Meet the king of Australia’s docket advertising industry

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Docket advertising has become all but ubiquitous – we’ve all likely taken advantage of docket advertising deals at some point. Well, meet the forward-thinking Simon McCord, who pioneered the industry when he founded Shop A Docket in 1986.

With 26 years in the business, Shop A Docket is Australia’s market leader in docket advertising. The notion of coupons and vouchers on the reverse side of shopping dockets was revolutionary when Simon McCord conceived it in 1986 and McCord and his team have been kicking goals with the concept ever since. In late 2011 McCord resigned a $20 million deal with Woolworths, and these days Shop A Docket offers consumers deals from a number of big names, including Telstra, Foxtel and GIO. 

The company also proudly holds long partnerships with local SME business owners around the country, such as Nick Karlos, who runs Fishermans Cove restaurant at Coolangatta. Karlos has been advertising his local business with Shop A Docket for more than 20 years.

While there has been a recent advent of group buying or daily deal websites, these were all preceded by McCord when he took Shop A Docket online in 1999. Today, McCord’s teams numbers around 100 employees, more than 20 per cent of which have been with the company for more than a decade. Read on to find out McCord’s keys to long-term business success. SimonMcCordLG

My Business: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?
Simon McCord:
It is hard to nominate one thing as there would be so many. I think the importance of having a business mentor and/or independent advisory council is certainly one of the most important learning.

MB: What are your most effective work habits?
SM:
Early starts and plenty of energy, as running a business is extremely demanding on your time. That said, finding a healthy work/life balance is also imperative.

MB: Who is the most important person in your business?
SM:
The CEO, because he is responsible for the company’s overall success or otherwise.

MB: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
SM:
Not giving up. Running a business can be extremely demanding and grueling (particularly on family life), so it is only natural to have bad days and want to give the game away. Perseverance has been the best decision I have ever made.

MB: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business and how did you fix it?
SM:
Not acting on significant technology changes impacting on the business model quickly enough and carrying too much debt. Due to the financial impact on the business as a result of these changes, I was ultimately impacted by having to bring a partner and fresh equity injection into the business.

MB: How do you delight customers?
SM:
We have two primary customers. One is our clients advertising on the dockets – the easier we can make the process and the less amount of time we can impact on their own workload the better, as well as providing sound advice in relation to how to maximise ROI. Our other primary customers are the consumers receiving our docket offers – our focus here is providing the best variety of quality offers on the back of their receipts.

MB: Share your number one sales technique with us.
SM:
Be a good listener and do the numbers.

MB: What’s your secret team-building tactic?
SM:
Work to a tight time schedule and encourage all team members to be involved and participate no matter what role they play in the business.

MB: Favourite piece of business technology?
SM:
Mobile smartphone. To have access to any information you may require on such a small device is the most awesome innovation I have seen in my lifetime.

MB: Best tip for managing people?
SM:
Have a genuine interest in their wellbeing, both personally as well as in their work environment.

MB: Who do you most admire?
SM:
I do admire leaders in politics – current and former Australian Prime Ministers. These are very demanding roles that are not overly rewarding financially in comparison to commercial enterprise. They have to be driven on giving something back to the community, while dealing with a huge number of politically sensitive matters and constantly retaining the backing and support of their own political allies. I think they are an inspiration for us all.

MB: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation?
SM:
Without passion, your preparation will never be as compelling.

MB: What’s your favourite networking activity?
SM:
I never feel I do enough networking, but my wife would disagree. Business function gatherings with a few surprises on the agenda are probably my favourite.

MB: How do you relax?
SM:
Walking, time out with the family. I have just had a week in the bush camping with my two boys and their cousins – no phones which was great.

MB: If someone gave you $100,000 and said, “Invest this in your business by the end of the week – or lose it” what would you do?
SM:
I’m sure I could use it, particularly as we have a bottomless marketing budget.

MB: Generation Y: Are they as demanding as everyone says?
SM:
I don’t think more so than any other generation. They’ve just got different demands, such as wanting to experience progression at a much speedier pace.

MB: The internet is a massively disruptive force. What’s your reaction to disruption?
SM:
Love it, as it makes the world a better place and ensures businesses have to keep reinventing themselves or get left on the shelf. There’s been plenty of examples of that in recent years – Kodak, Encyclopedia Britannica, print media.

MB: How do you foster and express creativity?
SM:
Encourage /nurture innovation and, outsource for refreshing ideas, always ask why and how this could be done differently/more effectively, and ensure recognition and rewards for creativity is an important component of your company culture.

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