Mastering SAP Highlights, Sydney 2019 (Part 3 of 3)

Back in 2019, a friend recommended me for a weekend gig that involved attending and covering an SAP conference in Sydney. Being completely curious and interested in what this would entail, I said “yes”. So here now is the third of three articles produced for Inside SAP.

This piece was published on 28 March 2019.

The original piece can still be read on the company’s website.

Ilya Popov shares his thoughts on attending Sydney’s Mastering SAP 2019 conference.

As with every conference of this scope, there were more presentations and people to meet than it’s humanly possible to do within a specifically allotted amount of time. Luckily, we were able to ultimately meet, shake the hands of, learn from, listen to, and even interview several people.

It’s easy to forget that these yearly gatherings would not be possible without the tremendous background effort of the organisations involved in helping these events come together. The Eventful Group spent nine months preparing alongside organisations, speakers and venues to make it happen, and the entire event went down without a hitch and ran like clockwork. That’s no small feat. On behalf of everyone at Inside SAP: THANK YOU!

The Eventful Group did not operate in isolation – they had the help of their sponsors and partners, including Diamond Partner, EY. Standardising procedures, improving workflows, submissions methods, programming bugs, information at this conference is of benefit to every single Australian SAP user.

But what did Inside SAP think?

Well. Change certainly came up a lot. A considerable amount of time was spent discussing the human factor. How do we get people on board? How do we help others understand change? How do we train up people who’re in the latter half of their careers and need to learn new protocols and procedures? How do we explain the importance of cybersecurity to them?

Casualisation is another matter of concern. Australia’s economy has shown an increased number of employees working casual hours due to a variety of needs. SAP’s staff, particularly at Fieldglass, stressed that the permanent workforce is going nowhere, to the relief of many. But do expect to see more contract positions come into existence, for short- to medium-term projects – particularly for those initiatives that require skills from overseas.

And finally, there was the concern around communication. Particularly around employee layers within organisations. Whenever change occurs, it will be important for any organisation to have those who readily embrace change, those who are hesitant, and those who question its need. Each of these three social divisions can be of benefit to each other, to ensure that fools don’t rush in where angels fear to tread.

It’s important for co-workers to have a mutually beneficial back-and-forth dialogue, and to teach and train one another. Particularly when dramatic new changes occur – in such instances, the importance of having enthusiastic employees willing to convince their co-workers of the merits of change is vital.

In the words of Richard Hunt, Managing Director of Turnkey Consulting:

 “In my experience these events can often be overrun with consultants and vendors but at this one I saw a real commitment from client teams who were there to learn and network. So hats off to the organisers!”

Change, education, communication, all of this leads to well-oiled organisations ready to face the future and ready to engage with changing security protocols and measures, and thus expect the same level of compliance from any and all partners and supply chain partners.


Mastering SAP Highlights, Sydney 2019 (Part 2 of 3)

Back in 2019, a friend recommended me for a weekend gig that involved attending and covering an SAP conference in Sydney. Being completely curious and interested in what this would entail, I said “yes”. So here now is the second of three articles produced for Inside SAP.

This piece was published on 27 March 2019.

The original piece can still be read on the company’s website.

Last week, many delegates attended Mastering SAP in Sydney to ask about Agility and the future of the workforce.

In this space, Toni Jackson (APAC Director, SAP Fieldglass) highlighted 3 key elements affecting the future of work, which she identified as: 

  1. Talent and technology transformation
  2. The new Agile workforce
  3. Regulation and innovation

With 70% of business leaders believing they need a new mix of talent and skills in the future, Toni provided further information for companies and employees coming to understand and integrate agile methodologies into their workplace practices:

  • Traditional employees will be joined by contractors, freelancers, and crowd-sourced talent
  • Routine work will be further automated by robots and AI
  • Companies will focus on truly human skills
  • Careers will be built around learning rather than jobs

A few more key takeaways we highlighted from the show included the importance of bringing people along for the transformation and change journey and including the human factor in change and its cousin, security.

Alongside the changes that are happening in the workspace, technology shifts are a concern from an operational and legislative standpoint, as discussed by Grant Smith (General Manager, Energy Queensland).  When we deal with issues like identity theft or cyber attacks, he explained, we don’t actually know anything about the human that’s engaged in the theft. We only experience the repercussions of their actions. He said:

“It’s one thing to identify the Human. It’s one thing to identify the Machine. It’s another thing to identify the Human behind the machine”

David Roberts (VP, Executive Advisory Council, SAP & Advisor, UnderArmour USA) discussed a paradigm shift in his presentation “The Case for a Finance-Centric Organisation.”

“We were able to have a discussion around SAP HANA for finance and what it means to shift the paradigm from the traditional way to run the business to having a finance centred business and how other companies have gone through that journey.”

During his talk “Making Digital Change Happen,” Andrew Bettenay (CIO, Endeavour Energy,) pointed out very clearly that

“Coming up with a strategy that makes sense can and must be done quickly. But do not assume that all impacted stakeholders are able to come on the journey as quickly.”

This same sentiment was shared by Mark Weatherford (USA Department of Homeland Security’s first Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity.). When asked about what was of paramount concern to him, Mark explained:

“My greatest concern honestly is the third-tier suppliers that you touch too because you really don’t know what they’re doing, what their posture looks like, and what their security practices are, and if they’re touching your environment you basically get their diseases.”

In a heavily Security and Risk oriented conference, many speakers made it clear that their are more questions than answers. What’s needed is more communication and education around security. We need to develop imaginative minds, capable of envisaging potential problems or issues before they arise, so as to catch them in advance. We need to first remember that we’re dealing with technology and the people behind it. 

Read part 3 here.

Want to know more about the speakers and their companies? 

SAP Fieldglass:

Under Armour:

Endeavour Energy:

Energy Queensland:

Mastering SAP Highlights, Sydney 2019 (Part 1 of 3)

Back in 2019, a friend recommended me for a weekend gig that involved attending and covering an SAP conference in Sydney. Being completely curious and interested in what this would entail, I said “yes”. So here now is the first of three articles produced for Inside SAP.

This piece was published on 26 March 2019.

The original piece can still be read on the company’s website.

Mastering SAP Sydney too place last week on the 18th and 19th of March. The opening presentations had a strong emphasis on security and risk in addition to recurring industry staples.

As with most trade shows and conventions, there’s never enough time to meet, speak with, and catch up with everyone we’d like. However, we did have the pleasure of meeting several brilliant people and attending some highly informative presentations. Notably, we listened in on Mark Weatherford (former USA Department of Homeland Security’s first Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity) providing unique insights into the world of supply chains and the risks they can be exposed to through a lack of due diligence and poor security. 

Organisations both large and small can make the exact same mistakes and suffer equally similar financial, social, and physical repercussions. Consider the assorted manufacturing and distribution pipelines at risk for the car manufacturing industry in a world where we can buy German cars with Dutch engines that have Taiwanese computer sensors, American-made wheels, powered by petrol imported from the UAE. The fallout that would ensue if even a single link in that chain were to rupture or break for any period of time can have vast and negative knock-on effects upon other connected suppliers, distributers, wholesalers, and retailers.

As such, it’s important to map one’s supply chains, identify where problems might emerge, and critically: engage with staff. Want to avoid having staff that feel like a nameless cog? Engage with your employees. Brief them regularly. Create a culture that values security and awareness – to know how and when to spot potential issues or problems. 

The changes being undertaken by the ATO are a particularly relevant subject to many delegates at Mastering SAP. Matt Voce (Local Product Manager, SAP Australia) addressed Single Touch Payroll in his session: “Deep Dive: Understanding Single Touch Payroll for a Successful Go-Live.” The ATO is currently undergoing the biggest change in tax-related legislation since World War 2.  We live in a world of constant change, uncertain as to how anything will work in the future. Yet Australian tax law has, despite obvious developments, not undergone a drastic upgrade in over 70 years. 

Matt shared advice and guidance on navigating the change as the STP deadline approaches on the 1st July 2019. His session included a live demo and real feedback from SAP Payroll customers.

As many surely noticed, the topic of security was also a focal theme at the conference. And who better to speak to on the matter than Melissa Price, the CEO of Aust Cyber, who spoke of the importance of a holistic and inclusive strategy to ensure good security practices, standards and enforcement. 

“Everyone is responsible for security now”, because if organisations are going to manage risks, it has to involve people from different business unites, and every single person in an organisation needs to be provided a unique set of incentives to entice them to learn about and care about security and change in policies, software, hardware, and procedures. But to avoid a simple band-aid solution, we need to employ change management to ensure the right long-term decisions are made and applied properly.

On Identity Management, we spoke with Simon Ell at Sailpoint, a company that specialises in identity governance, risk management, and access certification. Consider: staff members come and go at organisations, and sometimes a new hire will inherit the computer and access privileges of the previous owner of that particular position. Often times, inheriting a person’s role involves having access to all the same files, directories, and systems of the previous job holder. 

But is that necessary? Should someone be able to access folders and files they don’t understand or don’t need access to? Failing to track folder privileges can lead to security risks. 

There’s an obvious overlap between the need for wise managerial policies that can ensure employees remain engaged and understand the value of sound and change-prone security policies. Such goals cannot be attained if we do not first stop to pause and reflect upon a long-term strategy. 

Opening speaker Dr Jason Fox, summarised the concept when he said: “I guess my hope for folks is that we can pause and reflect a little bit more.”

Read part 2 here.

Interested in learning more about the people we met?

Dr. Jason Fox:

SAP Australia:


The Nervous System, or Share This!

Back in 2018, I briefly worked for a travel company. In the time I was there, I got this one article out the door, that looked at platform capitalism and sharing economies.

“Nobody legislates technology into being. They don’t legislate the birth of the internet or cell phones or anything. They’re called forth into the market, and the people who call them forth often have absolutely no idea how these things they’ve thought of will most change society. It’s impossible to tell until people have the things, and they’re using them.”

– William Gibson

Duty of Care: a moral and/or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others

This modern life

Are you planning to travel in the near future? If so, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with hotels and taxis. Why? Because over the last sixty years, and two millennia, it’s become the norm; people expect to have to use both when travelling. Especially business travellers. They need to get around. And they want to do it with minimal fuss and hassle. The whole thing should be as easy as ordering a pizza.


But consider what’s under the hood of this process? What goes on in the engine powering the world’s travel systems? It’s not a question commonly asked; we’ve become so accustomed to simply being able to travel from Point A to Point B that there’s no mystique, no curiosity in the background procedures, protocols, and processes that daily ferry humans around the world for business, leisure, and other assorted reasons. Ever wonder how payments are processed? How insurance policies are agreed upon? Who decides what airline and car rental company you’ll be using?

For corporate and business travellers? Here’s what’s under the hood. Their employer will likely utilise the services of a travel management company (TMC); the TMC in turn will provide the organisation with a travel policy. What, dear reader, is a travel policy? Well, here’s how QBT lays it out to The Uninitiated:

‘The purpose of a travel policy is to provide employees with clear guidelines around the expenditure of their employer’s funds for business travel. The policy clearly outlines the process to be taken when booking travel for business reasons.’

Travel policies include recommendations such as what online booking tool to use, which payment methods to utilise, rules for domestic and international travel, preferred approaches to hiring cars and organising other ground transport, and more. By following the guidelines laid out in a travel policy, a traveller remains “in policy”. Which TMCs like. It helps them meet their Duty of Care obligations. A company’s travel policy? It’s their Yellow Brick Road.

Ebb and Flow

Generally, we can rest assured knowing that everything will be fine. There’s an order to things, a rhythm, structure. We know how things will work. There’s a concierge at the front desk, near a vaguely rectangular stand containing hundreds of brochures and guides to local sights, attractions, oddities, restaurants, pubs, as well as maps of the region.

It’s comfortable, knowing what to expect. It helps reduce our stress levels, makes us feel safe, and allows us to get on with dealing with other matters of importance to us, be it social calls, business matters, or personal engagements. We want to be able to get on with things with a minimal amount of fuss and stress.

The reason we’re able to do so is because of the complex and interwoven set of human actions and digital protocols that weave together to ensure we never feel unsure of ourselves, and know what to do even in the most unlikely of circumstances. We’ve been given phone numbers, contact details, our employer knows where we are. All things we don’t really think about it because it’s what we expect.

Welcome to quality duty of care.

Duty of care exists to ensure that travellers, be they clients or employees, feel safe, taken care of, have had their travel process made as easy and simple as possible, are armed with the most up to date information, know what to expect, and who to contact and what to do in the case of an emergency.

And we expect this. It’s the norm.

No maps for these territories

Circa 2018, our picture of what The Norm ought to be has found itself frazzled. Over the last decade, an emergent phenomenon identified as the Sharing Economy, or the Platform Economy in some instances, or even Platform Capitalism, has slowly infiltrated the structures put into place to hurl us around our pale blue dot.

The question seeking to voice itself in your mind probably wants to know: is there a difference between those terms, or are they all just synonym of each other? Let’s burst the bubble right now: they’re not the same thing. They may share a common set of roots, but they are not an equivocal set of terms.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s start with the term ‘Sharing Economy’. When this term is used, it’s usually understood to be referring to legitimate, albeit small organisations and platforms, the kind that exist to engage in a legitimate sharing – be it of services through apps such as Yerdle, a communal centre such as Sydney’s reverse garbage centre in Enmore, or even a community neighbourhood page on Facebook where neighbours can ask for assistance. The idea behind it is as simple as it sounds: help one another out in the spirit of community spirit. Think of them as localised life hacks.

Then there’s the ‘Platform Economy’. That’s what Uber, Lyft, Airbnb – large, heavily-valuated services – are, even though many insist on referring to them as being part of the “share” economy. It’s a little misleading. These organisations – they’re different beasts, and arguably are little more than digitally-enabled expansions of the existing market economy. As some technology critics have argued, the nature of their software, social design, and business approach would in fact mark them out as being the opposite of sharing. Thus, as mentioned earlier, another term used to describe such organisations is Platform Capitalism.

For better or worse, the emergence of this (usually app-driven) secondary economy has presented new and unusual challenges to travel management companies and how they tackle duty of care, as well as customer expectations – something that inherently ties into duty of care.

If we consider, for example, Airbnb, we find a Platform Economy service that, according to the American Bureau of Statistics, led to a 3.7% decrease in annual hotel profits in 2014. How and why? By providing alternative accommodation options that provide travellers with a novelty – or more “authentic” – travel “experiences”, as well as – potentially – a way to meet new people, establish new friendships and even business connections.

From the viewpoint of those with temporarily rentable spare rooms, it provides a means by which to earn a secondary income ― what Airbnb refers to as “microentrepreneurs”. The perception, the narrative, if you will, that they’re trying to present to would-be users, is thus: why stay in a boring template hotel room, when you, the traveller, can have a more authentic travel experience by staying with a local? It’s as though someone took the Pulp song ‘Common People’ and actualised it into a business plan.

Why stay in an expensive hotel, when you could stay in a comfy, homey, “real” home, in a location that is closer to where you need to be and cheaper than a hotel? And perhaps some of those available accommodations might be closer to a desired location. Or might be cheaper than a hotel.

And of course, the emergence of these services has forced hoteliers to reflect upon their service offerings and seek to adapt to changing customer desires and expectations to compete with the rise of alternative hotel offerings.

The millennial dollar question

The million-dollar question then. What happens if hotels don’t start catering to or try and conform to the needs of contemporary travellers? Well, there is a clear and very obvious concern of losing business, for one, and staff as well. So what’s a hotel or taxi company to do? One option? Start buying up share services, as AccorHotels did when it purchased Onefinestay, a London sharing-service geared towards the high-end market.

Alternatively? Listen to the complaints, and ask the question: why are an increased number of people choosing to use alternative platform services in lieu of established services? What makes a person choose an Airbnb over hotels – a place that guarantees 24/7 reception assistance, privacy, good WIFI speeds, and doesn’t ask you to worry about anything beyond waking up on time?

For better or worse? It’s the experience of the thing.

The current generation? Millennials? Like it or not, they’re reacting against nearly two generations of structural developments which they find soulless, stale, and devoid of any personality. As many hoteliers are slowly discovering, contemporary clients don’t just want a place to stay – they want a hotel that provides a genuine and real experience.

What does that mean? What does that look and sound like? Tune in, listener.

Increasingly, patrons want to have authentic local cultural “experiences”, be serviced by staff members in a less formal (read: “real”) manner, use brands that provide more socially-oriented and progressive attitudes, access fully operational apps, or even something as simple as homier settings. Customers value staff members who are encouraged to establish meaningful and sincere connections with them – to provide a human encounter.

But – because of course there’s a “but”: does that attitude apply to business and corporate travellers? After all, that is the big fish in the hotel industry. Airbnb has certainly tried to get their foot in the door of that market by offering up an Airbnb for Work service. How exactly does that work? Well, it’s not as easy as renting out a simple room.

To quality a property for joining what Airbnb calls the “work collection”, properties must provide, in addition to standard requirements (e.g. amenities, responsiveness, etc.): Wifi, self check-in, a laptop-friendly workspace, an iron, hangers, a hair-dryer, and shampoo. In addition, Airbnb will provide the companies of business travellers with a tool to track spending, receive invoices directly, and manage employees’ itineraries.

The big but – the one that’s a giant eyesore of a white elephant in the room is this: will it appeal to corporate and business travellers? While there has been some researched published that suggests homesick road warriors might find it appealing, many organisations remain ambivalent about the prospect of utilising such services, due to not meeting standard duty of care regulations – notably: an inability to vet the lodging space.

So what should hoteliers and their users alike do?

Be here now

It’s in the best interest of more established, traditional organisations to improve the harmony of their pricing options, branding, and guest experiences, to ensure they can compete with these emergent platform economies. For the business and corporate flyers – their employers need to focus on those things they can control: providing better, more up to date duty of care packages.

Sending a traveller somewhere? Ensuring their safety (duty of care) is paramount. It’s not enough to tick a few security boxes; apply a healthy dose of imagination, to determine what other steps can be taken to ensure that the client feels safe and taken care of. Make sure you know how to get in touch with them should emergency strike.

Are they carrying a phone? Supply an extra charger. Travelling in a taxi? Does it have GPS? Have they been supplied with the most up to date and recent information on their destination, to help them better understand what to expect? Does your organisation have staff available in the location to which they are travelling? Has the organisation performed a thorough risk analysis? Is the client aware of who to contact or call in an emergency situation? Dear reader, if you don’t have an answer for any of these questions, help yourself and your organisation by talking to QBT’s travel representatives.

The locus of control

One element of the duty of care package is something called a Travel Risk Mitigation Toolbox. Their function? To help organisations and travel management companies alike better service the needs of their customers. Which is what QBT provides. 24/7 in-house information service? Check. Real-time alerts? You got it. Traveller tracking with emergency warnings and updates? Absolutely.

At day’s end, obviously, there is only so much any travel management companies can do, including reminding and encouraging their staff to not book out of policy, as that makes everyone’s life and jobs fantastically more stressful and unpleasant. The moment a traveller books out of policy, their nominated travel management companies won’t be able to track their movements. It’s a total jack move, booking out of policy.

Have a better time than most can dream

Platform capitalism and sharing economies are here to stay. We all need to take a deep breath and accept that reality. It’s a case of adapt or die. We need to understand what this new emergent economy is, its many different facets, and what companies / corporations / organisations should know and consider when thinking of embracing, if not even working with, this emergent system.

A Day in the Life of a Management Consultant

In mid-2020, I had a casual contract with health consultancy firm Emerson Health. It was an interesting experience, as I’d never worked in health before, so there was a lot of new information to absorb. A lot. And I had to be quick about it.

Once I’d finally finished building the company’s professional development site (Emerson.Live), we’d pivoted to a content creation focus. Part of the plan involved writing some interesting and original blog material. Here’s one such post I wrote.

“You cannot look twice at the same river, for fresh waters are ever flowing in.”

– Heraclitus

In the world of management consultancy, a lot of people focus on the outcomes, but less often does anyone wonder: “how do they produce what they do?”

In today’s blog, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at. We’re going to pull back the curtains on the life of a management consultant and show a day in the life of a management consultant.

Before getting underway, we’re going to provide a rough, generally-agreed upon definition of a management consultant does. Simply put, a management consultant solves problems for people – usually within a particular field.

Most days for a management consultant involve processing a hefty amount of information, wading through the data, making sense of it all, from both macro and micro levels, and stripping all the data into their assorted, basic parts, so that an important question can be asked: “so what?”

The question exists to frame layers and levels of importance among all the information presented, to establish levels of priority, urgency, and importance. Being able to distinguish between competing levels of importance helps identify where value can be derived, assorted bottlenecks and problems, and drivers of change – or lack thereof. It’s the first step towards the management consultant value proposition of solving other peoples’ problems.

The Sight of the Sun

By identifying the problems plaguing a client, the consultant can then begin the next stage of their job: ideating solutions to the problems and communicating solution suggestions to the client. All the work put into solving a problem is for nothing if it can’t be communicated to a client in a way that will make sense to them.

The ideation process can take place in any number of ways. Perhaps the most common approach utilised during an ideation (or brainstorming) session is to use a whiteboard to write ideas out, to identify correlations, ties, connections, pathways, and – hopefully! – solutions.

A successful ideation session will lead to then determining the best possible way to communicate a strategy to the client. Most often this will come in the form of an easy to digest PowerPoint presentation that lays out the key points and goals in easy to understand language that the client will be able to process and understand. As one of our co-workers like say: “simple but no simpler.”

Why not simply provide a quick verbal update or an email instead?

The simple answer is: that doesn’t respect the relationship between the client and the consultancy. A diligently prepared presentation communicates to the client that real effort is being put into the solution-seeking. Beyond even its function as a value-add proposition, it communicates to the client that their needs are being taken seriously. Beyond the solution-seeking, what’s being fostered is hopefully a continued, long-term relationship between the two organisations. As such, it needs to be treated with an appropriate level of care, thoughtfulness, and trust.

Developing trust between the two parties, establishing a rapport, this helps the management consultant in the long term. Especially when hard, difficult questions and propositions need to be raised to affect a beneficial solution and outcome.

The Speed of Trust

One of the many tasks a management consultant performs is what would likely nowadays be called ‘relationship management’ – maintaining and managing a relationship with a client, having a regular back and forth to identify new concerns, pain points, frustrations, issues, and challenges, and hopefully some solutions.

The formula that can dictate how some management consultants operate is this: when trust goes up – speed goes up. Meaning: decisions are more quickly made, red tape becomes less of an issuer, the number of barriers are reduced, and costs reduce. As a result of this increase in speed, everyone’s job theoretically becomes easier to do, and things get done more at a faster pace.

Conversely, a disintegrating relationship where trust has disintegrated and the rapport is poor results in a slower decision-making process, sees an increase in red tape and barriers to success, and a hike in costs.

Resultantly, management consultants keep in the back pocket of their minds the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with their sponsors – it ultimately reduces friction for all parties involved.

Aim and Ignite

But a management consultant’s job doesn’t stop there. Beyond regular check-ins and face to face meetings and onsite visits, there’s still more work to be done. Like their clients, governments never stay still, and release new guidance, policies, and rules that need to be brought into consideration. Therefore, it becomes necessary to keep apace of changes in local, state, and federal policy shifts, as well as meeting the needs of one’s line manager/reporting line.

Of course, ultimately, the aim of a management consultancy is to produce a positive outcome, and that means having to not only create – as mentioned earlier – PowerPoint presentations. Some days it will be necessary to prepare ‘deliverables’, including reports, onsite client shadowing as a form of client support, and guidance around and on risk.

Carry On

The picture we’ve tried to paint of a management consultancy is a little like a busy painting: on any given day there’s a lot going on, and certain personalities are better suited than others to deal with such a dynamic environment.

Empathy is an absolute must, towards co-workers and clients alike. Judgement is unwelcome company. An agile, considerate personality will find success. The hours will be long. The tasks will be many, and they will vary. Compassion – not ego – must be the guiding principle of the day. You will have to ask hard questions of the client. You will need to be clear. And confident.

This will be your day. Each different – never the same as the one before. Your comfort zone will be challenged. And you will grow as a person. This is a guarantee. It’s like Heraclitus tried to teach us: you never step into the same river twice. So too will no two days at a management consulting firm be the same.

Sea Dragons, Some Wild Things, and Louisa Johnson’s Latest

A friend from the US who works in recruitment contacted me in 2017, asking how I’d feel about writing some copy for a fashion company. I’d never written about fashion before. Which, of course, meant that I said yes. I spent several weeks immersed exclusively in the world of fashion writing. This is the end result.

You may have heard of Louisa Johnson. If you haven’t, it’s probably only a matter of time until you do. Appearing on the UK edition of The X-Factor during the first week of auditions, Louisa’s cover of The Jackson 5’s ‘Who’s Loving You?’, her astonishing range, dedication to the craft, and theatricality astonished the judges, thus propelling her towards her singular goal of becoming a professional singer.

In just two years’ time, she’s managed to wow audiences with subsequent performances, the release of numerous singles, and a planned debut album due out in 2017. But until that time, she’s found herself content to release a slew of diverse single and music videos, including the recently released ‘Best Behaviour’.

Shot in the desert outside Los Angeles, the video featured a wide and colourful array of dancers, ravers, and festival goers decked out in haute couture clothing could best be described as futuristic party aesthetic, meshing the best of famed French artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius (of Fifth Element fame) with fashion that would fit right into background shots in Blade Runner. And planes. Lots of planes.

The fashion on display in the video itself comes to us by way of Sea Dragon and Wild Things. The latter is a decidedly unique and independent distributor and retailer of boutique designers and labels. For fashionistas looking to get a good taste of just how inventive the fashion world can be, Wild Things offers an excellent glimpse of just what’s possible with clothing. If you’re after Rock Chic, Neon Raver Gear, dance or festival clothing, or something else entirely, Wild Thing aims to provide the look people are after.

Working in unison with Wild Thing is famed fashion house Sea Dragon Studios, who, in their own words, are an “independent maker of fun, comfortable, and fabulous festival wear, designed to make you look as good as you feel”.

To thus accentuate Johnson’s burner-flavoured video, Sea Dragon Studios, in collaboration with Wild Things, provided Johnson and her team of producers with the right material for such a shoot – the Sea Dragon Holographic Playsuit!

Featuring the playa white edition, the costume features hidden pockets, a built-in bust lining, and a wide-band halter neck among several other specific design features aimed at ensuring that wears can feel comfortable in clothing that stretches, is breathable, and adaptable to both the time of day and with accessories.

Intrigued? Want to have a better, closer look at Sea Dragon’s line of products? Well, click on the following link! And if you’re interested to learn more about Wild Thing and their services, you can visit them at their website.

Australian Budget 2017: Five facts you need to know and share

I confess: I did not see this coming. After all, I’d just left a four-year stint in finance to go and join the gig economy. Then my phone rang, and it was Chartered Accountants. Asking me if I would be willing to stay up till all hours of the morning, going over the upcoming budget release, and produce some material for their website.

Word had somehow got around that I’d left ANZ and was a free agent. Hey – I’d worked on the budget for four years in a row at ANZ, knew what to expect of the production process, and knew roughly how much coffee it would involve (a lot).

Chartered Accountants are a terrific bunch. Great sense of humour. This was a fun job.


·       HECs tweaks mean repayments will kick in sooner.

·       Focus of universities will be on developing employable skills.

·       Universities will have their budgets cut.

The Australian Budget night’s come and gone and you’re probably wondering “What does all of this stuff actually mean for me??” Well, here are some things to know about – and to make yourself sound smart in front of others.

1. Job title degrees

Universities are getting a makeover. That’s right! What you’re studying will suddenly be a lot more like what you’ll likely find yourself doing when you graduate. Think: less Bachelor of Arts and more like… Bachelors of Business Management.

What to say to sound smart: At least it’s easier to tell grandma what I’m going to do when I grow up!

2. HECS hits

HECS repayments are about to get hectic! Normally people don’t start repaying their HECS debts until they earn $52,000 or more. Think again. Repaymentgeddon will now start at $42,000 – which, by the way, is just a grand shy of the typical Australian annual income ($43,000).

What to say to sound smart: The earlier repayments kick in, the earlier we pay off the loan…

3. Indexed to the max

Speaking of repayment thresholds – the thresholds that are currently indexed (economist jargon here term; just use the word “linked” so you have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of being understood) to the measure of average weekly earnings (AWE) in Australia? As of 2018, repayments will instead be linked (see what we did there?) to inflation.

What to say to sound smart: It just means our repayments will go up and down like other costs.

4. Drugs!

Got your attention? Good. But we mean the stuff that keeps you alive when you’ve contracted the man flu: medicine! The Medicare rebate freeze is going away, which means doctors will keep on being supported, there’ll be more money for drug research, and you’ll still be able to go to your doctor and not pay a cent!

What to say to sound smart: We can continue seeing doctors for free, and as a bonus, there’s more money for useful drug research.

5. Cost squeeze

The government will be hitting universities with “efficiency dividends” (a jargon term that in normal English means “budget cuts”) of between 2-3% over the next few years. The government has argued that universities receive adequate funding for most courses and revenues (from students) are growing faster than costs.

What to say to sound smart: If unis are going to keep on providing great services they’ll have to hire better accountants!

Would you like to know more?

For the more in-depth version of the above written by Chartered Accountants who understand and can extrapolate the long-term consequences of this Australian budget, check out their commentary on the CA ANZ website. The changes in the university sector will have near- to medium-term repercussions on repayment speeds, and are likely to lead to changes in the structure and annual expenditure dedicated to administrative services within university faculties and departments.


Scoop Your Moop

A friend from the US who works in recruitment contacted me in 2017, asking how I’d feel about writing some copy for a fashion company. I’d never written about fashion before. Which, of course, meant that I said yes. I spent several weeks immersed exclusively in the world of fashion writing. This is the end result.

You’ve probably heard of it before. Chances are, the person uttering this word? Not very happy with someone else.

There’s a reason for it.

MOOP is something that gives ‘burners’ – and even festival goers in general – a bad reputation. Funny word, right? It doesn’t really sound like what it is. That’s because MOOP is actually an acronym. It means ‘Matter Out Of Place’. But what is Matter Out Of Place? Simple: anything that didn’t originate from the Earth.


A tree: Not MOOP.

A cigarette butt: Definitely MOOP.

Now, those of us who work here at Sea Dragon Studios – we love burns, we love festivals, and we love us our raves. We also love costumes. And shiny things. We definitely like shiny things. And we want to continue being able to make awesome shiny things for people to wear to festivals, to raves, and burns, because that’s what we’re passionate about, dammit.

In recent years, the reputation of attendees to such events has been tarnished due to the presence of excess amounts of MOOP. Cigarette butts, metal pegs, feathers, and glitter – just a few of the things identified as MOOP by those left to clean up after the matter.

But here’s the thing: we love glitter. Glitter is so, so shiny.

So we tried to find a way to demoopify glitter. Yes. Demoopify. We’ve actually said this word out loud, and we were even sober when it happened. Don’t like demoopify? How about MOOP-free? There’re fewer syllables there, so that should make everyone happy.

We’ve already ensured our clothing is moop-free by developing clothing that integrates glitter into the material, rather than cheaply covering the surface material with glitter that could, over time, come off. Likewise, we’ve tried to put our money where our mouth is and develop moop-free sequins and feather collars that won’t break, ensuring their status as moop-free clothing.

In our attempt to develop more moop-free products, we came across a solution that we thought was more than a little awesome: bioglitter. So we spent a bit of time researching the topic. Which led to us being able to happily announce that we’ve developed and will soon be stocking a biodegradable glitter.

The glitter options currently on the market are, well, not the best. And that’s not good enough. The biodegradable glitter we’re preparing to stock won’t fertilise – it’ll simply break apart. A would-be compost heap our products are not.

Sea Dragon Studios began with a simple ethos: the clothing we make should be comfortable, easy, simple, and hassle-free, so that you can put it on and go and enjoy yourself. We feel that festivals and burns should be the same way. And one of the best ways of doing that? By ensuring that everything we produce is moop-free.

Local Vector: Buying a property

I have a friend from California, Aaron, who vanishes and reappears at random. Back in 2008, he’d asked me to do some translation work on a script for a film about Russian mythology.

Having finished my work on the project, I’d stopped hearing from Aaron. Once again, he vanished. A few years passed and he resurfaced. An email appeared in my inbox, asking me if I was interested in working on a real estate project. “What the hell,” I thought, “why not”. 

A few Skype calls later, I found myself with a tight one-month deadline. So I dove into the deep-end into the topic outside of my work hours (at Thomson Reuters) and produced the following abbreviated guide to buying property in California. A lot of real estate content struck me as being a bit on the dry end, and I’d been given free reign to spice up the content a bit. So I gave my best go at writing about property that I’d want it written for me if I were a prospective buyer. 


You might think that the country has hit entered a period of economic turmoil, and that it’s no time to try and make any risky decisions. You may have a home which, due to a variety of unexpected circumstances, you’d like to sell, but are afraid to do so, for fear of losing money, due to mistakenly thinking that it’s not a buyer’s market. In reality, even during times of recession, a person can still make a profit by selling their house. It might not be an ideal time, but that by no means you can’t place your house on the market and find buyers within a reasonable amount of time. Don’t believe it? Then allow the agents and staff of LocalVector to prove otherwise.

Internet Listings:

Is it for you?

There are many virtues to having your property’s profile online: you can connect with a multitude of buyers automatically with the simple click of a button. It’s an extra bonus, in the selling process, one more thing that’ll attract viewers’ attention. When listing your details online, it lets you inform would-be buyers of a variety of traits pertaining to your house, and it provides the opportunity to hook viewers’ interests by letting them know about the number of bedrooms, land size, number of bathrooms, heating system, etc., that make the house a unique property. An intelligent seller will realize quite quickly that they’re competing against other sellers, and thus, they have an opportunity to emphasize those unique traits pertaining to their house that no one else has, like for example: a fireplace, a balcony that gets a terrific amount of sun or shade, a great outdoor area for bbq’s, a sunroom where you can relax in comfort, whilst feeling as though you’re outdoors.

It also affords you the opportunity to use your own images, or specialized ones prepared by either your agent or yourself. As such, make sure you take flattering images. For example: wide-angled lens will produce photos which emphasis spaciousness. And make sure you’ve got good light and color filtration systems set up, to bring out the best lighting and color-balance possible. So if your property has something particular or special about it that you think merits being brought to viewers’ attention? Photograph it with love.

Cheaper Than You Thought

Also, it’s cheap. Really, that’s where going online is just the most spectacular bonus. It’s fairly cheap. Sure, you have to sometimes pay a small fee to get your home listed online, but it’s such an astonishingly small fee that could potentially reap great rewards. It’s investing in yourself, and that’s never a bad idea.

Consider also the following factoids: the majority of would-be homebuyers start their search online. In this era of ours, people are prone to doing their research online before visiting the actual physical location. And consider the following: compared to online entries, newspapers are designed to be as brief and to-the-point as possible. Websites, by comparison, do not have any word-count restrictions, and feature numerous high-resolution images, and even a street-view option that lets you see what the surrounding neighborhood looks like, as though you were there yourself.

Helping Your Agent [Help You!]

For your agent, being able to refer to an online advert provides him or her with one more helpful tool that only assists the agent in his or her job. Should anyone make a phone-call query to them, regarding your property, the agent can say “well if you’re out of town but coming to the area for the weekend, take a look at Local Vector’s website, so you can see what we’ve put up online. And of course, once you’re here, we’ll be able to give you an even better look, during the open house inspection.”

Everyone wins, no one loses. Going online is cheap, it’s easy, and unlike newspapers, you don’t have to wait till a certain edition of the paper (such as the Sunday version, which tends to feature specialized inset home-sale magazines) to pique people’s’ interests. And they can always bookmark the site featuring your property and return to it later, for a second, third, etc look.

Alternative Paths:

Multiple Listing Services

However, if you’re worried about security, or simply uncomfortable having your property listed online, there is always the option of an MLS (multiple listing service) which is like an online real estate service, but with a distinct difference: it’s not public. Only people working in real estate will be using it, and what they’ll have available to them is rather like an encyclopaedia entry about your property.

Now, MLS entries can feature FSBO (For Sale By Owner) properties (which means the seller isn’t going through a real estate agent). However, because the agents who access these MLS entries might not be receiving the best commission possible, some will often ignore the properties listed in MLS systems and not show them to prospective clients (though by law they are obligated to do so).

Frequently, MLS entries are produced for prospective buyers in the form of a customized report prepared by an agent. And of course, no surprise, people frequently seek out those details that are readily and easily provided by online services – including details such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the price ranges, etc.

Price Inflation:

Weighing Up Overpricing Decisions

First and foremost there is the chance that your home won’t sell. This is the main danger. If you risk putting up a price that’s more than what the market deems it to be worth, you’ll not sell. And the longer you maintain a selling status, the worse off you are. With real estate, you want to sell as quickly as you can. A prolonged unsold status is never, ever a good thing. And a result of not selling for prolonged periods of time amongst some would-be sellers is that they then drop the price, or accept an offer lower than what they set the house at.

The Dangers of Overpricing a Property

Ask yourself this: are there other homes in the area for sale? Observe the prices they are offering. Compare them with yours. Are their prices similar to yours? Are the homes themselves similar to yours? If so: you may be undermining your ultimate goal. By artificially inflating your asking price, you run the risk of receiving fewer offers on your property, and having fewer interested parties. Would-be buyers will consider your asking price to be unreasonable, and may jump to conclusions about the seller, and conclude that the seller is greedy. When considering this, contemplate whether other buyer are savvy enough to determine what your property’s actual market value might be. And remember also that appraisers will also be able to work out that you’ve jacked the price up artificially and thus may not hand out loans to would-be buyers because of that

People always wonder why such a high price is being asked for a home. Many will wonder what makes the property so special. Some may even think that there is something wrong the apartment or house that’s been advertised as being for sale.. Whether or not there’s even something wrong with the property doesn’t matter – it’s not reality that’s important, but how people perceive reality, that matters.

Consider whether or not people will look at your house and think it a budget-killer. Losing potential buyers is in no one’s interest. Even if you could find buyers willing to accept your asking price, a potential buyer’s bank might not approve a loan, finding the asking price to be too high and likely inflated. These are the risks you run. So consider alternative options available.

Sense and Sensibility on the Market

Work out what the actual marketplace value of your property is, and set it accordingly. Allow prospective buyers the chance to be able to bargain and make deals, and have financial wiggle-room. Don’t hamstring them. Focus on getting the best possible return on your investment through the bargaining process. In the end, it’ll work out well for you. You’ll have more offers from which to chose, and less stress and worry as to why agents aren’t showing off your house.

Selling Properties: On Your Own,? Or With An Agent?

Understanding for Sale by Owner Sales: Risks and Rewards

When selling a property, there are two options available as a means to sell one’s property: a property owner or owners can arrange to sell their property on their own – which in the real estate market is referred to as FSBO (For Sale By Owner), or an agent can be hired.

Each has its own risks and rewards. The downsides to selling a property on one’s own sans an agent For starters, customers will see more homes if they hire an agent is because an agent will enter their property in the MLS from where the listing gets distributed to a whole number of sites on the internet. If you are selling on your own then you will not be able to list your home on the MLS and you would need to do a lot of your own marketing. The exposure is not even comparable. (FSBO’s usually don’t go on the MLS)

FSBO: For Sale By Owner

You’re probably wondering about a term you’ve heard bandied about in the past by agents and sellers: FSBO. FSBO means For Sale By Owners. When one sells a property without an agent, their property listing is referred to as being FSBO. The process of becoming an FSBO (For Sale By Owner), has its ups and downs. Firstly, would-be FSBO’s think that by doing all the work themselves they’ll save money on agent fees, but what they don’t see is how that can adversely affect the entire process, and in fact, prolong it. Sure, you may have been scorned in the past by agents, and have become of the opinion that you don’t need them, but some agents actually are there to help, and do want to do as well by you as they possibly can. But consider what you’d have to prepare, set-up, and deal with on your own, without an agent.

The Struggles of Selling On Your Own

Evaluating the market-place, valuating the house and suggesting a proper listing price, placing ads, flyers, advertisements, online content, MLS content, dealing with interested would-be buyers, dealing with offers, holding open-houses, weighing up the value of offers made, and so,

so much more. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it There is a reason being a real-estate agent is a full-time job. Now imagine trying to do a full-time job alongside your day-job. How long would you last? Evaluate your knowledge and ability to do a marketplace analysis of the value of local properties, their merits and flaws, and how they stack up against your property. Prepare to accept that your property won’t be listed on the MLS data-bases unless you’re happy to either pay the listing fees yourself (which comes in the form of a flat monthly fee), or have an agent list your property for you. Furthermore: do you know all the laws pertaining to property transfers in your state? Do to the considerable challenges FSBO’s face, have even made FSBO websites where they can list their property without the assistance of any real estate agency.

Due to the many stresses and difficulties FSBO’s face, it is not surprising why many would-be sellers opt instead to go through an agent to sell/buy their home. Do you know what price your home ought to be? Do you even have the time to do the research, and deal with and understand the many variables involved in determining the correct asking-price? People who don’t go through agents to sell their property have to learn, entirely on their own, (among other things) how to: organise open-houses; and which lawyers to contact to validate the property transfer;

Extra Work, Extra Costs

Certainly, one could expend extra hours doing all the work that could be done by an agent to be spared agent fees, but it is questioned by many in the real estate field whether such approaches ultimately save money in the end. Another unfortunate downside to selling a property on one’s own is the repercussion it has amongst real estate agencies: many agents won’t show prospective buyers a home that’s being sold directly thru the buyer.

Another downside to selling directly to buyers is that many would-be buyers will come to expect a price discount Is the discount expected equivalent with the fees you’d have paid had you an agent? This is but one more question to consider before making a decision.

Benefits to Selling On Your Own (You Can Do It!)

Of course, the benefit to taking the FSBO route is that one can avoid incurring unnecessary fees from real estate agents. Nor will sellers have to suffer transaction fees, or commission fees, and prospective buyers can contact a seller directly, completely by-passing the middleman. And in some parts of the country, this process has been known to work well. But that by no means makes it a sure thing. Consider the place in which you live, the level of competition involved, and most importantly, your own life. Work out whether or not you have the time to deal with the myriad issues involved, and whether or not you can deal with all the variables involved and still obtain the price you think your property is worth.

In short, if you think you have the marketing expertise, the time, the energy, the education, negotiating skills and some magical access to MLS’s? If you think you’ve the energy and wherewithal to be an FSBO’er, then go for it, but be prepared for all the unexpected challenges that await.

Short Sales: Is It for You?

Have you suffered an injury that makes it impossible for you to earn an income for a duration that’s insufferably long? Are you likely to fail in making your mortgage repayments? Are you worried about a foreclosure and losing your house? If so, a short-sale is probably something you should consider.

When it becomes impossible to make mortgage repayments, and it turns out that you owe more on your home than it is actually worth, you may want to consider this option. Other reasons for which you may pursue this action include going through a divorce (though hopefully not a messy one), or having to relocate for a job.

Life After Short Sales

Superficially, to the uninitiated, a short-sale might seem to suggest that one’s life has taken a turn for the worse and that one is living in less-than-ideal circumstances, but in reality it’s a great way to escape one’s mortgage obligations. Granted, many will say that it leaves a negative impact on one’s credit score, but what also needs to remember is that plenty of people who’ve had short-sales have returned to the property market as soon as three years later, and managed to obtain a new mortgage, and start the mortgage game anew.

How It Works

Remember: In the U.S. you can get your remaining debt forgiven if you sell your property via a short-sale. So say for example you’ve a mortgage of $200,000 and you sell the home for $150,000, the remaining balance of $50,000 can (and will) be forgiven by the bank. Now, though you’ll also be spared having to account for and pay assorted other costs such as commission fees, property taxes, et all, you may still find yourself taking a tax hit later on down the line, as there are some peculiar tax stipulations that come with initiating a short-sale. So, if you’ve an income of some sort that’s being earned whilst going through the short-sale, that income can be taxed against the cancelled debt. So before you enter into a short-sale, be sure to check with the IRS, and read up on what risks you can incur in terms of taxation. For a more indepth explanation of the taxation risks involved in short-sales, take a glance at SmartMoney’s article on the subjct here:

Credit Score Impact

Now, you’re likely to wonder how a short-sale will impact your credit score. The reality of the matter is this: your credit score willbe impacted. However, removing a large debt from your credit report is also a positive action, as it frees you from payment obligations until such a time as you return to the property market.

How You Can Get Help

Given the many varied complexities involved in organizing a short-sales (such as how to deal with the lender, obtaining deficiency judgments, obtaining a hardship letter and letter of authorization to begin the process of a short-sale, it’s best to obtain the services of a real estate agent. Unlike FSBO’s, this is one facet of reality that’s best faced with the help and assistance of a thoughtful, details-orientated and highly sympathetic real estate agent. The agents employed by LocalVector have had years of training in dealing with such matters, and understand not only the myriad minutiae that can appear when dealing with short-sales, but also how to communicate in a clear and understandable manner to all their clients how to best navigate through the process in the most efficient manner possible. If you have yet more questions about the subject, searching for “shortsale” on will be a helpful resource:

Choosing a Good Agent

Now, obviously, you don’t need an agent to buy a home, but having one certainly helps, as fulfilling the duties of an agent on one’s own can be very taxing and time-consuming, and the end-results may be no better than had you obtained a real estate agent. With that in mind, if you’re going to choose to find a real estate agent, would you be surprised at all to discover that a great many agents are at least mentioned, if not referred to, via groups of friends? Commonly, prospective buyers talk to their friends, in search of suggestions. Now, if you do ask your friends, take note of the following: are there any names that come up on a frequent basis? Is there anyone in particular that your friends seem to think is worth hiring?

The Agency Weaning Process

Whilst asking your friends, consider also where you wish to live. Work out what you think you can afford and where you’d like to purchase a property. Spend some time looking around that area, and determine whether or not the telephone-number of particular agents’ names appear with regular frequency upon the signs of homes being bought or sold. If so, that’s also a good starting point towards finding a good agent, as you want to make sure that your agent is familiar with the area in which you wish to make your purchase, and will know how to develop an accurate strategy that will help you purchase your home.

Interviewing the Agent

Once you’ve located an agency or agencies that you think might be a good fit, interview one from each agency. But never more than one from each agency, as that can create internal social problems for agents. Interviewing more than one agent at an agency can create extra problems for the managers and employees alike, including rivalries, and that’s not conducive to a healthy workplace, so it’s best avoided by maintaining the one agent per agency policy during the interview process.

How to Find the Agent That’s Right for You

Once you’ve located an agent (or potential agent(s)), you’ll want to make sure that they’re a good fit, and that they know what they’re doing. So during the initial consultation, ask them the sort of questions that need asking: what their success-rate is, how long they’ve worked in the industry, in what kind of properties he or she specializes, what sort of clients they’ve served, and so on. Find out about their track-record, make sure they’re capable and intelligent and understand what they’re doing. Given that buying real estate is one of the biggest financial undertakings that a person can have, it’s important to have an agent who’s experienced and with whom you feel comfortable. It’s also extremely important that you have an agent with whom you have a good rapport, who’s open, honest, well-trained, and who speaks intelligently and insightfully, and understands your needs. Think of an agent like a co-worker or a team-leader: haven’t you ever noticed how much better your workplace environment is when you get along with your team leader and co-workers? That same sort of attitude can be applied to the client-agent relationship.

The Duties of an Agent

One of the duties of an agent will be understand every single element of the process involved in purchasing a property, from the beginning to the end, and it’s important to have an agent who can explain every facet of the process to you in language and terms and metaphors that you can understand. With this openness comes honesty, and your agent by law must disclose all facts regarding a property to you. If you want to make absolutely sure that this happens, try to hire an agent who’s also a realtor, as the National Association of Realtors have a Code of Ethics that is so strict it could make a Jesuit Priest blush. (And remember also that realtors, unlike agents, will often check Multiple Listing Services; whereas with an agent, there is no guarantee that they will do that).

Agent Representation

Furthermore, always make sure that the agent with whom you are working only represents one side of a transaction – you do not want your agent representing both a prospective buyer and a prospective seller. It is best to avoid the numerous ethical problems that can develop as a result of having such an agent. Thus, make sure you ask your agent if he or she is only representing you, rather than yourself and the seller.

Professionalism as a Buyer

That said, there are a few things that you must also keep in mind: a considerable portion of all real estate agents do not get paid a salary; they earn their money from a commission, so it is as important for them to do a good job as it is for anyone else. Given the stress involved in living on a commission-based salary, it is in your best interests to treat agents with as much dignity and respect and professionalism as you would a co-worker. What does this mean? Be courteous to them. Show up on time for any appointments you may have scheduled.

Multiple Offers and the Process Involved

It’s not uncommon for sellers to receive multiple offers on a house. In fact, it’s even advantageous, as it will create competition, and may even raise the final paid-for price above that which was offered. When you finally come to the stage of sorting out various offers, you’ll likely get offers where the clients (via their respective agents) have a loan that’s ready to be funded, are willing to pay a certain amount of cash upfront, or some other variant therein. At that stage, one’s options will be to either: reject all offers (and request new submissions), reject some offers, or to counter all offers which have been presented.

The Vetting Process

With counter-offers there are different ways of dealing with them. You can present it directly to the agents or buyers, and make a race of it, or you can set a deadline, by which point each prospective-buyer has reissued their offer. So when you’re considering the offers that have been issued, it’s important to vet those whose offers are most solid. Who’s qualified for a loan? Who has guaranteed financing? Some buyers will issue the seller with a list of requests, usually in the form of cosmetic touch-ups that they wish to have made to the property? Others will ask to have you credit a percentage of the purchasing price towards closing costs. These are all legitimate concerns that merit thinking about when looking over offers with your agent.

Buyer Contingencies’ Impact Upon Closing a Deal

In order to make sure that you get the best possible deal with the best possible buyer, you need to understand all buyer contingencies that can exist, in order to make sure the entire process proceeds smoothly. Now, a contingency, in the real estate world, is simply a set of clauses which allow a buyer to walk away from a purchase sans any financial or legal penalties. Three well-known contingencies are:

Time-Limit Contingencies (a set amount of days over which the offer must be accepted and begin being processed;

Inspection Contingencies (if upon closer inspection, flaws are found in the house that were notpreviously noted or reported, the buyer can walk away sans penalty);

Financing Contingencies (if a buyer cannot secure financing, they can walk away from theproperty).

As the seller, it’s important to see what sort of contingencies will be made by buyers and their agents, so always read over all the legal documents which they present, and read over them carefully.

Buyer Negotiations

Another part of the selling process involves negotiating with prospective buyers. Though you may issue a counter-offer, a buyer can also counter a counter-offer. Be prepared to deal with this in the most calm, and professional manner possible. Each party in the buying and selling process is trying to maximize their respective outcome, and that traditionally involves a few rounds of negotiation between parties. This is a normal part of the selling process, and is sometimes necessary towards moving the property into escrow.

The Escrow Process:

It’s French for “Paper”

Now, after all negotiations have been settled, and terms have been reached (with neither swords nor dueling-pistols), a property will enter into escrow. This is good. Extremely good. When a property has entered into escrow, it means that a sum of is being held by neither the buyer nor the seller, but rather, a third party. This third party will hold on to the money, which a buyer provides, as a kind of trust, signifying that they believe that all the documents pertaining to the sale and purchase of the property will be signed, and that all agreements between parties will be fulfilled. Think of it as money offered in trust that the process will continue along as planned, and that neither party will do something colossally stupid. This trust-money that is in escrow is commonly seen as counting towards the buyer’s down-payment on a property.

When Escrow Begins

After escrow begins, a series of actions will take place, in the following order. Don’t freak out – it’s all part of the process, and means that the deal is careening towards its inevitable conclusion. Here is what is to come, once you’ve entered into escrow:

1.  The buyers await the bank’s appraisal of the property in question (banks will do appraisals on houses to protect their financial interests – typically this involves getting a price estimate which they compare against the price for which the property was sold, so as to better understand the numbers involved in the process, and thus know what to expect should they need to foreclose on the property);

2.  The buyer(s) will secure financing (ideally, a buyer already has a home-loan pre-approved by this time);

3.  A letter from the sellers or the seller’s agent is sent to the buyer, identifying all known issues that have been found. This letter (formally called a Letter of Disclosure) gets needs to be approved by the buyer;

4.  Non-obligatory home-inspections may occur. Realistically, this ought to have occurred earlier in the purchasing process, but sometimes, buyers like to have one last check, just to settle their nerves, and feel reassured that everything with the property is fine, and that all is in order. Should this happen, a buyer can request (and pay for) a home inspection, pest inspection, environmental inspection; etc.

5.  Buyers may purchase a variety of insurance policies that they think might be useful to have, including homeowners’ insurance, hazard insurance, and so on;

6.  Now cometh the Acquisition of Title Report and Title Insurance. The former states that there are no liens (legal claims) on the property by other parties. The latter, title insurance, is insurance that a buyer can obtain to protect themselves legally if and when unexpected issues might appear that were not initially detected during earlier inspections. If there are, and one has title insurance, the seller will be legally obligated to fix any outstanding issues;

7.  Buyers can have one last walk-through of the property. It’s not necessary, but there is a need to make sure that what’s being purchased reflects what’s being sold, and so people will do one last check;

8.  Buyers will review the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The HUD-1 form (whose acronym comes from the [U.S.] Department of Housing and Urban Development) lists all the services and fees charged to the borrower by the bank (or whomever the lender is) for the purposes of purchasing (and/or refinancing) a property. If you’d like to see an example of a HUD-1 document, has kindly provided one for your convenience here:

As of 2010, the HUD-1 contains an additional section, called the Good Faith Estimate (GFE). The Good Faith Estimate is a financial statement that lists a buyer’s loan-size, the interest rate, the closing costs, and various other costs pertaining to the property being purchased.

Buyers need to review this, so as to ascertain whether there are any mistakes or mysterious charges (called ‘junk fees’). Mistakes (intentional or otherwise) can appear in these documents, and it is important that buyers inspect them carefully for anything that might appear out of place, and get them sorted as soon as they are discovered, so as to not pay excess amounts of money for unjustifiable reasons;

9.  Finally, loan paperwork is signed. This is as close as one can come to experiencing a physical manifestation of Hell when purchasing or selling a property. These documents tend to be long, and they tend to be manifestly boring. But they’re also incredibly important, so read carefully, and make sure your agent and/or loan officer is present. Look over it with them. They are your armor, your last line of defense, and your sanity check.

Upon signing the loan paperwork, the following set of actions occur:

1.  The escrow company executes all and any closing instructions

2.  Loan funds get distributed to the seller of the property

3.  The light at the end of the tunnel finally appears

And in the End…

Once the property is recorded in the buyer’s name, and funds have been transferred to and fro the correct accounts, the property transaction will be recorded in the records of the town or city in which the exchange is occurring, and the buyer’s name is officially shown (and recognized) as the owner. And that’s when the new owner of the property is given a set of keys, and life in a new property begins.

Escrow Fees

With escrow fees, one may ask: who pays for this? The answer? Both parties. In a real estate transaction, both the buyer and the seller can expect to have to pay one-half of an escrow fee. However, it must be pointed out that there does not seem to be a consistent policy with regards to this. In some states, the buyer may be saddled with the escrow fees, in others, it may be different. It’s always best to find out from your real estate agency what the rules are concerning this, and factor it into the costs that will be associated with transferring property ownership.

Safety Response Modernisation

The second of two Safe Response pieces that I was asked to write.

Safety. It’s not a concept that one can treat lightly or flippantly.

At Safe Response, we’ve placed our focus first and foremost on safety, and secondly, on modernising safety practices, to ensure that what’s taught is relevant, useful, and does more than tick a few boxes on a company’s checklist of compliance regulations.

It’s easy to be flippant about safety and crisis situations and think “it’ll never happen to me”. Until it does. And it will. And when it does, what will have been more useful: attending a seminar a few hours long, or having had reinforced training and education to ensure a disciplined and methodical response during a moment of extreme pressure?

It used to be, traditionally, that how Australians learned about safety was through something as simple as listening to a story.


Not quite your campfire tale. Maybe it was at an RSL, or maybe at some glitzy event where a veteran of a war is brought up to speak. Maybe it’s even a family member. And they’d go into as much – or little – detail about their experiences of how they dealt with a fire, a robber, a car accident, a war zone. Audiences would listen, and be expected to learn from that one-directional transferal of information.

That doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did in fact really work. It’s not enough to expect people to learn. We need them to be trained. To have undergone routine practice. To know how things work, and know what to do each step of the way.

At Safe Response, we’ve produced an innovative and holistic approach that covers all aspects of workplace safety and safety management. We focus intently on high level management skills, bottom-end exercises, and user experiences. It’s not enough to say that a person listened, took notes, and checked a few boxes to indicate they attended a seminar.

That’s not good enough anymore.

Which is why we continue stressing the importance of modernisation, of modernising the safe response system. We want to go beyond book training, or simple seminars or lectures, to the tangible, to experience, practice, training.

For Safe Response, best practice entails a long-term plan, that involves drills and exercises, training, emergency control organisation, training schedules, emergency procedures, and emergency planning. And to make such an approach worthwhile means putting at least a three-year plan in place. Otherwise –what’s the point? Safety should be taken seriously. After all, people don’t complete one driving lesson before receiving a full license, do they? Of course not. Why should training be any different?

As a business, our goal is to engage businesses who understand our value proposition, why our services matter, and who value a relationship with us that involves us managing, assisting with, and complementing business continuity objectives.

We’re Safe Response. We’re not kidding around.