PODCAST EP 62
Simon chats with Ben Wong, CEO of Academy Xi.Listen Now
The Happiness Concierge is the company helping people ace work and life, training some of the biggest organisations in Australia including the Reserve Bank, AGL and RMIT.
You can contact Rachel Service here: http://happinessconcierge.com/
Simon Dell: I am with Rachel Service, who is my guest today in my interview. Rachel is the owner of a company called The Happiness Concierge, which sounds a very, very happy company, which is I guess why it’s called what it’s called. The Happiness Concierge, they’re a training company which help people ace work and life. And you’ve worked with some very big names, big corporate names here, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, Vanguard Investments, and the University of New South Wales. Welcome, Rachel.
Rachel Service: Thanks for having me, Simon. Great intro. You’re a natural.
Simon Dell: Is there anything else that you need to jimmy in there, just to explain who you are for everybody?
Rachel Service: I think you’ve done an awesome job. We’re a kickass training company, and I think I’d hire you to be my next MC. Thanks so much, Simon.
Simon Dell: I’ve got a face for radio, that’s why I’m here.
Rachel Service: Plenty of strengths, I like that about you.
Simon Dell: You’re originally a Kiwi, aren’t you? I just want to get that out of the way straight away.
Rachel Service: Is this going to be a problem?
Simon Dell: Not for originally someone from England, but it may be for some of the Australians out there.
Rachel Service: You know what, Simon? What you and I fear is a love of self-deprecating humour, and that’s something I love about the Brits. Cheers for the shout out.
Simon Dell: You know what? That’s one thing I found that the Australians can’t do well. So, apologies to all the Australians listening, because there are a lot of them, but I don’t think they’ve ever managed to get that self-deprecating humour at all.
Rachel Service: Do you know what it is? I wonder if it’s a sense of imposter syndrome. Everybody knows each other in New Zealand, you think, “Oh, well, I can’t really bullshit because somebody’s going to know my dad, or my mom, or my sister. They’re going to find out about me.” So, just go straight to it.
Simon Dell: Maybe that’s it. Okay, so what I normally do here is I’m going to try and take you through a tour of your life. That makes it sound like an episode of This is Your Life or something like that, but I actually want to understand… The first question I normally ask is: What was your first job? What was the first time you got paid to do something?
Rachel Service: I was a dishwasher at the age of 15, and it was my job to scrub off fat from the oven pans in a cafe in Silverstream in Upper Hutt, in Wellington, New Zealand. And my shift was from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and I made my mom and dad pick me up at the end of every shift. And I think I earned about $8/hr, and I taught me about the meaning of hard work. Let me tell you that.
Simon Dell: I was going to say, six hours of washing dishes for a 15-year-old…
Rachel Service: It’s a glamorous life. As you know, I’ve never met a microphone that I didn’t like. My goal was to get at the front of house and get talking to customers, but I thought if I worked my way up, I’d charm the chef, the charm the front of house. And if someone got sick, I’d be right there. I used to interview, or pretend I’m interviewing, ask the front of house, “How do you do that coffee? How do you do that milk? How come that customer came in? What are you doing there, chef?” So then, they would share their intel and then I’d be ready to roll. That was my plan.
Simon Dell: Did the plan work?
Rachel Service: Thank you, it did. I was soon earning $12/hr as a waitress, front of house. It was a fast route to the top, and I’m glad that I could get there.
Simon Dell: Is that one of those jobs that you look back on and go, that you actually learned something from? Do you look at it fondly or just go, “That was a waste of my time.”
Rachel Service: 100%. My biggest lessons for Happiness Concierge have been inspired by retail and hospitality. I think hospitality, do customer service exceptionally well, and make everybody feel psychologically safe, and welcome, and valued, and important, no matter what they’re after. I think hospitality professionals do a great job of going, “Okay, someone’s on a date. Do not disturb.” Versus someone who is perhaps alone and needs something to read. It taught me a lot about reading body language. I was 15, 16. I probably got it wrong a lot of times, but one of the best jobs I’ve ever done. I would send my trainers to work at a cafe or retail store to learn the basics, if they were ever unsure.
Simon Dell: Give me an example of something that you’ve learned body language-wise that still stays with you today.
Rachel Service: A good example is if someone would come in for coffee on a Sunday, and they’re sitting by themselves — and this is before smartphones. So, they’d have a newspaper, and they’d be by themselves or they wouldn’t have a newspaper. And I was thinking, if I’m by myself, I want to look like I’m comfortable. I’m going to give them three options of newspapers or magazines. And often, the younger version of me made an assumption that, “Oh, they’re alone. They’d like to have a chat.” Fuck no. They’ve got half an hour before they have to pick up the kids from soccer or whatever.
So, I learned very quickly around gentle, gentle; giving people options, and that’s what I do in the classrooms today. “Hey, do you need some help there or are you all good, mate?” And they’ll sometimes give me a look like, “Oh, piss off.” And I’m like, “Yeah, awesome, great. You’re good. Good one. Good to share. Good to share.”
Simon Dell: Are you teaching staff to ask me how my Saturday is going? Because if you are, can you stop teaching them to ask me how my Saturday is going? Because I really don’t want to describe how my Saturday is going to the staff.
Rachel Service: Do you want a bit of Simon time on the weekends?
Simon Dell: I just don’t want anyone to talk to me in the store until I’m ready to talk to them. We’re jumping about here, but do you think potentially that retail can overservice people in that way?
Rachel Service: I think there’s an opportunity for retail, put it that way. I cannot describe the amount of times where I’d been in a retail store where I felt overlooked, a loss sale, a loss opportunity. I’ve gone on and said, “Hey, I’d love this and this.” And I might hear things like, “We don’t actually have your signs.” or “You’re going to have to go the other department. That’s not my department.” And that’s given me a lot of inspiration for Happiness Concierge in terms of, “This is why people are afraid of sales, because I think it’s sleazy and disingenuous.”
I think in Australia and New Zealand particularly, we can do a better job of going, “Hey, there’s a difference between being sleazy and disingenuous and being genuinely like, “Hey, do you need a hand there? Are you all good? Cool. I’ll leave you to it.” The middle ground for sure.
Simon Dell: It’s a very fine line, because I can go into a store and find that there’s no help whatsoever. And then I go into another store and it’s way too much help. You feel bombarded. It’s really hard, especially when it’s an hourly pay member of staff, you might just be working on a Saturday. It’s hard for them to get that right, do you think?
Rachel Service: 100%. We do trainer boot camps for people who want to become Happiness Concierge trainers. We teach them about four archetypes, people with the body language and tone of voice, and phrases that they say. The best negotiators in the world say, “Get other people to talk first and they will tell you what’s important to them, and then become a chameleon who responds to that.” I think it’s a huge opportunity in retail. Having said that, individuals who don’t love people are probably not going to have a great career in retail. Does Australia value retail like the Europeans do? Maybe, maybe not?
Simon Dell: I don’t know. That’s a good question, actually. That’s put me on the spot there. Normally, I put everybody else on the spot asking questions like that.
Rachel Service: Put it this way: If I want to go have an amazing shopping experience and get rid of all money known to me, I’ll go straight to Tokyo. You walk in, “Irasshaimase! Welcome to my shop. Can I take your bag? Would you like me to put this in the changing room? You know what? I’m going to take it off the coat hanger. Is there anything else you need? Great, here’s the bags from the other shop,” your competitors, “so you can shop with two hands free.” And then you leave and they thank you.
I literally have to go the other side of the world to get that kind of service, but that, as a businessperson, I say, how can I give that experience to people who come into my classroom, our classroom, and say, “I feel important. I feel valued. And I feel validated.” And have them feeling better about themselves after a shorter direction. That’s what Happiness Concierges do, and that’s what I train people to do.
Simon Dell: Going back to some of those earlier jobs, because when you look at your LinkedIn profile, and I don’t know how accurate this is, because I’ve had many people on this show confessing that they’ve made most of it up on their profile, but I’m sure yours is absolutely 100% true. You’ve had quite a background in that sort of comms, and PR, and media, and those sort of things. Is that sort of an area that you still enjoy?
Rachel Service: What’s the question you really want to ask, Simon?
Simon Dell: It seems like you’ve jumped about a lot.
Rachel Service: I absolutely fucking did.
Simon Dell: One minute, you’re doing fashion. Then the next minute, you’re doing chamber music. Then the next minute, you’re doing special effects. That doesn’t kind of… I mean, I guess it’s all communications, but how did you jump around like that? Was that intentional?
Rachel Service: I’m so glad you asked that. Absolutely not intentional, yeah.
Simon Dell: Did you keep getting fired or something?
Rachel Service: Yeah, great question. So, for somebody like me, what I learned about myself — and isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? — I’ll go a million miles an hour for the first six months and burn myself out to the ground. And in my 20s, I burned myself out, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, passing out before work, because I literally thought work was everything. And so, it came to a point where the 20-year-old version of me would go 100 miles an hour and think, “Why do I feel so tired and bored now?” I’d figured it all out. It’s a bit naive when you’re in your 20s, but I think that’s pretty accurate.
Simon Dell: What’s going through your head when you do it? Because lots of people struggle to switch off when they’re running a business, and that’s from CEOs of massive companies right down to small business who might have one or two employees. What’s going through your head when you think that work is your life?
Rachel Service: It’s a question of identity. If I, as an individual, put my self-worth in terms of how much output I give, if that output opportunity goes away, then my identity goes away. So, at Happiness Concierge, I’ll talk to high-performing males and females, people through the spectrum across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, right? And the common thing where bad behaviour becomes a challenge is for generally speaking, women, when they do not feel recognized, or valued, or they feel undermined, especially publicly. And for men, it’s when you take away their financial livelihood, generally speaking.
For me as a 20-something-year-old, I had ambition, I had drive. I had the fancy suit. And truth be told, I had no idea who I was without work. You take work away, I just said I was a failure. And that’s what I used to tell myself. I’m a failure if I don’t send this email.
Simon Dell: What in your past, from cleaning the dishes at 15 to getting yourself in that situation in your early-20s, what made that happen? What gave you that sense that work was your identity?
Rachel Service: It’s such a good question. I’ve spent a few years in therapy trying to figure it out, to be honest. I think a lot of it was self-inflicted. I came as a grown up around four other siblings, a loving home, an incredibly supportive home. My dad is a salesman. I think that’s where I get my sales charm from. My mom’s an academic, a teacher. I think that’s where I get that studious thought from. And so, I always loved work. And so, what would happen when I look back on those 20s, I taught myself into a job as a sales rep at a place that later went bankrupt, and I had no idea what I was selling. I was just like, “Yep, sounds great.”
And then I kept talking myself into communications roles and just overdoing it because I was worried about… I was seeking approval. I was worried about, “I don’t want to say no. I’d be seen as a failure.” And because I was hitting the ground running, I gave off a perception, again, in hindsight, that I had my shit together. Why would you need the manager if she’s sorted? And then I was crying in the loo, hyperventilating, how am I going to get this all done?” I had a lot of friends but I actually felt really lonely, but not yet self-aware enough to say, “I reckon this might be a problem.”
Simon Dell: Do you think it was almost like a form of addiction in that respect?
Rachel Service: 100%. Now, looking back, I’d read literature which indicates that one gets addicted to the feeling of adrenaline. And when that adrenaline goes away, it’s like coming off a drug. You feel depressed, lonely, isolated. And contributing to that was the fact that because work was my number one priority, I’d neglected interpersonal relationships, ongoing learning, and any of those mental health one-on-one checklists to keep yourself sane when you’re feeling like life’s getting quite busy.
Simon Dell: If someone’s listening to this, and they kind of feel that same sort of thing, aside from emailing you and asking for your advice, what’s the one thing that they could do that would perhaps give them a bit of space and a chance to sort of gather themselves together?
Rachel Service: I think you hit the nail on the head with the language around give yourself some space. You are not alone. You are not alone in feeling like this. Most people are faking it and have heaps of anxiety behind the scenes. For me to make any change, I needed to hit rock bottom. I needed to pass out in the shower before work or I couldn’t stand up one Sunday. I think for individuals who are on the edge of their competency or edge of anxiety and having a little bit of panic, getting comfortable saying to your intimate partner or your friend, and a therapist or a GP, “Hey, I’m not feeling so shit hot right now. Can I tell you about it?”
And after that, and I reckon it’ll come out fine, but even admitting that often to your intimate partner or your friends, that can come a lot of shame. And for me, my first stint was going to a GP saying, “Hey, I’m not depressed or anything but I’m kind of crying every day. Do you have a pill for that?”
Simon Dell: What did the GP say to you?
Rachel Service: “That’s great. Can you just fill in this little form saying on a scale from 1 to 10, how often you feel like…” “What’s the point?” And I was like, “What is the point of this essay? Oh my god.” And just a self-obsessed 20-something-year-old, it was very eye-opening.
Simon Dell: I guess one of the things you touched on earlier is these kind of things affect or are caused different ways between men and women and affect them in different ways. The outcomes affect them differently with men and women as well. I guess having seen this a couple of times, and myself for the past few years, with men, often it leads to a very, very tragic ending.
Rachel Service: 100%. Studies proved time and time again that the most vulnerable time for people ending their lives are usually men who are much older, sometimes socially isolated. If they lost their job, if they’ve gone through a divorce or lost their partner, because again, these studies are finding that women are more likely to create social networks during the time of great change. And again, young men as well, quite a few men, seeking a one-on-one saying, “Hey, Rach, when you shared your story, of course I couldn’t say anything in my three-piece-suit on level 39 of whatever fancy building we had that seminar in, but I’m just wondering, is feeling this way normal? Because I reckon maybe not. Not that I’m not coping, though.”
Simon Dell: Yeah. Men papering over the cracks, you know?
Rachel Service: And that tells me a lot about toxic masculinity. It’s no good for nobody.
Simon Dell: It’s funny. It brings back a memory of a guy I used to play rugby with years and years ago when I used to live back in the UK. This would’ve been 2003. We’re talking 15-16 years ago. He killed himself last year. He was in his mid-50s, but he had that. It was funny, because he had that social network. He played rugby with groups of guys. He had a family. And instead of losing his job, he actually voluntarily retired. He made his money and retired. It’s a tragic ending, that sort of happens to people in the end. It’s a horrible thing to think of.
Rachel Service: I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s very sobering to know that so many people’s lives have been affected by this issue, and interesting to see that with that individual making a voluntary redundancy, whether anyone really knows who they are without work.
Simon Dell: Absolutely. I hadn’t been in contact with him for a long time before it happened, but he’d been very, very successful in business and decided that it was time to retire and spend more time with the family. But that sadly is completely the opposite of what actually happened. Anyway, we’ll move on with some more positive things.
Rachel Service: I want to say, the more we talk about this stuff, the more I think it’s a positive thing.
Simon Dell: Absolutely. I agree. It’s very hard to explain to women sometimes that guys just do not communicate. They don’t get these things out to their partners, to their friends, their family. And sometimes, sitting over a beer, they still don’t say anything. It’s amazing how much that men are reluctant to share for fear of whatever the fear may be, weakness or that kind of thing.
Rachel Service: What’s your take on it? With women talking to women, I think that’s an awesome space for support, and empowerment, and tactics. Men talking to men, I think that it can only promote positive sharing of experiencing. Men talking to women, that’s where real change happens. I mean, help a sister out. What’s happening when men are talking to men? And for the listeners out there.
Simon Dell: It’s a good question. I wouldn’t claim to have a large network of very, very close friends. I have male friends, people that I’ve played football and rugby with, and people that are not connected to any of those, people I went to university with. But do you sort of discuss your deep down kind of fears and problems with them? Probably not. It’s still that top level friendship where you discuss football games, or the last TV show that you’ve been watching, or that sort of thing. It’s hard for guys to get beyond that sort of top level of discussion. Does that make sense?
Rachel Service: Yeah. I suppose an observation I’m making is being socialized from a young age, like yeah, get you feelings out. Let’s talk about this. I’m going to support you. For me, that’s a natural progression based on my gender and socialization. For you, I’m interested in the cues that people of your demographic are getting at every stage. So then, to say and sit around your mates, and have a beer, and watch the footy, “Hey, so I’m not feeling so good.” That’s going from 1 to 1,000. Do you know what I mean?
The question I have is, “What could be a gateway drug?” for lack of a better analogy. And so, the language that I use in boardrooms if I’m working with all men or mixed groups are often sporting analogies, calling behaviours a colour as opposed to a feeling. When you put your hand on the disk and go, “Get the fuck out of my boardroom.” And wondering why your team got scared of you, I reckon we should talk about what’s going on behind the scenes. And hey, not pointing any fingers here.
Simon Dell: We’ll come back to it later on. There’s a question I wanted to ask you about something that happened, I saw you doing at a certain time. I’m going to pick this time in 2009. That late 2010s was quite a watershed time when it came to social media. Facebook was new. There was other platforms. The iPhone was just out in the wild. And you were doing quite a bit of mobile and social media work. How did you find those networks back in those early days?
Rachel Service: It was a funny time. However old I was, I was in London and I told everyone I was going to move to Germany to become a pop singer. I got to Germany and I was like, “Far out. They all speak German here. Ooh. It’s quite cold. They’re quite literal and I’m quite camp, and over the top, all that.” And so, I went to London for seek of employment. As soon as I got off the train, I heard things like, “You’re right, Darling.” I was, “Oh! You’re right, yeah, I love it.” I was all about that life. And so, I hustled like a maniac and recruiters would say, “Look, this alleged New Zealand you speak of, yeah… So, that experience doesn’t mean much over here. And also, it’s a global financial crisis, so unless you’re a citizen or you can find someone to marry in the next two weeks, no deal.”
And all my friends who are in London where a big major redundant, and I was like, “I’ve kind of told everyone I’m in London, so I better make this work.” So, I went to door-knocking. One of those doors I knocked on was an agency which I think is now defunct working with an absolute rock star called Tom Oleten. I sat down office with him and he was like, “Yeah, look, this “experience”, this doesn’t really mean anything to me. This is a job I can give you and it’s ready now. It’s starting at the top.” And that’s as an intern working on the social media strategy for an equestrian firm they were working with.
And I was like at that stage really exhausted, and tired, and broken. I was like, “Fine. I’ll take it.” And I was a waitress in the evenings at a bowling alley. And I don’t really know what the social media was. I think Myspace was a thing back then.
Simon Dell: I was going to say, 2009, what did the social media strategy look like in 2009?
Rachel Service: Of course, I had no idea. And he said, “Well, you got 48 hours to figure it out. Here’s the brief.” What I loved about Tom, I identified working with him, he is someone who brought out the best of me in a short amount of time because he saw that hunger, and rewarded that, and was able to let me work autonomously. With the social media stuff, I remember saying things like, “Cool. What?” And I was like, “Alright, well, let’s figure it out. Alright, so it’s need to be a social media strategy. This is the opportunity for the client. This is what we can do. How can we build community? Let’s break it down.”
And so, it was around building communities. And I thought, “Oh. Well, this makes sense. This is like relating to people but online. I could figure that out.” And that way of, “I could figure it out” is how I ended up in so many of these jobs. That’s still what I teach trainers today. Say yes. We can figure it out.
Simon Dell: It sounds like that social media strategy hasn’t changed a great deal in 10-odd years. It’s still the same thing. It’s about building communities and people that are interested in the same thing that you’re interested in.
Rachel Service: Exactly. A lot of my students are content marketers, and strategists, insert buzzword here. At the end of the day, my belief is people take a second look at you through emotion, and they buy on logic and credibility. That’s what I look to create through Happiness Concierge. Social media strategy, I don’t have one. If people feel an emotion when they see any touch point related to Happiness Concierge through the use of expensive photography, we will do that. Remove any risk and get people to feel an emotion when they say you. That’s something they’ll remember and repeat.
Simon Dell: It’s always tough for those smaller businesses because it’s all well and good us saying, “You’ve got to create these emotions to pour people in.” When you’re a small business and you’ve got three or four employees, that’s really hard. What do you suggest to people in those kind of situations?
Rachel Service: Is creating an emotion around your product or service hard or the execution?
Simon Dell: I think for some businesses, it’s both. I always pick on accountants in this podcast because I feel like they have the hardest job trying to create some emotional, tangible engagement with an end user when all they’re doing is counting numbers or chasing invoices.
Rachel Service: Oh, they’re saving lives. They’re reducing anxiety. They’re making your life easier. How can that not be an emotional experience?
Simon Dell: Absolutely. But at the same time, you’re talking about an accountant who’s very much one side of the brain and you’re asking them to talk about themselves with the other side of the brain which, for a lot of them, is a big challenge.
Rachel Service: Absolutely, and part of the reason why Happiness Concierge teaches charisma classes is because technically-minded experts are sensational at the tools, and people like me are not sensational at those kind of tools. So, let’s share the knowledge 100%. In terms of conveying emotion, people, hire, promote, and refer people they like, who they feel that they’re buying the real version of themselves. There’s a hundred training companies and there are a hundred accountants, thousands, millions.
Are you someone, especially around that nature of work, people can trust? Do you make others feel good and in control of their finances, and are they likely to recommend you to a friend? There is no budget on content or social media that you could spend that will replace an experience someone has with you when they talk to you, and see you, and believe that they can trust you.
Simon Dell: You made a statement earlier on about take the job and figure it out as you go on. Has that been the fake it till you make it motto for you on the way through?
Rachel Service: You found holes in my argument. Fake it until you make it, I don’t love that. What I do love is building on knowing what you’re capable of and not hesitating on an opportunity if you know that you could reach out to people who can skill you in between what you’re saying now when it’s due. I encourage people to talk in the now as opposed to what I want to be one day as a Happiness Concierge or an accountant of my dreams. I am an accountant, this is what I can do, and this is what I can figure out for you. You can trust me because you know me, you like me, you trust me, and speak to any of my clients or colleagues. You can trust me I’ll get the job done.
And as I was saying to someone I had a breakfast yesterday, a healthy anxiety makes you perform. This is one of the partners of one of the biggest firms here in Australia. A healthy anxiety makes you perform. Where it becomes dangerous, particularly for people with my history, is where their anxiety goes into panic, and fear, and as I say, burning myself out. This is a lifelong thing that I haven’t entirely resolved, but they say they teach what you most need to learn.
Simon Dell: I’m just interested to understand that a little bit more, that healthy anxiety. How do you define that? How do you know that that’s the space you’re in, or that you haven’t gone too far, that sort of thing?
Rachel Service: I think where it becomes dangerous is when the anxiety is fuelling a negative narrative to you. “I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve this. I’ll never figure it out. I’m a failure. What am I doing?” We can turn that into a positive narrative. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I can’t believe I’ve got a chance to learn more by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. It’s 10:00 p.m. tonight.” Turning that narrative into a positive. And I think for me, to be quite frank, I had needed sponsors to help me from stop working, and reality check, so I had an advisor, and I also have a workaholic sponsor, a friend of mine. He invites me around for dinner and texts me and say, “Hey, are you working?” And I was like, “Of course, I am.” He’s like, yeah, it’s a bit off brand come around for dinner.
Simon Dell: Is that something that’s helped you through, having those kind of sponsors? I mean, you call them sponsors. Coaches or those sort of thing, is that a different word or a different objective?
Rachel Service: For me, I’ve made a conscious effort to — since history of burnouts, and having a moment where I was like, “This is ridiculous, not the life I want to have.” I made a decision to prioritize relationships and building a network around me, so then I could stay sane. Sane is relative, of course. So, I’d made a conscious effort to do that. And to be quite frank, it’s something I struggle with every day. Even as I’m sitting here, thinking, “Oh, I’m looking forward to chatting with Simon.” I’m still thinking like, “Oh, do I tell him that at 4:00 a.m. this morning, I woke up in a panic figuring out how to address this brief?” It’s never ending.
On the flip side, I’m walking to breakfast looking up going, “This is my dream. This is what I dream for. Let’s enjoy it.” Otherwise, what’s the point?
Simon Dell: Talk to me about that New York moment a little bit more. That’s obviously something that you highlight on your website as well. Where were you in New York?
Rachel Service: The catalyst for going to New York was that I’d always had this dream, “I’ll go to New York, and own a business, and wear a suit, and be fabulous.” A pretty vague version of success, isn’t it? I’d broken up with my long-term partner, and had a fling, and that ended disastrously as rebounds do. And then I felt, “Well, fuck this.” And took on my savings, and got on a plane to New York, cried for two weeks in every shop in Manhattan, basically. Just shop, ate, and cried.
And then I booked a ticket to see the one person who I knew who could help me. It wasn’t a therapist. It wasn’t a GP, or an acupuncturist, or a natural healer. Who do you think that was? Beyoncé, Her Royal Highness. I can hear the scepticism in your voice.
Simon Dell: Therapy by Beyoncé.
Rachel Service: It’s kind of one of those things where you’re thinking, “If there’s only one person who could make me feel better, that’s my hero.” Right? I’m in Brooklyn at the Barclays Centre, I think. And I walk in and I start crying. It’s an emotional moment. I’m tired. I spent the last two weeks crying, so why not? And then I’m wearing gothic makeup because that was my look back then, and my eyes are getting a bit watery. And I cried throughout the opening act. I cried throughout Beyoncé, all two hours of her Ms. Carter world tour. I was just howling, crying, to a point where people next to me were just like, “Bitch, can you not?”
Simon Dell: I was going to say, if I got a ticket to Beyoncé and I’d sat next to you crying your way through it, I want my money back.
Rachel Service: Abso-fucking-lutely, yeah. “All the single ladies!” [crying] “I’m a diva.” [crying] You can imagine. And so, it wasn’t until I was on the subway afterwards where I had the brochure, and the plastic bag, and the T-shirt. I actually looked around the subway and people were singing. [singing] Their post-concert vibe. And I was like, I saw my reflection and I thought, “Service, if you can’t enjoy this, I reckon you might be the problem, mate.” And that was a bit of an aha moment for me. It took me 10 years, but I got there.
Simon Dell: What did you decide to do at that point, whilst you’re sitting there with runny makeup all day in your face?
Rachel Service: I suppose a good thing is I was so tired and self-absorbed that I didn’t really notice how bad I looked. But for me, it wasn’t like, “Aha. The purpose is clear. Become the Happiness Concierge.” No. I went back to Melbourne and I thought, “I’ve got to do something different, but I don’t know what that is because I feel really shit right now.” And so, I started to do little tools like, “Okay, what do I actually really want? Who in my life is actually good for me? Oh, shit. What else? What do I want to achieve this year? I’ve got no idea.”
And I made little rules and lists for myself, and I started a blog, published to myself, and I didn’t know that was connected through Medium.com to my Twitter account. A friend of mine was on Twitter going, “Hey, I just want to let you know this thing about burning out, and helping yourself out was quite helpful.” And I thought, “Shit, cool.” And then I was telling my friend over coffee, “So, I reckon I want to be a speaker.” And she said, “What do you want to speak about?” And I was like, “So, that’s the problem that I have… Regarding contents.” And she said, “Well, what about… You know how you’re telling me about Her Royal Highness Beyoncé and your aha moment.” And I was like, “Would anyone want to hear about that? I mean, come on.” And she said, “Well, you know, figure it out.”
I was talking to a friend of mine and saying, “I want to speak more.” And he said, “Oh. Oh my god, I’m the MC of this event next week. I’d rather eat my own vomit than do it. Can you do it? I hate stages.” And that’s when I heard [singing] in my head. I was like, “This is it.” And then someone in the audience said, “Oh, this is great. So, you do this full-time?” And I was like, “Yeah, definitely.” And they said, “Great. Well, can you do a course on it?” “Yeah, I’ve got one of those, for sure.”
Simon Dell: Quick, write something down.
Rachel Service: 100%. And then general assembly was like, “That’s great. So, we’ll do that in a few weeks’ time.” I was like, “Well, that’s great because that exists. Cool.” Because I’ve always loved presenting. I worked in agencies for years in client side. I always love the new business presenting side. And then somebody in the audience was like, “Hey, that was really helpful. Can you bring that to my organization? Send me your corporate rates.” And I went, “Yeah, corporate rates. Definitely have those also.” And went home and called my dad and said, “Hey, what’s a corporate rate, dad?”
Simon Dell: It’s funny. My last master class that I did was about how to price yourself. When you rang your dad, what did he say? “Just charge as much as you can possibly get away with?”
Rachel Service: The great thing about Dad is that he was like, “Rachie, you alright? What’s going on?” He was basically saying, “What are you doing? What are you proposing to do? While you have experience, you’re at the start of your journey.” And I called another friend of mine who worked for a professional services firm, and she said, “Call Rach.” The goal would be this price here, like the top tier, where you are now is day one. So, use this as your case study to build up your portfolio and start from scratch. Which I did.
I was free for the first six months. I think my first bill was $200. I was pretty excited by that. I framed that invoice. It was pretty exciting, and then worked my way up. Still working my way up. A mentor told me, “Always charge enough where you’re taken seriously, and charge a little bit more in that you become quite anxious about doing a good job, but not too much that it paralyses you and it puts your client in a position where they can’t support where you’re delivering.”
And so, that helped me flipped the switch between, “What’s this money for for me?” Instead of that, thinking about the client. “What does the client need to look successful to have visibility and to say to their boss, “Hey, that was my idea bringing in Happiness Concierge. You are welcome.”
Simon Dell: How did you find clients in those early days, and how do you still find clients now? Is it all word of mouth? Is there some other channels or mechanisms of marketing that work really well for you?
Rachel Service: Because I’m selling a service, people need to know that they know me, like me, and trust me. So, the quickest way to do that is getting in front of many people as possible doing what I do best. And that, for me, is in a classroom or on a stage. So, I emailed everyone I knew. “Do you need a speaker? Do you need any workshops? Do you need anything done?” And to support that, document that. People need to see that I do this every day, and that’s why you’ll see images of me and my team speaking everywhere to communicate, “We’re experts. We do this all the time. We’re continually evolving and learning.”
In terms of client acquisition, if I’m doing a workshop or a talk, almost on the day, three months later, I’ll get an email saying, “Hey, that was a while ago, but I was in this class where you talked about X. Do you reckon you could talk to our team about that? That was really helpful.” And then selling it into their team. And then to support that, not a day or week goes by when I’m not organizing breakfasts and connecting people. It’s not a sell. It’s around, “Hey, this is what I do. But can we take work off the table? I’m keen to learn more about you.” And that’s where genuine relationships are born.
And then if they decide to engage the Happiness Concierge, that’s not something that’s even my suggestion. It’s up to them because they have to believe it to sell it in.
Simon Dell: Who have you enjoyed working with the most? I’m just looking at the Happiness Concierge at the moment. What organization have you been to and gone, “These guys have got their shit together. This is a good organization.”
Rachel Service: In terms of a client, or a partner, supplier?
Simon Dell: Anybody that you’ve walked in and just been wowed with, a company that you’ve been really impressed with.
Rachel Service: There are so many, I’m just trying to think about my confidentiality agreements.
Simon Dell: Let me rephrase that question, then. What impresses you from these companies? What is it that gets you excited?
Rachel Service: That’s such a good question. What really, really gets me excited are the moments when I turn detractors into people who realize that they have a choice around how to affect their career change. So, while clients and brands bring me in, what happens is there will always be a computer that says no in the room. There will always be someone who says, “Who the fuck is this girl? Tony Robbins wannabe, pink lipstick? Ugh.”
Simon Dell: Keeps singing Beyoncé to us, what’s going on?
Rachel Service: Fucking yawn. And I’ve been to a million training programs. And as soon as I walk in, I look for those people and I make it my job to flip it around. So, what excites me about Happiness Concierge is finding people who have been overlooked, never validated, and put in a box and say, “Hey, you matter. You belong. How can you get to the next stage? Let’s figure it out.” And if that’s a perception thing and that’s you changing your behaviours, let’s do that.
In terms of brands that excite me, to be really, brutally honest, my biggest inspiration comes from music, hospitality, and retail, around branding and experience.
Simon Dell: If you were to say to me, there’s things that you’ve seen that certain companies do, and that’s impressed you, or ways that staff are treated, or things that are… What are those? I’m interested because I want people to sit there and say, “You know what? My company’s only got five staff. But you know what? I could do that as well or I could apply that to my business.”
Rachel Service: 100%. The things that have really excited me that I try to drill into everything we do is: treat your staff like your client. Treat your staff like your client and treat your ambassadors, or people who are fans of the brand that might never spend any money with you, as if they’re paying you a thousand dollars a minute. I’m hearing a bit of scepticism there.
Simon Dell: Not scepticism. I want to understand how you do that, if that makes sense. It’s great saying that, but then, what behaviours does a business owner then have to implement to show that?
Rachel Service: For Happiness Concierge, it’s about treating every individual as if they’re a rock star, basically. For example, for my team member in Canberra, I flew to Canberra for a week, get to know his family, get to know his local coffee joint, get to know his kids, go to the gym with his wife and understand their challenges. It’s getting to know them as if they are partners of your business. Because if they feel like partners with your business, they’re more motivated to do a good job in a way that serves them.
Simon Dell: Got you.
Rachel Service: It’s a lot of work. It’s more work than you’ll do with your clients, I reckon, as with your people.
Simon Dell: It’s funny. Sometimes, you read things that say, “The client’s number one” or “The people that work for you are number one.” Clearly, you believe the latter as opposed to the former.
Rachel Service: Not really into like, “Who’s number one? The client’s always right.” It’s quite subservient and it’s kind of insulting to people. Like, fuck you. Like, we need to slave away so the client’s happy and we’re exhausted? No. I think treating people like adults, and assuming that they can go and create a competitor to your business in a second. Why do they stay with you? Because they feel like they belong and they matter.
In terms of brands that do stuff well, Thankly, my partner for sending out thank you notes following, I’m a big believer in thanking people for the smallest of things. Thankly, they do amazing stuff, daily blooms, florist of choice, online choice. They do a great job. Are you more interested in stuff that organizations are doing?
Simon Dell: Yes and no. What I’m interested in is things that have peaked your interest, your curiosity. Obviously, you’re out there training these businesses every day. I would imagine that one of the things that you see very evidently is the weaknesses in businesses and organizations. But that’s why I think that when you see something that somebody’s doing well, it stands out. They’re probably doing it really well if you’re noticing it. Does that make sense?
Rachel Service: Yeah. I think what stands out for me is when I was in San Francisco and a very, very large firm said to me, “No investment has given us greater return than our two-year coaching program to bring in the best in our people. If they leave after two years, then we’ve actually probably done our best job with them because we’re continually bringing them people who are only performing in their best during that duration.”
And I just went, “Oh my gosh.” And I was talking to someone last night in Sydney from another big tech firm, and she said the same. She said the same like, “No other greater return.” Because people feel empowered. A bit learning and development, HR learning… Make people feel — whatever you want to call it. People culture. Unless people feel valued… It is a lot of work. People are a lot of work. Being nice to people is hard. It’s a lot of work. It’s why it gets overlooked and not done well. Everyone’s human. I’m going to make mistakes, too.
Simon Dell: Most business owners are looking for the easy option. As you say, training staff, and teaching staff to be better, and educating them, and all that, is hard work. It costs money, and often, they don’t see the immediate return on investment. It’s not something that they can spend $10 and see $100 the next day.
Rachel Service: Define return on investment. Can you put a price on employees saying to their mate over a beer in Canberra, “Yeah, Happiness Concierge. Just join them.” I thought I was a bit Tony Robbins at first myself, but now I’m fucking loving it. Can I put a price on that person talking to another person, who then takes it back into a massive client in Canberra? I mean, that might come to fruition five years from now.
Simon Dell: Last three questions for you today, which are the same last three questions that I ask everybody. Number one: What are some brands that you like that you buy often? This is different from the companies that you see, the behaviours and all those kind of things. What’s a brand that you buy all the time or shop at all the time?
Rachel Service: Good one. Thankly. I used Thankly most days, online thank you note service. The brands that excite me, Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. Exceptional branding. I’m pretty excited, not that I purchase a lot from Uniqlo, but I love their retail experience. I love it.
Simon Dell: I’ve never gone into that. I just don’t.
Rachel Service: You don’t get it?
Simon Dell: No.
Rachel Service: Why?
Simon Dell: I just find it very bland.
Rachel Service: For sure, the clothes are bland. The clothes for me are irrelevant. The experience, I like it.
Simon Dell: I don’t want a great experience to then buy something bland at the end. I want a great experience and buy something great at the end.
Rachel Service: I’m looking forward to being impressed by a brand in Australia, and I’m open to suggestions. If I want to be impressed by a brand, I’m going to go to Tokyo. The retail experience there is phenomenal, and we can learn so much from what they do well.
Simon Dell: I actually noticed on your website, you’ve worked with Lululemon.
Rachel Service: It’s killer, because they invest in their team like coaches. It is unbelievable. And the cool thing they do at Lululemon is that they go, “Hey, I’ll put this in the change room. What was your name?” And I’ll say, “Rachel.” “Thanks so much, Rachel.” And they’ll write your name on a whiteboard as you go into the change room and say, “Hey, Rach, do you need anything? Size 10? Size 12? You’re all good? No? Okay.”
Remembering your name. When I ask people, “Think about a memorable retail experience you’ve had recently, most people close their eyes in my sessions, and open up, and say, “Lululemon because they remember my name. A coffee shop because they remember my name. Or the Apple Store because they said, instead of, “No, but” or “however”, they say, “As it turns out, we don’t have what you need. What we do have, however, is <insert expensive thing here>.” Now, I’ve got this fucking expensive phone that does face recognition as if I need that. It’s pretty, though.
Simon Dell: I always remember that instruction about the Apple Store. They’re not allowed to say ‘unfortunately’ or negative words. Everything has to be a spin on a slightly more positive outcome.
Rachel Service: “As it turns out, I’ve got these five other laptops.” Yeah, awesome. And also, in supermarkets, when somebody’s trained well, instead of saying, “So sorry about the wait.” They say, “Thanks so much for waiting.” And you go, “Oh, no problem.”
Simon Dell: You make a fantastic point that just even changing two or three words in a sentence could actually have a massive difference on the impact that you have as a brand to people.
Rachel Service: Completely. And the impact you have on other people and how likely they are to talk about you when you’re not in the room when most of the decisions are made about your business.
Simon Dell: Just going back a couple of steps there. There’s a comedian routine about how to remember people’s names. I think that’s a great challenge for a lot of people. And he said, “When someone tells you their name, you have to envision them standing in front of a particular colour house, with a particular fence, and you have to describe the house in your brain, and the colour of the door, and what they’re wearing, and all those kind of things in this image. And he said, “That’s one of way of remembering their name.” He said, “The second way of remembering their name is just to pay fucking attention when they tell you.”
Rachel Service: A trick that I give to people is when people talk, I physically create subtitles on the frame. If we were talking face-to-face, I would see subtitles to remember your fucking name. For whatever reason, because I speed-read, I speed-read for keywords, my brain can remember that better.
Simon Dell: One of the other ones, a serious one, is you’ve got to just repeat it back to them three times. As you talk back to them, as soon as you’ve met them, just say their name three times and it will embed itself in you in your brain a little bit easier.
Rachel Service: And you know what? If you want other people to remember your name, don’t be interesting. Be interested in them.
Simon Dell: Second to last question: What is next for you? Where do you go from here? You’ve been doing Happiness Concierge for three years now. What’s the plan for the business?
Rachel Service: Pretty exciting. We’ve got our next trainer and take him four weeks in Melbourne. Taking on trainers, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra-based. For me, the goal is to have trainers all over Australia and looking at a succession plan for somebody else to run this. I love running a business. I’m excited to grow the Happiness Concierge brand globally. That really, really excites me, including training, and stationery lines, and all of that awesome stuff.
Simon Dell: What’s going to be your challenge getting it out of Australia?
Rachel Service: The biggest piece of advice I was given on going to the US market and Asia-Pacific on my visits there was: When looking to go global, for a CEO to a run the shop in Australia and/or anywhere else and then to go overseas, the cultural nuances are so subtle and so overbearing, that to flip that light switch between two territories is impossible. So, therefore, people who can take ownership in each territory, who know the intricacies of each market…
I’m a chameleon. I’ve adapted to Australia. Put me in New Zealand, I’d get like totally bro, dude. But in London, I’d probably be more inclined to talk a bit like this. So, that over time benefits so much from people in each territory. So, what will stop me? I suppose getting over my workaholic ways. I’m still the 19-year-old, the 16-year-old washing dishes trying to do it all. Do you know what I mean?
Simon Dell: My short-term memory is terrible, but when I spoke to Justin Dry from Vinomofo, joint CEO of Vinomofo, and they talked about going into other countries, he literally said, “We’re starting from absolute scratch, but we have the benefit now of experience of having started it in one country.” So he said, “Whilst we’re starting from scratch, we can start from scratch a lot quicker.” So, everything that we did the first time round that might’ve taken two years doesn’t necessarily need to take two years the next time. It could take six months, but we do the same things again and grow it from the ground up.
Rachel Service: What a great phrase. You know what, Simon? That gives me hope, and I’m grateful for that.
Simon Dell: Cool. I’ve achieved something today. My last question: If people want to get in contact with you, what’s the best way to do that? If they want you to talk at an event, or train their team, or they just want to vent about something that’s weighing on their shoulders — because I’m sure you need lots of people emailing you about that, but you know.
Rachel Service: Three ways. The quickest way, [email protected] The keen to find out more way, happinessconcierge.com. And for those who are keen to join the free Slack community to talk about all things possible, happinessconcierge.com/network.
Simon Dell: There’s a Slack community. How are you finding Slack?
Rachel Service: I fucking love it. I love it. I was sceptical at first. I thought, “Another messaging platform? Really?” And what I’ve discovered is, as they say in Stanford, it’s not what you say your brand is, it’s what your community or users say your brand is. I started this community. I thought I’d give it a go, try it out. I tried Slack for a few weeks myself with my trainers, and I set it up, and then now it is popping in the most popular channel is the job opportunities which are not advertised.
Simon Dell: Interesting.
Rachel Service: It tells me a lot about my network.
Simon Dell: How many people have you got on Slack now?
Rachel Service: 100. Launched a few weeks ago, so yeah. It’s pretty cool.
Simon Dell: Wow, better check that out.
Rachel Service: I look forward to it.
Simon Dell: Thank you very much for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure and highly entertaining, as I figured it probably would be. Anything else that you’d want to shove in there at the end as a final lesson for people?
Rachel Service: I suppose the lesson would be, if you’re working so hard on building your business, or CEO, or building the leader, or managing other people, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
Simon Dell: Wonderful. Finally, thanks very much again for your time today, Rachel. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you here.
Rachel Service: Simon, it’s been an privilege and an honour. Thank you so much.