This is a transcript taken from my talk with Anthea Green....
Nigel Rawlins:Today I'm interviewing Gail Greatorex, a former senior manager with the Australian Government's Product Safety Agency. She made the shift to self employment several years ago and now consults and advises on product safety compliance and regulations to Australian firms. But she does a whole lot more that we'll find out a bit. Welcome Gail, to the wisepreneurs podcast. I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about product safety solutions.
Gail Greatorex: Thanks Nigel, Product Safety Solutions is my own business that I've set up as a consultancy, and advocacy business, serving retailers, importers, and what few manufacturers we have in Australia to help them understand how Consumer Product Safety works, and what they do and what they need to do to make their products compliant. Product Safety is a complex system. There's all sorts of regulations and considerations that go into making a product safe. And my background with the government agency that does product safety has set me up so that I can definitely provide something to help out businesses.
Nigel Rawlins : That’s great. So how did you end up in product safety, obviously, with the government. So what got you there before you started out to product safety?
Gail Greatorex: Well, I think it was just circumstance My career kind of didn't wasn't part of a grand plan. I had 35 years in the public service, the Federal Public Service and the first 10 years of that was in human resources, which I really enjoyed. And then an opportunity came up while I was working in the Attorney General's department for a new position in consumer affairs. And as it turned out, the skill set wasn't all that different. It was still, you know, managing people, it was still applying regulations, it was still exploring how to make the system work well for everybody and striking the right balance between one side or another. So they have to learn on the job in product safety, and it took quite some time to do of course, but over the years, I really built a level of understanding expertise and also network of contacts. That's made me want to stay in product safety, and I stayed there for the next 25 years. 25 years and I stayed there. Because I really enjoy it's a dynamic area, you never know when what you're going to be working on from one day to the next. And it's constantly changing new products, new technologies, and you learn something every day. So, you know, there's not that many jobs that you can say no. And it's meaningful, you know, meaningful to the community to be able to help improve the system and reduce injuries. And were there any highlights. During that time you were there? Oh, there are many highlights in the a Triple C, which I really enjoyed working there. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was where I did the bulk of the product safety work. And that's a good place to work. And I was fortunate enough to have a chance to represent the country overseas as well. So I went to a number of overseas conferences, including being on the keynote speaker panel for the first product safety conference in China. Now back in 2007. So that was a steal. gave a landmark really. And so things that I did, you know, we had quite a bit of influence, including one time when Christmas nearly got cancelled because the new law came in and there was a chance that all the toys would have to come off the off the shelves in the Christmas that we managed to work a solution around, but that one, wow.
Nigel Rawlins: And so Gail saved Christmas.
Gail Greatorex: Yes, that was a was a frantic time. But all worked out in the end.
Nigel Rawlins: So at some point you chose to retire or you took an early retirement took an early retirement? Yes. And what made you want to start product safety solutions? Well, because you could have gone off and done what other people doing golf and travel. Indeed I could have.
Gail Greatorex: I was I felt I was too young to stop working. I didn't want to stop working back then. You know, by moving out of paid employment as especially in the government sector. I felt as though I had a little bit more freedom to do my own thing, and make a contribution to the way that product safety can work in Australia and even beyond Australia. Drawing on my experience, up until then, so one thing I really wanted to do was get a bit creative by writing. And I set up the website with your assistance to use that to write blog, blog articles, and which all contribute to the body of knowledge and and hopefully fill some gaps between people's understanding of the system and what information is is otherwise out there.
Nigel Rawlins: So you've been writing blogs, how are you getting, how do you feel they're going in terms of any responses you get from them?
Gail Greatorex: Look, I think I get a limited amount of feedback. I guess that feedback I do get is very encouraging. I think that writing blog articles serves to Establish me as an expert in my field that helps with recognition by Google. When people type in that they're looking for product safety advice, will often take them to my website, which is encouraging. I've now written I think of just past 80 blog articles in five years I've been going and as well as the blogs, I've also written a series of some ebooks to separate white papers, and also produced some other material, including visual PowerPoints, some videos, and also I've got some audio podcasts where I do interviews like the one we're doing now. So let's talk about podcasts for a moment. So who do you choose to interview and why do you choose those people? Mainly I pick people who are established in their field, who will may not be otherwise Known are available to people wanting to learn about product safety. There's not a lot of infrastructure in product safety. And so there's not much in the way of formal education in the taste system. So I want to kind of add to that body of knowledge. And I've taken the opportunity to talk to some experts from overseas as well as here in Australia, and I hope to do more in the future as well.
Nigel Rawlins: Now, you mentioned VET, can you explain what that is?
Gail Greatorex: that's the vocational education system. vocational education training, I think it stands for. Learning how to do a job, and people might be familiar with the term so for certified or not certified, sorry, diploma level, Certificate three is more entry level and it's about getting training and qualifications in in how to do the job that you're doing. Okay, so this is really how somebody's working. And so retail gets the experience about product safety. Hmm. It turns out that when I looked into it, there's a search for you could do into dog grooming. But there is no cert for in how to make sure our product is safe before it goes on the shelves. Right? So does that mean that you get work with companies that are buying in things? So to help them figure it out? Or Yes, yes, I do face to face training courses for small businesses and large businesses. And I've done a number of those. And also interested in exploring the idea of online courses for people as well.
Nigel Rawlins: So you want to help so the people who are doing the job or people who say running the company, so need some advice, a bit of both, but mostly
Gail Greatorex: it's for the people who are doing the job. Okay.
Nigel Rawlins: So coming back to having left the public service and now running a business. How do you see the difference in your roles compared to when you're working in the government and now you're working in your own business is there much difference between the two
Gail Greatorex: Well, I suppose working in an organization with especially a government authority, there was a lot more structure and a little bit of constraint in what I could do, and now a little bit freer to do that. I have to say, I don't miss working in an organization at all having done so for 35 years, I really enjoy the freedom. I mean, I miss having colleagues to talk to on a daily basis. But even then, I feel I find I could make up for by staying in touch with a series of contacts and and colleagues that I have in the wider community.
Nigel Rawlins: Community. I don't think that's one of the issues that most people working for themselves in self employment is is you know, you might be working from home or one of the hubs or something like that. But you're still on your own unless you've got a team. Is that really, I mean, you've mentioned about your networks. So is your network growing? And you say,
Gail Greatorex: yes, it's always growing. In fact, I'm trying to be strategic In that context by tapping into the business representative organizations by way of associations like the promotional price Association, the National Retail Association, etc. And so that is a way to tap into the broader community, you know, and through to their members.
Nigel Rawlins: So is that to get work? Or is that to do the influencing that you want?
Gail Greatorex: Yeah, look a lot of the time it's to do with the my opportunity or firstly to contribute, and secondly to bring about some influence to help guide and people because you know, product safety, in any business product safety has to compete against a myriad other things. So it's not always front of mind. And it because it's complicated, and people tend to not focused on it quite often. And yet there's risks in avoiding product safety and compliance. So part of my objective is to make things simpler for people and to get it in the forefront in the first place.
Nigel Rawlins: So it sounds like you're getting a message out there about product safety. So if you had any major achievements in that area that you talk about all
Gail Greatorex: A few years ago, I looked at the advent of home based 3d printers. And I thought, Oh, I wonder if there's any product safety issues that are associated with those, you know, if you're able to print a toy, how does someone know that the toy is going to be safe, so I googled around or nobody had written anything. So I decided to write a white paper myself and seemed like I was the only person in the world to have done that. And I did some conferences speaking about it for a while, and even still today I'm getting regular downloads of that white paper. Seems like there's not been much written on it since then. So I consider that a significant achievement, then I just jumped right into that one.
Nigel Rawlins: And is there another area that you're really passionate about that you're working on in product safety?
Gail Greatorex: Oh, button batteries. Yes. batteries, singularly the most complex issue that I've encountered in my 30 something years of doing product safety. What the problem there is, is that if children swallow little little coin size batteries, they can get stuck in their throats and causes electrical current to activate and it'll burn through the flesh of your oesophagus. It sounds a bit strange, but there's been many, many instances of it happening. It's caused two deaths in Australia. It's caused many more deaths overseas and an even still now in Australia. That estimate It's around one serious injury a month requiring surgery for a child and you know that the damage might have already been done by the time the surgery happened. So it's a really, really serious hazard. And I'm doing what I can to help people understand the need to do everything that's possible, you have to come at it from a multiple array of angles, and to try and address it and one of those is making sure the products have secure battery compartments, and the batteries themselves come in child resistant packs. If that was consistently happening, we would dramatically reduce the exposure of children to batteries. It's unlikely we'll be able to eliminate it though because kids can relies on parents and carers to make sure there's no batteries left lying in drawers or otherwise on the floor. And there's only so much you can do from that point of view, but I'm not Hoping to facilitate some better consumer education.
Nigel Rawlins: So you're getting the word out about product safety, you're doing some work in there as well. So maybe we talk about the business a little bit. So how do you describe your business as a company? Or?
Gail Greatorex: Oh, well, no, I haven't Incorporated. I have considered doing that time to time but decided against doing so. And so I'm just running as a sole trader, which works well for me. And I was originally charging GST, because I thought it would look more professional turned out, I don't think it really makes any difference. And it was only an extra a lot of work to submit your work, I’ve forgotten the name of the
Nigel Rawlins: of the BASS, In Australia we call it the BASS statement.
Gail Greatorex: So it's working well for me, but I have of course, got some good public liability insurance and product, indemnity insurance, that sort of thing. So that's important.
Nigel Rawlins: Yeah. And especially in I guess, in that when you're giving advice How do you go about your networking? You mentioned that you're fairly strategic about it. So tell us a bit more about how you approach your networking, which I'm assuming we could say as marketing as well, Oh, definitely,
Gail Greatorex: definitely comes in the category of marketing. And well, I use LinkedIn, to liaise with people and to keep abreast of new developments. And I post things on Twitter, but I don't follow Twitter very much. That's fine. I can only do so many different aspects of social media. I do use Facebook to try and educate consumers. So that's that works quite nicely and more on our actual individual personal level. A lot of my networking comes through me doing voluntarily participating on working groups and committees. And so I am active in my contribution with them. It's also especially Well, I suppose via email, as well as the face to face meetings. People are they're hearing what I've got to say, and seeing firsthand the value that I can add. And I am working collaboratively with a lot of people who, you know, we're all there to pitch in and and improve the resources that are available and the policies.
Nigel Rawlins: Those people are often potential clients as well. And so often what you're saying is a lot of your networking work is actually getting out there working with your community, and you're not getting paid for this, but it's because that's part of your mission. You want to really get that message out there. And yes, it gives you work as well. Are you choosy about the sort of work you do?
Gail Greatorex: Yes, I am. I like to be choosy. There's not a great deal that I that comes in requests come in that I'm not back but I also have as work. My network also serves as a A range of associates that I can pass work on. It doesn't suit me to do it for whatever reason. So that works quite well. And quite often, you know, those associates don't have the websites and the the profile that I've built. And so I, arguably, I could be challenging them for referrals. haven't actually done it yet, but I could start doing it. And especially if there's, you know, a stream of referrals, I was getting to any one of those associates.
Nigel Rawlins: So that that's fantastic. So you're getting all that sort of work. So what do you what sort of work do you prefer to do in the product safety area?
Gail Greatorex: Well, I guess it's a variety really, I've been lucky enough to been invited to be an expert witness a few times for product liability cases and even one coronial inquiry, also a prosecution by government for breaching other public safety laws. And I enjoy that those have been fairly short term projects. But I've enjoyed delving into a tissue at the time and researching it, then forming an opinion and providing advice. So that's fun to do doesn't sound fun because it's even if it's injury, reluctance to do with some serious consequences, but you enjoy the opportunity to that type of work, yeah, to research and then write up a report. I do enjoy training, I enjoy designing the training, writing it and then presenting it. And so there's always opportunities to get creative with how you actually do all of that and get good feedback straight away. You do the training. Now
Nigel Rawlins: that's excellent. Let's come back to the business from that side of it. Having been a public servant for 35 years in a running a business. What have you learned about business that you didn't know before?
Gail Greatorex: Well, getting started wasn't as difficult as I anticipated, which is nice, you know, having no frame of reference and having just got trotted into work every day for 35 years and, and had a lot of infrastructure set up there, and admin and so forth. I thought it might have been, you know, going out into small business might have been more complicated but apart from a couple of elements are found it not too difficult. Bearing in mind, though, that I haven't had to rely solely on my business for my day to day in. So that's allowed me a lot of freedom to just take my time with things. I think if I had chased work, if I felt the need to chase work, I would have got a lot more work than I currently have. At the moment. I like to keep the balance between paid work and my other passion work. A couple of things that did present a bit of a learning curve and a challenge starting at one was the insurance side and understanding how that works and what I needed. Due, and the implications of where I might be exposed. And the second one is given the amount of profile work that I'm doing on my website, etc. and public speaking public appearances and training, intellectual property is a challenging area to get your head around understanding how to protect your own intellectual property, but also and perhaps even more importantly, not breaching others intellectual property. So use of photos use of text and so forth. That is fair use and you have to understand in the context of different leads,
Nigel Rawlins: cost maybe contracts and legal documents. Yeah,
Gail Greatorex: yeah. Well, I've you know, some of my some of my engagements have been relatively small scale and have been done on the simple exchange of emails. Other contracts have been a lot more lengthy and it obviously depends on the client. Some of them Working out. Oh, and that's the other thing that's always a challenge is with setting your fees, working out how much to charge for things. One thing I did learn early on was the idea of trying to avoid charging by the hour and to charge based on value, rather than estimate the number of hours that you would need and and apply an hourly rate. I think it's better if you can understand what the client is wanting from you, and then just say, Well, I can do it for X amount. And you must put some caveats on that. But that's, I think that's a good way to go.
Nigel Rawlins: Yeah, I think a lot of people find pricing a problem, though, somebody who's maybe recently left, an industry may have some sense of what they can charge because, you know, a lot of professional women come out of a role where they have been hiring people so that yeah, that's very lucky in that sense. I know what some of the rights are. So we talked a little bit about that. So any books So courses that have helped you. Well, I
Gail Greatorex: hadn't thought of one until we mentioned the venue's based fees. And I'm trying to think of the fellows name, Ellen Weiss comes
Nigel Rawlins: that I need to check there. All right. So what we'll do with that one is we'll put in the show notes. Yep. We can put in the show notes so that people can just follow that up. So you've actually read a book that talked about that? Yeah, definitely. That was
Gail Greatorex: evident. There's lots of online tutorials on YouTube and so forth. For things like the technical side and the you know, webinars and videos and what have you. There's a video blog blog blogger called Steve Dotto, okay, yep. I found really helpful and he does a lot of interesting material in a really refreshing way and, and explains things really well. So that's another lie. I would recommend and have you gone to any paid courses or done Some extra study or anything like that, again? Well, I'm, I'm a fan of the Australian Institute of training and development, right? They run courses for on training but also on facilitating and, and learning and getting your message across. And so I've done a couple of courses and their seminars that they ran as well. They even did one on the concept of nudging recently, if I were to ask you because I'm trying to influence how people regard and act on products if you're keen to learn about how to influence behavior. There's a little organization within Monash University in Melbourne called behavior works. And I regularly go to their forums, which is again about changing people's attitude and just nudging behavior along.
Nigel Rawlins: That's excellent. Now, would you recommend others consider self employment like you've done
Gail Greatorex: and will I'm really happy with where I'm at The moment I'm happy with the the way it all plays out and the flexibility it gives me, I work from home, and I set my own time, the amount of time I spend on work. And it gives me freedom to do other things, which is very good. So, yes, I felt reasonably confident that I would achieve what I wanted to achieve and be successful at it. And I'm generally an optimistic and confident person. Nonetheless, it's, you know, it was kind of stepping into the unknown a little bit. And the idea of just exploring that and talking to people that you trust and have confidence in and was enough to give me the confidence to proceed when I first started, and I make sure that I maintain those contacts and, and use people as mentors as necessary. So I would encourage people to feel optimistic.
Nigel Rawlins: Well, you'd have to be optimistic.
Gail Greatorex: But a bit a bit about your own your own abilities. No, you don't have to be able to know everything before you start. That's really important. And don't let your fear of it not working according to, you know, your ideal plan. get in the way of you starting out. So do some good planning. I'm a big advocate of planning. And then take the step.
Nigel Rawlins: I know that sounds good. Is there anything else that we haven't mentioned that you'd like to talk about? Oh,
Gail Greatorex: well, I guess the enjoyment and and success I've had with my business has been with me doing it as a solo operator. I did dabble in the idea of having a partnership recently with a couple of other like minded colleagues, but I really was getting a couple of ideas that just wasn't quite going to work out as I would have liked. And I was able to withdraw from it. So I guess that would be one word of caution is that with partnerships, you might well have shared objectives and complementary skill sets. But you've got to make sure that you can work together when it actually comes down to the cruncher of getting the work done. So, if you were to look at doing their partnership, obviously do a lot of homework beforehand and maybe tread carefully, by way of doing taking it slowly and leaping into incorporated business. And that's
Nigel Rawlins: where could go, so what's the future look like for product safety solutions now? Well,
Gail Greatorex: quite a few of my contacts are starting to say, Oh, I'm now going off on this new venture and I'm going to direct lots of business you're away. So things not my sort of the ripple effect of mine networking is starting to show some serious returns. And that's encouraging and I'm still on a I've got a couple of friends. projects that I'm keen to do one of which is the associations which I've started on. And so if I can have some success there, then I'll be very happy. That's wonderful. Go where the people find you then, if they want to contact you certainly will. My website is the best spoke product safety solutions.com.au Not to be confused with the American public safety solutions, quite a separate that's a chemical product advisory service. And my website has Gosh, my contact details of course, I'm also product safety solutions is also on Facebook. And then you can find me by my own name on LinkedIn and Twitter. And don't forget YouTube channel. Safety solutions has a YouTube channel, right. And the podcasts are available through iTunes and through libsyn.
Nigel Rawlins: Oh, and on the website.
Gail Greatorex: I another website. Yeah, that sounds wonderful.
Nigel Rawlins: Well, girl, thank you very much for participating today and The best for the future.
Gail Greatorex: Thanks very much Nigel been happy to do it.