Business Perception and Reality - Sometimes we're all doing it tough - August Coffee & Connect with Kathryn Macmillan

Firstly, we've had some wonderful feedback from Kathryn's talk on 3rd August at Coffee & Connect. Lots of you have let us know how inspired you were afterwards. 

For those of you who couldn't make it, here's a quick write up on what Kathryn talked about with some valuable tips for you to implement going forward.

Our current Coffee & Connect theme is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly side of Business. At most business events you are inundated with success stories. The reality is, being in the SME game means highs and lows, and you are left repeatedly asking yourself "should I just pack it all in?". The focus this month was on some of the realistic (yet sometimes challenging) aspects of SME life, and who better to join us than Kathryn MacMillan from 923|Recruitment & HR.

About Kathryn

Kathryn is a well respected, much loved and local business woman who has established her business to be the "go-to" for Recruitment in the Shire and Sydney CBD. You'd be forgiven in thinking that Kathryn doesn't have to worry about the usual SME struggles given her success, but if you thought that you'd be very wrong.

Kathryn's start in life was challenging - she was born with problems with her hip, but despite these issues, she pursued a career in Ballet Dancing. She was told this was a bad choice, but did it anyway. It is important to know this when thinking of Kathryn, because overcoming unbelievable challenges is just what Kathryn does.


Kathryn talked firstly about perception. The perception of people we meet and the people we engage with are our take on what we believe their situation to be - not necessarily the reality. She showed us a photo of herself on holiday and drew to our attention to the perception we might have of her in that photo. Perhaps we might presume she's very wealthy. Perhaps we might presume something about her personality from that photo. Perhaps we might think such a holiday is a regular occurrence - not a once in a lifetime thing. How could we know any of those things from a photo? We couldn't possibly - we are just projecting what we believe to know, and often our own insecurities influence our inferences.

Kathryn then put the text '$400' on the screen and asked us to think about what that $400 might represent. Kathryn shared with us that $400 was all she had in her bank account during the GFC. She had to lay off staff, and was the closest she's ever been to packing it all in. She had sleepless nights and was the most stressed she's ever been. Despite only having $400 in her bank account you can guarantee the perception of people who engaged with her would have been very different, and she would likely have told people who'd asked her that everything was going well.

Being Hacked

Kathryn then shared with us some of the greatest challenges she's faced in business, one of them being that her website and phone lines were hacked. She had received a phone call from one of her clients saying that her website had been taken over. When she logged on she saw the below screen - she discovered that she'd been hacked by terrorists! As if that wasn't enough - her phones were also hacked and were being re-routed to Columbia. Due to leaving the login pin as 0000 - it had been an easy thing to do.


Yet, despite all of these challenges, Kathryn never gave up. She worked with her IT team and got her website and phone access back. She never called it a day. Why? Because Kathryn doesn't believe in giving up and believes in pushing herself to the next challenge. 

More recently Kathryn enrolled in a Masters in HR Management & Industrial Relations course at Sydney Uni. She experienced all the worries that any mature student would - stress about studying with younger people, worries about whether she could still learn and would she even have the time?! Despite this, Kathryn achieved the highest mark in the school in the subject of Management Consulting - proving once again that pushing herself into new challenges pays off!

Kathryn's 3 Top Tips

Kathryn shared with us some valuable tips that have got her through the tough time, and have also ensured she's got to where she has.

  1. Put in 110%
    • Push that barrow against the odds
    • Failure is NOT an option! A motto that Kathryn says has seen her through the toughest of times
    • The harder she works, the luckier she gets! Often the difference between success and failure is working harder and putting in the extra hours
  2. Use Data
    • Look at your P & L! Kathryn said she looks at her P & L daily. She knows week to week where the money has come in, and where the money needs to come from to achieve her forecasted targets
    • Data hits you in the face! Nothing says "work harder" than a minus figure on your P & L
    • Start Simple - learn the business basics and get someone to help you understand what you're looking at
  3. See the positive in everything
    • Her hip troubles taught Kathryn how to mentally control pain. If she could do that - what else could she do? Believe in yourself, set targets and work hard for them
    • The GFC taught her to diversify her business and be very careful with money
    • The hackers taught her not to be complacent with passwords
    • Topping Sydney Uni taught her that you're never to old to learn, and that she really does know her stuff!
Finally - Kathryn's take aways for us all were - NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS - JUST DO IT!
  • Work HARD
  • Be SMART
  • THINK positive

If you would like to read about the other half of Coffee & Connect which covered staying safe online and how to minimise being hacked - read all about it here.

Book your tickets to our next Coffee & Connect here.