When Spreading Good Fun and Goodwill is the sustainable competitive advantage

Red Balloon Logo on TagWhen RedBalloon opened their doors in 2001, they didn’t just want to open an online gift retail shop, they opened their doors to start a happiness revolution…

While creating happy customers is one aspect of Naomi Simson’s business (and an important one), creating happy staff and stakeholders are equally critical components.

2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year National AwardRedBalloon’s founder, Simson draws heavily on her experience as a senior marketer, having worked her way up over a 15-year period from marketing officer to product manager, marketing manager and director with well-known companies such as Ansett, IBM, KPMG and Apple. After leaving corporate life to become a mother, other priorities took hold and she decided to build her own workplace that people genuinely looked forward to attending every day.  Simson believes this is vital for long-term success and it’s something she is well versed in.  RedBalloon has secured a place in the list of Australia’s Best Places to Work produced by BRW four years in a row now.

RedBalloon are considered the pioneers of experiential gifting in Australia and New Zealand.

Although a recent arrival on the scene, here are some of the awards that they have won over the past few years:-

2013 –     #8 in the Top 50 BRW Best Places to Work in Australia (an award they are well and truly used to receiving) and one of only 9 companies to make this award 5 years in a row

2012 –     Secured a place in BRW Top 50 Best Places to Work in Australia.
BRW Fast 100 list from 2004 to 2009.  Red Balloon have also been a regular on the Deloitte Fast 50 for Australia, beginning in 2006.

2011 –     Australian Human Resources Institute HR Practitioner Of The Year – Awarded to RedBalloon Employee Experience Manager Megan Bromley.
-    Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Award – Awarded to company founder Naomi Simson (2011 Eastern Region winner for the Industry category).

2010 –    Hewitt Best Employers – One of only six companies to receive recognition.

2008 –    Nokia Business Award for Innovation – Presented to Naomi Simson at the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

There are numerous other awards too many to mention here, and they are all centred around training, culture, team building and innovation.

In her book ‘Five Thanks a Day,’ Naomi Simson has compiled a collection of stories on the ‘how-to’ and science of saying thank you, the concept of which she also attributes as part of her success.

Red Balloon the movieThe name behind Simson’s endeavour was inspired by the 1956 Oscar-winning French short film Le Ballon Rouge (“The Red Balloon”), which takes viewers on a series of journeys with a young boy named Pascal and a whimsical red balloon that begins to follow him through Paris. That red balloon, a vibrant symbol of fun and happiness throughout the film, laid the foundation for Simson’s dream venture.

“I wanted to test if a business could be successful by simply listening to its people and its customers, and focusing on what would get people talking: the giving and receiving of experiential gifts that create memories,” Simson says.

Now, twelve years later, the company Simson founded in her family home has flourished into a six-time BRW Fast Company that has garnered many more accolades for its work environment, gift offerings, and employee engagement.

In an effort to bring RedBalloon into the business sphere, a corporate incentive service was created that offers employees reward points that may be redeemed for cash credit on the RedBalloon website. There are approximately 3,000 clients involved in this innovative program including such corporate heavy hitters as Qantas, Virgin Mobile, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and Origin Energy.

The work in this sector is not only rewarding for participating companies, but also for the RedBalloon employees coordinating the programs. “I have found my home in a business where they practice what they preach and ‘mix business with pleasure’,” says Matt Geraghty, General Manager of Corporate.

People Management

The work atmosphere at RedBalloon is just as upbeat and invigorating as the experiences they offer, and this is largely due to the high spirits of the employees.

“We believe that our people are our biggest competitive strength and, as a result, have shaped an award winning culture of fun, appreciation and recognition designed to attract and retain top talent,” says RedBalloon’s current CEO Kristie Buchanan.

Red Balloon staffA great deal of emphasis is placed on structuring the employees’ daily experiences to ensure that every work day is engaging and fulfilling.

“The framework – ‘Welcome. Tools. Grow. Flow. Appreciate’ – covers our approach to recruitment and on-boarding; what productivity tools we provide; how employees are kept connected to the flow of information; and finally, how they are recognised and challenged,” says Buchanan. “Our growth plans involve continuing to find more innovative ways to deliver meaningful experiences to our customers, our corporate clients and our employees. This could be in the form of products, in service delivery, in our marketing or technology.”

Check out for yourself why RedBalloon is one of Australia’s most sought after companies to work for and why it is also one of the fastest growing start-up brands in business today. I am sure it will give you food for thought. RedBalloon is another of the amazing companies we will be showcasing on our week long study tour in February of organisations that are changing the shape of the way we do business.

Drop me an email to brian@precisionprofiling.com.au if you would like to discuss further how to join our February study tour and create the environment that attracts and retains the young leaders of the future for your organisation.

Until then… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less. Have a great week – Brian

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here


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