Category Archives: Leadership

What you’re doing in business today will be different tomorrow

We are living in a time of unprecedented change. For me personally, being in media, it feels like my feet never touch the ground anymore in that I cannot just rest and run a business as usual. It feels like I am endlessly planning for the future that is coming – whatever that might be.

If you feel like I do, then I can tell you that we are in good company. While the Digital Age is throwing up changes quicker than in previous eras, really it has always been that way. The great companies have always been able to adapt with the times and re-invent themselves.

Take CSR Limited as an example. CSR is one of Australia’s oldest companies, originally known as the Colonial Sugar Refinery, having originally started business in the mid 1800’s. They now make and sell building products and have completely moved out of the sugar business. They operate in a number of areas including glass, aluminum, and property.

Or what about one of Britain’s richest men, Sir Martin Sorrell. In 1985, Sorrell privately invested in Wire and Plastic Products, a British wire shopping basket manufacturer, and joined it full-time as Chief Executive in 1986. But he saw the company’s future as being in advertising, not manufacturing. He began to acquire ‘below-the-line’ advertising-related companies, purchasing 18 in three years, including in 1987 when he stunned the agency world with a $566 million hostile takeover of J. Walter Thompson. Sorrell followed this in 1989 with another dramatic hostile $825 million buy of Ogilvy and Mather. Since 2000, WPP has also acquired two more integrated global agency networks, Young & Rubicam Brands and Grey.

WPP now has over 120,000 employees globally and revenues around $37 billion annually. Who would have thought that the world’s biggest ad group, in one of the most glamorous industries in the world, started out as a plastic manufacturer? I’m sure once the fax machine manufacturers thought they had struck gold, too.

Over Christmas I was chatting with a good friend who has his own prestige used car company. He was saying how eventually you won’t have dealers all over a city. You’ll instead have one major hub for each brand, owned by head office, where everyone who wants say an Audi, will have to go to. The dealers will get squeezed out of the play as the brands themselves become the dealer. It’s hard to know whether he is 100% correct, and even he would not be sure, just it just points to the fact that there is constant change.

Nothing lasts forever. Change is inevitable. If you cannot handle change then this is not the time to be in business. In the Digital Age, it is not business as usual.


Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media. He also blogs at

Why leaders are readers

Sometimes when I stop and reflect on what I have done in life, I am sometimes slightly surprised. How did a young boy who grew up wanting to be a pro surfer end up in business? How have we started so many businesses and diversified our company so far?

My mother always encouraged my sister and I to read, much to my annoyance. We lived by the beach so there was always a lot more fun to be had than reading books. In fact I have a photo at home of me sitting on the couch reading Lassie, complete with a scowl on my face because there were other things I’d rather be doing. My sister took the photo because she could see how cranky I was to be reading instead of skateboarding or surfing.

As I became a young man and felt the call to business, it’s reading that really opened up my life to endless possibilities. As I read books on people way smarter than me, I not only learnt a lot, but I also learned that I could dream and think way bigger than I currently was.

I distinctly remember being in Fiji in 2000 while the Sydney Olympics were on and I decided to finish reading Business @ The Speed Of Thought by Bill Gates. His book literally blew my mind as to how visionaries operate and just how far they are ahead of the norm.

In this particular book Bill Gates stated that people would have Microsoft applications in their phones in the future. He rattled off the different things you’d be able to do on a phone. Sitting there I just laughed, thinking this is impossible. My tiny Nokia could do no more than answer a call and send a text. You’d need something as big as a laptop at least to be able to have more features in a phone.

You see, when you break it down, we actually lead quite small lives as humans. I remember being on a plane not too long ago, and as the plane was taking off, I looked out the window and I could see where we lived. Then I could see our office, I could see the children’s school, and finally I could see our church. At that very moment I became aware of just how small my world in fact was.

While I felt like a big thinker, geographically there was literally a 6 mile radius around my life. My entire world was only 6 miles wide! But it would be the same for Bill Gates. He lives in Seattle, his office is in Seattle (probably no more than 10 miles from his home), and so what makes him different is the breadth of his mind.

You see, reading can take you anywhere. When you read the entire world is before you. The brightest minds, the smartest people. People who have achieved way more than you and I have.

If you’re not a leader then it’s totally up to you whether or not you read. But if you have people in your world that you’re responsible for overseeing, then as a leader, you need to be a reader.

Reading keeps you one step ahead, as you’re learning from amazing minds, and you’re also able to hone in on the subject of your choice. The world’s best minds are out there, and they’re ready to infiltrate yours. And while buying books can get expensive, the government is here to help. Just pop to your local library and you don’t even need to buy a copy. In fact I remember wanting to read the book on Michael Dell of Dell Computers, so to save myself the cost, I went to my local library. They didn’t have a copy but they ordered one and I had it within about 5 days.

We need to be big thinkers and world-changers. The world needs your talents. Why not develop them by learning how others have done what you are setting out to do.


Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media. He also blogs at

The Digital Secret: 0-1-2-3

I had an incredible opportunity a few years ago to speak to business leaders in Singapore at the Eagles Leadership Conference. After my keynote talk, I was able to partner with Lucas Chow, former CEO of the Singapore mobile phone company Singtel Mobile to lead a workshop on how the digital revolution has changed the way we live. During that session, he taught a principle from his days at Singtel that I’ve never forgotten:


Lucas explained that throughout his digital business career, they had developed a philosophy they called: “0,1,2,3”

The explanation is simple:
“0” means no manuals – Remember the old days when we bought a computer, it came with a massive how-to manual? Not anymore. While some instructions are online these days, few digital devices come with any instructions at all. Which means when you design something new – make it simple and easy to understand. Nobody reads manuals anymore, so make sure people can understand your product, idea, or project on their own.

“1” means one button – In this department the iPhone changed everything. Whatever you want to do, it all begins with a single button. Today, people aren’t interested in searching for buttons or trying to understand what to do. Make it easy. Make it simple. One button.

“2” means two clicks – You should be able to find whatever you need in two clicks. More than that, and Lucas said they’d go somewhere else.

“3” means three seconds – If it takes longer than three seconds to find what they’re looking for, they’ll give up. This corresponds with research we did at a major nonprofit a few years ago, when we discovered that the longer a user spends on your website, the less likely they are to donate. So whatever you want your customers, audience, or donors to do, make it simple, easy, and quick.

Obviously you may have fans who will put up with more aggravation and go to more trouble to get your information, but why turn anyone away? Think of the outliers – the ones who are just trying you out. That crowd is your greatest potential for growth, and you want to make entry very easy.

0-1-2-3. Lucas Chow’s advice is on target for the digital age and I’ve never forgotten it. The question is – what projects, products, or ideas are you working on that this thinking could transform?

Start thinking…


Phil Cooke is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” Find out more at