resourced. “We have to be nimble and resourceful – to be able to perform 180 degree turns quickly with minimum impact to the business.”

Jade Meara’s Advice for Women in Business:
“I think careers are as individual as the individual themselves. Attempting to apply a cookie-cutter, one-size fits all approach to career development often doesn’t work. Trying to emulate what worked for one successful female won’t necessarily work for another. So hence 1:1 mentoring and coaching are very important.”

The best advice Jade has received is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’  “that is, always think big picture. It’s important to take note and care of details, especially as a marketer, but don’t ever lose sight of the overall objective you and your company are trying to achieve.” This advice helped Jade to remain focussed on her goals, be hard working, not get distracted by office gossip, politics and superfluous details.

Jade Meara’s Behind Closed Doors Experience:
BCD has given Jade individual, tailored coaching in a safe, non-judgemental environment with like-minded professional women. “It is essential women have this safe, neutral space to discuss their current challenges, both personal and professional. It’s helped me to become more objective about my career and also personal goals and to plan to succeed – not just react to situations that occur.”

“Much like your finances, education and your health: your career is complicated, highly susceptible to outside factors, and ever-evolving. There’s nothing but upside in seeking professional help, coaching and advice from peers tailored to your particular situation on a regular basis. Also, it’s a great chance to make friends and network with women just like you, who may come from all walks of life, different companies and industry sectors.”

Jade Meara’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations:
Having recently commenced my role as Head of Marketing at F5 Networks, I enjoyed:

  1. The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins provides a good blueprint and approach for how to tackle any new leadership role.
  2. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni is useful for diagnosing problematic attitudes and traps to productivity in teamwork.

Finally, whilst not strictly a business book:

  1. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a great insight into unconscious bias and the concept of “thin slicing” – or many of us know as “gut feel”: something leaders harness in business daily.

The leadership that Jade aspires to, is “a well-rounded leader, someone who is driven by success but also who genuinely takes the welfare of their employees, the environment and wider community seriously and to heart.”

Jade Meara was the recipient of a behind closed doors scholarship in 2018 providing her with a 12-month fully funded membership to a Sydney behind closed doors peer mentoring and coaching membership group.

If you’re looking for advice, support and a network to help you build your leadership skills, Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of support and peer coaching and mentorship to help you navigate the future of your career.

Pernod Ricard Australia’s Karli Dabrowski Awarded behind closed doors’ Luminaries Scholarship

Karli DabrowskiPernod Ricard Australia’s Field Sales Manager SA/NT/TAS, Karli Dabrowski, was last night announced the recipient of behind closed doors’ (BCD) coveted Luminaries Scholarship awarded to a female manager seeking professional development to further her career.

Announcing the results at a networking dinner, BCD Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said the scholarship is awarded to a successful woman seeking access to insights, knowledge, support and high level networks in their journey to Executive and Board positions.

“Karli has had a solid nine year career at Pernod Ricard always seeking out new challenges and opportunities. Having recently taken on a team leader position and extending her regional responsibilities to include South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, the 12-month fully funded behind closed doors Luminaries membership will provide Karli with both professional and personal tools needed to continue her career journey“

“From a high quality pool of applicants attracted to the scholarship application process in 2019, I extend my congratulations to our winner, Karli Dabrowski, as well as the two runners up, Tanja Van Bokhoven, Confederation of Australian Motor Sport and Miranda Spencer, Resource Architecture.” Ms Walford said.

Luminaries Scholarship

Having worked in the liquor industry for most of her career, Karli identified in her application the value that would come from sitting with peers from varying industries to share thoughts, ideas, challenges and opportunities.

“Receiving exposure to a diversity in ways of thinking and management styles from other like-minded women will provide me with the ability to create more confidence both personally and professionally. “ Karli said.

“A professional development membership will assist in providing me with the confidence to create positive change, with a clear direction and sense of strength, which will lead to greater contribution and diversity in the leadership team at Pernod Ricard.”

The BCD Luminaries Scholarship offers businesswomen aspiring to executive roles the opportunity to further expand their leadership and management skills through a year-long peer coaching and mentoring membership, valued at more than $5,500.

BCD Luminaries was created in response to an identified need for motivated businesswomen to have a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encouraging each other to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments.

Members meet for three hours, ten times a year, for peer coaching and mentoring, professional development and networking with other business women. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community on a national level.

“One of its major aims,” concluded Ms Walford, “is to increase women’s representation on Boards, committees and in executive management roles and BCD has an enviable track record in successfully supporting our members to achieve these types of roles.”

BCD has awarded 12-month fully funded Luminaries memberships as scholarships annually in Adelaide since 2012. The 2019 Adelaide Scholarship is the 19th Luminaries scholarship awarded by BCD providing a combined value of more than $100,000 in complimentary professional development memberships to assist more women into Executive and Board roles. 

Issued by:

Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors on 8333 4303 or 0401 349 791 or penny@behindcloseddoors.com


4 Reasons Why Positive Leadership Will Help You Run A More Successful Business In 2019

Donny LeadershipDid you know that one of the top deal breakers for employees is the boss not trusting them? According to data compiled by Bamboo HR, another top reason, is the boss blaming employees for mistakes.

Your relationship with your employees is a huge factor in retaining top talent and sustaining a profitable business. These statistics demonstrate the importance for business owners and executives to understand and activate positive leadership. 

What is positive leadership?

Positive leadership isn’t just leading with a glass-half-full attitude. It actually refers to something quite specific. Financial Times defines positive leadership not in terms of something it is but something it does.

“Positive leadership uses scientific evidence and theoretically-grounded principles to promote outcomes such as thriving at work, interpersonal flourishing, virtuous behaviours, positive emotions, and energising networks.”

Positive emotions and energising networks are all very well. But do they have a tangible effect on business performance? Learning & Development expert Gina Brooks says they do. If you can breed positivity from the top down, she says, “statistically, your business can and will perform better.” 

4 reasons why positive leadership means kicking business goals in 2019

1. Positive leadership inspires and rewards success

Positive leadership has an “affirmative bias”.  It’s designed to enable and facilitate growth, motivation and success. That’s not to say that obstacles and challenges are ignored – far from it. A positive leader is also a problem-solver, but their approach is led by what works, not what doesn’t.

Positive leaders don’t just reward success, thereby boosting morale and encouraging further success; they also inspire success purely by focusing on the positive. Studies have shown that people are more likely to improve their performance by looking at what went right, rather than what went wrong. This is called The Heliotropic Effect. 

2. Positive leadership breeds a positive and productive workforce

According to this report by Inc.com: “In a positive workplace, people focus on what’s right and what’s possible–rather than being dragged down by idolising problems and polarising politics.” Positive leadership cultivates a positive mindset within the team, which has been shown to improve productivity. 

Positive leaders are also excellent at delegating, because they do so on the basis of the individual strengths of others. Rather than micro-managing, they provide coaching and development opportunities, so that their team members feel confident, well-equipped and valued. 

Positive leaders also practice positive communication, which reinforces desirable thoughts, beliefs and motivations.

“A positive leader creates an environment that nurtures all the good things in your organisation. They represent and support resilience, optimism, and gratitude”. Gina Brooks

3. Positive leadership breaks down barriers

Let’s take another look at what Inc.com said about focusing on “what’s right and what’s possible”. A positive workforce is driven by the recognition of the possible. Their professional environment is one in which more possibilities exist. When anything is possible, barriers to success cease to exist. 

Positive leadership eliminates the counterproductive tendency to think, “I/we can’t.” Positive leaders have a growth mindset, which allows them to take more risks, to be more creative and develop better solutions. 

4. Positivity improves your bottom line

The key question in any business decision: does positive leadership actually improve the bottom line? Aside from the inevitable financial benefits that come about as a result of having a happier, more productive workforce, the answer is yes. 

The William Davidson Institute conducted research on this and compared the turnover growth expectations of more than 100 business owners and managers, with actual outcomes. The study, which ran for a year, showed that “entrepreneurial optimists” do see higher profits than their pessimistic equivalents.

Can you introduce more positivity into your leadership?

Facilitating growth and inspiring success. A positive and productive workforce. An attitude of boundless possibility. An improved bottom line. These are the aspirational ideals of many business owners or executives.

How many of these are in effect on a day to day basis? The stresses and strains of life in business can erode our desire to focus on the positive, if we’re not careful. That’s only natural. Right now, at the start of a new year, it’s time to renew your commitment to proactive positive leadership and look forward to the benefits it can bring.  

If you’re looking for advice on positive leadership, consider getting in touch with an organisation which provides leaders with support, challenging conversations and networking. Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of peer coaching, mentorship and professional development, to help drive your success.

We would be interested in your feedback and stories on how positive leadership has helped you in your career. 

Warmly, Donny

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Entrepreneur Member in Focus: Sheree Sullivan

Sheree SullivanSheree Sullivan has an equal passion for creativity and managing numbers and it’s this combination that has seen her become such a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes described as the Accidental Entrepreneur, whilst she may not have had a clear destination in the beginning, there is nothing accidental about the years of hard work that she and her husband, Saul Sullivan, have dedicated to building their family business, Udder Delights.

Over the years, as her role has gotten bigger and bigger, she has been able to carve off the tasks she doesn’t like as much or that she’s not as good at, to instead focus on the tasks where her skill set adds the most value. As they built their business, Saul and Sheree have both become good at delegating, at letting go and giving other people responsibility.

What Sheree loves the most about her role is that she has the flexibility to mix creativity with strategy. By equalling loving the artistic creativity of creating new brands and the marketing that goes with that, as well as loving the numbers required to make this happen, Sheree makes and implements informed business decisions. Sheree’s truth to strategy is, creativity with rational and it has been a highly successful formula for her.

Sheree Sullivan’s Career Journey + Biggest Challenges:

Her journey began even before she knew it, when her parents purchased their dream farming patch of land in the Adelaide Hills in 1995, and started a fledgling cheese factory in 1998 which Sheree took the helm of, a short while later. In 2004 Sheree married Saul and together they relentlessly pushed the business forward. As the business has progressed throughout the years, they have seen equal amounts of triumph and tragedy. Late 2017, saw Saul and Sheree successfully bring on new investment partners.

The biggest challenges along this journey for Sheree have come in crisis times, when the buck lies with you, as the business owners. Sheree remembers years ago, as the captain of her high school, her Principal said “when you’re at the top, there are no good decisions left to make, there’s only the tough decisions left to be made.” By the time business decisions have escalated to Sheree and Saul, it’s a tough decision and requires the hard line.

Sheree has also always appreciated the flipside of this responsibility as well. At the top you have greater autonomy and the ability to lead and that’s often quite fun. Sheree highly values the creative control to say “we’re taking the business here” and the ability to set the direction of the business.

Sheree Sullivan’s Advice for Women in Business:

Sheree’s number one advice for women in business is to really understand money and how your business makes it. After about two or three years in business, a mentor questioned Sheree about the profit percentage of her top product and whilst she had always loved maths, she hadn’t really been applying it in business. Her mentor pushed her to stop talking about marketing and to articulate how much profit was in that product. Walking away thinking “I’m going to show you” Sheree then analysed the numbers and realised that their top selling product was actually operating at a 10% loss. This realisation was a massive turn-around point for the business. It was the kick up the bum needed to really get her head around and manage the numbers.

At that point Sheree decided she was going to focus on getting good at money and she’s still pushing on that focus to this day. Every year Sheree chooses to learn something else about the management of money because to her, business is about managing two things, money and people.

Sheree Sullivan’s BCD Experience:

Sheree joined Behind Closed Doors (BCD) many years ago, at a period in her life when she felt quite isolated, coupled with a desire to connect with other people who could challenge her business approach. Sheree remembers thinking, “I don’t want to be the sharpest tool in the shed” she was looking to learn from others who had already been through her experiences. BCD provided her with access to women higher in business to learn from, bounce ideas with and grow. From her involvement in BCD, Sheree has met some incredible women and made some very dear, close friendships.

Her time in BCD has helped Sheree to ‘say it like it is’ and made having difficult conversations actually quite easy. Through years of attending monthly meetings, where her own and other members’ problems are analysed and given feedback, Sheree has built the confidence to tackle difficult conversations head on. Sheree summarises “through the strong leadership of Donny Walford and my facilitator Kylie Bishop – who both call a spade a spade, I have learnt to just act on difficult issues, I don’t overthink it, I just get on and do it.”

Sheree Sullivan’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations:

  1. The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – it’s quite an old fashioned book however it provides highly useful insights about business ownership for small businesses. A key theme is around the concept that ‘you build a business to own a business, not a job.’ This was pivotal in the way that we built Udder Delights.
  2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – this book set the path on how Saul and I chose to spend our money. We embraced the concept of letting your assets buy your liability. This shaped our decisions around how we invested both our personal funds and in the business.
  3. Winging It by Emma Isaacs – I really enjoyed the pep talk aspect of this book, a quote stood out to me: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
  4. The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape – this recommendation goes back to always learning about and managing money. I’m constantly looking to expand my knowledge in this area.

The future is bright for Udder Delights, and Sheree is constantly humbled by how the business has grown and continues to develop. When women ask her for advice on how to progress in business she highly recommends BCD, the entrepreneur group particularly.

“When you’re at the top, running your own business, there’s no one else to really turn to for advice. BCD is an awesome and honest network. We give permission for members to be truly honest in the feedback we give. In our group we ask for permission to call “bullshit”. The honesty is refreshing and invaluable”.

If you’re feeling isolated in your entrepreneurial journey and looking for advice, support and a network to help you grow in business, Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind support and mentorship to help you navigate your business into the future.

If you have a story you would like to share regarding your entrepreneurial journey, we would love to hear from you.

Warmly, Donny

Meet some of our other BCD Members

Implement SMARTER Goals to Drive Your Success In 2019

Goal SettingMany of us understand that setting goals is a great way to give yourself direction, focus and motivation. Whilst we comprehend their importance, especially in the context of achieving business outcomes, many of the women I work with have previously struggled to actively manage their goal setting. My mantra to them is from the widely renowned quote “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The trouble is, that whilst setting goals may sound simple, the reality of learning how to define your goals, to make them measurable and then put together a plan to achieve them, can be very difficult.

At Behind Closed Doors (BCD) we provide a framework and support network to help our members not only set, but to also achieve their business and personal goals. Starting with a written framework that members articulate via supported participation in our monthly peer Coaching and mentoring groups, along with regular reviews and Accountability Partners, the BCD goal setting process is highly effective in delivering tangible results.

Well known business strategists and life coaches, Shannah Kennedy and Lyndall Mitchell, The Essentialists, advise “once you know what you want, you can concentrate your energy on making it happen instead of wasting time on distractions.” So the question then becomes, where to start? How do I set goals that are relevant and achievable? At BCD, we advocate using the SMARTER goal setting approach.

With the SMARTER goal setting approach, your goals are:

Specific – well defined, clear and focused

Measurable – establish criteria for tracking results

Attainable – is the result feasibly to achieve

Realistic – is it relevant to overall purpose

Timely – make it time-bound with specific milestone dates

Exciting – work to your strengths and passions

Risky – don’t let fear of failure hold you back! Set some goals that you are “afraid” of.

According to research presented by author, entrepreneur, James Clear people are “2x to 3x more likely to stick to your goals if you make a specific plan for when, where and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE]. Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior.”

However setting your SMARTER goals is only the beginning, the real challenge comes from how you implement your goals and then the committed, on-going work required to achieve them.

Through our process at BCD we encourage our members to set specific rolling quarterly targets, detailing the actions and steps they will take to achieve their milestones. The process requires them to consider how they will measure the results of their actions, what barriers they may face and to be clear on the outcomes they want / why this goal is important to them. In my experience, a commitment to setting, achieving and reviewing your goals is about taking accountability, and putting yourself directly in the driver’s seat of your own destiny. It’s always good to have others keep you accountable too! As stated by Australian author Sara Henderson “don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

As we move into the beginning of a new year, it’s the perfect time to actually make the time, to reflect on last year’s achievements and what you are putting off, and review your goals. Ask yourself, what are you hoping to achieve in 2019 and what are you going to do to make this happen?

If you’re looking for advice, consider getting in touch with an organisation which provides support. Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of mentorship that helps you maximise networking and keep your focus goal-oriented to drive your success.

I would be interested to hear from you what other tools you use to keep focussed on achieving professional and personal success.

Warmly,  Donny

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Executive Member in Focus: Joanna Andrews

Joanna AndrewJoanna Andrews is a results driven person, with a focus on good governance to achieve positive, long term outcomes. Through her Company Director portfolio and Facilitator role with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), Joanna helps educate others on the importance of a well functioning board, to underpin business success at the highest level. 

Joanna Andrews Career Journey: 

Joanna joined Mellor Olsson in 2003 following completion of her law degree with Honours at Adelaide University. In 2013, at the age of 33, Joanna become a Capital Partner and the youngest female partner at the firm. Throughout this time she simultaneously raised two children, which added a level of complexity and minimised her hours of sleep! 

By focusing on the bigger picture, and her long term goals, Joanna made the conscious decision to commit to her career progression. This required both time and financial sacrifices, especially in the first few years after her daughter was born, which coincided with her appointment as a Salary Partner. Now in her position as Capital Partner, Joanna has increased flexibility and freedom in her role, which was always part of her long term goals; having this focus helped her navigate some of the more challenging times. 

An interesting challenge of Joanna’s role is the work required to manage the expectations of her junior staff. In managing a number of millennials Joanna finds herself spending time normalising career expectations to help them understand that it takes both time and hard work to succeed and that this will include lots of unglamorous grunt work.  

Some of the aspects that Joanna finds most rewarding is through well exceeding the expectations of her clients, through growing and mentoring young solicitors, especially young women, and seeing the growth and business successes of the boards that she has guided. 

Joanna Andrews Advice for Women in Business: 

Coming back to work as a Salary Partner soon after my daughter was born was challenging, and then my son was born 14 months later. Through a demonstrated dedication to my career, my Partners understood my commitment and were very supportive of me. My advice to help achieve the juggle of family and full time work is to establish a very good support network. My support network had to be paid, but however you set it up you need it.

The other aspect of managing a family and a career, is to be kind to yourself. Over the years I frequently felt torn – either I was a terrible Mum and terrific lawyer, or vice versa. However you’re the only driver of your destiny and there’s no such thing as perfection, so give yourself some slack. It’s also very important not to judge other women. You choose the journey that’s right for you, others need to make the decision that’s best for them. We need to be supportive and not judgemental of the decisions we make so that as women we don’t feel the pressure to question our decisions.

Unfortunately, throughout my career, I have like many women experienced an element of unwanted male attention. I hope that we are moving towards a time where this will become less frequent, but in the meantime my advice is for women to be strong, be clear and be transparent. 

Joanna Andrews Role Models:

One of my key role models is Donny Walford who taught me to never give up. She helped me to embrace the idea that if you don’t have any failures you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. Donny also helped me understand the critical importance of being very selective with your time and who you spend it with, to be smart with your networking. I know now not to waste time on networking that won’t further my career, as that’s time I could instead spend on my career or with my family – we only get to spend our time once.  

In summary, my professional role models are:

  • Donny Walford for how she has established strong networks (with hard work), a high profile and drive to give back and support women.
  • Kate Costello for her Board achievements and business success in Governance which has helped pave the way for future female directors.
  • Gail Kelly for her ability to juggle her career with young children whilst also succeeding in a male dominated industry. I admire her candour.

Joanna Andrews Top Three Business Book Recommendations: 

  • The Wife Drought” by Annabel Crabb it is an entertaining, thought provoking and blunt assessment.
  • Duties and Responsibilities of Directors and Officers by Professor Bob Baxt it is a great reference guide that is easy to read.
  • Not Just Lucky by Jamila Rizvi it is a confronting read and a book I would recommend for women in their early career years.

Joanna’s BCD Experience: 

I joined Behind Closed Doors (BCD) many years ago at around the same time I became a Salary Partner. Joining BCD was critical for my confidence, it gave me the confidence to tackle challenges that I wouldn’t previously dreamed of doing. Donny and others in the network actually encouraged me to offer my services to the AICD which seems like a small step from the outside, but to me it was quite big. That opportunity has grown into an incredibly important aspect of my career progression. 

As a girl growing up in regional South Australia and attending the local public school I didn’t have access to a network of supportive women, so joining BCD this was new to me. It helped broaden my network of corporate women and has been one of the really critical steps in the success of my career progression.

I absolutely recommend BCD membership to other women because it provides access to a guaranteed network of women that will give you honest, constructive advice and feedback. To me, you can’t put a dollar value on the importance of that.

Find out more about behind closed doors Executive Membership today.

Sydney’s Olivia Shah Awarded behind closed doors Professional Development Scholarship

Olivia ShahOlivia Shah, National Director – Fundraising for Autism Spectrum Australia, has been announced recipient of Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) 2019 “Profit for Purpose” Scholarship in Sydney providing 12-months fully funded access to BCD’s Executive Membership.

Founder and Managing Director of the respected peer coaching & mentoring company, Donny Walford, said the Scholarship was awarded to a female executive in the Profit for Purpose sector to further expand and challenge current leadership and business practices.

“Participation in BCD’s Executive membership provides an opportunity for personal and professional development to the benefit of both the individual and their organisation. behind closed doors is delighted to offer the complimentary membership to a female executive working in the profit for purpose sector.” Ms Walford said.

Olivia has been in a senior leadership role for a number of years at Autism Spectrum Australia, one of the largest disability organisations in Australia that is undergoing the biggest changes it has seen in the past 50 years.

In application for the Scholarship, Olivia said she would relish the time to invest in her own personal growth which to date has mostly been achieved “on the job” and is excited to work with the support of structured external mentors or coaching over the coming year.

“I want to gain a better understanding of my own leadership style and how this can be improved with a view to developing a team of people and supporters all whom have the common goal of creating a world where no one on the autism spectrum is left behind.” Olivia said.

Ms Walford said “The BCD Executive membership will provide Olivia with a professional sounding board of peers to help mentor and coach her both professionally and personally.”

BCD Executive Members meet with a small cohort of like-minded women 11 times a year with a highly skilled and experienced Facilitator. Members are challenged to set goals, be held accountable and aspire for greater levels of achievement in both their professional and personal life.

The award recipient receives a 12-month fully funded behind closed doors membership valued at more than $7,500.

Two runner-up awards providing a complimentary one-hour mentoring session were awarded to Helen Bouropoulos of National Disability Services and Sally Dillon of Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries NSW.

Behind closed doors, celebrating 10 years of supporting women in 2018, has awarded some $350,000 in scholarships to women since awarding the first scholarship to Adelaide Entrepreneur Anna Dimond of Palas Jewellery in 2012.

 Issued by: Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors on 8333 4303 or 0401 349 791 www.behindcloseddoors.com

Financial Education for Women – Adelaide

Few Facilitators 2019

Bringing women together to share experiences and knowledge, develop networks and receive support and mentoring in a peer group mentoring environment to make better financial decisions every day.


BCD Financial Education for Women Membership – Adelaide

The behind closed doors Financial Education for Women membership aims to assist women make better financial decisions, everyday…to have the life they dream of, now and in the future.

The new membership will build the financial capability of women to ensure greater economic security for both women and their families, now and into the future. Greater financial capability, including financial literacy, has a direct link with boosting women’s economic participation, including building women’s retirement incomes and savings.

High-quality financial capability education can make a significant difference to women’s lives. Our financial capability membership aims to assist women achieve financial wellbeing which in turn helps reduce vulnerability to financial stress and other problems.

The Financial Education for Women Membership will educate women seeking to improve their financial knowledge to understand and negotiate the financial landscape, manage money and financial risks effectively, and avoid financial pitfalls.

Looking after your finances is looking after yourself! Women will be planning for their future and setting financial goals to build their financial freedom. By taking control of their financials they will achieve financial independence.

Looking after your finances is looking after yourself!

behind closed doors Financial Education for Women (FEW) membership offers:

  • Sessions facilitated by high profile Businesswomen
  • A professional sounding board
  • Peer group mentoring/coaching and accountability
  • A totally confidential and safe environment to discuss challenges
  • Connections, relationships and networking
  • Personal development
  • High level of accountability
  • Action learning

Members informally mentor each other, improve their skills and knowledge and build their confidence and emotional intelligence.

Meet Your Facilitators

FEW Facilitators

behind closed doors has curated an impressive line-up of facilitators that includes:


Membership Topics for 2019

Members will meet for seven x  three-hour sessions over 10 months in 2019. Meetings will be held at the office of Rise High Financial Solutions, 279 Churchill Road Prospect, from 9:30am-12:30pm on a Saturday beginning in August.

Module 1:
Goal Setting and the Scary Truth

Module 2:
The Harsh Reality – Your Current Financial Position

Module 3:
Forward Planning

Module 4:
Understanding Property investment

Module 5:
Understanding Shares and Superannuation

Module 6:
Protecting your Assets and Wealth

Module 7:
Your Financial Plan

Post Module Reviews:  2 x Review Sessions in 2020

Women will gain financial clarity on where they are currently, what they want to achieve and develop a plan to get there. They will be supported and held accountable to achieve their financial goals.

Express Your Interest

Luminaries Scholarship: Adelaide

Jasmine RichardsLuminaries Scholarship Adelaide Applications for 2019 are now closed.

Would you benefit from 12-months peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking opportunities? Apply today and YOU could receive a 12-month fully funded BCD Luminaries membership suitable for women in mid-career/ management stage of their career.

Luminaries members hold manager (of staff or stakeholders) level positions within an organisation. This membership is not suitable for Executives or Entrepreneurs/Business Owners. 

behind closed doors Luminaries membership was created in response to a need for aspiring businesswomen and managers to have a support network where they can discuss professional issues and challenges in a totally confidential environment, while at the same time encourage each other to extend themselves further to achieve and succeed in new environments.

Members meet for three hours, ten times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded women. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.  Scholarship recipients are placed into a Luminaries membership in either Adelaide, Perth, Sydney or Melbourne with a fully funded 12-month membership.

Since 2012, behind closed doors has offered an annual scholarship to an aspiring female leader to receive a 12-month behind closed doors Luminaries membership in Adelaide.

Previous Luminaries Scholarship recipients have included:

2016 Luminaries Scholarship Winner

2018: Adelaide: Sally Woolford, SA Police. Melbourne: Sarah Overton, KPMG. Sydney: Jade Meara, Nutanix.  Perth: Nadine Magill

2017: Adelaide: Jasmine Richards, OZ Minerals and Belinda Latz, K-TIG. Melbourne: Stephanie Miles, Hydrix and Friska Wirya, Worley Parsons. Perth: Erin Gandy, WA Country Health and Candy Choo, LGIS.

2016: Toni Richardson, Manager Engagement and Development, Department for Education and Child Development

2015: Rebecca Lawson, Central Sales Manager, Newscorp

2014: Penny Griggs, General Manager, SALA Festival

2013: Melissa Thredgold, Deputy Principal, St Johns Grammar Junior School

2012: Teresa Yeing, Transformation Consultant, Viterra

The objectives of the Luminaries membership is to:

  • Deliver practical management and leadership sessions to generate more effective leaders.
  • Provide a confidential businesswomen’s support network.
  • Extend individuals personally and professionally.
  • Encourage and support members to nominate for Board and committee positions.
  • Mentor peers to accept greater professional challenges and roles.
  • Assist members to participate in awards programs such as the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
  • Increase the calibre and expertise of female managers and leaders within organisations.
  • Provide a clear development path for women moving through to executive roles.

Luminaries groups meet 10 times a year.  Each session runs for three hours from 12pm to 3pm at a Boardroom located at one of our supporters and includes a light lunch.

behind closed doors Luminaries members also receive:

  • Automatic inclusion into the BoardDirect register
  • Access to a select executive women’s network
  • Professional and personal development in a stimulating environment
  • Exposure and introductions to senior people in business and government
  • Private sessions with local identities and guest speakers
  • Opportunities to discuss professional and personal challenges and strategies in a supportive women’s forum
  • Invitations to Businesswomen’s Connexions (network) events
  • Opportunities for Board Directorships
  • Mentoring with a behind closed doors Executive group member

Visit our Luminaries Membership page for further details.



behind closed doors Luminaries is designed for businesswomen and leaders of the future who are aspiring to move into executive management positions. To be eligible, you must be able to demonstrate:

  • Leadership ability and exceptional teamwork
  • Why the scholarship will benefit you
  • How the scholarship will benefit your organisation
  • Complete the online application form.

Applications for 2019 are closed.

Finalists must be

  • Open to receiving publicity for participating in/receiving the Scholarship
  • Available for finalist interviews on Monday February 4, 2019
  • Available to attend the announcement networking event Tuesday February 12, 2019
  • Able to attend monthly meetings based in the city/city fringe beginning March 2019


If you would like to nominate a business woman who would benefit from a behind closed doors Luminaries scholarship, please provide their name, business and contact details. Submit your nomination via email to scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com


To apply for the behind closed doors Luminaries scholarship you must complete an online application form or request a copy of the form from scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com

Applications Closed Thursday January 24, 2019. 

Judging Process

Upon receipt of written applications, a shortlist of 6 finalists will be invited to attend a 30 minute panel interview on Monday February 4, 2019.

Key Dates

  • December 2018 –  Scholarships launched
  • Thursday January 24, 2019  @ 5pm Applications Close
  • Monday February 4, 2019, Panel Interviews for Finalists in Adelaide
  • Tuesday February 12, 2019 Adelaide Scholarship recipient announced at Back to Business Dinner
  • March 2019 Scholarship recipients commence the first of their 12-month fully funded Luminaries membership


For scholarship enquiries, please contact, behind closed doors Program Manager on 08 8333 4303 or email scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com

For enquiries of how you can obtain a Luminaries membership, please contact behind closed doors on 08 8333 4303 or email info@behindcloseddoors.com

Tips for Successful Networking

Tips for Successful NetworkingKnowing how to successfully network within a senior executive context is something that many people find difficult or intimidating. Professional networking is an important investment in your career development. When you advance into senior management roles, professional development becomes a different game. It’s no longer about your technical ability, it’s no longer about qualifications, it’s about how you manage your team within top level business requirements. To progress at this level, you need to spend more time building relationships with other senior managers and the people that you’re reporting to, not with the team that you’re leading.

Andrew Hennigan, author of ‘Payforward Networking’ describes networking as “a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals.” 

Networking in a business context is vastly different than social interactions, it’s not about drinking and having a good time; don’t get me wrong, good networking events should include a social element, however it’s not a party. So how do you successfully network and build professional relations? Over my years in senior executive roles, I have learned that to achieve maximum results from networking, you need to approach it as you would any other aspect in business development, strategically.  

If you are currently a senior executive looking to strengthen your position or you’re looking for tips to help you progress into a senior executive role, here are my key recommendations to help you.

Invest Your Time Wisely

Before committing your valuable time to networking, you need to be very clear about the objective you’re looking to achieve by doing it. There is a plethora of potential networking events to attend but your time is limited, so you need to research and determine which options will present the best return for your investment of time. Catriona Pollard author of ‘From Unknown To Expert’ states that “networking has been incredibly powerful and instrumental in creating the business I have today. But just turning up to networking events isn’t enough. And it isn’t just about getting new business either.” 

When I created Behind Closed Doors, this was one of my key motivations. I wanted to create a female focused peer coaching & mentoring, networking and professional development experience that delivers tangible career advancement support. I wanted to create an organisation that allowed senior women in business to invest wisely in their development. 

To understand what are the right events for you to attend, consider who are your target influencers, who are the people you want to connect with and what events are they attending? If you’re unsure how to determine this, ask for referrals from your current business contacts who know your targets. 

How To Interact at Networking Functions

Meeting new business contacts to build professional relationships is built on similar foundations to how you develop relationships in any area of your life, through trust built on shared experiences and mutual interests. Remember, the aim is not to sell at this point, it’s about marketing, branding and promotion. You are working towards building rapport, so if and when selling is appropriate, you have already established a relationship with this person. Like any skill, regular and committed practice will improve your performance – the more networking functions you attend, the more comfortable you’ll feel. 

It’s important to prepare and practice your elevator speech, so you can feel comfortable and confident when you deliver it. According to the Australian Institute of Business, your elevator speech “is a concise, compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to their floor. People are busy, and being able to communicate who you are and what you do quickly and effectively will ensure that you get your most important points across, no matter how short the conversation.” My top tips for creating your elevator speech is to keep it short, concise, factual and to the point – avoid hype and be you. 

Stephen Covey, author of widely acclaimed book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was famously quoted as saying “Stop listening to reply and start listening to understand.” Understanding the difference and truly listening, is incredibly important to build relationships from your networking. If you’re just listening to wait for your turn to speak, you miss the opportunity to offer value by truly engaging with what your connection is saying. Listening is different than hearing, listening is a process of communication and to be successful, it must be an active process. To understand the motivation and to capture the potential opportunity of conversations, you must be an active participant in the communication process.

Follow-Up: How To Maintain Contact

Securing contact details from someone after one conversation at one event does not mean you have developed a business relationship. Attending networking functions is the starting point, now you need to cultivate this contact into a deeper connection. To achieve this, you need to establish a follow-up system, one that works for you, is simple and manageable. If you have a CRM system, this is a great way to help manage the process. Even without it there are processes you can implement. Something I have always found helpful, is on the day of the event, write on the back of your new contacts business card where you meet and key points you discussed; this enables you to personalise your follow-up.

An immediate and highly effective follow-up action, is to connect with new business contacts via LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the top online site for professional, social and career networking. The site functions as an online directory of individual professionals and organisations and facilitates the process of professional networking. I aim to connect with new contacts on LinkedIn either on the day of the networking function or within a few days, as this provides immediate recall and further strengthens the professional connection.

The other powerful follow-up action I implement, is to send an email within one week, but no longer than two weeks after meeting a new business contact. Sending an effective follow-up email is a great way to further solidify the introduction and develop a more meaningful business connection. A great way to manage this follow-up process is to create a range of email templates that you can edit to personalise for each contact. If you don’t know where to start, Hubspot has created a useful range of follow-up email templates that can help get you started in implementing this process. 

Understanding how to successfully network is a powerful tool that will help your career advancement. Take the time to strategically plan how and where to spend your time in this pursuit. Consider becoming a regular at one or two key groups, spend more time focused on developing your reputation in one or two key areas instead of spreading yourself thinly across multiple groups. Plan event attendance in your calendar. From my experience, if you don’t book in time to attend, you simply won’t go. For more details on the range of networking and professional development opportunities we offer, click here to view our website or contact us today.   


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Australian Red Cross’s Rebecca Cunningham Awarded BCD Scholarship

Rebecca CunninghamRegional Manager for Australian Red Cross, Rebecca Cunningham, located in the South Australian town of Gladstone has been announced recipient of Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) “Profit for Purpose” Scholarship in Adelaide for 2019. The Scholarship has been awarded to 12 women since 2015, Rebecca being the first regional winner.

Founder and Managing Director of the respected professional development and peer coaching & mentoring company, Donny Walford, said the 12-month Scholarship was awarded to a successful female executive in the Profit for Purpose sector to further expand and challenge current leadership and business practices.

“Profit for Purpose organisations are critical to our society and we are delighted to provide an opportunity to a female executive working in the sector.” Ms Walford said.

Rebecca Cunningham has proven to be an innovator and champion of change. She is passionate about her industry and determined to make a difference to the lives of the people that utilise the services of Australian Red Cross.

In application for the Scholarship, Rebecca said living regionally can provide obstacles to be able to collaborate and network with other like-minded women outside of her own organisation.

“This opportunity will mean I will be able to connect with others and continue to grow and develop professionally. ” Rebecca said.

Ms Walford said “The BCD Executive membership will provide Rebecca with a professional sounding board of peers to help mentor and coach her both professionally and personally. We are delighted to provide this valuable opportunity to a regional recipient.”

BCD Executive Members meet with a small cohort of like-minded women 11 times a year with a highly skilled and experienced Facilitator and Program Director. Members are challenged to set goals, be held accountable and aspire for greater levels of achievement in both their professional and personal life.

The award recipient receives a 12-month fully funded behind closed doors Executive membership valued at more than $7,500.

Two runner-up awards providing a complimentary one-hour mentoring session with BCD Founder and Managing Director Donny Walford were awarded to Michelle Gheorghiu of Minda and Sabine Kloss of Animal Welfare League.

Behind closed doors, celebrating 10 years of supporting women in 2018, has awarded some $350,000 in scholarships to women since awarding the first scholarship to Adelaide Entrepreneur Anna Dimond of Palas Jewellery in 2012.

Issued by: Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors on 8333 4303 or 0401 349 791 www.behindcloseddoors.com

Member in Focus: Joanna Taskas

Jo TaskasJoanne (Jo) Taskas is a proud Larrakia women, who is purpose driven to serve Aboriginal people and the wider community, through her work in the Public Sector. Jo is a Luminaries Behind Closed Doors (BCD) member. 

The Luminaries Membership offers female executives of the future, the opportunity to further expand their leadership and management skills. The membership is best suited for women in a management position, either managing employees and/or stakeholders.

Jo’s Career Journey: 

I have always been attracted to roles that align with my values of transparency, honesty, fairness and integrity. Early in my career I made a conscious decision to serve the public. I have worked for the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) for 16 years in various roles including Finance, HR, Policy and Program Delivery. As a proud Larrakia women with my roots in the Northern Territory, I feel purpose bound to get the best outcomes for Aboriginal people.

My current role is Operations Manager for our Central Division in Program Delivery (SA, NT, VIC, and TAS) where we develop grant funding projects with Indigenous groups. Our function is to address the dispossession of Land to Aboriginal people and to assist Indigenous Australians to acquire land, by facilitating landownership through the acquiring and granting of land to Indigenous Corporations.   

The work of this organisation is incredibly varied, yet always focused on benefits to Aboriginal people. Throughout my career, I have worked in Telstra, National Crime Authority (NCA), Australian Bureau of Statistics and other Commonwealth Agencies. 

Jo’s Advice for Women in Business: 

The best advice I received was to remember: if you have the education, skills and experience, then you need to back yourself! Self doubt can sometimes be hard to ignore but when aiming to succeed, it’s so incredibly important to trust in your own capability. So my advice to other women in business, is to be the person you want to be and trust in yourself. 

Jo’s Role Models:

My first boss in the Public Service, Jacqui Nelson. She showed me that Public Servants are bound by Australian Government to serve the Public with transparency, integrity and honesty. These are values I have tried to maintain in my career. 

Other role models for me include Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek and Julie Bishop – for obvious reasons, they are resilient, classy and respectful women (do you see a theme here!). 

Jo’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations: 

  1. The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen Covey “To achieve goals you’ve never achieved before, you need to start doing things you have never done before.‘’
  2. Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t, Simon Sinek. It delves into why the role of a leader is primarily to care for others. 
  3. Work hard and focus on your best days, so that you can deal with the worst days. It’s not a book, it’s a quote from my husband, Mick Taskas, that I remind myself of frequently. 

Jo’s BCD Experience: 

What I really loved about BCD was the opportunity it gave me to rediscover myself and to have the confidence to be who I want to be. Through the tools and support network, participation in BCD has improved my confidence, resilience, accountability and output.

I recommend BCD because it provides a safe environment to discuss your individual work challenges. Each month you have access to great speakers who address your needs in a holistic manner from personal finances, well-being, leadership, communication, self-promotion and innovation. I feel empowered not only as a leader, but also as a women. I am proud to be part of BCD.  Also the networking opportunities are outstanding because you are encouraged and positively supported. 

To learn more about the Behind Closed Doors membership options, view the details via this link or for any specific questions, email info@behindcloseddoors.com

4 Ways To Manage Difficult Conversations In The Workplace

Difficult Conversations in the WorkplaceAt some point in business we are all required to have difficult conversations in the workplace. They’re not easy, nor something that we look forward to. Whether it be chasing payment from debtors, dealing with unhappy customers or managing underperforming staff; at some point in your role in management, difficult conversations are inevitable.  

One of the greatest challenges, and the most difficult conversations in business that I have experienced, was during the 1991 collapse of the State Bank. I had just taken over my first Branch Manager role, managing 35 team members and trying to prove myself against a still present attitude that ‘women can’t be bank managers’.

On 6 February, after only one week in the role, I received a phone call at 7am Sunday morning from an Executive member at the Bank asking me to manage the Bank’s Call Centre for the day, staff with as  many employees as possible and ring all of our 4,500 employees, to advise them that the Bank was announcing a $2.2 billion loss and to expect there would be a run on funds the next day.  That loss was to reach $4.2 billion!

I quickly set-up a script for the team to use, to brief employees on what they would likely face the next day. We worked from 7:30 in the morning until 8 o’clock that night, to ring every single one of those 4,500 employees. I thought that day was challenging but it was just the beginning. The next day we had to go into the branch network, face our customers and have many more difficult conversations.  They were literally lined up down the streets to withdraw their life savings.

Whilst incredibly challenging, I learnt a lot from this experience. From this foundation, I have built a strong set of skills to help me confidently deal with difficult conversations in the workplace. I have summarised these skills into four different strategies that you can implement to help you manage challenging conversations. 

  1. Avoiding Confrontation Will Not Make It Go-Away  
  2. Be Prepared
  3. Don’t Take It Personally
  4. Find Opportunity In Adversity

I explain each of these four areas, and how they can help you manage difficult conversations in the workplace, in more detail below: 

1. Avoiding Confrontation Will Not Make It Go-Away  

Most people find confrontation difficult, so it is a completely normal response to procrastinate and hope the problem goes away. However, delaying and avoiding challenging conversations can make the issues escalate and the outcomes far worse.  In my experience, not having the confrontation means it plays over and over in your head, you tend not to operate as productively and it can keep you awake at night!  Dealing with it in a timely manner is the key, and your employees will see you as an effective leader and manager.  

2. Be Prepared

Possibly one of the most important aspects to successfully negotiating difficult conversations, is to be prepared. Like any business negotiation, you need to go into the conversation with a clear understanding of the outcome you want to achieve. Writing a script will help you stick to the key points you want to cover. Even if you don’t stick exactly to your script, this provides a good reference point and something to reign in the conversation, if you feel it heading in the wrong direction. Being very clear on your direction and outcome, will help you control how the conversation proceeds and reduce the likelihood of it deteriorating into a negative and unproductive discussion. 

3. Don’t Take It Personally

To bring your best communication skills to a difficult conversation, you need to manage your emotional responses, including body language. It is not un-common for difficult conversations to become emotional and this needs to be carefully managed because if you also become emotional in your responses, the conversation will deteriorate. By maintaining a calm and rational state, you will help steer the conversation towards your desired outcome. I have found applying a ‘firm but fair’ approach is most productive in these situations. Through this approach, you are compassionate and understanding of the other person’s perspective but also remain firm on your key points and direction for the discussion. The ability to genuinely look at the situation through the eyes of others, to demonstrate compassion even when delivering challenging information, is a skill that will help shape you into a respected leader. 

4. Find Opportunity In Adversity

As challenging as my experience with the State Bank collapse was, it also provided me with a huge potential opportunity. Instead of only looking at difficult conversations and challenges as negative situations, turn this around and look for the potential positives. Through my response to the Bank collapse, I was recognised as one of the few people to ‘turn the Bank on its head’, to help it become an organisation that was customer and sales focused. It is the people that stand up in adversity that we remember and it is the leaders that step-up during times of crisis, that make a real difference. 

Like all skills, your ability to handle difficult conversations will improve with practice. Implementing these four strategies will help you to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, to better manage these conversations. Talking to others in management roles to gain their advice and experience can also provide great assistance. The opportunity for women to access support by way of peer coaching and mentoring for the challenges we face in business, was one of the key reasons why I established Behind Closed Doors. Through our network, you can draw on a wealth of experience from other businesswomen, to help you successfully navigate difficult conversations in the workplace. 


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Kate Rush, Executive Member in Focus

Kate RushDo you work in an executive role for a Non-Profit or NGO organisation? Are you looking to expand your knowledge and to build genuine, supportive business connections.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Executive NFP Scholarship for Adelaide and Sydney, submissions close on Tuesday 23rd October.

For a greater understanding of what it means to be the recipient of our Executive NFP Scholarship, we spoke to 2017 scholarship recipient, Kate Rush who is the Head of Disability and Mental Health Services at AnglicareSA. 

Kate is a values driven person who thrives on the opportunity to work with others and who shares a passion for contributing to the change we need as a society to create more inclusive, productive and equitable communities.

Kate Rush’s BCD Scholarship Experience: 

I was very humbled by receiving the behind closed doors NFP Executive scholarship. It has provided me with an opportunity to engage with an incredible network of women, to reflect on the way our challenges are often similar despite the very different places we work, and to use goal setting in my career more effectively.

behind closed doors has helped to bring focus to my professional goals and be in a space where you can regularly consider the views of a range of other trusted, professional and inspiring women. I’d like to continue to build my skills around coaching others, which you can develop in the peer mentoring space behind closed doors offers. I really enjoy the networking events too.

Kate Rush’s Career Journey: 

A strong sense of purpose has driven the way I have moved through different roles in my career. A big part of this is the ever-increasing need I see for leadership; in our communities and our workplaces. My current role as Head of Disability and Mental Health Services at AnglicareSA is a reflection of seeing an opportunity to contribute to leadership, particularly around strategy and vision, which I enjoy.

The non-profit business environment is changing significantly and this is challenging the identities and processes of not for profits, particularly through changes like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). I enjoy this challenge though and see it as an opportunity to keep improving our effectiveness as an agency.

Kate Rush’s Advice for Women in Business: 

Some of the challenges I have faced include having to advocate from a women’s perspective, particularly in situations like being the only woman on a board. I have been surprised at times at the assumptions others have made about women’s perspectives, without taking time to hear them. My advice is to avoid getting defensive or frustrated, just build strong relationships and work with others to get the results you need.

At the end of the day, much of your success is up to you. I think a lot of leadership is about being the best version of yourself and using that as a platform for change. When you strengthen yourself, you strengthen your business.

Kate Rush’s Role Models:

There are a number of wonderful local women who have encouraged me along the way who I see as role models because they know how to keep their cool under pressure, and maintain their focus on the things that matter. From a distance, I also admire people like Penny Wong and Alan Joyce because they are not afraid to be political, they’re authentic and it’s nice to have some LGBT role models in my life too!

Kate Rush’s Top Three Business Book Recommendations: 

  1. Good to Great, Jim Collins. It’s an oldie but a goodie and the strategies he discusses remain relevant. Having a solid foundation and the right priorities makes a difference.
  2. Mastering Leadership: R Anderson & W Adams. Leadership is what I am passionate about and this book gives deep understanding on what is good leadership and how it can improve our effectiveness in all aspects of life.
  3. The Audacity of Hope: Barack Obama. It’s interesting to get into the mind and reflect on the learnings of someone who’s ambitions are bigger than a single role. Obama is also very frank about the constraints the world of politics places on doing good, and how he seeks to contribute beyond that.

To apply for the 2018 Behind Closed Doors Executive NFP scholarship, there are five questions to answer via an online application form to discover how a peer mentoring membership would assist you in your career. For any questions, or to nominate a female executive, you can email scholarship@behindcloseddoors.com

Further details about the application process can be accessed at the behind closed doors webiste.

Elina D’Cruz Awarded Sydney Entrepreneur Scholarship

Elina D'Cruz
With two businesses in her entrepreneurial belt, operating in both Perth and Sydney, Elina D’Cruz business ventures received a boost today with the award of the coveted behind closed doors (BCD) scholarship providing a 12-month fully-funded membership to the national network for businesswomen.

The prized BCD Entrepreneurs Scholarship awards a female Sydney entrepreneur the opportunity to tap into the considerable business acumen of some of the State’s leading businesswomen. The membership provides professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking opportunities to assist with continued business growth and success.

“The BCD Entrepreneurs Scholarship has proven one of our most successful initiatives, records show scholarship recipients gain enhanced personal and professional skills that contribute to the increased success and sustainability of their business.” Founder and Managing Director of behind closed doors, Donny Walford, said.

“With Elina’s recent move to Sydney the networking opportunities will be of a great advantage as she establishes her footprint in the State.”

In application for the scholarship Elina D’Cruz said, “I work in a male dominated engineering practice, I will really benefit from the peer support to help me manoeuvre the new business and position.”

As Scholarship recipient Elina will receive a 12-month fully-funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership valued at more than $9,000. Members are placed into a cohort of fellow female business owners/entrepreneurs to meet for three hours, ten times a year, with a highly accomplished Facilitator and Program Director.

A runner up BCD Entrepreneurs scholarship, providing an hour of mentoring, was awarded to Karen Williams of Storybook Alpacas.

BCD has been awarding Scholarships to businesswomen since 2012 when Adelaide Jewellery Designer Anna Dimond received a fully funded membership. Entrepreneurs Scholarships in Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne were announced last month, applications for the behind closed doors Executive Scholarship for a businesswoman employed in the Not For Profit industry opened for applications on September 18.

To find out more about BCDs national scholarship program and available memberships visit www.behindcloseddoors.com

Issued by: Penny Reidy, behind closed doors, 0401 349 791 penny@behindcloseddoors.com

How to Turn Your Failures into Stepping Stones to Success 

Turn Failures to SuccessTaking risks when it comes to your career requires a lot of strength and determination. It’s not easy to just grab the reins and go for it. To take a risk and then fail could give you second thoughts on continuing with your plan to career success.

For women, it can be especially intimidating. Studies show that women process failure differently than men. Since a woman’s sensory perception is stronger, it can take quite an emotional toll. As such, it’s important to use this experience as a source of motivation, and not a reason to give up.

Turn Failures Into Success

Change Your Mindset

One thing is certain: failure is a fact of life and a learning experience. It’s best not to see failures as negatives. When you approach anything new with the proper mindset, you can make good use of your failures to create the perfect stepping stones that lead to success.

When you experience failure, it’s important to reflect. You’re entitled to feel different emotions. Allow yourself the time to process everything including lessons learned and what you will do differently next time, so that you can come back stronger and more motivated than before.

Accept and Learn from It

Every successful person has dealt with failure—even the world’s most successful businessmen and businesswomen have encountered it at some point. There are and will always be obstacles in your career, running your own business and in life. Learning to accept this lets you prepare and avoid being oblivious to the challenges you will face. Treat the failures as learning experiences so that you don’t make the same mistakes again in the future.

Give Yourself Time 

You may have acted too quickly the first time, resulting in a poorly-made decision leading to a big mistake. It’s natural to want to get started on your new strategy and endeavour as quickly as possible or quickly finish a certain task. To avoid making the same mistake again, review all the pros and cons and check every important detail before you move forward. It’s important to take the mistake you made into account, set a realistic deadline and determine a Plan B so that you can be well prepared the second time around.

Talk About It 

You don’t want to reveal your ideas to just anyone, but sometimes talking about your strategy and tactics can help you see other perspectives which can be useful for gaining success. Having a mentor or ‘trusted advisor’ can help guide you. They will be able to share other points of view that you may not have previously considered. This could help you to understand what went wrong and what went well so you can make the appropriate changes and determine different approaches.

Stay Positive

Even if a particular endeavour ended in failure, learn from it, analyse reasons why and try again using alternative approaches and market testing. Instead of being discouraged, you should consider the effort you gave, the preparations you made, and have an optimistic outlook. You may have failed the first time but at least you were able to successfully take the needed steps for taking risks—this tells you that you have the capacity to succeed once you try again. You made a bold move, which took a lot of courage. 

Having a positive mindset lets you think more clearly; dwelling on your errors will only result in demotivation, rendering you emotionally incapable of moving forward. And without moving forward and trying again, there’s a lost opportunity of gaining success in that particular endeavour or task.


Gain fresh inspiration from others, may it be from your trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues. Successful female entrepreneurs or career women will tell you that they have encountered failures and committed mistakes on their way to gaining success. What did they do? What did they learn? What insights can they share with you? These are the things you can learn when you network with the right people—those who share your values and ideals, who have encountered and learned from their mistakes, and have used their experience and turned failure into a way to attain success.

By building a strong network, you can help each other through shared advice, experiences, and expertise. You can make new friendships and form strong business connections you can use to gain more leads or make great partnerships for your business. 

You’re an Inspiration

When you follow through with your goals and dreams, you inspire other women to do the same. Believe it or not, they will look up to you even if you fail. You took a risk and went through with it. By staying on the right path, you have a chance to become the strong business or career woman you’ve always wanted to be.

At Behind Closed Doors, we connect you with fellow businesswomen who have dealt with (and successfully overcome) many of the same obstacles that you currently face. Through our networking, mentorship, events, and other resources, we help women help and support other women strive to become better leaders and successful businesswomen and elevate one another in terms of professional development. Want to know more about how we can help you? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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Career Change – Things to Consider

Considerations for Career ChangeIt’s estimated that over half of Australians are dissatisfied with their jobs, which explains why so many people are considering a career change. From workplace stress, poor culture, not feeling valued, lack of professional development to poor job engagement and, of course, financial considerations, there are many reasons why one might think of leaving a career or company and transition to something else. In fact, it’s now very unusual for anyone to stay in one job their entire working lives.

The good news is that it’s entirely possible to successfully switch careers, whatever age you may be. It’s important for your health, too—job dissatisfaction leads to health issues including burnout and even depression. However, the key to switching careers and gaining further success lies in the planning, and there are a few things you must do before you make the change, such as the steps listed below.

Tips to Consider before a Career Change

Consider What You Really Want and Need

Job dissatisfaction can lead to frustration, and frustration can lead to hasty, regrettable choices. It’s been said that you should be ‘running towards something, not away from something’—if you’re taking a job just to get out of your current one, it won’t make you happier in the longer term, and you might end up regretting your decision.

Think about what you truly want and need in terms of the career path you want to pursue. Is it a more comfortable salary, professional development, progression opportunities, culture, flexible hours, or a sense of fulfilling your purpose? You can only reach a goal if you understand what it is that you want. Spend time really getting to know yourself, your strengths and development areas, and your ambitions. Write down the ‘must haves’ you want in a job and company, and the ‘job dissatisfiers’ i.e. what you don’t like about a role. This will help you arrive at the right decision.

Find Your Passion

If you’re changing careers, invest time in identifying what makes you happy in life and relate it to your career path and goals for the future. Explore diverse options on how to make money doing something which sets your spirit on fire. Whether it’s starting your own business or moving into a completely different industry sector, don’t settle for anything less than a job you think you would enjoy and make you happy.

As Marla Gottschalk, CEO of The Pampered Chef, says, “Find your passion and a mission you believe in. When you feel like you make a difference in people’s lives, it becomes so much more than a job. For example, I know family mealtimes are vitally important. So, it is very motivating to lead an organisation focused on that.” Finding something that you love doing and also more than adequately pays the bills might be challenging, but it certainly is not impossible!

Know You Deserve What You Want

Alexandra Lebenthal, President and CEO of Lebenthal & Company states that, “Women often find it hard to ask for things, whether it’s a business opportunity or a salary raise. We simply expect others to recognise our value and hard work.

Asking for what you want in a gracious, thoughtful way often results in getting what you want, so put your fears aside and ask for what you want.” My mantra is “Don’t ask, don’t get.”

Don’t settle for anything less than what will make you happy, and you’ll make a smarter, better-informed decision when it comes to changing careers. Take Catherine, for example. Once a stay-at-home mother, she obtained a law degree at age 59 and now practices as a successful Lawyer. It’s never too late, and you deserve to get what you want.

Find Like-Minded People

Gathering intel on a new sector or industry is the most effective way to inform your job or career search. Attend networking opportunities that fit your target job, company and industry sector choices, and LinkedIn is a great place to start your research. Find out what to really expect from an industry, if you need more qualifications and/or skills, and how many opportunities there are. Time spent researching is never wasted; it’s a great way to find out about the market, discover or create opportunities and avoid making mistakes in career choices.

Not sure which networking events to sign up for? As a woman, Women-only events give you a unique insight into an industry from a peer’s perspective. Gain an understanding on everything from promotional and professional opportunities to workplace flexibility. Networking events can even lead to mentoring opportunities, and who better to help you navigate a new career than someone with experience who has navigated the path themselves.

Don’t Leave Your Current Job Without Securing Your New Role

Potential employers are suspicious of candidates with gaps on resumes which aren’t easily explained. It’s often easier to be hired while you’re still employed. Even if your current job is frustrating, use the time productively to plan, research and develop broader networks. I.e. use your energy in a positive manner to benefit you in the long term and avoid focussing on what depletes your energy. Making a hasty decision could lead to financial instability, lack of preparation and possibly choosing the wrong job and career out of desperation.

If you’re really convinced about changing careers, spend time wisely and productively by updating your CV so that at any time an opportunity exists, you are ready to apply. Highlight your key transferable skills and what value you add to any organisation, highlighting what makes you stand out i.e. your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ (USP). In addition, detail what your core competencies and capabilities are which may include how you develop strategies, grow business, lead teams, deal with stakeholders and handle problems or situations that are relevant to the new career or position you’re aiming for. This will make your business or career background more attractive in terms of the new path you want to pursue.

Looking for a Fresh Start?

If you’re looking for a new beginning in your career or business, we at Behind Closed Doors can help you. Behind closed doors is a leading national network of businesswomen who support and guide each other, aiming to elevate women when it comes to professional development. We have networking and mentoring opportunities that will match you with fellow members who will mentor you and help you reach your goals and aspirations. Want to know more? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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Useful Networking Tips for Introverted Women

networking for introvertsNetworking is a great way to gather new contacts and gain great connections and working relationships to grow your business or career. It involves meeting and speaking with people and attending events— and how you verbally portray your business or professional values, aims and ideals are key ingredients for networking success.

However, while many of us are comfortable with networking, others may find it a bit more challenging. For shy or introverted women, networking may seem more difficult, which could discourage them from entertaining the idea of investing their time in networking.

We believe in networking’s potential and ability to help business and career women. Even if you’re not really into meeting and speaking with different people, you can still achieve networking success. So, don’t make excuses of why you don’t want to network; here are several ways to help you get started.

Practice Makes Perfect Sense

As with many things in life, practice goes a long way. For networking, you can practice by speaking in front of a mirror or on video. Doing so has two benefits. First, you’ll be able to remember the pitch you need to say and, second, since you’re already treating your reflection as another person, you’ll grow a bit more comfortable when you’re already speaking with someone. The mirror or video will also show you if you have expressions, mannerisms, or actions (specifically the distracting ones) that you need to avoid doing when networking.

If a mirror or video isn’t enough, try practicing in front of a friend, and let him or her assess your performance and pinpoint things you could improve on. Your friend can also help you further by coming up with their own dialogue to better simulate a networking conversation.

Look for an ‘Introvert-in-Arms’

Did you know that there are actually four types of ‘introversion’? There’s social introversion, thinking introversion, anxious introversion, and restrained introversion.

And, in a world where an estimated 50% of individuals are introverts, you’re likely to cross eyes with someone across the networking venue who is also an introvert. Once you know someone is also an introvert, you might want to ‘team up’ with that person. This allows you to feel less anxious—being with someone who understands being an introvert helps you get out of your shell easier. And, once you begin conversations, you’ll grow more comfortable in terms of talking with other people in the event as well.

Buddying up with another introvert during the networking process has other benefits such as having shared networks and added support. If you can’t bring a friend or colleague with you, look around the room for someone else who is also looking around for a friendly face. Approach them and talk. Then work the room together!

Set ONE Goal, and Meet It

Setting goals works in life. So why not use it for the purposes of networking?

For goals to be successful, they must be specific, clear and they must be written down. Research shows that writing down a specific goal is an excellent motivator. So, if you’re demotivated to network because you’re not good at meeting or speaking with different people, write down what you want to achieve to help put yourself in a better, more positive mindset.

For introverts, specificity, clarity, and focus on outcomes can help reduce the overwhelming feeling brought about by the idea of networking. In essence, setting just one goal for your networking event can help you, the career- or business-minded introverted woman that you are, focus on accomplishing something that matters.

Be Organised

Another way to keep the sanity and the clarity going as an introvert in a networking event is to keep organised records. This is not only for the purposes of following up but also to take stock of what events you’ve been to, where to go next and the goal(s) you achieved.

Being organised also helps you keep your composure—organisation helps the frazzled, anxious, or overwhelmed brain have a sense of order. Awareness and knowledge often help offset the sensation that you’re doing a futile and repetitive task—which is what so many introverts may feel tackling networking events.

Create a database, or use your CRM, which will help you review who you’ve met, what they’ve discussed with you, new ideas you gained as a result of the conversations and any lessons learned. This way, you’ll feel you’re getting results, helping you feel more motivated about (and not forced into) participating in the next networking event.

Preparation is Key

Planning for a networking event entails some work, but it can also make things much easier, especially if you’re an introvert.

Preparing helps you be at ease knowing that you didn’t come unprepared. It also puts things in perspective in terms of what you should do and what you want to achieve. Plan ahead and think of good questions that will help you start a conversation. A good formula is FORD: Family, Organisation, Recreation and Did I get and give value to that conversation?

You can also prepare a short, basic introduction that you’d be comfortable telling others in relation to networking. This helps you leave a good impression while saving you from having to think about what to say upon meeting another person ie prepare your elevator pitch.

Networking is also for Introverts

Meeting new people is at the heart of successful networking. However, this may also make it seem like it’s not for the introverted, and that shouldn’t be the case. The truth is, networking is for both the shy and the outgoing, the introverted and the extroverted.

Introverts may need a bit more practice or work but that doesn’t mean they won’t gain success from it. Take it from people in high-level positions—they know the value of networking and have built great professional connections over the years. In fact, this study suggests that introverts are more likely to become CEOs, which means that they truly have the capacity and potential to gain networking success.

If you need further guidance in networking, we at Behind Closed Doors are here for you. We believe in networking and how it can help elevate the business and professional careers of women and are more than willing to help make it work wonders for you. We are a leading organisation of business women and, through networking, peer mentoring, events, and other resources, we help each other attain greater levels of professional success through opening doors to new opportunities. Contact us today to know more, we’re always ready to listen and support you.


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Making Up the Lost Dollars When Having a Career Break to Raise Children

Make Up for Lost Dollars When on Career BreakFor women, taking a career break may mean stepping back from work to take care of children. While making plans for a family means that a career break is not necessarily unexpected, that in no way diminishes the heightened sense of anxiety that up to 70% of women experience regarding this issue.

Additionally, stress is caused by the worry of not being able to return to the same kind of job or salary expectation later or finding their job under threat from a possible replacement. The prospect of loss of financial security can cause agitation that you simply don’t need at such a critical period of life. If you are running your own business, taking a career break comes with even more complications. Even with close family support in place, as a business owner, a break can put your business at risk when it comes to internal and financial management.

So, if a career break does happen, what can you do to minimise the impact, still generate income, and allay financial concerns?

Financial Tips for Career Breaks

Foresight helps. Thinking preventatively, you can make plans in advance when a career break is on the horizon. It’s expensive having children and being away from work. Depending on your income circumstances, you may need to consider how to modify the way you spend.

The first option is to plan ahead and start allocating monthly savings out of your salary. Setting up an automatic transfer on set dates or a direct deposit from an employer into a specific account means you don’t have to think about the task of manually saving.

Secondly, there may be opportunities to take on supplementary work at your current job. You can have any extra pay apply towards your parental leave package by ensuring you receive a written agreement from your employer stating such. Equally, you can save up holiday leave time (your spouse, too) so that you can both be home more during the parental period.

As an alternative for business owners, short-term loans are also an option. You could use the money to pay for help with your daily business operations to keep your business and revenue stream intact while taking care of your new family addition.

Create a Viable Budget

Considering changing your expenses is a key element to successful career break planning. One thing you can do if you’re expecting a child is to create a budget that includes expenses as if your baby is already here. As an example, heading back to work after your parental leave will mean childcare costs, so factor those in now within a dedicated budget savings plan.

And of course, there are child-related expenses to consider such as food, nappies, newborn health insurance, medical bills, and incidental cash for the fact that time and energy will go to the baby. Think about how your life patterns will change and factor that in when creating a new budget.

Another measure is to set up the automatic payment function for all your necessary bills. Busy new parents may forget about everything but the baby, and a surprise late bill notice is not something you want to deal with.

New Ways to Work

A great business insight for women is to consider a parental career break as an opportunity for a perspective change. Firstly, have a proper conversation with your employer (if you have one) to ascertain exactly what your options are. You may be able to bring your work responsibilities home with you and work flexible hours from there during your career break.

If not, there are many options to take advantage of remote working or freelance job opportunities. Online job boards and freelance websites offer an increasing diversity of options to suit differing skill sets, and the trend in Australia is emphatically increasing.

Beyond this, the remote tech-enabled working approach naturally means you can continue to employ and hone your professional skills as a consultant. Building up a home-based consultancy may turn out to be a stepping stone to a more secure financial future.

Positive Advancement

A parental-related career break doesn’t have to mean your professional and financial life are compromised. With plenty of judicious forethought and preparation, the suggestions offered here can help you plan effectively and even convert this incredibly important period of your life into a professional win-win while reducing stress and letting you focus on your changing needs and, of course, your family.

Behind Closed Doors reflects the goal to inspire and connect business and career women, providing valuable support and resources to empower their professional development. Through mentoring, networking, events, and other tools, we help women help other women, promoting a culture that both inspires and helps them gain more success and progress in life. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you succeed.


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Career Money Life’s Entrepreneurial CEO Sandy Hutchison Awarded Professional Development Scholarship

Sandy HutchisonFollowing a successful corporate career Melbourne businesswoman Sandy Hutchison in 2014 founded Career Money Life (CML). Her entrepreneurial leap received a boost today with the award of the coveted behind closed doors (BCD) entrepreneurs scholarship providing a 12-month fully-funded membership to the national network for businesswomen. 

The prized BCD Entrepreneurs Scholarship awards a female Melbourne entrepreneur the opportunity to tap into the considerable business acumen of some of the State’s leading businesswomen. The membership provides professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking opportunities to assist with continued business growth and success.

“Sandy joins an enviable list of Alumni to have received the award including inaugural Melbourne recipient Fashion Designer Lisa Barron”, Founder and Managing Director of behind closed doors, Donny Walford, said.

“The BCD Entrepreneurs Scholarship has proven one of our most successful initiatives, records show scholarship recipients gain enhanced personal and professional skills that contribute to the increased success and sustainability of their business.”

In application for the scholarship Sandy Hutchison said, “Career Money Life is at a pivotal growth stage where we could benefit from any additional connections to understand how others have succeeded.”

As Scholarship recipient Sandy will receive a 12-month fully-funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership valued at more than $5,500. Members are placed into a cohort of fellow female business owners/entrepreneurs to meet for three hours, ten times a year, with a highly accomplished Facilitator and Program Director.  

“I started CML in 2014 and now we are a thriving business.  It will be great to share my experiences and help others.” Sandy said. 

A runner up BCD Entrepreneurs scholarship, providing an hour of mentoring, was awarded to Sarah Mackenzie of Embracia Victoria. 

BCD has been awarding Scholarships to businesswomen since 2012 when Adelaide Jewellery Designer Anna Dimond received a fully funded membership. Entrepreneurs Scholarships in Adelaide and Perth have also been announced this month with a Sydney award to be announced in September.

To find out more about BCDs national scholarship program and available memberships visit www.behindcloseddoors.com 

Issued by: Penny Reidy, behind closed doors, 0401 349 791 penny@behindcloseddoors.com

Stylish Entrepreneur Jacqui Dunn Announced Recipient of Prized Business Scholarship

Jacqui DunnInterior designer Jacqui Dunn has been announced recipient of behind closed doors (BCD) coveted Entrepreneur scholarship providing 12-months of professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking to boost her latest business venture The Travelling Stylist.

The prized BCD Entrepreneurs scholarship awards a female Adelaide Entrepreneur the opportunity to tap into the considerable business acumen of some of the State’s leading businesswomen to assist with continued business growth and success.

“Jacqui joins an enviable list of Alumni to have received the award including inaugural recipient Palas Jewelry’s Anna Dimond and most recently 40 under 40 Award recipient Marie Sulda of Kaleidoscopic Travel”, Ms Walford, said.

“The BCD Entrepreneurs scholarship is undoubtedly one of our most successful initiatives, records show scholarship recipients gain enhanced personal and professional skills that contribute to the increased success and sustainability of their business.”

Jacqui Dunn is no stranger to the entrepreneurial world, she started her first business in 2009, co-founded a business in 2012 which she exited in 2014, and now is focusing on her latest venture The Travelling Stylist.

In application for the Scholarship Ms Dunn said, “There is no better feeling than being in an environment surrounded by strong, supportive professional women.”

As Scholarship recipient Ms Dunn will receive a 12-month fully funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership valued at more than $5,500. Members are placed into a cohort of fellow female business owners/entrepreneurs to meet for three hours, ten times a year, with a highly accomplished Facilitator and Program Director.

“Knowledge and tips from other like minded business women will be invaluable.” Ms Dunn said.

Two runner up BCD Entrepreneur scholarship awards, each providing an hour of mentoring, were awarded to Stacey Orrock of Envisage Business Solutions and Sarah Coligan of The Press Gallery.

BCD has been awarding Scholarships to businesswomen since 2012 when Melbourne Fashion Designer, Lisa Barron received a 12-month fully funded membership. As well as BCD funded scholarships, many organisations also choose to run internal company scholarships in providing opportunities for their female leaders.

To find out more about BCDs national scholarship program and memberships visit www.behindcloseddoors.com 

Issued by: Penny Reidy, behind closed doors, 0401 349 791 penny@behindcloseddoors.com

Perth Entrepreneur Allison Selman Announced Recipient of 2018 Scholarship

Allison SelmanEntrepreneurial Perth businesswoman Allison Selman, Director of engineering consulting company Atteris Pty Ltd, has been announced recipient of a 12-month professional development scholarship with national business women’s membership behind closed doors (BCD).

The prized scholarship awards a female Perth entrepreneur the opportunity to tap into the considerable business acumen of some of the state’s leading businesswomen through Behind Closed Doors’ professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking membership.

“BCD is a professional development membership connecting businesswomen nationally and the Entrepreneurs scholarship is highly prized as one of our most successful initiatives,” BCD Founder and Managing Director, Ms Walford, said.

“Scholarship recipients emerge a 12-month membership with enhanced personal and professional skills that contribute to the increased success and sustainability of their business venture.”

Allison Selman accepted a Director position with Atteris Pty Ltd in July 2017 and shares the leadership of the engineering consulting company with four colleagues.

In application for the scholarship Allison said she was looking for an opportunity to tap into improved abilities and skills that will enable her to become a stronger leader, make better business decisions and expand her professional network.

Ms Selman said, “The BCD membership will provide support and professional skills to navigate my new directorship position, as well as improve my leadership of the growing not-for-profit Women in Subsea and Engineering group.”

The scholarship provides a 12-month fully funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership valued at more than $6,000. Members are placed into a cohort of fellow female business owners/entrepreneurs to meet for three hours, eight times a year, with a highly accomplished Facilitator and Program Director.

A runner up prize providing an hour of mentoring was awarded to Wendy Scott-Hamilton, Senior Manager Macquarie Bank.

BCD has also awarded Entrepreneur scholarships to businesswomen in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney with recipients being announced over the coming month.

Applications to award a scholarship to a female Executive working for a Not for Profit organisation will open in mid September.

For further information on how to apply or nominate for a BCD scholarship, along with eligibility criteria, visit www.behindcloseddoors.com/scholarships

Issued by: Penny Reidy, behind closed doors, 0401 349 791 penny@behindcloseddoors.com

A Mentor is Not Necessarily Someone Older Than You

Mentor may not be older than you

One key to achieving business or career success is to trust and accept guidance from someone who has ventured on a similar journey as you. This is why mentorship must never be ignored or underrated

When it comes to mentorship, studies have found that:

  • 80% of learning takes place between mentors and mentees
  • 75% of private sector executives say mentoring has been critical in their career trajectory
  • 79% of millennials believe mentorship programs are crucial to career success

So effective are regular and in-depth meetings between mentors and mentees that 71% of Fortune 500 companies such as Google, General Electric, and Intel have formal mentorship programs for career development.

But what about less explicit forms of mentorship, more informal relationships that still provide guidance for future success? The value of these informal mentorships shouldn’t be underestimated. When an individual, whether they are in a higher position than you or simply someone who has gained wisdom through their unique experiences, has a genuine desire to help you in your career, you may already be interacting with a mentor and not even realise it.

Pay attention to these interactions and you’ll be in a position to harness the pearls of wisdom your unofficial mentor is offering you. Part of being successful is being able to recognise value and then apply it to your career. 

Here’s what to look for to know if someone may already be mentoring you in some way, even if you aren’t in a formal mentor-mentee relationship. Remember, a mentor is not necessarily someone who is older than you.

1. The Advice They Give

Good mentors can be judged based on the advice they give. How relevant is it to your situation? Does it take into account what you’ve mentioned you’d like to achieve or opportunities you consider as valuable? Is it relevant to your experiences?

Often, informal mentor-mentee relationships are less direct with advice, but these interactions usually include a genuine interest in you as a person and what you do. A good way to tell if an informal mentorship is one of positive gain is if your informal mentor is also an active listener—if he or she is then the likelihood of getting good advice is higher since they’re putting you and your needs at the core of the conversation.

2. Their Attitude Towards You

In a study done by the University of the West of Scotland, it was revealed that having a positive attitude is just as important as experience and the ability to give feedback when it comes to mentorship. If your relationship with a person already involves encouragement, guidance, and drawing from personal experience, then it’s possible that you’re already in an informal mentorship.

Your informal relationship with a possible mentor can go beyond if and when their positive attitude leads to them championing you for particular opportunities and positions they know you’d be interested in and excel at.

3. An “Open-Door” Policy

Having an open-door policy when it comes to giving another person guidance or advice tells them that they are welcome and you’re willing to help. This creates a more positive feel or vibe in terms of informal mentorship, making communication easier. Katherine Power, Co-founder of Clique Media, shares this view saying that she turns to her friends who are also co-founders for advice and mentorship. “I don’t have a traditional mentor-mentee relationship, per se. Frankly, I think of many of my friends as mentors, as so many of them are either entrepreneurs themselves or are just killing it in their careers.”

She also credits this open-door policy as one that informs her own relationships with her employees. When those in a higher position—particularly those in positions of leadership—maintain an open-door policy, it allows potential mentees to approach them for sound boarding, updates, and more informal queries that can result in valuable pieces of knowledge. 

If someone you’re looking to approach for career or business advice or guidance leaves their door open for you and makes you feel welcome, that person could turn out to be the mentor you’ve been looking for.

4. Asking Insightful Questions

Even if it’s informal, a way to know if you’re already being mentored and guided in some way is analysing the questions you’re being asked. Asking good questions, is part of what being a great mentor is all about.

It might not be direct but insightful questions include topics around:

  • Your definition of success
  • Your plans
  • The obstacles you’re facing
  • Your options

Of course, these important questions are all about helping your story unfold the right way. When an informal mentor-mentee relationship is progressing, these questions will unfold organically, over time, and in a conversational manner.

The presence of these specific questions tells mentees that a potential mentor is interested in knowing more about their professional goals and personality. So, if someone is able to give you great advice patterned after these key questions, you might already be in an informal mentorship even if the both of you doesn’t realise it yet.

5. Changing the Context

Informal mentorship thrives in a new and casual context. It’s a chance to communicate more fluidly and candidly than in a more structured and formal teacher-student relationship.

For a potential mentor, it’s a chance to gain a more in-depth and accurate picture of who the mentee really is. And for the potential mentee, changing up the context to one that matches the informality of the relationship makes the entire thing seem less stressful and demanding.

An informal mentorship setting mirrors the informality of the relationship. It calls for a more honest exchange between both mentor and mentee. This could result in better, more useful advice since the former has a chance to know the latter better.

In her book, Common Sense Workplace Mentoring: A Do-It-Yourself Systemauthor Susan Degrandpre says that “Feedback…that is unstructured, on a real-time basis, comes from all directions…and is two-way.”

Regardless of whether a mentor-mentee relationship occurs informally, formally or as part of a greater, company-wide initiative, it’s important to find the right fit at all points. It’s also a good idea to branch out and seek advice from more than one individual, male and female.

Recognising that you’re already in an informal mentorship is important as it also paves the way for you to learn what to look for in a good mentor.  You could even become a mentor, thanks to the things you’ve learned from the people who have mentored you along the way, formally or informally.

Speaking of effective mentorship, it’s wise to join a community which puts a premium on helping each other gain more success. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women support other women towards more professional success. Through our mentorship, professional development, networking and events, we guide women to become better versions of themselves in their business or careers and help them do the same for other women. If you want to know more about what we do and how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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How to Properly Manage Millennial Employees

Managine MillennialsAh, millennials—they are, by far, the most popular age group in social media today. That said, while news and topics about millennials are becoming a regular occurrence, they can still seem to be a total mystery, especially to the older generations.

However, despite the scepticism and negative impressions they sometimes get, their potential shouldn’t be ignored. This is important since they’re already past their college days age-wise and are already venturing out to make a future for themselves, whether in business or the corporate world.

As such, as businesswomen and leaders who may be looking to hire millennials or are already working with them, how do you manage them in such a way that you’re able to bring out their potential while dealing with their quirks or defining characteristics? 

The fact is, managing millennial employees the right way is already a skill in itself. You have to assess the way you communicate, your corporate culture, and even your own prejudices and biases. Anne Collier, founder of executive coaching and training firm Arudia, says, “Be aware that you perceive others through your own lenses and that you judge millennials for theirs.”

What Is a Millennial, Really?

A millennial is someone aged between 22-37, which means they’re now adults and a large portion of the workforce. Pew Research reckons that one in three workers are now millennials and in some traditionally younger industries, such as real estate and technology, they can make up the majority of employees.

Diversity is important to more businesses these days and there are an increasing number of young businesswomen making an impact on companies. There is also a noticeable shift in the workplace as millennials bring their own unique culture. 

We all know that millennials are tech-savvy and creative, thanks to growing up with computers and social media. Being exposed to a wealth of viewpoints and opportunities in a more globally-connected world, many of them are independent thinkers who can think outside of the box, and many also have an idealistic streak, as is typical of most young people. Understandably, they do sometimes have trouble with the traditional hierarchical nature of the corporate business structure and prefer to engage and discuss rather than to simply listen and follow instructions. 

One challenge for many managers is a different work ethic. Millennial employees are known to place higher value on work-life balance and personal satisfaction than previous generations, who were prepared to work long hours to get promoted. 

The issue, then, is the way business managers and leaders engage this younger generation. How can people in leadership roles tap into their creativity and ingenuity, yet still inspire a strong work ethic? 

Offer Growth Opportunities Over Money

While they may not be as interested in working long hours with the hope of getting a pay increase or a promotion in a linear way, the flip-side is that they are motivated by personal and professional growth. If they can grow as professionals in their jobs, they may be willing to work hard and invest themselves into an organisation. Offering professional development opportunities, supporting them to further their education, and mentorship programs are all enticing and motivating to millennial workers.

In other words, money won’t be enough to entice them. Millennials can be idealistic when it comes to their advancement, so offering them professional and personal growth opportunities can help bring out the best in them.  

Let Them Know You Value Them 

David Kurzman founded the start-up Women’s Best, which is dedicated to helping women lead healthier lives. He works extensively with millennials and believes the secret to getting the most out of younger workers is to make them feel appreciated. “A good working atmosphere is even more important to them than the financial compensation,” he says. 

Something as simple as setting up monthly one-on-one meetings with your millennial employees can make a huge impact. This lets younger workers know that they are valued as individuals and it gives them a chance to ask questions and bring up any concerns. As millennials want to grow professionally, they’ll also appreciate the opportunity to have someone they respect let them know what they can do to improve.  

Let Them Have Their Tech

Millennials grew up with technology, so they also expect to use it in the workplace. If your business depends on outdated legacy software and non-digital methods, you’re sending a message to millennial employees that your company may not have the vision or drive to succeed in the future or, worse, that they’re not simply welcome. You’ll keep them inspired with the smart use of technology and digital devices. And, since they know how to use it, their productivity is also likely to increase, which will have a positive impact on your organisation as a whole. 

Making sure that your company is up-to-date with the digital revolution also sends the message that you would like to work with them, that they’re welcome, and that they can thrive in the culture you offer.

Be Accepting

Despite their talents, many older managers and business owners are still quite unconvinced when it comes to hiring millennials. This could be because of preconceptions or notions such as they like to take it easy, they’re too idealistic, they act overly-entitled, or they tend to lose focus easily. While these may be true, depending on the specific person, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them. It’s important you see the value young people bring to your organisation, both in action and in words. 

Disagreements with them will arise—this is a given with any employees. How you deal with it is what’s crucial. You should act as a leader or a mentor —be firm but also make it a point to listen to what they have to say. Make it a point to demonstrate to them that you have no biases towards them. While differences in handling work or miscommunication are still bound to occur, if you show that you accept them, they’ll still want to work with you. Remember, millennials are also quite receptive. They’ll know if you don’t want to work with them, even if you don’t say it. 

Give Them a Chance to Lead

Learn to give your millennial workers the lead role on specific tasks or projects, even the minor ones. Nurture them and let them discover their strengths, their determination, and how they can improve their work ethic and attitude towards facing challenging tasks. 

Millennials are the present and the future, and they offer a treasure trove of skills and possibilities. To harness that potential, it’s important not to look at the younger generation as a liability and, instead, focus on helping them fulfil their true potential. 

If you find yourself needing more advice or guidance when it comes to boosting your business or career, you could always seek help from others. At Behind Closed Doors, we value and encourage women to support other women in their professional development and journey. With our peer mentoring, networking, events and other resources, we have the means to make this happen and to make women become better versions of themselves in their careers or businesses. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today and understand how we can work together for your success.


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Is There Still a Stigma about Flexible Work Hours and Arrangements?

Flexible WorkingA third of all Australian employees are self-styled “flexi-time” workers, and that makes up 4.1 million individuals, and counting. Freelancing and working flexible hours in Australia is becoming a more popular trend, and it’s changing how people approach and even define work.

There are many benefits of flexible working hours and freelancing, including the ability to set your own schedule and give more time to your family and social life. And, with online and remote communications becoming more and more reliable, effective, and efficient, flexible work arrangements should be even easier to adopt and implement in the coming years.

That being said—and despite its perceived advantages and advances in technology that make it possible—a stigma regarding working flexible hours, part-time telecommuting, and working remotely still exists. And, although it affects both genders, women are seemingly highlighted more in this regard due to societal expectations regarding the need to take care of a family including aging parents, household and bear children.

The Stigma—What is it and What’s Behind it?

The greatest argument for flexible working hours is that it enables a greater level of work-life balance or as I prefer to call it, work-life blending. The idea is to provide a workplace setup and working schedule that enables an employee to do what he or she needs to accomplish for work while also being able to have more time to spend with family, friends and for themselves. It puts greater emphasis on the overall satisfaction of employees because, a happy employee is a more productive employee.

However, the stigma that comes along with flexible working hours cuts to the heart of trust in the workplace on the one hand and the way we “measure” and standardise workers at every level, on the other, especially as they move towards positions of management and leadership.

For women, the stigma shows up in a number of ways in the corporate workplace and business environment such as:

  • Women are routinely denied flexible work arrangements because their “motives” are seen to be related to family care even if the reason for their request has absolutely nothing to do with their personal lives.
  • Women experience a “women’s work penalty” where, even if they’re working in a female-owned business or female-dominated niche, there’s likely to be a significant reduction in access to schedule control
  • Women who request a flexible work schedule to advance their careers are still likely to be denied because it’s assumed they’ll leave their jobs in the future (for family planning and care).

The stigma for men is that their male peers question their commitment to their career if they choose flexible working arrangements as well as requesting parental leave.

A significant barrier to normalising and accepting flexible hours as a standard is the fact that many companies and businesses have a set and very strict policy on working schedules that cannot be altered, especially on a per individual employee basis. In this setting, requesting for flexible hours might be discouraged and frowned upon, further implying that there’s something wrong with it and perpetuating the stigma.

According to a study conducted by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, flexible working hours is still viewed not as a standard but more of an exception to the rule in many Australian companies.

Adding to that, less than 50% of organisations have a workplace flexibility policy in place. This lack of formal policy communicates where a company’s priority and preference lie.

And when women do try to access flexible working arrangements, according to Joan C. Williams, Director at the Centre for Work-Life Law, there are companies having flexible work policies on paper, though it’s known to their employees that they’ll be informally penalised if they use them.

Overturning Conventional Wisdom 

To begin changing this perception, trust and leadership should be taken into consideration. Firstly, the key to better and more willing adoption of flexible working arrangements is trust. There is a sense that those who seek flexible working arrangements are more likely to be distracted, splitting their attention and, thus, seemingly becoming less committed to their tasks.

This tells us that there is a distinct perception at play: working in the comfort of one’s own home or schedule, employees are not actually being as productive as they might be while physically in the office. In my experience the opposite is true.

Secondly, it will take individuals in positions of leadership (who themselves might require flexible working hours) to encourage acceptance. If those in the higher positions become more open to the idea of flexible working arrangements, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to influence those below them as well, creating a trickle-down effect.

There’s also the idea of workplace culture. There needs to be a culture in place in an organisation that not just accepts but also enables flexible working arrangements. As David Thodey, former CEO of Australian mobile phone company Telstra, says, “We have the enabling technology, now we need the enabling culture…You need a performance-based culture, where flexibility is just built-in.”

Moving Forward on Flexible Work Arrangements

Contrary to more entrenched beliefs in workplace culture, making the option to go for flexible working hours available is a great way to attract new talent and could also lead to more success in the long-term.

  • Employees who seek flexible working hours and arrangements are actually more productive and happier than those who remain confined to conventional working schedules. Results can also include lowered costs, decreased staff turnover, and reduced absences.
  • Companies can also strengthen their credibility by showing clients that they are ready to respond and are available “24/7,” thanks to flexible working arrangements that can make employees more readily accessible.
  • Flexible working schedules can also enhance an organisation’s ability to be more innovative, which can help them better prepare for future changes and trends.

For flexible working arrangements to be widely accepted, more organisations need to be encouraged to adopt it, and show good results for doing so. The good news is, more and more companies and people in top management positions are embracing this idea.

Take Envato, for example. The digital creative design marketplace tapped into and benefitted from granting internal employees flexible working arrangements. Their “universal workplace flexibility program” promises their Australian-based employees and global contractors the option to work from anywhere, anytime. What’s notable is that this is a stated policy and program being deliberately rolled out and encouraged across the whole company.

And their motivations for doing so? “The globalisation of work is coming, and it’s transformative. We want to stay competitive, attract the best, and get ahead of that,” says Envato HR Director James Law.

So, in summary, granting flexible working arrangements is not just for the benefit of the employees. Implemented correctly, it will result in more than just happy employees, it will also lead to increased productivity and flexibility, allowing a company to be more competitive in the global stage and possibly even more prepared for the future.

For women who want more insights, advice, and guidance when it comes to professional development, it always helps to join a business network you can trust. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women, help other women, improve and be closer to success in their careers or businesses. We offer peer mentoring, networking, professional development, support and other tools, events, and resources to help you in your career. Contact us today to learn how we can help you be more successful than you think is possible.


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Challenges Start-ups Face and How to Overcome Them

Challenges Start Ups FaceStarting a business is a great journey. It means that you’ve decided to follow your dreams and empower yourself. From the moment you come up with an innovative idea to the moment you sell your first product or service, there are many exciting times. However, pursuing your own business also comes with different challenges. It takes detailed planning, plenty of brainstorming, advice from others, and resources to successfully run your own business. 

The number of SMEs continues to rise. Australia is already home to over 2.1 million small businesses, and a new business is created every 100 seconds! Yet, despite entrepreneurship’s rising popularity, start-up culture brings its own unique set of difficulties and problems that need to be addressed if success is to be gained. 

Let’s look at some of the major challenges you might face when running a start-up, and how to avoid or overcome them.

Finding the Right People 

Finding the right people to work with is extremely important. You’ll have to make sure that those you want to include in your business know how to handle the tasks assigned to them with quality and efficiency in mind. Otherwise, you will find yourself struggling with sub-par products, services, or employee performance, which can quickly lead to negative reviews for your business. 

But this goes beyond performance. Having the right people in your team also means working with those who share your passion or, at the very least, would like your business to thrive and grow. This helps improve communication and builds trust. If you know that you can trust and rely on your team, you will have more peace of mind. 

Networking with other businesswomen is a great way to meet like-minded people. Not only to meet possible employees and clients but to also to promote a profile of your business. You can also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with people you think will be the right cultural fit in your business, as well as attend community workshops in your area to meet potential partners, employees, and even advisors or mentors. Having a good network means you can ask them for referrals for business or introduce you to potential employees.  

Access to Funding 

Funding is probably the biggest stumbling block when it comes to starting your own business. If you don’t have sufficient funds, your business might not grow as fast as it could or you might not be able to bring it beyond the initial growth phase. For female entrepreneurs, this challenge may prove to be even more difficult. Even today, many women still struggle to get access to needed capital for different reasons, from lacking connections to the certainly inaccurate stereotype or image of a successful businessperson. 

However, there are many alternative ways women can try to gain funding for their businesses, including crowdfunding, partnerships, and seeking angel investors. Again, networking plays a crucial role here. When done right, it will lead you to the right connections that could help you gain more funding for your business.

Marketing and Spreading the Word 

Effective marketing is vital for any business, especially for start-ups. You have to get the word out that you exist, and that you’re great at what you do. Failing to do so means less visibility and smaller market reach, resulting in not enough people to buy or avail of your products or services to fuel more growth.

What makes things worse is that start-ups usually don’t have a large marketing budget. The good news is, there are ways you can market your business without having to spend a huge amount of money. One way is through social media. Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and even Instagram are now being used by businesses both big and small to promote what they offer. If you have a good social media marketing strategy, quality content, and dedication to monitor your business’ social media profiles, you’ll definitely be a lot closer to successfully marketing your business online (and acquiring more funds for additional growth).

Dealing with Competitors 

Start-ups often have to compete with larger, more established businesses. As such, it can be difficult to stand-out at first. This is where digital marketing comes into play—it basically helps level the marketing field since both start-ups and big companies can go online to promote their products and services.

To ensure that your business doesn’t get lost in your specific industry, you can also build strong relationships and partner with other businesses to promote your brand or get more leads and referrals. Aside from potentially getting more clients, this helps you create more buzz within your industry that will help spread the word about your business. The key here is to not to become overly excited or impatient. Poor planning or rushing things and being careless will lead to poor decision-making—it’s better to be strategic and attain steady growth.

Being Sustainable

Starting and running a business is one of the biggest decisions and challenges many of us will face in life. If done right, it could lead to financial security and plenty of exciting opportunities in the future. However, when running a start-up, it is important to make sure your business is sustainable. Think in terms of the “now” and the future. Will your business still be relevant in a few years’ time?

An important part here is basing your enterprise on an idea or concept that’s not just great on paper but also works in business. This means that it’s something that has consistent demand and you can tweak or improve on to better suit the changing market. It’s also important to spend time to do forecasting and market research to better prepare for what’s ahead—attending networking events, seminars, and workshops can give you valuable insights here. It’s critically important that you know your numbers – if you don’t understand your business casts, unit costs and you don’t understand how to interpret your profit and loss statement and balance sheet, get some help by way of mentor or do a short course. Cash is King!   

Don’t Give Up

There will always be growing pains in the start-up journey and, as you try to expand your business, some of these difficulties will perhaps become even harder. However, with proper preparation in place and the right support structure, you can make a successful transition from being an early-stage start-up to becoming an established business. The secret is to not give up.

Adda Birnir, founder of and instructor at online tech-education company Skillcrush, says, “One of the most important things I have learned is that businesses don’t fail, entrepreneurs give up. Now sometimes, giving up is the right decision. But usually, you just need to dig in and figure out how to make things better. Remember: Every day is a new opportunity to get up and do it better than yesterday!” 

More and more women are deciding to be innovative and walk on the entrepreneurship path. Factors such as trends in the marketplace, developments in the global business scene, increasing financing options, and mentorship are encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. By learning how to face and deal with the aforementioned challenges, we’ll also begin to see even more women running and leading not just start-ups but also big, global companies in the near future.

For aspiring female entrepreneurs, it’s always a wise idea to seek guidance from people who can help you in your business journey. At Behind Closed Doors we work towards the professional development of women. With networking, peer mentorship, and other tools and resources, we assist business and career women help and guide each other towards more growth and success, whether as entrepreneurs or professionals. Contact us today to know more about how we can help you. 


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Why Women Should Not Be Afraid to Celebrate their Success 

Celebrate SuccessWe all know, or know of successful women. They may be skilled or highly qualified women who excel in their fields, women who manage companies, or those who lead and innovate. Whoever they may be, one thing’s for sure: women should be proud of what they have achieved. In fact, SBS News reports that more Australian women are operating their own companies than ever before, with more than 600,000 small businesses being led by women.

All too often though, women play down their competence as well as their accomplishments. Perhaps it’s through modesty, not wanting to be seen to brag, fear of what others will think, or lack of self-belief. If this sounds like you, it’s time to stop downplaying your success and instead celebrate it. Here are several reasons why women should hold their heads high and own their success.

Successful Women Deserve to Be Recognised

In an ideal world, we would all be recognised for what we have achieved and everyone would know how good we are at our jobs or careers. However, it’s not always the case that you will be applauded by others for what you can do or have done. It’s essential, therefore, that you take ownership for your own success. The following can help you do just that:

  • Advertise your business’ awards and accolades where others can see them.
  • Display personal achievements or educational certificates around your business or workplace.
  • Record your accomplishments on your website, CV, personal profiles, and LinkedIn profile.

There are numerous awards for businesswomen in Australia that will help you gain the exposure you deserve. For example, The Telstra Business Woman Awards, The Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards celebrate women who are disrupting the status quo through inspiring leadership and The Women in Business Awards of Australia recognise and honour women making a difference across Queensland.

So, celebrate your success and learn and be comfortable with being visible. If you’re uncomfortable with publicity, remember this: “The only thing that is stopping you from getting where you are to where you want to go, is your comfort zone.”

Successful Women Set an Example for other Women

By owning their success, accomplished and experienced business and career women can encourage others and give them the benefit of their wisdom. Whether it’s recording your story in an article or mentoring other women, you can empower other women to succeed. By mentoring, you can inspire collaboration and offer valuable and authentic insights, leading other women to excel.

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of Settlement Services International and winner of the 2017 Telstra Business Woman of the Year award, encourages mentorship. In an article in smartcompany, she talked about the importance of entrepreneurs lending their experience to others in refugee and migrant communities to encourage the growth of the business ecosystem in those areas. By claiming their success, women become more visible to other women aspiring for the same achievements, becoming examples and promoting mentorship opportunities in the process.

Successful Women Gain More Professional Opportunities

Often, success is followed by advice-giving. When people are aware of your story, they will want to tap into your expertise. This will present even more opportunities for you to make connections and gain contacts which might prove useful in the future.

Tell yourself “This is my success, so I deserve this” and allow yourself to acknowledge your strengths and achievements. Doing so will inspire you to achieve even more and go out to find and build new connections and professional relationships that could lead to even more success.

Positive thinking leads to taking assertive action, which is more likely to accomplish tangible results. In other words, when you know you have achieved something, your confidence soars—this also means that you’re likely to positively influence others. The result? You are now with a mindset that allows you to achieve even more. It’s the “I can do it” way of thinking. Believe you are successful and you will go on to gain more success.

On the other hand, being too shy or timid or lacking motivation to get yourself heard might result in complacency that will hold you back from communicating and collaborating with other people. This hinders your growth and could lead to you missing opportunities because you weren’t able to get the message out that you’re a woman with great potential for achieving even more.

Successful Women Are an Inspiration

Any person who succeeds can be an inspiration to others. It is part of human nature that when we see something can be done, we are motivated to go for it as well. Your success story could sow the seed for someone who lacks confidence or trigger someone to take risks.

Remember that by not celebrating and advertising your success, you are selling yourself short and could even be inadvertently preventing yourself from achieving all that you are capable of. You are stopping other people from learning about your success and preventing them from finding you for help and advice.

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction,” says philanthropist, businesswoman, and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates. “Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

If you want to be inspired, learn from, or collaborate with fellow business or career women who have gained success in their own fields, it’s a wise decision to join a professional network built for women. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women attain greater heights in terms of their professional development as well as instil confidence for them to celebrate their achievements and promote broadly and confidently. In addition, we bring businesswomen together to encourage and promote collaboration. Through networking, mentorship, and other tools we offer, we are able to help and inspire our members to gain more success, and be proud to do so. Talk to us today to understand how we can assist you to be successful in your career.


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Why Having More Women in Leadership Roles Is Good for Business

Women in LeadershipWhile it’s true that women have been enjoying increasing success in attaining top business leadership roles, and that the imbalance between the genders is closing each year, this evolution could still be deemed incremental. In fact, only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. This equates to roughly 32 companies out of 500. Just 11 female CEOs are on the ASX 200, and 41 of the nation’s largest companies don’t have a woman on their executive leadership.

It is clear there is work to be done in reaching a more substantial sense of balance, not just to attain the ideal of equality but also because of the simple fact that having more women in leadership roles is good for business. Here’s a look at why women benefit businesses when they are in more leadership roles, and how they positively impact the careers of others when they do so.

Women Drive Long-Term Thinking

Recent studies indicate that women tend not to think in straight lines. This non-linear perception in business means seeing a wider array of possible pathways as a web of interrelated concepts, instead of a step-by-step progression. Such a versatile and holistic outlook can lead to greater consideration of variables and options, generating a wider spectrum of contextual solutions that reach farther forward because they are less compartmentalised

This results in a longer term appreciation of events and an avoidance of the pitfalls of short-term thinking. For organisations, this means a greater ability to foresee opportunities and avoid future risks. This allows them to be more prepared, better plan, and adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach in handling trends and threats. Seeing this kind of thinking in action also gives other female entrepreneurs an approach of how to better run a business in terms of future planning and preparation.

Role Models for Other Women

C-suite women leaders serve as role models to other women, demonstrating to female employees what is possible in their own careers if they want to work hard for it. The more women see and interact with successful women, the more likely they are to engage more with their careers in order to further their own professional lives. This leads to these women becoming more inspired and focused and, as a result, offering more to the organisations they work for.

This role model effect has a significant impact on inspiring women to achieve a greater level of success. A recent study found that 83.3% of women in the tech industry who want a C-suite role also say they have a role model. The fact that women at the top encourage other women to excel at their work creates a culture where hard work is seen as valuable not just to the business itself but also for enhancing and taking the careers of individuals to the next level.

Enhanced Workplace Inclusivity

Women tend to be socially inclusive. This quality is a key driver that can demolish the traditional barriers within organisations that divide and exclude, not just along gender lines but also along culture and race. Businesses that are led by women who promote an enduring cultural understanding of social cohesion and diversity thrive not just locally but also globally. This is due to employees being assessed on their merits, not their loyalties or differences.

Women leaders are also adept at promoting the view that employees are as important as the bottom line. This leads to working environments within organisations that value employees and their insights more, making them feel as “part of the team” and that their contributions are recognised. When businesses value each and every employee and what they have to say, positive results happen such as increased workplace satisfaction, better collaboration and communication between the company’s internal teams, and reduced employee turnover.

Emotional Intelligence to Guide a More Positive Environment

Women score highly in emotional intelligence, and this can make them incredibly effective leaders. Women are equipped to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on their team. This awareness makes it easier to ensure employees are working to their full potential, that their needs within the business are met, and that group dynamics are healthy and productive in the workplace.

In organisational group settings, higher emotional intelligence often comes with the type of social sensitivity required to read non-verbal cues and map underlying intentions. Women can quickly understand the group, where the conversation is heading, and how to best form and guide consensus to deliver objectives. This also fosters a deeper understanding of what each employee has to say and reduces miscommunication within the team.

All This Leads to Business Growth

Women in leadership roles initiate feedback loops that continue to drive structural growth. Research demonstrates that inclusive, diverse companies outperform their counterparts by up to 80%. Ignoring or downplaying the need for equality in business leadership is not just a form of backward thinking, it is also one of the easiest ways to stifle growth. Businesses with strong female leadership generate higher Return on Equity (10.1%) than those without (7.4%).

It’s a brighter road ahead once we understand that having more women in leadership roles is not something for companies to simply check off a list. It is a starting point for multiple paths to inclusion and diversity, both bottom line organisational necessities that will generate resilience and progress. This improves the chances of strategic adaptation and long-term revenue development, both indicators of real, sustainable growth.

But of course, if you want to aim for a leadership role, it’s not enough for the organisation to want you—you must be prepared and have the necessary competencies, capabilities and skills as well. And, if you really want to enhance and develop your leadership skills, you must not work on it alone—you have to interact, communicate, and work with others since being a leader means building and nurturing professional relationships as well. This is why we recommend joining a strong network of like-minded people and/or hire an Executive Coach/Mentor to help you achieve that goal.

Behind Closed Doors is a leading national network of businesswomen that aims to help, support, and encourage each other to reach a higher level of success and professional development. Through networking, mentorship, and other resources, we promote collaborations, communication, and interactions that will help you be ready to drive your business or career forward, and become a better and more effective leader along the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us; we’ll be more than happy to help you out.


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