10 Things To Consider When Choosing A Location for Your RTO

There’s no denying the registered training organisation (RTO) market is a crowded one.  How can you make your business stand out from others? A poor choice of location could see prospective students choosing another RTO, even though the training you offer is superior.

We’ve chosen 10 reasons why we believe locating your business at a specialist training centre will help your business grow.

  1. Parking

What – too lowbrow? Having free and ample car parking capable of accommodating 100’s of cars a day means that all staff and students on any given day can park safely and securely on site. Gold! Try matching that in the CBD? Your students will thank you for the money they will save on parking fees and the flexibility of driving to their training.

  1. Value for Money

How reasonable is your rent and is your lease agreement easy to manage based on gross rental payments? In other words, what you see in your lease is what you pay? Or are there hidden outgoing amounts (apart from electricity which is pretty standard). A specialist training precinct such as The Construction Training Centre adopts a collaborative leasing approach to work with their tenant partners, because your continued success is there’s too.

  1. Close to the CBD

No-one wants to be far from the action but being in town is a real hassle. See number 1 above for example! CTC’s precinct in Salisbury is ideally located for inter-connectivity (little wonder it’s a hub for major logistics companies), and it’s close to public transport for the environmentally minded as well.

  1. Large Campus style facilities

When you have a large precinct you need space to breathe. Plenty of green space gives a feeling of a relaxed but well-maintained training hub, with purpose-built campus style facilities. It’s an attractive place to attend and do business and the amenities reflect the large numbers who can be in attendance at any one time.

  1. On Site Café

A vibrant café on site will stop your students wandering off at breaks. In this day and age where worker well-being is considered important, the Café should offer healthier choices to help address poor nutrition and obesity among workers. CTC has worked with the on-site Café to provide calorie and nutrition information on menu options to help workers make healthier choices. An on-site café should also provide in-house catering if you offer this to your students.

  1. Dark Fibre

Sorry…dark what? That’s code for uber-fast internet connection. In the future you won’t be able to do business without it. A state of the art training precinct should offer this to their tenants to future proof your business.

  1. Concierge Services

The Precinct Management Office at a specialised training centre might offer additional services to make life easier for you – not a hotel but as helpful as any front desk! Do they collect your mail from the local post office and deliver to your door? Do they accept courier deliveries on your behalf? Some might even have a Justice of the Peace on site – how convenient would that be?

  1. Their place – your brand

You want your brand to be easy to find – whether it be through signage or via a Google search. A specialised training centre should make it easier for your customers to find you with effective way-finding signage. And  a web portal from their website to your business focused on helping your business to grow.

  1. Safe and Secure

Everyone knows the benefits of being certified to the well-known international standards for quality, safety and the environment. It’s difficult and costly for a small business to achieve this, but you want to know that your landlord is across this for the safety and well-being of your staff.  What assurance is there that your landlord is on top of safety, quality and environmental issues? A triple ISO certified and externally audited management system is a robust means of underpinning the everyday activities and your precinct management team should be responsive in terms of safety, compliance and meeting your needs as a customer.

  1. Caring about your talent

Attracting, then retaining good staff is one of the greatest challenges of business owners today. Competing with much larger organisations can be hard. A Training Precinct should be looking to provide added value to your business in the ‘talent stakes’ like a competitively priced 24/7 gym with twice weekly boot camps, a relaxation and reflection room with sleep centre, free library and journal club, free annual skin checks, flu jabs and hearing tests on top of lifestyle initiatives like annual nutrition challenge and quarterly bio-scans. In such a case you know your workplace will compete with the best ‘big end of town’ can throw at you. The extra cost? Well at top quality training precincts just expect this to be within the overall competitive rental envelope.


By now you will have worked out that CTC’s purpose-built facility in Salisbury offers everything any organisation or individual worker could need to conduct or participate in specialist industry training … in one place.

So if you need the complete leasing package, try us by calling us on 07 3216 6711 or email info@ctc.qld.edu.au. Not quite big or established enough to take out a lease? Call us about our award-winning disruption called Hot Leasing or short-term conference and training room hire. We have all bases covered.


The Whole-Hearted You

We have put a lot of thought into the concept that underlies the gym wanting to focus on the whole person and just not the physical aspect. There is no better reflection of our thinking than the logo. It is, after all, like our shop window and it provides an idea of ‘what’s inside the tin’. Indeed it’s on our shop window!

Build Fitness 090216v1

The logo draws on our CTC colour-bar which is part of our corporate look. Fortuitously the colours on our colour-bar lend themselves easily to broader interpretation. We didn’t just want it to be about physical fitness. We recognise what the research tells us that if you want to be fully healthy there are five elements to this: mind, body, soul, self and heart. When all five are satisfied there is the prospect of wholeheartedness. Whole heartedness has a couple of meanings. It means to go at something with gusto in a sincere and complete way, as well as a sense of well-being. Both apply equally to what we are about.  When researching the colours we found that they aligned to the under-pinning philosophy of our fitness centre.

Colour mean picture

Dealing with each in turn.

  • Body

Physical well-being is a logical place to start. Many of us on the CTC Precinct live sedentary lives. Worse than this our out of work activities have also taken on a distinctly sedentary flavour e.g. sitting and watching Foxtel and Netflix. Our weekend of sport these days might well be watching it on telly.

With a 24/7 gym available at work employers will be able to say that their employees were given the opportunity to avail themselves of facilities that are recognised as being the perfect antidote to an unhealthy work environment. At CTC we provide a collaborative leasing model and enable our tenants to feel part of a bigger whole. In the same way as the Café can be regarded as a facility that they our tenants make available to their staff so too is the gym a facility for all CTC Precinct employees. Harvard School of Public Health now believes that healthier people are happier and as a result are healthier. It is a continual feedback mechanism.  Happier people will suffer fewer colds and less heart disease as a result. What better gift to give your workforce than fewer colds and less chronic heart disease!

  • Heart

When we think of fitness the heart is often what we think of first and it is true that Build Fitness does have a good range of cardio equipment to get the heart racing. We are also including other aids to assist in getting a good view of your heart health like charts and a blood pressure monitor. A heart rate monitor will be available in the centre for those who wish to monitor their heart during some of their exercise program.

Heart, of course, has other meanings including the centre and courage, determination or hope. Each has an applicable meaning for what we are trying to do with Build Fitness. The gym is likely to become somewhat of a hub or centre within the Precinct with those involved with it showing determination (and in my case at least) hope in improving our physical and mental well-being. Heart is lastly about love and love of self and self-image are all issues that are important with respect to physical and mental wellness.

  • Mind

Mental health is a very important concern for those running organisations. Under workplace health and safety legislation employers have a statutory duty to ensure that their workplaces do not cause mental health issues. Employee Assistance schemes are one thing, but in terms of duty of care, employers will be asked to demonstrate that they had a culture that encouraged both physical and mental well-being. The gym has a role to play here as well. There is a now a great body of research that says that exercise is good for mental health.

Long-term chronic stress affects the brain. If your staff is suffering stress there is a duty of care to know about it and to have in place a range of measures that can help the employee confront it and get it under control. The old adage of ‘suck it up’ is no longer defensible.

There is another consideration to stress in the workplace and that it is contagious. There is a belief in neuroscience that says ‘I stress, you stress, we stress.’ This sheets itself straight back to efficiency and productivity. A recent study by St Louis University found that ‘second-hand’ stress is very real and can be passed on through things like tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and even odour.

  • Spirit/Soul

This can be a problematic one because it gets confused with religion and that is not what we are talking about in terms of spirit. Here we can ascribe two meanings. Spirit is about the way in which you do things e.g. in a positive spirit. A positive spirit comes from a positive mind-frame and this is definitely made easier by being physically healthy. Spirit is also that inner feeling of peace or calmness. It is the inner yearning and quite often what makes us want to improve or transform in terms of our careers, our abundance and our relationships our lives.

Supporting our Build Fitness approach is an initiative we are calling Alert@Work. This will require all CTC staff undergoing mindfulness training with the aim of ensuring we can be in the moment, less distracted by the ever increasing distractions of the modern workplace e.g. open plan offices, endless emails, texts, tweets on Twitter etc. Being situationally aware which is one of the key aims of our mindfulness training  arising from meditation will improve the delivery of services to our customers and make the Precinct a safer place. Build Fitness, especially through the website (www.buildfitness.me) will explore some of the traditional and emerging philosophies that might create a pathway for those interested in exploring the transformational possibilities of such modalities.

  • Self

Self-image is a very critical component of our mental health. Our self-worth is often linked to self- image and this can be recalibrated through seeing improvements in one’s physical appearance. It’s no surprise that we looked hard to find ‘friendly’ mirrors to help those in training feel good about the journey they are on. Self is the whole package and it is where the mind body and soul reside as one. Some say people glow when they feel good about themselves and pregnant women are a prime example of this. Others see auras around people. This is merely the physical energy given off by people who have fabulous self-esteem who are self-assured and selfless. Without doubt the focus on self is the opposite of narcissism and more about improvement. The narcissists love themselves because of their faults. The self-assured love themselves despite their faults.

The Whole-hearted You

Where the ‘You’ fits in is how all this gets integrated to be of value and to provide the potential for wholeheartedness. It’s true that regular or semi-regular attendance at Build Fitness will not, of itself, create a self-actualising person. There is much more needed to create the transformation that is often required to make this happen. But the environment we are looking to create where ideas beyond just the physical are promoted does give those looking for more some sense of where they might go to develop the other components inn their life. The first of this is integrative health. This is more likely to be found in complimentary medicine, or alternative therapies e.g. acupuncture, kinesiology, naturopathy, massage, reflexology, reiki etc.

We are looking to partner with a range of local providers including the obvious mainstream allied health providers e.g. physiotherapist, dietitian etc. to provide a portal to a more complete and integrated approach to your physical and mental well-being. The details of these partners will be made available in the Build Fitness Gym and on the website.

If you just want to exercise for fitness and fun then Build Fitness is a great place to come. It is safe and non-judgemental. It involves many different people from our community. If you are seeking more then just maybe the thread you follow will be stimulated through joining build fitness and you can truly become who hearted.


Punching Above Your Weight

BSI Triple Assurance Mark 9001 14001 18001 CMYKI’m old enough to remember when boxing was real legit. The fighters were fit, the purses weren’t outrageously huge and as contests they were classic examples of the best the sport could offer. Sadly the sport is in decline and nowadays crowds seem to be drawn more to UFC and other mixed fighting forms where rules and finesse seem to play second fiddle to brutality. I can recall over the years some exceptional fighters who were capable of boxing up a weight range. Regrettably with the decline in boxing has also come a decline in language and sadly ‘punching above your weight’ has now come to mean in today’s zeitgeist someone (generally a man) who appears to be mismatched in physical appearance compared to their partner. How shallow we have all become!

Well I’m here to breathe fresh meaning back into this expression. We are going to take this back from those who have hijacked it to reflect the sometimes wafer thin veneer that makes up modern life. The challenge is, however, what examples of punching above your weight can we now proffer? Where are the credible stories of those who genuinely have done what wouldn’t seem possible given their size and scale?

Well…look no further than CTC’s recent re-certification of its integrated management system that meets the international standards for quality, environment and workplace health and safety. Almost without fail the domain of much larger companies, ISO certification is a tough and externally audited and certified system to meet standards set by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

It’s a big deal getting one. Quite a few companies have sought to get ISO9001 the international standard for quality. It might be they needed it to win a government or international contract. They might have just wanted to ensure they can meet and exceed customer expectations and show continual improvement. Either way it’s a big deal and not easily achieved.

So think about CTC’s achievement in holding three ISO standards for quality, the environment and work health and safety (ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS18001/ASNZS4801 to be precise). First certified in July 2012 we have been working on improvements across all aspects of our operation and bedding in and maturing our system since then. It is now a fundamental part of our DNA.

It’s how we do things around here and everyone is involved from the top to the bottom of the organisation. Not that that is far mind – there’s only nine of us.

And then in June, after three years from initial implementation, we were due for a full recertification assessment of our management system.

And that is where the term ‘punching above your weight’ really starts to resonate. That is not to say there wasn’t some trepidation within the team when we were confronted with three full days of having our system scrutinised every which way by the external auditor from the BSI.

You can argue about the quality of their cricket team or how rubbish their weather is but you can’t deny the Brits know how to audit your system and find any flaws or weaknesses.

But we went one up in this Ashes stoush because we came through entirely unscathed with praise by the auditor on the sophistication of our systems and our commitment to continuous improvement and re-engineering to constantly keep ahead in delivering for our customers, keeping our site safe and protecting the environment.

The auditor commented that he had not seen a system as well integrated into the day to day work processes and he included in this all of the large companies he has audited. In fact, if I recall correctly, he might just have said we ‘punch well above our weight’ in this respect!


Narrative about the Story

 185055_resizedAt CTC we have a long and proud association with the Story Bridge – the beloved structure very much an iconic symbol for Brisbane. I was reminded the other day about blogging and Facebook etc. where the key thing to get across is your narrative. We are all story-tellers, I read, so I thought I might tell a bit of a story about the Story (as it were).

I do this on the eve of the opening of the Legacy Way, a multi-million dollar toll tunnel in Brisbane; the last of three significant infrastructure projects to ease traffic congestion in our beautiful city. The Story Bridge of course was every bit as big a piece of infrastructure in its day so there is a nice confluence going on here. There will be those detractors who will look at the traffic volume of the new tunnel and scoff at the lack of buy-in by road users. This will be on the back of low volume vehicle use for our two existing (but fairly recent tunnels) Clem Jones and Airport Link tunnels. The tolls, it would appear, are a bit too costly for most so they continue to use the congested motorways and keep the change in their pockets. You don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict that this is the very probable fate for the Legacy Way. To give our civic leaders hope, I would like to point out some things I have learnt from our long involvement with the Story Bridge.

  1. The Bridge is a quintessentially Australian Bridge with the steel coming from Queensland. Its older and better known sister, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a ‘British Bridge’ in just about everything but location;
  2. When it first opened Brisbane city was divided along religious lines. The choice was to connect two Catholic or two Protestant Communities. The Catholics prevailed. This is no longer the case for a city that has finally grown up where meritocracy has replaced old school ties and religious affiliation;
  3. When the Story Bridge was fabricated and erected, three men died (all from falls from the Bridge). Roughly the same number died on recent infrastructure projects. What is different is that the level of industrial sickness and ill health on the modern projects has improved in leaps and bounds from the days of zero PPE when the Story Bridge was made;
  4. When it first opened, the Bridge was not regarded a the thing of beauty it is today;
  5. The Bridge originally had a toll set at 6d (twice the cost of a newspaper of the time. The Courier Mail today costs $1.40). Surprise surprise not many people used it and the toll was removed in 1947 when the Brisbane City Council purchased it for $1.5m, less than half its build cost. Sounds similar to recent tunnel sales!
  6. The bridge has a near identical twin (beat that Sydney Harbour Bridge!) Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge is practically identical.
  7. The Story Bridge also spoke to local identity. Original thoughts were to call it the Jubilee Bridge or the King George V Memorial Bridge recognising our strong links to ‘mother country’. Common sense and a certain independence of thinking prevailed and it was named after long-serving public servant John Douglas Story.

So as we celebrate 75 years of our great bridge, it is worth reflecting it wasn’t always so close to our hearts and was embroiled in controversies. And yet it has stood resolute and been taken into our hearts. So will our tunnels. In time we will grow to love them too and indeed start using them to reduce congestion and improve the environment. Like good wine, age and maturity are required to bring the best out of us. This applies to us as individuals, us as community and us at work. At CTC we are proud that we use the buildings in which the Story Bridge was made and we continue to draw inspiration from the thought that sometimes it’s not about being the best, but standing the test of time.

 


MAKING A DIFFERENCE – ONE FLICK OF A SWITCH AT A TIME

Our CEO, Phil Diver has written a post reflecting on our performance in meeting our environment goals and objectives

CTC_Russ Hall Park_Green Army_CBP_215 In April last year, I wrote about the environment and our impact upon it when I rather disappointedly found myself, a self-professed ‘greenie’, with an impost on the earth well beyond one person. In fact if memory serves me right I consume about 2.3 times.

For the one planet thing to work we all need to consume just one person’s worth of stuff. Our response to such information is I think a bit like dieting. As long as the morning weigh-in has you dropping in weight then it’s easy to keep the momentum going. If you plateau or go up, the tendency is to give up sometimes regarding your own efforts as too insignificant or immaterial to actually affect the change you would like to make. So it goes with the environment.

Working in a small enterprise, and when I say small, at nine staff we are small, there is the tendency to take the losing weight approach and give up, reflecting whatever we do would be so small as to not make one iota of difference anyway.

It’s too easy to rue the fact that we are not managing Rio Tinto where we could make a real impact and just go back to the way things have always been. There are now quite a few reasons why it is the small companies that are making the biggest changes.

Firstly the big disruptions are coming from the small players not the big ones. Only this week KPMG is reported in the Australian Financial Review (3rd June 2015) as disrupting itself so that the small fleet of foot players don’t disrupt it out of business. Small leading the large. I draw a lot of inspiration from this.

Another reason the smaller player can punch above their weight in the environmental sustainability stakes is because their decision-making hierarchies are so small. If we decide on something at our Team meeting Wednesday, I am surprised if by the Monday we haven’t cracked it or made a pretty solid start on it.

It is much easier at our end of the management spectrum to try out ideas for sustainability. If they work fine you keep them. If they don’t move on to something else that does. The final reason that springs to mind is that big impacts are really only the aggregation of smaller steps made by the many. If every house reduced its energy consumption by 15% it would have a much greater impact than one or two large businesses doing the same.

It’s with this spirit in mind that CTC continues to forge ahead with green initiatives to achieve our goal of minimising the impact we have on the environment and enhancing sustainability.

We’ve done the low-hanging fruit like solar panels and waterless urinals. We have worked in partnership with the Oxley Creek Catchment Association (OCCA) to help remediate the waterways that bisect our property.

More recently we painted six portico roofs in different paints to demonstrate the difference this can make to ambient temperature. We are about to measure the results which should show a reducing temperature beneath each surface; the hottest being our standard Colourbond colour, next hottest being the Standard Colourbond colour in a special heat-reflecting coating and least hot white heat reflecting paint. This is the building acting as an educator in its own right. This is the Living Laboratory working for real.

Our Hot Leasing initiative, which is a prime example of the share economy, is another initiative where sustainability plays a key role. The optimal utilisation of space is good for the environment – the embodied energy alone is spread across a number of users who might otherwise have sought other premises, multiplying the carbon footprint many times over. In addition we have been on a tree-planting crusade and are now in the position where our office, our café and the Hot Leasing area are carbon neutral. This means anyone delivering their training from this location can be assured that their carbon impost on the environment has been offset. Good for the environment good for their customers.

Indoor air quality is another concept where smaller companies can take a lead without it costing much. All it needs is a generous allocation of plants within the working environment. Not only is an abundance of plants aesthetically pleasing, but their ability to capture and store away nasty volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paints and adhesives, lead from LED screens, formaldehyde from our joinery and improve oxygen levels is quite amazing. The proof of the pudding should be realised through improved wellness levels, reduced sick days and possibly even better creativity in the workplace. To measure what a difference introduction of plants means we have commenced measurement of the atmosphere within the office in the absence of plants and will be re-measuring air quality after they have been in place for a few weeks. We wait with bated breath to see the impact (pun intended).

So next time you are considering your own small enterprise and despairing that you can’t do much, consider what little things you actually can do that will, when compounded with the millions and millions of other small enterprises worldwide, make a real difference. Our grandchildren will thank us for it. That’s enough pontificating from me for one day. Time to close down my computer and screen, oh and flick the switch to override the standby function while I’m at it…small things…..


Counting the Costco

CostcoAs my team will attest, I am a huge fan of Costco. Have been since I started shopping there 20 years ago when in UK. Since the Queensland store at North Lakes opened a few weeks ago I have been twice. It has been heaving. We queued for well over an hour to actually get into the car park then perhaps another hour to get our membership card ($60 thank you very much) before we finally got inside the store. If I was at Coles or Woolworths I would had had steam coming out my ears by this stage. Sure my heart rate was raised – but from anticipation, not frustration. Once inside you could barely navigate the infamously proportioned Costco trolley (about the size of one and half normal supermarket trolleys) due to the throng of excited shoppers. Looking about I realised that it was exactly the same as every Costco I have ever been in before. What a relief.

As our household had had its regular shop done on that Wednesday we were more just ‘tourists’ than anything else. We didn’t need any groceries. Our shopping trolley was merely to help us navigate the thronging masses. We left happy and pushed our over-flowing trolley back to the car some 20Kg heavier and $516 lighter! Should Australia get attacked and we are blockaded by an enemy Navy please feel free to come to our place for supplies of toilet paper, kitchen paper towels, Head and Shoulders shampoo, dishwashing liquid, beer nuts and Berocca tablets. We have enough to withstand I reckon about a 6 month siege.

On reflection I asked myself why I would come away having spent so much, and yet feel so contented. I would spend less than this each week at Coles or Woolworths and feel annoyed both with the total spend and the shopping experience. Well therein lies the answer … the shopping experience. Let me run down what I think constitutes the USPs (unique selling points) that makes Costco such an attractive destination for shoppers.

  1. You have some skin in the game. It is a warehouse club and you pay an annual fee ($60). While some might baulk at this, you do feel like it’s your shop and this reflects in your attitude when shopping. The fact that your card is checked going in and your trolley going out, feels right because it’s kind of ‘exclusive’. The fact is the losses (from theft) at Costco are much lower than industry standards as a result;
  2. The initial experience of getting a car park is a good one. What Costco do well is create generous sized car park spaces, much larger than what you might see at our two main supermarket companies. There is little to no chance of some young person thrusting their vehicle door open onto the side of your car as Costco have designed their parks with about an extra 1.5m space. By comparison the weekly shop at your local supermarket is a panel-beaters dream;
  3. Once in the door with your over-sized trolley, you simultaneously hit the ‘man and woman’ zone. Shopping is made stressful by what I refer to as the ‘split couple manoeuvre’. I am not the only one, I am sure, when shopping finding myself drawn to the ‘man’ shop while my partner goes to the shoe shop or Lorna Jane for example. This then results in a potential person lost situation and difficulty in re-connecting. Time and a number of mobile phone calls later (turn your damn phone on) are required to get you re-united and back on track. Costco have this down to a tee. When you first enter its TVs and stereos (for the blokes) but just alongside this is jewellery for the women. Trying not to be sexist here of course, but at a meta-level I am sure it probably holds true. Because Costco’s man and woman zone are in line of sight of each other, the couple can reconnect easily to commence the remainder of their journey through the store. No raised blood pressure, no partner left fuming;
  4. Hunger on a big shop is a recognised hazard. What Costco do well is having in-store ‘try before you buy’ areas where a range of food, savoury and sweet, can be tasted. We are not talking the traditional supermarket nano-sized samples here. This is an American company. The punnets are well proportioned and the morsels generous. So much so that if you try something at each station you won’t need lunch. Cleverly, if you take the typical route through the store, you can commence with a starter, have a main and finish off with a nice gelato or sorbet;
  5. Costco works because things are in bulk. To shop successfully you need a good handle on unit pricing. What amazed me on my first two experiences here is the amount of unit pricing information shoppers seem to carry in their head. Everywhere in the store I could see and hear people working out how much cheaper x or y was compared to Coles or Woolies. This despite the fact that it might take twice as long to get through a 1 kg tub of Feta Cheese when 500g might be the optimal size anyway;
  6. The check-outs are always manned and always busy. There are no closed lanes ‘I’m off on a break’ experiences at Costco. While the queue is at first daunting, it moves quickly and you are confronted with the ‘restaurant’. I will use the word restaurant loosely because it is a simple affair selling hotdogs and pizza slices the size of a small principality, at prices that will astound. Clearly Costco knock these belly-fillers out at below cost. It does mean though you can leave satisfied on a full stomach, muttering about just how cheap the prices were, as you push your trolley with over $700 worth of goods to your car;
  7. When you get home you feel good because you have bought goods cheaper than at your local supermarket, no thought to the cash-flow implications however. Very little satisfies more than the smug shopper;
  8. The goods are top quality. Most are established brands, but for those not familiar with the Kirkland brand, it is a value for money robust product line ranging from shirts to bin liners. Believe me when I say that a Kirkland bin liner is twice the thickness of one from your local supermarket at a much cheaper price;
  9. Every month or so Costco bring in their new ‘enticers’ which draws you back into the shop for a look at these specials. This frequency roughly coincides with your next visit having got substantially through some of the bulk items previously purchased. And so the cycle continues. Simple. Obvious, Brilliant.

What can we learn from this at CTC? Well lots I think. Firstly we need to think about the customer experience before the actual engagement. What can we do to make the period before arriving at CTC a good one? We have commenced on-line booking of facilities (Hot Leasing and room hire) and are well on the way to a fully automated system.

We can delight with our pricing and we believe we are already kicking some goals here. We can boost a sense of engagement with CTC and create that ‘skin in the game’ feeling. Hot Leasing with the Hot Leasing Agreement is an example of this.

Our soon to be announced Hot Office will be another example we hope as well. When with us, we can optimise the experience by our friendly ‘no problem too great’ approach.

The recently re-signed exterior to the CTC office, more clearly identifying us as the Precinct Reception, is an endeavour in this direction. Improved way-finding we hope will also assist so those coming for training (our customers) such that their experience here is a happy one. And why shouldn’t it be? Most will leave the CTC Precinct better qualified than when they arrived.

All we need to do now is work out a way to sell Hot Dogs for $1.50 and we will have cracked it! We could well become the Costco of Training Precincts. Now that’s an accolade worth aspiring to.


MUSCLING UP

I was in J B Hifi last night and was in the ‘indie’ music isle. Rightly so, given my demographic, I was challenged by the musical savant yuf (shop assistant) who asked if he could help me. It wasn’t the usual how may I help you and secure further commission type of challenge, but more of a ‘Are you lost in here?’ sneer. I asked politely if he had the Muscle Shoals DVD and he looked blankly at me and asked whether it was a fitness video! I tried hard to disguise my bemusement and incredulity as the music-savvy young man clearly had some big gaps in his musical heritage. Fair play to him though as he displayed a bit more respect as he handed over the DVD from the documentary section having searched the store database. Glancing at the cover and he must have realised that he had a bit more homework to do.
Not letting the grass (non Woodstock variety) grow under my feet, I watched the DVD last night in great admiration. In short Muscle Shoals is the name of a small town in Alabama that has two recording studios. Something special happens when records are made there and some of the greatest popular music of all time has been made in the very modest studios. Coupled with this the small band of homeboy players who were the resident studio band (affectionately known as the Swampers) were the backing band on some of the greatest albums ever made. How such a turn of events came about is a great story in its own right.
Everyone knows of Aretha Franklin. For any who don’t –click below for a taster. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTFFm3fYuQc
What I hadn’t realised is that while everyone recognised Aretha’s talent it hadn’t turned itself into record sales at the beginning of her career. It was only after a visit to Fame studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama did it take off with hit after hit. A certain punchiness replaced the earlier lush sound under Columbia. That punchy sound was the result of a rag tag group of players known as the Swampers who helped define a soulful black sound. A sound that has stood the test of time. A sound created by a band of white men playing behind black singers in the highly segregated State in the 1960s. Another great voice of the time, on the Chess label, was Etta James. For me the sound of Muscle Shoals is at its prime on the Etta James recordings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bwZSEtoUVU&list=PL8BC032CA2F668F55
The talent that cycled through Muscle Shoals is phenomenal . Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, Wilson Pickett, Alicia Keys, Boz Scaggs, and so many more.
Ever a list- maker, this prompted me to choose my favourite female singers of all time. Never an easy task but if you want to hear true voices that would have the Voice judges turning each and every time, check out:
1) Dusty Springfield. For me the best of all time. Check out Dusty in Memphis – one of the best recordings of all time! Even Tarintino agrees. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjydOI4MEIw
2) Etta James. Check out the album Peaches The track here is the Muscle Shoals recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bwZSEtoUVU
3) Patti Labelle. Just a great set of pipes. The real reason to become POTUS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvYKQrBmU08
4) Gladys Knight. Such depth and tone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-3xn91FOaU
5) Mavis Staples Part of a talented family but the standout voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=772YR4_rOBU
6) Miriam Makeba. South African singer who when on tour criticised the South African regime and they banned her from returning home. Amazing story, amazing voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iktKbIKZh9I
7) Aretha Franklin. Of course. Oft copied never better. That’s the Swampers rhythm section http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0&list=RD6FOUqQt3Kg0
8) Nina Simone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdLLW3AGslg
9) Ella Fitzgerald.– incomparable. Check this Nelson Riddle arrangement against number 12 below http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9GrjZhi4BA
10) Doris Day. Yes Doris Day. Don’t be the best be the longest! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPs0H4cydGU
11) Carol King. Singer-songwriter par excellence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qde5NMy7WTU
12) Billie Holiday. Lady Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P0hG3sD0-ESinead O’Connor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUiTQvT0W_0
13) Susan Tedeschi – From Tedeschi Trucks band. Obama agrees http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07rT1t2hkDU
14) Amy Winehouse. Legendary voice – almost of another time. Tragic loss. A voice up there with Peggy Lee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJAfLE39ZZ8
15) Grace Slick The voice of a generation Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WANNqr-vcx0
16) Lisa Fischer – sure a backing singer but wow what a voice. Favourite of the Rolling Stones. See her on tour here later this year hopefully. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baQWjaKHkGQ
17) Mariza – Portuguese Fado music. Not to everyone’s taste but what a voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiU0fkwrviM
18) Megan Washington – hugely talented and Aussie to boot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytu-DJk9uU4
19) Phoebe Cockburn – part of the sadly defunct Snakadaktal and another Aussie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GB0PY_X_wI
20) Chrissie Hynde http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lML2N4xB9GU The angst of adolescence made easier
21) Dolores O’Riordan ex Cranberries just brilliant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBPDGBmPIBI
22) Mary Coughlan – tough life but gives her voice that extra soul that makes her such a great jazz voice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B_1JpK7OHw
23) Joni Mitchell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7MbmXklj3Q Indie music in the 1960s/70s
24) Donna Summer – Made disco almost tolerable . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2q2bis6eLE
25) Annie Lennox – had to have someone from Scotland on the list. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG7I4oniOyA
What can we learn from this? Well it strikes me that what these singers and Muscle Shoals have in common is a very clear sense of purpose and are genuine. They don’t over-promise they just deliver consistently well. At CTC we can learn a lot from this. With new services about to be announced to complement our Hot Leasing initiative we need to keep consistent and genuine. Muscle Shoals is still around today. We hope to be around a long time too.


The Democratisation of the VIP Experience

 

I know I am going to reveal my age when I tell you that I was booking some Eagles tickets online last week. I got them in the pre-sale (thanks Jackie). I don’t get the notion of pre-sale. The tickets are either on sale or not – surely? Herein lies the rub. There is now a group who can get in before the rest of us, who can get first try at the seats. This used to be for the privileged few. Now it is available to those who hold say a Visa Card or an Amex card. (C’mon Mastercard I want my own crack at a pre-sale ticket).  What annoyed me was the number of seating categories. There used to be something like Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold the best obviously and then silver if you have a good set of binoculars. Bronze – well only if you want to tell your grandkids you were there.

In the last year or so, a new über-category has emerged. There are now Platinum and Diamond and Printer Ink categories. These of course are just the best of the Gold seats. The question the white-board brigade (marketers) have had to grapple with on a quiet Thursday afternoon is how to charge more but give the impression you are getting much more for your money. This is where the VIP experience comes in. Now the more expensive seats have what marketeers call a ‘value add’. Remember value add is equivalent to cost add. The key question is whether the additional experience, or merchandise is worth paying that premium for. So now for concerts you can hang around in an exclusive area. I think I noticed it first with Prince but it has featured with the Rolling Stones as well and now the Eagles. In the past, the VIP experience was not one that was wealth-linked. It was whether you were in the know – part of the privileged few.  Your ‘up close and personal’ experience with the artists can now be purchased. In a way you can call this more democratic. The only thing between you and Keith Richard now is your wallet (or purse). Personally I find this a bit offensive and I feel duped. It doesn’t apply to all at this stage, at least Bruce Springsteen kept it real.

Saying that, a few months ago I found myself backstage at the Rocky Horror Picture Show and having my own ‘up close and personal’ with Frankenfurter (Craig McLachlan). You see I had inadvertently purchased two VIP seats. I wasn’t aware they were, I just thought they were nice and close to the front and in the middle; pretty much where I sit for any show at QPAC. Turns out I paid quite a lot extra for a pair of fishnet stockings, garish red lipstick, free program and photo opportunity with some of the cast. I kicked myself because I realised that I had paid over the top for what was otherwise the same experience as someone sitting a few seats away, save for a few cheap titbits. I had been on-sold without realising. ‘Caveat emptor’ I hear you say and point taken.

While I did get the photo and proudly displayed it on my computer wallpaper at work, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a very sanitised experience. Because money had got me the VIP gig I was fairly heavily chaperoned. After all when the VIP is someone ‘in the know’, then reputation and ‘he’s a friend of a friend’ allows the guard to be dropped much more so. There were no dressing room drinkies with the cast for us, just a strictly managed photo with three cast members who got rotated on a nightly basis. So this got me wondering…what’s happened to the ‘genuine’ VIPs of yesteryear? They were no-where to be seen. I can only surmise that they have stepped up a category and have joined the newly formed body known as the VVIP. They still get the unfettered access. It’s ‘old money’. No riff raff (pun intended) in that group. Despite how much money you have and how willing you are to shell it out, that kind of access is still as elusive as it ever was.

All this reflection, as always, pulls me back to work matters. At CTC we treat everyone as equally as we can. No-one is a VIP; they should just be treated as such. However if you want to come Hot Leasing with us (sounds like a racy song from Rocky Horror) we will do that little bit extra to make your time with us special. Who knows you may even get a backstage pass!


Budget – You’re Having a Laugh

 

I don’t want to get political here. Plenty of others have done that in recent days when discussing  the budget. Instead I want to talk about humour. A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of seeing Patricia Routlege in a show at QPAC called Admission One Schilling which was about Dame Judith Hess who did lunchtime concerts in London during World War II to raise morale. Patricia Routledge will be known to some as Mrs Bucket in the British comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. She did a wonderful job narrating the thoughts and letters of Hess. In it she quoted Hess as saying that one of the most necessary attributes in life and as a concert pianist was to have a sense of humour. That resonated with me. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and just need a good laugh; especially at our own expense.

What has this got to do with the budget you might ask – surely that is no laughing matter.  Budgets always have implications for people and there are winners and losers so I wouldn’t be that insensitive. But it did strike me that there was a social policy component to the recent budget that hasn’t really been commented on by the journalists and pundits. And that is about where we should be heading as a nation as a result of the new direction the Government has set for us. What is known in ‘poli-speak’ as the policy settings. That’s enough about the budget. Now onto the serious matter of humour.

I often find that peoples’ sense of humour fall into one of two categories. Without putting too fine a point on it people either like UK comedy shows or American. You either like Extras and Life’s Too Short (UK), or you like 3rd Rock and Big Bang Theory (US). It is really a toss-up between liking the underdog who always seems to get dumped on and who never quite seems to make it (UK comedy) or the US variant – wise-cracking larger than life characters, above their peers who always come out on top (think Joey in Friends, think the characters in Golden Girls).

Come to think of it, social policy is a bit like that. You either want us to be like the British or the Americans. Britain has been the country of great social reformation e.g. Bevan and Beveridge the architects of the social welfare system for example. The American model on the other hand is based much more on individuals and personal responsibility, with community supporting those less well off. The concept of small government and philanthropy is much more mature in the US. It’s got a lot to do with the religious underpinnings of each nation.

For the US it is the austere written word of the early Pilgrims convinced in the belief of something better and the redemptive opportunity in life – where self-improvement is possible for all. Contrast this with the UK/European approach based on a more high-Church submissive and doctrinal under-pinning.  There are flaws in both models without a doubt but it does hold up as a theory when applied to social policy. The movement towards a more US model perhaps happened subtly in the recent budget but to me it seemed quite obvious. The Protestant foundation of the US has, at its core, that you can be lectured at, or sermonised to the point that improvement is not only possible but actually occurs. Look at the increasing proportion of Black America’s representation in the middle class.  That also explains why so many self-help books are written by Americans.

The pulling one up by one’s own bootstraps is a firmly held belief. For those with a social reformation perspective, there is a feeling that self-redemption isn’t always within reach for all. When this situation occurs there needs to be a safety net. The removal of certain safeguards of welfare appears to put more burden of families and communities to look after their own. When at first glance this might appear unfeeling or unjust, when taking an American perspective on it, it actually is an acknowledgement that the afflicted just need a helpful nudge in the right direction. Either way no-one really suffers.

The move towards a more US-styled healthcare system and a more US-styled educational system is a prime example of the axis with the US impacting not only our military and foreign policy but also social policy as well. In the US the debate around the role of government is quite polarised. At one end of the spectrum you have those who advocate Hayek economics where individuals are omnipotent shoppers capable of determining best price and able to spend vouchers wisely in their best interests.

At the other end of the spectrum those with a welfare (paternalistic) bent can regard the individual as an idiot child requiring a rational and even-handed Government to act always in the best interest of the individual on the basis that the individual doesn’t really know what is best for themselves. It would appear that our policy settings are becoming more Boolean – either the US free market approach, or the UK social reformation approach. It’s funny how we might be looking fondly at the US and pining for their approach to welfare (education is regarded as a basic right under the Constitution but universal healthcare is not) while many in the US look enviously in our direction pining for what we have.

So what sort of comedy do I like?  For me it’s the darker, more cynical and better written humour of the British sitcom. That is not to say that I don’t like the occasional American comedian and I’ve seen a few in stand-up.  I enjoy Kimmel, Stewart, et al. and their quips and sassiness can be entertaining at times, but ultimately I think a bit tiresome.

So to lighten the tone on what has been a fairly downbeat blog there are a few comedians and comedy shows that might be worth ferreting out on You Tube.

In no particular order.

Coupling – The first series is hilarious. It was the UK answer to Friends. Funnier, edgier and at time excruciatingly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g0g4Gn5DAo

The Office (UK). Painful, funny, tragic and sadly true to life. Avoid The Office (US) as it’s a pale imitation. You could do an MBA, or just watch the complete Office Series! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkYUDQCYGHA

Extras. As with anything by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it is a finely observed comment on life and has layers of pathos. Self-deprecation and hubris in equal measure. I defy you not to find this funny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwJoNSuFCC0

Life’s Too Short. More  from the Gervais-Merchant team http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lldrizLu_d8

Alan Partridge starring Steve Coogan

Fawlty Towers Watch re-runs and get RPL’d for a Cert IV in hotel management http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6EaoPMANQM

Blackadder A complete history lesson without opening a book

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01R_lP51Pw0

Comedy is the microcosm that enables us to examine the difference between the two pervasive influences on Australian culture – Britain and America. It really is important to decide which comedy path we prefer and for that matter which social policy suits our national character.

 

 


Beyond the Baseline – The Green Cities Conference 2014

Kent-LI was at the Green Cities Conference this week and it, along with my attendance of Total Facilities Live expo, has firmed up my belief that green issues and sustainability are gradually fading from the headlines.

I don’t think it is intentional on the most part, but there may be an aggregation of events that is pushing it down the political agenda and public consciousness. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but to a real extent I think it is due to the 24 hour news cycle and our current penchant for getting our news digitally or in tabloid format.

The tabloid, and to a degree the tablet, have barely enough space for any detail. So when we get news that the ice in the Antarctic, for example, is growing not shrinking, we absorb that headline and a few other facts before moving on to the next story e.g. Russia annexing the Crimea.

What we are failing to pick up are the nuances and the detail which on further reading leads one, once again, to the conclusion that global warming is indeed a fact. The old days of the broadsheets would have headlines and analysis. It seems our busy lives (which presumably technology was meant to make easier and more relaxing) afford us little time beyond headline grabbing as we head off to work. Hands up whose eating breakfast at work!

Coupled with a harsh cold winter in North America, it is no wonder that the population starved of proper news is jumping, in a number of cases, to the wrong conclusions. Global warming is real and we need to act now to ensure it is not irreversible.

With specific reference to Green Cities 2014, it would appear that the low hanging fruit has been plucked. We have built the 6 Green Star buildings to much fanfare and now all that is left is retrofitting existing building stock; not nearly so glamorous.

The built environment is responsible for such a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions; it is incumbent on those who work in this space to start providing some redress.

At CTC we have been doing our bit through our carbon offsets (and yes I offset my airfares to Melbourne and back) for the office and even our website is carbon neutral. CTC runs the precinct from a carbon negative office. That said the whole complex is some way off carbon neutrality, to a large degree because of the low level of public transportation used by those who attend each day.

So it was to the experts that I was looking for inspiration to get my green sensibilities juiced up and inspired again.

The biggest impact for me was the keynote by Kent Larson from MIT. He advocates looking beyond the buildings themselves and adopting a grander scale – that of the city. While cities are not likely to go backwards in terms of size, Larson draws inspiration from the medieval settlements that were the precursors to our current great cities before they became the unwieldy metropolises that they are today.

The rule of thumb then, and what he calls for now, is linked communities all within a 20 minute walk. He points to Paris as a shining example of this and also Melbourne to some degree. In other words a series of linked villages which, when combined, make a city.

He points to three big challenges.

The first is transportation and he and his team are designing an electric car scheme that works like the current bike system in many major cities including the under-used Brisbane City Bicycle system.

The beauty of his car is that it is able to fold to a third of its size, meaning that five can fit into the space of one conventional US motor vehicle. At a cost of $30k per underground car park in New York this is a big saving on space and money, freeing up much needed real estate for affordable housing. In Brisbane an overground multi-story car park is around $15k per car park to build, let alone the opportunity cost of having that sitting idle much of the time.

The second aspect concerning Larson and his team is the need for affordable housing on a much smaller footprint. They are busy designing base-plate apartments based on the New York loft model and then by using mechanisation the space is transformed for different purposes at different times.

This is collaborative consumption brought right home to one’s domestic life. Once you are finished with the evening meal you don’t need the dining room so it gets changed into some other function. The bedroom, for example, is only the bedroom when one needs to sleep. This has meant a liveable footprint that is only 17% the size of a traditional small New York apartment. Already Ikea is exploring how they might make a range of furniture units available to make this a reality.

The other challenge that his team are confronting is the need for food security within the city itself. Those Medieval villages that grew to become our great cities had food production close to them which improved their chances of survival. Larson suggests that we need to become food self-sufficient within the Cities ourselves e.g. within each 20 minute arrondissement, as it were, for those who have wandered the streets of Paris.

Large scale hydroponics is the key, according to Larson and he envisages the facades of buildings being covered in plants in the not too distant future. By this calculation the heat signature of our major cities will reduce by around four degrees Centigrade and our carbon footprint much reduced as a result.

The challenge now resides in converting this vision into a reality.

It has taken less effort than many thought it might for developers to embrace Green Star for both bottom-line and environmental benefit. Lend Lease for example has developed over 122,000m² of green star space accounting for 44 new certified green buildings across the globe.

One hopes that similar vigour is brought to bear in up-scaling this thinking to a city level.

At CTC we are trying to do our bit. Once again the Hot Leasing concept at CTC fares well with its underlying principle of sweating assets to reduce unwanted idling time. Let’s hope for the sake of the environment that it gets well utilised and drives similar initiatives elsewhere.

Now if we only get all those tradies to ride a bike to work…..

http://www.greencities.org.au/