PODCAST EP 19
Simon chats with Alex Norton, CEO of Trybl Solutions.Listen Now
Greencross Ltd started as a veterinary clinic in Townsville and quickly expanded to become a publicly listed company nationally. Greencross consists of 300 pet stores, 200 veterinary clinics and a national listing of veterinary clinics across Australia and New Zealand.
You can contact Glen Richards on LinkedIn.
Simon Dell: So this week, we have on the show Glen Richards, and you are possibly the first person in all of the podcasts that I’ve done that my wife has looked at the list of who’s on this and gone, “Oh, he’s going to be interesting.” So, welcome to the show, Glen.
Glen Richards: That’s good to hear. I’m glad your wife’s got an intellectual capability far beyond yours, Simon.
Simon Dell: We’ve gone about 70 episodes where she hasn’t even cared in the slightest about who’s on this show, and then you rock up and all of a sudden she shows some interest.
Glen Richards: It’s probably because I’m a vet and she’s an animal lover. It’s probably a good guess.
Simon Dell: Possibly. Just first up, for those who don’t know who you are, and obviously if you’re in Australia, most people know who you are. But for those who don’t know who you are, can you give us the 30-second pitch as to who you are?
Glen Richards: I’m Dr. Glen Richards. I’m a veterinary surgeon, started a veterinary clinic in Townsville that went a little bit beyond the Townsville region. We ended up with a national public listed company called Green Cross Limited at its peak. In March this year, we finally sold the whole company. We had 300 pet stores, 200 veterinary clinics, and a national network of high quality veterinary clinics, very engaging and great ambience from a retail point of view.
Our pet stores in Australia and New Zealand and our animate vet clinics.
Simon Dell: Cool. And of course, you are one of the sharks on Shark Tank as well.
Glen Richards: And I am, that’s correct. One of the powers there stir up onto the entrepreneurial community.
Simon Dell: Just a little side project for you that one.
Glen Richards: Exactly.
Simon Dell: I want to take you back to right at the start. Because obviously, being a doctor, being a vet, you’ve gone and done university, and vet school, and all those kind of things, and whatever it is that you do to become a vet. I’m interested: When you were doing that, did you have a business focus as well? Was that something that you took into university, or was it all just about working with animals?
Glen Richards: So, I grew up in Western Queensland on a sheep and cattle station, and small business was always discussed in the household and at the family table. So I think I grew up always going to be doing something in business, developing a business, growing a business or whatever, and I just happened to do better in science and then took a lot of my passion for business and lay that over into the veterinary community.
Simon Dell: When you got your first — are they called clinics? I’m going to sound really ignorant now. Do you call it vet… Of course you do, vet clinics.
Glen Richards: Vet clinics, vet hospitals, depending on the size.
Simon Dell: Okay, so that was up in Townsville?
Glen Richards: Yes, it was. It was sitting in London. I’ve done two years over there as a vet working for a friend of mine, and I’ve done a lot of reading in business. Because the trouble with vet school, a lot of their professional degrees in the old days, there was never any business or communication as part of your course. So, good to see a lot of universities actually do that these days, but I had no idea about, really, the disciplines of business.
I was spent two years doing a lot reading, a lot of the textbooks you’d find in an MBA program is just what I read and look. Sitting in London, about to come home, and I rang a vet clinic in Townsville, asked if they’re interested in selling me their little branch practice, and I actually said that looking at putting their main hospital and their branch practice on the market.
And in the space of seven minutes, I did a handshake deal over the telephone to buy their practice, their real estate, the whole list in terms of the client base. And to tell no one I’ll be back in Australia in three months, and I’ll get the documentation, the funding organized by the time I get back, and that was sort of the start.
I turned up in Townsville in 1994. I think it was about 12th of February, bought my first practice, supported by my parents, and pretty much that was the start and basis of Green Cross Limited that’s now a national pet store and veterinary clinic empire.
Simon Dell: How old would you have been then buying that business?
Glen Richards: The humble, arrogant age of about 26 turning 27.
Simon Dell: That’s probably a fairly… Your parents put a lot of trust in you. If they were the ones underwriting and investing in that, I’m assuming you had to — you didn’t just ring them up and say, “Can I have some money?”
Glen Richards: After that phone call with the vets in Townsville, the next phone call was, “Holy shit, I’ve got to find some dough.” And you know, friends, family, and fools. So, my dad fitted all of those. Rang dad in Western Queensland, it was the old wind-up telephone days, and said, “What about you lend me a bit of money and also perhaps think about guaranteeing bank loans?” And he hung up.
And rang back and said, “This is what’s going on.” He said, “I understand. Slow down a little bit. I want to see a plan, a business plan on what you’re up to and what you want to achieve.” And so, I got on the Tran Siberian Express in Moscow about two weeks later.
And as promised to dad, I wrote a business plan that started out as just a little plan to buy a vet clinic in Townsville. Took about seven days, and I was drinking pretty vigorously with a whole bunch of Ukrainian, a lot of vodka. And that vodka-infused business plan involved into really a plan to grow a network of veterinary hospitals across Australia called Green Cross, in actual fact.
And so, by the time I got back to Australia, I pitched dad with full enthusiasm and he said, “I don’t know about this national network, but I like your plan. I like what you’re doing. I’ll support you and back you.”
Simon Dell: I just want to get this really clear. The entire basis of Green Cross was born out of a seven-day journey on the trans-Siberian train drinking vodka?
Glen Richards: Correct. The original first page of the plan is to buy one clinic called Green Cross. And by the time we got to Beijing, in had evolved into a national network of veterinary clinics with a franchise model is what I thought we were going to do, with backend support.
A lot of entrepreneurial activity, Simon, is born out of one of the roadblocks in your industry. And some of the big roadblocks in the veterinary industry was a poor succession plan, a big burnout rate of our vets. When I was in the UK, a story came out in the national press that the highest suicide rate of any profession in the UK were vets. So, a lack of really good HR support and psychological support for our vets, poor quality veterinary clinics, lack of investments, a whole bunch of things that I think my business plan dealt with.
We’d have a corporate support team to support the local funding of vet clinics. We’d form a buyer group for equipment facility and all our drugs and medications. We’d have proper career paths. We’d have education support, and education plans, a whole bunch of stuff went into that plan. Having been a young vet that worked in the profession and bumped into some of the things that really pissed me off, that went into that business plan.
And a lot of my early days of Green Cross in Townsville was putting together things like good meeting cycles, good education structures, and a real brand that pet owners could engage with. A focus on KPIs around the quality of our service and our clinical activities. So, a whole bunch of things that were fairly innovative at the time, that I think these days are pretty much, as you should be doing. But in those days, it was growing up a profession that was very fragmented and very much fairly naive.
And the profession has grown a long way since then, and I think a big part of that has been the impact and influence of the activities we got up to with Green Cross and with Pet Barn.
Simon Dell: That’s some big forward planning for somebody who is 26 years old and relatively inexperienced in the business world. I mean, most people who are 26-year-old and starting to build a business aren’t thinking about those kind of implications, and you know, buying networks.
I mean, most people who are 26 won’t know what a buying group was. Was that seven days’ worth of vodka that got you there, or was that experience on the farm in Western Queensland?
Glen Richards: A bit of all that as well as… I remember my final couple years of clinical activity at university. We had to go out and do prac work with older vets. I kept bumping into these older vets that hated their profession, highlighting the issues with the profession, and why I should actually quit vet and go and study medicine.
And I had a fantastic mentor, Trevor. He’s Professor Trevor. And I said to Trevor, “What’s wrong with this profession?” He said, “Glen, you are going to work out where you want to take your own career, and some of that will be in response to people you meet, and some of that will be because you see opportunities and you’ll go after them.”
And he was probably quite right in that I can see some of the roadblocks in our industry, at the same time, there are opportunities. And while I was in the UK, I’ve seen things that really worked in a larger format of veterinary practice, larger teams, rostering was easier, team support was easier, education internally was easier.
I saw vet clinics that were aside, and in some cases, in pet stores. All of that was circling in the way I was thinking about the profession and where we could take it. And the only other part is I had read a lot of business case studies. I had read a lot of business material, and I used a pretty straightforward business plan template. Here’s the template, fill that with material, let your creativity juices go wild, but there’s still structure and thinking in your planning.
Simon Dell: How did the brand come about? I mean, Green Cross is a fairly obvious name now, but it probably wasn’t back then. Was that just a flash of inspiration, or did you see something else that you took it from? How did it happen?
Glen Richards: I did a fair bit of travelling in Asia. And just about every second vet clinic had a green cross. I still remember looking at the Yellow Pages and seeing a vet clinic actually called The Green Cross Animal Hospital. I think it was cool. But anyway, I just thought it says who you are.
And in those days, when I got back to Australia, I had to find a logo that we could use because you weren’t allowed to advertise in the early days of my profession, but you’re allowed to put up a sign and you’re allowed to put a logo on your car. So, I just had a green cross with V-E-T and that said who we were, which worked exceptionally well.
A lot of work went into why we use the Green Cross one, but a big part of it was the influence of what I saw in Asia. And in actual fact, I think there’s a focus for our professional service activity now to look at what’s going on in Asia.
Simon Dell: You’ve got the money from your parents. You’ve bought the business. You’re there day one. Someone’s giving you a set of keys. What’s going through your head first day?
Glen Richards: “Holy shit.” It is exactly that because it’s an exhilarating experience, like if you’re walking on the edge of a cliff. You don’t know what you don’t know. You are brimming with enthusiasm. Looking back, I was slightly overwhelmed. I had four staff members that I’ve never employed anyone personally before.
That first year in business was a baptism by fire. Simple things, learning how to pay. I just read the old payroll book, and cut checks, or cash, cashing the pay packets for my staff. So, I was the bookkeeper. I was the marketer. I was the communication, so I wrote the newsletter. I turned the lights on. I turned the lights off. All those things that happen in the first year.
And when I look back now going, “Some of those things I should have handed over a lot earlier.” Some of those things you keep control of on your own, as a small business owner, medium business owner, you work out what you’re damn good at and play those strengths, and work at what you’re bad at or what’s consuming too much time that could be handed over to someone else, and therefore for you play your strengths on a day-to-day basis.
It was humble arrogance being in my 20s. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I think one of the key things is, I probably should have had more mentors and more peer mentors in those early days. I had some good friends who gave me good advice on a regular basis. I had my dad and my accountant, but I think early stage, and even any person in business should seek out mentors willing to challenge your thinking, willingness to put some opinions out there that we listen to and think about.
We don’t have to take them, at least help support our journey. And I probably didn’t do enough of that in the early days.
Simon Dell: What were your strengths and weaknesses back then?
Glen Richards: Enthusiasm and passion, turning up every day brimming with confidence and optimism. I always like to have a lot of fun in the workplace. And then you attracted really good people that wanted to stay. Didn’t have too much trouble getting vets and nurses from around Australia who wanted to work in my practice in Townsville because we were doing high-quality clinical work, very professional and high-end veterinary work.
But I always could see there’s a way to get around any roadblock that was coming in our way, and I was willing to just tackle it until we worked out how to get through. And I think people like being on the journey with inspiring, enthusiastic people or very passionate people.
Probably some of the weaknesses was creating chaos. I can do tea towel when I have to, but the reality is, when you’re an entrepreneur, you tend to be creating this bow wave, and at times, you leave people behind. I look back at certain points of my journey, having to swim back and check in with the people on the journey with me, and make sure they get comfortable, and supported.
And at times, I think as an entrepreneur, you create this bow wave and forget to look back and circle back and make sure the team are with you.
Simon Dell: You’ve got this plan to grow the business. What are some of the things you did in those early days to keep the customers coming through the door? I’m going to assume, like most cities and towns, Townsville had more than one vet. People have a choice of who to go to. What was it that made you guys stand out, and what were you doing to raise awareness of you in those first few early years?
Glen Richards: We rolled into Townsville, bought the worst practice in the worst street. It was rated number one worst street in Townsville, Reardon Street where my practice was. High crime rate, low socioeconomic demographic, 15-odd practices in Townsville at the time that I was competing with. We decided we would go after that medium to upper end of the market. Yet, it was situated in the worst street.
So I put my prices up. We rebranded, re-signed two practices that I bought. We then went all out to communicate with our client base through, in those days, through snail mail, through mailing. We created events. We started dog training and puppy preschool. We made sure we were getting an exorbitant amount of media exposure. Here was this young, enthusiastic vet, and the journalists in Townsville loved it.
So, I was getting free press. I made the front page of the news a few times, a few other things we were getting up to. So, we were just willing to do stuff. We went on radio. Townsville was a lovely ecosystem to test a whole lot of things, but we put our brand. And in those days, no one branded their clinics because the theory was, if you own multiple sites and you did something bad, bad customer service or poor veterinary care, in one of your clinics, then that client might still turn up in your other clinic.
And I’m like, “You know what? What about we bring it loud and proud.” So, we created this larger-than-life brand called Green Cross in the Townsville community, and we made sure we work on every single interaction we have, that we don’t stuff it up, that we are trying to have and deliver a positive service customer-wise and clinical-wise every time we have an interaction with our clients.
And then we think about — that client then goes home and talks about this young enthusiastic vet practice, and tell their friends and family members that these guys do high quality work. They’re really great. They’re putting effort into the relationship and the communication. And sure enough, we grew. When I look back in those days, I used to be able to hit the button and it could show me my month-by-month, year-by-year grow rate, and it was just obnoxiously good.
Of course, a lot of [INAUDIBLE 00:22:32] I was trying to cut my [INAUDIBLE 00:22:35] as best they could, but it was an exciting time. I remember a mate of mine who is a dentist went to a local dental association meeting. And the dentist said, “We need to create a brand like the vets have done. This Green Cross brand is fantastic. It’s working so well for the vets of Townsville.”
And my mate said, “That’s just one vet with only two practices. It’s not that vet community brand, it is this one guy.” And it reinforced the brand was so much louder than who we were. And it was always that way. If you think about — when you’re trying to create a brand, your purpose is then to make it louder and that people want to engage with and come along, see, and be part of.
And that’s what the Green Cross brand is about in Townsville. We were on creating noise and positioning in the marketplace that we grew so much faster than any one of our competitors.
Simon Dell: That leads me to the next question, because as you were growing, and I think you mentioned earlier on that you opted against a franchise model… Green Cross was a management model, is it?
Glen Richards: As we evolved, in Townsville, we’re setting up our own clinics. We then set up a co-op where, with some friends of mine in Brisbane and I then formed a co-op. And the guys in Brisbane said they wanted to use my brand, Green Cross. So, the brand into Brisbane as a license deal. But then we quickly evolved into a corporate model where the brand — we owned our own practice. We roll all our practices together.
We started buying up clinics, we’d come up with a succession plan, and the expansion plan for the industry as Green Cross. The big part of that was I couldn’t convince in the early days other clinics who want to be involved in franchise model. Classic baby boomers. I’m a Gen X. I can say this because I’m not a baby boomer.
Baby boomers were incredibly hard-working people but there were no way they were ever going to get involved in a franchise model, because they always thought they knew more than a young whippersnapper Gen X. Franchise was never going to work. So, we evolved this franchise-like model that we put all of our practices, and then we identified a vet director or a senior vet to become our franchise-like manager of that practice.
And then we put back into those clinics a thing called Business Associate Program that gave them access to wealth creation under a sort of equity.
Simon Dell: And I would probably say now, given the way the Australian franchise market looks with the problems that it has, you probably dodged a bit of a bullet there in those early days.
Glen Richards: I think so. And look, the reality is, I think franchising is very much about a funding model and maybe some sort of HR strategy. But I think with one of my latest businesses, Healthia… I’m a chairman of a public company called Healthia, and we own podiatry clinics, and physio clinics, and hand therapy clinics.
And we do very much a partnership model where we are in business with a lead clinician in each of our locations where we own, anywhere from 51% up to 80% of that local clinic. And that collaborative partnership model is the best of all the worlds I think the moment. We have a lead clinician driving the local practice they work in, relevant to the local community, getting all that enthusiasm and extra discretionary effort, and corporate thing’s job is to partner and support their local clinician. I think it’s a better model than what we did at Green Cross and definitely a better model than a franchise model.
Simon Dell: I want to ask you now a little bit about Shark Tank. And really, with that, I want to ask how you got yourself into that. Because I think one of the things I say to a lot of business owners is: Getting yourself into visible things, getting yourself in front of a lot of people, be it doing a speaking slot, turning up at an exhibition or whatever it is, is a massive opportunity for business owners to grow their business. How did that all come about? Was that something you went after? Was it something that just happened?
Glen Richards: Definitely didn’t go after it. I moved from the management team to just board at Green Cross and decided to have a sabbatical. I’ve been company CEO for eight years straight. I wouldn’t say burned out, but I was pretty bloody tired, and I’d resigned as the… So, we merged Green Cross and Petbarn together, and I said, “Look, I’ll hang in for a couple of years to run veterinary group.”
And Jeff David, who was to the CEO of the merged entity, which was great, so I said, “Fine, I’ll hang in and do the veterinary side.” Within six months, I just found it didn’t quite suit my personal situation so I resigned from management team. And said look, “I’ll take a board role.” Which is what all the directors were keen for me to do.
So, I was having a sabbatical and having a year off, and doing nothing, I had been going hard on for a very long time. It was the first time I had no did, I was well-off, I had sold some shares from Green Cross. About 70% of the shares I’ve sold out. I’m sitting here with some serious amount of cash. I was sitting there with some serious amount of time, but I thought, Before I rush into anything, I’ll have a year off.”
And so, I was about 9 months into that and I was out to dinner for Steve Baxter, one of the sharks. We had met with mates, and his wife and my wife, we’re all at dinner. At the start of the dinner, he said, “Look, Glen, John McGrath pulled out of Shark Tank. We need to recruit a new shark.”
And all the sudden, “Can I put your name up?” And I said, “Absolutely not.” I said, “I’m not going to… I’m in a sabbatical. I’m under the radar.” By the time dinner had finished, we were sort of on our third bottle of red wine. My wife and his wife are going, “Yeah, put your name.” And Steve, I still remember him saying, “You can always say no.”
The trouble was, he put my name up. And next thing, I’m being offered this gig on Shark Tank. “I think I want to do it.” So, at home on a Sunday, we had one week to go before filming started. And I hadn’t said… And on Sunday night I hijacked my family, I said, “My wife knew that I’ve been offered this gig that was on a Friday.” It’s Sunday night. We got five days before shooting starts.
I said to my kids who are all pretty enthusiastic and fairly high-achieving kids in school, I said, “Look, I’ve been offered this gig on Shark Tank, but I don’t think I want to do it.” They said, “What’s Shark Tank?” I had to explain what the show was about, the importance for educating and motivating the entrepreneurial community.
And I said, “I don’t think I really want to do it.” And they said, “What’s wrong with you, Dad? You tell us to go out there and seize every opportunity as it comes past. Why wouldn’t you do that?” And I said, “Look, probably, I want to be under the radar. Probably biggest one is the fear of looking like a dickhead on national TV.”
And I threw that back at me, “There you go. It’s your fear of going after an opportunity. Just get on with it.” And my kids, all three of them, got stuck in to me. Five days later, I’ve turned up on Shark Tank. And in that time, I did rationalize that if I was moving from being the front-line operator of a business to more of an investor and strategist, here was a good opportunity to create a profile.
Glen Richards is now in the business of investing, and I was looking for startups and startups that I could put money into and put some time into. It’s a good way of creating deal flow.
Simon Dell: And I suspect if you asked yourself now, you knew what the kids were going to say to you when you asked them.
Glen Richards: Yeah. Absolutely. They hold a mirror up to me all the time. So, I put it back on my 11-year-old, she was saying the other day, she wanted to go on a cross-country and I said, “Let’s see what’s going to happen.” You start at the start line, you got to finish at the finish line. Somewhere in between there, you work out whether you want to cause yourself some pain and go, “Huh?” Or you’re going to cruise in the back. So, just get on the start line.
And business is the same. The hardest part for most of us is getting to start the line. And then once the journey starts, you find you lift and other people around you help you lift to tackle all the things that ever come your way.
Simon Dell: You’ve had a lot of people standing in front of the five of you pitching ideas. And I suspect this is a question that you’ve been asked before, but what are the key things that you look for when you meet someone, maybe not just in Shark Tank, but just out in the real world? What do you look for in a founder or founders that really makes them stand out to you?
Glen Richards: The first couple of minutes, they’ve got to convince me there’s a problem or an opportunity that’s worth going after that’s likely to have impact globally, or at least nationally, so that I can see as they then… Here’s the problem that they’re trying to get round or blow away, and then that then unfolds into, “Here’s the financial logic about why you want to invest and why you will return on your money.”
We can go on, here’s the numbers. But the number one thing that makes or breaks an investment for me, and I think the rest of the sharks are pretty similar is, “I’m going to be in business with this person. They’re going to be the custodians of my money for a very long time. Do I trust them? Do I like them? Do I want to be in business with them, and do I really think they’ve got that entrepreneurial mongrel that when shit hits the wall, you got to dig deep through those through, and the Valley of Death that happens in a lot stages of business growth. Have they got that mongrel, and that resource, and that willingness to go that extra mile when you need it? That’s what you’re trying to assess.
So, amateur psychology is hard. But do I love the idea? Yes. Do I understand it? Yes. Do I like the industry? Yes. Do the numbers make sense? Yes. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be, do I trust or want to be in business with that person?
Simon Dell: It’s funny. Me and my business partner sit there and talk to a lot of prospect clients and things like that. And people ask us, “Do you focus on big businesses, small businesses?” And over the last 18 months, we’ve come to the conclusion that the businesses that we love working with are just simply the people that we like.
It doesn’t necessarily — they could be a husband-and-wife team who run a pest control business, or they could be a global insulation company. If we liked them, we kind of want to work with them and sort everything else out after that. It’s funny how far that actually becomes part of our decision-making process.
Glen Richards: Absolutely. There’s some passive investments you make, “Here’s my money, good luck.” And hopefully, I get a good return on that investment. Other businesses that you become actively involved as a mentor and strategist, you get a good kick out of seeing these people succeed. You’re part of their support team. They give you a lot of satisfaction. They give you a lot of motivation.
And some of my entrepreneurs that I back, and support, and interact with is just… It’s just so exciting. You can’t help but take away an extra little bit of enjoyment from life when you interact with them.
Simon Dell: You must get a lot of people pitching to you all the time now. Do people bump into you in the street and go, “I’ve got an idea. Can I just borrow you for five minutes?”
Glen Richards: Absolutely. What’s funny was coming out of the bathroom last week in the Gold Coast. This guy said, “Glen, I need 15 minutes.” I said, “Mate, you can have three.” It’s daily. We get approached on a daily basis with great ideas, horrendous ideas, but you certainly get to a point where your investment capability get a bit of fatigue in terms of your bandwidth financially and physical time.
So, you get very… Who you’re going to take the meeting with, and whether it aligns with where you want to go, and where you want to invest. And so, you get a little bit far more discerning. And certainly, I know all the sharks feel the same way. We get daily approaches and we only have a certain amount of time and money that we can invest.
Simon Dell: Is there a particular category that does get you quite excited? You’ve obviously got experience in that service industry with the vets. You’ve got experience in the retail industry with Petbarn, and City Farmers, and all those kind of ones. Is there’s something that you go, “You know what? I like retail. I want to see more things in retail.” Or are you kind of going, “Whatever it is, I’ll have a look at it.”
Glen Richards: What I get excited and start interacting, I still think professional service start-up, taking health businesses in particular and making them bigger on a national scale so that there’s better support for funding clinicians, better educational material. All those things get me excited.
Med tech, health tech, I think I still get excited, that could have a global impact on people’s health and wellness, I really start learning forward and get passionate about. And I think these days, food tech, coming off a land… You’re always a price taker. I think trying to sell product, you’re a price seeker.
So somewhere in there, I’ve decided that as an investor, I also like food tech where you add value in the supply chain, but you’re not the guy producing the product, and you’re not the guy trying to end up ultimately selling the final product somewhere in the process. You are simply touching, and adding value, and helping improve the outcomes for both ends of the supply chain. So, health tech, food tech is where I lean forward, lifting up eyebrows, and going, “This sounds interesting. Let’s see what happens.”
Simon Dell: One of the questions that was actually posed to me by a client yesterday, we were talking about people within your demographic, C-level, board members, senior management, those kind of things, skewed male versus female, but including both male and female.
One of the challenges that I think a lot of people have trying to pitch to a person like yourself or trying to sell something like yourself, it’s hard to work out where you get information from and where your influences come from. Are there channels and things that you read all the time or you look at all the time? Where do you spend that spare time getting information from?
Glen Richards: It’s all of the above. I’m an avid reader, so anything from marketing, business books, to whitepapers from a particular industry and global, what’s going on in Israel in the food tech space, what’s happening in health startups and national chains of networks of businesses, interacting with health professionals and entrepreneurs.
I love engaging and having a chat. It’s classic. When I do meet someone, I always love hearing about their business. And it’s funny because their spouse, be it male or female, will wander up and go, “Stop annoying Glen about the business.” I actually love conversation, because all businesses are… Everyone’s journey is interesting. Everyone’s got a story and I love hearing about that story because I learn something every single conversation, and then I might take that and apply it to one of my other businesses, be it future investment or my current investment portfolio.
And that’s part of creating a network and going, “You know what? There’s a conversation here that’s useful and helpful, and I can give you some feedback that might be useful and helpful to you.” And by the way, Australia is so small that we’ve got to learn to collaborate, and that’s why it’s important to massage our networks, and see these people within our networks, and keep expanding, that may help each other’s journeys.
And what I find these days a lot of the time, I won’t be an investor at all, but I’ll link two people up and go, “You two need to speak. Have a coffee. See if there’s something in there that is mutually useful as peer mentors or at least some sort of collaborative capability.”
Simon Dell: Yeah. I mean, we still get that as well. One of our clients Newfound confectionery, which is just down the road from where your office would be. I sat down last Friday with a food ingredient company, and within five minutes, I’m going, “You need to talk to the chocolate people because they need your help and there’s some opportunities there.”
You mentioned you read a lot of books. Anything that you would say to somebody who’s on that entrepreneurial journey, or has been on it awhile, and wants to start a business or whatever? Anything that you would recommend that they read?
Glen Richards: There’s a suite of them. There’s some old classics like… You got to read The E-Myth with Michael Gerber. And I think as you evolve from employee, to self-employed, to a business owner, to an investor, I think the old Robert Kiyosaki books are fantastic. CASHFLOW Quadrant, that’s way back.
But the latest readings I’m doing, one of my favourite latest reads, in actual fact as I was coming out of office from home today, I saw it on my desk and went, “I go to re-read that.” The One Thing. I can’t remember the author, but The One Thing. It’s a play on the 80/20 Pareto principle.
You know, our personal life and our business life, there’s one thing that’s always going to have the biggest impact and the most influence. And you got to work out, make some decisions about the one thing, the one project, the one whatever where you’re going to apply your time and money.
The One Thing is a good one, and there’s a process that the author describes on how to determine what the one thing is, depending on what you’re trying to apply that principle to, be it a project, be it an investment you’re going to make. And then I love — you’ve crossed Verne Harnish’s work with the Rockefeller Habits and his latest book from a couple of years ago Scaling Up is an absolute must read.
Scaling up on how to grow a business, small business to a big business, and all the tools you need to keep that growth under control. Because the trouble with a lot of our businesses, as they become more successful, they blow themselves up, making undisciplined decisions on where to apply capital, undisciplined decisions on working more bodies in, whatever happens.
They get themselves stuck in the valley of death and fall over. Verne’s work is the tools you need on how to grow successfully and disciplined to a fully-fledged $500 million dollar business.
Simon Dell: A lesson I’ve learned is adding staff in where you don’t perhaps need staff. It’s very easy to think more staff is going to solve a problem or having more staff is simply almost a success metric for some people. And I certainly felt that myself.
Glen Richards: It’s funny. A couple of my companies go “We need to put on a new CEO. We need a general manager of marketing.” I’m sure we do, but can you show me the financial roadmap? Show me the cash flow plan over the next 12 months. Show me that we can afford it or the capital we need to fund that role so we don’t turn up in 6 weeks’ time and find we’ve got no money left in the bank, we’re done and dusted.
Those startups going, “Show me the disciplined approach to growing the business.” So, here’s the next 12 months of cash flow analysis. Show me when we bring on that new role, that even a C-suite position through to someone low in the structure. There’s a discipline around how we can afford it and why that position will make us more efficient or help grow revenue.
Simon Dell: My last three questions. The second last to one is brands that you admire. Obviously, you’ve worked with a lot of businesses coming out of Shark Tank, and so on and so forth, but perhaps things outside of that normal sphere of your normal work in Shark Tank, things that you look at and go, “There is a brand that I still maybe aspire to, or enjoy buying, or enjoy experiencing all the time.”
When you think about who has managed to continue staying relevant to their customers globally… And you can’t get past going to an Apple Store. You go in the ambience that created an Apple Store. You want to buy something Apple. I’m anti-Apple. Nothing Apple. I have nothing Apple but they’ve still the Kool-Aid feel when you walk in there, the exciting ambience, and that company’s been nimble and adaptive.
I also love the way Microsoft has continued to embed themselves in our life, from launching all their Microsoft computer products, and how helpful they are. And also the fact that our operating systems and our software are so embedded in our life. So Apple and Microsoft, yes.
But from a retail point of view, I’ve got into some chain of health stores as an investor, natural groceries, Flanneries. And one of our opposition I keep looking and going, I love the ambience. And that’s Harris Farm, where you go into Harris Farm. They’re mainly NSW-centric. There’s a deli feel. There’s a fresh feel.
There’s people everywhere. It’s sort of like a mini market inside a store. They’ve done a fantastic job of creating an exciting ambience, and you want to go in there and buy your groceries, and you feel like you’ve got a boutique experience going on. Yet, they’ve got multiple sites. They’re certainly my current love and fear.
But I look back, and who was pretty impactful on the Green Cross journey. I love Richard Branson and everything he did around brand, and how we applied the Virgin brand. Scroo Turner here in Queensland with Flight Centre and his approach to one little brand, but really importantly how we managed multi-site and brought relevance to this team in a multi-site location.
And then from the vet world, Petco, PetSmart out of America, Banfield veterinary clinics, had a run multi-site veterinary clinic. Anyone in business, stay humble. Someone is going to teach you a lesson every single day. Once you think you’ve got it, you’re arrogant and you can’t keep your mind open to learning, then you’re going to fall off the cliff. You’re going to start going backwards.
When I find arrogant owners because I think they’ve got it, it’s usually when they’re right about to fail. So when you are staying humble, learning something from every other business that’s out there on a daily basis, and working out how to apply that back to your own business, that’s when you refresh, stay nimble, and stay relevant to your customer and your employee. That’s exciting.
That means you’re going to still be around in 10 to 20 years’ time.
Simon Dell: Penultimate question. What are your plans for the rest of this year? Anything big on the horizon?
Glen Richards: To be fair, we’ve gone into a big of a holding pattern. We’re quite invested at the moment. I have three public companies, on the chair of two of those. Healthia, physio consolidation activity, people infrastructures. The team there are fantastic, do a great job. There’s a fair bit of time that goes in as a chairman, but I’ve got four startups that I’m putting a fair bit of time into.
One is Naturo. We have an avocado technology and a line of business within Naturo. We have a milk technology business. It’s a food tech play in the milk industry and the avocado industry. We’re invested. We’re now chairman of Cardionexus. It’s doing exceptionally well. I’m on the board of Adventure Holdings with OZtrail and on the board of that Smartvet.
I’ve got a bit of a holding pattern on how much more I can take on, so focusing on those as well as continuing our mentoring support of 10 startups that we support, early-stage businesses from Shark Tank and a couple of others that are really exciting. Sometimes, but probably not enough time, but my focus right now is to grow our larger businesses and take a global or a national evolution to those businesses.
Simon Dell: People listening to you now, try not to ambush you outside the toilets on the Gold Coast with a pitch, because Glen doesn’t have any more time for your pitches.
Glen Richards: If something was amazingly exciting, then obviously, you’re going to create time.
Simon Dell: Which leads me to the final question. If somebody does want to ask you a question, they want to get in contact… Obviously, you don’t want a flood of people going, “I’ve got this great idea.” But is there a good way to get in contact with you that’s low touch for yourself?
Glen Richards: To be fair, we’re done and dusted with Shark Tank now and I’ve started to go back under the radar. I’m still doing some podcasts and occasionally getting dragged on the panels or giving keynotes, but I’ve purposely said, “You know what? Balance time. Time to really enjoy life.”
So, I’m going under the radar and not trying to expand my investment activity or my profile. But my PA Jodie still keeps an eye on these LinkedIn messages that come in. She knows if they’re really relevant to where we are and where we play them, then she responds. It’s an arrogance. It’s just simply… Last weekend, I ran a marathon, and I used to run a fair bit in my late 30s, early 40s.
I haven’t run a marathon for 14 years, takes so much time, heard a lot, but I finally got some balance back into my life in terms of time for me… To take the time to train means you got to have time to compartmentalize things. I’ve got time for my family. I’ve got time for my business, and I’ve finally got time for my running and my golf. It’s been years and years of not having time.
Simon Dell: Thank you very much for your time today. It’s the first time that I’ve had a conversation with a member of the Shark Tank that hasn’t actually been a slinging match on Facebook about renewable energy. And I’m not going to even — I’m not going to even say his name, but I’m sure you know which one of the sharks that would be. It’s been very refreshing for me today.
Glen Richards: Thank you, Simon. I’ve enjoyed the chat.
Simon Dell: Awesome, mate. Thank you for your time and good luck. I was going to say, I hope to hear more from you soon, but if you’re flying on the radar, I actually hope to hear less of you soon.
Glen Richards: Spot on, unless you’re dragging me back on for a follow-up. I really appreciate the chat, and I hope all the listeners enjoy the podcast.
Simon Dell: Brilliant, mate. Thank you pretty much.