Heidi Alexandra Pollard is a company culture architect who has travelled the globe consulting to companies, governments and entrepreneurs.
At UQ Power Heidi and her team challenge managers to break with tradition because rules stifle the originality and uniqueness that enable people to achieve their highest performance.
A seven times published author, Heidi writes for a variety of magazines and is the host of online brand and culture show, UQTV.
- Did you always know you want to be an entrepreneur?
Funnily enough, no I didn’t, and I think it is more because I had no idea or concept of what an entrepreneur was when I was young. I always knew I wanted to be a leader and a businesswoman – and tragically when I was young that meant shoulder pads and a brief case so I didn’t know much more about what that meant.
Interestingly, my grandparents were all entrepreneurs – I guess you could call them small business owners or entrepreneurs as each of them had a business, from a grandmother that ran a guesthouse, a grandfather who was a photographer, my Pop was a carpenter and ran a carpentry business and my Nan had a newsagents. So I grew up with a bit of that and it didn’t really sink in that was an entrepreneur and what that really meant until I was about 18 or 19 and I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad for the first time and it was like a light bulb went on. I was going to school, getting good grades, going to go to uni and all of that which I still pursued and got the corporate career, but reading Robert Kiyosaki’s book really made me go there is a different way to live and work and helped me understand the principles of what a business can do for you, what investments can do for you.
So I went down the traditional corporate path at first but I played on the side in property investing. I started that when I was about 23 and spent about 15 years in the corporate world, meanwhile doing the entrepreneurial thing with property on the side.
- Do you think there are any key traits that entrepreneurs tend to have?
Someone I really admire is Sir Richard Branson and he says that being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle and not a career and I tend to agree. I think the sort of people that are attracted to the entrepreneurial lifestyle are people who are curious more than anything. They are curious about the world about them, they are curious about people, they are curious about what makes things work and doesn’t.
So curiosity is huge I think and also tenacity because being an entrepreneur is not the safe route. So where most people have the day job and have some certainty around ‘I know I am going to get this amount of money this week’, an entrepreneur is carving a brand new path which is uncertain and unknown so they have to have a fair bit of courage and tenacity to head down that path.
Then I think they also really need to be good connectors. So there are some people who work well alone and maybe they come up with their ideas alone, but being curious about the world also means that they often can’t do what they need to do alone so they need to be able to connect with others, relate to others to bring people on board with their ideas to inspire and motivate others to want to do business with them or to want to create whatever it is they want to create.
So for me they would be the key traits an entrepreneur needs to have.
- How did you get the idea for your business?
UQ Power stemmed out of a pain point I guess you could say. 15 years in corporate and in government as well, and often I found working in environments that could be quite toxic or as I would call it ‘containing’ so they tended to put a lid on people. They had policies and procedures and ways of doing things, and if you dared stepped out of those lines you were in trouble.
For me being a bit of a natural disruptor that was always an uncomfortable place to be in and I was often called the Tasmanian devil because people said I whipped in and everything went crazy. But I also enjoyed disrupting that and going ‘what else could success look like’, ‘do we have to do everything the corporate way?’. So the idea for my business really came about from seeing people who weren’t living their best self, who were being smaller versions of themselves because the corporate world, their manager, their leader was kind of hampering that and I was really curious about is there a better way to do business.
Could we actually create a business where leaders allow people to expand and be a bigger version of themselves and do things that aligned with their strengths, that allowed them to be great at what they do? Is it possible for people to have healthy mindset, are they able to be well at work and that kind of spills into your whole life because I saw the impact that it had. Whether it was bullying and harassment, whether it was just unhealthy work practices that people would then take that home, and so for me UQ power stemmed from going let’s see if we can create a ripple effect and influence leaders, managers and CEOs, people who run companies, to actually go lets create a different environment so that our people can actually thrive and love coming to work given we spend probably half our life there.
- What has been your proudest moment in business?
For me it is a whole matter of probably small wins. So it is seeing a leader or a CEO or someone that I am coaching having a difficult conversation for the first time. It’s seeing a small business owner try something different and see their cash flow increase for example. I like to live my proudest moments through the people that I am connected with and that I work with and so I have to say I have many wins every week which is wonderful.
Otherwise probably more personally, my most proudest moment was really recently when I travelled to Necker Island and spent time with Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Unite team as well as some other entrepreneurs. It was less about pride and more about what is possible I guess, and being in a space where people are big dreamers, big thinkers and allowing myself the opportunity to go there and to sit amongst those people and be a sponge and take on the brilliant energy that they have.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
Local businesspeople, in particular small business people of all walks and industry.
So whether it is a café owner who does something really cool, a hairdresser, a plumber, it could be a lawyer, it could be a local service station. I love seeing local business people thrive, try things, give great service and look at how they can raise above the bar given that we are often in tough times.
But I guess to really pinpoint someone, I recently had the opportunity to support the Newcastle Knights in their strategic planning process and I have to say I was really impressed with their CEO Matt Gidley, in particular his focus and his laser clarity on where he saw the club going and what he believed they were about. He took with great seriousness the importance that they have in this region and the affect they can have on the climate of the region – whether people can feel good about Newcastle or not. But really he took very seriously the values and ethics – what behaviours he wanted to see the club representing, whether that be himself as CEO, the Board, or the players whether they were on or off the field. So for me I found him quite inspiring in that just like some of the difficulties they may go through, he really had a very firm vision and was definitely going to be pushing that through and implementing that.