Shared Artefacts – Blue Mountains.

0th – 0th MONTH.
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The Blue Mountains.

This year’s Retreat heralded the official merge Edmiston Jones and Graham Bell Bowman and the relocation of the Wollongong office.

Our first day, Friday got underway with a meeting up at the Norman Lindsay Gallery, followed by lunch at Katoomba’s Echoes Restaurant, and then the team entered into the first Session at 2PM.  Mark opened the session and spoke about the upcoming move to new premises, the benefit of combining the best of both firms and the goals for the retreat.

We took the weekend to get to know each other and discuss the relevance of our culture and how it was manifested in the months leading up to the retreat.  EJ have been on team retreats for the past 18 years and the event has become part of the fabric of the business – part of the culture.  The benefits continue to be realised long after the actual event and, in fact, the retreat resounds well into the year.  Its findings and goals are measured throughout the meetings and gatherings that EJgbb uses as the rhythm for its culture.

“Edmiston Jones GBB would have to be one of the best examples I’ve seen of a business that lives its culture and infuses every aspect of its business set with its core values and cultural beliefs.” (Steven J)

The firm is committed to realising the full potential of each individual in the group and we meet so that the grounds for communication and collaboration are understood and shared. The sooner we are defined more by our shared future than our separate pasts, the sooner we start to realise the full benefits of the new firm.

Everyone is new to a new business.  The opportunity for the merged entity is having

1 + 1 = 3 and the director’s objective of having every individual reach their full potential. The retreat was not a time for revisiting our drivers and beliefs but an opportunity to help everyone get on board the Vision, Values and Culture express train.

Over the two breakout sessions we used our limited experiences of the merger at that time as a shared experience and point of reflection.  Gabe, Renee, Sam and Margie spoke about the Vision, Values and Culture and how they live these precepts in their daily work lives:

Renee explained the process of briefing with Not For Profit organisations. The EJ design methodology was designed to exercise active listening and seek a collaborative outcome.  This resulted in a more effective process with a sound brief being the basis of the design.

Gabe spoke of the importance of values in briefing and communication generally. His experience that this leads to refining of the message through using the methodology.

Sam, in his first year of office experience, appreciates the cool culture and finds it reflected in training, leadership and support.  The ongoing challenges all leads to inevitable growth.

Margie values the strength of ‘being considered’.  With consideration, we are more inclined to be “on message” for all activities as well as streamlined with our designs. The value of considered is for us to be accessible and transparent.

Honesty in our relationships and design is a shared value. This has put us one step ahead with the merge.  The two businesses have been aware of each other for many years and it’s no accident that we are working well together already.


Breakout 1: Our Values in Action


Honest in relationships and design.


Be honest with the consultant . . .
We have the discussion but without consequence, e.g. unless this is resolved we cannot continue to work with you because . . .
  • We don’t want to throw away the opportunity for work from them

  • We don’t know how systemic the problem is within their company

  • Possible inadequacies with the scope of works

  • If there’s dishonesty, we draw a hard line (Mark)

  • Poor communication may not be dishonesty

  • Consultant list – “Proceed with caution”

The client doesn’t see a boundary between EJgbb and its suppliers – it’s all EJgbb.  No wriggle room for being let down by a consultant – they are a part of your business (Steven J) . . .
  • Whatever rigour you apply around the employer-employee relationship you need to apply to the company-supplier relationship

  • The more we are in the company of like minds the more prosperous we are at every level; the more we have to deal with ****-***** the more they pull us down

  • Ranking consultants – technical proficiency plus count-on-ability


Caring and Valuing, People and Place.


We have permission – step into the space bravely . . . .
Considered approach required . . .

We need a common understanding of what is immutable:

  • Anyone in the business can call out dishonesty

  • Everyone should be confident rejecting something outside core values … irrespective of the consequences

  • It can be a challenge in a contractual relationship we cannot sever

  • Unreasonable demands up front (a fee proposal in 3 days) … foreshadows unreasonable behaviour down the track

  • We can be smarter up front – our skill set and the value we add

  • Know the difference between “you are disrespecting me” and “I am feeling disrespected”. The former makes the person wrong; the latter is helpful introspection internalizing what is happening around me

  • Until we can respect ourselves, we cannot respect anybody else

Respect. Caring and valuing, people and place – I’m one of those people! . . and I keep forgetting that!
We can really rely on our directors to make strategic decisions, quickly, for the benefit of everyone – a really good lesson for all of us to learn, together.



Creativity pragmatically applied

What can we learn from this to help deliver a great outcome for EJgbb?
  • Understand business strengths amongst the team

  • Constantly re-evaluate what we are doing leads to continuous improvement

  • Keeping a variety of clients

  • Look for challenges and opportunities to grow and evolve

  • See where the gaps are in our in-house expertise. If we have a gap, how are we going to address it – bring other people into the team?

Breakout 1: Our
Values in Action Continued

Breakout 2: Our Culture in Evidence


The right amount, in the right place, at the right time.

What can we learn from this to help deliver a great outcome for EJgbb? 

Make sure you’re tailoring our process for every unique situation . . .
  • Scale the process to the client’s need

  • It is a skill to know what to hold back as much as what we share

  • Give the client, ad fellow team members, the level of detail they require



Actively engaged in the community.

What can we learn from this to help deliver a great outcome for EJgbb? 

REPLACE Make sure you’re tailoring our process for every unique situation . . .
  • At the quarterly review: share community engagement activities for each team member for the last quarter and plans for the next


Trusted advisors listening and consulting.

What can we learn from this to help deliver a great outcome for EJgbb? 

  • Have confidence in ourselves as advisors

  • Know the strength of our processes and take strength from our processes and continue to improve them)

  • Know who to go to

  • To trust and communicate is key

  • Have time to collaborate and be available

We look forward to next years Retreat to be held interstate.