"...meaning you’re a brand that’s worth remarking on."
Kobi grew up in Maianbar in the Sutherland Shire, within a family of rigorous entrepreneurial spirit. His father, an architect, designed and built a number of their family homes. The family later moved to Cottage Point, again an isolated, pristine part of Sydney’s hinterland.
In both these idyllic locations, Kobi’s world was an environment of natural activities and water sports in which he revelled. On Saturdays he would go into his father’s office or visit work sites with him, so his childhood was a blend of sport and business.
Education was another matter for Kobi. “School for me was something I absolutely hated, from day one to the end. Every single day of it. I hated the system, the teachers, the institution. I think it’s ridiculous that a state institution which takes so many of our tax dollars to run, produces so many failures. I’m giving them absolutely no credit for who I am in life. I’m only going to give them credit for driving all the fear, anxiety, anger and frustration. I consistently got the lowest marks in all assessments, for all subjects, so I’m a classic example of the eternal frustration of every teacher, who would all say I’d go nowhere, and achieve nothing, ever.”
A light bulb moment occurred when, on Kobi’s second last day of school, Dick Smith visited and spoke to the pupils. “I remember how I felt. He said a large portion of us will be absolute disasters, some will die young, about 25 percent will be battlers, strugglers who’ll be nothing, some will do OK and be the middle class, then there will be a couple of rising stars, and I said I’m going to be one of those people. I would have appreciated hearing that speech at the beginning of school!”
It was a turning point in Kobi’s life. “At the end of high school, I knew I wouldn’t get the marks to get into university at that point. I felt that now this thing I had to do is out of the way, now everything’s about what I want to do. It’s time to do something for me. This is the time for a change of direction. I was brought up to keep your options open. One of our family paradigms was: don’t go overboard, do it in moderation; don’t choose hard subjects as that will limit what you can apply for later on. So you plan strategically to protect your options. It was a belief system from that day when I said I can be what I want to be.”
At school, he was always at the bottom of the class, but it all changed later when Kobi was at University. He rarely got a thing wrong and graduated with high distinctions. “I couldn’t understand how I found school so hard, but flourished in tertiary education.
Who have been guiding influences in Kobi’s journey? “Dick Smith is definitely someone I admire in terms of testing the limits. When an adventurer is trying to achieve or change something, he’s always in the media saying we have to have people like this. He also looks at what we can we do to ethically change the way society thinks and that’s why I respect him.”
Another person of influence was Karen Pini, “a close family friend who was a celebrity at one point including presenting the lottery results on TV. She ran the local corner store where I lived, and I worked for her from age 14. She taught me how to run a business, how to manage staff, do the rosters and order from suppliers. You’d see first-hand that there’s only been $150 in the till today, but we just ordered $200 of food and then there are wages. So what do we need to do today to make money for the business?”
After leaving high school with less than stellar results, Kobi had limited options so he worked in hospitality. “I got to experience amazing customer service. It’s all about mindset – of the floor staff and the kitchen staff – ensuring customers have an amazing experience. If more business owners embraced that mindset – if they supplied a silver service approach to their clients – their businesses would flourish.”
There wasn’t a specific plan at this stage. “My career after school wasn’t really well structured. I wasn’t one of those people who said I’m going to do this or that. I loved building and construction and that’s my hobby still. After leaving school I enrolled in a hospitality course, and then went from that college with a diploma, into university.”
Kobi had a couple of attempts at starting businesses. “Straight after my Uni degree I started an assessment-based business, in 2000. I was doing greenhouse assessments and energy audits for a number of organisations. Then GST came in and lots of little contracting businesses folded because doing BAS paperwork was too hard.”
Kobi’s business was essentially one freelance skilled person helping people improve their business. He acted as an external set of eyes, identifying inefficiencies, then making adjustments to make a big difference to the client’s bottom line but at little cost.
The driver for self-employment was “so I could manage my own life. The business started to get in the way of all my passions and pursuits like kayaking, canyoning and so on. I employed someone to give me a hand so I could still have balance with those passions as part of my life.”
In 2004, to quote Kobi, “I had a serious go at it with my own funding. We did a radical rebrand in 2009, and transformed what was previously an outsourced team, to a fully-fledged business.”
Kobi doesn’t subscribe to the belief that success relates to money. “It’s all about having an amazing life, where you’re experiencing all the different realms of the emotional spectrum. I think it’s important to experience euphoric energy, sadness and everything in between, so you can have a sense of how you’re living.”
What makes up a balanced life? “Success is having the skills to manage all those emotions, so you can achieve emotional stability; eliciting love and happiness and getting that through sports and life experiences. Business is part of that, but business is only one fifth of the balanced life. When you put in business, finance, family and friends, I think success is about having a balanced intermingling of those elements.”
In business specifically Kobi’s philosophy “is about ensuring you create an amazing uplifting experience for everybody. For all the touchpoints -anyone involved with the business – even if you’re not commercially transacting with them, it’s important to be giving. You’re not expecting reciprocity. You become a remarkable brand, meaning you’re a brand that’s worth remarking on, and that’s when a brand really starts to grow.”
Every commercial transaction provides “an opportunity to experience an emotional roller coaster. In our industry where we do assessments, we can sometimes elicit a negative emotional response. People can be anxious about our visit and about the results. So, in the time we spend with them, we do everything we possibly can to not only minimise that, but also to flip it into excitement and anticipation so people are embracing what we’re coming to do,” Kobi enthuses.
Best Practice Certification exists to “create organisations with proven performance which elicits increased customer confidence. We need to ensure the people we’re working with know that it’s a positive thing to assist them to improve and grow their business, and not a negative experience in any way.”
Given the business is all about improving other people’s businesses it’s imperative that “we apply everything we do in our business as a testing ground thereby demonstrating that there’s an amazing outcome if you do it this way. We’re the walking testimonial.”
The leader sets the tone in Kobi’s view. “How you set the tone for the people around you affects everybody, affects the market. As a business leader you affect your team, so it’s important for you to put your physical and mental wellbeing first. Someone who is fit is going to be much higher on the tone scale, and will pull everybody else up that tone-scale.”
When asked about motivating his staff, Kobi says to “Recognise they’re not staff, they’re part of a family, a team. We have the Best Practice High Five for example to have everyone on track to achieve their ideal life. Firstly, we have everyone think about what is their ideal life scenario; work is just the financial input to life, it’s not your whole life. So our team constantly focuses on work being one portion of your life and what’s the rest of your 24 hour day about?”
Kobi is clear that “You don’t look back through your life and remember the amazing work experiences. You might remember some, but you remember the amazing holidays and family experiences first. You don’t have work on your bucket list!”
The second aspect is meditation. “There are a thousand different ways to embrace and approach it and there are so many variations. We encourage everyone to meditate every day. Everybody puts in mental energy, and that’s about reading the right information, and also the right fuel – good food and water.”
The next step is “doing one thing to shift everything forward to your ideal scene. So, you identify what your work ideal scene and your personal ideal scene are, and pick one time during the day to do something to shift you forward toward your ideal scenes. For most people it’s when you get up. The last thing is exercise.”
Those five things form the Best Practice High Five, “which we use to ensure we have an amazing team who are all aligned and where our ideal scenes are interlinked. The team are then having an uplifting experience achieving the goals together.”
Kobi has three tips for business people starting out: “Establish the right structure and understand what that is. Establish the right measures and understand what is going to give you a clear picture of your organisation’s performance. Thirdly, truly understand the emotional experience your customer is going to have. Truly understand what service you’re providing.”
In five years’ time, Kobi expects to be living a life without restrictions. “I’d like to be living my ideal scene with a sound intermingling of work and life, continuing grow and learning new skills. I bounce out of bed every day, often at 4am often to go to training. I love being really excited about the day ahead. To achieve where I want to be, there will be more offices as part of the Best Practice brand. We’re establishing a new set of products around personal improvement which fit into the Best Practice brand and we use all these to continue to inspire people to live beyond their wildest expectations, both in business and their personal life.”
Where does risk fit into Kobi’s thinking? “Personally, I think risk is overstated. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which talks about every human being needing water and food to survive in the first instance. Then next they can have families, and the basics of human mechanics, but without the first level, they can’t progress to the next level. With regard to risk I believe people spend too much time at the top of the hierarchy – they have no ability to fight. What will they be willing to lose? Their house, or their family, that’s real risk. The other stuff like return on your investments – that’s not risk, that’s about paying for a better quality coffin.”
Kobi is always anticipating what the next challenge will be or how he can have a positive impact on somebody’s life. He is grateful and he recognises that daily, especially while meditating. “It’s important to be mindful, and to make mindful decisions. What is it you want to get out of life, and what are you doing to step in that direction?”
Best Practice is all about creating greater customer confidence. “You get a declaration that you have a level of conformity to an international standard, and that you’re aspiring to be better at customer service, or to be safer, or have more data security. We give you the certification which you can then promote to your clients and it’s a unique proposition to differentiate you from your competitors. We work with you to provide a constant source of evaluation. Looking at your PBs (Personal Bests), and asking what you can do to be better, to break your internal records. By asking what can we do to continue to enhance our winning formula, we work with you to be better.”
Kobi is also a fan of Gary Chapman’s work. “There’s a great book called the ‘Five Love Languages’, (5lovelanguages.com), and there is a version for the workplace, ‘The Five Languages of Affirmation in the Workplace’. I highly recommend reading it. It’s radically lifted the cultural tone at Best Practice, where we have new knowledge around making bids for connections.”
An example of this would be, “Think of a time you wanted to make a positive connection with a person, but it hadn’t worked. If you both don’t speak the same one of the five affirmation languages: words of affirmation, acts of service; receiving gifts; quality time, and physical touch it’s less likely the connection will succeed. You’re more receptive to your own love language so you need to understand and read each other’s love language to be able to really get the right connection. Some people love getting little gifts, but if you approach them offering quality time, then the connection doesn’t eventuate.”
In conclusion, “Anybody leading a team should have that on their reading list, because it gives you great insight into getting better connections with people in business. It also makes work a fun place to be.”
The business supports a range of charities. “Catholic Care is one of our clients. We ran a free training session recently to upskill their staff, helping them to access skills they couldn’t normally afford, so the upside is that they’re more empowered to do great things now.”
Kobi Simmat hated school, until the day Aussie entrepreneur Dick Smith walked into his classroom and said school isn’t everything. A specialist in business certification, Kobi shares with us his unique knowledge of the workplace and people management. Most importantly, Kobi believes in people having fun.