Dimi Bartolillo is someone I'd describe as being a force of nature. After a lengthy career in corporate financial services, Dimi got clear on how to channel her professional expertise and established a successful niche consultancy. Enormously personable, Dimi has the rare ability to create blue sky, build plans and then rollout delivery all before heading off to a branded arena to see Spandau Ballet or Ultravox.
I love Dimi's passion and drive and intelligent commitment to support her clients (and family and friends) along with her genuine enthusiasm for continuous learning.
Tell us about what you do?
I'm the principal of a business and marketing consultancy called Design Solutions where I provide clients with expertise, advice and support to help them grow their business. My key areas include; creating, building and developing content for financial service, so that includes websites, brochures, newsletters and other communication channels and collateral. I work with businesses to build sales processes and campaigns to drive sales and enhance client experience. I also consult on social media strategy and the best mediums to use to achieve goals. And, I’m a business coach and help businesses identify their strategic objectives and planning day. I can also be involved in a whole range of related activities – such as creating onboarding tools and creating performance metrics for employees.
Why do you love about your job?
I love supporting my clients grow their business and/or improve how they operate. I get to work with professionals and leaders who are able to make decisions and who are totally up for new ideas. I find that works for me – it’s rewarding working with people who are really able to make things happen.
Where did you previously work?
I worked for Genesys Wealth Advisers for 6 years in a Head of Practice Development role. I really enjoyed the role and the people there. I led what was essentially an internal consulting team that worked with financial planning advisers to develop programs and intiatives to attract and retain clients, and strengthen business profitability. Things we looked at included business and marketing strategy, client segmentation, branding, client value proposition, sales including referral programs, people management and leadership programs.
What was your first ever job?
My first real job was an HR Co-Ordinator for CBS Records that then became Sony Music. That was an interesting entry into HR. Seen as a real glamour industry, a lot of what I did then was wading through resumes to find the right people to work there – so I got to meet a lot of interesting people. The flip side, it was the early 90’s – and trying to implement HR policies in a business that did what it did – music promotions and sales people – look, it wasn’t easy! Trying to talk about OH&S when you were dealing with sales people, promotions teams, music directors? Difficult! There weren’t a lot of procedures and standards, and people weren’t even really clear on what HR was – they thought ‘human wreckage’! And being so young … I was like, this was the school of hard knocks. When I moved into financial services, the recruiters warned me that the industry was full of tough nuts called advisers – I wasn’t worried – people in financial services were tame compared to where I’d come from.
Can you remember what your child-self wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
I wanted to be a journalist. You know, whilst I’m not a journalist – I do a lot of writing in my work, and it’s all relevant to the businesses I work with and what’s happening in the industry. I have my own blog on my website and write and publish articles, as well as write for others.
What did you study?
I completed a Bachelor of Commerce - I wanted to study journalism or something in the Arts. I really loathed studying commerce and I struggled because my heart wasn’t in it. I felt pressured to do it for a number of reasons but after I finished ticking the boxes – any study I’ve done since has been for myself – now I do short courses and conferences on social media, marketing and leadership.
What makes you choose specific courses or conferences?
The speakers first – especially if I’ve seen them on TED – I want to be inspired by the teacher – I get inspired by people and then their message so then I look at the subject matter.
I used to go to conferences and realised 6-months on that I hadn’t used anything I’d supposedly learned. Now I take a keyboard and make notes and create steps on how I can use the information straight away. Some of the info I can use with clients, and some of it I put into my own business. A few years during a social media course we encouraged to set up a profile on twitter and begin tweeting straight away. That’s perfect for me. I can’t sit and be a sponge, I have to do something with the info being presented.
Have you got future career plans?
Right now, I’m in a really sweet spot and it’s not just about career – it’s about work-life balance and living a good and happy life. I’ve got great clients who want to work with me. I have flexibility to spend time with mum and also have time for me. I reckon in my old life I spent nearly 2 days a week in unproductive unimportant meetings – that had nothing to do with work and everything to do with people feeling important. I’m done with that! I’m loving that I can be working 3 days or 4 days or 5 days – it suits me. I’m living my goal and I just want more of that – and working with people because they want to make things happen. They’re not working with me because they have to, but because they want to.
What’s your work schedule?
Monday’s normally work from home and prepping for the week. I do a lot of client telephone meetings and my business development day. The rest of my week is working directly with clients. Friday afternoons are admin, creativity and thinking time.
What do you wear to work?
I’ve got two different outfits. In a client office it's typical corporate, but when I work at home it’s smart business. It’s never trackies when I work at home – I can’t do it.
Are clothes important in the workplace?
Yes and no. Clothes are my armour. They help to create structure and focus for me. Going to work in a suit is all about being corporate and professional and doing what I need to do. I know there’s another view about wearing what you want and being creative – I get it, but it doesn’t work for me. I need a corporate look to be focused.
What is your standout proudest career moment?
I’ve done some sexy programs and taken 40 advisers overseas – but my proudest moment? When I was at AMP Bank – I recruited a whole bunch of key positions into AMP bank – and there was one young fellow I brought into the call centre – you know there are yes/no/maybe people? He was a maybe because he didn’t fill the brief, but I had a gut feel about his talent. Within the year he won employee of the year – both he and I were blown away – it was a big deal at the time. He was a young gun – he was humble and smart, but he was a gun! When he got the award he gave me a shout out for taking a chance on him. It was a big night for both of us, and still, even now, I feel like I really did help him create a career.
If you could go back and change anything in your career, would you?
No – everything for me has been good learning. I’ve had to go backwards to go forwards. I’ve had to work with difficult people but it’s all about developing and having experiences both good and bad so no, I wouldn’t change anything.
Is there anyone whose career you really admire?
Libby Mitchell. What I like about her is that she’s always had fortitude to go forward. She worked with AMP in Melbourne recruiting advisers and built a great reputation in that space, and then she accepted a redundancy. She’s gone on to set up her own business, Recruit Insiders. She recruits mostly in financial services and uses technology and social media for lead generation – she’s also writing her own book on how to own your own happiness based on all the things she’s learned and implemented in her life and career. She’s unstoppable and so resilient. A real woman, dealing with real issues who has continually reinvented herself and is building another good niche business from her 20 years corporate experiences.
Do you have a mentor?
I used to have a mentor – right now, no but it’s something I’m considering. I’ve got a network of people that I chew the fat with; they come from different walks of life with different skill sets. Best quality is that they are real and tell me honestly what they think when I’m hitting them with an idea or problem.
How do you unwind?
Music fills my soul; also hanging with my hubby and going to the gym.
What do you want to do next in your career?
Really hone in on technology and the digital world and use it in a way that helps business to cut through. For example, I’m working with a financial planning business to develop its website and content. We developed a corporate brochure, but rather than just printing a brochure, what we’ve done is go a bit further and create an eBook on their website. EBooks are cheaper than brochures. So now I’m constantly on the lookout for how technology can be a point of difference for my clients.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing your current job?
I’d be in business consulting – marketing in the entertainment/fashion industry (still love financial services though).
What do you want more of in your career right now?
Good clients – a good client is someone who knows me, takes my counsel, makes decisions, implements and pays on time.
And less of?
I’m privileged – I get to choose what I do – so there’s no need for less of, because if I don’t want it I can say ‘no’.
What do you think the biggest fail a company can have with its employees?
Not listening to them – not including them in planning – not taking in their input or ideas –the leadership team thinking it’s got all the ideas. Employees are the ones who operationalise strategy, so if they don’t buy into it, you’ve got no hope. Smart leaders know it starts with the people first. Employees need to belong and believe before they follow.
If you knew me really well, you’d know …
I’m passionate about my music.
What kind of impact do you think you have on the people you work with?
I believe I have a positive impact - I’ve been called a doer. I corral people and get them moving to make things happen.
How do you behave when you’re stressed out?
I physically start to talk and move quicker. The ‘doing’ me kicks in hard. To get back in control I need to prioritise the urgent and the important. For me, writing lists creates a sense of calm and gets me focused on the one or two things I need to do right away.
And when you're relaxed?
I’m totally chilled – I shift from extreme movement to ‘oh well, there’s tomorrow’. It doesn’t happen very often. You can tell by my dress – if I’m still in my corporate late at night I’m still on, when I get into trackies, I’m relaxed!
Other than work, what are you loving about your life right now?
Flexibility, work-life balance, spending time with people who are really important to me. In the past I got so busy in the career cycle, but life moves on and I’m much more reflective –what’s my passion, how do I want to spend my time, who do I want to be with, be kind to those who are precious to you. That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s selfish, but in a good way.
IIf you enjoyed reading about Dimi's career, here's a link for more interviews from people who love their work.