Taking on tomorrow

As a Westpac 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow winner, Xceptional were invited to Melbourne Business School for their ‘Take on Tomorrow Program’. Here's what we learnt about business innovation:

Aron Mercer, Head of Growth at Xceptional

Last week I had the privilege of spending 4 days with 60 diverse, growing and impactful businesses. As a 2018 Westpac Business of Tomorrow, we traveled to the Melbourne Business School ‘Take on Tomorrow Program’ to discuss business innovation.

Before arriving in Melbourne, I was struck with the care taken to ensure each participant took full advantage of the program. Ric Leahy, Melbourne Business School lead facilitator, called me and 60 other participants to introduce himself and the program. This small gesture spoke volumes to the professional approach of Westpac and the Melbourne Business School to the course.

The program consisted of keynotes, business coaching, great food and — of course — networking. I was struck by the diversity of businesses, the willingness to share successes and failures and a complete lack of ego.

Some of my highlights from the program included:

— Bernard Salt, of smashed avocado fame, who called for a culture shift towards entrepreneurship. His challenge was for Aussies to build the next Amazon, Netflix or Apple. Many in the room are trying to do exactly that.

— Grahame Lowe is a high performance coach who has worked with top athletes. He shared his rules for building success and a strong team culture from the world-renowned All Blacks:

  1. If you are 5 minutes early you are late
  2. You are a national player 24/7
  3. No one is above the team

— Scott Bales, MD of Innovation Labs Asia, shared global examples of market disruption and innovation with a strong focus on knowing your customer. At Airbnb every employee has to create two customer personas. These are detailed pictures of a (hypothetical) customer based on the analysis and research of real customers. They include emotive information such as personal motivations, values, brand loyalty and communication preferences. I couldn’t help wonder — how well do we know our customers? I’ve now challenged myself to build detailed personas for Xceptional’s customers and job-seeking candidates.

The Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow program is unique in its scale in Australia. The 200 innovative winners benefit from media recognition, tailored business support and unique rewards. As a top 20 winner, we also gain invaluable professional advice, one-on-one mentoring and an exclusive two-week study tour to Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas. We’re grateful for the opportunity to network and connect with fellow 2018 Businesses of Tomorrow and 2017 alumni.

Special mention to Brooke Carter and her team who couldn’t have done more for the participants. The Westpac team was supported by Jessica Melliza and Kelsey Shi, to whom I owe a personal thanks for their fast work in the midst of the Sydney storm and cancelled flights. Many of the team found themselves ‘stranded’ in Melbourne (yes I realise it’s a fabulous city to spend an extra night!) The program team hastily booked accommodation and rescheduled flights, which was much appreciated.