Take 5 with Entrepreneur, Naomi Simson

Naomi Simson

We chat with Naomi Simson, former Marketing Executive of KPMG, on her impressive career and business success.

We chat with alumnus Naomi Simson, on her impressive career and business success.

Naomi Simson
Last role at KPMG Marketing Executive
Time with KPMG 1987 – 1988
KPMG office Melbourne
Current roles
(as of May 2019)
Co-founder, Big Red Group
Founder, RedBalloon
Non-Executive Director

What were some of the early challenges you faced that helped you get to where you are today?

Knowing that I wanted a career in marketing and navigating what that career path looked like was a challenge early on. I was working in a newly merged partnership team, and marketing within professional services firms was in its infancy at the time. In addition, there were no role models for which to aspire to in that environment; and as I like to say now, “You cannot be what you cannot see”. Ultimately, I pursued my marketing career in a more traditional marketing organisation and setting – leaving KPMG to join Ansett and then on to Apple, before getting the entrepreneurial urge to start my own show.


You’ve been recognised by LinkedIn as one of the World’s Most Influential Thought Leaders, attracting over 2.7 million followers. How important is social media to your brand?

Social media, like all media, is shifting. I am happy to share on social media what I have learnt – and that’s why I get traction. People are curious about an entrepreneur's life, so they observe me on Instagram, listen to what I have to say on Twitter, and read my articles on LinkedIn. I think the real success is not seeking any commercial outcome from the sharing of this content – I simply want to be a role model for current and future generations. Social media has given me an avenue to have larger audiences than I will ever have through my books, speaking engagements or TV appearances, and for that I am grateful.


The ability to adapt to change is crucial. What strategies have you implemented to remain resilient in a forever changing world?

I’m a deeply curious person. I read constantly, and I learn as much as I can every day. I invest heavily in my own education – attending conferences and events regularly. And I’m really happy to share these learnings and be the curator of these insights for my audiences. I’m fascinated by the Experience Economy right now – the Big Red Group was formed to catch the rising tide of the Experience Economy and to shift with the change in customer desires and expectations when it comes to retail and the thirst for meaningful experiences over things. That's why we have created a white paper all about this move to experiences as the next competitive battleground of retail.


What challenges have you faced by being a female leader in a predominately male-rich environment?

One thing that bothers me when I get a label – female business owner, female entrepreneur… until we give up these labels we won’t have equality. So part of the challenge we face is simply around the language we use. It’s the job of leaders to listen for contribution from diverse audiences, customer groups and employees and it is up to leaders to nurture the conversation to ensure everyone has a voice. I speak to the challenges of all leaders and in so doing I move our economy one step closer to a balanced voice. 


What does confidence look like to you? 

Many years ago I did the Gallup Strengths Finder and found that my strengths are woo (winning others over), input (gathering information), self-assurance, positivity and connectedness. My innate strengths fall within relationships - communication and connection. What's interesting is that when we’re playing to our strengths it doesn’t really occur as 'work', and it comes naturally and more easily to us. So my job now as a leader is to recognise that people have different strengths, and to nurture these accordingly. I've always enjoyed recommending the book The Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, who talks about how we use powerful questions to engage and encourage those around us.


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

It is evolving more now that our kids have left home – but family and friends are very important to me and I make a significant effort to catch up with people and host at my home. I hate if I arrive in December and haven't seen certain people that year. Life is short and we need to make the effort to connect frequently with the people we love.


If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

I know that if I was to have dinner with Romilly Madew, Ann Sherry, Bobbi Mahlab and Carol Schwartz we would have plenty of laughs, share plenty of insights and offer plenty of support about evolving leadership throughout every part of our society.

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