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Transcript: How to Build a Trillion Dollar Culture (EP5)

 

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 5. Today, I’m speaking with Scotty Schindler. Scotty was the startup founder of a real estate software business called ReNet. Scotty retired from ReNet in 2017 at the tender age of 46. At the time of his retirement, ReNet managed over $1.1 trillion of property. Our focus today is the ‘Scotty-isms’ as he calls them around culture, leadership and teamwork. Let’s dive in and learn some of these ‘Scotty-isms’ that created the foundation for the success at ReNet.

Scotty, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast. Thank you for being our guest on Episode 5. It’s great to have you.

Scotty Schindler: No worries, mate. I got out of the surf especially for you today.  

Brendan Rogers: Right. Good on you. I really appreciate that. I think there’s not a lot that would get you out of the surf, so I’ll take that as a severe compliment. How about we start with you, just give a bit of a brief overview if you can around your journey to date and where that’s taken you and the experiences you’ve had.  

Scotty Schindler: Look, I sold insurance for ten years. I then went on a journey of trying to better myself and start a company or actually at the time, it was a business I wanted to start. In the end, it became a company so I went on an entrepreneurial journey that started in 2000. I did things a certain way or I had certain beliefs and philosophies that I wanted to have on that journey and I used those as a guiding light to steer me towards what I really wanted to achieve out of a business. And it worked. All of a sudden by 2018 I was fully exited, and financially independent and more or less retired. Rather than being fully retired, I guess now I’m semi-retired, but I’m a self-funded retiree having fun and now teaching people about, you know, philosophies that I’ve used to grow my business and that’s where I am now.  

Brendan Rogers: It is an unbelievable journey. Actually, you and I first connected back in March of 2018. I’m not sure if you remember that, but look, we won’t go into the details of that on this podcast, but we want to talk specifically around what you mentioned – your company and ReNet that you grew. But before we do go into that, I’d love you just to share some of the stuff that you do in the community as well and your sporting background because that’s been, you know, a big part of your life as well.  

Scotty Schindler: Surfing is, it’s not what I do; it’s who I am. Although for 10 years I didn’t really surf either. So that 10 years of selling insurance, I was traveling all over the state and I was working long hours so I didn’t really surf for 10 years. So I became a ‘born-again’ surfer. You know, it became a priority for my second phase of life as opposed to a hobby or a sport. It became a priority for my life and it’s a release, it’s a place I go to do meditation, I do it competitively as well, I use it for fitness.

So, the whole surfing thing has been very good to me. And as far as other community things, I use to be in the surf lifesaving club and do things like that. But I changed a few years ago to join the local fire brigade, so I’m also in the Fire & Rescue NSW team. And I respond to, you know, medical assists and car accidents, car fires, bush fires. So, that’s my way of giving back to the community as well.  

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. Good on you, mate. You came across from the moment I first met you through LinkedIn as a real giver and I think when I took some time to travel up and see you up in the lovely Sawtell on the mid-North coast, you know, you seem like a bit of a local legend and very well-liked and loved in the community. So, well done on the work you’re doing there, mate. Fantastic.

Scotty Schindler: Thank you.

Brendan Rogers: Let’s go into the ReNet journey and that company and well actually, before I go into that, I’d love to ask you one question ‘cause I’m sure there’s listeners out there that would love to know at what stage of that born-again surfing lifestyle did you lose your long blonde locks?  

Scotty Schindler: (Laughing) I lost my blonde locks in my 20’s right. The insurance business made me go bald, I think.  

Brendan Rogers: (Laughing) I have heard that from other people, that I know in insurance, so fair point. 

Scotty Schindler: I had the whole hair thing happen as I started ReNet.  

Brendan Rogers: Good on you, mate. Let’s go into the ReNet journey. I mean it’s quite a story which I’ll let you share a bit, but just to give the listeners, you know, you built a company from nothing to something and that something was in the region of quite a bit over $1 trillion worth of property being managed through that software business. So, how about you share a bit of the journey of how that started and where that went?  

Scotty Schindler: Well, look there, I didn’t know I was going to start the company ReNet, but what I did do is when I left the insurance business, I wanted to have a bet on myself and I wanted to start a company in IT. Now, with no knowledge or experience or degrees in IT, it was a pretty ballsy move, right? But I figured I could learn it. So, my first IT contract was a medical website or a medical portal. Now, I was in partners with that business and that didn’t work because the partner that I went with owned the name but he didn’t really want to do any work so I got out of that one pretty fast. And then I started doing local portals, you know, there’s one running now called local search or something similar to that. This is back in 2000 and that didn’t really take off. I mean it worked, but it was not really, I couldn’t see it getting any real attraction.

I then pivoted and tried to go into networking and security. So I then studied some books on how to do peer-to-peer networking. So, I then started really studying hard. My very first client I went out to, and they had a Windows ‘98, and this was in 2000. After I finished the job, it was such a brain strain, I just thought, this is not going to be aligned with any of my philosophies, even if in this business there is money to be made, it was not going to align with my business philosophy. So that was the third attempt at a proper business. This is apart from doing standard website design.

And then, I decided, maybe I’m not good enough for starting my business. So, at the start of 2001, I started looking for work. I started to self doubt, you know, the wife was giving me pressure not really backing me in a sense because things weren’t really growing or expanding and I was struggling in a sense. And that was hard right, really hard to be in that state.

But anyway, look, I started applying for jobs and luckily for me, not only did I not get a job, no one even actually gave me an interview. So, no one even wanted to have a chat with me about where I was or what I could do or anything. And that was mainly, because I think what I did was a little bit different. I did my resume online as a website and back then it was like, well where’s all these printed material and I didn’t present any printed material. I just presented it all on a website. So that’s what I was doing. I was trying to be different.

Anyway, it turned out to be too different obviously, no one would give me a job. But that was lucky because I then went on another journey in May 2001. I went to the Gold Coast with my grandmother and I bought two books, one on PHP and one on MySQL and decided to have a crack at this online databasing and making software, which was a big pivot, a big change.  

And I started writing three software packages, one for car yards, one for accommodation and one for real estate. And I was already looking after people in all three of those areas. And the one that took off was the real estate one. And by 2002, in February, I realised the real estate one was the one I was getting the most attraction with. So, I formed the company ReNet. So, it took six attempts to actually get something off the ground from when I decided to quit the insurance business and start my own business.

And even then, it wasn’t a company, it was just, I had traction. It took another, nearly two years before I realised I actually had a company. And nearly four years that journey went on. You know, a lot of pivoting, a lot of changing, a lot of heartache. But the business philosophies had to ring true. My beliefs of how I wanted to have a company needed to ring true and I was prepared to, I guess, do whatever it took. But then again, like I said, I did want to quit at one stage but lucky enough for me, no one gave me a job.  

Brendan Rogers: It’s a great story. And there’s two things that sort of stick out to me and two questions. One of those is, what sort of formal education did you have behind you around this journey? And also, and you can answer both these questions together, what sort of qualities did you believe you had that drove you forward on this journey? “Cause there’s obviously, just in what you’ve shared, there’s a number of, I guess, you could say, ‘bumps’ in the road along the way.  

Scotty Schindler: Ah, plenty of them. Well, formal education is really quick for me to answer because there was none (both laughing). The qualities I had that made the business work, and I often talk to people about this and say, well, even though it was a long journey and you know, I can condense nearly four years into, you know, a two minute sort of backstory. One of the ways I cheated the most, was the fact that I had the ability to be able to walk into any business I liked and do a presentation, and lead with the chat. So what that meant was, you know, I had the ability to get sales. So my product might not have been the world’s best. And certainly, my degrees and my ability to build software was not at the top level either. The product worked and I really liked the product. And people liked the product too. So they paid me or else, they wouldn’t have paid me.

But it was my ability to actually go out and talk to people, create those relationships and get a deal and look at people as clients for life, not just clients as a sale. That made the company ReNet what ReNet is. I was always after the lifetime value of a client, not after a sale. But in saying that, the one way I cheated, was I had the ability to do presentations or selling, if you want to call it, that got results.  

Brendan Rogers: What I’d like to reinforce there, and I think you glossed over it a little bit as far as formal education, and I asked that for a reason, ‘cause I know the answer, but what I really want to enforce is that, you know, the qualities that you’ve seen through that process is that, you know, through your hard work, dedication and commitment and actually the people skills. So actually being smart around people, not so smart around books or needing to be smarter around books and that’s really got you to where you are today, mate. That commitment, that work ethic, that people smart scenario. And I know myself through firsthand experience and having got to know you over the two years, I feel like I’ve known you for a hell of a long time and you just that great bloke to know and to have in your life. So, you know, I’ve seen those qualities come through in spades over these last two years. So again, well done on who you are, mate. It’s fantastic.  

Scotty Schindler: Thanks for that and if I can hitchhike on the education bit. You know, one thing that was an advantage for me was, look, I did, I went to high school, of course. I wasn’t a high school dropout. I did finish it. Although, I only finished it so I could surf on the school team. (both laughing). Take that out of it. So I did finish high school. So, I’m not a high school dropout. But the reality was, I was almost last in my year so I wasn’t the smartest person. Which in the end was an advantage for me because what it meant was I knew everybody else was smarter than me. So, I actually used that as the tool to build the business. I hired people who were smarter than me, better than me, and then let them be smarter and better than me in that area. Whether it was website design, graphic design, marketing, computer programming, it didn’t matter. They were better than me at what they did.

I actually went looking for those people to make sure they were better than me and then I empowered them and let them be better than me. That way, one of the business philosophies was to build the business up to a point where I was actually redundant. Interesting philosophy, right? Most people make themselves the most important person, whereas I wasn’t. Where as, even though I was, everything I did was because I wanted to, not because I have to, which is a different mindset but the point is, coming from an uneducated background, it’s not that I don’t think education is important. The reality is education is only potential.

Like I failed economics in a sense, right? So I did economics. The girl I sat beside in the Economics class, right? She went on to become the International Vice President of EMI Records and I sat next to her. One day, she came down for Christmas, we’re down in the local pub and she walked up to me and she said to me, “Ah, the price of properties and things around here, we should have bought some properties”. I turned around and said, “Well, I did”. (Both laughing) 

You know, so at the end of the day, you know, she was, we sat beside each other, she became the International Vice President. She was one of the top in the class. I was one of the bottom in the class. And I went on to create a company. So, education’s important, but it’s only what your potential is with that education and what you do with that education and then how you move forward and prosper. Not only once you get the job, and once you get the career, but what you actually do with that and how you balance life out is also the next factor. Education is just potential.

Brendan Rogers: So I remember as you’re talking, I remember seeing a video online, I think on your website where you talk about being, I think 70th out of 71 in your English class (Scotty laughing). And you shared a story with me actually a little while ago around, I think one of your classmates who ended up working with you. You want to just expand on that a little bit so that I’m not telling untruths?

Scotty Schindler: Yeah, that’s all right. So interestingly enough, like I said, everyone was smarter than me, that’s easy right. And when people correct my spelling, I thank them. I don’t know, you know, ‘what are you doing?’ You know, ‘you shouldn’t be correcting me’. And you know, I actually appreciate it. I, what do you call it, embrace it. I love people who engage. In fact, in the end they’re called ‘deliberate mistakes’.

So if I make a mistake and they engage in it, I go perfect, engagement (laughing). So I don’t have a problem with that. But what’s interesting about the whole, you know, I got 71st or I was 70 out of 71 is, I ended up hiring the dux of the school to come and work for me. So you know, here he was – the smartest kid at school and he comes and works for me and becomes my website designer. So you know, from the kid that was probably the least expected to have a business or even succeed or any of that sort of stuff. To hire the dux of the school would be unheard of. And it was interesting that in the end, you know, as a C or D-class student, I was hiring the A-class student. 

Brendan Rogers: Wow and that’s where your story to me is just so inspirational, mate. You’ve just achieved above and beyond what, you know, what some of the people out there and the importance they play on traditional education. So, there’s so much hope for anybody if they’ve got the right work ethic, commitment and dedication to achieve and focus on what they want to do.

Scotty Schindler: Yeah. And look, it’s like homework with the kids. I don’t value it at all. I don’t do any homework with the kids and I know some people out there are going to freak out about this. I have no interest at all in that side of their schooling. But at the end of the day, I know that when they leave school and they decide they want to do something, then they’ll apply themselves and then they’ll become the best person they can in the things that they’re interested in. Fighting over my kids to do their Maths or English homework is not going to achieve anything. It’s just not, except for maybe, potentially ruin our relationship. If they wanted to do it, but they came and asked me to help? Absolutely. But I’m not going to force them, or ground them if they’re not going to do it.  

Because I think education is super important. I just don’t think the school system up until Year 12 or whatever, or even university for that matter, is the most important education you’re ever going to get in your life. What matters about your education is what happens once you leave the schooling system and you start to learn in real life what needs to be done to apply whatever that potential is that you’ve got. That is the education that’s important, not the school one as much as it’s a good foundation. You know, I never had it, but what I do agree with is education is important, but the education after you leave the system is by far the most valuable education that you can get.  

Brendan Rogers: Mate, let’s go into ReNet again and the culture. You’ve got your own unique philosophies and I really like the connotations you use and the words you use around leadership and some of your experiences there. So, let me ask you around ‘sugar and cream’ leadership. That’s a term that you use a bit. Tell us what’s sugar and cream leadership?  

Scotty Schindler: Well, I’m glad you asked. Sugar and cream, it’s a Scotty-ism and it’s one of the few things that I came up with as a terminology post-ReNet. Now, I already knew about it. I already knew I was doing it. I just didn’t have a way of describing it. One day, I worked it out over a cup of coffee. (Laughing)

Basically, a lot of people go looking for the cream, right? And a lot of people are the cream when they come and apply for work. But I was never looking for the cream when it came to hiring staff. I was always looking for the sugar – the people out there that were motivated, they were inspired and they wanted to be someone, they wanted to get to the next level, they were prepared to do whatever it takes. Those ‘sugary people’ with just a little bit of stirring, a bit of motivation, a bit of a push in the right direction, an opportunity, and they become the best assets that you’ve ever had. And they were the people that I was looking for at all times. So when someone came along, you know, the cream of the crop, and they had all the certificates, they had all the degrees and they had all the experience, well, they actually weren’t the people I was looking for.

I was looking for the people that will, that could have been them, but mostly they already had arrived. I wanted people that wanted the journey and wanted the destination and I can help them on that journey through the business. So, ReNet wasn’t so much, even though it was a real estate software company, ReNet was more of a system. It was a system to help real estate agents grow their business, it was a system for staff that I could hire and that could come along and grow their careers. Everything about ReNet was a system. That, just the vehicle we used, was real estate software. But everything about ReNet was a system from leadership through staff and how I develop them and hire them or retain them, right through to the software itself for the real estate agent. If I helped enough people succeed, I would succeed too.  

Brendan Rogers: You’ve mentioned system a little bit just in that explanation. And so, it reminds me again of your System1357. Tell us a bit about that ‘cause that’s also something you’ve made freely available on your website to people you know, part of your giving nature. So tell us about System 1357, how that was developed and what is it about?

Scotty Schindler: Well, I had System1357 prior to leaving the insurance business and starting the company. What I didn’t have was the package of saying it was System1357. And system 1357 is, it’s all the business philosophy, all the techniques that allow people to grow their business in a way that helps them work smarter rather than harder. And I had all those things before I started ReNet. So essentially, if I just go through the five business philosophies, business judo. That was a very deliberate and conscious business method that I was implementing when I first started ReNet. The way I leveraged, the way I collaborated. Very deliberate actions, time duplication. So time duplication meant that I had to actually hire staff that were as good or better than me cause I needed to duplicate myself. I needed to duplicate products, I needed to duplicate everything.

So time duplication, it’s the one thing that every successful person understands, is time duplication. The business of thirds is a little bit different. That’s about your strike rate and things like that. So it’s, as an example, you know, a top third of your staff are always your dedicated ones. The bottom third of your staff are the ones, they’re going to turn over and they come and go. It just doesn’t work out for whatever reason, or they move, they leave. They come and go for some reason. The same thing happens with the product range. The same thing happens with everything. It’s just the business of thirds.

The Rule of 100 is the timeline. The first hundred seconds, a hundred minutes, a hundred hours, a hundred days, a hundred weeks, and then a hundred months and everything goes to the cycle of the Rule of 100. And, the fifth business philosophy, was the sugar and cream. And that was how I sold, how I hired people and how I grew the company. So System1357 is a collection of things like that that helped me go from a concept and just a bunch of business philosophies that I implemented to turn into a business, to turn into an entrepreneurial journey and then to create wealth.

So that’s what System1357 is – a beautiful way of describing what the methods were that I used to grow a company.

Brendan Rogers: A couple of times you mentioned around staff, and many times you talked to  me about, you know, it’s all about the people in your business and how you grew that culture. Tell me a little bit about what you believe the culture was and what was the strength in the culture of ReNet and why it was so successful as a business with the people that you had.

Scotty Schindler: Well, I guess the culture, look it came and went. I’m not going to sit here and say it was perfect. There was times where it got toxic and there was times where I had to deal with that. There was a time where I had, for want of a better word of saying, a brain fart, and you know, and got cranky at the team and I lost two people overnight. and I had to reset. (Laughing) Was it perfect? Hell no! But was there some foundations and some basic principles in there that we relied upon? Yeh , there was – things like, I had a no-fire policy. So if I hired someone, I saw it as my responsibility to look after that person at all times. If they left, it was because of something that I didn’t do. And so, I had a no-fire policy. If they got through that first month, and it was my job, I hired them for the right reason and I needed to follow through in that right reason and give them that opportunity.

As an example on numbers, for example, if I’ve paid someone $50,000 a year for two years, if after two years they leave, and I haven’t got a return on that hundred thousand dollars, that’s my fault. So, I need to make sure that investment in staff that I’m doing, pays off. And so I saw it as my responsibility to get that return on investment, not their responsibility to turn up and do their job, that’s a given. But it was my responsibility to get the most out of these people and create those opportunities and have that delivered. So that’s an example of the no-fire policy. And you know, I didn’t have quarterly reviews. I had no office hours. People could come and go as they like, they could even pick their own holidays. In the end, the teams were big enough, that you have, if somebody in support wanted to have some time off, I just have to speak to the other people in support, make sure it worked, then come and tell me what they had organised, and they always could take holiday in advance. I just let people have full autonomy.

Once again, my philosophy was to make myself redundant. Almost, these people all had a business within the business. Like I said, it wasn’t perfect, but I think that was the strength of the business. And I also had financial systems in place, where every single person in the business got a bonus. Every single person got an incentive or a reward for the success of the business. That was a game changer for my business over those years. Completely changed everything, that financial system. There was heaps of things like that. And you know, having staff and leading people is always difficult. There’s emotions, there’s people with their own challenges in life and they bring them to work. And sometimes it gets toxic and you’ve got to sit back and try and work out how to solve it and how to get the best out of the situation. And sometimes I couldn’t and other times I could, you know, it’s understanding that. So as a leader, as an owner of the business, the buck still stops with me and I had to constantly plan all those good times and the bad times.  

Brendan Rogers: Look, there’s a few things to unpack there. And probably the first one I want to ask is around, with the bonus structure that you had in place, and again, not necessarily about the specifics of that, but you’re in a sales-orientated organisation, that’s what you built and it’s pretty, not common. And believe me, I’ve worked with some sales-orientated businesses and they have a tough challenge getting their mind around setting incentive structures that are team-orientated, as opposed to being individual orientated, which is more the stock standard. You said that was a real game changer for you, how everybody was incentivised, what do you mean by that? Dive into that a little bit.

Scotty Schindler: Well, every single person got, like, as a sales person, it’s easy to pay a salesperson a bonus on a sale. Totally qualified. How do you pay a software developer who doesn’t sell? You sort of can’t, right? They still got a bonus on every sale we got. Why? Because I wanted my software developers to create a better product, which meant we got more sales. Pretty simple, right? So if we got 10 sales for the month, and they made a thousand dollars, well, so be it. I can’t remember the exact figures, but the point is, you know, they each got a thousand dollars and they didn’t have anything to do with those sales. Does that make sense? So at the end of the year, they got 10-20 thousand dollars extra because of the sales we got. And sometimes, those guys did have something to do with the sale. So, someone would come along and go, “well Scott, we like everything but we want to get this product done on the side as well.” And that might cost them a thousand or $2,000 extra work or sometimes more, so the developer would then get a bonus on the work they did. They’d get 10% or 15% of the work they did as well. So, they got incentives for their hours they were doing as well.

So with support, when a sale comes in, that’s not the end of the job, right? Just because the sales person sold the product, that is not the end of the line. It’s only the beginning. So support had to make sure there was the transition from non-client to client was seamless as well. They had to make sure they looked after these clients and if there was something in the sale that needed rectifying or looking after, the clients were the most important people. So, support staff also got an incentive as a bonus from every sale, because their job was to onboard clients in a successful way that retained the clients.  

So, and here’s the caveat, if we lost the client within 12 months, the bonus got clawed back. So in other words, if we didn’t get a client to stay as a client, everyone had their bonuses clawed back. And you know, there’s always a churn rate of about 5% a year for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault, sometimes it is people’s fault. But if I had pain as a company, they lost a little bit of their bonuses too. But if a client stayed, they kept their bonuses.

So everyone had the benefit and everyone had the pain and that’s why the bonus system completely changed the business. And every single person in the business, got incentives for the success of the company.  

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. Again, I love that story. Just around the team. Everybody is involved in maintaining a client and everybody’s working together. And it probably meant that, you know, people would sometimes take their sort of role, responsibility, department hat off, and they do whatever they need to do to make sure they’re serving the customer in the best way because it was doing everything for the team. So again, mate, well done with that philosophy. There’s a lot of people in sales that really struggle with that mindset. You’ve led the way. You’ve been doing it since 2005 in your business. So, great job.

Scotty Schindler: Yeah, thanks for that. And you know like, nine times out of ten it was perfect, and the one time out of ten it wasn’t. Sometimes, someone would go, well, there’s no bonus on that so I’m not doing it. So I had to deal with that as well. And, you know, so when I say, it could have been 99 times out of a hundred, it was good. And one time out of a hundred it wasn’t. But the point was, it’s not, it wasn’t a perfect system, but I can tell you that the system though, it completely changed the business because everyone had a vested interest in the success of the business all of a sudden. It completely changed the business. It was a massive pivoting point.

The only reason why that happened was because I woke up one Monday morning in 2005 with no money in the bank. Well not true, I had $1,700 in the bank, not enough to pay wages that week, if I didn’t get any money. I said, this isn’t going to work. I have to change the business so that way, it’s better for everybody. And I essentially gave everyone a pay cut, but a pay rise at the same time. So I’d worked out what they did and said, “Look, I’m going to reduce your wages, but if you do everything that you’ve just been doing, and nothing extra, you’re actually getting a pay rise, but it’s going to be based on bonuses as opposed to just for turning out”. It completely changed the business. People got paid more, and they also then did more.

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. Great learning experience and great example of teamwork. Thanks for sharing, mate. You also talked about the No Fire Policy. Just tell us a little bit more about that and what I’m really interested to know is how did that or did that change your mindset around you as a leader and how much time you invested in people that you bought into your business?

Scotty Schindler: Oh, absolutely. Like I said, if I look at the return on investment, you know, if I’d spend a $100,000 or $200,000 on an investment property, I’d want to get a return on it, right? The staff for me were an investment and it was up to me and I saw it as my responsibility to teach and train and nurture staff to get that return on investment. So, they did two things for me. The staff obviously helped me duplicate because they were better at the job than I was and if I fired them, I also then lost my return on investment. So, the four things, when we call it ‘talk about white flags and red flags’ and things like that. Well, before it got too deep, you know, I would then try and invest time into doing what I call personal development interviews and PDIs can be done at any time at any stage.

They don’t have to be done in like quarterly reviews. They can be done any time ‘cause they are development interviews and people can have those. We can have them daily, which is ridiculous, but you can have them daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. They can be formal or informal: informal over a coffee or formal in the boardroom. But at the end of the day, that development interview and understanding that you are there to develop your staff to become better at their jobs so you can achieve what you want to achieve, is a basic philosophy. And that’s why I had a no fire policy.

I never fired anybody in the business at ReNet unless they didn’t make it in the first month. So, if they didn’t make it ‘cause they said all the right things and then turned up and didn’t do it, well then, I’d let them go. And there were only a few of those. But mostly, once they came in, I never fired anyone. They were all there  for the long run, and had to leave of their own accord.

Brendan Rogers: How did you look at people that did leave your business? ‘Cause I’m sure that happened but not for bad reasons. You know, you’d seen them grow, develop and they wanted to move on to other opportunities. How did you look upon that as a leader?  

Scotty Schindler: Well, there’s two ways of looking upon that as a leader. I mean, the true success as a leader is when someone leaves your business, if they go on and prosper, you were pretty good. If they go on and fail, it means you weren’t very good as a leader anyway. So, that’s one way of looking at it. But secondly, I expected people to leave. So, when they did finally one day, say look Scott, ‘I’m going to go and have a go on my own, or I’m going to leave and work for a different company’. Look, I just let them go. I said no worries. “Thanks for being here. Thanks for being part of the journey”. And that’s all I could do. Does that make sense? I never really celebrated it. Some people, you know, celebrate and do all those sorts of things. I never really celebrated people leaving.

Brendan Rogers: You supported them.  

Scotty Schindler: Well, I did. Yeah. I didn’t make it hard for them. Depending on how they left, you know, half the people seem to leave nicely and the other half seemed to leave not nicely. I don’t know what that’s all about, but some people seem to wanna have a go at you all the time. And one day they say, “Oh, you know, I worked really hard and everything else. And I go yeah, well you got paid and everything”. Sometimes, people want to have a go at you, but I just like, it’s water off a duck’s back. I just let it go. Some of those people, I actually tried to re-hire again and one of the staff that left 10 years ago, is actually back working for ReNet again now.

So, people do come back and people do go off and try and leave. But one of the guys that left, you know, he’s now a Member of Parliament, he’s gone off and prospered really well. He’s gone and he was running a company up North and now he’s actually pivoted over to politics. You know, so I want people to prosper, I want them to leave the nest as well and have a go on their own. So when people leave, it’s hard. 

Brendan Rogers: Mate, there was another part I just wanted to mention. I’d love you to, again, I’m sure there’s a video on your website around a funny story and staff of flexible hours. You mentioned the flexible hours and time off and stuff like that. Do you want to just share a little bit more about that for our listeners? 

Scotty Schindler: Yeh look, I didn’t go with people’s hours, I only go with their results and their outcomes and their productivity. And that was all along. So when it came to office hours, I mean, people just, I mean obviously it was a typical 9 to 5 office, but the people knew that I had that, but as far as people turning up at 7 in the morning and leaving at 3 in in the afternoon, if that’s what they wanted to do, I said, ‘sure’. They wanted to start at 11 and finish at 7 at night, I would have said yes to that too. But at the end of the day, I let people do whatever they wanted and most people, they were hired on that basis, and most people respected that and did everything they needed to do. So, it was really good.

So, the office hours were completely flexible. If they wanted to go and watch their kids at school, all they did was make sure everyone knew what they were doing. They didn’t just disappear, they were part of a team, but everyone was under the same boat anyway. So if they had a hairdresser’s appointment, they’d say look Scott, I’m going to a hairdresser’s appointment. I’d say, sure, no worries, ‘See you tomorrow.’ You know, it was easy. There was no hassles.  There was no dramas. There was no bundy clock. There was no micro-watching the hours. Once again, that comes back down to the financial system that I had in place, you know. And then people would also work at night. People would sit down, you’d see the tickets come through or jobs completed. Because they couldn’t sleep at three o’clock in the morning, they’d smash out a few jobs or a few emails. And no one felt guilty about that because everyone had incentives to do their job and do their job to the best of their ability. Remember it was a system. ReNet was really a system. The real estate software was just the vehicle.

Brendan Rogers: When did this flexibility start in your business?  

Scotty Schindler: Ah, from the beginning.

Brendan Rogers: Yeah, so early 2000s?

Scotty Schindler: Yeah, it was always there. The moment I started hiring people. You wanna know how I hired two people? In Easter 2003, I was up on the Sunshine Coast at Coolum when I was just trying to grow the business in a caravan, traveling through Queensland. And the business was growing right, at a rate that I couldn’t keep up. So I flew home to Coffs Harbour. Sorry, I drove home to Coffs Harbour. And, I rented this space for $75 a week, I put two desks in. I hired someone to answer the phone, a lady, and her to do some bookwork for me, and a young guy that wanted to be a website designer. I hired the space for two people, put some desks in, waved goodbye and said I’ll talk to you on the road.

All I needed them to do was come in and just help keep up with the workload that was coming. But that was the first staff; I wasn’t even there. I mean they were coming and going as they wanted from the very start, and that never changed that whole philosophy all the way along. So I didn’t care what time they turned up, I didn’t care as long as they got what I needed done, done. Everyone was happy. So, that philosophy stayed the whole way. There was no office hours, there was no typical 40-hours-a-week or 38-hours-a-week or you know, your 9-to-5 or whatever your job is. It was flexible the whole way.

Brendan Rogers: It’s fair to say that you were pushing and actually living flexible working conditions long before it was fashionable and just in typical Scotty Schindler humour, I suppose, I just pulled up one of your videos and the office hours states for ReNet:

Open most days about 8 or 9, but some days as late as 12 or 1.

We close about 5:30 or 6 but occasionally, about 4 or 5.

Some days or afternoons, we aren’t here at all.

And lately, we’ve been here just about all the time except when the surf is good.

(Scotty Schindler laughing)

Absolutely fantastic.  

Scotty Schindler: That was actually on the front door of the office. From the very first office I had to the last office. And that was on the front door. But it wasn’t just, you know, a bit of a fun thing, it became a bit of a tourist attraction. People would come to the coffee shops in Sawtell, you’d open the door and they’d be taking photos of your office door. (Laughing). You’d go, how you going? That was actually a fact. That was how we worked. And you know, I guess as a leader, I mean, I never made appointments before 11 o’clock ‘cause you know, if the surf was good, I wanted to surf. So, if I was at home, and I wasn’t on the road somewhere, like Brisbane or New Zealand or Melbourne, well then, I wanted to surf if the surf was good. At the same time, I used to be the first one in and the last one out a lot of the time as well. So it was totally flexible. So those office hours might’ve been a bit of fun, but it was actually the truth.  

Brendan Rogers: That sign just epitomises you and, I think where, again, the traction you’ve got obviously through the business, but even, you know, life after ReNet and what you’re doing now in semi-retirement, you know, people just love you. They can just relate to you. You’re just a real person and that signs an absolute testament to that realness of you.

Scotty Schindler: Thanks for that.

Brendan Rogers: Let me ask you about, you know, we’ve spoken a lot about leadership and culture and some of the teamwork dynamics in ReNet and what’s been achieved there. How about your own leadership style and what you’ve learnt over that process and there’s also something that you call a leadership report card, so just tell us a bit about that.

Scotty Schindler: I’m not sure I had a leadership style, I just had a leadership philosophy or a belief. Maybe, you could call it a style. I probably need an expert like you to help me out with what that style was. (Laughing) It was really just about the empathy and the willingness to invest in staff and understanding that velocity is just duplication.

And one thing that every successful person understands is they can’t do it on their own, they have to do it as a successful team. And you know, being the captain of a team doesn’t mean you have the best team in the world. Having the best team in the world is when everyone gets along, everyone does what they’re supposed to do and all of a sudden, everything happens like magic. So it was having that understanding that that’s what I needed to do, was probably the style, if you like. But I don’t know how you categorise it or put it into a sentence.

But that’s definitely one thing that I had. I learned that from the insurance business. If I helped enough people achieve their goals, well, I’d achieve mine. So that’s the business I created. The real estate software wasn’t really the product, it was just the vehicle that we used. What I did was I created the systems for both sides. So, the systems internally with staff and development around that, as well as systems for agents to use for exactly the same thing. If I helped enough agents become successful real estate agents, they stayed clients, right. And that’s how I grew the business.

And as far as the leadership report card goes, that’s really that, you know, once you finish, do people go on and do people succeed or do people fail? And if more people leave your business and succeed, than fail, then you’re doing a good job, but if everyone leaves your business, is no good, then you really weren’t doing a good job with them either, right?  

Brendan Rogers: You talk about the same qualities of success in business and sport. What are those qualities?  

Scotty Schindler: Well, give a simple thing like your education, you know, and we talk about education is really just your potential. There’s so many superior, sporting people. Their potential just oozes out of them everywhere. They just keep the win, win, win, win and they just don’t get that grit and determination to see it through when they become adults. There’s one thing in business that’s exactly the same, that grit and determination to do what it takes to achieve what you want to achieve.

And turning up with that determination and focus day in, day out through good times, bad times. You know it’s easy when things are going good, but when things aren’t going good, how you double down and how you focus or pivot. You know, I took six goes to get ReNet going. You know, it took nearly four years to grow that company. It wasn’t an overnight success. And, you know, a lot of people with lots of skills don’t have that same grit or determination to actually double down and do what it takes. And that’s the same thing in sport.

There was one thing we talk about in sport and I talk about it a lot when I do sport coaching, it’s called Car Park Disease, CPD. So let’s use the real estate industry as an example ‘cause I’ll pick on real estate sales people. Here’s Johnny, right? He’d been in the real estate business for two years and he’s kicking a heap of goals and he’s doing really well. He goes out and buys himself a flash new car. And, you know, all he does is drive around, you know, parking his car everywhere at the coffee shops and everything else. So people can see his nice new BMW or Mercedes or Lexus. And he’s no longer doing the activities that he did that got him to be where he’s gotten to. So, he starts to get this little thing called CPD – Car Park Disease – running around talking about how good he is, how good he was, instead of doing the things that needed to be done and continue doing or developing, making it even stronger, to get to the next level.

And that’s what’s a little thing called CPD and that’s where it happens in sports. Young kid, he gets to 21, he’s down the pub, you know, everyone’s patting him on the back and telling him how good he was, and how good he is, and instead of being out training and being focused. Look, I sold insurance for ten years and a lot of that included sports people and some of the sports people that made it, they were always the ones that were dedicated and focused.

They weren’t the ones out there that were top. They were always the ones that were disciplined. They were training, they were ’exercising, they were focused. And you know what? The same thing is in business. It doesn’t matter how much potential you got, it’s how much you want to grow and develop your own skills and get to the next level, set those goals and do whatever it takes to achieve the goals that you want to achieve. It doesn’t mean you are going to achieve everything, but I can tell you there’s way more chance of success of whatever it is you want to succeed in or whatever you envision your success as, if you’re out there doing whatever it takes. And that’s the one thing about sport that is so similar to business. It’s exactly the same. Grit and determination has achieved way more for anyone in business and anyone in sport than potential ever has.  

Brendan Rogers: Where are you going next? Like, what’s the next few years hold for Scotty and what sort of impact are you wanting to have on the world?

Scotty Schindler: I had absolutely no idea when I retired from ReNet. I had a goal to, just see where the universe took me. And if it didn’t line up with anything, I was happy to go surfing all day. But as it turned out, I then started, you know, getting asked to do speaking and talking and mentoring and advising, and that then went to the next level and almost little Scotty-isms like sugar and cream. When I talk to people about it, people related to it. So I started trademarking and registering those. So, I figured that, well, I really do enjoy when I share things with people and they have a profound effect on them and they have their own epiphany and they go off and start doing the things they need to do to succeed. And that has been one of the most pleasing things that I’ve done in a long time.  

Brendan Rogers: I know you’re having a massive impact. I also know you’re really enjoying and loving the journey.

Scotty Schindler: It’s good fun, you know, like, someone from Philadelphia sent me a photo of her System1357 that she was mapping out for herself the other day. And she was starting this business and she had System1357 written on this big sheet of paper. And she had all the things under there that she’d learnt from the software and I’m sitting there going, “Wow, this is the reason why I do what I do”. It’s a profound effect it’s having on people. And that is like a drug all on its own. It’s just like winning an Australian surfing title or a world title.

Brendan Rogers: That’s a great story, mate. Again, it just epitomises you.  You’re giving that information away for free at the moment and people are using it, it’s not about the financial reward for you. It’s a satisfaction that is actually helping people and to me, that’s what real leadership is about. If you could give emerging leaders, aspiring leaders, current leaders, one bit of advice that you’ve learned in your journey, what would that be?  

Scotty Schindler: Well, alright, let me give an example around a sales manager or sales leader, because it’s the easiest one, but it’s the same philosophy for every single department. So if you’re the sales manager and you’re the number one salesperson, you’re not the sales manager. If you’re the sales manager, you’re the most important person in the team. You’re not the real leader. A leader develops people. A leader inspires people. A leader creates teams. A leader creates an environment for people to succeed in. If you’re the number one and you’re running a sales team, well then you’re not the leader.  

Brendan Rogers: We’re going to close up now, mate, but I’d love you to share with the listeners ‘cause I’m sure there’ll be a number of people that, you know, already know you and are in contact with you, but don’t know you and they’re gonna listen to this and think, “Geez, I’ve got to meet this guy”. How can people get in contact with you?

Scotty Schindler: Look, the easiest way is either via the website, which is scottyschindler.com So it’s just my name. You can Google me. I’m the only Scotty Schindler in the world, apparently. (Laughing). There’s plenty of Scott’s but not many Scotty’s. Or just follow me on LinkedIn and a lot of the material you talk about is freely available, it’s up there, I just share it. And people can learn from it or they can ask me to, you know, advise or mentor them as well and talk about implementation if they want to. But a lot of it’s put on in such a way that people can learn and apply the same philosophies that I use, they can apply them for free in their own business.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, I want to say just a massive thank you for giving up your time today and I know you said earlier, the surf’s pretty good there. So you’re able to come in and pull yourself away from that and spend some time with us, I really appreciate that. Your experience, your knowledge, you know, you’re walking in, you know, doing things actually that are real life. You actually, you’ve used the term, ‘walked in people’s shoes’ and you’ve done that, I really appreciate what you’ve done today and for sharing this. Thanks for your time today, mate. Really appreciate it.

Scotty Schindler: Anytime, mate. My pleasure.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: Scotty Schindler is an amazing bloke and a real Aussie larrikin. He has real life and real business experience. He is the real deal. His business and leadership education was learned on the job. He was willing to try new things and not follow the norms. Scotty did things his way. As he said, he failed a few times and things weren’t always perfect. But through pure grit, determination and focus, he built a great culture, a great team, and developed as a great leader. And all these things combined help create a hugely successful business.

These were my three key takeaways from my chat with Scotty:

My first key takeaway is around culture. Focus on building strong relationships. Scotty focused on building strong relationships with his team and building strong relationships with his clients. In relation to his team, Scotty mentioned the No Fire Policy he had, which helped him think about how he invested time with his people.  

One of the tools he used to invest time was what he called PDIs – personal development interviews, which he had with his team. He saw it as his personal responsibility as a leader to help get the best out of his people. And the strong relationships with his clients. Scotty talked about focusing on the lifetime value of the client and he had his whole team focused on creating lifetime value. He wasn’t just after the sale. This thinking on both fronts really demonstrates the value Scotty placed on the importance of building strong relationships in business.

My second key takeaway is around leadership. Leadership is not about being the star performer. In fact, Scotty says, if you are leading a team and you are the star performer, then you are not a real leader. He used the example of a sales manager. The sales manager shouldn’t be the number one sales person in the team. If they are number one, then they aren’t a real leader. A leader develops people, inspires people, builds teams, and creates the environment for people within their team to succeed.

My third key takeaway is around teamwork. Nothing drives teamwork like a collective goal. Even in an individual-results-driven world like sales, teamwork is achievable and will help your business thrive. Scotty is proof of that. Focusing on the lifetime value of the client was their collective goal and their bonus scheme supported it. Every single person shared in the success of the business, but they also shared the pain when they lost a client. Scotty said this was an absolute game changer for his business and it drove teamwork right through the organisation. 

So in summary, focus on building strong relationships. Leadership is not about being the star performer and nothing drives teamwork like a collective goal.

I have to also mention, and this is testament to what a great bloke Scotty is. Scotty’s now giving away his complete System1357 training package. If you want to learn much more from Scotty, visit www.system1357.com to sign up and start learning today.

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.