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Thank you to the 1,400 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions!
I hope reading

helps you in your leadership.



Jonno White

7 Questions with Joanne Jacobs
7 Questions with Joanne Jacobs

Name: Joanne Jacobs

Current title: : Co-CEO

Current organisation: Disruptors Co

Joanne Jacobs is an award-winning digital strategist and company director, and she is the Co-CEO (with Gavin Heaton) of Disruptors Co, a firm that facilitates incubation of innovation in enterprise, and creators of TheAir.Works. She is an Industry Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, and she is an active mentor of startups. In her career, Joanne has worked in London where she ran a social media production house, and she was a consultant in social networking technologies, as well as a professional speaker, business coach, trainer and strategist for digital marketing practices. Joanne also has a long history in academia, lecturing extensively in strategic use of information technology and strategic internet marketing. She was co-editor with Axel Bruns of the book, Uses of Blogs (2006).

7 Questions with Joanne Jacobs

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?

The manner in which large businesses go about working with professional services agencies.... They have a tendency to award work to major consultancy firms rather than building relationships with small business firms who inevitably work harder and produce better experiences for their customers than larger consultancy firms.

2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I spent a long time as an academic then set up my own firm as a private consultant. I then moved to London and ran a software production house and another consultancy firm, before returning to Sydney and running the Australian office of a marketing firm. Disruptors Co (formerly Disruptor's Handbook) grew out of several of my previous roles.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Days vary but I am mostly in the office at 8am for admin, meetings and production start from 9am. Days can go till 5pm or much, much later - depending on client need. I have run classes and workshops till 3am local time to accommodate overseas time zones.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Trying to accommodate everyone's needs will sometimes compromise customer experiences. It is better to stick with what people know and have a simpler experience than always push for behaviours to change.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Maubaugne. I started teaching it in MBA programs in Australia. Later we started using some of the processes from the book in our problem solving workshops. It has clarified the opportunity for business in embracing innovation.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?

Participation in business events, learning from each other. Continuous innovation in practice (Agile sprints in the business), public speaking engagements, and ongoing learning.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?

Running a small business requires its leaders an understanding of ALL aspects of the business, from record keeping and insurance to recruitment, marketing, sales and strategy. My clients are usually large businesses. So I often find that when we are planning events or developing strategy for a client, that I am thinking more about the implications and touchpoints of the work we do with our clients more than they are. It can therefore sometimes be frustrating working with clients who carry the attitude that we (as a small business) do not understand the complexities of a large business, when it is absolutely clear that we are thinking both of the complexities as well as the opportunities of problem solving for them.

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