Friday, 23 September 2011


I spent the day yesterday at the NSW State PSSA Netball finals watching 4 games. These were the best 8 of 480 NSW primary teams in a knockout that saw my daughter's team defeated in the first round. They played a consolation round and I stayed with Lauren to watch the finals.

She's expressed a desire to move up to the next level and been selected for rep netball, so while she doesn't always like it, I try to analyse what's happening in the play - who stepped up, what works or doesn't - and we try to figure out what it takes to raise their game.

It's a process we see in elite sports a lot, but in business it's essential, too. I'm talking netball here, but it doesn't require genius to apply the same observations in business - maybe your business.

The first observation was that, having reached the top 8 teams, the best teams had no weak players; there was consistency and depth of talent. For example, while having a tall girl (woman!) in the goal circle who could reliably put it in worked when you had scrappy competition and a couple of players on your team that could get the ball to her, this didn't take them to the next level.

We saw at lower levels big girls who were aggressive and pushed, but didn't have real skills, knocked out before the top 8.

The players who trained at the winning level worked together and could use advanced techniques like leaping to land on one foot and again to the other foot and leap on and throw the ball to a team player already in the right position, and cover a third of the court distance without being called for 'stepping'. It takes trust, co-ordination and skill to do this.

But most of all, in the best teams, all the players had already decided to review and discard limiting behaviours. I saw no sulking when the second best team was losing. Many of the teams had a high level of play and there were lots of rep and state players in some teams, but even this was not enough. The winning team members all had a standard of play in their sights, and came from regions where, based on the results coming into the finals, had serious contenders to test themselves against in their own backyard.

And the winning team? There were no 11 year olds that looked like 17 year old women, as we saw in some teams earlier in the competition. They were little girls from the Hunter Valley. There was no pushing, and while they were fast, there was an economy of effort born of outstanding skill levels and teamwork. It made me wonder what all of the physicality and stress was about in our first game, and the importance of being in a team where everyone had decided to step up.

Friday, 16 September 2011


With so many risks and compliance commitments to employ staff, it's no wonder that outsourcing appeals to Australian business and government. For Gen Y people with an incredible 40%+ engaged in some kind of independent business activities aside from their day job, it must seem a way of life.

You specify what you want, you negotiate a price, and hire a contractor to take responsibility for a task or area. However, outsourcing contact centre services can be a bit different to engaging a marketing consultant or skilled trasdesperson.

When you engage a simple message or reception service with us at Well Done, depending on the service level, there may be a monthly fee plus rates for the calls we actually handle on your behalf. You're generally not tied to providing a set volume of calls beyond this commitment. We effectively supply you with support on a 'standby' basis, and it's our responsibility to ensure that sufficient trained staff are available to take your calls.

When you outsource in this way, you are generally outsourcing defined tasks with clear protocols to respond to a call or event. It needs to be straightforward enough for someone, with good systems and links to more information behind them, to answer in your organisation's name on the fly and follow your instructions without warning, at any time. In other words, while operators will be trained to handle your calls, they won't know when these calls will come next as opposed to the calls of other clients on the same skills-based queue. This is harder than just answering for one business and knowing it inside out, and we look for resilience, common sense and flair in the generalist staff that we employ to do this work.

Alternatively, when you engage dedicated staff within a contact centre to handle your service, this is usually contracted with a time line, known average call lengths and task schedules, and call or work volumes and incidences. You may also specify people with particular skill sets; for instance, at our International Customer Service Centre in Manila, we can recruit qualified sales people, accountants, web designers, IT or general Help Desk staff for your services. 

It's a bigger commitment on your part, but you can still outsource the management of these staff to us and secure service delivery at known rates. It will normally involve some specific training in your processes or CRM software, and because particular staff become familiar with your work. It's reasonable to expect much more detailed handling and facility in your systems.

Depending on volumes, complexity and your service requirements, we may supply a general supervisor for your service, or a dedicated Team Leader on the spot who can ensure KPI compliances and train and guide staff on the team. 

Whether you decide to outsource a simple service on 'standby' or contract a dedicated team, either way, you still have to manage your own business. You can outsource particular work, but you make the decisions that structure your business and ensure that everything is working well together.

Once you realise this and think it through, outsourcing can be a great way to closely review all the procedures in your business. It requires and offers more discipline and control because, fundamentally, you can't outcource what you can't define.