Last week I had breakfast with Naomi Simpson, CEO and Founder of Red Balloon and Shark Tank panelist. Of course it wasn’t just me, there were probably a thousand people in the room. Naomi started speaking from the back of the room and as she walked past me made direct eye contact and I was hooked. Naomi has a communication style that made her presentation feel like she was talking straight to me, and only me.
And Naomi has a lot to say! She talked pretty much unscripted and non-stop for over an hour. The room was “pin drop” silent, hanging on her every word.
Statistics, stories, anecdotes, advice and an occasional joke. Honestly, if you ever have the chance to hear Naomi speak, jump at it. Cancel everything else and “totally get there”
She started by telling her own business startup story, those days of wandering up and down Martin Place in Sydney wearing her red dress with red balloons attached to her briefcase. These were the early days of Red Balloon before she had made even made her first on-line sale. Day after day of hoping some one would notice her and her red balloons and head over to the website to make a purchase.
Key message: “Hope is not a marketing strategy”
Then one day some one did actually go to the website and buy an experience and the way Naomi tells it, it almost sounds like the purchase was an accident.
Naomi grew her business by providing the absolute best customer experience possible. One of their key strategies was to individually call every single customer after they purchased an on-line experience. “Thank you for choosing one of our Red Balloon experiences.”
Even today as they approach 5 million experiences sold, they still contact every single customer individually and Naomi reads the customer feedback daily.
Key message: How can you thank your customers for choosing to purchase from you?
Naomi’s next theme was all about an engaged team; what it looks like, how to create one and how to keep the members of the team engaged.
There are 3 types of team members:
- The first group are enthusiastic, committed, they love what they and come to work every day and “play full out”
- The second group come to work every day, do their work well, work 9 – 5, take good care of your customers and clients and go home after their work day.
- The third group are disengaged. They show up to work, they take their pay, they hate their job, hate the company and as Naomi said “they hate you, and …… 26% of them plan to stay with you for the rest of their lives”
This is a scary thought. Almost everyone in the room laughed. At that point I wondered how many in the room actually were laughing because they know someone in the 26% or maybe even see themselves are part of the 26%
Naomi went on to claim that for every one of these disgruntled employees it takes 6 of the engaged people to clean up after one disengaged person.
I don’t recall where this statistic came from, and if it is true it certainly blows the 80:20 rule right out of the water.
Key message: it takes 6 engaged employees to clean up after one disengaged employee
Personally I’ve always strongly believed that recruiting the right people is the #1 key to creating an engaged team. Recruit the right people and then take really good care of them.
Naomi didn’t talk about the recruitment process at Red Balloon. Over time I have met people who work at Red Balloon and who have been through the recruitment process. It is rigorous because they are absolutely obsessive about bringing the right people into Red Balloon community. People talk about the unique culture they have created and at breakfast Naomi described the 5 ways they maintain their unique culture and ensure they retain their highly engaged team.
It’s all very well finding and recruiting the best, how they are then taken care of in the long term is what ensures the long term success of the business.
Naomi’s Red Balloon’s 5 elements to team well being:
- People Connection; so that team members feel a sense of belonging
- Moving/ Active/ Health; be active, fit, physical, mental
- Keep-Learning; creativity, brain training, vocational.
- Do people notice? Give Thanks; say “thank you” authentically 5 times a day. One of the interesting points here Naomi said was “We have a responsibility as an employer to create a workplace where people are noticed”
- Giving; volunteering, contribute, generosity, they have a buddy system for new employees
There were 2 other really interesting observations that Naomi made about the work place.
One was about trust. She quoted a report from the US where it claims that 70% of employees in the US believe that their employer has done some thing illegal in the past 12 months. “How can there be trust in an environment where people believe that the business/ company they are working for are breaking the law?”
70%!! I’m still incredulous at this
The other interesting analogy she “debunked” was about “getting everyone on the bus”
Now I have to admit I’ve never really liked the “get everyone on the same bus” mantra chanted by the business consultants and change management gurus over the past couple of decades.
I’ve never really been quite sure why I don;t like it, just some thing about it doesn’t work for me.
Naomi hit the nail right on the head. The way she explains it was like a cattle prod in my ribs in a “wake up, this is why it doesn’t work” way. Let me paraphrase Naomi:
“Think about a bus …..
“Who’s driving the bus?
“One poor bugger is driving, navigating, doing all the work ….
“What’s everyone else doing?
“Laughing and looking out the window and having a nice time….
“You do not want a bus!!”
Key message: You do not want a Bus!
Naomi then went on to talk about her son and his rowing ambition. It was a wonderful analogy for team. It is a story of determination, ambition, dedication and commitment. And that was the boys’ rowing team, apparently the girls team is even more dedicated and committed.
I rarely go to breakfasts these days, mostly because I prefer to go to morning yoga or Pilates. While I’m sorry Annie to miss your class last Friday, I am so grateful that I did.
Thank you Naomi, for your insights and for your inspiration.
Bye for now….. I’m off to do something significant.
I’m Ingrid Thompson and thank you for reading this post.
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