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Transcript: Are You Born With Resilience? (EP23)

 

Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

 

Brendan Rogers: Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. And this is Episode 23.

Today, I'm talking with Andrew Paton-Smith. Andrew is the Founder and CEO of Jazoodle based in Wyong on our beautiful Central Coast. He's also a Non-Executive Director at Wyong Race Club, where he has been part of the Directorship Team which has turned it into one of the top regional horse training and racing facilities in Australia.

Jazoodle is a tech startup, which Andrew founded in 2015. It was recently selected as one of Australia's most promising high growth startups and as part of the University of New South Wales Founders 10X Accelerator Program.

Jazoodle has a vision to become the world's foremost resource for organisational success and financial wellbeing. It's a fantastic tool which helps SME businesses understand how the business is performing, what the business is likely to be worth, and what needs to be done to improve.

Andrew started his career in the IT sector back in 2000 with Navigant international. He was a Regional Director based in the UK before moving to Australia to take up a role as Regional Director Asia Pacific. Prior to starting Jazoodle, he was also IT director for Qantas Business Travel and General Manager for Business Solutions for Amadeus IT Group.

Sadly, Andrew is also a West Ham United supporter.

The focus of our conversation today is resilience.

Andrew, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast, mate.

Andrew Paton-Smith: Thank you. And it's lovely to be here, Brendan. And I must say congratulations even though it hurts me to my core to Liverpool winning the premiership in 2020 eventually after 30 years.

Brendan Rogers: Yes, mate. It's been a while and thank you very much for the accolades. I obviously had a massive part to do with the whole championship winning side. (Laughing)

A couple of things, first of all, you're a bit of a podcast tart I think.

Andrew Paton-Smith: (Laughing) I wasn’t expecting that.

Brendan Rogers: You've got your own podcast. I know you're on a little bit of a break, you've sort of finished series one, the Jazoodle Founders podcast, well done on the work you've been doing there. You're also recently on friends of ours, Dan and Tim from the famous CATS Accountants on the Two Drunk Accountants podcast. Fantastic episode.

If you wanted to learn a little bit more about Andrew's story around Jazoodle, go and have a listen to that on Two Drunk Accountants. We'll go into a bit of this today, but really, our focus is around resilience, mate.

So, podcasts, you're an expert.

Andrew Paton-Smith: I wouldn't say that. I've had no experience with podcasting before we basically started. I had some brilliant guests on. And I think there was one guest. He keeps wearing a red shirt and he was a fantastic guest. And I think actually, you've had the biggest number of downloads, your episode on the Founders Podcast. So, congratulations on that as well. So, I'm hoping by buttering you up that you're going to give me a really easy time today.

Brendan Rogers: Absolutely, mate. Look, we're good mates. I do also have to say one other thing that I registered for the latest updates of Jazoodle recently, some time this week. And I noticed on the newsletter or the confirmation that came out about halfway down, there was a picture of a mutual friend of ours, Laura Prael in her episode on the Jazoodle podcast. And what really concerned me was that we threw out a bit of a challenge about myself and Laura and who may get the most downloads. You are giving her an unfair advantage. What is going on?

Andrew Paton-Smith: (Laughing) I don't see any advantage there. Everything is very equitable in the Founders Podcast.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, let's get into the topic and resilience. And what I'd like you to do is tell us a bit about Jazoodle and also this story of yours and resilience and where all this resilience thing started for you.

Andrew Paton-Smith: From a resilient’s point of view, I can almost go back to most of the moment I was born. I was born back in the 60’s. Didn't want to say that too loud, two and a half, three months premature, a time when most premature babies didn't survive. But I wasn't going to let a little thing like death beat me. So obviously, I'm sitting here now today, 55 years later, and this comes on to a part of the conversation, I wouldn’t mind having later on actually is that where does resilience come from? Is it innate in a person or is it something that can be learned as well? So, going back on the journey, I left school at the age of 16, far more interested in everything else going on around school apart from academia, but always know from the age of 7 that I had it in me to get a really good university degree, but I mucked that up at the age of 16, went in to a number of career areas.

For instance, I even got involved in sales. And that’s an area, I absolutely do not like at all. It just doesn't sit well with me, but I was working for a company, an insurance company actually, probably in my mid-20’s. I was married. My first son, Lee, had been born and we've been actually doing quite well at work actually. For once, I'd actually sold quite a few policies, I think it was. And boss called me and I won't say exactly what he said to me, but let's just say what he said to me would not be allowed in the workplace today. So, obviously, the feeling I had at the time was, “Oh my God, my world's just shattered. What do I do?” And really, that's probably one of the big pivotal moments in my life. It's a moment I’ve also attributed to, “I wouldn't be here in Australia now without that moment in my life.”

And I could have gone two ways and I always visualise those moments in life ‘cause they do come up every now and again as almost like a fork in the road. Which way you're gonna go? So I had essentially, subconsciously two options almost. So I could take what the boss had said and just withered away and crumpled in a heap. And then, essentially let myself be a victim almost for the rest of my life. Or I could say, “Well, bugger you. I'm actually going to prove you wrong. I'm going to prove you that I will never need to work for another boss like you again and I’d always had this implant of an idea of going to university."

So, and I was brilliantly supported by my wife at the time because we did have a young family. I said, “I'm going to do this. I'm going to go out. I'm going to basically prove to the world what I can achieve. So I looked into what I needed to do to take a business degree. Business had always interested me. My dad has been a great role model on that side. So, I looked into the fact that I had no qualifications. I had to take a foundation year which was fun. And again, another pivotal moment actually, which was really important. Four years later at that time, I went to a college in the UK, handed in my work, thinking this is the best piece of work, best essay anyone had ever written. And it came back a few days later with red pen all the way through it. And again, there's like, “Oh, right. Maybe I'm not cut out for this.” But you have to learn. You have to be circumspect in those moments and say, “Well, how am I gonna deal with this other fork in the road almost?”

So, I made sure I'd never make those same mistakes again. I was being too subjective for academic writing. I would say, “No. I think this is absolutely wrong.” What they wanted and the lesson they wanted me to learn was, “Get your sources in place and make sure you argue from a very objective perspective.” And it's funny. So, later on, throughout my undergraduate degree, every time I sat in the exam or wrote an assignment, I had the visualisation of the red pen in my mind every time I wrote any sentence or so forth. But again, that was a great lesson in life. I did pretty well at uni, some brilliant lecturers, one again, who planted the seeds of Jazoodle in my mind. And so, I made sure I never made those red pen mistakes again. I got one of the highest first-class degrees ever awarded at the university. And my dissertation, where my economics lecture brought me into, was to look at what makes businesses successful.

What are the variables and the factors that contribute to a business's success? So, I was challenged to essentially build a model of demand forecasting for a small business in the UK which stretched me massively, but also really got me curious as to, “Well, let's start looking at the internal side of the business and let's look at their finances and let's look at their cost controls and let's look at their revenue generation, but also there's other areas within the business, which are out of the control of the business, which do impact a business's success, such as inflation, such as unemployment rate, GDP, recession, et cetera, et cetera”. And I married the two sets of variables into a model for forecasting demand of a business. And that stayed with me all of these years that one day, I'm actually gonna actually use what I did in my undergraduate days to do this as a thing for a commercial venture. Along there’s a couple of really big pivotal moments in my life which I had to decide, “Well, which way am I going to go in the path?”

And the same goes when I decided to take my Master’s. I always had a little itch in my head almost to one day, take my doctorate in business and do a research-based degree. And then in 2011, it just got too much. So right now, it's the time to, and I was working full time, obviously trying to do a doctorate while you're working full time is not advisable or even probably practical at all. My skills were in business management and strategy as well as technology at a senior level and found a fantastic degree of Master of Business and Technology at UNSW. And that was another big changing moment in my life on the road to Jazoodle.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, as you said, so many pivotal moments for you in your life. I want to go back to the start. You were born two, three months premature, as you said, and even just moving through that period of being born and those early years in life, those first sort of 7 to 10 years, what do you think it is for you that gave you this foundation of grit, determination, and resilience?

Andrew Paton-Smith: I was brought up in a part of London. I'd argue the best part of London, East London, where that part of London was always built on tough times, almost. So, even going back to during the Second World War, it was almost bombed to oblivion because of the docks and their proximity to the docks. In fact, when I was at school, we had an air raid shelter in the playground in the school which we've obviously couldn't get anywhere near, but East Enders’ are a really resilient bunch, which comes back to the thing is something you're born with innately or is it something that you actually gain from your environment almost. So, I've put a lot down to the area, my friends and relatives, obviously, they're a tough bunch and always had to fight through humble beginnings in many respects to get to where they needed to be.

My grandmother, she was a lovely but fearsome woman at times. She had a travel business just down the road from West Ham’s Ground, funny enough, which I've always loved visiting. Her first husband died just after the war and she had to rebuild her life. And you could see that. And we pick this up obviously as kids, myself, obviously, my brother and my sister, that there are going to be moments in life where things are not going to go great. And you do have to make the right choice. Well, what do you do? Do you crumple in a heap in the corner or do you dust yourself off and start again or learn probably, more so learn from where you've come from and then start again? The role model my dad's given me is that no matter what happens in life, you will get barriers coming up. You'll get things get in the way. It's how you respond to them that will define you as a person.

Brendan Rogers: When you had that work experience that you also mentioned, and that pivotal moment, the fork in the road, it sounds like to me, that there were at least initially, there was that first bit of, “I'm going to show you” sort of, bit of anger, a bit of, you know, “I'm going to smash this in you,” you know, “watch me”. That drives you for a period of time. What drives you now? What is it that drives you after that moment?

Andrew Paton-Smith: I think there's probably a couple of things actually. I've always been wanting to succeed, not for anybody else or anything else, but for my own, for my own reasons almost. Again, it comes back to this, “Well, you've grown up in this part of the world in reasonably humble but good surroundings, but in actual fact, I can actually do so much better for myself. There seems to be a real inner drive, not to prove to anybody else. ‘Cause that doesn't bother me at all. It’s proving to myself and proving to myself that I can actually achieve this goal that I've set for myself. With Jazoodle, it’s slightly different.

First of all, we've got, curiosity's played a big part in that and wanting to really answer that question about the, “What does make businesses and small businesses, what are the factors that help make them successful, can you pinpoint them, et cetera?” That's part of the drive, but also, with producing something, creating something which has been in nobody else's mind before. This is purely in my mind and now the rest of the team's mind, bringing that vision if you like to reality, to achieve what I know it can achieve. But, as well as going back, one of the key reasons I started, as well as the curiosity, was this horrible statistic that up to 60% of small businesses don't make it to their fifth birthday. We know that from research, I think in 2017, that cost the Australian economy $61 billion. Now, I've seen family members of mine struggle with their small business. And if Jazoodle can help avoid that situation for even just one business, then I would have satisfied myself as to where our goals are going and so forth. So, that drives me as well.

And when small businesses fail, it's not just about the finances. One of the big areas, and there was a really good University of Bristol study on this, about some of the non-financial effects of small business failure. And you've got things like social isolation can happen. Family breakdowns can happen. And in the worst cases, suicide can happen. I mean, we couldn't, I couldn't live with myself if I've got this ability to bring something to market which can actually stop that happening or a Director or Founder plus all of their wider family as well. So, we've got this responsibility and in my mind, we've got to use that.

The commercial side of it is secondary. Is helping get Jazoodle in front of people that actually need it. And I think that's one of the key drivers. So curiosity has been a big one, the avoidance of these financial and social problems that can come from small business failure. And again, there's been plenty of research on some of the key areas of small business failure in most countries actually. One of the number one reasons is lack of strategic planning, lack of financial planning and financial skills as well. And Jazoodle really aims to equip companies with those two areas.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, one of the things you mentioned in the challenges in small businesses is social isolation but also the family breakdown scenario. You've been through that yourself. You've been through a separation. How did that change your perspective on things? And even give you that extra layer of resilience I suppose when you got through it?

Andrew Paton-Smith: Any relationship breakdown is probably one of the hardest things that a person can go through. It affects so many people individually and it's not just yourself or your husband or your wife. Obviously, the kids are involved. I've got four amazingly wonderful kids who actually are quite resilient themselves actually. Although it's not been the forefront of Jazoodle and everything else, but having that understanding of what people go through, the emotional turmoil, the anger, which can come out from this, the effect that it can have on your children as well. My mum and dad also divorced when I was 10 years old, I think it was. You don't want anyone to go through that, but again, you have to make a decision even though you may be 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. How am I going to react to this? No, I don't like it yet I'm unhappy. And I'll sit at the end of my bed or whatever, for hours on end. You also come to the realisation, well, I love my Mum. I love my Dad. What part can I play to actually ensure that that remains the case? And helping to avoid that sort of personal problems for people that's such a big bonus. We know it happens and financial stresses on people through business failure can do awful things to people. How you deal with it, maybe, I'm lucky in the fact that I've got a very logical brain and I could maybe think through the situation, even at the age of sort of 9 or 10 or whatever. And I think I'm probably happy because West Ham probably just won the FA Cup that year, just to change the mood a little bit. And I had to get that in. I've been lucky in many respects I've got a very logical brain, and I do weigh things up a lot and I have done throughout my life.

And I guess that's another area is potentially, I've always had the gift of being able to reflect and reflect really well. I make it a real point that I spend at least half an hour or an hour a day, reflecting on what's happening in my life, whether it's Jazoodle or personal or whatever, and then come into a stance as to which way I should go. It's something that I'm really worried about these days with access to smartphones and an always on connected population is that reflection time being eroded in many respects. And I think that's a really big gift for people to have in their resilience armoury, but is that being eroded in the last sort of 5, 10 years and that time and making specific time to reflect.

Brendan Rogers: You just alluded to, you know, some concerns you have for the now and for the future and businesses and people. Can you share a bit more about your own view and your own perspective on that? Where are businesses today? That grit, that resilience, that determination? It does seem to be my perception is, it seems to be lacking more than maybe what it was 20, 30 years ago, but give us your own view on this.

Andrew Paton-Smith: I hope I don't get into trouble for this. (Laughing) What my previous Manager said to me and I will tell you off air, Brendan, as well as the hand gesture as to what he accompanied the word with. (Laughing)

Brendan Rogers: Mate, you feel free to share the edited version just to give people some context.

Andrew Paton-Smith: Absolutely. I said at the time that in this day and age, and probably for the last 10, 15 years or so, that sort of comment and that sort of gesture would not be allowed. You'd be marched straight out of a company, knowing the fact that that then spawned a series of events for me, that got me a first class degree. It got me my Masters in Business and Technology which then sowed the seeds and the final piece of the jigsaw for Jazoodle has been brought together. And obviously, sitting here in Australia, I wouldn't have had that without that one moment in my life. Knowing today that you cannot have those moments and people cannot say these things, is that going to impact people's level of resiliency? And that's just one small example, for instance. People's feelings, things are often not said that maybe should be said and, but I guess this comes down to the quality of the leader as well.

And how you actually frame a difficult conversation with an employee, are those conversations happening often enough, or are we, because of there's a fear of, “Well, we can't even make some criticism. So therefore, it may be best if I just don't say anything and let a situation continue.” Now, I've seen it from people I know as well, working in health and education, but with a crop of new entrance into those, these people in teaching situations, you are specifically warned not to provide any real levels of criticism and surely, that's wrong. I can't see how that would help a person grow if your organisation is specifically avoiding difficult conversations when really, they need to be had not just for the organisation, but for actually the growth of the individual. I get a little bit worried at the moment as to if you're taking some of the environmental factors away in resilience, are you then depriving that person of the building blocks if you like to be able to get through life successfully or to be able to handle knocks in life because knocks in life always come up? If not having those difficult conversations is taking that skill. If you like away from a person, then what good is it actually doing for humanity almost?

Brendan Rogers: Following that on a little bit further, there’s some element of mental health matters in our families and in people we're close to. Neither of us are doctors or mental health practitioners or anything like that. So, we'll put that out there. But so, this is just a perspective from you. How do you think that potential lack of resilience maybe that is out there or reduced level of resilience that is out there and societies building is maybe having some impact on the levels of mental health in our society?

Andrew Paton-Smith: I think quite rightly say we're not experts in that area and that's probably a difficult one to muse overall most. From my perspective, if you're taking away some of the building blocks of resilience and then difficult situations will come up which they absolutely do in every situation, you're taking away the ability of that person to be able to handle that roadblock or that challenge or that pivot moment in your life. If you can't talk about the things that need talking about, then really, you're robbing this person or part, but maybe not wholly responsible, ‘cause this has probably happened cumulatively throughout their life, obviously for some people at the moment, but you’re helping rob them of those tools to be able to cope with those setbacks. And what you can see as a result of that is conversations that happen where people may not have those tools where they cannot listen to a difference of opinion.

And I think that's happening quite a lot now. And I think you don't need to be a genius to say this, you go onto any social media platform and somebody puts one piece of opinion out there and you see them shouted down all the time, purely because they've got a difference of opinion. Now, it doesn't matter whether that opinion is weighted in real hard facts or really good argument. They've got that opinion and you see that almost every day of people just being shouted down almost just because, my theory is, well, maybe they are lacking these tools or the building blocks of resilience to be able to handle all. In actual fact, that guy's got a really important point. “Hadn't thought of it like that. He may not be right. Let me just go and do a little bit of thought or a little bit of research on this and then come back with a counter argument and have a really good conversation.” But no, people are just shut down and that cannot be healthy for society.

Brendan Rogers: Let's link this back into Jazoodle again, and being a Startup Founder, give us an example of a challenge you've had and then overcoming that. And I'd love you to lead that into the sort of qualities of people you really look for to be part of your Jazoodle team, given your experience over the years.

Andrew Paton-Smith: There's been one or two challenges along the way to say the least, obviously, funding for the business, which banks don't tend to like you. And without that really well-formulated ideas with regards to how to present to investors and so forth, you're on a non starter. I think, probably one of the big challenges, and this is no slight on the person at all. My original team, we pulled together, we achieved some amazing things, bringing essentially our first version of Jazoodle together. So, we brought what was in my mind, and our CMO Gareth, whenever he sees me talking about the model just starts going all the workings going on in my head. I said, what we managed to do is actually, which was a massive achievement, was take all the stuff swirling around in my head and build a platform where it was exactly what was in my head.

So that was a massive achievement, but then, not long after our initial launch, we lost our CTO and he did some absolutely brilliant work for us in the early days. But you can imagine, a tech startup without the CTO is a little bit of a challenge to overcome, to say the least and not least we had obviously our environment was built within an environment that the CTO was very familiar with and we had to make a decision what's going to happen with this now. We actually need to bring this back into an environment that we could then use for the new CTO, et cetera, et cetera. But without having those CTO in place, where do I start? I mean, I'm lucky I've got a good technical background with my senior management experience in technology in a number of areas. So, one of the good things with me is people can't generally bullshit me on technical.

So, we looked at a number of outsource partners that could potentially take our environment, build a new Cloud environment for Jazoodle and then get it moved over without anyone knowing. And that really what the brief was. What we then found is that these outsource providers didn't have really the understanding or in many respects the care of what I actually wanted and saw for my vision. So, really, the only thing that we could do is I had to take that task on myself, okay? So, who’s the most secure Cloud providers around? “Yep. Okay. Let's look at AWS.” Ah, AWS do the job. Now, what do I do? So, essentially, I had to teach myself and we've got a couple of other people involved to say, “Right. Let's take Jazoodle from this place and put it into this place, get the thing tested for security and everything else.”

But we achieved that. Again, one of the most difficult moments of my career actually, ‘cause all of a sudden, I'm on my own. ‘Cause I've got a great team within Jazoodle, but they're not technical. I'm the only person in this team with any technical skills. I don't know how to code or anything, but I know my way around networks and bits and pieces. So, the decision was just panic and fall into a heap in the corner or “just roll your sleeves up and get on with understanding first of all, what needs to be done now”. Thanks to the previous CTO. He got involved right at the very end to help make sure that the development platform was moved properly as well. So, major thanks to him. But it was an awful time in Jazoodle. And you think, well, why are we actually doing this?

But that's also, I like to take lessons out of everything that happens in life. I personally learnt so much about Cloud computing platforms and about security and best practice, setting those platforms up that will stay with me forever. So, when we move to our new version, which is coming shortly, then we iterate again and again and again and again, I've got a really good understanding where my CTO, Bill, who's an absolute breath of fresh air when he says, “We've got to do this.” I've actually got a really good understanding now of what is actually required on this. So, I actually look at that as, “Yep. It was probably one of the worst moments of my career, but it's actually given me so much and given the company so much as well on that side.”

Moving on to the second part was how does that shape the people? I don't think it changed it actually in many respects. We'd always had this ethos within Jazoodle of, “Let's keep it simple. Enjoy what you're doing. Let's have some fun while you're doing it, but work really hard.” Oh, and the other thing is, and the key one is, “no corporate buzzwords at all”, in which all of us were completely wanted to. So, I think we put in place policies in the early days, summary execution for anyone that comes out with any corporate buzzwords. I don't think that will get past HR to be honest, but (laughing) it was how all of us felt. And so, really, the ethos and pulling my team together and Bill’s the latest and Ray as well at the moment is, “Yep. You gotta be behind and really believe in what was in my head basically and where that can go for all of us and how each of us can contribute.”

I'm a big believer in, although I've had to get involved in some of the technical areas, you bring in people that are smarter than you in the jobs that they do. Absolutely. Because my whole philosophy is, I want to be challenged. I want to be challenged in my thinking, in my decisions because I won’t always know the answer unless I probably don't know the answer a lot of the times. But I want to be challenged.

When we've talked to Bill, our new CTO, who, again, he's an absolute breath of fresh air, try and visualise this. I've got about 400 tabs spreadsheet, I don’t think that you can have that many, but which Jazoodle next iteration is actually built upon. So, we're going into all sorts of areas with individual two-year scenario forecasting. We're going into individual revenue lines, cashflow forecast at the end of it, and so forth. So, you can imagine what's in this spreadsheet and we've had to incorporate loan calculators and all the bits and pieces which is great. So, as Bill and his team are building out the new platform, I’ll get probably 4 or 5 questions a night, ‘cause he's based in California saying, “Yep, I love this idea, but how can we make it better?”

And the really great thing about Bill is he challenges my thinking. Sometimes, my thinking is fine. Other times, but we've talked it through and we've really discussed, “Well, what value is that going to bring for our accounting partners or our advisory partners or our small businesses, or even some of their other business services? What value is that going to bring them?” So, I like people to challenge me. I like people to say, “Andy, you're being an idiot,” or whatever. That I don't mind. I actually don’t mind. I actually would prefer that to happen rather than to go down a whole path. And then, six months later, we've realised that path was a dead end. I like people to feel comfortable enough to challenge the ideas that are being talked about. And we've all done that across all of, so on some of the marketing ideas, with Gareth, he’s been absolutely brilliant. But now, and again, you just say, “Well, well hold on a minute. Why are we doing this?” Or, “Shouldn't we do this a different way?” or “X, Y, Z Company, who's part of the supply chain are doing it this way. Why don't we look at that?” So, in terms of bringing people into the business, then they've got to be comfortable enough to be able to challenge, but for the right reasons.

Brendan Rogers: Andrew, you're a very humble person in my view. So, this question may be a little bit hard for you to answer, but what level of personal satisfaction does it give you and the team around you having overcome challenges like that?

Andrew Paton-Smith: In many respects there's probably no greater buzz when you are confronted with and I always liked to say ‘roadblock’ or the other thing is a ‘little hill’ or a ‘hillock’ as I call them. You know you've got to get over it and you know that getting over it in one giant leap will never happen. It's always going to be a series of steps to take to break that problem down. But when you're standing on the summit of that problem, and you know that you've actually beaten it, it's probably one of the greatest, especially when the heel is very high, it's one of the greatest feelings there is. We talk about the collective of the Jazoodle team and pulling together as, you know, mish mash soup that’s in my head into a platform with paying customers and now going to be iterating through into many respects the next level.

What we're trying to pull together is going to be very special. Once we get to that launch and so forth, that's going to be one of the, probably one of the greatest feelings of pride in my life outside of obviously my wonderful children being born, I better not have forgotten that one, that's for sure. But you know what I mean? We've collectively come together, looked at the hurdles, and on one piece of functionality for the new version, we've had hurdles this morning and the questions through from Bill this morning saying, “Well, this is how are we going to do it? And I've gone, “Well, hold on a minute.” “Well, what happens if”, so I've had to challenge him back now. But once we get over all of the individual summits that you need to achieve, it's going to be one of the greatest feelings in the world. Getting there though is hard, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Therefore, we have got the ability, we've got the tools, we've got the experience, we've got the skill sets to be able to achieve this. And really, it's our responsibility in many respects. Going back to that individual small business that may not be aware of the cash flow problems that are coming up in his business and especially in times of COVID-19 and so forth, we've got that responsibility to actually achieve all these hurdles so that people can then benefit from what's been swirling around in my head and obviously in the rest of the teams, vision for what Jazoodle is and where we're going to.

Brendan Rogers: You’ve shown an unbelievable amount of resilience on this interview today. Why? Because we’ve spoken a bit about Jazoodle, we’ve spoken about your personal history and those challenges of resilience. The other love of yours is West Ham United Football Club. You've tried to get it in a few times and I've deliberately just avoid, not avoided it, but I thought I'm going to wait till near the end to bring this out. Just to test you a bit. How has West Ham United Football Club taught you resilience?

Andrew Paton-Smith: Oh, my God. I was waiting for that question. (Laughing) As I said earlier in the show, I was born, funny enough, where I was actually born is where West Ham’s Ground is now. In Stratford in East London. But I lived less than a mile away from Upton Park, an absolutely formidable ground for many teams to go to, a really tight-packed, noisy, vociferous ground. And I'd argue, and you'll probably disagree with me, we've probably got some of the greatest supporters in the world. A lot here in Australia and a lot on the Central Coast. Look, West Ham , their anthem, their song is I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles. And my God, it sums up West Ham so well. The bubbles, they reach the sky, they fly so high, but like my dreams, they fade and die. That's what West Ham does to you so you build reserves of resilience.

I do actually jokingly blame my dad for years of child abuse and the fact that he introduced me to West Ham, and I’ve had to go through this anguish every year since almost. Look, the moment you set foot in Upton Park, as of me, I was a five-year old and no jokes about height, but with the stool my uncle had to take to stand on which I probably still would need now if we weren't in seats, but the atmosphere gets you. The people around you get you. The East Londoners really get to you. The noise, the humour, it sucks you in. And then, maybe God forbid, you might actually see a West Ham win and that's it. And I think, actually, the first game, I went to see we did actually win three, two. I think it was. And I think we were playing West Bromwich Albion back in ‘69. It must have been or ‘70.

The trouble with West Ham is they give you glimpses of brilliance every now and again. So we went on to win the Cup in ‘75 and got through to the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in ‘76, I think it was. My dad was at that game in Belgium. I wasn't allowed to go ‘cause I was too small. And then the FA Cup. Trevor Brooking, oh my God, hitting the winner against Arsenal in the 1980 Cup Final. I got into so much trouble that year. I don't think I missed a Cup game. I went to Ellen Road in the semifinal and what a great round, but really daunting ground. I was 15 years old, went to Ellen Road and Frank Lampard Sr., basically fell over the ball, hit his head and we won in the last couple of minutes and it just erupted all around me.

And so, there's been brilliant glimpses of that. There's the likes of Trevor Brooking and Paolo Di Canio and Alan Devonshire was one of my big heroes, a bit of an unsung hero, but he was such a gifted. So you have really great moments like that. Then you get the 2020 Football Season. And the one before that where we lost the first 5 games or 4 or 5 games I think it was. So we're here in Australia. You stay up to, God knows what time o'clock in the morning. And I was sitting with one of the other couple of the Central Coast Hammers group last year for the first game of the Season. We've Tony and Trev and those guys, and then we get hammered five nil by Manchester City in the middle of the night. Fantastic. So, it does help build some resilience because we don't win every week. We've got a passion about our team, and a real passion about our team. Frustrate the life out of us at times, but there are then also moments of brilliance that will just live for us forever. And don't forget West Ham won the World Cup for England in 1966. So, I'll probably get slated for that, but yeah, West Ham go back a long way and fabulous club.

Brendan Rogers: Well done, mate. You realise I'm probably gonna edit most of that out of this episode, but I just thought I'd give you the chance to talk about it anyway.

Andrew Paton-Smith: I can't wait to see what you don't edit out.

Brendan Rogers: I actually don't disagree with you. What I would say is that nothing beats going to Anfield and experiencing that on a match day. I've been very, very lucky enough to do that a couple of times, but I have actually been to a game at Upton Park before they tore it down. And it was an unbelievable experience. The supporters were absolutely fantastic. We were really, really fortunate because of the people we were with had some connections in West Ham and we went on to the ground after the match. What was really cool to me, we walked to the penalty spot and the penalty spot was a bubble.

Andrew Paton-Smith: Yeah.

Brendan Rogers: Look, fantastic supporters. It was a great day and it's really etched and I was really lucky enough to have that experience with my own son who's a mad footballer as well. So, actually, although I don't follow West Ham, I've got some really fond memories of that experience.

Mate, let's wrap this up because again, I don't want to have you talking football for the next three hours, particularly around West Ham.

If you were to give leaders, business owners some advice about business today and linking that back to resilience in your own story, what does that look like?

Andrew Paton-Smith: I think challenges happen every day in every business, in every walk of life, in every personal life. When those challenges appear, take time to reflect. It's such an almost underrated skill and it seems to be not as prevalent, maybe as it is. Maybe, it once was. Take time to reflect on what the situation is. What is that challenge you need to overcome? And what is that, if there is a fork in the road, weigh up the options carefully. I think the other one is: don't be afraid to have the difficult conversations with your teams. I personally believe you're not doing them any favours at all by not having those conversations. Now, there's ways of having conversations, and there's ways of having conversations and have the right conversation. And the conversation that helps your team to grow because that's what really being in business is all about is not just your own personal growth but your team's growth as well. And they will not necessarily grow if they haven't had moments where they need to get into their reserves of resilience as well. By not having those difficult conversations, you're not equipping them with some of those skills that they will need during the course of their career.

I think the other thing is we've talked about reflection time and so forth. One of the best times to reflect is to actually kill two birds in one stone. And that's for not only mental health, but also physical health is why not couple that with a walk in the morning or a run or whatever you do, but certainly, over the last 18 months or so, my greatest reflection moments have come when I've been on a fast, tough walk for an hour and 20 minutes or whatever it is. Not putting the headphones in and listening to music, or unfortunately, it would have been great to listen to Brendan's podcast during those moments, but I actually needed the time to actually really think about the events that were in front of me, what the possible options are. And it's good both for your mental health and for your physical health. It's one of the best tips I can give. Use that reflection time, but do it where you've got adrenaline pumping around your body as well. And it works wonders, absolutely works wonders.

Brendan Rogers:  Despite being a West Ham supporter, I still think you're a top bloke.

What you shared with us today, I think is just testament to the sort of person you are. Again, that humility just oozes through. The thing that really underpins business and business success is someone like you who's got that grit, got that determination, and just, you know, really thrives on these challenges. ‘Cause as you said, getting to that top of the hill is really satisfying. Not just, it's not about your personal satisfaction, that's a nice achievement, but you're doing that for a greater cause and you're doing it because you're really so passionate about helping people. That to me is such a great recipe for success. So, I have no doubt in my mind that Jazoodle is going to keep moving forward and keep overcoming these barriers and really be a fantastic, it's already a fantastic tool, but being something that really lives and breathes in the business community, moving forward globally I think is a really strong possibility for where you're going.

So mate, I just want to say thank you again for coming to my home, coming to the fantastic studio that we have here, spending time with us, sharing your stories of resilience. Thanks for being a guest on The Cultural of Things podcast.

Andrew Paton-Smith: My absolute pleasure. And after Tracy's wonderful podcast last week, she was a tough act to follow.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: Andrew is a shining example of resilience. From the very day he was born, three months premature, he has been a fighter. All of these experiences since his birth, he's chosen to look at the positive and turn them into something that drives him to become better and to help people. He was too humble to mention this in the conversation, but he even sold his own home to help fund Jazoodle. This is the level of commitment and dedication he has to help people in business succeed.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Andrew.

My first key takeaway. Your commitment to your purpose helps build resilience. Andrew shared his own stories of hardship and how this has driven him. He has also shared some statistics around businesses that fail in the first five years and the impact that that has on people's lives. Andrew and his Jazoodle team are absolutely driven and focused on helping small to medium businesses succeed. Their unwavering commitment to this purpose helps them overcome barriers and build resilience.

My second key takeaway. Reflection helps build resilience. Reflection is a key tool that Andrew uses. Taking time to reflect each day on what's happened, how things have gone, what could be done better. This helps process the ‘hillocks’ as Andrew calls them. And you can then determine the actions you will take to move forward. Take time to reflect, and you will find yourself building resilience.

My third key takeaway. Your environment impacts your level of resilience. We should never be taking away the opportunity for people to build resilience. Too often in our society, everyone gets a prize. We allow people to avoid giving open and honest feedback and having tough conversations. Whether that be with kids at school, in the workplace or amongst friends. How is this helping people build foundations of resilience? In short, it's not. It is creating longer-term problems that are even more difficult to overcome. Allow people to struggle, help and guide them, but let them fall down and develop the foundations to get back up again. Create environments that help build resilience, not diminish it.

So, in summary, my three key takeaways were: your commitment to your purpose helps build resilience, reflection helps build resilience, and your environment impacts your level of resilience.

If you didn't want to take action on these three takeaways, then let me give you another way. Follow West Ham United Football Club. This alone will help you build a level of resilience that will stand you in good stead for life.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time. 

 

Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.