We sat down with Emma Kirkwood, one of our full time members, to talk business, life and horses on the Northern Beaches. Emma runs Beyond Frontiers and Frontier Leadership, the latter being a really unique equine facilitated leadership program. We find out her top productivity hacks, where she finds inspiration and what she loves about living and working on the Beaches.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO & HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?
I’m a business & leadership coach and I work with business owners to help them create their ideal business and lifestyle. I have always been fascinated by people and what makes them tick, so I started out in Human Resources for big corporations. I then became an HR consultant, which quickly morphed into a business consultant as many of the HR ‘problems’ were actually a result of bigger issues within the organisation. Whilst I was fixing problems, I felt like it was so reactive – they were always on the back foot, fighting fires. I realised that I wanted to help people be more proactive & avoid things going wrong in the first place, so that’s when I moved from a consultant role into my coaching role. I now contribute to the business’ bottom line so much more and feel like I’m genuinely giving back.
Q: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR BUSINESS & HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?
Cashflow. I’ve had to refine my skills in knowing my numbers really well, understanding how they work (and what impacts them the most) and probably most importantly, I’ve had to figure out which levers I can pull to improve my cashflow before it becomes an issue.
Q: I THINK CASHFLOW IS SOMETHING MOST BUSINESSES STRUGGLE WITH AT SOME TIME, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE LEVERS YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT?
On a really simple (and reactive) level, it’s literally picking up the phone and calling people who owe you money. It seems like common sense, but sometimes simple strategies are the best. I’ve also put methods in place like automatic invoicing (and reminders), late fees and even direct debit payments (through PaySmart). On a more proactive level, I spend time on business development; I review my work in progress regularly and have honed my skills in forecasting sales & revenue (and have a plan B for when I don’t get it quite right).
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
“This too shall pass”
And that’s for both good things and bad – for me it’s a great reminder to appreciate the good times and remember the bad times wont last forever.
Q: WHERE & WHEN DO YOUR BEST IDEAS COME TO YOU?
Definitely through conversations with creative, energetic people. I love ‘what if’ type people – the people who say: “what if we do xxxx, what will happen?” … I find it really inspires creativity when you take away some of the boundaries and just throw out crazy scenarios. When I first started Frontier, my business partner and I would sit down once a fortnight and just brainstorm ideas on how we could benefit people and organisations. We had a rule that no idea/topic was too crazy and it became this incredible snowball of ideas that generated even more ideas. To this day, I refer back to my notes and it still inspires new ideas.
Q: WHICH BOOK SHOULD EVERY BUSINESS OWNER READ?
‘Switch’ by Dan & Chip Heath – it’s all about the ‘nudge theory’. Their philosophy is that if you want to achieve your goals, you need to make small incremental changes. There are loads of great case studies in it too.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO WHEN YOU NEED TO GET STUFF DONE?
If I need to be really productive, I love either the deep focus or the productivity playlists on Spotify. I have no idea how it happens, but I get so much done when I’m listening to both of those playlists. There is also a creative playlist which is great for when I need to brainstorm.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP PRODUCTIVITY TIPS?
1. Every morning, I write the top 5 things I need to do today. I don’t leave until they’re done.
2. If I have tight deadlines, I set my alarm in 90 minute blocks. It means I focus on the job at hand, not the time.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT COMING TO WORK AT BEACHES COWORKING?
To be honest, it’s an easy, lovely place to be and the human contact is really important to me. I also love the ease of access – sometimes I just pop in because I have forgotten something, other times I come in and get 3 hours of power work done on the weekend. Either way, it’s great to come in whenever I want to. The fruit bowl is good too!
Q: HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED ON THE NORTHERN BEACHES? WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING HERE?
I moved to Collaroy when I was 3 years old and stayed until I went to Newcastle for uni. I moved to Brisbane after uni and then came back to the Beaches 11 years ago. I wasn’t really happy here until I moved to Duffy’s Forest – it’s the perfect balance between the surf and the land. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the relaxed vibe; I love having access to the beach, the outdoors and the bush – all at once; and I love having room to move.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAINTAIN WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I moved my office out of my house and into Beaches Coworking [BCW: I promise we didn’t pay her to say that 🤣]. I also ride my horse, Scout – he’s a thoroughbred and an ex-racehorse.
Q: AND FINAL QUESTION … IMAGINE YOUR PERFECT DAY – WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
I take Scout for an early morning trail ride in Ku ring gai. Then I do some coaching with a group of business owners who are 100% committed to actually achieving their goals (not just talking about them!). After work, I go for a swim at the beach and then meet up with good friends for a picnic with fresh prawns and champagne.
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