From A Non-tech Background To Chief 'Nerd Herder' To RAWCS

Michelle Joosse has been a member of The CEO Institute for two years. She joined Syndicate 42 when leading the family business, Hotline IT, into its next phase. Now, with the appointment of a new CEO, Jason LeGuier (Syndicate 40), Michelle was ready to take the next step in her career and pursue her passion of making the world a better place. With experience leading small NFPs on a voluntary basis, Michelle has recently been appointed as CEO of RAWCS (Rotary Australia World Community Service). Michelle is tasked with leading RAWCS to its next phase of growth, in order to further deliver upon its humanitarian aid work in Australia and abroad.

Michelle's career began in finance and accounting. Her first job was with a small cast iron foundry called Ajax Foundry in Silverwater, NSW. Her role there was largely autonomous and she developed a broad range of skills, and learnt that she worked better under pressure. Being a small organisation, it gave her a good opportunity to manage all financial aspects of the business and the administration side as well. "It really gave me the opportunity to show that I actually knew what I was doing and to trust what I've learnt", Michelle says. She subsequently landed an assistant accounting HR role with the global Japanese electronics giant Sanyo. She was doing payrolls as well as performing the assistant accountant role, and she again had the opportunity to prove herself there. She says that at Sanyo they had "a very convoluted system of selling off reconditioned and seconds stock. I really refined that process and they really saw what a difference I'd made there. So I was actually promoted to accountant then".
 
Sanyo has since been gobbled up by Panasonic. Prior to that, Michelle met her now husband Malcolm and it was also time for her to expand her career and move on from Sanyo. So Michelle took on the management accountant role at Jupiters Gaming which oversaw their game Keno. "When Tabcorp took over Jupiters, I felt that was probably a good time to transition out because the office was relocating but also, my husband had been on my case for a while to come work with him in the business. We felt that we really complemented each other's skills, in that he's very technical and great with ideas, whereas I'm more process-driven and more of a business brain…So, yes, I came along and joined him in Hotline, initially as the Finance and Administration Manager".

The duo worked successfully together for 14 years until Malcolm felt Michelle was the right person to manage the business and lead the team, whilst he focused on product development. Though she had probably always been the Boss's Boss, it became official. Leading a business established for over 20 years was no easy task. Michelle constantly interacted with customers to ensure Hotline IT was always improving their service to clients and innovating within the industry - a key part of the organisation's mission - thus proving she could drive Hotline IT's direction and growth whilst providing a full IT solution for businesses. From its humble beginnings as a one-man band in 1993 to a multi-million dollar organisation, Michelle became dedicated to building the mission of Hotline IT to ensure businesses have a simplified IT process that provides a secure and reliable technology solution.

Apart from the usual challenges of juggling and developing a successful work / family balance (Michelle has 3 children), Michelle has faced and overcome a number of other challenges. She was actually quite shy when she was a child. She overcame that by pushing herself outside her comfort zone. In her early 20s, she went on a trip to Europe by herself - she had to go and make friends because she didn't know anybody. She talks about the impostor syndrome, "I used to think it was just me but the more I started to network, I noticed that many people, especially women, suffer from it, too. So whilst that doubt is still there, I work hard to ignore it and soldier on". Michelle learnt to focus on the eight P's: price, product, promotion, place, production, process, people, and profit. And she uses the analogy of the spinning plates - she is constantly on-the-go to keep all the plates spinning at once. "I can't just focus on one area, I can't just focus solely, for example, on my people. I've got to look at our products and services at the same time. So it's a constant challenge, and I visualise that in my mind and it helps me. I've just got to make sure I keep all those plates spinning".

In terms of growth and achievements, Michelle believes that over time she has become a more rounded business person by gaining an understanding of all aspects of business. She has honed her presentation skills and now feels more comfortable and confident in presenting before an audience. And she has learnt to focus not on possible weaknesses but rather on strengths - which in her case she feels her top 5 are achiever, focus, learner, activator and analytical.

During the last few years leading Hotline IT, Michelle has been instrumental in developing strong relationships with key suppliers and vendors. And in the home, as in the business, "Keeping up with the Joneses is one thing but keeping up with the Joosse's is near impossible, at least when it comes to technology", as one person has put it. 

Michelle is very community focussed, being a member of the Forestville Primary school P & C Committee since 2011, and she developed the Run Forest Run - Forestville Fun Run and Fair.

She joined the Forestville RSL Club in 2002 when she and Malcolm moved into the area. Michelle went on to sit on the Board of Directors in January 2019. Michelle has taken her ability to identify and implement continuous improvement and applied it into her voluntary roles. 

Apart from numbers and business, Michelle does have other interests: she loves to cook and entertain (she boasts a collection of family and friend favourites that are always requested); she keeps active and exercises regularly; she loves travelling, especially cruising (Keep Calm and Cruise On); and she has always had a love for netball.

In June 2019, Michelle participated in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, as part of The CEO Institute of NSW Team. This was an eye-opening experience and only further fuelled her passion to work with organisations that are improving people's lives. 

Michelle has a passion for "making the world a better place". So, when she recently saw the ad for RAWCS she believed that it would be a perfect fit for her. Rotary International is a service organisation that started in the USA in 1905 and now has over 1 million members in thousands of clubs worldwide. RAWCS includes such activities as Rotary Australia Relief Fund, Rotary Australia Overseas Aid Fund, Rotarians Against Malaria, Donations-in-kind and hundreds of other projects.

Michelle really values her membership of The CEO Institute. She says that members in her Syndicate often share the same sort of 'pain points' such as staff and cash flow etc. Some members are truly valuable mentors. And, because of the wonderful camaraderie between members, she has come to regard many members as real friends and not just fellow CEOs.

Previously, Michelle had sent Jason LeGuier as her alternate to Syndicate meetings. When it was decided that Jason would replace her as CEO of Hotline IT, it was thought that it may be preferable for them to be in separate Syndicates and so Jason joined Syndicate 40.


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