Martin: Welcome to the business owners podcast where we throw aside taboos and share strategies for growing, protecting and exiting your business. My name is Martin Checketts, I am here with my colleague Ed Skilton and together we represent Mills Oakley’s Private Advisory Team. Welcome everybody and welcome Ed!
Ed: Hello Martin. How are things with you?
Martin: Things are every good, back for season 3, Ed we are still on air!
Ed: We have done well. One more season perhaps, we will see.
Martin: Yeah, well we will see how we go, I suppose. Look we had a great response to the last season about exiting your business particularly some of the interviews with the likes of Geoff Green, Mark Parow, Greg Johnson we’re very very well received and we have had some great discussion and insight from that series.
Ed: People seemed to prefer that interview style of Podcast as opposed to you and I talking.
Martin: Yeah, I know, I was particularly kind of wounded by that feedback I have got to say none the less I am happy to go with it.
Hey, so season 3, this is going to be an absolute ripper. It is one that I have been very very keen on doing since the outset and it is something a little bit different again. So this season we have got 4 episodes and we are going to be interviewing the same guest on every single one of them and that guest is a professional that we have worked closely with over many years and have wonderful respect for and working relationship with and that is Therese Barry. So welcome Therese.
Therese: Great to be here, Martin and great to be here with you Ed.
Martin: So hey Therese has a really interesting business called The Business Owners Mind and what Therese does is work with Senior Executives and business owners on the human side of the kind of things that Ed and I do on the legal side if you like so succession, be it ownership or management succession, intergenerational wealth transfer and other key business issues. And for me the longer I am in this game advising private business owners, I see the personal or the psychological aspects and Therese is also by the way a qualified psychologist. I see these human aspects as being absolutely interlinked with the business aspect and often where our clients don’t get a good business outcome I think it is because those other human or emotional aspects have been ignored and professional processors are not good at addressing these things. We are very good at writing the contracts, doing the financials what have you what have you but exploring some of the human and psychological issues is something that can be very very valuable.
Therese: Well I think that is right, Martin, because as we know the business issues and the personal people problems are always very much intertwined and sometimes you need to understand a complex people problem within a family or a business to be able to get a good legal outcome.
Martin: Oh absolutely. So hey we have got four episodes with Therese, Ed do you want to kind of give the overview.
Ed: Well, I think for this first episode we are trying to keep it a bit high level and talk about the business owner’s mind before we start moving into more specific aspects of the business owners mind and I suppose they are dovetailing with legal issues as well. The next episode will be on intergenerational succession perspective and that perspective will be mum and dad or the current owners of the business. Following on from there we want to move along to the other side of succession and that will be from the next generation’s perspective…if we can survive three episodes.
Therese: I am sure we can
Ed: I hope so, then with the fourth episode we think it would be interesting to move into a non-family succession conversation and more of a co-owned business conversation. So, people who have business partners, or as in some form of co-owned entity and how they will face the challenges and how they will deal with some of these stresses.
Martin: Hey, before we get into it Ed, I have just got a bit of a quandary in my mind, you know I am keen on disclaiming our liability.
Martin: You know that is very very important, you know the normal kind of general advice warning that I like to promulgate at the beginning of each of these podcasts but I mean are we going to be given legal advice or not? Do I disclaim for psychological advice?
Ed: Why not, disclaim everything.
Martin: Well I mean it can’t hurt, can it. I mean it can just only protect us.
Ed: I don’t think anyone is going to be thinking you are giving…(Martin and Ed laugh)
Martin: I certainly hope they’re not.
Ed: No, you are very safe but just in case.
Martin: Yeah, okey dokey, well I will therefore confirm that this podcast contains general commentary only and is not a substitute for independent professional advice, be it of a legal or a human nature. Always seek specific advice related to your circumstances before looking to implement any of the strategies referred to in this podcast.
There we go, everyone is protected, we can move forward with confidence.
Therese: Well done.
Martin: Alright, well hey to kick it off as Ed said we are going to start off by talking about the business owner’s mind, of course also the name of your business, but it has always struck us as advisors to business owners that there is a particular responsibility and psychology and particular kind of stresses and anxieties that go hand in hand with being a business owner. The responsibility for all of the mortgages of the staff, feeling lonely at the top, we very commonly see these aspects in our clients and in the transactions that we work on and we find it interesting to see how these dynamics can sometimes affect things like business succession processes. I mean, Therese do you want to kind of kick us off with some general comments about that?
Therese: Yeah, sure. I mean the reality is that business owners are no different to anybody else, they are people who experience the same kind of human stressors in life to do with families, children, and all the issues that actually come with that. And I think that it is fair to say that when you are up the top of the tree, sometimes you can be so into the business side of things that the accumulative effect of personal issues can sometimes creep up on you really and you don’t give the same amount of attention to talking those issues through and before you know it you might find that you are finding that you are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety about the business or a family member and you are not really processing those things with anybody and you tend not to process those things with your lawyer or your accountant because you see them as having a particular role and they do, they have a very very important role when it comes to running your business. But the fact is that running a good business also means looking after the personal aspect of the business and I say to people you know there are business issues and there are people problems and the two are intertwined as a business owner and you need to be able to work out when I need to see an accountant and when I need to see a human service problem solver to help me with some of these more complex people problems that I really am not particular expert in or I could do with some advice with.
Martin: I think you said that so well Therese and it is I think a common problem amongst the advisory community, we want to be trusted advisors, we want to help our clients, we want to give them a view and hold their hand through myriad problems and that is a wonderful goal. But I think there is a strong message in there about we also have to have the right team around us and we have to do it in a collaborative manner.
Therese: Look, I think that is true and I think in the past people have traditionally gone to lawyers only, accountants only, you know sometimes the role of the accountant has fulfilled giving some legal advice or vice versa depending on who their particular professional is that they prefer. But in this day and age I think we are more open to the talents of all the professions and you know it seems crazy to think that 2015 we are only really recognising that perhaps someone with a psychology background with understanding of people is also an important person to have on your team but as you know it very much is because the people problems can actually bring down a family business.
Martin: Oh that is right, and is it still stigmatised see a psychologist.
Therese: For some people it is, you know and it would be fair to say that people would often be wanting to be quite reassured that they are not going to be seen walking in and out of my business and look for that reason I decided to sort of target the business owner’s mind concept rather than just working as a psychologist because what a psychologist can have to offer too often limited in understanding them as just a psychologist and I think that to be able to provide advice to people around their people and business issues and solutions is a much broader way to be able to access people and to give them what they want and need.
Martin: Oh absolutely, and isn’t there this kind of perception that you know you have got to be crazy to see a psych, you have to be in a really kind of dark place but I see it the other way round. Look at the opportunities for successful, high functioning business people to work with somebody like you to optimise that performance.
Therese: And look, I think it is true, you know there is definitely a place for fairly serious clinical work for people that are suffering from mental health issues, but we are talking about using the skills and the knowledge that comes with psychological training in a constructive and positive environment that leads to great outcomes and perhaps in some ways it is preventative work, we are getting in there and we are understanding issues before they develop into major stressors that lead to anxieties and depressions and marriage breakdowns and all those kind of things that happen to people in their lives as a result of the different stressors that they encounter.
Martin: Hey Therese, my mind has been racing as you have just been saying all of that and Ed, do you mind I just want to ask Therese something, is that okay?
Ed: Yeah we have time.
Martin: Oh thank you. So how can I put it…so, I have got a friend and he runs this great business and it has been going very well for a few years now. Let’s call it, I mean I need to be kind of discrete, let’s call it professional services for example, hypothetically, and it has had a lot of growth, year on year but when he goes home at night sometimes he feels very very anxious, he worries about the practice, he worries about where the revenue is going to come from next year, he worries about how to support his staff and how to help them in their career and for them to enjoy part of the growth and the success and yeah he finds that very very troubling and it can manifest sometimes in a sleepless night or whatever, whatever, he hasn’t started drinking yet I would hasten to add, well okay only on the weekends.
Ed: Well a couple, but nothing serious.
Martin: Look nothing after mid-day, I mean nothing before mid-day.
Ed: Nothing between 12 and 1.
Martin: Just another Freudian slip. But no look he feels he has got it under control anyway. What would you advise such a hypothetical kind of person, Therese?
Therese: Well, I guess the reality is, is that in some ways you really describing your friend’s problems in a way that you know many people would relate to in that there just the normal kind of stressors.
Martin: So my friend isn’t alone in this?
Therese: He is not alone in it.
Martin: That makes him feel better already.
Therese: But if we were to take it a bit further and to perhaps you know work with him about being able to get a better night sleep I might suggest that you could get your friend to come and see me and we could talk a little bit about some mindfulness techniques. I don’t know, it is a bit of a buzz word these days. But the idea of being able to be present in the moment and to be able to detach from worrying thoughts and in some ways it is quite simple to do but it is not that simple to do unless you actually get a little bit of guidance and input from someone about how you might actually go home and be able to detach from those thinking or thoughts, because there are times where we need to be engaged in some intellectual thinking about what is going on and there is other times where we need to be able to give ourselves a break from our thoughts and of course our brains are thinking all the time, we don’t have a lot of control over stopping thinking but what we do have a little bit of control over is being able to work with our thoughts and being able to detach from some of those thoughts and so when you go home it is actually time to get involved with the family, it is not time to be going home and working and that is one of the mistakes that many people make. They go home and they continue to work.
Martin: And isn’t this typical of high performing business owners. You know, because my friend is an intelligent kind of guy, these are people who think about these things constantly. This is how their business got good, right? So this kind of, I’ll call it focus, but you’re kind of talking about the psychological downside of that.
Therese: Well that’s right, and initially all that drive gets that business going but it’s not sustainable in the long term and whilst everyone these days tends to have iPhones, back in the early days when people had Blackberry’s when they first came out, and it was an absolute revolution because you could get your email at any time and in the end we called them crackberries they were so addictive. I had people that were waking up taking emails 1, 2, 3 o’clock during the night and we had discussions, just like we do with teenagers about putting some limits around when do you put your crackberry down, when do you actually stop looking at emails, being able to allocate some time and being able to say well you know what from 6 -9 we are going to have family time and from 9-10 if we need to do some work we will allow some time for that. But it is actually about getting back to this idea of being mindful, being present and being engaged in your life where you are at the moment, and at the moment you are at home so how do you get engaged in home in a way that makes it productive and helpful for everybody because I can tell you, you really don’t want to end up with a family law case because you are busy at work, at home.
Ed: I am so glad that you raise this Martin and I hope your friend doesn’t mind divulging so much and it is funny you know because I was speaking to a friend on the way over here.
Martin: You have a friend too.
Ed: Yeah well she was lamenting to me how she is also in a professional services business but very different to your friend actually because whilst your friend’s concerned about maintaining and supporting, this friend of mine she is very worried about the next stage of her career. Her plan is really to usurp the team leader and she was very candid with me, she complained that he is getting stale, lazy, forgetful…
Martin: Drinking too much…
Ed: Resting on his laurels and I supposed she is more the young up and comer, doing the family thing at the same time and that brings a lot of stress as well and you see it around offices I think, especially at the moment, I don’t know if it has always been like this but you see people bringing up young kids, maybe newly married, maybe married a few years and really trying to build the business and of course trying to build the business really means getting some momentum so long days, hard work, juggling everything at the same time. What sort of advice would you have for someone in that situation?
Therese: Well I have to say, Ed, that you have raised a really interesting issue with this one. The thing that comes to mind initially for me with this is some time ago I saw an episode on SBS, I think it was the history channel, and it was about the evolution of the gorillas.
Ed: Very close to what we are talking about.
Therese: I think so and I there was one.
Martin: Tell me more about the big silverback.
Therese: He is at the top of the pack of the gorillas.
Ed: Yes, he is, but not for long probably.
Therese: Well, that’s right and behind him are the whole tribe of these gorillas, you know you have got the mothers and the babies and they are all tramping along looking for their food and where they need to go next to keep this group of gorillas going and of course there is a point in their journey where there is this huge stop and the great big buck from the end of the line who is up and coming male gorilla, comes to the front and there is an almighty brawl and he has a big fight with the leader and then the leader goes to the back of the pack, they don’t kick him out of the group which is kind of them.
Martin: Thank goodness for that. (Martin laughs)
Ed: Every pack is different. (Martin laughs)
Therese: And the young buck he is now the leader and they all sort of go off on their merry way and look you look at the old gorilla at the back, he is looking a bit dejected, he is not looking too pleased or too happy about it but he is accepting of it and look I actually think there is something in that story for businesses because the reality is we do need the wisdom of the old gorilla because he has got a lot to offer the business but we also need the youth and the new ideas and the new capacities that younger people bring to put them at the top of the group for survival basically, it is just basic animal survival techniques and so I think that your friend.
Martin: Ed’s friend or mine?
Therese: Well both your friends really, I think Ed’s friend, she is really you know getting ready to have this sort of punch up with the leader of the pack, and your friend needs to get prepared to sort of go to the back of the pack, but I think we need to be able to sort of give him some advice about how he might be able to become an advisor to this group, because there is a lot of wisdom that he has got, but we need that new leader at the front of the pack as well and it is about how does she get there looking after all those stressors, you know, is she a mother, does she have children, has she got a young family, how does she do it in a way that keeps the success of all those things going?
Martin: I would postulate she has got no idea to what those stressors are really like. You know and look maybe on behalf of my friend, perhaps I am feeling somewhat defensive at this kind of point, it is interesting isn’t it from those two different perspectives.
Therese: Well it is interesting from the two different perspectives, absolutely. (Martin laughs)
Martin: When do you think you friend, just out of interest, might be kind of looking to make this coup?
Ed: Oh, I would only be guessing, it is probably not helpful or constructive for me to say so, but probably while the lead gorilla is on holiday next.
Martin: Oh boy, so he might be kind of, when he comes back he might not be in a corner office, he might be in a work station in the middle. (Martin laughs)
Ed: Well it is interesting you say that because I think this friend of mine, she’d actually mentioned work stations and it is one of the things that really upsets her…
Therese: Work stations…
Ed: That some people are in an open plan environment and others aren’t and some people have really nice offices.
Martin: Well perhaps if your friend, you know, originated some more well professional work, let’s call it legal work (Ed laughs), you know that might accelerate your friend’s plans. (Martin laughs)
Ed: Yeah, that is helpful. I will give her that feedback. (Martin laughs)
Therese: Actually, it is another interesting point that you make there Ed about the office environment and you know who gets to get into an office, who gets to sit behind a workstation and what that represents in terms of our gorilla pack and status in the group and having a good group working really well together is about understanding all those issues, because sometimes you get someone in the group who is not really the gorilla that should be going to the front of the pack who thinks that they are and there comes the performance management or management issues that needs to occur with people because we have disruption in our group but someone who really is not the person that should be going to the leader of the pack, and I am not saying that that refers to your friend.
Martin: Maybe your friend needs to think along and hard about that… (Ed laughs) …hmm. (Martin laughs)
Ed: I am interested Therese to know at what point, did all of the gorillas know this was happening? (Martin laughs) Or is there ever a scenario where the lead gorilla sees it coming (Martin laughs) and perhaps offers a way of transitioning?
Therese: Well that’s a good point. With these particular gorillas, my sense was they were all fairly accepting of what was occurring, particular the females and the children, they just went along with it, the head gorilla was not so aware that this was going to happen and so it was a great shock to him to be beaten up and I think that in real businesses it is probably important to have a bit of a transition plan because it makes for much better relationships, because remember that head gorilla is still a bit of a wise old brain in there but needs to be used within the group and there’s a role.
Martin: And he is still quite good looking, you know, for an older gentleman.
Ed: Its niche. (Martin laughs)
Martin: And this might be the cause of some of my friend’s anxiety, I’m just postulating.
Therese: Well that’s the thing you know, Martin, people have thoughts going through their minds all the time, some of them we are aware of and some of them we are not so aware of so in every day to day experience of life we have a whole range of things that we are thinking about that we don’t necessarily give attention to and they are bubbling along in the background and they can come to the foreground and create anxiety and we don’t really know what the anxiety is about but sitting down and having a talk about what’s really going on in your life right now, you might find that you surprise yourself with talking about these worries that you didn’t even know you had and being able to address things and process them and actually then look at having a plan to move forward can help to deal with anxiety and I say to people who know, when we look at things like anxiety we need to look at is there a problem here that needs to be solved or is this just free-floating anxiety that we just need to detach from some worrying thoughts that are just over work and stress has created the issue and transitioning in a business can be a really important thing that you haven’t wanted to look at, you haven’t wanted to solve that problem but you know the time has come that you have to because none of us live forever.
Martin: Wow that is great advice, Therese.
Hey and that is probably a wonderful segway into our next episode. So as Ed mentioned we are going to really kind of dive into family succession next week. Who knows we might have some more friends Ed next week that we…(Martin laughs)
Ed: Well I do, I don’t know about you. (Martin laughs)
Therese: Well I am happy to talk about them. (Martin laughs)
Martin: Well that’s great Therese, so look thank you. Anybody wanting to check out Therese online it is www.thebusinessownersmind.com.au. Thank you very much Therese, there is some great insights there, I think for me, particularly about mindfulness and if I can maybe talk less euphemistically and you have taught me these techniques over the years, these techniques about kind of detaching, being present in the moment, very very good for everybody but particularly good for business owners and those who have difficult and stressful jobs, so that is very very good advice. Ed, any closing thoughts?
Ed: I absolutely second that. It is one of the great challenges and when you were talking about crackberries before, I remember when I started out as a lawyer, when I graduated law school, 10 and a bit years ago, this was just starting and so actually the culture and the behavioural norms that I leant in, that was the norm and so I don’t really remember the environment before. I’ve grown up in that environment and I would even say it has become more extreme because it’s not just emails now its remote log-ins, it’s a 24/7 profession for us and we need to prioritise, we need to decide what we are doing and when and what is more important in that moment and I think it is actually getting extremely difficult to manage expectations.
Therese: Correct. Well thanks for having me today, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you both and I hope that you are able to go away and give your friends a little bit of good advice.
Ed: Thank you so much.
Martin: Our friends have got a lot to reflect on. Thank you Therese, we will see you next time.
Martin: Bye now.