Better Business, Better Profit with Grant Difford - Episode 4 of Better Business, Better Life.
Updated: Feb 17
Top 3 tips from Grant
1. Do less!
Keep it simple. Simplify tasks. Coming from an obsessive strategist, do less. Laser focus on a specific task and it will make a difference.
2. Have company values that mean something
Forget about company acronyms and qualities you like. Pick values that you believe in and want your team to follow, then operationalise those values into everyday tasks.
3. Ditch the baggage and be brave!
Test things, push boundaries, ask questions.
Full transcript here:
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:10
Welcome to another episode of better business better life. I'm here today with a very good friend of mine grant deferred. And grant is the owner and director of waking giants, which is an agency that helps businesses with one of my red strategy, leadership, all those things. Thanks for coming on board Grant. Really appreciate it. Yeah. We're just talking before the episode that you've actually moved out into rural life. And how's that going?
Grant Gifford 0:36
It's good. It's nice. We know a little quiet spot to do our thing quietly when not once for the limelight. So I kind of it's good for my family. It's a family soon my daughter goes to an agricultural school we're kind of going back to basics a bit, kind of the old Kiwi life butso it's great. It's it's a way of getting away from the chaos that is business.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 0:58
Sounds really good. I'm actually a country girl myself. So I can really relate.
Grant Gifford 1:02
I'm a country boy, but sometimes I like to come into a bit of clean. Yeah, the camlocks outcome can be a little bit challenging.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 1:10
I understand, hey, look, we are running this this series to actually help entrepreneurs in terms of you know, how do they get a better business, but also a better life and all of my, my people are coming on board as guests, they have managed to achieve that. So it's about sharing how you got there. But before we get started, I'd love to hear a little about you know, what is it awaking giant does? What is it that you do under professional personal success that you'd like to share with us as well.
Grant Gifford 1:34
So waking Jones, I mean, to me, it started as my skills I was a graphic designer by trade. But, and Waking Giants, the concept was about getting the best out of people. But I fell into the trap of creating a business doing what I knew to make money, typical e myth. But as the years went on, I found being leaning more towards the leadership and the impact of what we do, and this imposter syndrome and, and our ability to do things way beyond what we think. So we sort of steered the business down that so waking giants is the concept of everyone has it in them, I have a passion for trying to work out what that is and enabling them to do it. And we're particularly focused now on leaders because I think the world needs really good business, I think big good business makes the world better. I think some of our governments and some of the nonsense around that doesn't. So that's my passion. And that's sort of my mission with the business. And we do that through, you know, auality strategy, messaging, and all those things. So we're trying to try and make literally better business more, not just ethical, but leaders, having an owning and building businesses that are more meaningful. So it's not necessarily saving the planet, but it's, it's having, you know, choosing to have three people in your business because they're great people rather than your goal to have a 20 person business. All of these what I believe are BS myths around what good business looks like. And I've learned that the hard way, I've played into some of these egotistical nonsense over the years, and my personal success is bar family and my daughter and everything is, is when I went I represent New Zealand at the World Championships and triathlon and, and that was through a really tricky part of my life. So I use sport to sort of condition myself with some resilience. So I went from a basic triathlete to the world championship team in 18 months. So that was the catalyst for me to sort of changing my mindset about what I was capable of, and that sort of start the journey. And then for the business, were 10 I think, this month or next month, I think that's a miracle.And I'm not a natural business person. I was never around businesses, and then my family had business. So I'm an outlier in my own family. So coming up to 10 years is nothing short of a miracle. So and I love it more than the day I started. And it's been tough. So that's a success, in my mind, really?
Debra Chantry-Taylor 4:21
How many businesses fail within the first five years? Is that like, 90% or something?
Grant Gifford 4:26
And I think I do love it more than ever. Yeah. And because I'm really clear on why I'm in business, you know, our whole family income is from this one business. So I have a lot of responsibility as a father and as a human and that old male, you know, protective of my family. So, you know, for it to be more purposeful for it to be more meaningful, sort of bridges the gap between it being a business and making money and what I do for my family, and that's the driver. So, in businesses, it's, it's really being in a place 10 years on that I actually really care about. Yeah, and and what the next, you know, 20 years look like, or what however long I decide to keep playing this funny game we call?
Debra Chantry-Taylor 5:12
It is a bit of a game, isn't it? Yeah. Hey, um, you're just showing me before that, obviously 2020 was a tough year for other people, but in actual fact, it had some highs and some lows for you. Yeah. Would you mind sharing some of that with the listeners?
Grant Gifford 5:23
Yes. So at the end of 2019, I realised that the path we were on needed an injection of pace, or it needed something to change and, and we have a situation and I made some fairly bold, strategic decisions for the business and I knew it was going to cause some problems. I didn't realise how big and we had a dynamic of a team, where the team wasn't fully made up of the people I needed around me, let's put it that way. And that ended up in some really tricky, a tricky situation with an employee, which ended up in a legal fight. And ultimately, I came off worse off than we do in these employment situations. Now, I look back on it, and we did we we had that going into lockdown, and that cost a lot of money. So we went into lockdown, just bleeding money. But what was amazing is once we wrap we dealt with that situation, there was two lessons to me, I, I didn't remain resentful, which I think was really, really important. Because, you know, I find a lot of people can be resentful of people who leave their business or whatever, and they don't respect the lesson. And the other thing was, I realised how brilliant the people that were around me were. And what we actually did is we came closer, and we became more connected, you'd have to ask them, but I believe we did. And then as we went into lockdown, you know, our lease was up on our office and, and it was like this strange rebirth through the pain. And it hurt our family financially, significantly, we were in, you know, real trouble. But it took me a bit of time, and I've got a bit of land. And I used to walk the dogs every day did this lap. And you know, there were there were times I was sat on this bank, looking at the valley, and it's a privilege life to lead and I just wanted to cry I want to give up. But after a few days of doing that, and dwelling on it and trying to work out, I think one day I came back in such a cliche, but I came back in and I was like right now time to start taking action, spoke to the banks that spoke to my team. And we just agreed that we were going to go through this together. And I said I had most of the answers, but not all of them. I didn't know what the future looked like. We didn't lose any of our team, they all got fully paid. I just wanted to show them how much I wanted them as part of the vision. And then we just got on with it. And, and it took us six seven what took me 7 months to to to secure the ship financially. But I just didn't give up. So my wife had only worked in the business part time she said right, I'll jump in and help more. My daughter was wonderful. She sort of understands that he run a business. she's coming up eight. Okay, so we included her on meeting she would ask about clients. So we made it normal. at home. Obviously, we're at home, so we make business normal to her. And I'd answer her questions. So that was really cool. And then I was so lucky Mike, we embarked, we kind of trickled down on our vision, like we went harder. And it wasn't about succeeding, we've just decided to thrive. And I was lucky I spent a lot of time with clients on the phone and we develop those relationships and we ended up having we ended up coming out of it a lot better, but a lot more focused. When it was it was like the pain to get through to the the ease. And that's how I use triathlon and my racing is sometimes you have to go through a lot of pain to make it easier. Yes. And then so to me that there was a lot of lessons I had some good people around me when things got really hard. I had clients who were having conversations about money, staff, suicides, everything and you know that and we then became in this position with the people around us that we were in a trust you know, we're in that trusted advisor and that was really powerful because that was what I always was striving for to to become more important in the conversation. And so we and then amazingly, you know, we went through the year we took off, we took on some more opportunity, we took some more risk and and we sort of started to thrive and then we ended up Christmases, the most relaxed Christmas I've had in years. Fantastic. But we were very intentional, like we had a plan, we reviewed the plan, we put in a lot of process. And we found a new office. So we had, we'd got rid of this baggage that we had, because one of our values is ditch the baggage. It's our third one. And that was important for us, because a lot of us felt very hurt by this situation. But part of my role was to not be hurt and rationalise and grow. And then we then that sort of formed the new basis of our business for really the future.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 10:31
And I know you've got really strong values in your business, because obviously through eo together, I saw you putting bringing that together and really bringing it to life. Would you mind sharing those with us and what you do to bring those values to life in the team?
Grant Gifford 10:43
Yeah, so I've always had them early, my business was transactional, and to meet, so we've got three, we just have seven, but we got them right down to three. And something that really brought them to life, I went see Brendan brown in Sydney a few years back, my business partner, and she, if anyone ever gets a chance one day to go and see her life, she's amazing. She really is the most human Authentic Leadership coach in the world. She's just amazing. And she talked about values being operationalized. And it sounds operationalizes. But not the word for it. But I was like, how do we bring them to life? So our number one value is make it happen? Yeah. So really, less talk do. And that's where we balanced? The strategic work is like, great, we've got a plan. But let's see it work. So we have a culture of making it happen. So we reverse engineer that and say, Well, how do I make that happen? You know, do we have clarity of communication? Do we have the tools do we have know what makes it happen. And so it's an easy value to live. So if people don't meet the criteria of meet the deadline or meet the outcome, we can reverse engineer what the problem was. Yeah. And it's never about the person is about process. Second one is grow together. So that's as as a team, and as with our clients, or our community, or whatever. So it's actually about getting closer to the people in a team being more understanding of what they need. So we have we don't do performance reviews, we have growth, catch ups. So we book in this other moment, there's only three of us. But there's time the diary once a month, where we sit down and we talk about their growth. Yeah, I don't talk about performance, we get feedback, I work out what I need to do better. So it's all about progress, not perfection. So growing together, and then they talk about wanting to talk about their book getting naked, it's about, it's about taking hit for the client sometimes. And it's not about putting stuff out of business, but doing the things that are unseen. Yeah, which is growing together. And then the third one is ditch baggage. And we spend a particular leaders you'll talk to this is we spend a lot of time up here. And ditch the baggage for us is twofold is get rid of resentment of the things that didn't work. But also, understanding that today we are where we are, tomorrow will be a little bit different. And if it didn't work today, you start tomorrow, and you try again the next day and try it. So it's very much about progression, growth thinking. So we can live those really easily. Because we only do the work that allows us to do that. We have things like huddles, we have simplify technology, we develop courses that only meet our needs. So they are our guiding light. So we have to live them. And we read all the business decisions I made have to reference them. So I got an opportunity yesterday. So rather than just saying, Yes, I'm now dwelling on how does it fit with our plan? And how does it fit with our three values? And I will ask the team, I'm not where I'm at, what do you think we should do? And if they say, No, that's it. That's it, that's a decision. So we have a formula for how we operate. And you know to have is in our early 40s. And then Nat's in early, mid 20s. So we've got two perspectives on life. But we have an equal voice. And we're working out how the equal voice happens. So it's ultimately sometimes I have to make the decision. But I we're getting to that point now where I don't even have to ask people to make a decision in some way they know how, what the formula is to make the decision. And also allow except allow them to fail. And allow them to experiment. So and then we accept the failure. And then we go What do we learn? What did we learn from them? So that creates a really, in my opinion, like I said, you'd have to ask them, but it makes a really fun, progressive environment.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 14:35
Well, and it's actually building resilience as well, right? Because the whole thing of resilience is actually learning from those mistakes and saying, what can we do differently? Yeah, which sets you up for success going forward?
Grant Gifford 14:44
Well, one of the Yeah, and one of the that I'll never forget this lesson as we were going to so we picked up an import agency for running brands, you know, my another big passion of mine. And we played it for a year and we were already playing and I got upset with Nat one morning and you know, we've picked up quite a bit of online sales through lockdown, as many people did. And I was like, one Monday morning, like we either we have pulled the pin or we go hard. And I was like thinking, well, let's just go hard. So within three days, we turn the whole model around. Yeah, in the first month, we've gone from $400 a month to 15,000. And it to me, it was about our mindset, we are the fully engage, we play it, and that that grew 600% in the first two, three months. And now it's, you know, we're looking at expanding that. So we, that whole business is for my guys to experiment on to experiment on digital strategy on activation on customer service. So we put projects into our business that are real, yeah, that they can play with. So they affect the profit, they affect the budgets, they affect everything. So we do live learning.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 15:54
And also getting your team involved in some of those things that maybe a team wouldn't be involved in, as in profitability, what's that look like? And yeah,
Grant Gifford 16:00
so we will look at things like so we'll say, okay, like, at the moment, we've got a real big problem supply chain out of the UK, in South Africa, in Indonesia. And we've might have this opportunity in South Australia. Now, as much as I want to take it on it will 200 X the business, we can't get product. So the current model that we have won't work FX, we can't, we haven't got product. So what we do is we look at the models, and we look at how so then we've got this, this product line that we can really double down on which is high profit, we know our cost per acquisition, we know our customer service model. So we say, well, for three months, we might just have to go down that route. Come back on our expectations of growth, and accept that because there are things we sit we cannot physically get product because they're six, seven months behind in the supply chain. But yeah, this thing's growing. So we're, we're going through this together, and we're solving the problems together. It's not like me the head of strategy, it's, it's, you know, it's not going well, digitally. How does this work? And, you know, we changed some two days ago, and you know, sales have gone through the roof. So, when it comes back to that, I'll speak from experience the whole EO model, if, you know, we don't recommend things we haven't tried. Yeah. And it creates this level of integrity that, you know, we get it wrong, we don't let it towards a client, or we talk. Yeah, and we and it's my understanding now is you make a lot less profit short term by doing that, because you actually test the food yourself. But we're in the long game, we don't know so, so but I believe that's creates a rich environment for these guys, because they're building a business, they're not just an employee, they're actually involved in decision making around growth, then you apply that to a client business, they understand the commercials, they understand where we're trying to go, we're understand the pitfalls, and and that makes a very different dynamic that makes us a different kind of organisation.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 18:00
I read a book many years ago called Maverick by Ricardo Semler, and he was all about opening up his books on everything to everybody, organisation, and a lot of business owners will go, Oh, you know, you can't do that we should be keeping things for ourselves. I personally don't believe that at all. I think it's very important that, as you said, it's like, if you ask your I asked my husband, what's the cost of milk? Was he couldn't tell you? Because he doesn't not know. And so then you can't blame somebody and sort of say, Well, how can we lower the price if they haven't been told? or been involved in the process of buying the milk?
Grant Gifford 18:29
And we have that so my guys will The only thing I we don't share, because I just think it's courtesy is salaries. Everything else? I'll tell them if, if we're profitable, I'll tell them what cash flows like I tell them, like last year, I had to say no, no. Salary rise, I don't have the money, Amy and I aren't even paying ourselves off the time. And I just opened with them. And because what I realised is there not if you have the right people around you, they're not judging you for being a successful business person. Because success is relative. I own my own home. I've got lots of things that people don't have. So I'm already my success. I'm happy. Yeah. So being honest with them, there's going to be okay, there's two camps, there's gonna be those who get scared and go, Oh, god, there's no money in the account. Therefore, we can't survive like, Yeah, but I live with that. And I make that choice. That's half is kind of sometimes half the fun of it, because you have to make it work. And I'm lucky, you know, the guys and my business and my wife works in the business is we have an open conversation. They're not judging me. We're not judging each other. We're going well, we're in this together. It's difficult sometimes. And you know, it was last year when all this was going on. You know, we we ended up losing a chunk of money and a couple of guys found upsetting that basically Amy and I weren't paying ourselves and then this was happening and I was like, unfortunately that's that is the reality like you said earlier business is sometimes you go without as a business owner, isn't it? to go, but then I promised the guys I said, you will get those pay rises as soon as we can. Yeah, I did, I deliver within six months, because I've made that promise.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 20:08
And I can't speak on behalf of your guys either. But I do follow them on LinkedIn, and I see them commenting, and I can tell that you have a... But you can see they're really passionate about what they do. They love what they're doing. And you can see we're a very close knit team, if it's great. Now, you made a comment in your intro that you provide me with that, you know, you'd much rather have three really good people than have the ego of 20 people. Can you explain a bit more what you mean by that?
Grant Gifford 20:32
Yeah, it popped up. So obviously, we met a long time ago. And I fell into the trap of being because I was naive, I didn't, I didn't know business at all, nothing. I fell into the trap that I believed a big business, a successful business was more people. And you don't see it so much anymore. But sometimes we get over 100 staff or a 200, staff rep blah, blah, all the capital raising ra ra ra, doesn't really appeal to me, doesn't mean making any money. And so, over the years, we've had lots of stuff, we've had lots of wonderful people, and we've had some people that just didn't align, let's say, yeah. And for the longest time, I thought growth is about the amount of people who you had and the amount of work you did. Whereas actually, we've got less people, they are in the old, they're on the right seat. On the right bus. We like each other, we care about each other, we like to hang out, we like to do the work we do we do the work we want to do. And to me, then I'm going well hold on the world now is, especially after last year, do we need 100 people to create an X dollar business? whatever the outcome is? Or do we need to have a group of people that is fully engaged in solving things. So now we look at outsourcing or we look at technology, and then you know, the guys can say, Look, they know when we're going to need a human being. And you know, a lot of the early days, we struggled to pay the bills, because we're just paying paying salaries. And the model didn't work for me. When we don't need a lot of people, we need really good people. So if we do have 20 people, every single one of them has to be there for a very particular reason. It's not the ego of I've got 100 person business, people do it, and it's all business. And so so that I've realised that's really important for me. So now that I don't, if we're busy. Yeah, I look at why we're busy. I look at what that means I look at what's scalable, what's not. So I guess it's maturing, you know, still pretty childish, but I think we all do. But I think I was following the, you know, business for dummies model more people equals more profit, not necessarily more equals more costs. And if you then don't have the right people, there's real cost and culture. So
Debra Chantry-Taylor 22:57
and salaries are often the largest part of any business, which means time. Yeah, yeah. So if you go into a rough patch up mid last year, you know, that can be the end of you if you haven't got the right, the right people in the right house.
Grant Gifford 23:07
And I don't think yeah, I mean, this goes back to what I'm saying writing your own rules. We don't, you know, there's kids on YouTube making millions, whether it's good or bad thing, who cares? I've met businesses here, there's two or three people and then they've running $20 million businesses. It doesn't matter how you do it, my my key message is, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Like, that's the thing. And I don't think enough people I want one of my friends once who specialise in small business, and he he knows the data inside out. He's quite brilliant. I won't mention him, you probably notice. But he one day said about how do we stop failure rate of business in New Zealand? And I said, Well, I've got an idea. Let's stop people having businesses when it's very simple, because we glamorise owning a business, but our failure rate is so high. So why don't we help these aspirational people say, Well, you could be aspirational and brilliant within a business. But why we accept we're trying to solve a failure rate. Why don't we actually lift the businesses that we have with great people? But at the moment we're fixing we got Yeah, you can start a business in under an hour. You can it doesn't mean should?
Debra Chantry-Taylor 24:19
No, no, that you'll enjoy it.
Grant Gifford 24:21
know. Some people just aren't cut out for it.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 24:24
Because Yeah, there's a lot of one of them roller coaster up. Yeah. Yeah. can be really tough.
Grant Gifford 24:30
You're really tough. Like, yeah, so I think it's controversial, but I think it's better because you don't have damaged relationships. You don't have massive debt. You don't have the statistics. It's not a negative, I think. Because it's no test.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 24:48
But if you think about your business, when you've got people in there who are effectively running a business without running the business, because you're engaging with you're involving them in it, and I think that's how business should run. It's not about having employees, it's about having a team that is actually all The same, the same bus heading in the same direction, knowing why they're doing it and being involved and helping to run that business.
Grant Gifford 25:06
So that's this, this is this is the ego of the leader. Now, ultimately, in our business, I know, it comes down to me, everything that goes right and wrong is down to me. It's not that I can take the credit for it. But if my team is disengaged, it's something I've done. If, if the if I don't share the information, it's something I've done. And I think that's that people, people, it's easy to blame an employee. But ultimately, if you're a crap leader, and you've got no strategy, and you've got no culture and people like to be lead, it's just behaviour, you read anything on it, people like to be not told what to do, but they like to, some people like to be part of the system and grow with the system. Some people like like us lunatics like to try and work out what the system is doing. Yeah. I think people are afraid that the employers will make them look bad. Now, I'm really cool. Like, Nat's fantastic. She takes me on all the time. And at first, I find it really difficult because it you know, is bruised my ego. But over the time, we've found the way that works for us, and we've coached each other so she'll go, now that's not working. And I'm okay, well, why don't you go, this is great. So once again, drop the ego, because that's how that's how your team will accelerate, because I think I assume it shows a level of integrity and trust and respect and accountability. But also, then turn around will know, I'm going to make a decision this time, because that's just not right. And we do that too.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 26:37
Yeah, I'm conscious of time, I could see him talk to you for hours and hours about this stuff. But I would like if you will, before you go to share three kind of key things that you could share with the listeners that they could put into practice in their business right now that will actually help them in terms of getting a better business and better profit.
Grant Gifford 26:52
Number one is do less, this is really, really easy. Coming from an obsessive strategist is do less, and laser focus on the thing that's going to make the difference, which seems really obvious. And that's why people don't do it. So like ever, if ever, I'm riding my bike, and there's a stone in the road, if I look at the stone, I'll ride over the stone, if you ignore it, you go around it. So do less, get rid of the distractions and do the thing that's going to make them biggest, that's going to have the biggest impact. And it's mostly going to take you 10 minutes, or it's a phone call, or it's an email. I think it's really cliche, but have values that actually mean something, don't do some arbitrary tasks, that kind of integrity, honesty, trust, well,
Debra Chantry-Taylor 27:37
they're human, an acronym, you know who we've got our company name, we'll use that as a beginning letter for each value.
Grant Gifford 27:44
And then work out how to make them actually work, like operationalize them. So we do this because of that. We do this because of that. So we're currently doing a redistribution of wealth, things through charities. And so we've got a list, and the team will decide where the money goes. So they've got at least charities, the only rule is that the highest percentage possible has to go to the actual cause not administration. So we're growing together, we're making a difference. We're making it happen, we're actually making change. And you know, so it's operationalizing values. And I think three is the sweet spot. And also conversation lies them. So like you make it happen. What does it mean? ditch the baggage, yes. know what that means? together? We know what it means.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 28:31
And I think three is the magic number it says what it is because it's actually from a human brain point of view. It's about the most people remember, yeah. And I always use the analogy, you know, send your partner off to the supermarket and ask for one or two or three things that probably come back with them even more than three without a list that comes back with everything else. But those three things.
Grant Gifford 28:48
So number three? Well, this is a very recent discussion I had yesterday and I posted it yesterday, is we had a go through on the team and I said, All I want you to do this year is just be that bitch that much braver and looked at me and I said, I want you to be brave. I want you to test things I want you to push because I feel the first 9.8 months of my nine years, eight months of my business, I just wasn't brave enough. And and I think sometimes you got to be brave just to move that needle just to really leapfrog and like my business partner said 5% is not growth. Now that's that's businesses. So be really brave. You know, pick up the phone, go on a podcast, ask for the business what someone's gonna say. I mean, I asked I did something this week, I asked and I thought it was a 98% from a really influential source can bounce it. No problem. Yep. That's bravery to me. Because then
Debra Chantry-Taylor 29:48
people don't ask often.
Grant Gifford 29:50
Yeah, well, they don't do. They don't do like I said to you last year mean to a mate. I said to a mate of mine. He's just joined and started running. I said you want to do an ultra marathon. He goes yeah! He said What is that? And I explained and then it was only when we got further down we've got a couple of weeks out, we're actually doing the toughest ultra marathon in New Zealand in the mountains. What is wrong with us? And it was life changing. Like we did the work we got into it. We suffered the narrow ultra marathon runners.
Debra Chantry-Taylor 30:19
Grant Gifford 30:20
But in I think when last year, the great thing about last year was it forced people to move 20% Yeah, not one. So be brave is got to be the third
Debra Chantry-Taylor 30:33
fantastic look, that has been absolutely brilliant. Congratulations on a successful year last year, and his to brave and bigger things for this year. Yeah, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it. Thank you.