Why Jo Gilbert Creative Business Coach

To finesse your vision & identity and differentiate your brand.

To be business-like about creativity & creative about business.

To define, refine and market your creative & strategic offering.

To lift your pitch skills & upscale your new business strike rate.

To build your new business capabilities & grow your business.

To retain senior management and attract the best creatives.

To upgrade overall quality & amplify your agency's reputation.

To maximise the efficiency of your procedures & infrastructure.

To improve your client relations and get on more invite lists.

To enjoy more profits, make more money and save more time.

To extract more reward & return from each and every project.

To get expert, independent mentoring, advice and support.

To motivate, grow, inspire and continually improve your staff.

About Creative Business Coach

I'm a Creative Services Business Management Consultant & Coach.

Find out more

I established Creative Business Coach in 2007 to share insights gathered over 30 years of developing creative businesses.

Over that time I also held strategic brand management positions for a broad range of national and international brands. I've also run businesses that focus on the recruiting, training and managing of staff for the design and advertising industries.

So I understand all the various dynamics of effectively running a creative business.

I've helped many clients to define their vision and identity. I've helped clients establish strategic business planning procedures, implement their brand positioning, build their new business capabilities and grow their client base.

I'm here to help you define, refine and market your creative and strategic offering, while maximising the efficiency of your infrastructure and improving your bottom-line. I'll support you as you grow, develop (and enjoy!) your business.

All on a flexible, independent, cost effective, contract or casual basis.

I help you create demand for your creative services. And attract the best staff.

You want to build your brand and culture to attract, train and retain middle and senior management, business development and account service people and of course, the best available creative talent.

I have a strategic approach to achieve these goals – a mix of sound methodology and innovative style. I'll refine your processes and build your human resource capabilities and performance across management, new biz dev, marketing, pitching & presentation, project management and client service. All of which is directed at transforming your business and client relationships for the long term.

I work with small, medium and large creative enterprises.

You're a studio, agency or creative services business specialising in advertising, animation, architecture, communication design (brand and visual identity, corporate, digital, information and packaging) industrial design, games, film, marketing, photography, print, promotions, way-finding or environmental signage.

I've spent the best part of my working life helping creative specialists such as you to improve your business outcomes.

I am an independent business development specialist. Emphasis on independent.

I don't provide design and creative services (that is, I'm not a competitor to your business) and I don't rely on sponsorship. Therefore I can make open and independent recommendations about suppliers, systems and services that best suit your real needs.

I'm independent but not alone. Strategic alliances are engaged as required for in-depth organisational guidance, specific research and analysis tasks, compliance issues, software skill development, or specialised creative skills training.

About Jo

I have the intuitive creativity of an entrepreneur. The pragmatic, goal focused credentials of a business manager. And the inspiring, personal approach of a coach.

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I've built my own highly successful businesses from the ground up and developed and managed creative enterprises and services for some of Australia's leading design and production houses.

I've walked a mile in your shoes. (Nice shoes, by the way.)

I've worked with multiple brands and industry sectors over a 30+ year career as general manager and account and new business development director in design and advertising.

I've handled the big picture issues you face, like the brand positioning for your creative business, developing service offers, B2B marketing and sales, financial and human resource management, client service, studio management, production and quality control.

I know what it takes to develop new opportunities and to accomplish both short and long term business objectives – from meeting immediate sales targets to taking your service offer to a more strategic level.

I know what your clients want.

I've directed and managed a broad range of projects – advertising, brand strategy, naming and visual identity development, corporate collateral and literature, digital, innovation, packaging and way-finding – for diverse clients from SMEs, entrepreneurs and middle market businesses to national and international companies across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. I understand client relationships and idiosyncrasies.

I know how to get the best staff and to get the best out of your staff.

I was co-founder and general manager of The Talent Store (1980-1990), Australia's first, and one of the most successful, full-service creative recruitment agencies.

Over 1,000 companies and organisations, including advertising agencies, design studios, marketing companies, corporations, publishers and government departments used our services to find the right permanent and freelance industry staff.

So I know what makes talent truly valuable to you and your clients. And how to find and keep them.

I know what it takes to deliver great results. And keep doing it.

As a business founder and leader, I've built successful B2B and creative services companies for myself and others.

As a new business development manager, I've met and surpassed sales targets and trained others to do the same.

As an educator, I've spent 5 years at the renowned Melbourne universities, RMIT and Swinburne, working with Honours, Masters and Undergraduate students to deliver first class results for their advertising and communication design degrees.

As Creative Business Coach, I've spent over 5 years consulting, coaching and training advertising and design business managers and staff to develop and capitalise on their talents.

I speak your language. (Jargon-free, naturally.)

I have an in-depth understanding of both your business and creative process, combined with an innovative approach and entrepreneurial nature. So you'll be working with an articulate professional who 'gets you'.

My credentials.

  • 30+ years creative industry experience
  • Creative Business Coach since 2007
  • Creative Fellow, State Library of Victoria 2012
  • TAS (Training Advisory Service) Provider, Creative Industries Innovation Centre
  • Lecturer, Bachelor of Communication Design, Swinburne University 2007-2011
  • Lecturer, Bachelor of Advertising, RMIT University 2007-2009
  • Guest lecturer, industry assessor & curriculum advisor at various Melbourne universities
  • Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) training seminars
  • Hoyne Design, General Manager/Account Director 2000-2006
  • Cozzolino Ellett Design D'Vision, New Business Development/Account Director 1997-2000.
  • The Talent Store, Founding Partner/GM, Australia's first full service creative recruitment agency 1980-1990.
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Monash
  • Time Management, Australian Institute of Management
  • Art & Design, Caulfield Institute of Technology (Monash University)


My service is bespoke, tailored
to your needs and budget.

Your creative business is different. That's part of what makes it "creative".

Each company has a different entry point for my services and each problem is serviced on its merits. I don't follow a rigid formula but I am supported by tried and true strategies and methodologies, years of experience and a range of strategic alliances. That's what makes my business "creative".

I explore what success means to you. I understand that growth means different things to different people. It's not just about dollars but also about the culture and challenges that stimulate you and the relationships you find fulfilling. It's not always about getting bigger but often about getting better, raising your profile, improving profitability, enjoying the satisfaction of working on quality projects and sourcing clients with integrity who give you repeat business and value you as a partner and not just a provider.

I offer a range of cost-effective consulting, coaching and training solutions and other services...

Business Transformation Consulting

My mission is to build your capabilities and transform your business.

You want to articulate your vision for the future and develop a strategy for the years ahead, but you are so busy keeping on top of things day to day you need help to make the leap.

Together we develop an implementation ready business plan to show you how to move forward – improving your execution, process efficiency and financials along the way.

I help build the capabilities of your people, strengthen your new business development strategies, create the environment for growth and, ultimately, build long term, sustainable relationships that ensure you are you placed on the client 'invite' list.

Initial Consultation – what are your needs, what's the focus?

We discuss your needs and budget or time constraints and develop a plan to achieve your goals.

Intensive Business & Brand Strategy Consultation – a 360 degree assessment.

A core business overview provides a clear understanding of your business strategy, structure and service capability. We investigate brand positioning, infrastructure, management and organisational structure, staff capabilities, systems and processes, financials and current growth pattern, sales, marketing and business development activity.

Business & Financial Management – strategies for growth & profit.

I review your procedures and investigate process efficiency, optimising internal staff and external customer facing systems, improving your practices where necessary. We investigate profit profiles, develop annual budgets, set financial targets, establish cost and charge rates and develop growth strategies.

Human Resources Management & Forward Planning – optimising performance.

We forward plan an organisational structure for optimum business performance and succession, review human resource capabilities and build leadership and HR management skills.

Recruitment Support – securing the best available talent.

A time saving service delivered by a highly experienced recruiter. If your team is too busy to manage the recruitment process, I can work independently or with your recruitment agent, managing all or just part of the process.

Sales & Marketing Review – how powerful is your brand?

We review your brand offer, creative work or portfolio, positioning and profile, existing and prospective clients, competitors and current projects. We look at your marketing and sales strategy, conduct a sales analysis and investigate the capabilities of your business development team.

Presentation Critique – developing pitch-winning content, delivery & style.

I review your core business communications, current pitch proposals, presentation format and other self promotion tools. We discuss competitors, point of difference in the marketplace and your personal style and provide recommendations for more powerful presentations that help you win the pitch.

Business Planning – for managing, selling or exiting your business.

I review all aspects of your business and provide the documentation to build a carefully crafted, detailed business plan that assists with succession planning and establishing the value of your business.

General Management

General Management - ad hoc or on a regular monthly basis

Supporting small studios with deep knowledge of the industry and decades of hands on experience at an hourly rate.


I understand your people, industry, work, process, marketplace & clients.

Your business employs a unique mix of people and talents. Building it will inspire and improve retention of your most respected and valuable staff. I've built my own successful businesses, developed creative service companies for others and have a high level of emotional intelligence. And I've been coaching and training for more than five years.

Sessions of 1.5 hours+ can be held on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis and are dependent on your requirements and the urgency of the issues that need to be addressed. Regular checkups keep you and your business on track.

Coaching – regular support to maintain your focus.

Coaching can improve productivity and create a culture that supports innovation and excellent key staff and client relationships. For owners and managers we cover the core activities and issues involved in generating both today's and tomorrow's business in every session. For key staff we focus on how their roles and responsibilities support business development and their own personal contribution and challenges.

New Biz Dev Coaching – building the environment for growth.

I support you in implementing changes and introduce simple monthly reporting tools, sales and marketing support material. I coach you and your staff to develop sound research practices and bring real focus to business development activity.

Training & Workshops

I upskill, refresh and inspire your staff with in-house training & workshops.

Group training is a great morale booster and professional development is a key part of any good staff retention strategy. In a creative enterprise like yours, staff can never be too skilled, too knowledgeable or too talented. The aim of these workshops is to keep staff inspired, motivated and moving forward in a process of continual improvement.

Bespoke Training & Workshops – designed especially for you.

Coaching may identify specific areas for improvement or bespoke course development, otherwise training and workshops can be industry focused and more general in nature. Either way, all sessions are information rich, interactive and motivational.

I am a University Lecturer with Training and Assessment qualifications.

I undertake a training needs analysis, which might include individual staff appraisals, to establish where your team needs to improve skills and what is the best learning technique to do so.

Comprehensive learning programs tailored to your requirements, budgets, business objectives and strategic imperatives are developed. The process includes development, preparation, handouts and delivery in-house for utmost confidentiality and open discussion. Programs can include an element of consultation to refine your processes and procedures beforehand. Some of the most popular sessions are listed below. If there's a course that you can't see here or you'd like to have developed, please contact me to discuss your requirements.

Grow Your Business – and graduate to the 'invite' list.

1 x 2.5 hour session for 2 consecutive weeks

Strategic business development training, planning and goal setting that identifies target markets and leverages your expertise and experience to create new opportunities. Learn how to qualify leads, manage activity, implement cold to warm call strategies, present to win the pitch and graduate to the client 'invite' list.

Bespoke Client Service/Account Management Training – tailored to your needs.

1 x 2.5 hour session for 3 consecutive weeks

I consider your staff job descriptions, expertise and experience, financial reports, sales and marketing analysis, processes, systems and practices, as well as your particular customer categories to customise the training.

Client Service/Account Management Training – building the relationship.

1 x 2.5 hour session for 3 consecutive weeks

We cover the main principles of the agency or studio/client relationship, project and operations management from brief to final execution, presentation techniques and comprehensive end-to-end documentation.

Sell Your Concepts – what is said, shown & left behind.

1 x 2.5 hour workshop

Polish your pitch presentations and proposals, practice team interaction, learn to clearly communicate your strategy and sell in your ideas – including those that push the boundaries – to gain client approval.

Strategic Brand Management Training – get it right every time.

1 x 2.5 hr session for 3 consecutive weeks

Brand Management is a multi-disciplined process that calls for getting the fundamentals right. In these short, focused sessions, we develop a strategic approach to client projects and share insights, understanding and processes.

Brand Workshop – bringing your identity to life.

1 x 4 hour workshop plus preparation and refinement

Take time out to workshop your own brand with some or all staff. I undertake pre-preparation and research, and facilitate the workshop as we focus on your positioning in the creative services marketplace.

Briefing, Estimating, Deadlines & Accountability – depth in the details.

1 x 2 hr session for 3 weeks

Great results depend upon eliciting a comprehensive brief, clearly understanding requirements, responding with a detailed estimate for efficient and effective delivery. Gather insights from reconciliations to ensure continuous improvement and well managed client relationships.

Effective Meetings – taking charge of the process.

1 x 2 hour workshop

We discuss methods for running effective internal and external meetings – new business development, work in progress, briefings, strategy and client meetings.

Name Development – it's all in the name.

1 x 2 hour workshop

We discuss the criteria and development of names for companies and products, obstacles encountered in development, issues of trade marking and availability and techniques for work-shopping names with your clients.

Quick Consult

I provide consulting & coaching for the short term.

You need support for a particular one-off issue – preparation or feedback on a new biz presentation or tender document or a quick fix for a challenging project or specific immediate problem.

I consult on an hourly rate billed in quarter hour blocks to existing clients. In some instances it may be possible to provide a Quick Consult to a new contact, but this depends on the nature of the enquiry. Conducted in person in Melbourne or by phone, Skype or email for interstate and overseas.

Trouble Shooting – dealing with the challenges.

Objective, independent, confidential feedback, advice and support for those difficult (and often urgent) issues and challenges that arise from time to time.

HR & Recruitment Issues – factoring in the human factor.

Advice on sensitive staff issues, review job descriptions, employment contracts or candidate applications and reference checking.

Pitch, Presentation, Strategic Proposals & Tender Reviews – working for a win.

Preparation or critique of material – feedback and assistance to polish your pitch, proposal or tender documents for a win.

Estimate/Quote & Invoice Reviews – lifting return & rewards.

Assistance for the preparation of costing and billing of projects large or small.

Project Planning & Resourcing – the right help when you need it.

Assistance with scoping and resourcing external help for large or unfamiliar projects.

B2B Matchmaker

I can help you meet your match.

You need another creative service to complement your pitch or client offering, to develop your new brand or to work with you on one of your own projects. I've developed a large network over 30+ years in the industry that continues to grow. Searching for a match for a sensitive or highly confidential project in an open and competitive marketplace can require discretion that demands much more than a LinkedIn search.

I make business-to-business introductions based on your brief, my knowledge of the creative services marketplace and an intuitive, emotional intelligence developed over many years spent matching creative businesses, personalities and skill sets.

I'm not a staff recruitment agent, I'll leave that to the experts. There is no placement fee, financial arrangement, guarantee or ongoing involvement on my part – unless you require strategic or project management assistance, which I am then happy to provide. Just a simple, one off fee for my service, based on an hourly rate.

Speaking, Seminars & Lectures

Industry Speaking Engagements – Festivals & Seminars, Breakfasts or Lunches – experience to share.

As an experienced industry trainer and lecturer, I've done the work, managed the businesses, taught the students, trained the staff and built the capabilities of many design studios, ad agencies, architects and others.

Creative Business Coach is my third business and I'm willing to share what I've seen, done and learnt over 30+ challenging, stimulating and inspiring years in the business of being creative.

Tertiary Lectures & Seminars – educating from an industry perspective.

I've worked as a lecturer and in course development for Advertising and Communication Design higher education courses at the renowned Australian universities, RMIT and Swinburne, from 2007 to 2011. My industry insights have been incorporated into the content of many of the courses, to keep students up to date with industry expectations.

I am also available for guest lectures after having been a guest lecturer, industry assessor and curriculum advisor for Advertising Creative, Design and Applied Art programs at various other Melbourne universities.

Career Counselling

Tertiary or Secondary Education Career Guidance – creating a career.

I'm available for group tutorials and, as an experienced university lecturer and industry professional, can answer many of the questions students have about a finding a job and developing a career in the creative industries.

Individual Career Counselling – opportunities & avenues.

We discuss your opportunities in the creative services industries and the avenues available to you when looking for a new job or a graduate position.

Interview Techniques – making the right impression.

I can help you present to the best of your ability. Show your prospective employer your work, who you are and how you think with confidence. Decrease your nervousness and learn how to open up the conversation.

Portfolio Preparation – what works & why.

I can show you how to prepare and present your portfolio in a powerful and logical way. I'll help you tell your story in a way that is clear and convincing.

Resume preparation – making credentials convincing.

I'll help you present your credentials in their best possible light. We'll work out what to include and what to leave out.

What Clients Say

Kat Cooke, Director/Producer, Compadre Picture Company
Working with Jo has transformed how I run my business. She's really opened my eyes to how I can be more savvy and prepared for the peaks and troughs of our industry. She understands the unique pressures of running a creative based business but applies a sharp business lens which is a winning combo. Jo is the boss I didn't know I needed until now!
Rebecca Starford, Director, Kill Your Darlings
Working with Jo has been transformative - for me personally and professionally, as well as for the future of our business. Jo's guidance, expertise and thorough engagement with our company's activities enabled us to reposition ourselves for strong growth within a short timeframe. Working with Jo enabled me to gain clearer objectives for and confidence about the future direction of the business. Our meetings are always rigorous, detailed and insightful. Jo is a lovely person to work with and I always leave our meetings feeling re-energised and positive.
Melanie Topham, Director, Tomorrow People
I highly recommend Jo Gilbert as a creative business coach. The decision to work with Jo was one of the best I've made. Throughout the time working together she has helped Tomorrow People gain clarity on business goals, put valuable financial systems in place, setup sales systems and grow our business knowledge. She provides perspective on business challenges (which are hard to see from inside the business) and keeps me accountable so that we can keep tracking towards our business goals. Her extensive experience working in creative agencies is invaluable and her professional, proactive and cheerful manner make our coaching sessions a very constructive and enjoyable experience.
Fiona Turnbull, Director, Meche
It was so lucky to find Jo and to work with her as a business coach. Our business is in such a niche industry but she was able to understand it easily due to her experience in the creative field. Her caring and kind nature made it a great fit and it is a pleasure working with her. Jo was able to easily lay out the numbers and forecast for the business, which gave us the confidence we needed to take the next step.
Vaughan Cornell, Director, Duck's Guts
Our studio is a small fish in a vastly big ocean. Jo's counsel has proved invaluable for our streamlining of internal process and our external strengthening of brand. We couldn't recommend her services more!
Missy Saleeba, General Manager, Fabio Ongarato Design
Jo delivered an insightful and engaging workshop that was professional as well as balanced with fun and interesting tales from her long and varied career. We wanted our national and international account service team on the same page and to increase efficiency. Jo studied our current processes and met with our general manager, company directors and CEO to help plan the content of a two-day training seminar. She tailored Great Client Management for our specific purposes and delivered an intense course over two days to a diverse group of seven. She kept everyone engaged, from an account manager with 1 year's experience to an account director with 15 year's experience, as well as our Hong Kong strategist and everyone in between. Apart from receiving information and resources to support client relationship development and processes from brief to job reconciliation, conversations addressing each person's particular issues around new business development were facilitated with ease. The team now has real focus.
Rhys Gorgol, Creative Director, The Company You Keep
Seeing your business with fresh eyes is a hard thing to do. Working with Jo is like putting on a pair of glasses you didn't realise you needed. The blurry aspects become clear really quickly allowing you to connect the dots and fine-tune the performance of your business.
Simone Norris, Art Director + Co-Founder, The Image Takers
We've had Jo work with us for the last 12 months and cannot believe the change in our business in such a relatively short space of time. From the very first meeting, Jo understood the challenges we faced immediately and has been an endless source of advice and support for us as we embark on this journey. Her vast experience in the creative field has saved us potentially years worth of time of on-the-job learning and already in the last six months, we have almost doubled our output. We used Jo intensively initially and now we call on her semi-regularly when we need a business health check. Jo has guided us with firm and kind hands and we cannot recommend her highly enough.
Anna Rogers, Managing Director, Brands to Life
Jo is a breath of fresh air. She cuts through the waffle and provides me with clarity and focus around setting and achieving goals for growth. She provides a new point of view, insights around the business (that I don't see because I'm so close to it) and ensures we're all accountable for making positive change. I feel energised every time I meet with Jo.
Jen and Steve Taylor, Directors, Thinkforest Media
Jo got straight down to business, asking all the tough questions while nurturing our ‘why'. She quickly understood our challenges and the stakes, rolled up her sleeves and helped us find the strategy, structure and strength to take our business to the next level. Under her mentorship, we redefined our market position and elevated our customer base. Somehow, she taught two creative dreamers how to work the numbers for survival and strategic growth. After a few sessions with Jo we were empowered with concrete, achievable plans to scale an authentic business we believed in, with true value for our clients - and profits! Jo is the ultimate professional, she understands the industry inside out and is generous with her knowledge and contacts. We continue to work with Jo on key pitches and client strategies - more than doubling the account value of our largest client. We couldn't recommend Jo more highly.
Helainie Goer and Dan Wen, Directors, 90 Degrees Graffiti
We really can't underestimate the value of having an objective party with a creative background review our business. Jo held up a proverbial mirror for us, via a thorough review and some great analysis of our current business, helped us to understand our business better and look at new opportunities and ways of improving for future growth. She set achievable goals with clear recommendations to help us to reach them. The solutions and action items Jo presented weren't complex or expensive to execute and showed a real understanding of where we were at financially and with our business life cycle. We'd recommend Jo to anyone looking for structure and streamlining of their business. We'd also recommend Jo to anyone who needs a neutral third party with an incredible background in creative business to evaluate their business objectively.
Anita Ryley, Partner/Creative Director, Seesaw
Personally, working with Jo has been a joy. Professionally, her expertise and guidance has been integral in positioning ourselves for future growth. She has created a sense of clarity in our business goals, structure and offering while also able to distil the essence of who we are as a studio. We look forward to Jo's continual guidance and support in the future.
Kylie Smith, Manager, Timplates
Jo was great at bringing all the elements of the business together and helping us come up with a plan to grow and prosper. She was very patient and easy to deal with, and we came out feeling energised and ready to take our business to the next level - she made us see how it was possible!
Nicholas J Johnson, The Honest Conman
Jo's guidance is frank, practical and devoid of B.S. Her advice ranged from head slapping "why didn't I think of that?" ideas to detailed and thorough analysis that only someone who has spent a lifetime working with businesses can provide. Her brand blueprint has given me a kick-ass framework for not only marketing my services but also for how I think about my image and my services on a day-to-day basis.
Neil Shewan, Managing Director, Tank
Jo has been a key ingredient in getting Tank ready for the next stage of our growth. She quickly understands the challenges you have, asks the right questions, provides practical advice, then keeps you accountable for getting it done.
David Elliott, Director, Fox & Lee
Working with Jo was a great experience. We not only learnt so much about the business, but also about ourselves. After being in business for so many years, we still had a lot to learn and understand about who we were as individuals and what our business was. It was such a valuable lesson and stripped away the blinkers, which made our direction much more clearer. We gained the confidence to focus on our strengths and dive deep into our genius zone.
Sonia Post, Director, Design Democracy
Bringing clarity and a strategic approach to the management of financials, operations, systems and human resources has given the business a simple, workable plan for future growth. The focus on our own brand positioning in the marketplace has been extremely motivating and created a springboard for sales & marketing activity.
Lib Schlyder,Managing Director, Bison Creative
Engaging Jo to assist in our planning for future growth has proven to be one of our smartest business decisions to date. Our new direction is underpinned by a solid business development strategy; the team is engaged and has a renewed energy. Jo has been integral in helping us focus on a clear set of objectives. Her practical workshops are streamlined and thorough, but also a lot of fun.
Melanie Miles, Creative Director, Hybrid Expression
We started working with Jo as we wanted to obtain a structure and a direction to achieve growth in the business. Jo's Grow Your Business workshops gave us new insights in the way we approach New Biz Dev. This different perspective has been the biggest benefit of working with Jo. While adapting systems and setting targets has given us focus and a vision for expansion the biggest change has been the insight to leveraging our expertise and talent to prospectives and strengthening relationships with existing clients.
Julie Jackson, Director, Sidedoor
Jo Gilbert provided me with a financial strategy and tools to confidently move my business forward. Together with industry specific advice and tips, Jo's approach is methodical, polished and tailored. Love your work Jo.
Michelle Ceravolo, Studio Manager, Buzz Products
Jo helped our business combat internal process issues around creative briefing. She worked with us closely and reviewed our current procedures to identify where we could improve. Her years of professional experience in the design industry paved the way for the introduction of a series of creative briefing templates designed specifically for our business. Not only did she advise and guide us, but took the initiative to rewrite our 'rule book' and ran some very insightful workshops to introduce a new way of working.
Jeremy Creighton, Director, Passport
Jo has been a great mentor to our Account Service Team... a great strategic understanding that has strengthened both our team as a whole and the tools we use to shape the service we provide to our clients.
Laura Cornhill, Director, Studio Binocular
Jo's work was really beneficial in helping us to identify our point of difference and the strengths and weaknesses of our business. She worked closely with us as a team to clarify staff roles and to identify patterns in our client base – which has been crucial in looking at how we can leverage our experience and resources to grow our business.
Neil Shewan, Managing Director, Tank – HR Project
Jo's most recent project with us was challenging. It involved taking our existing position descriptions, our strategic goals and objectives – then crafting a new set of position descriptions to set roles and accountabilities. The new position descriptions are excellent – and have provided a new level of clarity to our roles, while giving us clear measures for accountability of the team.
Geoffrey McDonald Bowll, Captain, The Starship Advertising
Jo made our suits sharper, our brains more streamlined and our creatives more motivated and slightly more talented (as if that would be possible?) and frankly, our wallets much fatter. We're much more buttoned up, better aware of how to make a buck and much more client-focused than we were before Jo came on the scene.
Warren Spence, Managing Director, Motor Design
Working with Jo was a pleasure. She has incredible knowledge of the ins and outs of the industry and a down to earth nature that suited my company's culture. I was most impressed with solutions of improving our new business engagement, pitching documentation and presentation techniques.
Alice Clark, Director, OOMF Recruitment – Business Strategy
Jo's knowledge, experience and skills in business transformation assisted us in growing to the next level, during a critical time. She came on board and thoroughly evaluated each of our critical touchpoints, to ensure our systems and processes were streamlined and that our business was operating in alignment with our values and future aspirations. We would thoroughly recommend Jo. She rocks.
Mark Stewart, Director, Rare Identity
We engaged Jo Gilbert to do a review of our creative business and she provided us with insights, feedback and structure to move forward. We found the whole exercise a huge benefit to our business and staff and we continue to follow these steps for improvement.
Yelena Beylin Perry, Director, Arium Design
Sometimes you don't realise that a personal cheerleader is needed in business. Jo proved that this was essential in helping me grow as a sole practitioner to further expand my design practice, and her advice continues to surface whenever there is a complex financial or strategic decision to be made. Jo's enthusiasm for creative small businesses is short of nothing but a few striped pom-poms.
Steve Scott, Creative Director, Another Colour
I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work on the Business Consultation. Great work! I feel challenged, inspired, guided and motivated.
Edwina Hanneysee, Director, Diamond Dozen
I spent a long time searching for a business coach that suited my business. Upon referral from a friend I spoke to Jo and immediately knew I'd found the right person. Having founded and operated a number of small businesses Jo has an intimate understanding of the challenges of small business. Jo's entrepreneurial nous and extensive experience in creative services is invaluable. I highly recommend Jo Gilbert and Creative Business Coach.
Maria Stavrakis, Creative Director, Made You Look
The new business development training sessions with Jo were inspiring and informative. We walked away feeling really motivated, with a clear understanding of what's next and how we can get there, and with the tools and resources to back us up.
Lesley O'Byrne, Managing Director, Tandem Design
Thank you for all the great assistance you gave me with the Yarra City Council Tender. I am pleased to advise we were successful in our Expression of Interest. Particularly important was your invaluable knowledge of the process.
Glenn Irwin, Director, Loop 8 Architecture
Jo's expertise in areas where we were falling short, such as marketing and understanding our clients needs, has strengthened our business and moved us into the next phase of development for our professional creative service. Thanks Jo.
Alice Clark, Director, OOMF Recruitment – Quick Consult
Jo's practical and level headed approach to business helps to reduce the stress and obstacles faced in a fast paced industry like recruitment, where everything is urgent and issues can be sensitive. Jo provided us with quality advice and immediate response time.
Alex Tyers, Director, Transmission Design
Jo's inspired ideas and guidance have helped me to work less hours doing things someone else could be doing, and spend more time doing the things I should be doing, like building new client relations.
Jo Lauritz, Director, Juice Graphics
As a small business it's great to have someone else to review our strategic proposals, quotes and invoices. Having Jo on call means we can be sure our proposals are strong, our quotes are fair and our invoices pick up all our charges.
Suzie Chadwick, Director, Microcosm Design
We look at our finances in a different way since Jo coached us to develop a budget and set targets and rates in alignment with our available billable hours. We now have a much better idea of what we need to achieve on an annual, monthly and weekly basis to be profitable and to grow the business.
Nicole Chaplin, Managing Director, True Characters Pty Ltd
Thank you for coming on board to help us with our organisational structure, salaries, job descriptions and performance reviews. The clarity of expectations has empowered our staff to not only fulfill their roles but to surpass them.
Tim Sutherland, Creative Director, Studio Brave
Jo's bespoke training has opened our eyes to greater opportunities and provided us with excellent tools to work with. Together we have created a new energy for our growth.


Will coaching help us to compete?

Coaching can help you find and sustain a competitive advantage.

Most staff are interested in three things:

  • Company brand (culture, values and challenges)
  • Interesting work (autonomy, challenges and advancement)
  • Compensation (relative and absolute pay, location and lifestyle)

It sounds simple, but investing in your company culture and your people means more committed, enthusiastic, productive and innovative staff. That is what is needed to beat competitors day after day.

Will I see a return on my investment?

Absolutely! I could quote general coaching industry statistics but let's look at the sums instead.

Take a Business Development Manager's (BDM) sales or service target increase.

If you pay a BDM $100,000 per annum and expect that person to generate four times as much as their direct cost for the company, that is $400,000 in sales. If sales are currently $250,000 and you achieve an increase of 60%, you have $400,000 in sales.

That's an increase of $150,000. If new biz dev coaching costs you $10,000, you have an ROI of 14 times your investment. If you achieve only a $50,000 increase, you still have an ROI of 4 times the investment.

Gain on investment less cost of investment

Staff retention is also a good example, in terms of measurement. It generally costs 1.5 times the salary of a person to replace them. In addition to the position salary, which you often have to increase at replacement time, there are advertising costs, recruitment agency fees, indirect costs such as loss of business and productivity lost while reviewing resumes, arranging appointments, interviewing, reference checking, raising contracts, managing induction and bringing new staff up to speed, which can take up to six months.

Good staff often take knowledge and experience of your organisation and of your clients' brands to your competitors. The loss of a well-regarded staff member can disrupt business and lower team morale. While you are spending time replacing them with someone who may or may not work out, you could take your eye off the ball, risking client dissatisfaction.

If you pay a designer $100,000 per annum, the average cost of replacing that person is $150,000. If you invest $10,000 in coaching, consulting or training to ensure that you improve your company culture and skill base – and so that staff understand their roles and potential career path – this will improve performance, which reduces turnover, increases productivity and raises morale. You also have an ROI of 4 times the investment ($50,000 being the additional cost to replace the employee).

Gain on investment less cost of investment
Why commit to regular sessions?

We all know what happens when paid work is on. We drop everything and focus on the job at hand. We are busy working 'in the business' and somehow don't get around to working 'on the business'.

The commitment to regular sessions helps you maintain focus on your own business development, which guarantees results for the long term.

What's the difference between consulting, coaching & mentoring?

Often a combination of all three disciplines achieves the best results. Consultation is focused on addressing specific issues and solving immediate problems. I use a strategic three phase approach. It's often intensive, involves preparation of a comprehensive strategy for the way forward and provides the 'leg up' you need to carry on independently. I also consult on an ad hoc basis at an hourly rate.

Coaching is job focused and performance orientated, directing a person towards an agreed end result. Coaching explores ideas and leads you to your own best solutions for the way forward. For example, improving client service through development of creative critiques, written proposals, presentation techniques, project management, estimating, production scheduling, research skills or biz dev strategy planning.

Mentoring focuses on specific staff members and their careers to support individual growth and maturity. For example, those with more experience working with a less experienced creative or account service person, providing honest feedback and passing on hard won knowledge for the development of their craft.

Tutoring is subject orientated and focuses on improving specific knowledge or skills. I work with universities, students and graduates as a tutor and career counsellor, providing guidance on portfolio preparation, resume development and interview techniques.

What's New

June 2022 - Counting my blessings

Since January 2021 I've worked with ad agencies, brand strategists, copywriters, design studios, digital agencies, film production companies, literary services and editors, marketing companies, photographers and template designers. But that's not all. Like many, when Covid slowed things down a little, I spent time on my side hustle. I finished "Along the Road to Gundagai, the Biography of Jack O'Hagan" (famous Australian songwriter and my grandfather), which I've been chipping away at for the last ten years. If I'd known how much work was involved I probably wouldn't have started! The editing process has been fascinating. It's always great to learn new things. It keeps the mind sharp. I'm pitching to publishers now. And I developed 4 products for Gundagai Visitor Information Centre - on sale now - with two more product concepts in development. Early 2022 has brought global and local disruption with war in Ukraine, rising Covid numbers, an Australian Federal election, an energy crisis and inflation, to mention just a few, but it has also brought greater freedom as we learn to live with the pandemic, a growing economy, the fabulous Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Grand Prix and Rising Festival that brought life back to the city, and several new design studio clients to my door that I love working with. I'm counting my blessings.

January 2021 - What a challenge! Let's see what 2021 brings.

The last few years have all been busy for Creative Business Coach, especially 2020. Covid-19 and lock downs forced many to reassess what they do, how they do it and where they do it. Agencies and studios restructured, rearranged and improved their time management and lean accounting. Many had to think outside of the square. Freelancers decided to set up that studio they'd always wanted to run, while they had time to reposition in the marketplace. International and national businesses felt more comfortable working remotely than ever before. During the last year I've worked with ad agencies, architects and property visualisation studios, brand strategists, design studios, digital agencies, film production companies, literary services and editors, personal branding specialists and website designers. Let's see what 2021 brings. Happy New Year.

December 2017 - New Year

Many of my clients are already focusing on the looming New Year. I wish you all a happy festive season. Enjoy your holidays, however brief, and get some essential Vitamin D so you can hit the ground running in 2018.

October 2017 - Magic

Stepping outside my typical creative services comfort zone to work with magician and critical thinking expert Nicholas J Johnson has been fantastic. It's always great to open your mind and learn new things. It was a mutually beneficial experience and fun as well.

September 2017 - Holidays!

Great to refresh for a week in Byron Bay with family and another week in Bali with friends. Ready for the next quarter.

July 2017 - Happy new financial year!

Clients come out of the woodwork for annual financial planning and budget development. It's a great time to review your human resources, capacity and rates and set new challenges.

June 2017 - A cracking six months!

Hit the ground running from Boxing Day 2016 and didn't look up until June 2017. Handling the diversity of my clients over this six month period was challenging - from high end to micro design studios, ad agencies, animators, digital studios, graffiti artists, interior designers, photographers and creative recruiters to template and document designers. It certainly kept me on my toes.

November 2015 - Grow With Jo

This issue is all about TRUST – the foundation of all great relationships. We talk about how to back up claims to shift your prospect's focus from the cost to the value of your design service. If you'd like a copy email me directly or subscribe.

Grow with Jo

November 2015 - MONA


Need some super food for that tired brain? Take a quick trip down to Hobart.

There's nothing like spending a whole day immersed in ideas, old and new art, the fascinating and the confrontational - in the extraordinary environment of MONA.

Once on the camouflaged ferry, we know we were in for a really 'cool' day. We talk about WWI dazzle ships, Jimi Hendrix plays loud and clear at 9.30am and 'sheep' chairs grace the deck. The driver's running commentary blows away in the cold wind.

We climb the 90 stairs and warm up to the day on the trampoline. It has bells. Large and small.

Fender Katsalidis' building is dramatic and moody, with exquisite attention to detail and warm, earthy materials – rock, rust and sandstone. Nothing has been overlooked. It's a masterpiece. I can't imagine how challenging and satisfying it must have been to design this building, its environs and the timeless pavilion.

The descent is down a deep spiral staircase to a subterranean bar – not too early for champagne but too early for me. You work your way back through three levels of galleries to the earth's surface in your own sweet way.

There are no descriptors. An iPod touch visitor's guide, with headphones, locates nearby artwork and shares information, 'Artwank' curatorial descriptions, David Walsh's 'Gonzo' commentary, audio interviews with the artists and music – all stimulating and sometimes hilarious – but what I loved most was the juxtaposition of the work, at once disorientating, fascinating and fun.

Joanna Kane's portrait of William Wordsworth from a life mask overlooked the Egyptian Mummy and coffin of Ta-Sheret-Min, which was right next to Stephen Shanabrook's The Moth Collection, remnants from heroin and crack use with a media link to a rockin' song, 'Don't...' by Damian Cowell.

Enough people have written about MONA and the work within its walls, from artists like Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Brett Whiteley, Wim Delvoye, Damien Hirst, Polly Borland, Greg Taylor and so many more. The collection is great but for me Richard Flanagan captured MONA most beautifully in an article for The Monthly,

'In its free-flowing associations, MONA owes as much to the web as it does to the past, and a visitor doesn't so much visit MONA as surf it. It is as if the museum in its entirety is the artwork.'

We stayed all day, missed the last ferry and took a cab back to Hobart for some killer cocktails at The Glass House. Serious fun. Five stars from me.

October 2015 - AGDA Spit 'n' Polish - The Value of Great Client Management

This is becoming a habit.

It's the fourth time I've been invited to do a training seminar on for AGDA's Spit 'n' Polish. I spent 14 October with Melbourne designers at CATC – Billy Blue College of Design presenting three training sessions – The Value of Your Brief, Quoting – an Art and a Science and Deadlines & Accountability. It was a good day with an enthusiastic and diverse group prepared to give up their Saturday to improve their client management skills. Our focus was on simple and effective ways to make and save money by managing both clients and projects for good returns and high profitability. Some of the things we covered were how to:

  • build your new business development strategy into the brief
  • protect both your own and your client's interests in your quotes
  • articulate your strategic thinking and charge for it
  • reconcile projects and gather insights for the ongoing profitability of your business
September 2015 - Design Means Business - Great Client Management

I was invited to speak about Great Client Management at the AGDA Design Means Business event on September 14th, along with Greg Branson, Design Business Council, Michele Dowdle, Sladen Legal and writer Andrew Pegler. It was a great night with the Melbourne design community. Here's a brief synopsis of my talk:

Account directors and managers are responsible for managing client relationships and expectations. They represent the voice of the client to the studio and the voice of the studio to the client. Like an agent, they grow the relationship and work towards the best possible project outcomes for both sides. Great relationships are built on the trust that you are immersed in your client's business and sector, can share valuable strategies and insights, and will nurture the relationship from initial contact to after sales service and beyond.

June 2015 - Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Barry Humphries

I've been planting seeds for years in an attempt to bring my grandfather's story and music back into focus. My friend and neighbour, radio pioneering and sound recording legend, Bill Armstrong, provided unwavering support and enthusiasm. Bill introduced me to Barry Humphries a few years ago and I could not have wished for two greater champions than these.

As artistic director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2015, Barry Humphries celebrated the legendary Peter Dawson and Jack O'Hagan in the world premier of Peter & Jack on 7 June. I spent several weeks working on the show with Barry, the writer/director, Rodney Fisher, and the musical director, Vanessa Scammel.

Jack O'Hagan wrote many wonderful songs. Australian standards Along the Road to Gundagai, Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox and Our Don Bradman. But it was the songs and stories that are almost forgotten that show what a great talent Jack was. As Barry Humphries said to me when we met, 'If Jack had been born in America, he would have been world famous'.

Learn more at www.jackohagan.com.au, see pics in the 2015 event gallery and watch Jack perform his own songs on film in 1931.

July 2014 – AGDA Spit 'n' Polish – The Value of Great Client Management

I spent 12 July with 20 designers at CATC – Billy Blue College of Design presenting three sold out training sessions – The Value of Your Brief, Quoting – an Art and a Science and Deadlines, Accountability & Job Reconciliation for the Australian Graphic Design Association. It was a good day with an enthusiastic and diverse group prepared to give up their Saturday to improve their client management skills. Our focus was on simple and effective ways to make and save money by managing both clients and projects for good returns and high profitability. Some of the things we covered were how to:

  • build your new business development strategy into the brief
  • protect both your own and your client's interests in your quotes
  • articulate your strategic thinking and charge for it
  • reconcile projects and gather insights for the ongoing profitability of your business.

Luckily, the college had another workshop on the same day with excess catering so we all got a fabulous free lunch as well. Thanks Billy Blue! www.billyblue.edu.au

June 2014 – Literary Speed Dating

On 21st June I have the opportunity to pitch a personal project I've been working on for several years now - Along the Road with Jack O'Hagan, The biography of a great Australian songwriter. I had three minutes to pitch to either a publisher or a literary agent. Now I know what I put my students through for all those years as a lecturer at Swinburne with 5 minute brand presentations for their final year assessments! Fingers crossed it gets picked up.

June 2014 – Seesaw Business Strategy

From July to October 2013 we worked together on Business Strategy, Business Structure and Service Capability. Providing in-depth consulting as a TAS (Training Advisory Service) consultant through Enterprise Connect to the Seesaw management team was a great experience that helped reposition the business and resulted in a rebranding exercise that is about to be launched. In the meantime, check out www.facebook.com/seesawstudiomelb and instagram.com/seesawstudio

See Anita Ryley's testimonial

August 2013 – Academy of Design Australia

For the last three years I have been given the opportunity to lecture on 'Finance and Creative Business' to a mix of students across communication design, photography and fashion at The Academy of Design Australia. We discuss that old chestnut 'Will your passion support you?' as part of their business feasibility study project. www.designacademy.edu.au

July 2013 – Rare Identity

The beginning of a new financial year is often a good time to take a fresh look at things. At Rare Identity, a Sydney studio specialising in the property, corporate and financial sectors, we undertook a review of account service operations and company procedures. We held staff reviews and developed an action plan that covered items ranging from database training, brief formats, promotion, team professional development and quality control. Check them out here rareid.com.au

June 2013 – Leaving The Dome

It was a real privilege to have an office in The Dome of The State Library of Victoria for the year of my Creative Fellowship to work on the biography of my grandfather, Along the Road with Jack O'Hagan. The collegiate atmosphere and the support from the staff of the SLV was wonderful. The Dome is the most beautiful room in Melbourne. The book feels like a never-ending project but one day it will be finished. It's hard to complete such a huge project while working at the same time. The context for the story of the man and his music is the enormous advancement in media technology during the 20th century in Australia from silent film to talkies, the introduction of radio and recording, theatre to advertising and of course the launch of TV. 'Helluva ride' as Jack would say.

February 2013 – Oomf Recruitment

Together we undertook a major overhaul of the Oomf infrastructure which resulted in a new recruitment database, new internal job descriptions, business development targets, reporting procedures and greater staff engagement. If you need creative staff check out Oomf here www.oomf-recruit.com

December 2012 – Loop 8

Good to see another of our marketing strategies kick in for Loop 8. A 2012 ARCHITEAM Residential Alterations category High Commendation was awarded for Loop 8's collaborative inner city apartment renovation with Sean Van Der Velden. Check out The Lily Pad. Congrats to Glenn Irwin.

November 2012 – On a winning streak

It's always great to my current and past clients on a winning streak.

Tank Branding won an AGDA award for the Loop 8 identity and is also featured as a winner in the 2011 Brand New Awards publication (USA).

Studio Binocular won a 3D Design award for Queens Park Wayfinding signage.

Sweet Creative won an identity award for Ilbijerri Theatre Company branding.

Congrats to everyone!

July 2012 – State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship

I've been fortunate to be awarded a study grant to work on my other passion – the story of my grandfather, Jack O'Hagan, MBE, a Melbourne composer of Irish background and one of Australia's most prolific composers of popular music. The biography/autobiography will document his life and great legacy to Australian social culture and musical heritage from 1920-1968.

From Australian classics such as Along The Road To Gundagai, to quite literally hundreds of other popular songs, musicals, film scores, and radio jingles, the music of Jack O'Hagan was the soundtrack of Australia for a nation still bleeding from the Great War, dancing through the Jazz Age, and then hauling itself out of the Depression.

Most Australians know the songs Along The Road to Gundagai, Where The Dog Sat On The Tuckerbox and Our Don Bradman. His career spanned huge changes in 20th century technology – from sheet music to silent movies, talkies, theatre, recording, and the introduction of radio and TV. Jack's legacy is huge and will be celebrated.

Visit the State Library of Victoria website.

October 2011 - B2B Matchmaker

Tank Meets Loop 8

Once an agent...after taking a Brand Workshop with Glenn Irwin of Loop 8 Architects and developing the sales and marketing strategy for the company, I introduced Glenn to another of my clients – Tank Branding. Tank created a brand and website that resulted in a great new look for Loop 8 Architects and a High Commendation at the 2011 MADC Awards.


TANK has designed a brand identity for Melbourne-based Loop 8 Architects which works on multiple levels: a symbol communicating Loop 8's collaborative approach and a living brandmark that can embrace new colours and photography.

The brandmark highlights Glenn and his team's collaborative ethos. The figure 8 became a symbol to communicate Loop 8's methodology, a visual device showcasing the continuous links through their work and a living, fluid symbol that can evolve over time and surprise the viewer each time they saw it.

According to Jim Antonopoulos, executive creative director of TANK, "We were delighted to work with an architectural firm with a collaborative philosophy similar to our own. Our strategy included the development of a brand identity that was both meaningful and will continually evolve, just like a good business relationship, keeping the visual imagery contemporary and fresh over the years to come. We worked with Glenn Irwin [Loop 8's principal architect] and his business development consultant Jo Gilbert to understand the business and develop an identity that was both unique and meaningful." – Desktop Magazine


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