1.Tell us your story … 

Well Paul as you know my career commenced back in the year 2000 at Roy Morgan Research 18 years ago, with you! When I was told on my first day of the job that Mr Paul Dixon would be my manager!  And of course that was the start of a very long friendship which involved backpacking around Europe, working in a pub in England’s Lake District and now still working together today on special projects. Professionally, while I started in research, I moved into strategic marketing and worked my way through the big corporates including Medibank Private, Suncorp, Telstra and ANZ before moving up to Albury. At that stage, I wasn’t sure what my next move would be but I ended up taking the plunge and starting Belles & Whistles with a friend from Sydney, who came from a PR background, and now 5 years on I’m still loving it!

We’re a boutique strategic marketing consultancy that essentially helps small businesses in regional Victoria and New South Wales grow their business with smart marketing.  We offer everything from strategic planning, social media, content creation, branding, coaching and PR, so essentially we act as a virtual marketing department for businesses so they can get on with running their business. All the learnings from the big corporate world can be applied to small businesses, but I find it so much more rewarding and with less red tape and bureaucracy, you can make more of an impact and we’re actually helping people that are really appreciative.  Their businesses are everything to them – not just a job – and by supporting them and helping them grow, it is incredibly fulfilling as a business owner myself.

2The Interpreters spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ customers and segments within the market. How do you get to know your customers?

I think what we do really well is recognise the fact that while we might be in small market, that each customer is different and their needs will be different depending on what they are trying to achieve.  If I look at my client base, some of them have marketing resources that just need strategic direction while others are starting from scratch and don’t know where to begin.  So my first step is to get to know them, to really know them by building a relationship with them, and you can establish pretty quickly where they are at, what they need and how to integrate within their business.

I start each new client / project with a workshop and it’s interesting because you see people walk in and they might be feeling quite stressed, feeling concerned or nervous about investing in this process but at the end they walk out relieved, with confidence that their business is in safe hands and inspired that someone else has got their back and is ready to support them achieve their dreams.

So it’s a combination of listening to each individual client and their plans for the future, being face-to-face to establish the trust and then creating bespoke plans and initiatives that are grounded in established marketing principles tailored towards smaller businesses.

3. We do a lot of problem solving at The Interpreters so we’re interested in how other people solve problems. How do you approach problem solving?

I think starting my career in market research provided me with great grounding in terms of how to problem solve in a couple of different ways.  The first way is the gathering and interpretation of the relevant information – one of the best ways to solve a client problem is to extract all the relevant information from them and to be the fresh set of eyes on the data, their books, what’s happening in their market.  I often have to remind small businesses that the market they might have set up in has changed over time and one new competitor opening in regional Australia is going to have more of an impact than they probably think.  It’s gathering the right information to understand the market and the competitive set.

The second way to problem solve and what research taught me is to ask the right questions.  Ask the right questions in a logical sequence and process, and you’ll always be able to find a solution to the problem.  It is challenging to know what to ask and why it needs to be asked – absolutely – but you can only deliver solutions when you have the relevant information in front of you and to get that, you need to ask the right questions.

4. Interpretation is subjective but a key part of our analysis. We’re always interested in the ways other people might interpret key trends or things of interest from their specialism.   A trend close to your heart is the rise of regional Australia as back in 2015-16, Victoria topped the country for regional population growth, increasing at a rate of 1.1 per cent – and that trend appears to be continuing.  Why do you think that is?

Answering that from a personal perspective, I think there’s a combination of head and heart driving regional population growth as it comes down to lifestyle and affordability. If I look at the friendship and work circles we have here, most have moved here for similar reasons. Some might have a link back to the area, but the majority cite the lifestyle regional Australia brings and the ‘bang for the buck’ when it comes to home ownership, the cost of living and being able to provide more for young, growing families.

We have friends who can see the potential and get the lifestyle and would move in a heartbeat but need the reassurance of career so there’s a lot of work being done to get bigger businesses to invest in regional Australia.  This should only increase the growth as the talent is willing, it’s just the jobs that need to be created.

5. Because we firmly believe that Information is Beautiful, we would like to give you a copy of Information is Beautiful, ‘a stunning visual journey through the most revealing trends, fascinating facts and vital statistics of the modern world’. Because first impressions matter, have a scan through and tell us which visualisation caught your attention and why?

I love this one!  Normally I would be attracted by colours but this tastebuds and complementary tastes map is such an effective and easy way of representing what is – with the different meats and complimentary foods for each one – so simple, but informative.  And it’s about food so what’s not to like!