How to makeover your email and skyrocket your productivity

Valerie with Renee

As business mentor, I often see people drown in a sea of emails. I’m currently mentoring Renee Freedman from Guardian Strata as part of Microsoft’s ModernBiz Technology Make-over. And when I caught up with Renee recently, she told me that she walked into work that day to find more than 700 messages in her inbox, all demanding urgent attention.

Renee is a strata manager – so you can probably imagine that kind of emails she receives! Facing a mountain of 700 emails on a regular basis is enough to make anyone feel sick. And they are all genuine messages from clients.

The reality is that the volume of Renee’s emails is not going to decrease. So we worked together to formulate a strategy to help Renee manage her inbox.

Valerie with Renee

Get email on the go
Until Microsoft’s technology make-over, Renee was unable to access her emails on-the-go on her mobile device. So if she was out at meetings, that meant she had to rush back to the office to attack her inbox or check if there was an urgent issue that had to be dealt with.… Read more ...

Mentoring in Microsoft’s #ModernBiz Technology Make-over

Valerie and Reneesq

This month, I’ve started the exciting process of mentoring a business in Microsoft’s ModernBiz Technology Make-over. When Microsoft first approached me to get involved, it was a no-brainer. I love mentoring. I love technology. And I love helping small businesses harness the power of technology to make life easier.

The business in question is Guardian Strata, a specialist strata management company based in Sydney. This is a business that’s been going for seven years and is headed by a passionate business owner Ossie Pisanu. With his team of eight full-time staff, it faces many challenges that most small businesses need to deal with, and a raft of challenges that are specific to the strata industry.

With Renee Freedman from Guardian Strata

I’m particularly excited in helping this business because it’s very clear to me that Ossie and his team don’t just treat their work like a job. They want to do great work. They don’t want to be average. Enthusiasm like that is priceless and it can carry a business through some pretty tough times. Specifically, I’m mentoring Renee – one of Guardian’s strata managers – and while we are only at the start of our mentoring journey, I can already tell we’re going to have a fun ride.… Read more ...

What happens when someone steals your work?


What happens when you see your work blatantly ripped off by someone else? They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. But it’s hard to convince yourself of this when you read someone else’s work and it resembles your writing and ideas so much that it’s almost a word-for-word copy. (There are only a few changes – but just enough that you couldn’t pursue it as direct plagiarism in a court of law).

The first stage is disbelief.
How could this happen? How could someone have so little professional pride that they have to blatantly copy your work?

The second stage is anger.
How dare they? You’re angry. You go through their body of work and soon realise how much of your work they have appropriated as their own over the years. You then realise that some of that actually IS a direct word-for-word copy of your writing. Your anger then borders on rage.

The third stage is pity.
It takes a while to get to this stage because the people around you (who care about you) are so enraged at the thief in question that it’s hard to calm down amidst their fury.… Read more ...

I get asked curly questions on the Flying Solo podcast.


This week, acclaimed business coach and founder of Flying Solo Robert Gerrish interviewed me on the Flying Solo podcast. Robert’s not only a great business coach, he’s a great interviewer. And he certainly kept me on my toes. I hope you enjoy it.

Read more ...

Featured in Switched on Leadership magazine


I was recently interviewed for an article in Switched on Leadership magazine about the power of storytelling in business. And the editors were kind enough to put me on the cover.

You can get a free three-month subscription to the magazine here.

If you’re interested in the new world of digital magazines, this combines the written word with an embedded podcast of the interview. … Read more ...

My Life in a Minute: Chris Ducker, Seth Godin – and we turn 9!

Kate Hennessy, yours truly, Sue White, Rah Gardiner

It’s been a while since I’ve shared “My Life in a Minute’ so here is the latest on what’s been happening in my world.

Thoroughly enjoyed: A recent mastermind session with entrepreneur, podcaster and author of “Virtual Freedom” Chris Ducker, which he held at the Australian Writers’s Centre’s training rooms in Sydney. There’s nothing like a power day sharing ideas with fellow business owners. I highly recommend it.

With entrepreneur, podcaster and author of “Virtual Freedom” Chris Ducker in Sydney

Thrilled to meet: Seth Godin at a wonderful Business Chicks lunch. I hosted a table of some awesome peeps as we absorbed Seth’s inimitable style in Melbourne.

Marketing guru Seth Godin and fabulous friends

Loved presenting to: A wonderfully engaged group of PwC partners at the PwC Partners Summit at the Gold Coast. It was all about “Storytelling in Business”.

At the PwC Partners’ Summit

Awesome hanging out with: A group of brilliant graduates of the Australian Writers’ Centre in Melbourne who have gone on to create successful careers as writers. We filmed a series of videos which are now being edited.… Read more ...

Feel the fear and do it anyway


I have a confession to make. For the past couple of years, I’ve been cruising. I’ve been so far into my comfort zone it’s been like living life in a down and feather doona with a bowl of M&Ms in easy reach. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working hard. It just means that I’ve been working hard only on projects and activities that I’ve been confident in achieving.

As a result of working hard, my career has progressed and my business has grown. While that’s great, it’s also part of the reason I’ve been content to roll around in my comfort zone – because there has been no imperative to get out of it. If life is generally moving in the right direction, it’s easy to be complacent.

However, I knew there was something inherently dissatisfying about what I was doing. I wasn’t stretching myself. And that meant I was limiting my opportunities for personal growth.

Your comfort zone is a great place to be. But it should be considered a place to drop into from time to time, not a default state of existence.… Read more ...

How to find a consultant who will help transform your business

vk feature

You’ve been there. Your business is growing and you just can’t do everything. It’s time to call in the experts – consultants who can help take you to the next stage of your business.

This is be hard for control freaks. But if you want your business to grow it’s important to accept that there are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t actually be an expert in SEO, sales, operations, admin, customer service, accounting, strategy and human resources. Well, you can try – but you’ll go crazy!

Handing over the reins to consultants can be both liberating and filled with danger. Some consultants can truly transform your business. Yet some consultants can charge you a tonne of money but you end up with little to show for it.

So how do you determine of a consultant is right for you?

Well, if I had a magic formula that could give us all the answer for this, I would already be retired and sipping pina coladas on a tropical island.

Nevertheless, over the years, I’ve learnt a few things – often, the hard way.… Read more ...

Behind the scenes at Zappos

Zappos Feature

Ever since I read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (CEO of online store Zappos) in one sitting, I’ve wanted to visit their offices in Las Vegas. So on my recent trip, I did just that. Here’s a quick tour.

Apparently, it’s a tie-free zone at Zappos. Anyone who wears a tie has it promptly cut off and this practice is proudly displayed at the front desk.

Tours of Zappos are free. Just book in – they even send a shuttle bus to pick you up from you hotel and can also drive you to the airport.

They’re really big on creating T-shirts to celebrate milestones.

In fact, slightly obsessed with T-shirts for any reason.

There are kitchenettes everywhere featuring snacks, coffee and fruit.

And if you want to have a nap, this is what they did to an unused internal walkway. Zappos is housed in the former city council building. They didn’t know what to do with this dead space so they held a competition among staff and the best idea was implemented.

It’s not exactly Vogue Living decor. But each team is encouraged to decorate their own area.… Read more ...

Now tell me what you REALLY want.

What you really want Feature

I have a tendency to make people cry. I don’t set out to do it – and it’s not because I’m being mean to people. The tears are unusually ones of relief – and, sometimes, a little bit of joy.

For reasons I can’t explain, when I talk to people – even total strangers – I have a way of getting to the truth. It’s never from asking private questions. I just seem to have a way of asking the right questions; the ones that make people really think about what they want out of their life. I don’t set out to do it; it’s just second nature to me.

I’ll admit that I don’t have a particular strategy or methodology when it comes to helping people figure out their true desires (and most of the time, they’ve already figured it out, they just haven’t articulated it to anyone, even themselves). I can only guess that I make people feel comfortable or confident enough to express these thoughts for the first time. Or I can see when they are lying to themselves – and I call them out on it.… Read more ...