PODCAST EP 14
Cherie Curtis is the CEO of Revelian, a company that develops technology that uncovers insights about capability, motivation, skills and behaviours to help people discover their place at work.
Simon Dell: I am with Cherie Curtis today, who is the CEO of Revelian, which is a… I was going to say testing, but I think in all of your communications it says an ‘assessment platform’, because testing sounds quite serious, doesn’t it?
Cherie Curtis: It does.
Simon Dell: It’s an assessment platform for employers to assess the… Do you know what? You explain it because you’ve been doing it for a long time. You explain it a thousand times better than I can.
Cherie Curtis: No problem. Well, yes. Look, Revelian is quite renowned in our market in terms of being experts at psychometric assessment. So, we create tools that measure different attributes about people to help inform our decisions about people. So, for organisations, that could be around recruitment, trying to get best fit, or in terms of employee development to optimize potential and engagement within the broader community of the population.
Simon Dell: Right. And I would imagine most people listening to this at some point done some kind of psychometric testing in their employment journey, because I think pretty much everybody has these days, haven’t they?
Cherie Curtis: It has absolutely become pretty standard practice beyond best practice, it’s just quite common. But look, most people probably don’t think of psychometric testing as something that they love. They tend to have a reaction that could be filled with anxiety and a bit of nerves. But I’m quite different; I’m pretty passionate and I love it, and maybe today after we’ve had a bit of a conversation about them, others might not be as daunted by the experience either.
Simon Dell: Well, I was going to say, why do you think people are nervous about doing these?
Cherie Curtis: I think it’s the unknown. And usually, they’re applied in a high-stakes environment. So, if we take recruitment for example, going for a new job is a big deal. And as an individual, you strongly desire that outcome to be positive. So, when someone says, “I’m going to have a look under the hood and evaluate you to see if you’re going to be the right fit or the best candidate.” Well, it’s pretty natural that I think we get a bit nervous or anxious about that because we’re not sure what they’re looking at. We’re not sure what it’s all about and how this is going to influence the outcome.
So, I can understand that caution about the process, but I do think we’re seeing a substantial shift in the market where now candidates are starting to understand that recruitment isn’t one-sided about the organisation only evaluating the candidates to see who is best fit, it’s really as much about the candidate evaluating the opportunity to see if it’s right for them. And the candidates are feeling far more in control of that process, and assessment, a psychometric assessment in that process, actually helps both parties to evaluate the fit and to be able to understand if it’s the right step.
Simon Dell: Is there anything that people can do if they’re faced with one of these for the first time, or even people who have done two or three of them before? If there anything that people can do to prepare for them and — I was going to say practice, but you know what I mean, and try and sort of alleviate that sort of nervousness before they go and do these things.
Cherie Curtis: Absolutely. We get this question a lot about, “How do I prepare or give myself the best chance to perform at my best?” And the reality is that a psychometric assessment is built specifically to measure a particular construct. So for example, it could be our ability or our personality. And those experiences are quite different. So, if you’re talking about a specific ability, then there are right or wrong answers in that assessment. Whereas if you’re talking about personality, there’s no right or wrong, it’s just what your profile is.
So, in all circumstances, if you’re going for a test, what is most important is that you set yourself up for success. So, when you’re taking that test, you make sure that you’re in an environment that is free from distraction, you’re well-rested, you’re focused, and you read the instructions. That’s the most important thing, because they’re really designed to help you perform at your best.
Simon Dell: We’ll take a step back to this later on, but I just wanted to kind of get an understanding a little bit about your background, because obviously, you’ve got a very broad background of psychology. From what I can tell you, you’ve done a lot in the sort of psychology field. The first question I always ask everybody when they come on here: What was the first job that you did, the first job that you were actually paid for? Everyone laughs at that in the background.
Cherie Curtis: I hated my first job. Well, I think it takes you back to a very different — well, at my age, it takes you back to a very different era. My first job was in high school, and I think it was about Grade 10, and I worked at a local bakery. And I hated everything about it. It just… I did not fit. I didn’t stay for long. I was there for a couple of months, but I think when I reflected as to why I didn’t like it, it was actually — I didn’t feel equipped to be good at it. I didn’t feel like I was trained. I kind of was flung behind a counter and said, “Serve people.” And I didn’t know what was going on.
And I moved not too long after that to Coles Supermarkets and was a completely different environment. Those types of large entities are really well-equipped with onboarding, and some structure, and some guidance, and I flourished. I absolutely loved it. I got to talk to people. I got to provide service and moved pretty quickly to being relatively good at that job. And it meant that I actually stayed with Coles working part-time while I was at school, and then even when I left school and started university. I continued on and moved up into management there. So for me, that environment was fantastic and provided me a strong foundation I think to lots of things that I’ve used beyond that.
Simon Dell: Give me an example of one of those, because again, a lot of people that have been on here that have talked about jobs that they did in their teenage years, and Coles and Woolworths especially, was that they often found those experiences good from a customer service point of view and understanding how to deal with people in not difficult but complex situations.
Cherie Curtis: I think difficult is fair. You see a broad array of the population, I have to say, that collected their groceries. But I think for me, I’d always loved people and it was at a time when I was transitioning from high school into uni and all of the pressure and the nervousness about what to do. I landed into psychology but still was tentative about that. But when I was working at Coles, it taught me how to read people, how to understand what their needs were and multitask pretty effectively because you need to be able to be juggling a lot of things in an instant.
And the other big one for me was problem solve. Today, I hold a personal identity fairly close to my heart as we try and learn more about ourselves, that I want to be a solutionist. In no matter what circumstance I am in, there is always an outcome and you just have to find it and keep working towards it. And I think in those early days, that’s what it was teaching me to do, that you are often a reactive, you didn’t know what you were dealing with, what was going to come up.
We’ve dealt with some challenging situations from theft to pretty challenging, inappropriate behavior with staff, to irate challenging customers, mental illness, a whole range of things while trying to be calm, motivate employees, and keep everybody working through the checkout. So, it enabled me to, in the moment, be able to manage my emotions, serve others, problem solve quickly, and obviously still perform effectively in running a business. So, there was lots of things that seemed quite simple on the surface if you’re known as a checkout chick or a front-end controller, but far more beyond that.
Simon Dell: It’s interesting, some of the things you’ve just said there. When you look back at the bakery time, without that training, you didn’t handle that ambiguity particularly well. But within a framework of somewhere like Coles where there was more training, it sounds like you dealt better with ambiguity in those challenges.
Cherie Curtis: 100%. I think the difference for the bakery versus Coles was Coles just gave you a foundation. They just said, “Okay, this is the protocol, this is the onboarding and off you go.” So, it was a great balance of some structure, knowing what was expected, but then flexibility to work within that the way I needed to do it, and that’s how I was able to thrive. In the bakery, there was nothing. So, I was sort of experimenting on what I thought might be good in terms of engaging with customers, or product knowledge, and all sorts of things, but I had no foundation to that. So, it took me longer to get up to speed. And also when you’re 16, you don’t have as much confidence in yourself. So, it was tricky to navigate.
Simon Dell: What took you to psychology? Because you said earlier that you still weren’t sure about it when you got in there as well.
Cherie Curtis: Yeah, no, I was very tentative. I don’t think I’ve ever been someone that has had a very strong vision about my career or what I wanted to do or be, and that’s always up until recently pained me because I’ve compared myself to others that seemed to have a really strong set of goals and a career path and were charging ahead. And in high school, I really labored this. Lots of people around me were saying, “Oh, I’m going to be nursing” or “I want to move into business” or whatever it was, engineering, and I had no idea.
And my dad gave me some advice very early on that I use to this day and I’ve shared with many people, and he said, “Stop worrying so much about what you’re supposed to do or you need to do and write a list of just what you don’t want to do, see what’s left, and give something a crack, and that’ll get you a step forward and you’ll figure the rest out.” And he was absolutely right. So, I started by looking at an arts degree but it was broad, and it enabled me to basically dabble in a whole bunch of different things. And I worked out really quickly what I hated and what I liked, and I narrowed down to psychology very quickly and ended up doing 7-8 years of psychology which was very unexpected.
But I love it, and what I realized is that I love people. I love behavior and I love engaging and understanding how people work to optimize that potential in all of us whether that’s in a personal dialogue I have during the day or whether that’s in a work context. And I think that’s how I’ve landed in what I do now in psychometrics, in that it’s generally about trying to optimize an outcome for everybody that gives somebody a platform to succeed.
Simon Dell: It’s funny that at 18 years old, that you’re expected to kind of decide on the entire path of the rest of your life and you just go… I mean, I did a law degree when I was 18 for three years, and I look back on it and just go, in the great scheme of things, that was a hideous waste of time and I wish I could do university now because there’s so many things that I’d like to study. But it seems a shame sometimes. There’s a lot of people…
My brother is completely the opposite. He’s done exactly what he wanted to do since he was 18 years old and still does it to this day. So, anyway, what then got you onto that journey of Revelian? Leaving university and getting into that, was there a gap in there?
Cherie Curtis: There was a lot in there. While I was at university, because it was for so many years, I had a bunch of different jobs over the course of that time. Everything from working for data entry, obviously still working at Coles… I worked for research companies. I worked in the watch-house doing some criminology research. I did all sorts of weird and wonderful things. And then I… Towards the end of my degree, I actually took a volunteer intern psychology placement with a company called OneTest. And Revelian has rebranded. It was originally OneTest.
So, I came and I worked here for free for a period of time, and that evolved pretty quickly into a job, which was awesome. And I was working here loving it, and after give or take 12-18 months or so, I kind of hit that threshold where I think most people do in their early 20s and you get that itch for backpacking. And by then, I’d also created my own organizational psychology consulting company on the side and we’re doing some fantastic projects with some peers of mine, and it was really getting some momentum,
And I realized it was at this juncture that lots of my friends had taken their time overseas, and backpacked, and travelled, and I hadn’t and I was yearning for it. And I was going to get too much further into my career, it was going to be harder to step out. So, I made a difficult decision at that point when things were just starting to sort of spring forward to actually let everything go. And I let the job go at OneTest and I sold my consulting company to the other partners, and I went overseas with — sold everything and just had a backpack on my back with a girlfriend and had an absolute blast.
And we went around Europe for a number of months, and then I landed in Ireland broke and I had about $100 to my name. So, I needed a job. So, pretty quickly, I got two jobs and within about 48 hours, I had landed a job where I was working at an internet cafe during the day, just at the counter, and then in the evenings, I was waitressing at a fine dining, five-star restaurant. And that period for the next probably six months or so was one of the hardest working periods of my life.
I worked during the day at the internet cafe, I’d finish about 5:00 and I’d go straight to the restaurant for a 5:30 start, and I’d finish there about 3:00 a.m., walk home and get a couple of hours sleep and be back at the internet cafe for 8:30 or 9:00.
Simon Dell: Why did you decide to take two jobs? Was it just that one was not sufficient for you to live on, or that you wanted a certain standard of money that you needed to do other things with?
Cherie Curtis: Look, it was all those things. It was that I needed a lot of money quickly to live. I mean, with $100 in the bank that’s not even going to cover your first week’s rent. So, I needed to earn money pretty quickly. But I also knew that I was in Ireland for a temporary period of time, and as much as I loved Galway, it was a step and I wanted to do more travel. So not only did I have to fund living for a short period of time but I had to create enough income to travel again. So, that was awesome and I met some amazing people, and I actually ended up meeting my husband in that internet cafe which was not on the agenda at the time.
Simon Dell: Is he Irish?
Cherie Curtis: He is Canadian, which is another twist. But yeah, we had an awesome time in Ireland. And then after a period of time, we both moved to Edinburgh. And when we were Edinburgh, we actually opened a wine bar there on Rose Street.
Simon Dell:As you do, fine, right.
Cherie Curtis: As you do, that’s right. So, I’m not sure if anyone is…
Simon Dell: Is his background even in that?
Cherie Curtis: No, nothing like it. He’s a graphic designer.
Simon Dell: Okay, right. So, a psychologist and a graphic designer open a wine bar in Edinburgh. There’s a joke in there somewhere but we’ll keep going.
Cherie Curtis: Oh, I’m sure you’re right. But yes, so we actually partnered with this company, an Australian wine distribution company called Great Grog and they were looking for an outlet to share their brand. So, we created this wine bar, wine and tapas bar on Rose Street, which is like a pedestrian mall if anyone who is familiar with Edinburgh and had a blast. It was fantastic. We did the fit out. We hired all the staff. We stocked it. We created the menus. We did everything. But as was fairly typical for me at that time, I got restless. So after only probably another six months or so when it was up and running and things were kind of established, I was ready to move on.
So, I moved to England and landed in Maidenhead, which is a beautiful little town on the Thames and helped open a restaurant in a hotel there right on the Thames, which was another fantastic experience. So, lots of customer service and lots of experience in managing staff, patrons, and it all came down to understanding behavior.
Simon Dell: And I assume your husband was quite happy with you. Was it a mutual decision or was it, “I’m off to England. Do you want to come with me?”
Cherie Curtis: It was definitely a mutual decision but he actually moved back to Canada for a family circumstances at that time. So, that was tough being apart, we weren’t married yet, but he was back in Canada, and I was in England. And then after a similar experience, I got the restaurant up and running. It was all established and I got a little bit restless. I met him back in Australia for a holiday and then we both moved back to Canada. So, when I was over in Canada, I started working as — I’m more of a clinical psychologist and I was working for the government over there.
And I was working with children and families in some pretty severe abuse cases which was extremely, extremely confronting. And it was a very humbling experience. It was a very meaningful experience. I met some incredible people through that time, but I also knew that it was something that I was unlikely to sustain for a long period of time. It was extremely draining, which you saw some of the best and the darkest side of human behaviour. And I had seen a bit of that dark side in the watch-house in years gone past, but this was a whole another level when kids are involved.
So, it was while I was in Canada that OneTest actually reached out and said, “Would you like to come home and take a job as a senior psychologist back with us?” And I said, “Yes, I think it’s time.” So, we moved back to Australia and I started back here with OneTest in about 2003. And at that time, I started as a senior psychologist and I moved pretty quickly to the head of psychology. And I was in that role in the senior leadership team for about a decade and loved it, absolutely loved it.
And prior to that, I really hadn’t held a job for more than about 18 months. So now 15 years later, it just sounds surreal. So from there, when I was starting back with OneTest as the head of psychology, during the course of that time… I mean, it’s a startup, and it’s exciting, and as you know in a startup, you’ve got to get your hands dirty, and you’ve really got to engage. And I loved the business. I loved the team. I loved the product. I loved the challenge. I loved everybody that I was working with and I threw myself into it like it was my own business. I absolutely loved it.
And over the course of that time, the CEO at the time, Steven Dahl, and founder, had asked me to take on different parts of the business just as needed. So, while I was being the head of psychology, I was also asked to take on things like managing our client services and technical team. At other times, I was managing our full sales team, our R&D facility, and I even ended up managing the marketing team for a period of time. And none of that was by design, it was more a needs basis. And what I didn’t realize was that it was grooming me for the job I’m doing today.
So, about three years ago now, the board came to me and asked if I would take over the CEO position and I had never considered that. I never had it on my radar. It wasn’t something that I had pursued or considered something I was interested in, if I’m honest. And it was an interesting experience. They called me into a board meeting one day and offered the job to me and said, “Can you start tomorrow?” And I said, “Oh, I can phone my husband? Can I phone a friend?” and just make sure that this is going to work with our family commitments because we’ve got two young kids.
And we jumped in and I love it. So, what I realise now is that the experience I’d had in this business up until that period of time meant that I knew our business inside out, I knew our market inside out, I know our competitors, our partners, our whole personal relationships with them, and I understand that I’m engaged to a level of passion in this business that is essential if you’re going to try and drive it. So, I loved this. It’s a challenge every single day. We’re growing. We’re evolving constantly, and if those things weren’t in the mix, then there’s no way I could’ve been here for 15 years which truly sounds surreal.
Simon Dell: What would you think the one… I mean, you’ve given some good examples there of why they picked you to be CEO, but what do you think probably… Do you think there was one overriding reason that they came to you rather than either anyone else internally or went to look for somebody externally?
Cherie Curtis: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’d love to ask them if I’m honest. But if I had to guess off the top of my head, we had had over founder move on after about a decade or so in the business and had had a couple of external CEOs step into the organization and had both contributed some positive things to the business but their tenure had been for a couple of years and they’ve moved on. I think there would be a certain degree of trust and loyalty and that they knew me. That was a known quantity; they knew what I was going to get, warts and all.
I’m not sure if they would say now that played out as they expected because me stepping into this role, it has required me to perform differently to how I was in other roles but I hope and trust they would say that’s a good thing. But I think there was a little bit of that, that there was a sense of loyalty and knowing who I was and how I was likely to engage that they could rely on and trust. I think that would be a part of it, yeah.
Simon Dell: In the business role that you’re in now, how do you grow the business? What are the best channels for you in terms of finding new customers and those kind of things?
Cherie Curtis: I mean, that’s a big question. There’s lots that goes into continually stretching and growing the business, and we have to be growing all the time. I think for the heart of it is that it comes back to our team, our people. They have to be engaged, motivated, and fresh, and with a forward focus. If we’re not moving forward and energised, that’s reflective in everything we build, in our engagement with our market, and obviously in our overall performance. So, it starts right with the people.
And that motivation internally is I think highly driven by a sense of progress, and a sense of value and meaning in what we do, and doing interesting things. So, we have an R&D team here with a strong history of innovation. Over the last almost 20 years of the business, we can pride ourselves on being first to market with a number of things that in our sector or today just become standard practice. We were the first company to do online psychometric testing, the first company to do remote online testing which brings a whole range of new challenges from a fairness and equity and a security perspective.
Our reporting and our delivery methods are completely unique, and more recently, we were the first to launch a game-based assessment on a global scale, and now we’re onto our fourth generation of game-based assessments with some exciting things ahead. So, I think keeping the product fresh and interesting helps us to have a conversation with our clients that is engaging and moving with their brand and their market expectations, and obviously create new market share for us.
The other piece I think is always understanding the changing business landscape and expectations of what a supplier needs to have. So, we know right now that things like data security, and fairness and equity and privacy is the number one agenda on anybody’s radar right now. So, we have to demonstrate that how our product not only delivers that but supports that agenda is critical, which means we’re constantly reinvesting in our own technology and infrastructure here.
And then just markets, always looking for new markets. In more recent times, we’ve really started to look offshore in a lot more formal manner, both at an enterprise client level partners and resellers and even direct, more SME marketing. So, I think for me, it’s all of those things. It helps the business stay ahead.
Simon Dell: How do people actually find out about you? Do lots of people search for things like psychometric testing and you get inquiries that yet? Do you do events? Do you personally reach out if you’re targeting a particular company or a bigger company? Would you be the one that would be potentially reaching out to another CEO and introducing yourself? Do you kind of get your hands dirty in that respect?
Cherie Curtis: 100%. We do all of those things. So, we’ve got an amazing marketing team that are all over the web. We’ve got all sorts of email campaigns, and branding, and marketing, and so much activity going on that’s quite multi-faceted. But we also absolutely attend events, both in terms of participating in sponsorship or exhibiting. But first and foremost, presenting, and engaging, and contributing to the conversation.
We’re also actively involved in research partnerships in the universities. But at the end of the day, we are a people business. So, if we’re connecting, we’re connecting with people, not a business, not an entity. And absolutely, I mean, LinkedIn is a brilliant tool and I engage personally with a number of people.
I spend a reasonable proportion of my time connecting with people, with personal connections via LinkedIn, and phone calls, and introductions, and coffees. That networking is critical. Because we might be an online product business, but we engage with service and relationships, and that is our major differentiator.
Simon Dell: I guess a lot of — I was going to say a lot of CEOs. I think there are portions of CEOs that get to a certain level, believe as a CEO that the sales processes to a degree below them down for somebody else to do and that they’re there really just to direct other people to do it.
But I think the most successful companies, I think the CEO is still making contacts, knocking on doors not literally but even to a degree that it’s sort of cold calling, sort of — and you know, not necessarily cold calling on the phone, but introductions on LinkedIn. I guess that’s the equivalent of cold calling these days, really, isn’t it?
Cherie Curtis: Absolutely. I think for me, one of the core values we have within our culture is we don’t have a hierarchy in our business. We have an ecosystem and every single person who is in this business has an equal contribution that is as critical and as valuable, and I’m included in that. And there is no task above or beneath any of us, and everybody needs to contribute for us to be successful.
In fact, the more connected I think and aware we are of all the cross functions, the better we are at our decision making and everybody has to make real time decisions. So, I don’t know what a typical CEO is, but I’m not sure if I am one. I’m more than happy to… If I’ve got to water the plants to make somebody a cup of tea, then absolutely, I’ll do that. If I’ve got to pack envelopes, that’s what I’m going to do.
But I’ll also stand up and make decisions and be accountable to our strategic direction. It’s all of those things. And I think for me, being a part of a business is, it’s pretty important that you understand what’s happening at the cold-face. If I’m not connected to our clients and our market, then I’m not going to make the best decisions. So, that looks like — obviously, attending client and prospect meetings from a sales perspective, but just even understanding the broader market, and the trends, and risks, and anticipating those, those relationships that we hold in our networks are critical.
Simon Dell: What’s the favorite part of being a CEO for you?
Cherie Curtis: Accountability. I think for me, I have worked in the role of a senior leader for many, many years and tried to influence decisions. And at that point, you can absolutely influence outcomes but there’s a limit to that. You’re an influencer; you’re not accountable to the full outcome.
In this role, the buck stops with me at the end of the day and that is my greatest delight and my greatest burden, because I take that quite seriously, not just about the business health but the people in this business and their wellbeing. At the end of the day, that is based on the success of the business and I’m accountable for that. So, that’s pretty important to me.
Simon Dell: I guess the sort of follow-up question to that is: What’s the biggest challenge? And they may be the same thing. Let me rephrase that because not necessarily what’s the biggest challenge, but what’s something that you still struggle with every day either from just a CEO perspective or a business perspective?
Cherie Curtis: That is a big question and there’s a thousand things I can say to answer that.
Simon Dell: I guess the reason for asking you that is that there’s — hopefully, there’s people out there that are listening to this that are in similar positions or aspire to be in similar positions. But just — it’s more of a kind of reassurance to them to say, “There are still things that you struggle every day.”
I mean, I did a coaching session with a company on Tuesday and three directors that sit there and they go, they’ve all got impostor syndrome. And they’ve been doing it for 10 years and they go, “We’re still convinced we shouldn’t be here.” So, that’s something I see a lot of as well.
Cherie Curtis: You’re absolutely right. I have that every day. I think everyone I meet has that. And it’s interesting. Today, we still have volunteer psychologists come into our business as part of our placement program like I did 15 years ago. And they come in and we have this conversation, and I can see it in them this nervousness, and this massive impostor syndrome.
And I try to share as best I can that I’ve still got that. It’s not going to go away. The best thing you need to do is embrace it and use it to be your strength. Because when you realize that everyone else feels exactly the same way, and there is no milestone that you reach that kind of badgers you to say, “You are now a qualified adult and you are ready to have all the answers and everything is going to run smoothly.”
It gives you a little bit of freedom to go, “You know what? I’m just going to give it my best and that’s okay.” So, that is so true. I think the imposter syndrome is a real thing. I think the other challenge that I have is juggling priorities. I know that sounds a bit tricky, but not only within the business but personally as well. I do struggle with, “Where do I spend most of my time where it’s going to have the best impact in terms of the short-term?”
And when everything feels really important, it can be tricky to make sure you’re making the right call, because we are always trading something. There’s no doubt about that so we’ve just got to make sure we’re trading it for the right things. I think the other thing that is, is the pace of the market movement now is like nothing before. So, we have to be faster, learner, quicker, cheaper than ever before in the way that we move internally.
And that is a big challenge. I mean, the world is so accessible globally now which is a fantastic opportunity, but it also means that there’s greater competition more than we’ve ever faced before. So, previously, where our network might’ve been Brisbane, or Australia, or Southeast Asia, there is no doubt our network is global now and our relationships are held at the highest end of town for some of the largest multinational businesses and some of the greatest experts in our sector and now in our network.
So, that is a huge challenge, how to stay on top of all those layers of networks that you have to have is an ongoing challenge.
Simon Dell: How do you switch off? And obviously, you’ve mentioned husband, kids. But if you get some time to yourself, which I’d imagine must be rare, what do you do to just kind of shut everything out?
Cherie Curtis: Yeah. Look, I am getting better at trying to balance that need. I think for me, what I have realized is you absolutely need time for yourself and that can look like a bunch of things, but I love to potter around the garden. I’m not a very good gardener, but I love having the dirt under my fingernails, the sunshine on my face, and hours of the weekend doing that is truly fulfilling for me. That just rejuvenates me.
But I love socializing. I’ve got a fantastic network of girl friends and I truly love getting together for dinner or a glass of wine together. That really helps me. Travel, I love to travel and explore new places. That’s amazing. But one of the biggest little hacks I’ve learned or tricks I suppose that’s helped me to be sane over the years is the art, and I think it is a skill and an art you need to work on, of being present in whatever moment you’re in.
Because I think one of the greatest risks to our mental state, wellbeing and stress is the mental load we carry. And so often, we’re carrying so much pressure in our mind about situations or scenarios that we’re not actually in in that exact moment. So, being able to compartmentalize those and try and channel all of my energy, focus, and concentration, and mindfulness into the moment that I’m in, and park everything else outside until I step into those moments has been a lifesaver. I work on that every single day.
Simon Dell: Is there a particular method that you have of doing that, or is there something that helps you do that?
Cherie Curtis: I think it’s just a mental awareness and being conscious of it. I don’t think there’s necessarily a trick, but there is practice. And I think, thinking about what you’ve just asked, actually. One of the key things I think when I’m in a moment with a person, because sometimes you have to be present with your laptop or something online.
But when I’m present with a person, eye contact. Eye contact. When I’m engaging with someone and I’m really genuinely looking at them, try, give it a go today somewhere where you’re having an interaction. It’s very difficult to hold anything else in your mind at that same time if you’re really there.
So, I think being present and understanding who that person is, understanding what they need to get out of it, what you need to bring to ensure that you are delivering what needs to happen in that moment, it’s very difficult to avoid that if you’re engaging in eye contact.
But if you’re online or doing another task that’s just self-motivating, it’s just trying to bring yourself back on track so you’re as efficient as you can and not carrying that extra load that, truly, you can’t do anything about in that moment anyway.
Simon Dell: We’re going to have to wind up soon but I’ve got a huge amount of other questions that we’re going to have to maybe part for another day, especially around some of the things around emotional intelligence and your thoughts around that because that’s a really big thing at the moment, is measuring people for that kind of emotional intelligence.
I can’t remember where the quote came from, but I read somewhere the other day that people are saying emotional intelligence is more important than IQ now, but we’ll have to part that for another. Because the other thing I wanted to ask you about is you work with Slingshot. You’re working with a lot of startups and entrepreneurs through that program, aren’t you?
Cherie Curtis: Look there and elsewhere. So, I think most of my involvement out to be honest is probably more organic rather than that structured program. It’s quite interesting because it does evolve from just networking.
And whether that’s with a business or individuals in startup mode, I literally had somebody else on the phone with yesterday on a completely different topic, who, at the end of it just said, “Look, this might sound a bit strange but I’m looking for a business mentor. Can we have a chat about that?” It tends to come up a lot, and I love it.
For me, being involved in other opportunities that, on the surface, appear to have nothing to do with me personally or what I do, gives me an incredible sense of meaning and I do actually dedicate a lot of time to that. There’s no commercial return. There’s no gain for me, and that can be long-term or short-term depending on what those conversations need.
But it’s a sense of contribution that I value quite highly, and I think I get more out of it than them in terms of being able to have a conversation, share insights or reflections that if it’s valuable to them, brilliant. But I’m also getting so much insight about new, fresh ideas and fresh thinking that’s invaluable.
Simon Dell: What are some of the — perhaps what’s the most common piece of advice you seem to give to those startups and those entrepreneurs that are out there?
Cherie Curtis:I think, obviously, there’s a lot of different things we talk about, but I think at the end of the day, it’s pressure testing their idea. Because when you have someone who is in a startup, they’re passionate in their motivation, and they’re hungry to succeed, and that is something you want to harvest and ensure that you’re supporting.
But if it’s not applied to the right idea, it can actually stifle that enthusiasm pretty quickly. So, I think you’ve got to really pressure test the idea that they are working on to start with and make sure that it is worthy of their enthusiasm and commitment, because everyone knows how hard startups are these days, and it’s a pretty convoluted market if I’m honest now.
So, I think it’s pressure testing that idea through a variety of sources and connecting them with some other people who might be able to give them some feedback on that. That’s pretty critical early on. It’s also a realistic understanding about that journey ahead, that it is not a one or two-year gig, and what is that — have they thought about that revenue model? Have they thought about the amount of time and energy they’re going to need to put in before they’re going to break even, let alone turning a profit?
And then the other key piece for me is, again, the people. Because in any startup, there will come a time not too far into it when you will need to bring on another person, and then maybe two, and then maybe three, and it goes on from there. And who you bring in at that time is so critical, and one of the many mistakes I see is that often startups, people will be attracted to those who are similar to them and will bring somebody onboard is really just contributing the same skills, attributes that they’ve already got. When in fact, they should be looking for someone who’s got some overlap but is a little bit different so they complement and stretch them at the time. So, they’re probably the key things we’ve talked through.
Simon Dell: Last three questions. Some brands that you like, things that you might buy frequently. I mean, obviously, you’ve mentioned Coles. I’d imagine you still have a soft spot for them, but other products that you might buy or places, anything, a brand that you admire.
Cherie Curtis: Look, I think I’m probably not loyal to a brand for brand’s sake. My husband absolutely is, he’s crazy for Apple. They can never do any wrong. I’m in love with a brand based on the experience I have with that brand. So for me, if I think about brands that I continually go to and engage with consistently, Booking.com. They constantly make my life easy. They’re quick, effective, they anticipate and meet my needs on the fly.
They’re an enabler, not an inhibitor, which is brilliant. Virgin I have a love-hate relationship, I think some of the parts of their brand are engaging, and again, a fantastic experience. I think one of the challenges with that brand is it’s so broad that I expect that standard from every time I engage with it. And if it doesn’t meet that standard, then it’s disappointing. The other one would be Bunnings.
Simon Dell:Wow. You’re the first time in 37 episodes that anybody has said Bunnings.
Cherie Curtis: I think it’s an understated, unappreciated brand.
Simon Dell: I completely understand that, but yeah, go on.
Cherie Curtis: I think at the end of the day, anyone who has done a home reno, or has had to tinker away with something at home, or do anything that required you to go to Bunnings, it’s a brand where you know you can go in as a novice, someone’s going to help you figure things out, it’s going to have the things that you didn’t know that you needed that are essential to do the task you’re trying to do. They’ve made it a family experience, and I mean, look at how they’ve dominated the market. When Masters tried to come in and challenge it, it stood no chance. And in fact, Bunnings thrived and is stronger than ever. So, I think it’s an understated and unappreciated brand, but I think if you took it away, many of us would struggle.
Simon Dell: It’s funny you should say that because Bunnings, when my father visits once a year for six to eight weeks with my mother, my father would spend any excuse he possibly can to go to Bunnings. He’d go there every day if he could find an excuse to do it.
Cherie Curtis: For the sausages?
Simon Dell: No, he just likes going. He’ll go there for like 2-3 hours and talk to people. He must bore people in there just, you know. And I get how Bunnings has dominated everything here so much so that it destroyed Masters, but it’s funny because he watched Bunnings being launched in the UK which turned into an absolute disaster. The UK market just did not get the Bunnings brand.
I mean, there’s massive reports written on all the things that Bunnings did wrong in the UK, but it’s funny how you can be so prolific in one market and just fail to translate that to another market that is essentially very similar. You know, the UK and Australian market have their own quirks but they’re not wildly different from each other. Anyways, so I’m assuming you eat a lot of sausages at the sausage sizzle as well.
Cherie Curtis: I actually try and avoid them with the kids and run out the other side to the other door if I can. But yeah, I mean, you’re right. Bunnings has got something for everybody. If you want to go and spend time and connect with people and have a social engagement, you can. You can take the kids in there, tradies get what they need, your home novice can. It’s created an experience that meets some of the needs. So for me, yeah, I think that’s what drives brand loyalty for me, it’s: Are they making my life easier and fulfilling the need that I need?
Simon Dell: So now, we know if anyone needs to know where you are at the weekend, you’ll be in Bunnings.
Cherie Curtis: Exactly.
Simon Dell: Second to last question: What’s next for Revelian at the moment? What’s in the horizon? New products? New ideas? New markets? Where are you going 2019?
Cherie Curtis: All of those things. We are well on our way into F.Y. 2019 now. Just ended Q1 and we’ve come out of the gates pretty strong. So, we’ve got some high expectations for this next horizon of the business. We have a new game-based assessment in development right now which we’re super excited about which will be launching — we’ll be announcing to market later this month, actually, and available in market early next year which is super exciting, another world first for us.
And we’re also definitely looking at ramping up our offshore activity. So, we’ve got some pretty large new brands coming on board as clients and partners with us which are changing our game quite substantially and we’ll be enthusiastic to share that with the market shortly. So, pushing offshore in terms of larger market share, a different style of engagement in terms of the product, and absolutely always looking for new innovations in the way we deliver our assessments, being interactive, reflecting in innovation brand for the client, and ensuring that we’re staying ahead of the market in terms of technology and the way we evaluate constructs. So, lots happening for us.
Simon Dell: Just as a complete side note, and again, I can’t remember which podcast I listened to this on. I’m sure it’s a Tim Ferris one, but there was a product in America that deals with kids with ADHD, and it’s a game, and it was the first game in America that was approved by the — is it the FDA or something? So, it was a game that was actually designated as treatment. It had got an approval in the same way that a drug would and it was having a massive effect on diagnosis on ADHD and helping kids focus and all those kind of things. So, it’s interesting that that gamification of everything is now sort of moving into that sort of HR assessments base as well.
Cherie Curtis: Absolutely. Gamification globally is the fastest growing sector or industry by far, and it really talks to the fact that as consumers, as people, whatever we’re engaging with, we expect it to be more interactive and engaging. And that’s what a game does. It’s designed to help you understand how you’re tracking, give you feedback, keep your concentration and focus, keep your connection to whatever that thing is. So, I think gamification is becoming just a standard practice.
For all psychometric assessments to be gamified, it means that they don’t have to be intimidating or daunting. They can actually be fun and something you’re quite comfortable doing. And the feedback we’ve had across the board from our candidates aligns with that by far. So, candidates are keen and enthusiastic to not only do these type of new game-based assessments in recruitment, but they’re asking if they can do it outside that context just for fun. So, whoever asked if they could just do psych testing for fun, it’s brilliant.
Simon Dell:Oh god, yeah. I was going to say if anyone ever watched me play Call of Duty, I’d have never got a job in my life. That’s probably not the sort of gamification we’re talking about there. Anyway…
Cherie Curtis: It’s a little different.
Simon Dell: So, last question: Where can people get a hold of you? You obviously mention that you use LinkedIn quite a bit. Is that a good platform to talk to you?
Cherie Curtis: Yeah. Please do. Love to have a chat, a coffee, a chat anytime. LinkedIn’s fantastic, just touch base. Our website’s got our phone numbers on, so feel free to give me a buzz. But yes, please — happy to have a conversation and open a dialogue.
Simon Dell: Brilliant. Look, thank you very much for your time today. It has been very interesting and I hope all the people listening out there aren’t scared of psychometric testing anymore. Thank you very much.
Cherie Curtis: I hope
PODCAST EP 74
What is Digital Transformation? with Scott Rigby from Adobe
On Episode 74 of the Paper Planes Podcast Simon chats with Scott Rigby, Head of Digital Transformation for Enterprise Solutions at Adobe.Listen Now