People & Human Resources

Diary of an entrepreneur: How Kate Hannemann notched up 20 years in the business of communicating

Cara Waters /

Name: Kate Hannemann

Company: communikate et al

Location: Adelaide

“Constant learning.” That’s what Kate Hannemann attributes the longevity of her business career to, as she celebrates 20 years heading communikate et al, the communications agency she founded as a 24-year-old.

Turning over more than $1 million last year and employing 19 permanent staff, communikate is still growing. Hannemann, now 44, says she’s continuing to work hard to find that elusive balance between work, family and community. 

Mornings

Hannemann gets up between 6am and 7am each morning and “wherever possible” does exercise of some sort, generally running or going to the gym.

“I did go through a period a year or so ago of doing a short meditation and it’s something I’d like to get back to as it was enormously beneficial,” she says.

Breakfast is typically muesli or fruit as part of Hannemann’s “proactive” approach to her health.

“I try do be preventative because I have a busy life. I require lots of energy to keep all the balls in the air,” she says. 

Daily life

Hannemann encourages her team at communikate to work flexibly and practices what she preaches, generally going into the office three days a week and spending two days a week working remotely. 

“My days are spent very much around goals for the day, goals for the longer term and team,” she says.

“It’s very much juggling the now and the future, balancing day to day needs, which for me are set around clients, team, finance, with longer term projects such as new service areas and new locations,” she says with communikate recently opening a new office in Brisbane.

Hannemann says “constant learning and coaching” have been critical to her business success.

“For the last 15 years I’ve always had a coach for direct support to me around working through the opportunities and challenges that businesses face,” she says.

“It’s about remaining really abreast of new ways of doing business,” she says.

Hannemann is a member of the business group Entrepreneurs Organisation and says this is “incredibly useful” when trying to keep on top of best practice in business management.

“It’s key to me remaining energised and building a sustainable business,” she says.

“The likes of EO as a global organisation have really contributed to my views around that significantly, as it gives me exposure to others in Australia and in the world as to how they are solving universal business dilemmas and opportunities.”

Once a week on a Tuesday morning, Hannemann has an “incubator” meeting with all communikate staff.

“That is really the only time that the whole team comes together, including our Adelaide and Brisbane office and one team member based in Manila,” she says.

“The reason for the name incubator is it is about new ideas and new ways of thinking and it sits around brainstorming and external presentations on topics on new thinking and new ways of doing things.”

The incubator meeting also can involve outside presenters, reflecting on shared projects and sharing wins “both professional and personal”.

“It’s a really important meeting because we are a flexible workplace and people work remotely,” Hannemann says. 

Lunch

For lunch, Hannemann typically eats “a wrap or salad with some sort of protein base to it,” she says.

“If I’m dining out it would be fish-based.”

Client and business lunches “go in fits and starts”, according to Hannemann and around Christmas or other busy times she can be out for lunch twice a week.

“There can be a reputation around marketing and PR that it is a constant lunch, but that is not true,” she says.

“I’m more likely to catch up with someone over a coffee.”   

Although no two days are the same at communikate, a typical day will also see Hannemann working with specialist service providers in relation to finance and business improvements. 

“I’m a big believer in that it is about bringing in the experts in niche areas to the business,” she says. 

Juggling day-to-day business needs with working on more long-term strategy requires planning and flexibility from Hannemann. 

“I do try and map out a week or fortnight with times for longer term thinking and times for the immediate,” she says. 

Leisure

Hannemann tries to balance her business and family commitments as well as community commitments.

She generally heads home from work around 5.30pm or 6pm to see her two children who are aged nine and five and has community commitments as well.

“I’m a real advocate for contributing in the community across my working life,” she says. “That has always been part of the fabric of my personal and professional life. At the moment I’m on the board of EO in South Australia and I’m the deputy chair of the governing council at school.”

Dinner is typically at home and involves a simple meal of fish, chicken or meat with salad and vegetables. 

There are times I need to log on remotely, which is typical,” Hannemann says “or I may go to an EO learning event that occurs after hours.”

She says it’s a challenge to carve out dedicated leisure time.

“For me, it sits around arts and culture,” she says, “particularly the performing arts, which Adelaide is great for, and socialising with friends and family.”

Holidays typically fit around going to the beach.

Future

Hannemann says her future involves looking at ways to diversify communikate’s service areas.

“Originally PR and marketing were foundations for the business and bringing out digital was a new addition,” she says. “We continue to look for new opportunities depending where demands are in the market.”

Hannemann is also working to establish communikate not just as a South Australian agency but as an Australian agency with roots in South Australia.

“Australia and the world is a far smaller place than ever before and we are finding that a lot of our services are translating beyond that,” she says.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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