In this interview Business Leader talks to ActionCoach founder, speaker, investor and business builder Brad Sugars. A self-confessed ‘Ozmerican’, Brad talks candidly about why more people don’t think like billionaires.
When you were 16 years old you saved all your money to attend a business seminar by Jim Rohn. It is not something many people that age do. Why did you do this?
I won the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, and this meant I could go away for a week’s long training on how to be successful. So, I saved up all my money for this trip and it is where I caught the bug to keep learning and growing.
Jim taught me that if you want to be successful you need to read a book a week for the rest of your life. Because of this when I was young, I would spend every bit of money I had at the bookshop and this was before podcasts and the internet.
I liked the simplicity of the message – ‘if you want to earn more you have to learn more’ and this allowed me to get ahead of where most of my friends were at the time.
It seems like this helped to inspire your business career which really took off in the 1990s. How do you look back on this period?
In those days, I took part in many events and this meant that I travelled a great deal. For two years in a row, I spent two hundred nights in hotels and took more than 200 flights.
Looking back this was a burnout methodology, and business owners can easily fall into the trap of the hustle and grind mentality, but that’s not smart thinking.
How did you go about changing your approach then?
In 2008, when the recession hit, I had reached around two thousand people with my talks, but now I have reached more than half a million people in the first couple of months, and this is by embracing online and technology.
Looking back though, I would say the fundamentals were not different in the 1990’s to what they are now, but the techniques and how you deliver your message have changed.
I would also like to get your thoughts on the difference in thinking you need to grow a business that turnover £1m to a business that turnover £1bn and why do more people not think in these terms?
Most people build a business that meets their own personal needs and wants and one that will make their life easier. They look at what they want to get out of it, rather than the size of the market.
I would say the difference between creating a business that achieves £1m and £1bn, rests around three points: Firstly, it is vision. If I hired somebody and said ‘your job is to write a business plan for a million-pound business’, they would do that but if I said can you please write a plan for a billion-pound business, they would need to think differently.
The second point is geography. A one-million-pound business will likely be regional or national, but a billion-pound business will need to go global, as it is rare you have a business of this size that is not.
When I ask people, ‘what is your strategy to open in India’, they look at me funny,
but it’s such a fast-growing market and there are more millionaires created each month than most countries have millionaires’ full stop.
The third point to consider is that you will need to create a business model that you can replicate in lots of different environments across the world.
Are you talking about the Disney model there, as an example?
To a certain extent yes, because Disney is the best example of leverage whereby you do the work once and sell it forever. The mouse is a great example of this – how many ways does Disney sell the mouse? They do so via real estate, hotels, vacations, books, and toys.
Disney are geniuses when it comes to this and building in scale.
Disney is an example of an empire. Why do you feel that in the UK many business owners want to exit quickly compared to the USA, Japan, and Germany where they seem to build more empires?
Well, you have Sir Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar in the UK and they are empire builders. But I do take your point and I would say that there are more empire builders in UK, than we see but they do not want to have the fame.
Their business may not depend on their fame like Tesla, Twitter, or Facebook for example, and I would say that is one of the main differences between the UK and USA. I would also say that the UK produces some of the best entrepreneurs in the world, but they stay in the UK and don’t always take their businesses globally.
How much influence do you feel funding approaches have in the UK too?
It has become very sexy to exit, and when banks are not willing to fund growth, many leaders to go to venture capitalists and this creates a culture of being expected to exit in three to five years. You need to also consider millennials too, who have been raised with this culture of instant thinking and, together with the VC funding model, this will only continue.
I do not admire everything he did at all, but a good example of an empire builder is Rupert Murdoch. He does not think about what his latest share value is, but he thinks about what he is creating for twenty years down the road.
Obviously not everything can be an empire and, on this point, when you’re in a business and it may not be working, how do you know when to fold?
For me, it comes down to time and value. I run eleven companies. I’m always thinking how much time I am having to put in versus the value it’s creating. I work on a 12-month turnaround and if I have not made my money back, I exit. I might even be making money but if I feel it is not worth my time, I will also exit.
I find that as an investor unless you have rules you have created in logic mode you can easily get lost. It is like real estate – there are lots of homes I want to buy but I need a set of logical rules otherwise I would be buying everything, rather than what will create value.
What do you say to people when they ask you what to invest in?
Invest in some books so you do not need to ask me that question! No, I always tell people to invest in property as it is still the safest return, but it amazes me how many people ask for this information and then do not use it or act on it.
Moving on to another question – how important do you feel it has been for you to invest in your personal brand?
If you chose to not control your brand, you are letting other people control it. There was a period when I stepped back from investing in my personal brand, but I realised I was not teaching and sharing information and that was a mistake.
If you do not ask your best customer to give you testimonials, then your worst ones will. Rankings, rating, and testimonials are probably one of the most important parts of marketing.
When it comes to your personal brand – you cannot do this half-heartedly and you need to invest time and money each week to get this right.
My job as the CEO is setting us up for ten years down the road and with 80 offices around the world you cannot move the ship in the day, so it takes time to shift a culture and having a strong personal brand is important to this and so is learning all the time.
I am always thinking what the next thing I need to teach my clients because what I teach, people implement.
You’re active on Clubhouse – what have you made of it?
It can be a time vacuum but people who have allowed it to take their time would have let anything take their time. It has also taken social media to an immediate media. Facebook and Instagram have been trying to get live video to be its central thing but have not worked out how to make it interactive.
Clubhouse has worked out how to do this and you’re seeing people sitting for three hours in rooms learning and chatting. The launch of Clubhouse has been ideal too because there could not have been a better time to launch it.
WhatsApp, Uber, and many more brands came out of the 2008 crash and I feel that we are going to see some amazing innovation coming our way from some of the people that have lost their jobs to the pandemic. Clubhouse looks like it could set that trend.
So, what would you say is your number one marketing channel?
Very few businesses understand that if you can leverage relationships with your customer base you can explode quickly.
I did it back in the early days and partnered with magazines and radio stations, where I would help their customers grow. I call these strategic partnerships.
I would also say that many business owners are too fast to go to social media instead of investing in SEO. SEO is about people looking to buy your products now, whereas social media is about convincing people to buy your products.
If your SEO and website is bad, I do not care about your social media. If you are not running paid for adverts on the interview and investing in your website and SEO, you are crazy. Stop trying to only convince them on social media because they are already looking for you.