Monthly Archives: November 2016

Football v Career – Actions Defined by Subconscious Thinking


Have you ever thought about your subconscious actions and how they affect the course of your life?

I am amazed at how our subconscious thinking defines our actions; when I think back now to the late 80’s, early 90’s it was my subconscious thinking that drove actions that set the shape of my professional life.
20160710_CareerAdvice
This was when I commenced my employment with Reynolds & Reynolds in the automotive technology space (the space I am still around today) and played my first AFL Senior season in that same year (VFL back then).

Now looking back, the path that both of those took is a lesson in itself. This is not about me looking back thinking “what if” (maybe a little, sometimes) but more a real lesson in what shapes our beliefs and ultimate actions.

Football
I loved football and still do but it has never been my life nor did I ever set out for it to be my life. I didn’t work hard to play AFL, it just “happened”. One week I was playing local U18 football (no training, out on Friday nights before a game) and the next week I was playing with Richmond U19s, appointed Captain the following season and played my first senior AFL game the year. Yes I did all the hard training including the long pre-season but nothing extra or out of the ordinary (unfortunately). Football was just meant to be fun.
20160407_PBFooty1988
Technology
Now I compare that with my software development career which kicked off in the same year. Almost from the start I was driven to do more and be better than the other programmers. I quickly got a reputation for not letting something go before it was done. That meant late nights, weekends, etc, going above and beyond, doing the extra work.

Dad always said to me about working to “work hard, be loyal and you’ll get looked after”. Football to me was always short term thinking. Work, my profession, has always been thinking about the long term.

What if I worked my butt off in football to get every bit I could out of myself? What would I be doing now? It might be exactly the same. It might be different. I don’t really care and don’t dwell on it because I made that choice many years ago subconsciously and divided by effort/time accordingly (or maybe I subconsciously knew where my talents really were….).

I still love football and I am still involved today as a Board member of the EFL and through my kids playing. It is and always has been an outlet for me. Would I have loved to have played more senior AFL football? Definitely but not necessarily at the cost of what I’m doing today. Remember too, it wasn’t fully professional back then either and let’s face it, I was never going to be in the elite bracket!

I like to think I’ve “worked hard, been loyal and been looked after” to get to where I am today so I’m pretty happy with my lot and it was my subconscious thinking that defined it for me.

Have you thought about your journey and how you made it to where you are today?


A Good Technology Lesson in Uber


I doubt that Uber is new to many people by now; if they haven’t used it they would have certainly heard about it.

In some circles I’ve been slow off the mark in my Uber experiences but in other circles I’m the one with experience.

To most people who use Uber they marvel at the ease, secure feeling and in most cases, cost (read on for my example recently).
20161117_uber2
These things are not lost on me but it is the use of technology that makes this incredible service wow me, especially when I am travelling for business overseas.

Two things with the technology/process flow that I love are:

1. Google Maps and other third party maps – I love it that Uber integrated Google Maps into the passenger user interface and allows integration for third party navigation apps such as Waze for the driver directions; they recognized that these apps are “best in class” and integrated them rather building more proprietary software (something a lot of companies get wrong and some right). As an aside, wasn’t Waze a smart acquisition by Google?

2. Driver and Destination – I love the fact that the driver does not know your destination until you are in the car and when he does it is automatically set as his destination with up to date crowd sourced traffic information guided by an app such as Waze.
20161117_uber_reutersr_0
On a recent trip to Mexico, this what I found this technology and process gave me:

Ease – two things stand out for me here: 1) you use the same app and same account settings as I do in Australia and 2) no language translation issues with the driver; the Uber driver didn’t speak English, I don’t speak Spanish but getting to right destination is not an issue since the driver has the address loaded into his system upon booking

Secure – no cash changing hands, can’t be ripped off; I tried to get a taxi from the hotel but he didn’t accept credit cards – also, knowing and seeing our route on the Uber large phone and my phone at the same time gave me piece of mind of where I was going

Cost – the taxi I tried to get quoted me $340 up front for my ride; my Uber cost was $190 (Mexican Pesos)
20161117_ubermexico
From booking to riding to paying the service sequence is pretty hard to fault and by using technology is the ultimate disruptor to the taxi industry.

If you were going to fault anything it is that it is “real time” only and you cannot book, although I have no doubt that will come.

The other thing people may fault is the surge in fees when demand is high but we can’t be too critical of this, it simply “supply and demand” pricing and this is commerce.

Not only has Uber disrupted the taxi industry, it has done it in a seamless way the world wide and especially in cities the size and density of Mexico City and São Paulo, it is an absolutely killer app.

And through the use of technology and the connected world, the world just keeps getting smaller.


I Survived Business With Family & Friends, You Can To


We’ve all heard it before, “don’t go into business with family or friends”.

Well I mustn’t have read the memo too well because I went into business with family AND friends! Overall the experience has been a positive one for over 10 years now but that’s not to say we all haven’t learnt a few things along the way.

In 2005 I went into business with my best mate when we acquired my father’s small, successful business that he ran with a business partner. They were ready to retire and the proceeds of the sale were to be their superannuation.
20161107_familyfriendsbus
Within months my brother and brother in law entered the business. The three of them were to work in the business and each of them having skin in the game made sense to me as I was to be the only passive shareholder.

The first thing we did was put together a Shareholders Agreement to set some governance and protect our collective interests in the case of an exit (read problem). Of course controlling an exit was an important piece but being the only shareholder not working in the business, I also wanted to ensure I had some comfort around governance, things like:

  • What required unanimous board approval like the cap on a capital expenditure item, cap on services to be agreed to, hiring employees or altering salaries over a dollar amount, etc
  • Setting expectations for directors meetings, forecasts, plans, etc
  • Creating the process and rules for an exit by a shareholder

It is one thing to have a Shareholders Agreement and it is another to adhere to the specifics with friends and family. This is where conflict can occur especially when you are the only one of the shareholders not working in the business.

It can leave you with a choice to make – dig your heels in and make sure it was followed to the letter OR suck it up a little since they are doing a good job, making money and was it really worth jeopardizing relationships with family and friends over? I chose the latter potentially sacrificing some money each year for the bigger picture (for all of us I might add).
20161107_familyfriends
What would I have done differently? The easy answer to this question is “don’t go into business with family and friends” but I don’t look badly at that decision. I should have ensured that every detail of the Shareholders Agreement was followed for the benefit of all of us; after all what was the point of it?

A business needs to be run as a business and when you have multiple shareholders you have responsibilities to each and every shareholder to do the best thing by all. A Shareholders Agreement is constructed to ensure this objective was met and we failed ourselves by not adhering to it all the time.
20161104_familyfriendsinc
Would I do it again? Absolutely!

It’s all a state of mind and anything where more good than bad can come out can’t be a bad thing.


Make Money While You Sleep


I saw a quote from Warren Buffet recently that read “if you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die”.

With Buffet’s background and track record you know that he was most likely referring to investing in businesses via the stock market but it also reminded me of a quote from my Dad that had similar connotations – “you need to find a business with a recurring revenue stream to build on otherwise you will always be limited to the number of hours you can work”.
20161102_buffett1
He was specifically talking about getting paid an hourly amount to do something. For instance, if you are a plumber and charge by the hour or per job completed, you are limited to the number of hours or jobs you can complete in the day/week/month.

Running a business specializing in road detector loops, he was able to turn his business from purely getting paid per job completed into a monthly recurring revenue business with any work beyond the scope of the contractual requirements a bonus. This gave him scope that was never there previously.

I remember in my early days as a software developer, the goal being to have enough Systems at our clients where the recurring monthly service contracts would cover all fixed costs so that sales were actually profit. Eventually the compound effect of the monthly service contracts would also add to the profitability. This was my first glimpse of what recurring revenue was.
20161102_internet
When we started Digital Motorworks in Australia, obtaining contracts with a guaranteed recurring revenue base was the cornerstone of our business planning. We worked with our clients to find a model where they would guarantee a minimum monthly amount in return for getting exclusivity and/or economies of scale if they secured volume use of our services.

This way if our client failed to sell our services we would have a win in getting a minimum monthly payment. Conversely of the client was able to sell more of our services, there was a tipping point where our profitability per service would be reduced and they would achieve economies of scale benefits for their investment.

The Internet has opened up more and more ways to “make money while you sleep” by allowing to put your goods and services in front of people to transact at all times.
20161102_money
Whether it be investing in good businesses via the stock market, investing in property or working in a business that is structured around a recurring revenue model, the concept of finding something to make money while you sleep is a very sound one.

Hard to argue with Warren Buffet on anything to do with making money. And I think my father has been pretty successful in his own way to.