Episode 007 - Kathy Rhodes
The Strategy and Psychology
Kathy has made a name for herself in strategic development. With experience across agency, not for profit, and big business, she's developed a powerful perspective on marketing. We discuss so many aspects of good marketing, the power of events such as SXSW and Pause Fest for professional development, and so much more.
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Kathy Rhodes has forged her career in marketing, crossing several key industries including not for profits, agency world, and finance sector. This breadth of experience has allowed her a unique perspective and deep understanding of what can make or break marketing.
Her focus on strategic development and thorough understanding of social psychology provides some powerful tools.
We discuss so much around the ethics of good marketing, how important understanding social psychology is for marketers, and how so much marketing is devised upside down. We also chat about seeking advice from others, and the importance of ongoing professional development with events such as SXSW and Australia's Pause Fest where Kathy provided a keynote.
Kathy Rhodes - https://www.kathyrhodes.com.au/
Thought Alchemists - https://www.thoughtalchemists.com/
Thought Alchemists on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/thought_alchemists/
Please note, while an effort is made to provide an accurate transcription, errors and omissions may be present. No part of this transcription can be referenced or reproduced without permission.
Rob: Alright so, Kathy Rhodes. I've got you here from Thought Alchemists, and I'm really, really glad to have you in the studio today. Thank you so much for coming.
Kathy: Thanks so much for having me, Rob.
Rob: It's really good to see you again. And so for someone who hasn't heard of Thought Alchemists or maybe doesn't know what an alchemist is. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely, so my personal purpose in life, Rob, is to bring out the gold in ideas and people and Thought Alchemists is a strategy consultancy that specializes in thought leadership, whereby we're transforming ideas. So great academic research, people who've got stories that are worth sharing with the world and we're transforming those into dividends. So dividends in terms of financial gain for the individual client, but also dividends at a community and societal level. Thanks to the information they're sharing.
Rob: That's very, very cool. And so obviously, you didn't start your journey with thought alchemy. And so can you give us a bit of background? I understand that you've been down the path of working marketing for banks. And in that finance industry, can you give us a little bit of background about Kathy Rhodes?
Kathy: I sure can. But let me tell you a story. So here I was, fresh out of university, a bachelor degree for PR, you know hung freshly on my wall when I was still living at home with my parents. And I'd walk into a Sydney boutique marketing agency, which doing PR at the time. And and there we were all crowded around this little office and our Internet was dial up and only one person could be on the Internet at any given time. So we'd have this hand raising system which said, hey, it's my turn to jump on and check out that thing called Google. So that probably gives you an indication of how long I've been doing this, doing this for, Rob. So, yeah, I started my career at Anderson Knight, which is a boutique public relations consultancy in Bridge Street in the city. And at that time, I was really focused on a whole raft of client activities, including things like the Australasian Reporting Awards, unbelievably, where people would be judged on a stack of criteria around how good, how transparent, how beautifully designed their annual reports were, of all things.
Rob: Ok. learn something, something new exists every day. Yeah.
Kathy: Always went into the sexy stuff when it comes to marketing products. Shortly after that, I moved to the Cancer Council, New South Wales and spent a couple of years in their marketing team focusing on not only health related messages and taking those out to community members such as school groups, but also was responsible in part for fundraising around some of the biggest campaigns you might remember, like biggest morning tea and Pink Ribbon Day and Daffodil Day. Those types of things. So, yeah, I went from agency land into not for profit pretty quick before I took off to London.
Rob: Interesting. And what prompted that move?
Kathy: Well, at the time, there was a man in my life who I wanted to travel with. Now
Rob: That'll do it.
Kathy: Ben, who eventually became my husband. He had an opportunity for work and I had an opportunity to follow him. So I ended up working for Alfred Dunhill, which is a men's luxury retail brand right in the heart of the city. And my goodness, that was some adventurous times.
Rob: That's quite a transition from NFP to luxury goods as well.
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely, it was, particularly since Dunhill is synonymous with the cigarettes, so going from cancer to the cigarettes was quite a leap. Even though the version I worked for, of course, had nothing to do with tobacco.
Rob: Of course, but still a little bit of irony there. Absolutely,
Kathy: It was.
Rob: Yeah. So you stayed in London for a little while and then how did you go from there?
Kathy: Yes. After doing a couple of years in London, returned back to Sydney and was really keen to just try my luck as a temp for a little while to work out what I wanted to do, settling back in and all. And I stumbled across an opportunity to work for Zurich Financial Services in their marketing team. And after a couple of weeks as a contract, they said, Oh, we'd love you to stay. So that's what I did. And fast forward 10 years of financial services marketing and yeah, here I am.
Rob: Was there anything that really stood out during that 10 years like you've gone from from very granular storytelling to. And then there was 10 years.
Kathy: 10 years.
Rob: So it was you know, what what sort of what lessons can come out of that into in a real broad sense?
Kathy: Yes, so I think that my career, having bounced around multiple industries, in-house agency land across every ATO tax category in the end. The thing that's really kept it consistent for me is an eye on the customer. And having a real deep empathy. So understanding. Having worked for cancer charity, for example. What the implications are and what people really need when it comes to their insurance policies. So always taking what I've learnt, taking the insights that I've had and applying that to a new category in a new way. So definitely feels like I've danced around. But the red thread has been real strategic clarity and insight in each of those examples.
Rob: And from what I understand about your history, the move from financial services then went to very focused on strategy. Was that the move to step change? And can you tell us a little bit about that?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. So I first came across step change when I was working at ANZ and they were an agency that we chose to partner with. And I was so impressed with the work that was done there and the caliber of the team that when they offered me a chance to jump ship, I grabbed it and joined in the strategy directed capacity, working with multiple clients over that period.
Rob: Was it? Was there anything unexpected with that transition from, you know, in-house marketing and financial services to, you know, strategic agency?
Kathy: Yeah, so I'd forgotten what it was like at the time when I jumped ship to be in the agency environment. And my goodness, it was a shock to the senses. So imagine this. It's my very first week at step change. And on Wednesday, having started on the Monday, on Wednesday, I was put on the plane, flown over to Perth, had my first client workshop. The next morning, I didn't return back to Sydney to the red eye on the Saturday. So, yeah, baptism of fire in my first week, let's say.
Rob: Absolutely. And so, how long did you stay around at step change for?
Kathy: So, I think in the end, it was just over a year as a full time employee at step change the agency, and then I switched into a contract arrangement whereby the the appropriate clients and the appropriate work, I would still come in and consult to the team. So you'll find me as an associate strategy director even now.
Rob: It's a very swish sounding title.
Kathy: Sure is especially when you're saying it at speed.
Rob: Absolutely. And so obviously, you have stepped down and and co-founded Thought Alchemists with.
Kathy: Stacey Packer.
Rob: Stacey Packer, can you tell us a little bit about how that came about? No, no small step to cofound with someone, it takes a lot of extraordinary trust.
Kathy: Yeah, it sure does. And I think picking a cofound is a bit like picking someone to marry, isn't it? It's a long commitment and there are ups and downs and lots of, you know, lots of things to work through. So Stacey and I were very fortunate that we both worked at step change. We overlapped for a period of time. So she was the general manager of S.A as a division, particularly with a new business focus. And she was able to take that business, that state, from three hundred thousand dollars in revenue to over a million dollars in the seven months that she and I overlapped. So I was always incredibly impressed with her ability. And so my strategy, combined with all of the great things that she knows, was just a really natural fit. And we had that trust already because we had been working together in another capacity, which most people don't get to do. I guess.
Rob: That's very cool. And so we all we often see a bit of a yin yang sort of with co-founders when it works really, really well. How do you guys fit into that?
Kathy: Yeah, I think um for us, whether it's for each other or for our broader team. The job description was always use your talents. And I think when we keep coming back to that, it means that we can be really respectful or at a complementary, our overlapping and now distinctly different skill sets that we bring in to the relationship. So I'm very much big picture. I very much want to get off the phone in five minutes. I've got the answer and I'm done. Whereas Stacey loves to invest that time in clients and may spend, you know, 45 minutes to an hour answering their questions and going really, really deep, whereas
Rob: That probably, probably.
Kathy: Something I can't do quite the same. She does what
Rob: But it does really compliment itself. And I guess that's probably why you work so well together.
Kathy: Yeah, we do.
Rob: It's good. It's really good. So obviously with Thought Alchemists, you're focused on marketing strategy or business strategy. Can you give us a bit of like the short version of what that means for business and the role that that plays in marketing?
Kathy: Yeah, sure thing. So what I've noticed over my career is that often people come to marketing with great ideas and it might be something like, okay, Kathy, let's run an event. Right. And so then was it. Okay, great. What's the event going to be about? And they said, oh, well, we've got this topic and that topic and we could probably get access to this speaker. Okay. Okay, that that's great. And then you say, okay, well, who should we invite to come along? And I said, well, maybe we should invite all our existing clients. Perhaps we should throw it out to our networks. Right. Okay. So you've got an idea of who you want to invite. And then they'll say, yeah, yeah. So if we do all of this and we put this on and we spend that fifty thousand dollar on speaking fees and we've lined up our venue, what do you reckon we're going to get result wise? Do you reckon it's going to translate into sales. And I've always felt really frustrated by that because it's done in the wrong order. You see, when they come to me with these ideas, they're talking about the medium first, the message next, then they're worried about their audience. And lastly, the results. So for me, what Thought alchemist does, whether it's a business problem or a thought leadership challenge, is we actually do it in reverse, which says the first question we ask are, what are the results that you're looking for? Both in your life? And for business? One we're really clear on that. And I love to frame it as X to Y by when they want to increase from five speaking opportunities to 10 speaking opportunities. If we can get really clear on that by way of result, then we know what we're aiming for the next step in our process is to then say, okay, what's the fewest number of people we need to get to in order to generate that result? What's the most not how can we reach the whole of Australia, not how we like litter our calendar with each and every opportunity, but how do we actually drive those results? With which audience and how few does it need to be? Once we've done that, then we get clear into message. And it's so important that we turn up with what our audience needs to hear as opposed to what we want to say about ourselves. Very subtle distinction, but so important. But what is it that our audience needs to hear in order to take that step? Say yes, change their behaviour to elicit that result that we identified right from the beginning. And lastly, that's when the medium comes in for us. It's where does that message need to appear so that the right people see it. To drive that outcome that we're actually looking for. So soon as someone runs two means, it's got an amazing idea for a podcast or I'd really love to to create a new piece of content. Oh, hang on. We're actually asking this question in the wrong order.
Rob: And so you're basically analysing the like the minimum viable outcome to justify the energy and the effort and the time and the money and everything that's going to go in and make that happen. And then working back through those details.
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely.
Rob: Obviously, you're focused on a very strategic approach. Do you ever think there's a time for essentially a turn and burn, get it out and smash it to market kind of approach without taking that dedicated strategic approach?
Kathy: Yes, so the best thing about RAM as a model is that you can apply it to absolutely everything you need, apply it at speed so you can do things NVP. You can rush things out the door. So long as you've even taken five minutes to go through and answer those questions. Okay, I'm going to do this even if I'm spending 10 minutes on it even if I'm spending a thousand dollars on implementation. What am I hoping to get out of it? Which then directs the rest of those questions.
Rob: So I suppose this, even though there's less strategic involvement, it's still a strategy that a similar strategy, it's just boiled down a little.
Kathy: Yes. So I think what's really key is the framework, how quickly you can move through it depends on the result that you're seeking, but also how much effort and energy you intend to put. So very different to should I say yes to a. I don't know. Um sending out that tweet vs. should I say yes to a half a million dollar investment of resources and time.
Rob: Yeah, of course, that certainly makes sense. So obviously, in a really developing market, like our consumer in particular, is growing more educated and more complicated and targeting than even though we have all this analytics at our disposal becomes infinitely harder. How important is that strategy process in terms of, you know, making sure that that dart's aiming at the right part of the dartboard?
Kathy: That's a really great question, Rob. So what's that? Who's the famous person that quoted, if you give me an hour to chop down a tree I'd, it's been fifty five minutes sharpening my axe.
Kathy: Was it Benjamin Franklin? It was something like that.
Rob: Can't remember.
Rob: We'll have to we'll have to find out later.
Kathy: So I think all the data and no no clue or no idea tends to be the trend at the moment. And I think what's really important is to spend the time getting really clear on the audience and what matters to them before you actually proceed.
Rob: Yeah, I mean, I think, as you say, that the data is everywhere and you can, you know, take a Facebook ad, for instance, you know, you can spend five dollars on it, but you can waste that five dollars if you miss target it. And so you're obviously working through these strategies. But when it comes to marketing in particular, and these days we deal with so much regarding ethics and and really taking a moral path to marketing and bringing products to market, bringing people to market. Do you how does your strategy, the strategic approach, try and deal with that in terms of making sure that those ethical boundaries are correct? Does it start with the client or is can you navigate with any client?
Kathy: Yeah, so firstly for us, we only take on clients whose ethics and values align to our own. So we're not in the game of making people famous or giving people a voice or notoriety that really don't deserve it. So they have to be grounded in real credibility and ethics to begin with. And I think for me, the key when it comes to sharing messages on stage or in books or whatever it happens to be is to be really authentic and to make sure that the right people are credited at the right time and to make sure that we're going out with products, services and offerings that are genuinely going to help and are genuinely clear and transparent so that people who say yes to them are doing so with a full awareness around what they're getting. No more, no less. And when it comes to messages in particular, where our thought leaders, it's really about making sure that they're showing up with utility to anything, whether it's content marketing, whether that's product creation, whatever happens to be, if it's not genuinely helping, then it's not worth doing.
Rob: Does that really sort of do those values come from that time that you spent in the NFP sort of sector and did that sort of bubble through? And was there any challenges in the finance sector since stereo typically that that might be a challenge sometimes.
Kathy: Yeah, I think I'm thinking with my financial services lens, I mean, ethics and rules and codes and all the things that we'd love to say but couldn't I mean, that was very much par for the course as it relates to being compliance and really aware of that. And having a heavy red tape bed and if you like. Yeah, look for me. I don't want to do business with people who I couldn't actually buy their products myself or I wouldn't recommend to my friends or I wouldn't ask my children or anyone like I care about to buy. So that's definitely a red thread.
Rob: Yes. I mean, I think we all have to adhere to our own, you know, morals and standards when it comes to that sort of thing and can't just take it on for the buck.
Kathy: Yeah. So I think a great example was early in the piece for Stacey and I, we had an obstetrician called us and he was a great physician working in Greater Sydney, and he's only intention was to create and sell a book. And for us, we're looking for people who've got a real commitment to making the world a better place. So great example is Dr Justin Coulson. He has a PHD in positive psychology for children. He is out there to help parents become happier and more effective in their parenting. His business, his brand. He stands for Happy Families. Very different. So someone that's equally trained, that's got to, you know, an interest in the medical community but is only looking to sell books. Never going to be our kind of client.
Rob: Okay, you touch mentioning psychology just prompted something from me,
Rob: And I know that you did your Bachelor of Visual Communications. Not surprising in this industry, but that there was a sub major in psychology there as well.
Kathy: Yes. Social psych.
Rob: How important does the role of psychology play in marketing? I think it's really undervalued.
Kathy: It's undervalued. But goodness, it's a powerful tool when you can use it powerfully for good rather than evil hands up and say that Robert Cialdini's the godfather in this space. He's a great psychologist. That helps us to understand the way that behavioural economics works when people are put under pressure or they are given an opportunity, how they're going to respond. Those principles, the power of persuasion, if you like, really helps us to work out how we can shift people along to to make decisions that really matter for business and matter for them.
Rob: So obviously, psychology has played a really important role in how you make decisions as a marketer. Do you think for anyone else coming into a marketing career that, say, a bachelor of Communications is maybe less important than, say, a bachelor of psychology because psychology plays such an important role?
Kathy: Yes. So I chose to sub major in social psych because I was just really fascinated with how people are and how people think. Interestingly, when I did my degree, I actually studied that alongside my HSC. I used to go to school in the morning and pop over to university at lunchtime. I was that interested. And for me, it's the blend of the two. And I did it because it was interesting. But I think now for people coming through the ranks, it's incredibly important to understand behavioural economics in particular. Dan Ariely is a great example of someone we should all look to for the way that he has interpreted the world and the way that he writes about it. And it really allows us as marketers to pull levers to help people guide them to a direction that ultimately is not only good for them, but getting the results that they looking for for business. So absolutely, Rob, I'd say that it was interesting and important when I did it. And it's so important for people to understand and prioritise right now
Rob: Because I guess it, when it comes to, say, a retail client, and that sort of thing, they understand that psychology plays an, it plays a role. But as far as their understanding Of Psychology goes, it might be, you know, the term FOMO. And,
Rob: You know, because we all know that that's a driver for human behaviour, because it's a strong one. What are some of the more subtle behaviours that, that you're aware of, and that you recognise that maybe isn't as popular as FOMO?
Kathy: Yeah, great. So, yeah, there are lots of subtleties that we can pull in which aren't about FOMO. A great example of that comes from the real estate agent industry. Hear me out. So the first time someone picks up the phone and calls through and is greeted by someone working in an admin capacity and they say, hey, I'm looking to list my house. Can I talk to an agent? In the first case study, the person who answered the phone goes, Yeah, sure, no worries. I'll put you through to Jill. OK, that's scenario A.. Now, all we need is a slight tweak where instead the person calls up and says, hi, I'm looking to list my house with an agent. And the person on the other end of the phone has a preprepared what we'd call authorities statement. So a little script. They know where they can introduce the person they're connecting through to. So they go absolutely. Let me put you through to Jill. Jill's, an incredible person to work with. She's got 12 years of experience. In fact, she was at a client's house this morning. She's just listed for an incredible price. Would you like me to put you through to her? The person that calls the inquiry the lead that's coming through says, absolutely, that'd be great. What happens is that when Jill jumps on the phone, her authority has already been established. She doesn't need to come on and introduce herself. She's already been given that pat on the back, that tick of approval, that nod from someone else within her own system. So just using little things like that particularly in a B2B environment allows us to make better connections at speed. It's a great example.
Rob: And I really like that example. And one part of that that I'm aware of is even having people answer a phone with, say, their full name. And so rather than just saying, hi, you know, welcome. I'm Rob. You know, it's. Hi, I'm Rob Bell. And, you know, is it is it even down to that level of subtlety in terms of getting that right?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that people can do in a meeting space and regardless of the industry they work in, is make a deliberate effort not to introduce themselves. Now, I know that sounds really strange, but if you and I were walking into a sales meeting opportunity, I would introduce you and you would introduce me, because Australian culture means that we need to almost play our credibility down. But instead, I can play yours up. So I would walk in and say, hey, this is Rob. We've worked on these five amazing projects together. And here is what he's been able to deliver. I can brag about you, but you can't brag about you. So even little things like that. We can play with makes a big difference.
Rob: It's certainly something that is an interesting part of Aussie culture. Is that inability to promote yourself. And I'm obviously working in London and I know you've done some interesting travel and that sort of thing. Do you see that differently in other cultures and in other countries?
Kathy: Oh, absolutely. No where was it more obvious to me recently than when I went to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest. So if you haven't been to south by Southwest. Imagine almost like one hundred thousand people taking over the city. Every ballroom, every conference room, every meeting, every restaurant almost is completely taken over by people who are there for essentially a two to three week conference. And it's because it's in America. There's lots of Americans that go. And, my goodness, the cultural differences are on display. So very, very, very good at their elevator pitches, incredible at their value and the ability to articulate that and really not backwards in coming forwards around why they're there and what they have to offer and what they need. So huge difference.
Rob: It's certainly something that I've observed, having done a little bit of work in the States and working with some American expats who are working in Australia. We really lack this ability to be able to promote ourselves or even navigate that a little bit as well. But even when it comes to failure in business or ideas and that sort of thing, the Americans really have it down in terms of that's a consequence of business. It's not. You know, when we think of a business failure or the end of a business idea, we really put it in a in a detrimental box whereas they put it, in a learn from it box and kind of move on. Have you noticed the same sort of idea or.
Kathy: Yeah. Failing fast and forward is so important. So, yeah, look, I have noticed cultural difference around it. I think the dialogue is starting to change, I think. Excuse my language. F*** up nights that are starting to pop up here, there and everywhere are great for that. I think the transition to agile ways of working and scrum, which we've seen kind of proliferate across every industry marketing included, helps with that. I think the more humble, the more vulnerable, the more transparent you can be as a leader. Culturally, that makes a difference. I've even got people, investors in my circle where they won't invest in someone who hasn't already failed in business once before. So I think over time you'll see us really catch up in that regard and be really comfortable with our failures as learning experiences. But I certainly know I've had my fair share and will do again so
Rob: I think we all have.
Kathy: Happy to have a bit of hands up on that experience.
Rob: Absolutely. And so it's south by Southwest. Brings us to Pause Fest, which I know you were a keynote at
Kathy: Yeah, that's right.
Rob: Last year, or earlier this year?
Kathy: It was early this year, so it
Rob: So much has changed.
Kathy: Feels like the world has changed.
Rob: It does
Kathy: Yeah, it was early 2020.
Rob: Because something that I'm really envious of it around, say, Austin, Texas, is that startup culture. And while we have little pockets of it in Australia, there doesn't seem to be that same level of cohesion just because it's a different environment. But how good was Pause Fest to be at? And how did that sort of compare to something more well-known, like South by Southwest?
Kathy: Yes. So it was like south by Southwest. Only much smaller. Which is inextricably linked to the size of the population here and goes in Melbourne for just three days. And it was three incredible days, whereas in south by Southwest, too, they're kind of for two to three weeks. And I think what's great about pause is that it's the convergence of everything kind of new and interesting. And it definitely has an Aussie lens to it. Which makes it hyper relevant for us Aussies travelling interstate or locally to attend.
Rob: Absolutely. How important do you think that sort of incubation side of entrepreneurship is for fostering, you know, new growth? I mean, Aussies have always been fairly creative and ingenious we're some of the best inventors in the world. How important is it for us to invest heavily in fostering that growth?
Kathy: Oh, it's so important. The talent here is incredible, and I turned to examples like the hacker exchange that was a Melbourne based business. It still is co-founded by Jeanette Cheah. And what she's done is she's gone and really understood that that's so important that she's now taking students to places like San Fran, to Tel Aviv, to Singapore to give them that inter international experience around incubating talent. And during the startup scene and then bringing that back to Australia and is now in partnerships with universities where they're getting university credit for doing those sorts of things. And I was lucky enough in the last two weeks to be one of the guest speakers for a collaboration she's been doing with Monash University. So,
Rob: That's amazing.
Kathy: Yeah, it exists. It's there. People are interested. South Star in Adelaide is another great example of an event that happens annually. Again, like we were speaking earlier about the need to bail and bring that to the fore. I think you'll find there's a deliberate strategic attempt across this country to really hold on and nurture that startup talent.
Rob: Absolutely. Obviously, failure is important in business, or at least from a teaching is valuable lessons, sometimes expensive lessons. But the lessons are all the same. How important do you think attending things like South by Southwest, or the local events is in terms of professional development for even a seasoned market like yourself?
Kathy: So I believe I can read a book. And if I take away just one new thing or there's one quote or there's one piece of reference that I'll use again. It's been a good book. So imagine how I feel when I go to local events and conferences. I think there is nothing better than learning from real people who've got real experience. And for those people that are really deliberate about their conference and event attendance, they'll extract so much value of it. The learning that you do just by consuming is only part of the story. It's the networking that happens on the side. It's the vendors and the suppliers that are there that you have an opportunity to meet. It's the chance to show up and introduce people to each other. And I think if there's one piece of advice that I would give anyone starting out in their career, it's to really pay attention and really know that the people you meet are valuable, whether they're valuable to you right now, whether they're valuable to someone else in your network. And bringing people together is such a special skill. And for me, going to local events and going to conferences, even as an experienced marketer, provides me with such an opportunity to to do good and be good.
Rob: Maybe people take one thing away from this podcast that we've done. Done the job as well, right.
Kathy: We sure have.
Rob: So obviously you've come in contact with a lot of founders, entrepreneurs, people that are really starting things up. Is there sort of a common theme or a common mistake that you see people making? Not that everyone's making, but it's sort of as a as a majority in terms of getting business started.
Kathy: The number of times, Rob, people come to me and say, there's no one else doing this. We have no other competitors in this space. And it just makes me chuckle politely, but it makes me chuckle. And the reason for that is we are always in business switching someone from something. So whether that's doing nothing whether its DIY, whether that's a competitor directly, whether that's an alternative. We are asking people to part with their money, their time, their attention from something to something. So the biggest mistake people make is that just because they've got a new piece of tech or just because they've got a business idea that they don't think has a direct competitor doesn't mean you don't have competitors. You absolutely do. And being really clear and humble and honest with yourself around that. So important. That's definitely one of the mistakes I see people make all the time.
Rob: I think even when we think about a really visible part of entrepreneurship, such as Shark Tank or something like that, not that all of us would watch that show, but it's there's always elements of, you know, there's no competitors or, you know, we have the patent or we have the, you know, the unique approach to I don't know colouring between the lines. And and in reality, as you've said, it's it's always there. And so how do you from a psychology perspective. Is there a reason why as founders, we can sort of keep the blinkers on when really we need to be looking around?
Kathy: Yeah, it's called confirmation bias. We like to make sure that once we have decided on something, we're looking for evidence to collect, which says that we're on the right track. And I mean, one of the other things I come across all the time is that people who are inside the jar can't read their own label. So what happens is, particularly entrepreneurs, they get so excited about their particular product, their patent, their feature, their tech, and they forget that actually they're on a shelf and someone needs to buy it by reading the label. And it's having that understanding around how you see it, how you hold different, why your stuff matters, which is often very different to why an entrepreneur thinks it matters. That can make the difference between a product taking off and one that doesn't.
Rob: It's a really interesting observation, and I really like that analogy, that being inside the jar, not being able to read the label, is that perhaps why a founder or a startup can disrupt such an entrenched global company? That's in a particular space.
Kathy: Oh, absolutely. The curse of knowledge exists within every organisation. The longer you've been there, the less able you are to see it with fresh perspective, fresh perspective. So often it's the case, particularly when we're working a consulting or an agency space jotting down for the first half an hour. Forty five minutes of all the things you think and know to be true before you actually get six, eight, 10, six months down the track and keep revisiting that fresh perspective that I've taken to begin with, because you just lose it. You drink the Kool-Aid, you just can't help it. Which is often why that outside experience really makes again a massive difference, too, to seeing it.
Rob: And do you think that confirmation bias does play into essentially cherry picking the data that you want to read from
Rob: All this data that we have?
Kathy: Course it does. So you would know, Rob, that we are two and a half times more likely to avoid pain than we are to go gain. Most people are either pain, see pain avoiders or gain seekers. And entrepreneurs by very definition or by stereotypical classification are in that game space. Right. They live uncharacteristically like the rest of the population for those upsides. And what happens is that when you're so upside focused, you can forget the kind of the reality that sits around you. And confirmation biases is the outcome or a product of that mindset.
Rob: Do you think that that entrepreneurial mindset is why we see a lot of startup founders taking on a very serial approach where, you know, they kind of have some success and try and exit and start a new thing? Is that a like almost like a getting the next entrepreneurial high?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely it is. You see it, you see that all the time, and it's the nature of those people. And I think what makes people really successful is when they identify and harness their talents and then put people around them that have complementary and different skill sets for every amazing cracking hot entrepreneur that's got the big ideas. You need someone that's behind the scenes that actually pulls it together and makes sense. And I think when you've skewed in one particular type of working or one particular thought pattern, you're missing the opportunity to be grounded, well-rounded and ethical and all the things that we've discussed already today.
Rob: And so just when you're working with someone who's fairly new in their business and trying to launch something, does it require some focus on making sure they do surround themselves with that support personnel, not just from an engagement of an agency perspective, but, you know, even down to making sure that the rent gets paid?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. Not relating to rent in particular, but we always make sure when we're talking to clients, you know, who are the people that are in your network and how you actively managing those? So who are your sponsors? Who are your influences? Who are your referral partners? And who are your mentors? In each one of those 4 different types of people play a very different role in business. And if you don't have each of them lined up and you're actively going to them leaning on them for advice at the right time, you're missing an opportunity to do what the best in class do.
Rob: And obviously, with all these things we've touched on in this psychology perspective, is it like we all have people in our network? Is there a process or a way that we can avoid seeking those people in our network who will actually confirm our confirmation bias?
Kathy: It's really hard to do. Is that it? So I think what you need to do is you need to be able to present something really clearly with the facts in front of them and the data to support it. And you need to be really willing to listen. So I deliberately go out and try and find a diverse group of people to provide advice to me. So I'm always double checking. Have I got a mixture of ages? Have I got a mixture of genders? Have I got someone who actually probably gets under my skin around the barbecue experience? Because I really want to make sure that I'm being challenged by them and then I'm being really clear on my request. So I think what happens is when we surround ourselves with people who are like minded or people that are likely to nod along with us, and we're just looking to tell them a generalised story rather than say here's this specific problem. How would you look at it? Or here is this decision between A and B, which way would you choose as opposed oh mate I'm thinking about going with B. What do you reckon? So I think actually handing over challenges, actually presenting problems, actually getting them to think about ruminate. What they would do by way of advice and presenting it back to you allows you to sort of almost avoid that group, think even when it's a one to one or one to two situation.
Rob: So you touched on something interesting there around diverse of diversity in genders. And and I know that you work with some some very good women's founders' groups. I can't think of any names. I'm
Rob: Sure you can rattle a few. But is there a is there a position where someone, a female founder, could surround themselves with too many other female founders by seeking out one of these sort of female led groups and and sort of by unintentional consequence, find a lack of diversity in the other way?
Kathy: Yeah, I think we're all susceptible to relying too heavily on any one group. So I think a female founder who's overly reliant and only takes advice from other female founder groups are missing the opportunity to tap into a useful, fresh perspective. They're missing the opportunity to tap into sagely and senior advice. They're missing the opportunity to tap into the advice that people that have gone before them that happen to be male have. So like any group, I suggest that you leverage that. You get great advice from it. But it's not the only source. And that doesn't really matter if it's a female group or only a startup community or only something in an FMCG space or only surrounded by other authors, whatever it happens to be. I think that there's value within it, but the value from within it comes from validating and getting information from other sources too.
Rob: And I suppose an essential skill for any founder as well is the ability to challenge that network anyway. Is there a way that you can help guide that process or train that process for someone who has essentially challenged, the advice that you're giving them?
Kathy: Yeah, so I think the key ingredient is that the person who is diversed in view, you need to really respect them. So when they do dish out that advice and it is difficult to take or it does contradict that, there's a level of respect there based on their experience, based on who they are, based on the recommendation to work with them in the first place that you are willing to listen. And it's all about the ability to listen and listen with with almost like no ego. Right. It's the ability to listen. Knowing that everyone who spends time with you, whether that's three seconds whether that's complete writing to an email, whether it's at a networking drinks event, they're there to help you. And I think as so long as you hold onto that need or, that genuine belief that people are helping you, that will that will go a long way.
Rob: Take the advice, but learn how to filter as well.
Kathy: Yeah, of course.
Rob: We're getting close to time now, but I've got a few quick questions that that
Rob: I'd love to fire out at you. They're not quite rapid fire, but they're are be a little bit less less around personal experience. Actually, no, they're not. So, if you had to boil down all of your experience and think about the best piece of advice that you ever got given, what would that be?
Kathy: The best piece of advice is this it's not that I've been given it, but it's where I've arrived. And that is this when I meet someone for the first time. My first question to them is, what are you excited about or what are you looking forward to in that moment whether, regardless of the business request, regardless of what comes next? I know instantly if they're my kind of person. So if I say, what are they looking forward to? And I go, oh, Friday, oh school holidays. Oh, I can't wait until I get some food in my stomach or whatever happens to me. If they're painting what they're looking forward to with what I'd describe as a pain lens I know that they're not the right business for me to work I know that are not the right client for me to take on. They're unlikely to provide advice in my network that I'm going to value if, conversely, I walk in and I ask them, what are you looking forward to? And they say there is literally not enough time in my life to achieve all the things I want to do. And I've got this and I've half studied that. And I'd love to tackle this. And when I've done that, I'm going here. And and if they've got enthusiasm for life, then I know instantly they're worth talking to further and they're worth pursuing by way of business and professional relationships. So in business, regardless of your industry, regardless where you are with your career, think really carefully about the questions you ask and don't waste opportunities to be there. Oh, hi, how are you? And what do you do? So much gold to exist in. You know the way.
Rob: Now, I'm getting a little bit nervous about the questions I'm asking. And if there was if you had to think about a particular misstep that stands out in your career that you've made and what you've learned from.
Kathy: It's not asking for advice often enough and early enough. I think whenever you hold on to something and you think that you have to go it alone, you are only wasting time and wasting resources. The second that you get a stumbling block. Have a few ways forward that you're thinking about, but share it because as that old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved and leaning on other people is okay. And I think too often, particularly with the thought leaders I work with, with crazy smart. They think they have to have all the answers. And let's be clear, none of us do. So asking for help makes a massive difference.
Rob: Awesome. I love it. And so if there was someone that you look up to in this world that you would love to meet and have lunch with, who would it be? And what question would you ask them?
Kathy: You know, everyone in the thought leadership game was going to give you the same answer. And I'm sorry to be a also me, but it have to be Brené Brown. That woman is incredible. Her onstage presence, her storytelling ability, the depth and quality of her research, the way that she's shown up in the world, and the ability to unlock people's potential and put things like vulnerability at the fore and challenge, you know, particularly American society around what we've done in the past year. OK, I can't I can't go past Brené. But everyone says Brené because she's just that amazing.
Rob: I mean, I've I've listened to some of her talks, so I would have to agree that that's some pretty powerful stuff. Absolutely.
Kathy: She's amazing.
Rob: So Kathy Rhodes from Thought Alchemists we're actually out of time. But I really appreciate you coming. Can you rattle off your Web address or anything else that's useful for people to hear?
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely. It's www.thoughtalchemists.com And Alchemists is plural
Rob: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time. And we look forward to chatting again.
Kathy: Amazing, thanks Rob.
Rob: Thank you. There you have it. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please like it, share it or leave us a review on your favourite platform it helps us show more of this content to people just like you.