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Jun 2015

Karen Lawson on Creating Your Own Business Opportunities

June 20, 2015
Capify Australia

It’s never easy taking on the reins of a company that had been practically chronically labeled as being the #2 in the industry, and even more so when said company had been operating at a net loss of millions of dollars just a few years past. Such was the scenario that Karen Lawson entered into when she stepped in as CareerOne’s new CEO.


Karen, however, is no stranger to challenging and rough business waters. Prior to this role, she was the general manager for the business development and publisher partnerships at Yahoo!. She was in charge of all of the company’s commercial and operational concerns—which basically means everything integral in running the business. She was also responsible for Bing, their joint venture with tech giant, Microsoft.


Her rich experience as a digital media executive, therefore, undoubtedly helped her make the smooth transition from one company and role to the next. The obstacles she had to contend with in CareerOne, however, came in a different form. It was not only the fact that they kept coming in second to SEEK, Australia’s main recruitment advertising market, but it was also that their target market had simply evolved.


Upon closer study, Karen realised that it will definitely be most difficult to try to get ahead of a game where they are hardly suited for anymore. Her solution, however, was not to upgrade their systems so they can reformat themselves according to the new rules of the same game. Instead, she went on and led CareerOne to remaking themselves over and starting a brand new ballgame all on their own.


Rebranding, Re-strategising


When CareerOne handed the CEO position to Lawson, it was with the knowledge and reassurance that her vast experience in the digital marketing industry could serve their purpose. They were banking on her many innovative ideas, and were eager to get the ball rolling under the tutelage of this new leadership. As it turns out, they were right.


In less than a year after Lawson took over, CareerOne had already taken a much more different, if not radical, path than they were previously used to. Instead of insisting on competing against SEEK for the jobs board pie, she went ahead and steered the company into the direction of a skills exchange program, wherein even passive job searchers can be pulled in, while at the same time allow people to monetise their time.


According to Lawson, remaining to be simply being a jobs board would hardly get them the traction they need to surge ahead and overtake SEEK in the game. It’s also a fact that the jobs board industry has not seen any significant innovations in the past decade. Even if there were other new players coming in, they weren’t necessarily bringing anything new to the table.


Aside from that, businesses turning to social media to boost their own communities have also begun to create a “fragmentation” on the manner by which people search for their jobs. Instead of just relying on an official jobs board, they instead subscribe to these companies’ Facebook pages in order to be updated should an opening for a position of interest open up. With so many more opportunities to create dialogue with even more candidates, the jobs board industry could take a page or two from this social media setup, and then expand it further to create a more unique platform for job seekers.


Tapping into Start-Ups


One of Lawson’s priority projects as the company’s new CEO is to allow people “to monetise their time no matter how they’d like to do that—picking up a task, moving into casual work, part-time or even full-time work through to what we hope to be the final stage of the evolution of the strategy to help people who have a passion or an idea for a project or a new business to help get that off the ground and get that funded,” she explained in an interview.


So the bigger change in their game plan really is not only that they’re making potential employer-employees meet, but also have potential entrepreneurs find more business lending or small business funding opportunities to put up their own businesses. Truly, it is a digital headhunting program that has redefined its traditional stipulations.


The Visionary behind the Mission


All these wouldn’t have been possible had Lawson not have the imagination to pursue this path for CareerOne. Her innovative, forward-thinking, and steadfast commitment to the changes she implemented for the company certainly did not come at no cost (she did admit in an interview that there were some employees who chose to leave in her first six months in office). However, it was a necessary action she had to take in order to drive the company towards a more successful platform, with a guaranteed improved service.


Budding entrepreneurs would do well to note that Karen Lawson’s handling of CareerOne is a good example of how good business requires creative innovation and risk-taking. Whether it be on getting a small business loan or applying for equipment loans for business expansion, it pays to have a clear vision of where you would like your business to be headed. And then you can make it your mission to achieve it within a reasonable, achievable timeframe.


Lawson’s entrepreneurial profile certainly shows that like their reinvented jobs board, making it in the world of business is not just about looking for opportunities out there, but rather, and more importantly, is really about creating it.

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