S2E1 The Business Growth Edition with Carl Reader
James chats with Carl Reader who is the author of the Startup Coach and the Franchising Handbook, both published by Hodder, regular business contributor in the press radio and also on TV and he’s the chairman of the business advisory firm D&T.
He hosts his own podcast, and has recently taken over the running of a national league south football team.
They discuss community football, falling into accountancy, hair dressing, working with high street brands, ice-cream, and of course service excellence.
James Nathan: 00:58 Hello and welcome to The Only One Business Show with me, your host, James Nathan and today in the studio I’ve got a great and fantastic guest for you. He’s the author of the Startup Coach and the Franchising Handbook, both published by Hodder, regular business contributor in the press radio and also on TV and he’s the chairman of the business advisory from D&T. He hosts his own podcast, which I’ve got to pop a link in the bottom later, but is absolutely fantastic. And he’s now recently taken over the running of a national league south football team. Please welcome Carl Reader. Carl, how are you?
Carl Reader: 01:33 I’m great, thanks James. Thank you so much for inviting me onto the show.
James Nathan: 01:37 Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure. It’s lovely to have you on. I know you’re a super busy guy, so really nice of you to take the time out. Carl, how did you end up taking over a football team or running a football team?
Carl Reader: 01:49 Do you know what? It was completely by accident. So I moved to the area which I live, Hungerford, about two and a half years ago and I knew that a football club that was punching well above its weight. You know, I’d picked up on best thorough the football world seeing just how high up they were though, actually, you know, if they have results were being announced on TV, which is a big sign of a team doing fairly well. And I didn’t really know just how well above their weight they were punching until I looked at some of the teams they were playing. Anyway, to park that for one moment, I responded to a call out on social media and it was actually the manager of the team just doing a call out, can anyone help help us with the running of the club.
Carl Reader: 02:40 So I picked up the phone to him. This was about a week after his announcement and had a good chat with him. He’s really nice guy, but it was clear that the club was in a bit of a pickle. And what I mean by that is it wasn’t in a pickle insomuch as financially, although those but yeah, there certainly was a financial shortfall. It was nothing like other clubs in the league, you know. The last set of accounts for Salford City who’ve just gone into the football league, they put out was when they were in that equivalent league in the north, and they were in the hole by 2.4 million. Okay. So this is a huge sum of money. Now Hungerford, it was much lower than that, but still, you know, not an insubstantial amount. So there were challenges, the Chairman was leaving, the Treasurer was leaving, everybody was departing because they’d been trying to juggle this club having been reliant on a benefactor previously.
Carl Reader: 03:37 So they wanted people to come in and just apply some business input. Now a guy called Patrick Chambers who I knew of had already met with the team and agreed to become chairman and I got the feeling by trying to crowbar me into being a treasurer and you know we’ll probably talk a bit about my background later, but I’m not a natural accountant, so no chance, you know. I’m allergic to that stuff, but I met the guys and hopefully they felt that there’s something that I could add. I certainly felt there was something I could add and I’m obviously invited to become Vice-Chairman. So I’ve been involved in running it for, it’s only been a few weeks relatively speaking. We were picking up the promotion of the last couple of matches of last season. During which the team achieved a massive turnaround.
Carl Reader: 04:32 Easter Monday, the team played in front of 5,300 in Torquey and secured a win against the champions of the league. Now to put that into context the town itself only has a population of five and a half thousand or so. So you can tell that this team are really playing out of their skin to stay at the level of football that they are at. We managed to pretty much double the average gate on the last two matches, which was fantastic. We’re really looking forward to going into next season with a bit of a bang when you need some corporate sponsors. We can get more bums on seats. Ultimately helping to build a culture around the team so that the players feel motivated to play at their very best. Which in turn brings more people in, which in turn brings more sponsors. And you know, I’ve got this crazy vision of actually making a football cup sustainable.
Carl Reader: 05:22 You know, it’s a not for profit club and I intend to keep it that way. So rather than being something with a golden goose at the end of chucking loads of money at it and maybe getting into the premiership, actually I want to make it sustainable. I want to make it for the community or want to make it completely transparent. So it’s been a great use of my energy recently and it feels like a natural extension of some of the charitable work that I’ve done before.
James Nathan: 05:47 Fantastic. I love the kind of ethos you’re talking about there. I’m not involved with football clubs. I’ve been very involved with rugby clubs and you see clubs that have, you know, a nice membership, you know, a good club, try and do something, you know, out of reality, trying to become a premiership club for instance. And it can really wreck the place. It can change the whole feel and it’s really a shame to see that happen. So something that’s built there for the community. I think it’s a fantastic thing.
Carl Reader: 06:17 This is it. Look, if the community… there’s two aspects to that. First of all, for the community that are aware, of the football club it’s about making it sustainable. So it’s their for their children, their grandchildren and so on. However, there’s this really strange irony but even by the last match of the season, I think we got 580 through the gate. Plus we had some kids back who were actually attending an event before. So you know, we had, we had great numbers there. Normally we’d only have 220, but that’s a massive substantial percentage of a population of the town. However, a good proportion of the town don’t even know they’ve got a football club on their doorstep. So we’ve actually got a communications exercise throughout the town of Hungerford and reaching out to areas like Newbury to Marlborough to Wantage to Andover you know, and really going outside of anywhere where there is a professional football team and let them know that actually yeah, there’s a, there’s a cracking team played a really good level of football. You know, honestly it’s on a par with Southend United, my own team that I support. They play a really good level of football and it’s on your doorstep and it’s actually, you know, they have the best and biggest team in West Berkshire.
James Nathan: 07:35 Fantastic. And quite a trek from your start in life. Cause like me, you went into accountancy and didn’t like it or tell us what, tell us how it all began for Carl Reader.
Carl Reader: 07:46 Yeah, sure. So although I won’t go back right back to the midwife holding me up by my feet and I’ll start the story at year 11 of senior school. Yeah. So at year 11 I received my national insurance card. Now bear in mind, I was extremely privileged to be at a grammar school. So I was from a counsel estate upbringing and yeah, it was, it was a perfectly fine childhood, but there wasn’t much cash floating about, you know, my old man was a locksmith. My mother was a dinner lady. Yeah, we weren’t a particularly well off family. Anyway, I was at a grammar school and was given all of this opportunity that you don’t normally get. So, you know, I will defend grammar schools to the hilt when anyone complains about them because they really do improve social mobility and allow people to reach their potential.
Carl Reader: 08:38 However, I didn’t realize that at the time, you know, like most 15 year olds, I was more interested in, I’ll be quite honest, drinking, smoking and girls. And being at an all boys school that was very strict and very disciplined, I imagine that was actually magnified. So by the time I’d hit year 11, you know, I was frustrated. I just I just wanted to get out into the wider world. So I just wanted to leave school before my GCSEs. And did a YTS in hairdressing. Now for any of your listeners who are younger than me, and have got youth on their side they might not know what YTS is, so it’s a youth training scheme and….
James Nathan: 09:17 And I’m sorry, I was already chuckling because you haven’t got a great deal of hair these days.
Carl Reader: 09:20 No, no, didn’t, you’ve stolen my punch line.
James Nathan: 09:25 Oh I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Carl Reader: 09:27 But anyway, so I fell into hair dressing, you know, on the youth training scheme on 29 quid a week, working six days a week and one of them had to be a late night and I’ve got £1.50 contribution towards my bus fares. I remember, it was slave labour. I was sweeping up and mixing hair dye and so and so forth. And after six weeks it was mutually agreed that it wasn’t the job for me. So I had to work out what to do. So I went back to school, did my GCSEs and probably my results weren’t representative of what I could have achieved had I stuck it out. So if any of my kids are listening, you know, stay at school just at least til your exams are done. Now to work out what to do. So I got the job paper again that dates me really well.
Carl Reader: 10:13 You can probably tell, I was born in the early eighties from this, got the job paper applied for three jobs, one in the army, two at accounting firms. I was underweight, can you believe that James? Underweight for the army.
James Nathan: 10:28 I don’t think I’ve ever been underweight Carl, so…..
Carl Reader: 10:30 But I actually got offered the two jobs at accounting firms, so that’s how I fell into accountancy. It was completely by mistaken. Do you know what? I can vividly remember before my first interview at the first accounting firm, which was the job that I took on. Funnily enough, they waited about two and a half months before offering me the job. Which is normally a sign they went through three or four other interviews and couldn’t find anyone else or everyone else turned them down.
Carl Reader: 11:00 But I definitely remember being in the library beforehand and going into a book and the searching what an accountant is so that, that will probably set the scene of how much I knew about accountancy and how much I wanted to be an accountant before going to the interview. Anyway, fell into it, realized pretty early on that I wasn’t really cut out for accountancy. And in fact I had a LinkedIn message from my old boss, a guy called Andrew Clark. So Andrew, if you’re listening, a big shout out to you, he wrote me a message, something along the lines of, to be frank, I’m amazed at how well you’ve done when. You joined us you were a bit rough around the edges, but we soon licked you into shape. Okay. So that says it all. You know, it wasn’t an actual accountant.
Carl Reader: 11:47 However, what I really enjoyed was meeting business owners. So a couple of years in, you know, I got off the books and started going out and doing training for clients, training them all computer systems. That then developed into starting to have sales conversations back then, developed into having to generate my own leads to have those sales conversations. That then moved into building a sales team, building a marketing team. Along the way I also bought out the firm that I currently work at. Yeah, I say currently work at, I’ve actually stepped away 31st of Jan. I don’t currently work, but I currently serve as chairman. So, I’ve kind of seen my whole process of building a business from, you know, seven or eight people right through to where it is now. We’ve got about 60 odd people. Yeah, have built it to a few million turnover. We’re looking after some major high street brands and so on. I’ve also along the way, as you’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve written a couple of books, written for paper’s, been on TV, been on radio. In fact, I’ve been in every major paper apart from the Sunday Sport. I’ve also, in terms of other businesses, I’ve founded and cofounded a few other businesses invested in a couple of businesses. So it’s been a really interesting opportunity to satisfy the geeky curiosity that I have about business because it amazes me why people decide to do their own thing. You know, I’ve done it myself. But what amazes me more, James, is the fact that people don’t do their own thing.
James Nathan: 13:24 Why don’t they then? Because I mean, I remember very firmly leaving accountancy to go into recruitment and my dad saying to me, Oh, I don’t really know what that is, but you can still be an accountant if it goes wrong, can’t you? And I remember thinking, yeah, okay. And I went into recruitment and then, you know, 12 years later I left to set up my own business because I just desperately wanted to do that. I wanted to run my own thing. I didn’t want to work for the guys I did, the firm had changed, blah, blah, blah. But, people used to say to me, Oh, that’s a hell of a risk, isn’t it? And to me it didn’t feel like a risk at all. You know, so I’m sort of one extreme extreme I guess.
Carl Reader: 14:00 Mm hmm. Let me, let me tell you my hypothesis on it. So I think that it’s changed recently and I’ll touch on that in a moment and if I forget to remind me, James, I’ve got my hypotheses on it is, but the academic system is structured for the industrial age. It’s structured for employment, it’s structured to allow you to get a safe nine to five job. Added onto that we have a social conditioning which tells us things like, you know, you want to get a safe job for life, you want to get a really nice office job and you want to work in the professions. All of these things lead you towards the perception that safe employment is the end goal. Added to that, Business Studies tends to focus certainly at GCSE level where I did it up to a point, tends to focus the 700 public companies out there with conversations about things like complicated share valuations and so on. Rather than the practicalities of how to start a business. It’s shifted slightly because entrepreneurial-ism has become fashionable over the last five or so years. And also the startup culture since, I would say certainly since 2010 ish has I started to really ramp up as people have seen the likes of Facebook and Uber and so on. They have seen millionaires and billionaires at ages far younger than they ever could have imagined and it seemed as aspirational and fashionable and so on. So there’s a small element of the academic system, but now focuses on that and quite frankly, sets a lot of people up for failure because realistically they haven’t got it within them to be a businessman, to be an entrepreneur. Instead they might get funded but ultimately will be employees of VCs or politically more likely be workers, analysts for VCs. But around the entrepreneurial space.
Carl Reader: 16:01 So I think that that’s one of the big issues. The second is, as humans, we always overestimate the level of fear. And I think we need to combine with that the ways in which we’re motivated as humans. You know, so you probably heard James of carrot and stick. You know, you’re motivated by going towards the carrot or away from the stick. Most of us are motivated by going away from the stick. Now combine that with the fact that most of us are externally validated rather than internally validated. So again, for the listeners internally validated are people who can give themselves a pat on the back, externally validated, need a pat on the back from someone else. Now I’m going to hold my hands up. I’m both externally validated and I’m motivated by the stick. Most people will think that entrepreneurs are motivated by the carrot.
Carl Reader: 16:52 You know, they are real go getters. They only need to satisfy themselves. But you just need to look if someone’s carrying a designer handbag or designer belt or whatever, they’re externally validated. If they’ve ever done a school project last minute, then they’re motivated by the stick. And that sums up most of us in reality. Yes, but the problem is that combination of motivations will lead us to believe that entrepreneurship might be a case of public failure, which is the last thing that someone that’s externally validated wants. Double that up with the fact that being motivated by the carrot means that you typically do the least possible to avoid getting sacked rather than the most possible to get promoted. Why would you do it? Then there’s the the logical reasons that people use to back up those emotional reasons. And it comes down to based on a survey of 300 people that I did, which is, it isn’t statistically significant for the press, but it’s reasonably significant enough to announce here.
Carl Reader: 17:55 It’s based on my followers who are largely of a small business or a entrepreneur dynamic. primarily between 25 to 34, 59% male, 41% female. So that’ll give you an idea of the kinds of people who are responding. And the main reasons why people wouldn’t do it was based on money, time and fear. Okay. That was it. So they felt they knew what to do and how to do it. They just didn’t prioritize putting aside the money, putting aside the time or getting over that fear.
James Nathan: 18:33 Okay. But you mentioned businesses, you mentioned a football team punching above its weigh. There are a lot of smaller businesses who manage that as well. You know, and I guess you’ve been involved with that, with D&T, picking up clients who, you know, on paper you wouldn’t expect to work with the firm of the size of yours, but you’re able to do that.
Carl Reader: 18:54 Oh, completely. So we’ve worked with high street names. You know, we’ve if I, if I talk through some of the brands we’ve worked with – Arsenal football club, we’ve worked with Dyno Rod. Who else?
James Nathan: 19:09 Well, that’s enough almost. I mean they are big, big names.
Carl Reader: 19:13 Esquires coffee house. Yeah. Yeah. We could list off high street names, you know, if you walk down an average high street and look at the shops, we probably worked with one or two of them. And that’s on a head office level, not just the independent local level.
James Nathan: 19:37 How does a business, who’s small and entrepreneurial, who’s really keen to develop and punch above their weight, how do they achieve that?
Carl Reader: 19:47 Okay, so there’s a couple of reasons behind this but the first one was, I’ve always been a believer of picking your lane. You know, I’m always one to play to strengths rather than patch up weaknesses. And I feel that you need to look for what it is you’ve got that you can add, that’s significantly different or over above anyone else. So my first niche industry I was handed to me when I when I moved to Swindon initially to work at D&T as an employee, which was martial arts schools. So I was handed a bunch of 25 to 30 martial arts schools built up to about 220. And it was simply a case of getting under the… Getting really under the skin of the industry and getting to know the movers and shakers, getting to know who they shopped with, who their customers were. I’d ask them simple questions as well to build up my knowledge. I wasn’t afraid to show vulnerability but pretty, I was able to go to a martial artist and walk into their school and know pretty much straight away exactly what their turnover was going to be, who their suppliers were, where they could save money, where they could make money, what extra things they could do, how many students they could fit into a room, you know, based on square footage, all of that stuff.
Carl Reader: 21:04 And I could just instinctively know it within an instant. So I became so much more valuable than an accountant who was pretending to be an accountant because I wasn’t doing the numbers. So instead I was able to have a really productive conversations. I never sold. Instead I would just help facilitate their way of thinking by use of effective questioning to allow them to build their business within an hour and realize, you know, holy crap. You know, they, they’ve actually got something massive in their hands and they haven’t really maximized. We just did the same for the franchising sector sector. So with the franchising sector, I first turned up to a franchising event in 2004 and I just kept turning up because whilst there was other accountants there, none of them really got under the skin of franchising, really got into the fabric of it and understood what value they could add to the relationship between franchise or Franchisee. Ultimately, it took us to develop the bespoke software. We had to develop bespoke ways of doing things, you know, different processors, different engagement letters, all kinds of different things. So really satisfy our vision. We’re not quite there yet, you know, we still got a long way to go and what we could offer but were now by far and away market leaders in that space.
James Nathan: 22:20 So you talked before about the education system and you talked about the way that people are set up, and styles are different, you know, different kinds of of, of types of people. But when kids are looking at YouTube and they’re seeing these guys making huge amounts of money, in a way, which looks very, very easy. How does that conflict when you bring someone into your business and they’ve seen, you know, people earning quickly by calling themselves entrepreneurs, does it make it harder to get those people to develop through your firm or do you have to be careful about the style of people you’re hiring in the first place?
Carl Reader: 22:58 Okay. So those who are susceptible to those kinds of videos, it is actually only a small proportion of population. You know, I think we need to put this into context, possibly the the biggest entrepreneurial influencer at the moment is Gay Vaynerchuk. I would say. And you know, I think that he’s got both a very positive and a very negative message. You know, certainly positive in so far as he’s encouraging people to be themselves and to do what they want to do. However you could argue, but it’s also negative in terms of encouraging unhealthy work-life practices at an early age. And also implying that rather than having talent, you just need to, you just need to hustle and hustle will do the job. Now you, and I know James that, let’s say, you’re a boxing trainer and I came in. No matter how much you train me and tell me to hustle and stick my left arm out, then my right arm out, I ain’t going to go into the ring with Anthony Joshua and knock him out.
James Nathan: 24:01 Well, I don’t know. It’s been done.
Carl Reader: 24:02 Although, although, that fat Mexican did. So it’s possible. It’s possible. I certainly share a waistline,
James Nathan: 24:09 But your point’s really important.
Carl Reader: 24:11 So I think that it’s a dangerous message that’s being shared. However, I don’t believe, but a good proportion of the population are exposed to it at the moment. I think people who are exposed to are actually looking for it. So that’s a really important point. Yeah. The kinds of people that are attracted to accountancy for example, aren’t necessarily the kinds of people who are attracted to entrepreneurship videos. So that’s my first thing. But I think you’ve tapped onto something that’s far more worrying at a bigger picture. So if you put Gary Veynerchuk to one side because everything Gary does is building his personal plan, but he’s not looking to make a quick buck from it.
Carl Reader: 24:54 The really worrying thing, James, is those who are looking to make a quick buck from snake oil and there’s enough of ’em out there, you know, we see them on the Facebook ads and so on, you know, make a hundred thousand pounds on Facebook overnight. And you know, it’s just that, that stuff is what drives me to do what I do in so far as my education, my speaking, my books, my columns, to really show people that, you know, you ain’t got to spend £97, then £497, then £1,497 pounds to go to various boot camps and so on. You know what, you can just get this stuff for free of charge and go to the library and read my books and just get on with it yourself. This is hard work, but it’s not actually complicated. You don’t need to pay for that advice.
James Nathan: 25:35 I find Gary Vaynerchuk absolutely fascinating cause I really like the guy. I think, well actually, let me rephrase it. I really liked his early stuff. I thought his message was very sound. I think it’s got slightly diluted by his ego. But that’s, you know, real personal opinion about it. But the first part of his life working in his parents’ liquor store you know, there’s, there’s a hell of a business grounding that happened there. And I love the service side of it because he talks about looking after people who came in getting to know people, trying to sell them the wines that they would enjoy rather than the wines that he can make a better profit out of. And that’s kind of for me that’s got the backbone of a really solid business. How does service fit in with what, let’s use DST as example, but how does service fit into your business?
Carl Reader: 26:24 Okay, so service has to be percent of all businesses I believe. So not just D&T but also going to include the football club as a community interest company. So it applies to charities, it applies to community interest companies. It applies to big corporates and also very small list of businesses. I think that nowadays we’re a really interesting tipping point, but hasn’t really been picked up on by everybody. But, but certainly some who have you ever in the past, James, we used to talk about Michael Porter’s model of either being a cost leader or being cheap and cheerful or being a product differentiator. You’re having something special about us in the age of AI and automation and machine learning and so on. You know what, in most industries, cheap and cheerful is attainable for anyone but the most well funded. And that goes for whether you’re a retailer, you have, there’s always someone who can shift more boxes than you, look at Amazon.
Carl Reader: 27:24 That goes for if you’re a service provider or it goes if you built in tech. So you need nowadays I believe, rather than just making a choice of where you’re going to be, you need to make a choice of actually how far down the service track you’re going to go. You know, I think that you’ve only got the product differentiation area to focus on nowadays. So based on that, yeah, that would imply that service is an absolute must have in business. I would, I would also just top that up by saying about the viral image, that sometimes get shared around LinkedIn and Twitter and so on. You might’ve seen it where it says, but you know, you have it good. You can have it cheap or you can have it fast.
James Nathan: 28:09 You can have all three.
Carl Reader: 28:11 Have you seen that one? You can pick two of three. Okay. Well, my contention is that that’s a load of rubbish because quite frankly, Google is excellent. It’s free of charge and it’s instant and it’s Google and Amazon so that we’re being judged against you now. So when we take, let’s say phone calls response times nowadays, rather than the old, you know, if we look at and narrow focus on accountancy. The old school might believe that maybe returning a call within 24 hours is acceptable, but when you get a Google result in milliseconds, 24 hours isn’t acceptable. Okay. People only phone you now if it’s urgent. Otherwise they send you an email. But customer service in a lot of organizations is, and certainly the time spent by individuals is more focused on emails than phone calls. Nobody ever emailed the fire brigade.
James Nathan: 29:09 Seriously, I’m going to jump on a horse and ride as high as possible. It drives me absolutely insane. I think that, you know, there’s a culture in society which says you know, we can knock this out on email. That’s fine. Kids spend half their lives communicating with their thumbs on a little screen. And so it’s all, it’s all kind of connected. I think, you know, one of the things that I see in my business, which, which worries me more and more is the lack of training that’s given to people in having phone communication. You know, you’re talking about the 80s. I was born in the 70s and you know, my accountancy training had a module on business writing, but you know, when you sat at the desk, we had a, you know, you had your training partner, whoever was helping you say, right, okay, we’re going to call a client. This is what we’re going to ask them. This is how we’re going to do it. And you were taught, handheld how to make calls and how to do that.
Carl Reader: 30:00 And it’s, it’s absolutely, absolutely vital because basically there’s a bigger societal shift going on as well. So nowadays we live in the stay at home economy. Not, not so much for us two, cause you know, we live out in the sticks but certainly both who live in cities, you know, you picture the day in the life of someone who lives in the city, so they wake up now they might have a housemate that they share with and if they’re just moving into the working world. But you know, let’s say if they live on their own. They wake up their Uber will arrive at the click of a button. Pretty soon they won’t even need to click that button. There’ll be predictive technology to identify when Uber is needed. They get in the Uber, they don’t speak to the Uber driver. They go to their cubicle at work.
Carl Reader: 30:47 They work for eight hours, possibly not speaking to anyone. Okay. They pop out at lunch, you go to Starbucks. Now, the only time that someone has a meaningful conversation with them is when their name is asked at Starbucks. Now, that’s the reason why Starbucks ask for the name. It’s part of their customer service. Because by appreciate that their customers might not speak to anyone else that day. Okay? They don’t just do it to deliberately misspell your name. They don’t do it for banter. They do it because they know that it might be the only human form of conversation you have. You go home. Rather than going to a restaurant to eat, you use Uber Eats or Deliveroo or Just Eat. Rather than going to a cinema, you watch Netflix and the cycle repeats, repeats. repeats. So as a society, we’re becoming isolated and unfortunately we’re well down that path.
Carl Reader: 31:42 Something you’re absolutely right, James, for education on human to human relationships is vital because it’s the saying I keep using. You know, I said it at my last keynote the other day, and I’m sure I’ll say it again a hundred times before this year, is out. Business isn’t B2B or B2C. It’s H2H, human to human. Michael Gerber wrote the E-myth Revisited, and you probably remember that book. Most accountants love it and think it’s the Bible and give it to all their clients. Would, you know what Michael Gerber does a disservice to every business where one phrase that he uses in there, and it might have worked 15 years ago, but nowadays is completely irrelevant. He contends that you can have ordinary people with extraordinary systems to have an extraordinary business. Do you remember that phase? Well, that’s completely wrong. Go nowadays to compete and to offer good service. You need extraordinary people and extraordinary systems.
James Nathan: 32:42 And you know, I’d argue that that’s actually not now, that’s been always the case. You know, if you hire the very best people you can find, you train them the best way you can, you end up with a great business.
Carl Reader: 32:56 I think you’re right. I think the commoditization of businesses over the last 20 years, you know, you look at businesses who’ve tried to remove the human element and to automate processes to automate communications. You know, they’ve tried to actively get rid of human input wherever possible and we’re now rapidly trying to reverse it. You know, you can see bigger companies having a human face to their social media nowadays. You know, you can, you can actually go into Tesco’s, Twitter account and have a bit of banter with them and you will know the name of a person you’re dealing with. 15 years ago Tescos would never have done that. It would have been an anonymous communication from a marketing department. So I think that it’s not just Michael Gerber who’s done this. Michael might’ve been responsible for a lot of small businesses doing it. But it’s been across the board. The value that a human can bring to a business was minimized and, you know, it wasn’t thought of as important. And I really do believe that humans are now coming back to the forefront and need to find their voice.
James Nathan: 34:02 Well, it’s gotta be a backlash. I mean, when you were talking to in the story of, of the guy who never speaks to anybody, you know, I’ve had days like that myself. I’m in my little office in the garden. You know, everything goes on. It’s not until the kids come home from school or Mandy comes back from her office that I actually end up talking to someone. And that leaves you in a very…. you can end up very depressed because human beings need social interaction. It’s part of our nature. It’s part of our makeup. And so if businesses address that and capitalize on it, then they become places people want to be involved with.
Carl Reader: 34:38 Definitely.
James Nathan: 34:39 You know, who wants to go to a coffee shop and someone just to stare at you until you speak. You want them to say, oh, hi, how are you today? You know, you gonna have a coffee or you’re just going to have a croissant or what are you after. You know, and how the kids and it’s all very nice.
Carl Reader: 34:50 Yes. And it’s those little touches that can make the difference between a business that is just average and a business that’s fantastic. So let, let me share with you a couple of examples of where the human touch has really made a difference. The first one was in a hotel I stayed out last week. So it was but Bullitt hotel in Belfast now. This hotel could very easily have been yet another travel lodge. Do you know what I mean? The rooms were small. Yeah, it was city centre location. I could have just gone in and been served by someone who not only didn’t speak English, but more importantly, you didn’t want to speak English, just grunted and handed me my key. Instead the reception staff were bubbly, very enthusiastic, they talked to me about the area. They talk to me about my stay, they asked if I’d been in Belfast before. So it felt like they got to know me. Okay. But more importantly, when I went down about 10 minutes after I’d been up to my room to dump my bags, they refered to me by name. Such a simple touch. Yeah. It doesn’t take much does it?
James Nathan: 36:02 But what a lovely thing. Really Nice.
Carl Reader: 36:04 The second one is a retail experience. So this one. I’d stopped off at Vista village. So not, not too far from you, James. I’m on route to Birmingham. It was a beautiful sunny day about three weeks ago and I decided I was gonna stop for one of the lovely little ice-creams that they do. I don’t know if you’ve been there, James, but you must if you haven’t.
James Nathan: 36:26 I haven’t been for a while because I used to live in Bicester years and years ago and it became the scourge of my life. But I know it’s grown and become much nicer as since then. But ice cream, ice cream always, if someone says there’s a good ice cream, I’m, I’m on it.
Carl Reader: 36:41 There’s a Pierre Marcolini Kiosk and they’re about a fiver. Their little iced lollies that are just to die for and perfect in the sun. But the problem is, you know, when, when you stop and do this in an area like Bicester village, there’s not much else do other than look at the shops. And I had about an hour spare before I need you to be in my car to get to my meeting. So I had to look at, I went into one of our shops. Now to put it into context this shop sells products between 750 quid and 3000, I bought something for 150 quid.
Carl Reader: 37:15 So I was even in the outlet store, I was their lowest ticket sale of the day I would imagine. And it was on discount as well. So it was discounted half price from the outlet. Plus they were probably only making 50 quid at most profit on it. So I went to the checkout, they got me to enter my email address into their system. And you know a back of my mind. I didn’t consciously think it, I only reflected on this afterwards, but unconsciously I was thinking, oh, no another email I need to unsubscribe because I’m certainly not spending 750 quid to three grand there. Anyway, the next day I received an email from the guy who served me. And how do I know that it was from the guy who served me? First of all, you know, he was he was Chinese.
Carl Reader: 38:07 It was a Chinese name. It wasn’t from a mailing list. There was no visible html. There’s no visible images, there’s no unsubscribe link. But it was also in his tone of voice, the English wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly how he spoke to me in the store. Okay. And I thought, wow, you know, and, and he wasn’t, it wasn’t a sales message. It was just hope you enjoyed your purchase and had a safe onward journey to Birmingham. Wow. How amazing is, that. It made me think, that whole experience actually made me think of the only other time. And the only other time I’ve had service like that, which was with Gucci, at terminal 3 at Heathrow about two years ago. And you, know the fact that both of those, yeah, with Gucci was just a case of them sending me a WhatsApp message afterwards saying, that I can text them at any time if there’s a product I want VAT free.
Carl Reader: 39:04 So if I’m traveling I can text them two days before and they’ll make sure, but it’s their for me. You know, these two instances of customer service are so, so simple. So Gucci’s would have cost them maybe a five pounds a month. Mobile phone contract cos is just connected to their Wifi, so they don’t need any data. And just to remember to send a message after someone’s been in the store. And this other one was just a two line email, but it really set both of those apart from another luxury retailer. Which I won’t name. But they make you que and fight and white, just have your name, put on a waiting list to be served.
James Nathan: 39:45 You know, I love these stories. There’s so much we can draw from them in our lives and there’s so much we can take from them to put into our businesses. You know, when people talk, tell me myth about these sort of personal messages. It, it lights me up cause like it’s so nice. I had a similar thing with the, with the fairing I bought for a motor bike once and you just think, wow, that’s lovely. But I’ve also had on a 12 pound pair of reading glasses. And when businesses say, Oh yeah, okay, that’s great, but we haven’t got the time or you know, nonsense. You can, you just have to find a way. And if you can find that way, you can make people’s day so much better. They love you.
Carl Reader: 40:23 This is exactly it. So that brand I was talking about at first 150 quid purchase. It was Brioni, so they’re, you know, high end tailors, you know, I don’t wear suits nowadays, but if I had to wear a suit there would have to be a compelling reason not to go to them.
Carl Reader: 40:40 Even though they would be twice the price even at their entry versus what I would normally want to spend.
James Nathan: 40:46 Well you know, I talk about the only one all the time Carl and this podcast is called the only one. And that’s the absolute point. If you had to choose from a very diverse market of the same things, how do you stand out? You have to be the one that people want to talk about.
Carl Reader: 41:01 Definitely. And there’s another point to it as well. Cause it got me thinking about my own businesses and you know what it was, I was only a 50 quid profit at best and a nonrecurring customer at that point, I was probably a hassle. You know, if they added up the time I was in the store, the cost of the square footage, the cost of a staff member, it’s actually, they might’ve even made a loss cause of how far it is discounted. But clearly the language within that organization as well as the culture within that organization is all focused around what the customer could be down the line.
James Nathan: 41:39 How many people have you told that story to?
Carl Reader: 41:42 Loads! Well, it’s on one of my podcasts. It’s been it’s been on my social media too, up to 130,000 people and now it’s going to go to millions, though your show.
James Nathan: 41:56 Well, speaking of my show, it’s so kind of you to take so much time out Carl, I really appreciate it. And you’ve given us so many great things to think about as well, which is awesome. What’s the one thing though? What’s the Golden Nugget? What’s the big thing you’d like the listeners to take away that they can use in their businesses to make their businesses better today and better in the years to come?
Carl Reader: 42:18 Okay. Wow, wow. The one thing. What I would say I miss, there’s so many of them. Do want me to focus it on a particular area or do you want me to just go generally from a business perspective
James Nathan: 42:29 To you however you like.
Carl Reader: 42:31 Okay. So let me share with you what I’ve observed over the years and years of working with thousands of businesses. Okay. I think there’s only four elements of running a business. It’s really simple. You need to dream, you need to plan, you need to do and you need to review. Most businesses either think they can get away with doing this once, and then coast long or they don’t do all of the parts. So either their dream is too big and its unrealistic, or it’s too small. They don’t then distill that into an actionable plan. Most importantly, if they don’t actually take action, they spend their time messing around with creative avoidance, waiting for the phone to call, or they don’t check what they’ve done to make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you can just follow that simple model and make sure that you cycle it, you keep going back. So once you’ve dreamt, planned, done, reviewed, go back to the dream, go back to the plan, go back to the do, go back to review. Go back to the dream, go back to the plan, go back to the do, go back to review. Really simple. But those who implement all four of those well of those who have extremely successful businesses.
James Nathan: 43:39 Fantastic Carl. Thank you so, so much.
Carl Reader: 43:42 No problem, James. It’s been an absolute pleasure.