The Speech

Inviting you into the inner sanctum of mwah.
Here’s the speech we made to the people who joined us to celebrate our third birthday. As is our style, we may have adlibed a few more jokes, but this was the plan.


Hello, and thank you all so much for being here.

And for getting us here!

It’s been an amazing three years, and tonight is very much about saying thank you.

To all of you. Every. Single. Person.

Just before Christmas, I went to a tenth birthday party for a business, and the Founding CEO spoke about what it takes to build a business.

His little start-up is now listed and in the billions, but it also started from a blank sheet of paper and a few people who believed in the idea.

He talked about the idea – and we hear a lot about that – he talked about the grit and determination – and we don’t hear nearly enough about that – and he talked about the relationships – we never really hear about those and understand how incredibly important they are.

So, I wanted to tell the mwah. story, and to do that, I want to talk a little about the idea, more about the grittiness and much more about the relationships – which is all of you.

So – the idea and how we started!

November 2015 – sitting in my home office, recommending a friend for a role I’d been rung about, and for the fifth time that year, I helped place a great HR person into a great job, and Michael said “What will it take for you to be tempted back to Corporate?” and I said, “I’m not sure. I think I want to build something new. I think there’s better ways”.

And so it began.

All of 2016 – We took an idea – that people and culture, as a function and profession, was upside down and that much of the work we were doing belonged in the 1980s – or earlier. We didn’t need to just ‘apply tech’ so the old ways could go faster, but rather we needed to rethink it completely. Work wasn’t working for many of us all – so many of us weren’t even invited into work let alone able to thrive. We needed a totally different way of thinking about it.

We planned and wrote and researched and planned again.

  • We wanted a new conversation about work (as a basic human right and an important part of life), culture (the way we work together and more importantly, how we might work together) and leadership (about how we create better work and workplaces where more people can thrive and belong).
  • We envisaged a toolkit in your pocket for every employee, so you can manage your own working life
  • For businesses, we wanted to partner on re-inventing the people and culture space in a way that works, – whether you’re a startup, small business, or a giant corporation. We wanted to build people and culture around the actual work people were doing, and often loving.
  • We wanted to reinvent work! – How we talk about it and we design it.

And middle of the year, with 670 topics, all broken into three parts – we made a company and got some great people around us – Aine Watkins, Narelle Hooper, Michael Combs, Lauren Fried (now Zonfrillo), Beck Cassells, Kathy Finckh, Ben Rennie and James Elliott and started to build a website – because that’s what companies do.

And we rented an empty office and put together some flatpack furniture, and on 17 February 2017, we launched!

And nothing worked.

(Except for our launch party, which was fab!)

Our website took 32 seconds to load – not that many people knew that as we were the only ones who waited that long 😀

It was just Sonja, Michael, and I standing there every morning and willing it to work. And it ignored us completely.

For 18months we took our little idea out – piece by piece – and started ‘consulting’ with it. And bugger me, we built an awesome consulting business.

Then we rebuilt the website  – and bugger me that started to work too.

Then, we took the research we’d been doing:
On VR – through our partnership with Equal Reality – and it worked. And we just this week won an APAC Award for our ground-breaking work in using VR and its role in the future of learning and work.
Our research on Belonging as a measure, or more correctly a map, of culture, which Sydney Uni is helping us with – and bugger me that’s working too.
Our very different (and real) data on the future of work and where it was headed. Thank you BCEC for THE best data sets.

And then we got our ‘way of working’ – a whole different way (and very connected and human way) to approach 5 core people processes as the architecture of work, or employee experience – and they worked too.

And our Human-Centred Design approach to people and culture, and that started working.

And we started growing.

And that sounds easy, but I would say two things:

No one ever tells you about the grit you need!
But once you know it, you are SOO impressed by the people who have it and have built businesses. Its inspiring to build purpose-based businesses.

There’s a myth about entrepreneurs – they wear high heels or black T-Shirts, and they are under 30, but that’s not really who they are. Or more correctly, even if they do wear high heels or T-Shirts, that’s not what matters.

On that note, let me tell you a funny little story. We’re invited by the Chinese Consulate to quorum of entrepreneurs, that they’re trying to encourage to move to China. I head along. As I walk in, a guy comes over and asks me if he can have a glass of wine. I get out to the kitchen and get it for him. He asks for a canapé, and I get that for him too (much to the amusement of the wait staff). Then, very shortly after, I get up to speak, as the keynote, and the dude is mortified. I thought it was so funny, but he was so embarrassed. We’ve become good friends since then, but gee it was very funny in a moment.

Real entrepreneurs have got so much more substance. You can’t spot them from a distance!

They come in all different shapes and sizes and t-shirts and even, heaven forbid, flat shoes!

At this point, I have to mention three amazing entrepreneurs – or are they just really good business people?  – who have been on the end of the phone, or the other side of a glass of wine, many many times in the last three years:

  1. Lauren Fried, now Zonfrillo. I loved her the moment she walked on stage and won a Business Women’s Award, but I didn’t really ‘see’ her, until I’d been building and running a business for two years. On the end of a phone, or there in spirit, gently guiding and advising. She is whip smart, amazingly intuitive, and incredibly generous. She’s built three great businesses and continues to build more, now alongside her equally amazing husband, Jock.
  2. Geraldine Chin Moody, and her wonderful husband, James. Who took Michael and I in for coffee and then pizza, and even today from their home in Seattle, are still right there giving us punch- through advice – like “time is your most valuable resource” every time we want perspective. They reset us to what matters most.
  3. Geoff Morgan, my cousin, who with half an hour and a glass of champagne, can make you feel bullet-proof and more determined than you ever knew was possible.

All three are ‘grit’ personified. And all three are gracious and and kind and calm and very very real and are generous and giving to a fault.

THANK YOU! From the very bottom of my heart.

And that brings me to the relationships! And of my goodness they matter so much!!

And that’s what tonight is all about – to all of you – for believing in us.

And that’s another chance for another call-out:

And there are so many in the room, but I’m going to say just a few;

  1. To the first person who believed in us – Angela Ghazi! On the same day, we had Alan Joyce and QANTAS and Ange Ghazi and Samsung. And Ange was the most important because she knew us and she knew exactly what she was getting. Alan was yet to find out.

Today we have well over 100 corporate clients and thousands more individuals and leaders but that all started with one person. One customer.  And doing everything we could to get it very right.

  1. And then there’s those who backed us and encouraged us – Aine, Narelle, Ming, Kathy, Michael, Phil, Sam, Liz, Sally, Mara, Joel, Marko, Nicky, Ros, Nic, Janna, Monica B, Dimitria and Diane from Sydney Uni, Emily and Angela and the Secretary from DFAT  and John Wilson, Alan and Beck from BCEC, and so so many more!
  2. To the people who started our community – Megan, Lisa, Jason, Malini, Leah, Ange, and many many more, too many to name.
  3. A personal thank you, from me to Michael, and our girls, Sarah and Grace – thanks for making dinner when we worked a million hours to follow this dream. To James’ Lara and Alicia’s Adam and Suzanne’s Alex. Families matter!
  4. And finally – The team – of my goodness ! Thank you for your passion and commitment and for making the work for every single customer the very best it can possibly be! James (we miss you so much tonight, but thanks for beaming in from Phili), Alicia, Sally, Suzanne, Sonja, Kerri, Jorge and Michael. Love you lots. This is way past a business – this is like a healthy funny fun family – with some very eclectic tastes in music. Couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather work with!

Thanks for getting us here. Looking forward to year number 4, which started last Monday and is already humming along!

From the bottom of our hearts – Thanks for being here!

With us tonight. With mwah. And in our lives.

Thank You!