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Cat Williams-Treloar, Founder of Humanisation: ’’Books help me every day’’

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Cat Williams-Treloar is the founder of Humanisation, a human-centered marketing consultancy.

The team behind the agency mixes research, empathy, design thinking and an agile mindset to connect businesses with their customers, to create meaningful human connections and growth. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.

Before diving into the world of entrepreneurship, Cat spent almost a decade working for Mindshare, one of the world’s largest media agencies. Cat worked in senior strategy & marketing roles helping brands expand and grow across 30 countries.

Her corporate experience spotted a gap, Cat has taken part in many client meetings where the focus was not the customer, but rather technology, data & profit margins. Under the motto of “relationships matter”, Cat believes that the core and asset of every business is a happy customer.

Cat’s interview with The CEO Library tells a story with each book mentioned. There are stories about sales, marketing, sci-fi, overnight success and following your “passion” (whatever that is).

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

For Business

The books that I’ve talked the most about with friends and colleagues over the years are the Malcolm Gladwell series of novels. Glorious stories that mix science, behaviours and insight. You can’t go wrong with the “The Tipping Point“, “Outliers“, “Blink” or “David & Goliath“.

If you want my favourite practical business book, go and buy yourself a copy of the Gallup StrengthsFinder. You’ll get an access code to the survey in the back of the book. Years ago, my Chairman gifted the book to the entire team as a Christmas present. I loved it because it’s grounded in the theory of playing from your strengths. More recently Gallup brought out an Entrepreneur StrengthsFinder. Worth a go!

For non-Business

I loved the Hugh Howey “Silo” trilogy. An epic science fiction story about the above ground world coming to an end and the remaining society living underground in Wool Silos. Makes me shiver thinking about what could happen in the future. It’s an intense set. More recently, “Artemis” by Andy Weir will give you the same feeling but in Space.

A close second favourite is “I am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes. I was gifted this book from a close friend who was living in the Middle East. I was blown away by the intricacies, empathy and human angle of conflict. I hadn’t walked in someone else’s shoes like that for a very long time.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

Books help me every day whether it is to solve a problem or inspire a new idea. I remember very fondly when I moved from Australia to the UK. The cultural differences were small, but there were still things I didn’t understand such as why people talked about the weather or decorated bathrooms. In 2006 I bought “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. It was a treasure trove of explanations about British behaviour. It certainly kicked off an enjoyable five years in the UK.

A couple of years after moving to Singapore I read Kevin Kwan’s first book “Crazy Rich Asians“. I’ve never laughed so much in my life and have been an advocate of the entire series. To this day, whenever someone has a copy in hand at the airport or in our regular store, I tell them how amazing the books are. Kevin is a genius, and his books are full of beautiful cultural insights from across the region. I can’t wait for the movie!

When I founded Humanisation, a mentor recommended that I pick up Grace Bonney’s “In the Company of Women“. It’s one of the most beautiful, inspiring books you’ll read. It’s a big, delicious coffee table beauty with business tales from 100 powerful women. I bring it out whenever I look for inspiration.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

This year when I read “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown it had a tremendous impact on how I behaved as an entrepreneur. Coming from a corporate world where it’s about the brand to a startup world where it’s a brand with your face was scary. Brene Brown helped with my confidence.

What five books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

If you were to pick up five Marketing books, you’d want a spread of approaches, inspiration and viewpoints.

1. Jonah Sachs “Winning the Story Wars” – without a great story you’ve got nothing. We are rediscovering this as Marketers that stories win a noisy, digital world. Jonah does an excellent job of laying out all the steps you need to tell a compelling story.

2. Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz “Sprint” – the go-to guide on how to sprint. You may not follow everything to the tee, but it’s simple, clean and full of great examples of how to move fast with structure.

3. Daniel Pink “To Sell is Human” – describes selling as a way to move and serve people along the journey. It’s packed full of examples, science and experiments in an easily digestible form.

4. Scott Galloway “The four” – because that’s where the Marketing world is. I like the book for its honesty.

5. Tina Seelig “Creativity Rules” – a hop, skip and a jump through the invention cycle. Tina is amazing. The guidance helps you to get ideas out of your head and into the real world.

& a 6th for fun. John Hegarty with his self-titled “Hegarty on Advertising. Turning Intelligence into Magic“. I laughed and laughed my way through the ups and downs of a legend.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

All my news reading is on mobile. For everything else, it’s a good old-fashioned book in my hands. I read everywhere from coffee shops, on planes, around the pool, in the bath, on the couch and in bed. During holidays I’ll work my way through a book every day or two to stay off screens.

How do you make time for reading?

It’s the one activity that I don’t block out precise time. It just happens naturally. I’ll pick up a new book and will plough through it if it’s fantastic. When I get stuck on a project or a client challenge, I’ll go back to existing books to get a different perspective or inspiration.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

If it’s business or idea related, I’ll take a photo of the page and sometimes add to Evernote in a list. If not, I’ll make a note of the idea in my notebook. My books are well loved, but they’ll have bookmarks and dog-eared pages.

How do you choose what books to read next?

Every few weeks I’ll make my way to Kinokuniya. Typically I’ll have a list of recommended business books that I’ve got on hand. I’m a whiz at the little computer stands now. I’ll type in all the authors & book names, take photos of where they sit on the planogram and then navigate the store to find them.

For holiday reading, we’ll go and do a monster shop with my husband. It’s an entirely different approach; he’ll have some books in mind that he’s spotted in “top read” lists and then we’ll pick out what else looks interesting. Because we buy books and pack them on holidays, we’ll save space by taking books that both of us are happy to read. It’s a good thing that we love crime and sci-fi.

Do you prioritize the books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

I prioritise recommendations from my Mum. For over ten years, she’s been tracking all the books she’s read and every recommendation she’s been given in a spreadsheet. She takes a look at reviews from her favourite reviewers and then ranks them against Amazon and friends recommendations. She does the same with music.

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m always reading multiple books on the go, similar to a Netflix series. Sometimes I binge and other times I sensibly consume. I’m just about to start “Exile” by James Swallow for a joy ride. I’m finishing up “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders simply because of the number of recommendations. And I’m referencing “Gut” by Giulia Enders most days as it provides enormous insight into the body.

Even though most people are aware that “overnight success usually takes 10 years”, they are still looking for shortcuts and “latest hacks”. What are three common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?

1. Lack of focus. From Day 1, Week 1 & Year 1 it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new tools or to keep changing tactics. All that matters is engaging the right human with a valuable offer that they’ll pay for. Everything else is a rabbit hole.

2. Not being consistent. We all keep tweaking the value prop as you hunt for product/market fit. Once you’ve got it, make sure you constantly talk about it. It’s a footprint that you are slowly building, and consistency wins.

3. Not committing. Make a call that you want to do something like drive leads on LinkedIn or Facebook. Stick with it for 90 days. Commit & test, test, test. Adapt the spends, messaging, targeting but keep going if you strategically believe it’s the right thing to do. Uncovering the magic formula takes time and effort.

Most successful people give the advice “follow your passion”. What would you recommend to someone who’s very young and not yet aware of their passion? Where should they begin their professional journey?

Just begin.

Don’t overthink it because the world that you start out in will be very different as you progress. Talk to people. Read. Listen. Watch. Try things you don’t like. Try things you do like. Keep getting out of bed. Follow your gut.

When you find yourself in flow, you’ll know. It’s when time melts, and the task absorbs you.

Links where you can follow Cat Williams-Treloar or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Cat Williams-Treloar in this interview:

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