What Business Owners Can Learn From The Top 10 Tips Of Richard Branson

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

When Richard Branson speaks – we listen! Even better, we discuss his latest top 10 tips for entrepreneurs and business owners to see how they can apply in a real and practical way.

Here’s a quick run-down on the tips from #10 to #1 and our thoughts;

No.10 If you can swing it, work from home

Steve – Yeah Baby! This is not only a lifestyle choice, but a professional choice to work from a home office. I love it and designed my businesses around it.

Ryan – I Enjoy my office which helps me get focused and into ‘work mode’. It also removes the distractions of the kids and just other household things.

No.9 Find some quality you time

Steve – Sounds good to me. Taking some time for yourself is important. Try to do that daily.

Ryan – I agree. It’s definitely important for some time to do the things you enjoy.

No.8 Take a real lunch break

Steve – I routinely take a break, often out of home and even socialise during the normal lunch hour. It also helps to reduce the stress levels.

Ryan – Get out and breathe! I work in a lovely part of Melbourne so enjoy taking a break and getting out and about.

No.7 Strive to be a pioneer in your industry

Steve – Taking a few risks and thinking outside the box can help you win against your competition.

Ryan – My grandfather pioneered ‘self-service supermarkets’. He was always up to date with the most cutting edge equipment and ideas.

No.6 Take the risk, but don’t be ill-prepared for the outcome

Steve – I’m risk averse so I always consider the potential for the downside. Especially consider your stakeholders.

Ryan – Just don’t let it stop you taking steps moving forward, even if you don’t like risk but don’t make the mistake of building a business on just hopes and dreams.

No.5 Don’t be a workaholic

Steve – My wife tells me if I’m a workaholic or not. As a bloke, I get single minded on my interests. Forcing my mindset to change in social scenes definitely helped.

Ryan – I am a bit of a workaholic – being structured and focused and in the process of building my business. Building the business is generally on my mind.

No.4 Have a succession plan

Steve – Think about what might happen if you disappear. Your partner, family and clients should face as little disruption as possible if you have a good succession plan.

Ryan – I don’t think I’ll change into anything new with my career as I’m working my passion. As I grow I’m bringing new people into the business who can take over if needed.

No.3 Consider the time wasted commuting

Steve – I hate time travelling. Though time travel would be awesome! But travelling to and from work is boring. I use GoToMeeting or Skype where I can to save travel time.

Ryan – If you have to travel, don’t listen to the junk on the radio. Listen instead to an audio book about business or a podcast (Perhaps the Typical Business Podcast!) that will add to your learning.

No.2 Delegate the small stuff

Steve – We spoke about this last week. Don’t spend time on the small stuff. Give it to someone else to do.

Ryan – Delegating tasks is just freeing me up and my time to focus on more important things in my business.

No.1 Spend time with your family (What are you doing all this for, anyway?)

Steve – The golden rule. If this is your #1 priority, everything else falls into place. Don’t try to be the richest man in the graveyard but end up with no friends or family.

Ryan – My wife and I made the decision early that family is most important. Getting home early when the suns still shining allows me to spend more time with my kids before it gets dark.

Full Podcast Episode Notes;

Steve: Hello and welcome to the Typical Business podcast. This is Steve Fitzpatrick. I’d like to welcome all of the listeners to the show, along with my co-host, Ryan. How are you going, Ryan?

Ryan: Hey, Steve. Really good, good to be here.

Steve: Yeah, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks, a lot has happened. Have you had much going on in your neck of the woods?

Ryan: I’ve had an extremely business couple of weeks, making a lot of videos. I guess the big thing that I’m noticing in my video production company is people are moving from making one big video production, which they might use over the course of a year or two, to making a number of small video productions that might happen in a series. So, it might be a monthly information update or something like that.

We’re making a lot more videos for our clients, often smaller, lower budget videos, but higher quantity. That’s definitely something I’m noticing is becoming a lot more popular in the last few months.

Steve: Yeah and I think that’s a medium that’s just going to grow, isn’t it? With that ease of publishing and distributing video, and incorporating it now into your web presence, it’s a much bigger factor these days.

Ryan: It’s just being embraced by everyone, and it’s almost expected to see on people’s web sites now. It’s such a great way to show people what you’re doing or show people who you are. Now, faster bandwidth on the Internet can support it, so it’s definitely growing.

Steve: Yeah. Just as a bit of a shameless plug, Ryan, so some people could log on and have a look at some of the work you do, what’s the web address for your primary business?

Ryan: The name of my business is Dream Engine. So, if you have a look at, you’ll find out a whole lot about the sort of work that we do over there.

Steve: Yeah and some of those videos, like I’ve said in the past, there’s one I think you did in St. Kilda, which I just thought captured the morning sun coming up and the sky was beautiful. You know, Melbourne’s just go so many wonderful colors. It’s a beautiful city, especially when it’s not raining. That video is just fantastic, I thought. It told a great story about that local culture and the feel of that particular area.

Ryan: Cool, thank you. Thank you. That’s somewhere in the blog, which is called Resources, so if people are interested to see some examples of our videos and read a bit about the sort of stuff that we do, have a look over there.

Steve: Excellent. Well, my fortnight’s been pretty busy. I’ve had a lot of meetings with a number of my clients. Actually, one thing that I thought I would mention is, not only do we have the podcast show, but from time to time if we feel inspired or there’s an issue going on, we’ll actually jump on the web site and write a blog post about it. So, it won’t necessarily just be about the audio recordings that we’re doing through the podcast, but we want to be able to give business owners a bit of a resource that they can refer to and maybe read about different things that are happening.

So, in the last couple of weeks, I was dealing with one of my customers, who has just found the challenge of meeting or winning new business, when his competition is just keeps undercutting his price, and he fell into the trap of lowering his rates just to win this work. We’re doing some pretty comprehensive marketing for him. So, he’s getting these calls, but he just made the mistake of lowering his prices. What he’s found is that, over the last six months, he’s actually been only sort of just breaking even or falling behind.

It prompted me to write a blog post about just working out what your breakeven point is in business and setting your prices from there, but also, for all of us who are going through that, the economy is not bursting in Australia. I think internationally people seem to think that Australia is doing well with the economy, but there’s a lot of businesses here that are still suffering if they’re not directly involved in mining. So, I thought it’s a good time to have a look at our breakeven point in business.

We’ll probably talk about this in a future episode, but I talk a little bit about how to do those numbers and I give a few ideas on that blog just as ways that we can lower that breakeven point. Once you’ve got that, that’s really your launching pad for understanding how you need to set your prices, so you don’t make the mistake of actually going into the red, underselling yourself, and actually getting into trouble. It’s really something that’s … Sorry, Ryan?

Ryan: I think that’s really vital. I see a lot of people coming into my industry who set themselves up at cut prices and, maybe, hang in there for a year or two, but once they actually realize that they’re losing money, making less money than they might flipping burgers at McDonalds, they close up and someone comes in and takes their place. Doing something like that breakeven analysis can save you a whole lot of pain when you realize what your true cost is of doing business.

Steve: This is an important thing too because I think, in your business as an example, and this is relevant to everyone, but the truth is that we’re not selling hamburgers necessarily. We’re not a Walmart where everything is about price. What you need to do as a business owner is set some differentiation between you and your competitors, which justifies that price.

In both of my businesses, I’m not the cheapest. There’s no way I’m going to be the cheapest, because that’s not how I want to operate anyway, but also we have a lot of expertise and that’s where the real value is for our customers. I think understanding that breakeven point and then working out that differentiation as to what positions you as an expert or an authority in your field and allows people to pay more for that expertise is a big part of understanding your business and how to get the most out of your business.

Ryan: That’s right. Along with that, it’s about communicating clearly the value of the problem that you’re solving, because you may have all that expertise, and all the best equipment, and the best location, and all that sort of thing, but unless you’re able to clearly communicate that you understand the problem that your client is having and how you’re going to solve it, and what value that’s going to bring them, things just aren’t going to work.

Steve: When you’re talking about explaining those values as well, one thing that I practice, when I’m doing sales is I actually create an objection list that I know people often raise those objections when I discuss our work. Some of those objections might be, “Why are you priced so high in comparison to XYZ service.”

So, because I already know that those are common objections that come up, I practice and rehearse my answers, and quite often it’s while I’m driving to an appointment that I’m actually rehearsing that because I know what they are, but when I’m in front of the client I don’t necessarily want to be fumbling. I just get in that frame of mind of being ready and prepared. [inaudible 07:45]

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. It sounds like a really good strategy.

Steve: It’s one of those sales things that I think you learn over time, just to get better at, but again, it’s about pointing out those differences. If you want to read about the breakeven point and how you can actually work it out. There’s a blog post that you’ll find at the web site that’s just gone live. There’s another one too, in which I talk about how to find the right business mentors.

One of those mentors, Ryan, in particular for me that just inspires so many business owners has got to be Richard Branson. Do you follow him?

Ryan: Yeah, Richard Branson, that’s a familiar sounding name. I think I’ve heard that name once or twice before, yeah.

Steve: He’s a pretty impressive individual isn’t he?

Ryan: He is. He is one of those people who is just a legend in the eyes of most business people. He seems to have this kind of easeful style, this kind of cool that goes along with him that attracts a lot of people, but he backs it up with his achievements.

Steve: He’s a very charismatic and likeable person, but I think also he’s a real giver. I’ve seen a lot of interview with Richard, and if you go to Youtube you can see these, quite often where he’s so accessible and approachable in just his demeanor and what he’s willing to share. He tells it like it is. He’ll say when things are tough, and he’ll say some of the things he’s learned, and he talks about some of the things that he’s done in the past, which I think most of us think, “Oh, my God, that’s a big risk,” but he’s pulled it off, year after year. He’s made a big business from it.

Ryan: Yes, absolutely. So, if there’s some lessons that we can learn from him and apply to our business, then let’s do it.

Steve: Yes, well, this episode is really about sharing his, Richard Branson’s top ten business tips. We thought we’d just work through these from ten through to one, and maybe just give our own input and ideas as to how that affects us, and maybe things that we think about in our business that we might have changed, or even if we necessarily agree with all of these. So, Ryan, why don’t you introduce number ten?

Ryan: Okay, number ten, “If you can swing it, work from home.” I know you like that one.

Steve: I love that one. This is going to be interesting, because you have your own office and I have a home office. You and I are different in the sense that I chose, I suppose, part of reforging my values and my career, one of those things was that I wanted to work from home. That’s just because I prefer to be around my house. I’m comfortable here. I don’t like commuting. When I’m driving I get extremely frustrated because I get bored, and I think I could be doing other things. What about you, Ryan, because you’ve got your office. So, what are some of the reasons why you like having an office outside of the house?

Ryan: This idea of working from home makes so much sense on so many levels, yet for me it’s never really worked. I could say, at the moment, having two young kids, it’s a lot easier for me to be productive to be away from home. Yet, even before I had a family, ten years ago when I was working from home and living by myself, I wasn’t very productive then either. I think I found working from home very distracting. There was always something that would distract me that I might gravitate towards, or go to the kitchen, make a sandwich, whatever it might be, that I just hardly got anything done.

I found that as soon as I moved into an office, suddenly my productivity was ten times better. I think it’s, psychologically, I just go to an office, away from everything, the thing that I do there is work. I am pretty productive at the office and then I, for the most part, leave it behind when I leave. That just seems to work for me.

Steve: It’s interesting, because I know I’ve got friends and other work colleagues who some have a home office and then some have a small business and, it’s just them in their office that’s away from their house; but one of my graphic designers, actually, he has a home office, but he gets up every morning at the same time, goes in has a shower, gets dressed in a suit and tie, goes downstairs, has his breakfast, then he walks into his home office and he does his business. What’s interesting is that, even if he doesn’t have client meetings, he does that as a routine. I said to him, “Why? Why put on a suit?” I couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting at home, I’m not seeing anyone, wearing a suit. He just said is that it gets him mentally in that frame of mind that now is the time to do business.

Ryan: I’ve heard of these sorts of stories. I think it’s about finding what your thing is, your trigger, or your psychological trick to be able to apply yourself diligently during your work time, and he’s found that thing and that works for him. Maybe, for me, it’s going away from my home life to a place, which I just associate with work.

Steve: I can understand that. I think, for me, part of my decision to work from home is really me being objectionable to the corporate culture of today and making a distinct choice to try to defy common business logic, if you like.

Ryan: Yeah, that makes sense. I must say my office is a ten-minute drive from home. It’s in a beautiful spot. There’s some great cafes around. I can glimpse the bay in Melbourne, as I stare out across the view, and it’s a very nice place to be. So, I’ve sort of created my own little world here.

The other thing that I like about going to an office is that it gets me out into the world. Even if it’s just the other people in the building that I come across and have a chat with, or people I pass on the street, or shops that I go past getting a sense of what’s happening in the world, what the vibe is, and the danger of being at home too much is losing connection. So, if you are at home, it’s important just to get out and expose yourself to different ideas, different people, different places and stay out of your comfort zone. That being said, I still really get why people like the idea of working from a home office, and saving yourself the hassle of all the travel, and all the crap that goes along with it. [inaudible 14:22]

Steve: Yeah, it’s interesting too with that point about going out, because I do make a point of even taking my laptop or my iPad, and going and sitting at the beach and working. You know, I’m there in shorts and thongs on the beach with my laptop doing a little bit of work, and getting out watching the sunshine, doing a little bit of people watching, and enjoying a coffee. I can’t think of anything better than doing that. A lot of the time I organize meeting with clients, and other business owners, and people that I do, do business with to meet me at these cafes just to get out and it’s a bit different.

Ryan: Well, that’s really good. That sounds like a lot of people’s dream. What is comes down to is this idea of working from home; it really is about choosing where you want to work, and when you want to work. That’s freedom, that’s freedom in your work. It really makes sense.

Let’s have a look at number nine. “Find some quality ‘you’ time.”

Steve: I think that’s important as well. I have a typical routine when, I almost don’t want to say what time I wake up, but typically I get out of bed around 9:00, and I work through to about 11:00. Then I’ll go to the gym and after the gym, I’ll come home, I have some lunch, and I actually have a bit of a break. So, I normally get back into work, I have a shower after the gym, and after the lunch, and all the rest of it, and then I get back into work from about 3:00.

That time, for me, between my morning and my afternoon, I have different morning stuff that I do for the first two hours, then I have a proper break and then I do my evening work. I find that’s refreshing for me. It lets me focus for those few hours in the morning and then, in the evening, that’s when I hit my [straps]. I’m a night person. You’ll quite often find me sitting at my computer at 11:00 p.m., 12:00 p.m. at night, doing work and knocking things off, reaching milestones, and whatnot, but that’s just the way that I work. What about you?

Ryan: It sounds like you’ve tuned into how you work and how you’re most productive. You sort of stretch out your time from across the day, from morning until late at night, but you’ve got a lot of fairly long breaks in between, is that right?

Steve: Yeah, I’m not a morning person, so I never have meetings in the morning, ever. I just refuse to. If someone wants to see me in the morning, I just say, “Sorry, I can’t do business with you.” I’m not that person. My mind, if you like, really wakes up at about 11:00. If you come and see me between 2:00 and 7:00, I’m firing on all cylinders. A lot of other people are the opposite, they’re firing in the morning, and they’re useless come 5:00 or 6:00 they’re terrible.

Ryan: It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good lifestyle worked out. I’m very different. I wake up at about 6:00, and I’m at the office between quarter past and half 8:30. Then I have pretty office hours and leave the office at 5:15. I spend lots of time with my family in the morning and in the evening when I get home from work. I’ve got two young kids and so I like to try and spend as much time as I can hanging out with them.

So, in terms of “me time,” I pretty much have little to no me time during the week, other than around lunch time I’ll leave the office and go and have lunch somewhere, usually at a cafe, and have a bit of a walk around the area here for about half an hour. That’s pretty much my time, my break time. Then, on the weekends, I have a bit of time. I’m into cycling and so I go on these long rides, and I find that’s a really good way of forgetting about everything, and spending a few hours on the bike.

Steve: One reason why I shaped my work hours that way as well is because my wife is a nurse. She works shift work. If she’s working nights, that works really well for me, because that’s when I’ll work.

Ryan: Yep.

Steve: She’s on a roster system, so she might, one week it might be a Wednesday and a Thursday that she’s got off. So, quite often, I’ll only do maybe three hours work on those days and that becomes my weekend, if you like. That gives me that time with her and also time with my son. It’s interesting.

The other one, number eight, that Richard Branson talks about is, “Take a real lunch break.” I think we’ve kind of discussed that. I do like to get out and have a bit of a lunch, or actually sit down and remove myself from work, and actually spend some time on an actual break in the middle of my day.

Ryan: Yeah, I’m the same; always take a break during the day. Get out of the office. I never eat lunch and work at the same time and make sure I have good food, and good coffee, and just enjoy the experience of eating and taking a break during the day. I’ll just always make sure that I schedule that in. Sometimes, people I work with are a little bit surprised to see that, but that’s a big priority to me.

Steve: I know a lot of manager that grab a bite to eat and sit at their desk and just keep going. For a number of years, that was exactly what I would do because there it was also if your office isn’t in a place where you can actually get out and sit someplace nice, in a park, or even if there’s no good cafes around, quite often the staff kitchen is too small to actually sit down in, so a lot of people do that.

I think it’s important, get some fresh air, have a bit of a break, let your mind sort of relax. Don’t always be hardwired into your job. That can be really, you know, stress is one of those things in an office or in a work environment that accumulates. It’s this invisible weight that sits on you. Not even taking a break, even just for lunch, the stress just accumulates, and I think it’s really important just to give yourself a break. Get out. Smell the roses. Have some fresh air. Sit down and relax and let your mind wander off onto other things. I think that’s actually healthy to do so.

Ryan: Yep, I couldn’t agree more.

Steve: So, what about number seven, Ryan?

Ryan: “Strive to be a pioneer in your industry.” That reminds me of a conversation I had with my wife’s grandfather many years ago. He was very successful in business. I remember he said to me, he was in the supermarket business. This was back in the days of green grocers, where everything that you needed to buy would be behind the counter. He was one of the first people to pioneer self service supermarkets. I said to him, “What made you so successful?” He said he was always up to date with the most cutting edge equipment and ideas. He was able to implement that. I always thought, after that, I would think of that and think, “What can I do in my industry? What’s the equivalent of that? What’s the most modern ideas or equipment that I can tune into and use?” I think that’s absolutely vital.

Steve: I think he uses the term pioneer as well. That’s probably almost like an Old World term, I guess. It reminds me of someone breaking new ground, and going out into the wilderness, and starting something new. But, I think he’s also just saying think outside the box a little bit. That, to me, has actually helped me with my company, Your Building Broker.

Your Building Broker sits in a place where not many people know what we do. They understand what a building broker is in the building sense. Most people will think of a finance broker. So, thinking outside the box was really important for me to establish that business. So, I did a bunch of things and took a bunch of steps to try to build that brand. Taking those steps, no one else was doing it, and it’s a little bit daunting, because you are putting yourself out there and taking a bit of a risk.

But, the truth is it paid off. It won me work. It developed me as, I suppose it revealed me as, an expert in the building industry in my city. It helped give me credibility as to what I was doing and what I was saying, and it won me work. So, if can encourage any of the listeners, take that risk and step outside of the box, and don’t be a follower; be a leader.

Ryan: Excellent.

Steve: Number six, “Take the risk, but don’t be ill-prepared for the outcome.”

Ryan: I think …

Steve: I think that’s important, like take a bit of risk. I’m not risk averse. I’m pretty conservative, but when I do my planning I look at the downside all the time, all the potential for the downside, and I’m prepared for it. What about you?

Ryan: It’s good that that one follows after the previous one, because we just read, “Strive to be a pioneer in your industry,” so you’re putting yourself out there and taking a risk; and if you win, you’re going to win big, but if you don’t, then number six, “e prepared for a more negative outcome.”

I’m relatively cautious. If I decide to do something, I will look at the downsides quite a bit and prepare myself for that. At the same time, I don’t want to look at that too much, so that it stops me from taking steps I need to do to move forward. So, generally …

Steve: I think, also, it’s important if you’re a business who has multiple stakeholders, you need to factor in the weight of your responsibility to those stakeholders. I know some people, who, they don’t measure the risk at all. They give no regard to their other stakeholders. They’ll risk everything and if they lose, they’ll lose for everyone. I actually, personally, think it’s really irresponsible and it offends me when people do this. But, I think it is important, you need to know what your risks are, and you need to be prepared to face the consequences if things don’t work out. I think that’s important.

Ryan: Yeah. Yeah, so you just go through that process of, if things don’t work out, what’s plan B? If things fall apart, what are the things that are in place that are going to diminish the damage? Just have some sort of contingency plan in place. So many businesses are just built on hope and dreams. Have you got any shops near you, where a shop will open, and it will stay open for nine months, and it will close, and another one will open, and the process will repeat?

Steve: A lot right now.

Ryan: Yeah.

Steve: I tell you what, right now, there’s a lot of them. High rents and all the rest of it, and they don’t have their product right, or they’re in the wrong shopping center where the patrons of that shopping center don’t have as much to spend. I see it all the time.

Ryan: Yeah, there’s too many businesses that are open in the same way that people will go and buy a lotto ticket. They consider themselves to be more lucky than they really are, and they place too much emphasis on luck and hope.

Steve: So, number five, Ryan, “Let’s not be a workaholic.” Are you a workaholic?

Ryan: I’m not doing very well, so far, with Mr. Branson. This is a good process for me to try and change my ways. I’m a bit of a workaholic, or have been for quite a while.

Steve: Do you let it consume you though, Ryan, because I would have thought that you’re more structure, but I wouldn’t have thought that you’re a workaholic?

Ryan: I’m not a workaholic in the true sense of the word, in that I set particular times that I work and times that I don’t work; but I think about my business a lot of the time, possibly most of the time. I’m extremely focused, because I’m in the process of building a business and I’m heavily committed to that process. I can see the rewards down the track and I can see in the years to come that I’m going to need to work less than I am now, but I’m very committed to really building things now. So, I wouldn’t say that I’m a workaholic, I do work pretty hard at the moment; I can see the end goal.

Steve: Do you know who’s good at telling you if you’re a workaholic or not?

Ryan: Probably your partner would be a …

Steve: Your wife. My wife. When I first launched and went out on my own, you know, exactly what you’re saying, when you’re growing a business, that’s all you’re thinking about. Especially, I think, maybe blokes are worse with this than women, because women, I don’t know, women just have their heads screwed on right I think; but with men, we just get consumed and get this sort of focus, and it’s hard to bring other things in from the outside. I know that I am definitely that way.

So, my wife would say to me, we’d go out with friends or whatever, and she goes, “All you spoke about was business.” She’ll tell me off. I actually had to make a point of going out with friends and not talking about business, in fact, doing my best to avoid that conversation. I found that that actually changed the way that I am also. I do work a lot. I love business. That’s the thing. I love business, but I know someone else that I worked with previously is so absorbed in their business that they don’t have a life beyond that. If their business fails, their life will fail.

Ryan: Yes.

Steve: And, that’s terrible. You’ve got to have friendships, relationships, hobbies, all of those things outside of business, because that’s what life’s about. Part of my whole transition from the corporate world to what I’m doing today is making that distinct choice to say, I needed more time for people. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. I could be the richest man in the graveyard, but what’s the point?

Ryan: Yeah.

Steve: If I don’t have friends, and I haven’t positively impacted other people, there is no point.

Ryan: Yep. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, one of the things I make sure in my life is my family, my number one priority, so I make a lot of time to spend with my kids and my wife in the morning and in the evening. The other thing I always make sure I do is I have one of two other things happening outside of work that have just nothing to do with work. I’m quite into cycling at the moment, and that’s just something that I always make sure that I make time for, and have had other pursuits and hobbies over the years, which I just always make sure I allocate the time to do that as well, so life doesn’t end up being work and only work.

Steve: Like skateboarding in your [inaudible 29:11]? That’s something that I’ve seen you take photos of.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s one of the cool things about, I’ve been teaching my kids to skateboard, which is really just an elaborate excuse to get me back out on the skateboard again.

Steve: That’s funny. What’s number four, Ryan?

Ryan: “Have a succession plan.”

Steve: Do you have a succession plan?

Ryan: Oh, not really, no.

Steve: Things went a bit quiet there.

Ryan: I’m very glad that we’re having this conversation, Steve. Look, I’m in the business that I took on because of a deep passion for this sort of work, for film making and video production. It’s basically something that I intend to do for the rest of my life. It’s really my true work passion. So, I suppose the closest thing that I have to succession plan is having people come into the business and work with me who can take on a lot of the roles that I’ve done previously, and can take on more responsibility.

Really, I couldn’t imagine, at this stage, leaving my business, because I really do love it, and I love doing the work. So, I suppose the succession plan is just bringing more people into the business to work there with me.

Steve: Yeah, and I think also having that contingency, like if Richard Branson dropped dead tomorrow, what happens?

Ryan: Yep.

Steve: He would already have a structure set up, so that certain people would fill his role on the board of directors. You know some of the key decision makers would already be primed to step into those positions. It’s a bit different when you’re running a billion dollar company, compared to, you know, for us, we’re small business owners.

I do sit down with my wife and I show her the numbers. We’ve spoken about if something was to happen to me, unexpectedly, and I couldn’t work, she knows who to call, and who can actually step in and pick up my role straight away, and make sure that, first and foremost, our customers aren’t left in the lurch.

But, secondly, that the revenue stream is maintained, so at least it gives my wife time to make a decision about whether she wants that business to continue, or whether she wants to close it down. I think it’s important, no matter how big you are, that you at least think a little outside the box; and think, well, something untoward could happen to us and we just make sure that our partners and our family are looked after. An important part of that is making sure your customers are at least going to be looked after.

Ryan: Very good point.

Steve: Number three is “Consider the time wasted commuting.” I love this. Richard talks about working from home. He says quite often he doesn’t have to travel to meetings; he gets people to come to him. I love that. Ryan, we’ve spoken about this before.

This actually reminds me, I had a client earlier this week and I was actually in their office, so it’s an hour, or 30 minutes drive there, 30 minute drive back, so I spent an hour on the road listening to music and whatever on the way. But, while I was there we were talking about the next meeting coming and I just said to them, “Listen, in the next meeting, I’m going to set up a Go ToMeeting on my computer. We’re going to share screens, and I’m going to buy you a little web cam, you put that in one of your offices, set that up, and we’ll have a conversation that way.” She was so excited. She had never done this before. So, she was like, “That’s cool. Yeah, let’s do that.” So, part of what I have done now is, I package these little Microsoft webcams, and send them as little gifts to my clients.

Ryan: Oh, cool.

Steve: So, even if they don’t have it, it’s there you go, it’s simple because they’re just plug and play. You just plug them in and they’re working, and we’re doing business, and I’ve just saved myself a stack of time commuting.

Ryan: Oh, definitely. Definitely, I’ve discovered that almost all of my clients are more than happy to have our meetings over the phone or on Skype. There are particular times where it’s going to be better to be face to face, but most of the time it just works so much better and everyone is happier to do it that way.

Steve: I was speaking to a Rio Tinto [SP] employee recently, and she was telling me that they have these offices now set up where people can come in, and they’re automatically linked up worldwide to other Rio branches. I don’t know if I should have mentioned Rio actually, but what she said is quite often the execs are so used to flying in and out all the time, that’s what they’ve been doing for 20 years. They’re taking a long time to switch to this philosophy of actually doing these shared meetings over Skype, or over Go ToMeeting, or over the computer.

When you’re talking about flights as well it’s not just the time commuting, it’s the money and the cost involved. It’s quite massive. As a small business owner, you can really see it making a difference and eating into your hours, but imagine if you’re running a business with 50 employees and they’re all commuting.

Ryan: Definitely. Well, one thing that I do when I am commuting is I always listen to audiobooks about business. It’s amazing how many books you can actually read that way, just in my 10 or 15 minute commute to work and back.

Steve: So, here’s a good plug, Ryan, right now, if we’ve got listeners for the show, download and subscribe to the Typical Business podcast, and play that during your commute.

Ryan: It’s an excellent idea.

Steve: It’s a shameless plug there for us.

Ryan: I might actually do that tomorrow and listen to this just to remind myself of what we’ve spoken about. One of the worst things that I think you can do, or what I used to do, is just turn on the radio, and turn on the news, and listen to trouble, and murder, and mayhem; or even worse, switch on talk back radio and listen to closed-minded, opinionated nonsense, which is can actually sap your energy by the time you get to work, you’ve wasted energy on this stuff. So, if you do have to commute, it’s a great investment of your time to listen to an audiobook.

Steve: So, we spoke a little bit about number two, “Delegating the small stuff,” last week.

Ryan: Yep.

Steve: Did you find that helpful, that conversation that we had last week? Was there anything that you kind of thought, “Yeah, I could probably delegate a few more tasks to someone else?”

Ryan: This is something I’ve been working on a lot in my business and I have been, not just, I wouldn’t call it just delegating, educating, and training, and empowering the people who work with me to take on these tasks. So, that’s one of the main focuses of what I’m doing now, and it’s freeing me up to focus on the things that I’m best at, which is generating more business.

Steve: Yeah, look, I can’t stress this enough, I’ve delegated small stuff. You know, if I’m going to bill out my time to other companies I consult with, or if I work back my annual salary to an hourly rate, and then I look at it and say, “Well, hang on, I’m trying to earn X amount of dollars per hour, and this particular task I can get done for $15 an hour, why am I doing it?” Getting rid of that small stuff also makes your life a lot more enjoyable, I think. It means you’re not worried about insignificant things and it’s pointless. Spend time in your business doing what you need to do.

Ryan: Yep, that’s right. Unless you’re actually leveraging your time, you’re going to hit a ceiling, where you’re not going to be able to grow your business any more.

Steve: Exactly. So, what’s the number one point that Richard Branson says, Ryan?

Ryan: “Spend time with your family. What are you doing all this for anyway? ”

Steve: Exactly. I think that is a golden rule. In getting your ethos right, if you make this your number one priority, everything else falls into place. That’s why you’re in business in the first place, isn’t it?

Ryan: That makes sense. That’s actually one of the ones that I’m really good at. This was a decision that my wife and I made right at the start. We talked about what sort of life do we want to have, and how do we want to raise our kids? What role do we want their dad to have? We made that decision and commitment early on. You know, come 5:00, start to pack up, hit the road. 5:15, for me, I’m home at 5:30 with the kids. Once the rule was in place it was so much easier to stick to that. I know, actually most people that I know, that’s fairly early to be getting home; but it means I’ve got that, particularly in summer, hour or two with kids to go to the park, and go skateboarding, and teach them tennis, and all the stuff that we’re doing. That is my number one priority and it makes me very happy.

Steve: One of the things that I noticed when I was in my last job, before I went out on my own; I spent a couple of years really working quite hard to build that business. I would have been working a minimum of 12 hour days, probably up to 14 hours during the weekdays. Then on the weekends, I was spending about four or five hours on a Saturday mainly working.

My son, at that time, was sort of in his early teens, and what I found was I’d come home and he’d be in bed quite a lot of the time. I’d be coming home 8:30, 9:00 at night, you know, my wife’s tired, I’m tired, eat, go to bed. It just was a bit of a grind. When I made the change and actually started working from home, and I restructured my working hours, because I was able to actually define how I worked, it made a massive difference to the relationship I had with my son because he would come home from school, and I’d go sit on the couch with him for three-quarters of an hour, and shoot the breeze, and talk about whatever, and take him out shopping, or whatever we were doing.

Then, even with my wife’s crazy roster, I could then make that adjustment to make sure that we were still spending time with each other. I can tell you, it took about six months, but my relationship with both of them improved dramatically, just because I had more time.

Ryan: Yep.

Steve: This is something that I have a real beef with parents, sometimes because a lot of parents say, “It’s not about quantity of time, it’s about quality time.” It absolutely gets my back up because, I can tell you now, there is no quality time unless you give them quantity. It’s because of the quantity of time that you have that you get those quality moments, and you can’t do it the other way around. You’re kidding yourself if you think you can.
So, this number one point, it’s a big issue for me personally. It ticks a big box to why I made a big change in my career. I agree 100% with that. I’d encourage all the listeners, reshape your job and whatever it is you’re doing in business, reshape it to make sure that the number one focus is your family. That’s me getting off my soapbox now.

Ryan: What about, you know, some people would say, “Ah, well, Steve, that’s all very well for you to say, but it’s different for me. I’m in a different situation,” and they’ll give you all sorts of reasons why that’s just not a realistic proposition for them.

Steve: I think just don’t kid yourself. Some people have to work. I’ve got friends in England, as an example, it’s so expensive to live over there, they both have to work jobs. They’ve got young kids, but they don’t have any choice. If they want to live in that city, they’ve got to work two jobs, and so their time with their kids suffers.

But, don’t kid yourself and say, “It doesn’t.” That’s all I’m saying. Don’t pretend that it doesn’t. Just be aware that it does because when they plan family holidays they can say, “Well, no, we really need to invest that time. This is our only opportunity.” So some people don’t have the freedom to actually give more time to their family, but don’t kid yourself, and think that it’s okay, and that you’re getting the most out of your relationships by spending a small amount of time because you’re just not.

Ryan: Yeah. In some of these points, you and I are very different. This is one where, I think, we’re very similar.

Steve: Yeah, I think, and beyond family as well, your friendships are really important. As blokes, I know I don’t spend enough time socializing with my mates. My wife spends a lot more time with her friends than I do with mine. Part of the changes that I’ve made is to specifically make sure that I can get out there and go down to a pub on a Thursday afternoon, and sit down with one of my mates, and just shoot the breeze. It makes a big difference, makes a big difference when you’ve got those friendships, and they’re all ticking along, and your world is a much happier place.

Ryan: Yep and they take energy and investment, like everything else.

Steve: That’s it.

Ryan: Well, this has been really good to go through this. I can definitely say that there are some of these points from Mr. Branson that I’m pretty good at, and others that I need to put in a lot more work.

Steve: I think it’s important that all of us just look at these and use this podcast a bit of a sounding board. Where are we currently at, and make a decision, do we want to change these, and are they important to us to actually make a change? If they are, I would love to hear from our listeners, if some of these points made a difference, or even if some of the comments that Ryan and I have shared in this episode have made them, maybe, rethink about things.

Well, Ryan, that’s it for another episode.

Ryan: Thank you, Steve, I enjoyed that.

Steve: Yeah, thanks very much. If anyone wants to find out more, come to the web site. Subscribe to the podcast. Like Ryan, listen to it while you’re driving, or down at the gym, or whatever you’d like, and get in touch with us. Leave a comment on the forum, or on the blog posts, and let us know that you’re listening. Tell us what you think. We’d love to hear your suggestions as to what you’d like to hear on the show. Thanks very much, Ryan, I’ll speak to you in a couple of weeks.

Ryan: Thanks, Steve, I’ll look forward to catching up with you then.

Steve: Cheers, mate.

Ryan: Bye.