NDIS: breaking down the jargon series: value propositions, niches and segments. 

becomingchange blog by DAVID PULS.  Email here.

When changing business models from block funding to the user pays NDIS model, myself and a bunch of other consultants have said to clients words like “look for your niche”, “what’s your client segment” or “how do you create value”?

As consultants we can default to the business jargon. Many of you haven’t had the jargon as part of your work or study life – which is great because it makes me think about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. We have ways of making the simple seem complex, but we don’t want that culture in our organisations or with our clients.

Creating a value proposition that differentiates your niche service from others in order to reach your customer segment … needs simplification.  Let’s instead break things down into simple underlying questions, that have the same result.

  1. What problems do my clients have?
  2. Which of those problems am I solving for them?
  3. Of the problems that I solve, which of those am I solving in a unique way?
  4. Of the problems that I solve, which of those am I the best at solving?

That seems much simpler.

When we help someone solve a problem, we create value for them.  A simple example: I need a coffee in the morning. There’s a few ways I can solve that problem, but the one that solves it best for me is the local cafe. It’s convenient because I can take it away. It tastes better than me making it. It’s a reasonable coffee price. I think the $4 is good value, so that value proposition appeals to me.

That’s the easy bit.

But why this cafe and not the other two on the corner, or one of the seven that I pass going to work? Or better still, why not the two on my street that are closer? Well, where I go they know my name, the coffee is never bitter, they play a bit of early morning jazz and don’t blast me with dance music ( no one needs that at 730am).

But on days that I crave a muffin I go further down the road because when my problem is a combined coffee/muffin problem the place down the road has a better value proposition for me.

Stay with me here…

In fact I’m writing this on a property in the Huon in Tasmania (looking after a friend’s chickens) and the nearest cafe is a 20 minute drive away. Now the best value proposition for me is making my own on a stovetop (and not the coffee machine that I can’t work).

What do we learn from my coffee preferences that helps you strategically with the NDIS?

First, you can’t be all things to me.  Not even with the service you provide.  When you think of the area that you specialise in, your niche, you might think “coffee”.  Or you could be even more specialised and say “friendly great tasting coffee with jazz music”. So the second thing we learn is that a niche can be a very narrow thing.  If you think your niche is, say, “transport”, you may have more thinking to do.

This is a very new way of thinking when block funding encouraged you to do one thing broadly for pretty much anyone. For example in the homelessness area the still very recent “going home, staying home” reforms required all service providers to be able to service any client. A move away from specialisation in, say, domestic violence or LGBTQI.  So we’re used to being asked to do more for everyone rather than specialise.

And customer segment?  That’s kind of the flip side to niche. Your customer segment is the segment of the population who have the same problem, that you can solve.  The more complex you define the problem, the smaller the niche you provide to.

What does taking away the jargon do?  I think when we drop the jargon we can focus on the underlying questions.  In a way the jargon acts as a barrier – we hear the jargon and stop there.


So defining value and finding a niche is all about working out what you do best, that solves problem for people in a way that is unique.  Uniqueness is usually either through commodification and price leadership, differentiation…. and we’ll unpack THAT jargon next time.

Is this helpful?  I’d love to know what you think.

David Puls, 0412126006, davidpuls@becomingchange.com.au


Marketing: some legal information for NFPs (because NDIS: everyone’s marketing these days)


An ongoing blog from David Puls for becomingchange. Leadership, management and legal know how for social justice outcomes. Contact details below. 


As a management consultant that brings together the human and the technical it’s always interesting to me to talk about what the law suggests, and the higher standard NFPs might hold themselves to in delivering human services.

More and more not for profits are increasing their spend on marketing.

In particular there has been a huge shift towards marketing in the disability sector with the introduction of the NDIS.

When I talk to organisations about their proposed marketing strategies it becomes pretty clear that many are using the word interchangeably with advertising. But advertising is a very small part of marketing, and not necessarily a useful part.

Marketing encompasses the service itself, as well as all the ways a customer can experience finding it, having it deliverd, and the after care. Everything in the whole experience should be centred around the customer.

It’s interesting how close the concepts of being person centred and marketing actually are.

Advertising on the other hand can become a costly exercise that adds little benefit. How do your potential clients want to find out about services? Where do they look? When? How?

Much advertising is more of a scattergun approach. The problem with advertising can be that often organisations just copy their potential competators, and so everyone’s costs go up for no real gain.

That’s one of the not so legal questions I got to touch on when I was invited by Noelene Gration of Agility Communications and Connections to do a podcast with her on some of the legal issues around marketing in the NFP sector.

The podcast contains legal information only, and not legal advice of course. If you have specific questions about your practice please contact a practising solicitor.

In the podcast we talk about privacy, online marketing, and what it means to be person centred, and other marketing/law related topics.

The link to the podcast is here

If you have any questions about marketing then feel free to contact Noelene at Agility, or on 0408 218 954

I’m available as a management consultant – using leaswrship, management and legal skills in the pursuit of social justice.




Start ups, lawyers, and my working contract

I recall being a little hurt when someone – a founder of a startup whom I respected a lot – said to me: if you want something done in your startup, don’t involve the lawyers.  This was interesting to me – being legally trained, as well as advising startups…  and in fact having my own startup.

20170529_103611Would they still have said the same thing if they knew I was an (ex)lawyer? When people see me as a management consultant often working with NFPs they can sometimes forget my first training was in law. And corporate law at that. 

But they had a point of course. Or at least if you take the stereotypes. 

Founder startup: needing to be agile. Take hold of opportunities yesterday. Needing to take risks (hell, the whole startup is by definition risky). The last thing a founder wants/needs is to hold back on action while i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. 

Lawyer: trained to minimise risk. To search for all possible risks and, where possible, control for them. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s is a lawyer’s reason for being. After all, prevention is better than cure. 

I’ve had both hats on to try and come up with a contract that does three things:

  • Has a meeting of minds in the legal sense
  • Isn’t complicated and daunting and therefore slows people down as they lawyer up 
  • Carries my brand and is authentic – is it possible for a contract to be a part of brand strategy? Check it out and be the judge.


Work for payment

1. I’ll complete work for you, which is [set out in an email, or attached.] We call it “the Project”.

2. You’ll pay me an agreed amount for the Project. 

3. I will invoice you for the hours I’ve worked each month, up to the agreed amount. We can agree a different schedule of payments and set it out as part of the Project. 

4. I’ll never ask you to pay the whole amount until the Project is complete.

How I work

5. I’ll use my skill and knowledge to the best of my ability. 

6. I’ll turn up on time. 

7. I’ll deliver the Project within the agreed time.

8. I’ll look and act professionally.

9. I’ll be courteous and respectful to everyone associated with you and the project.

10. I’ll be clear. I’ll be concise. I’ll use plain English in everything I write. 

11. I’ll listen.  

12. I’ll call you weekly during the life of the Project for an update meeting. Any concerns either of us have can be raised at the meeting. 

What I need from you (and you promise)

13. You will respect me and my advice, even if you dont agree with the advice. My advice will always be honest.

14. You will assist me to deliver on time by doing those things we have agreed you will do. 

Solving any issues that arise

15. If we disagree about anything to do with the Project then we’ll talk in good faith in an atempt to agree a solution. If we can’t agree  we will get an independent arbitrator, who we both agree on, and be bound by their decision. We won’t commence legal action under this contract. 

Other bits

16. Everything we talk about is confidential. 

17. You own the intellectual property, unless we agree something else. If we agree something else then it appears here.

NDIS: now for the REAL changes, or… six lessons I’ve learned implementing NDIS (changing business models)

20170418_064122While many disability services are coming up to their first anniversary of “going live” as part of the NDIS (or longer in some cases), others are just coming online.

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s extremely likely that you still have a long way to go on your NDIS journey.

When organisations say they need to be NDIS ready, the immediate question has to be “in what time frame?”

In the short term being NDIS ready often means complying with the accreditation provisions, and being able to operate under the scheme.

In the medium term an organisation should be looking toward training of staff and ensuring that the organisational culture is a person centred culture.

And in the long term an organisation needs to know how it will maintain a “competitive advantage”.  The NDIS is true market disruption. In the long term organisations that simply deliver what they always have will find it difficult to maintain clients.

With the emergence of services like bettercaring.com.au, (the airbnb of carers), and other niche ways of service provision, organisations will need to be clear about their niche, market segment, value proposition and differentiation AND have a plan to hold on to that advantage.  In the long term this is the difficult bit, but ultimately this is what organisations will need to survive.

This blog focuses on some of the lessons that I’ve learned working with disability organisations in getting NDIS ready.  Oh, and solutions too!

1. Any change will affect the whole of the organisation. Systems approach, systems approach, systems approach.

Taking a systems approach can’t be overstated.  A part of the organisation can’t change without it affecting all of the other parts.  Get ahead of it from the beginning by taking a systems approach.

The solution: Understand the whole system to understand how each change affect all parts of it. All of the parts need to be on board with the change, which requires excellent coordination and communication.

2. A person centred service starts with the Board and has to become part of the culture, influencing the way every part works.

We all know the value of great leadership, and the board needs to take an active role in shifting the organisation to a person centred approach.

The solution: work from strategy down. Remember that change is a process and can’t all be done at once. Start with a market analysis and a business model analysis. Map the changes across the organisation and stage implementation.  Modelling is important.  Does the board have client representatives on it?

3. Cross organisation system change requires communication

As mentioned above, working together across a whole organisation requires communication, communication, and more communication.

The solution: One solutions is to convene a working group of senior people from across the organisation, who meet regularly. Appointing these managers as champions is good practice. There may be other ways to communicate across an organisation. It’s my experience that this gives the best results.

4. Person centred services require person centred design.

In the long run organisations need to know what their clients think. What are the things that block them or trouble them.  Do they see your services the same way that you think they see your services?

The solution: involve your clients. It’s not only best practice, but will build your reputation better than any other strategy.

5. There can be specific issues with respect to disability in Aboriginal populations, including access issues for reasons of shame, and lack of language around disability in many language groups.

Feedback from Aboriginal communities has highlighted these issues.

The solution: is not mine to devise! Principles of self determination mean working closely with the local population to identify difficulties and solutions for implementation driven by those communities. Person centred practice and self determination come from the same human rights framework.

6. The NDIS is true market disruption, and needs innovative thinking to address how the organisation will adapt.

Co-creation and innovation are buzz words.  There’s a danger that they get used loosely, or as a marketing tool – we’re an innovative organisation. Many that say they are, often aren’t.  For example, an innovative organisation needs to embrace failure. That’s where the magic happens.  If you’re culture only values success, then you’re probably not innovative.

The solution: Co design with clients, and a culture that fosters innovation. These concepts can’t just be words, but need to be reflected in the ethos, structure and policies of the organisation.

So there you go.  If you’re on your NDIS journey… keep going and I hope these points help organisations to shift their thinking if they haven’t already.


Want a public health project done free?

I have two written pieces of work due in the next few weeks for my Social Policy Health and Welfare unit (as part of my Masters) and I could  undertake them, free, for youScreenshot_20170409-141830

  • A mini literature review and needs assessment in a public health setting (1500 words)
  • An analysis and evaluation of a health promotion intervention (2500 words).

If you think that you have a suitable project area for a literature review, or want an evaluation of a health intervention, OR BOTH, let me know.  

Rather than spend my time on doing something that’s only for assessment, I’d rather be helping the sector that I love – which is always operating on a shoestring – if someone has the need.

I’m happy to undertake the work, donating my time to you for free.  If there are disbursements involved we will need to agree who will pay them.

Please contact me on davidpuls@becomingchange.com.au with any ideas in the first instance by COB 14 April 2017

What I will need from you if we decide it’s mutually beneficial will include:

  • Access to you or a staff/team member for a reasonable amount of time in a short timeframe,
  • A willingness to attest to the fact that the work done is wholly mine (for study purposes),
  • An agreement as to the approximate number of hours that I will spend on the assessment for you (if you want something bigger/using more hours then we can agree something outside of the assessment),
  • An agreement as to copyright, publication and further use,
  • An agreement regarding any disbursements.

Please get in contact if you have questions or want to discuss anything on +61412126006.



Social Policy, Health and Welfare

I arrived at the Nan Tien Institute earlier this week to undertake a five day intensive on Social Policy, Health and Welfare.  The unit is a part of the Masters program in Health and Social Wellbeing.

The Nan Tien Institute is attached to the Buddhist Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong.  I was looking forward to an integration of western learning and eastern contemplation.

After having been here for most of the week, I can’t help but think that this is stuff we all know.

  • The system is slave to short term political cycle
  • Resources are limited
  • Populations are impacted by the social determinants of health
  • Communities should be consulted
  • Programs should be evaluated.

My personal interest is more around shifting our thinking about responsibility.

The shift away from government service provision to the not for profit sector is a good move, but ultimately doesn’t help us solve complex problems.  As a society we’re still reliant on taxes and government, whether to deliver the services or fund the service provider.

We are moving slowly towards theories of co-creation and person centredness, but in the end I believe we need a change of mindset.

Responsibility for good service delivery has shifted from government to NFPs, and now to the individual to be a part of the decision.  The mindset shift has to be for all of us to be responsible for the delivery of services.  To look after each other.  When we all say to ourselves that it is not someone else’s responsibility, but ours, then we will change the world.

The Nan Tien Institute has a wonderful opportunity to teach within that framework. Learn the theory and then contemplate our role, our personal truth, in delivering social justice.