How to know if you’re the right fit for a fast growth company.

There’s a lot of buzz, myth and speculation around what it’s like to work in a fast growth or start-up company.

I came across a lot of material around culture, but not so much about career experience. So I had a dig around to get some real insight on working for a company that’s growing pretty fast.

The experience.

Without a doubt you’ll learn heaps – A common theme from everyone that’s worked in a start-up, whether they’ve enjoyed it or not, they’ve learnt loads. By loads I’m talking more in two months than the previous five years.

A start-up forces you to adopt new skills and responsibilities to make up for the big challenges that come with building a really successful business.

The pay-off – experience in all areas of the business and much more responsibility – you can find yourself in a powerful position when it comes time to move on.

No longer a small cog in a large machine – everything you do has impact, but this means it’s time to say goodbye to having a safety blanket. Want to contribute to success or even failure? Small companies will help you focus and push yourself – helping you to become a real problem solver and thinking of creative ways to get there.

The pay-off: you’ll often get to see results first-hand and share in the rewards and glory.

Surrounded by bright sparks – Perhaps one of the most often overlooked rewards is the team that you’ve joined. How many people work with passionate and enthusiastic team players every single day? This can spark inspiration on every level, leading to truly innovative ideas that helps the business stand out against competitors in the greater industry.

The pay-off: The opportunity to work alongside an entrepreneur is a big one — they identify a problem and find a new efficient way to solve it – you’d be part of that.

It’s not forever – If you’re looking for a comfy job with routine and regularity then you’re looking in the wrong place. It’s important to think about the day to day nature of the above and think about whether it’s for you. Joining a company that’s growing quickly gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss.

Joining a start-up gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss.

The pay-off: Working in a start-up is the ideal place to educate yourself on how to set goals, execute strategies, take your product to market and implement strong business operations.

Knowing if you have the right skills.

So you’re still weighing up if these organisations are right for you? I spoke to some of our top talent in Australia and they shared these traits needed to thrive:

Inquisition – Explore your options to find the exact best match for you. Fast growth organisations are not all the same and often have different models and very different products – take your time to find the perfect match as you’ll need to be passionate about the job you’re about to take on.

Judgment: Chances are you’re going to be figuring out a lot for yourself so you need to like making decisions that sometimes shooting in the dark. You show up for work and can sense what needs to be done without being told, and you do it.

Communication: Email, phone, face to face, pressure, sometimes chaos – You maintain calm poise and find a way forward. You aren’t alarmed by people throwing things in your direction – you can motivate yourself and teach others to join you.

Curiosity: You like to give things a go and test outcomes outside of your (and often your teams) comfort zone. You seek out the opportunity to learn. You avoid boredom and routine. You’re willing to keep trying and failing.

Courage: You’re going to stand up for what you believe is right – if you think the company is going in a direction that conflicts with it’s shared values, you’re going to voice your concerns and communicate your argument. On the other side of the coin – you’ll also be able to push forward when you don’t always agree with a day-to- day decision.

Passion: You’ll be signed up to publications and build networks of the industry you’re working in. You’ll be out and about at events when you can and reading the latest trends reports because you want to – not because you need to. It’s this passion that will help you identify problems in your own day to day operations and inspire to create industry leading solutions.

Do you work in a fast growth or start up company? I’d be keen to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Keep yourself in the know over the coming month as we’ll be following the hottest brands launching in Australia and sharing exclusive career insights with you. Sound like your cup of tea?

Yes please. 

The 5 lessons I learnt interviewing 239 people.

Interviewing was a task that completely daunted me.

I still remember my first one, it was speaking to a guy called Fred who was set to present at a Retrofitting conference. When I heard that Fred was well known for a particular area of façade design and that it was my job to get some content from him.. I Panicked. I went out and bought a pack of highlighters and decided that this was it, make or break time for if this was something I could do.

3 years and 240 interviews down the line it’s become a passion, I’ve been pretty lucky getting to fire questions at Hospital Chiefs, University VCs, Finance CEOs, CMO’s, Government Leaders, EAs and a whole host of techy people.

A few tips matter, no matter who you’re interviewing.

Do your research
Why highlighters? It was apparent from the off that research was going to be key. We’re very lucky to have a host of background research available. Start with the company website, narrow in to the name of the person you’re interviewing – check if they’ve been in the press recently, if they have a blog, an active LinkedIn, a mention on their company newsletter. Prepare.

You don’t need to become a subject matter expert, you just need to know what makes this person unique – What makes them special? Why are you interviewing them In the first place? Use this to prepare your questions.

Why? Quite frankly you don’t want to look like a fool. Also, the key part of any interview is finding the ‘sexy’ angle. You won’t find it if you haven’t researched what’s already out there…

Be nice
Be friendly and approachable. I approach every single interview wanting it to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the amount of CEO’s and pretty influential leaders that still feel nervous in front of the camera. It’s not just you that feels nervous, and it’s important to put people at ease.

See the interview as ‘a chat’ and communicate that to the person you’re asking the questions to, right from the off.

Why? In addition to it being a much nicer experience for everyone involved, you’ll find people will relax and open up more – telling you the real stories, not the brand approved ones. They will also be more likely to work with you in the future.

Listen
The difference between a Q&A and an interview is huge.

I’ve always sent questions in advance, allowing time for preparation and to instil some ease. However, I understand that by doing this, it means I may end up with responses prepared by the Communications team. That’s why you have to listen rather than just move through the questions and take the answers, listen and ask follow up questions – drill into each answer.

Information you find out during an interview can also benefit wider departments.

Why: Again, it helps you find the angle and ask follow up questions. It also helps to generate future content ideas. Once someone has given you their time to be interviewed – pick their brains, make the most of being with them.

Use a formula
Each interview should be personal, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a raw framework to your question development – it helps you develop the content following the interview. Mine goes a little something like this:

Overview of Journey

Macro impact

Challenges

Above and beyond

Lesson Learnt

For example, the challenges question may end up being something like:

Change Management was clearly one of the biggest challenges of the project – could you tell me a little about the strategy you had in place and what hurdles you were faced with along the way..

Go the extra mile
It’s the simple things that count here, share a copy of the video – edited and raw footage, add some value to the experience.

Communicate where it’s been used and what the feedback is.

Being interviewed can be a real personal development tool. It will also increase your chances of getting the video shared with new networks. People are generally more than happy to self-promote, exponentially increasing your coverage.

The airport v airline debate: why it needs to end

To put it simply, airlines and airports share a common goal; operating as many flights as possible to increase revenue.

However, achieving common ground and good communication has continued to be a challenge since the enforcement of airline deregulation.

To get some insight into exactly where the disparities lie and start to look at how they can be fixed, I spoke to Kevin Gill, Chief Operating Officer at Townsville Airport. He’s in a unique position of having experience from both sides of the coin; he worked as General Manager for privately owned ‘Macair’ for 8 years before joining Queensland Airports Limited (QAL) in 2008.

Where do the potential opportunities lie for airlines and airports to be maximising their revenue streams – have you any examples of this?

The traditional airport has been a landlord. The more contemporary airport immerses itself in understanding the airlines that would fit their destination, because ultimately an airport is a conduit to the destination. If we look at the Gold Coast Airport for example, you’ll tend to focus on typically low cost carriers, which are the correct fit to deliver tourism.

If you’re an airport like Townsville, it’s broader based with strong business content. The first step is to understand the correct airlines that would suit operating to your airport. Be proactive, and look at the emerging trends in your destination that could drive new destination ideas that may be of interest to your targeted airlines.

We have an example of that here; QAL’s research department identified a direct Darwin to Townsville service as an opportunity, because to get to Darwin, often meant a journey through Cairns or Brisbane. It became apparent that there are synergies with Darwin that were growing, between the two cities, those synergies were generally the mining industry and its on-going growth.  Both destinations have strong Defence connections, and there’s also Darwin’s increasing relevance as a gateway into Asia, and Townsville’s lack of connections into Asia.

As a result, the airport started to pitch a direct service to the airlines. AirNorth recognised the opportunity existed and commenced the route which has been very successful and is growing rapidly.

It was a new thinking of airports saying – “we’re not a landlord – we know our destinations, we know the opportunities, and we know our target market, let’s see where we can take this one”.

How does Townsville Airport ensure good operating costs for airline rates – where’s the focus?

Airport charges increased markedly at the start of the century, but if you look at the contemporary airport now, airlines get a lot more than a runway.

Looking beyond that initial price spike, investment in Australian airports has been very strong since they were Federal government owned.  If you look at airport charges as a percentage of airfares, they are still modest.

Airports now work hand in hand with airline partners to ensure that the Airport experience is seamless.  This maximises operational efficiencies and thus an Airline’s OTP.

Can you talk us through some of the common causes for disparate objectives between an airport and airline?

I’ve spent most of my career in airlines, so have seen both sides of the story.

Larger Airports have enjoyed strong financial performance in Australia but people often don’t understand the high levels of capital that are required to maintain and develop these assets. The airline industry has a history of uniformly not making much money.

Airports take a long term view with infrastructure development with planning horizons often beyond 10 years.  For example an airport may wish to increase the footprint of their terminal to meet long term projections and invest accordingly and pass on an increase charge to the airline.

On the other hand, the airline will not reap the benefits of the expanded footprint immediately and accordingly could be reluctant to agree to the increase charges in the short term.

That often causes a disparity in terms of short term versus long term thinking.

Different airlines also have different needs as dictated by their customer base.  FIFO operators only require a minimal facility whereas Virgin for example may require lounge and meeting facilities.

Certain airlines potentially may consider that they end up benefitting more from new infrastructure than other airlines.

What’s the key to successful communication and collaboration? 

The first thing that goes through my mind is empathy.  Until you’ve worked at an airline –  you don’t get to understand the pressures that airlines are under.

A jet airplane costs up to $8,000 an hour to operate, so if you’re an airline operator and the airport encourages you to start a new route, the costs rack up really quickly.

When an airport comes to an airline and advises them of a major redevelopment there is often a cost increase that is added to the list of increasing costs that an airline faces. Ultimately, the passenger ends up paying for it. Therefore it is imperative to ensure that the airlines feel that they are getting are getting value for money.

Airlines are trying to reduce costs and create a margin. This is typically 5% of turnover.  Airports are thinking about the longer term to ensure the correct infrastructure is provided to meet long term demand growth. If the parties can understand each others perspective then they are much more likely to collaborate effectively and reach mutually acceptable outcomes.

There’s no doubt that airlines and airports have to be partners.  We are increasingly immersed together. An airport is reliant on airlines adding capacity to grow their business and enable them to reinvest. There are other ways that airports can assist airlines. QAL for example, provides ground handling support services and also aircraft maintenance services to airlines.  It’s about having a deeper relationship beyond being a landlord.

What do you envisage the airport of the future to look like – what will be the differentiation between those that succeed in becoming cash flow positive and those that don’t?

If the destination is strong, then the airport should prosper, the airport needs to be proactive, and support destination growth.

Work with what you’ve got.  If you know what your destination key trigger points are, then again, be proactive.  Look at new route opportunities and drive the agenda with airlines with constructive ideas. Know you’re the industry you’re operating in.  You’re in aviation; you can’t be a passive landlord.

Airports that are smart really look at all of those negative touch points in facilitation, and try to overcome them, whether it be front of house road transport congestion, or runway congestion.  Technology enabling smart solutions is also going to be very important.

 Join Kevin at Regional Airport Development 2014 where he will be delivering the presentation ‘Attracting Airlines and Strengthening Relationships’.

 Find out more by visiting www.regionalairports.com.au

[Exclusive interview] Building powerful partnerships at Queensland’s new Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital

The new 359-bed hospital will be the biggest public children’s hospital in Australia, and the central hub of an enhanced state-wide network of children’s health services.

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital merges staff and expertise of the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Mater Children’s Hospital

It is part of a $1.5 billion program of work, including an adjacent academic and research facility, the refurbished headquarters of the Children’s Hospital Foundation; land to accommodate families within the precinct; improved road access and a new Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Service building.

Developing Queensland Children’s Hospital has been no easy feat. The overarching challenge: bring together two old (but long-standing) children’s hospitals and win people’s hearts…

Ahead of their presentation at Australian Healthcare Week 2014 in March, I caught up with some of the people tasked with steering the project from concept to completion: Dr Peter Steer, Chief Executive, Children’s Hospital and Health Services, Bruce Wolfe, Project Director at the project’s architect, Conrad Gargett Lyons, and Tim Treby, Project Director for the managing contractor, Lend Lease.

Could you outline your involvement in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital and where your focus lies?

Peter Steer: I’m the Chief Executive of the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service that will be running and managing the facility at the end of the day. I’ve been involved for five years now, and my focus is to ensure that we deliver a contemporary design that delivers against our vision and mission, which is a really patient- and family-focused healthcare service.

Bruce Wolfe: This was something of the ultimate architectural prize so, initially, my involvement was bidding on the project; then Master Planning and developing the building concept with the design team, health planners and client. In many ways my role involved managing the complex relationships on the project and that is my focus now as the building nears completion

Tim Treby: I have been involved in project for over 6 years, from commencement of the Master Planning phase as Building Consultant initially, and then as Managing Contractors representative.  I am responsible for delivering the building to meet the expectations of the client and the many other project stakeholders.

The success of the project relies heavily on effective collaboration and communication. What would you say is key to getting this right?

Peter Steer: The relationship between the principals on the project. We were very fortunate with the appointed architectural team and the managing contractor as those relationships are critical. The other critical communication issue in health is the quality of stakeholder engagement and, in particular, user group engagement.

We learned through the project that you can’t over-communicate in the context of these complex designs. The healthcare professionals using the facility feel very strongly about their services.   There’s a significant education element around that stakeholder and user group engagement. It was one of the things we got better at as the project progressed.

I’ve been involved in a number of significant projects before and am continually surprised at how difficult it is to bring people along. Some clinicians have strong opinions and their expectations are very high, and not always contextually appropriate for the capital build. There are real challenges in managing stakeholder user groups. We took the communication and listening process very seriously. We went back repeatedly to review and subsequently did some significant schematic re-design work because we were keen to ensure people felt listened to.

Bruce Wolfe: Time spent listening is always valuable; listening to both ideas and criticisms. It’s crucial to moving forward collectively.

Tim Treby: I agree that the success of any project relies heavily on effective collaboration and communication.  The larger and more complex the project, the more challenging this becomes, and the more important it is.  This project has been extremely challenging in virtually all aspects of the development process, and the toughest issues to overcome, in hindsight, have been those where communication and collaboration have been lacking in some form.  We are fortunate to have a client who recognises the importance of this and we are able to communicate openly and resolve potential issues early. 

What preconceptions did you bring to the project and were they reinforced or altered?

Peter Steer: My preconception was that it was going to be a very complex capital build and that there would be issues around our workforce merger, given that this was bringing two hospitals together.  They’ve been reinforced – it’s a very complex project that is now going well, I’m not sure there’s been anything like it in this country before.

Bruce Wolfe: At the interview for the project, we talked about a very different type of hospital, open and “permeable”. I actually wondered whether this may have been too big a move for Queensland Health but it the opposite was true, the client was keen to embrace innovation and bring new ideas to the planning including the concept of a more open and community connected hospital. The site was also challenging and involved a broad review and evaluation of the urban context. This was fundamental to the success of the project and in reality was every bit as complex as imagined.

Tim Treby: This was always going to be a technically challenging project; a heavily serviced hospital including an energy facility on brownfield site bounded by major arterial roads, bus tunnel, schools, hospitals, residences and a telephone exchange. Having been involved in many hospital developments before the LCCH this was understood, and has been reinforced many times over during the life of the project.   The project has traversed several cycles, including economic, political, industrial, corporate and stakeholders which have all had to be negotiated.  I knew that the project team would have to be tenacious to overcome the challenges that would and have come, and also that we would be all be justifiably proud of the end product.  It is a fantastic result.

QCH was not a public-private partnership. Do you see any benefit of using this new PPP style?

Peter Steer: We benefited from not being a PPP, primarily because the site was complex and had some major design challenges, along with the organisational merger; engagement was critical. And certainly the procurement process and the choice of managing contractor versus a PPP allows a lot more user and stakeholder engagement. That was the advantage for us.

In terms of Public-Private Partnership, given the challenges for government finding injections of capital money, PPPs will become more attractive. PPPs will be a mechanism (and not an unreasonable one) to deliver these big projects that otherwise will simply not get off the ground. PPPs certainly have their place and their advantages, but I don’t think there’s a perfect methodology. The mechanism of procurement really does need to fit the purpose and context.

Bruce Wolfe:  Shortly after the design of QCH, CGR won the commission to master plan and provide the design of the Reference Project of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, a PPP project on a large scale. One of the difficulties in the PPP process is getting sufficient client and user-group contact with the competing design teams. I think that was well handled in that project but it remains a difficult aspect of PPPs. The benefits are in relation to the capital cost savings for government and allowing the health experts concentrate on delivering their core expertise.

Tim Treby: They appear to be desirable from a public funding point of view, however I think that the cost to industry to bid for PPP tenders is excessive and unsustainable.  There must be a more equitable procurement methodology that can be developed.  I would question whether they are sufficiently client focussed for particularly complex projects.

How is the project responding to a change in customer demands?

Peter Steer: Things have changed enormously over the last seven years.  To be both accurate and give praise where it’s due, the architects in their design have designed a facility that maximises flexibility.

As our understanding of service models has matured, we have had to make changes. We’ve obviously had to draw a line in the sand, but we were fortunate with a flexible design in the first place that has allowed us to survive well with adaptation over that long period of time between design and delivery.

Bruce Wolfe:  Our customer for QCH was Queensland Health. In the long delivery of such a project there are inevitably changes in their demands that impact on planning. The versatility and flexibility of the design was tested during that six year period from master planning to completion.

Tim Treby:  I think that when the Hospital opens people will be impressed with this building.  It is a facility that has the welfare of its young patients and their families firmly in mind, as well as the needs of staff and visitors.  There has been future flexibility built in, and much work done by the client, design and contractors teams to ensure the latest technology is provided in the facility, considering the lead times which have had to be managed.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you faced throughout the development of the project? Are there any lessons learnt?

Peter Steer: It’s critical in any healthcare design, particularly given the context of our merger and bringing two organisations into one, to get that engagement right. The other opportunity is getting stakeholders to understand there may be design solutions and technology solutions to some of our service delivery challenges at the moment.

A classic example of such an opportunity was in our outpatient design – we had our clinicians absolutely horrified that there was very little waiting space within this hospital for clinics etc. When you think about it, at first, a patient might think, why don’t we have larger waiting areas? But, the principle about being patient- and family-centric with this children’s health service is not to have people wait, and to design a facility that would enable waiting makes no sense.

You can create tension by your design, your intent and your vision for the organisation, and through technology, make a real difference to a design solution. There’s a major change agenda, a service change opportunity, with these big design projects, it’s difficult to grab them.

The other challenge is that on a really big, long project, the team changes. You have changes in personnel, particularly in the public sector, in the bureaucracy with whom you’re interfacing, and often have government changes. Managing that change can be a challenge.

Bruce Wolfe:  This was a complex and testing project and there were really no areas that were not a challenge.  A difficult brown-field site, two separate and very different organisations coming together, a highly visible project politically and a turnover of client project directors during the course of the project. The challenge was to stay focussed on the architecture and the building and the problems that were in a domain where we could be most effective.

Tim Treby:  As I have already mentioned there has been no shortage of challenges on the project.  The site location provided many technical and logistic challenges, and the form of the building required a lot of planning to develop methodologies to safely construct it, and it did drive innovation.

The clarity and alignment of expectations for the user group approval of the developed design was challenging, and exacerbated by external criticism and lack of continuity of some participants.   The importance of external stakeholder engagement was recognised and managed well.

There has already been a lot of interest in this project from a design perspective. What has been your impression from that commentary?

Peter Steer: This project (and certainly the design that’s put on the table) is centred on creating a green and healing environment.

This vision has permeated everything with extraordinary attention in design, designing to minimise use of electricity, having our atria and major thoroughfares in the hospital, open to the environment.

There’s also a community vision where the intent of the architects has lived true, they’ve ensured the hospital is open to the community. There are major ‘windows’ that allow people both to see in and see out from this facility, which not only helps with finding context about time of day and place, space and time, but also builds community connections. For a children’s hospital, this is critical.

Bruce Wolfe:  The building occupies the site quite powerfully which has generated discussion both for and against. As the building is revealed, the gestures of opening the building façade and connecting the inside spaces to the outside is more apparent and helps in the scale of what is a very large building. There is more of the ground plane also given to the public.

We have been pleased with the comments as the scaffolding has come down and surrounding buildings removed to reveal the civic domain.

It was also pleasing to be the first Australian hospital to win the Academy of Design and Health Award for Best Future Hospital

Once it’s open and people get to experience it, as opposed to looking at pictures, I am sure the impact will be much, much more significant.

Tim Treby: The external appearance tends to be polarising, and it certainly has people talking.  The finished product being delivered is true to the brief and design intent, and will provide fantastic facilities.

The project has clearly seen lots of innovation. Have you any examples of how it’s acted as a catalyst for change for other hospitals?

Peter Steer: There’s little doubt that our emphasis on service planning and patient flow as a result of this process is influencing ambulatory care delivery across Queensland. We’ve been innovative in terms of our ambulatory clinic not just design, but service. We’ve got some great feedback and interest from health services across the State. It’s that interface between service design informing building design that has been the advantage.

Bruce Wolfe: I think it is probably too soon to tell but I think that since the design of this building was revealed in early 2008, there is a renewed emphasis in hospitals on intuitive way finding and creating public spaces in the building that link to form a network of volumes rather than of corridors and passageways. There have been planning innovations as well but these would be tested in practice before being adopted more broadly.

Tim Treby: The have been many innovations implemented during the construction phase, which will no doubt be used on future projects.

Hear more from Peter Steer, Bruce Wolfe and Tim Treby during their exclusive presentation at Australian Healthcare Week:  ‘Queensland Children’s Hospital: The New Look PPP’s: Powerful Precinct Partnerships’ This project case will focus on the new Children’s Hospital Project, demonstrating a strong collaborative process adopted by the client, architect and contractor which has ultimately acted as a catalyst for change