Scaling up the Delegation Game with Nigel Bennett, Co-Founder of Aqua-Guard Spill Response
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In this episode, Barbara Turley speaks to Nigel Bennett of Aqua-Guard Spill Response about how to delegate effectively, how to grow your team, and avoid Business Owner Burnout.
Some key points include:
- The importance of having a business coach
- How to manage business owner burnout
- Why you need to invest time and energy in training your people
- The importance of systems and processes in your business
Let us know what your key takeout has been from this episode and join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
In this episode:
05:52 Business Owner Burnout
11:38 How to Delegate more effectively
18:38 Organic Growth in your Business
19:58 Processes and Systems
21:12 The importance of Life Rhythm in your Business
27:35 Who should manage the people and the teams in your Business
28:38 Keeping in touch with your team during this pandemic
32:19 Nigel’s experience with Burnout Business Owners
37:19 Fight, Flight, or Freeze
40:34 Final thoughts
42:23 Wrapping things Up
Intro: Do you find yourself running out of time to accomplish your work, are you spending time doing things that you’re not that good at? There are effective ways to outsource these tasks so you can focus on your business. This is the Virtual Success Show, we bring the inside scoop on outsourcing success for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. And now, here are your hosts Matt Malouf and Barbara Turley.
Barbara Turley: Welcome everybody to another episode of the Virtual Success Show podcast where I’m your host as always Barbara Turley. I do co-host this show with my co-host, Matt Malouf, who’s not with us today. But my guest today, I’m joined by Nigel Bennett, who is the co-founder and owner of Aqua-Guard Spill Response. And also because I want to mention your book, also author of the book, “Take that leap, risking it all for what really matters” and he’s also the founder of TruBeach. He’s been a member of the entrepreneurs organization for 15 years, has won a whole pile of awards and not even gonna go into how many they are but I met Nigel on a mastermind call that I had the pleasure to be on a few weeks ago, when I heard his story about, how he has managed to not just delegate effectively, but has actually managed to remove himself pretty much completely from the day to day operations of his business. So Nigel, welcome to the show and thank you so much for joining me.
Nigel Bennett: Hi, Barbara. Thank you so much. It’s, it’s the pleasure. Pleasure to be on your show. I’m in. I’m in Whistler here in British Columbia, and you’re in Chamonix, I guess. And
Barbara Turley: Yeah, we’re both in the ski slopes but there’s no snow, we’re not allowed to ski
Nigel Bennett: No snow and we can’t go out, Yeah, I know.
Barbara Turley: During this crisis time and you know, like it’s been really great connecting with so many entrepreneurs at the moment during this crisis time that we’re currently in. But Nigel, to kick off just give us the quick you know, Aqua-Guard Spill Response and what I love about this company and about me finally interviewing you, is that it’s different from most of the types of businesses that we’ve had on the podcast or that I’ve been talking to in that it’s kind of, it’s way off the charts from what I would normally be doing in the digital world or whatever. So give us the quick synopsis of what it is.
Aqua-Guard Spill Response
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, we’re an emergency response company. If you go way back, right out of high school, I was working for my father’s environmental mapping company. And next day after high school I was I was on a plane down to Venezuela. And I live in Vancouver, and I’d never really been out of the country very much. So I was. I was doing overflights over Lake Maracaibo taking photographs of the coastline for environmental mapping. And within the first couple of days of my arrival there, I was being shot up by the FARC guerrillas that are on that Colombian Venezuelan border. So that was a real wake up call for an 18 year old kid. But I spent 10 years doing that type of work around the globe. I was in 10 different countries and I had a long stint in Egypt and there was a helicopter flight that I had over the Sinai Peninsula with an American ex Vietnam pilot. And I flew over and there was people in the back and he told me, you know, not to show them my camera, because if they saw my camera, we could be thrown in jail as spies, so I was terrified that was probably 22 by now.
And so we were flying over this area, and all I saw was pipeline after pipeline after pipeline that had been ruptured, and it was flowing into the Red Sea. So I was taking photographs of this stuff, and I landed back at the helicopter base, and he said to me, he said, “I know why I took you up here and I took you into some areas I’m not supposed to take you, make sure that these photographs get back to the right people and that they see them”. And he said, “I know what you’re doing”, But he looked at me. He said, “Do you really think you can make a difference?” And I was like I was a young kid and of course I’m gonna make a difference. So that really, really resonated me for the rest of my life. It’s a long story, I wrote this, my experiences in my book.
But I was there for about five years on and off in Egypt, looking at these oil spills that were just horrific. And unfortunately, my father was incarcerated because I was working for my father’s company he came to, he came to visit at the end of our project, and he was thrown in jail and I had to escape out of the country and it was a crazy story. But I ended up coming back to Vancouver and I broke off my father’s company, because I had so many clients around the world that I had met that needed help.
And I was going to a technical college at the time, British Columbia Institute of Technology and I was in a Mechanical Engineering program. And I got another guy from that company and he was working for my father as well and we broke off and formed Aqua-Guards Spill Response and what we do is we design and we manufacture, spill response equipment to contain and to recover marine oil spills. So everything from like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska In 1989, all the way to the BP horizon down in the Gulf of Mexico, and we’ve been involved in business about 104 countries around the world, we have about 3000 clients. Yeah, so that’s a bit of a, I don’t know if I went on a bit too long there but that’s a bit of a long and short of it.
Barbara Turley: Well the thing from that is, that is a huge operation to run. And that sort of brings us into kind of what we’re going to talk about today. So when you were saying that, I think I remember you saying when we were chatting that I’ve read some of your articles about this that you literally wanted to give up where you got to the point where you were just so burnt out from doing everything. And the ops and the whole thing that you just wanted to get out. Let’s start there, a lot of people that are being burned out now, right now. You want to get out, right?
Business Owner Burnout
Nigel Bennett: I know, I know. Absolutely. And I I totally feel for them. We’ve gone through this, I don’t know four or five major times in my Career life. There’s that whole period. You know, when you’re a start up, you get out and you start your own thing. Like when I did with my father, I broke off, I had no money, complete debt. My wife had more money than I had. And we bought a little house and we basically rented everything out. And so, I was building up this company called Aqua-Guard, and we had a little bit of business, we had everything leveraged. And then, we hit a couple of home runs, because after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, they had to redo all of the equipment in Alaska. And we just happened to nail a really nice contract at that time. And it went from being a startup to the phase of absolute chaos, and I call it a doorknob effect. So I would get to the office every morning and I’d put my hand out and I would touch the doorknob, and it would almost vibrate because I knew what was going on inside the office. I knew there was absolute chaos. I would take a deep breath, you know, and I would open the door and I’d step in into an absolute bees nest and it went on for 20 years like that.
In the shower every morning not knowing if I could make payroll or if I have to lay people off or if I could hire people, you know, it was just this up and down roller coaster, and a friend of mine, he was a football player in the Canadian Football League. It was a 320 pound lineman, big, big boy. He had just retired out of professional football and he saw what I was going through and he literally grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and he said, Nigel, I’ve joined this organization, it’s called the Young Entrepreneurs Organization. It was called the Young Entrepreneurs Organization at the time, it’s now called EO, the Entrepreneurs Organization. And he says, “You have to come to a meeting with me”, and I just thought there’s no way, I don’t have time. I’ve got three little kids, my business is out of control, I have not got time to go and even step put my big toe in anything like that and he literally grabbed me and he took me there.
So I went to my first meeting and I actually got recruited into what they call a forum group, a focus group of nine people. And my wife and I talked about this to this day. I mean, this was 20 years ago that I joined. And we talked about is that if we had not joined or been dragged into the Entrepreneurs Organization at that time, I don’t know where we would be, we’d probably be divorced, we’d probably lost everything. And so I really hold a lot of respect for that. And for Trevor for dragging me in. And as the years kind of went by, I was still having a tough time and I hired a coach and this coaches Kevin Lawrence, and he’s a Gazelles Scaling Coach.
I’ve been working with Kevin for 15 years. And Kevin really helped me look at the perspective of everything because we sat down, we had a one page plan and the only things that went on this plan were things that Nigel wanted. What does Nigel want with the business? What does Nigel want with his life? And these were my goals. He weren’t anybody else’s goals. These were my goals. And every time I would veer, because we veer, entrepreneurs, veer all over the place, he would come back to me and slap me back on track because this isn’t on your list. This isn’t what you wanted. And what I found is, after being smacked so many times, out, and then back, I kind of got it, I got into this rhythm, and I call it a life rhythm. I don’t call it a life balance. Because I think, with a life balance, you have to give up one to get the other. It’s a life rhythm. It’s like you live your rhythm, like a dance and a life and I once I got into this rhythm, things really, really started to happen quickly for me, and I can talk about how I eventually set up my business.
Barbara Turley: What I’d love to just sort of pause there for a second because I think what you’ve just said, you know, a lot of people aren’t going through that, anyway. And I think right now, you know, as we’re recording this, we’re in the middle of this COVID-19 situation globally where people are feeling like even worse than that doorknob thing that you talked about people are great to get up in the morning, not everyone. I mean, some businesses are flying and some businesses are well, but they’re definitely you know, I’m lucky in the camp right now that the business is going, The Virtual Hub that I run is going okay, but it definitely there was a month of just absolute chaos there.
So I have had moments, a lot of moments, like what you’ve spoken about, and I got lucky in that I stumbled upon this Scaling Up book by Verne Harnish a few years ago, that it was like, that’s it, I’m building this company this way. And what I want to know now, what I want to deal with now and also a few people who have listened to me on this podcast, before also know that I seem to have a- I’ve always had a bit of a bent towards systems, processes, teams, delegation, I’m actually quite good at it. And otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to have two children while growing a company, which I’ve kind of done successfully. And, but, so talk to me about those early days of like, maybe I mean, it was years, obviously, but if we could distill it down into kind of what do you think are the top 2, 3, 4 things that a business owner needs to do and get a handle on in order to start to free themselves up from the day to day or from the ops or delegate more effectively?
How to Delegate More Effectively
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, yeah. I mean for me, and we just talked about peer groups. For me, peer group was huge, which happens to be the Entrepreneurs Organization for me. And then there was an offshoot of the Entrepreneurs Organization, which was at MIT in Boston, which I went to and I and I went to my very first meeting, and I was terrified. I have this, like, is almost an imposter syndrome. I felt I didn’t belong there, everybody was smarter than me. I’m dyslexic, I’ve got, ADD and I have a business but these guys are geniuses. I was almost throwing up as I drove up the driveway to this place at MIT. And I go in and the first speaker is you just mentioned them. The very first speaker was Verne Harnish and Verne stood in front of the whole of 75 entrepreneurs.
And I had hired a coach because I had hired a coach just before this. And he looked out at everybody and he said, I’ve got a question for you. How many of you have coaches? How many of you in this class currently have coaches? And I thought, Oh, you know, everybody, they’re all geniuses in this room. I mean they’re all smart business guy. So I have my head down on my desk. And I put my hand up and I put my hand up like this, you know, like, and the all I heard him say was only three of you of 75. Three of you and I looked around and this is unbelievable. These geniuses, these business people, they don’t have coaches. And Verne said let me tell you guys, he said that, “You can’t do life alone”. He said, “The top business people on the planet”, and at that time he was talking about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell. He said, “Those three guys have multiple coaches. They can’t do what they do alone”. He says, “You need a coach”. And I sat back and I say, Wow, that’s really powerful stuff. And I’ve really lived through that for so many years.
And the one thing that my coach helped me to do, I was also at the point where I was hiking one day, Kevin, and I do a lot of hiking together. I walk and talk stuff, and I was having a really hard time with the business. And Kevin said to me, “Nigel, if somebody offered you something for your business right now, what would you sell it for? Like, what would you sell your business for today?” And I said, $1. I said, “I want my freedom back. I just want to get out”. And he said, “That’s not good”. He said, “That’s not good, let’s work with this and see what we can do”. Because at that time what I was doing, is I was parachuting in C Suite, CEOs and leaders, I would go out and I would poach them from competitors. And I would change the name every time I’d be a CEO one time and then General Manager the next time or Managing Director the next.
And I did that over 10 years and all that did was totally disrupt the culture of my business. And the one thing that I didn’t realize that I had been growing organically from inside my business, people that knew everything about the business. This one young guy, he was with us since he was 18. He started sweeping the floor when he was young, and he worked his way up into estimating and sales and then design and he was going to night school while he was working for us. And little did I know that he was doing most of the behind the scenes of running the business, not these other guys and now he’s now my partner. I bought my partner out of 30 years.
I had another gentleman that I mentioned earlier, bought him out in 2012 and what I did is I said, “I really want you to be my partner but here’s a one page deal, just one page. These are the things that Nigel will do. And these are the things Nigel will not do from now on. Nigel is not going to fly down to Mexico and be a collection agency for overpaid bills. Nigel’s not gonna do this thing anymore because that’s what I was doing. But Nigel’s gonna do this, Nigel is going to be involved”. For me, it was meeting with high level clients, trade shows, you know, things like that. Things that I really, really enjoyed. And we signed it and so we set deal the up so he did a earn out like he bought my other partner out actually over through dividends. We’re lucky we’re profitable. So it was a dividend, a dividend deal over seven years. And so he’s been running the company ever since, I’ve been able to step back. And I was there for about a year after we signed this deal.
And then I was actually able to leave with my family and I traveled the world for a year. And I traveled, we went to 17 different countries off the grid, one small bag each three t-shirts, one pair of shorts, a pair of flip flops for a year with my kids, and they were a little bit older. We homeschool my daughter in grade nine. My son had just graduated from high school and my other son was in university so he would come in and out. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I thought, with my ego.
My ego was I can’t leave the business. And Kevin Lawrence said to me, I will never forget this. We’d set everything up in the business. Everything was running great. We had Cameron Janz, he’s an amazing guy running the business. and Kevin said to me “Nigel, you have this list of all these things you wanted to do in your life, this is your list, this is your life. This is your life dream. There’s one thing left on this list that you haven’t accomplished”. And I said, “Okay, what is it?” He goes, “It is to take off with your family for a year”. And I said, “Oh, come on, there’s no way, I can’t do this because of this. I can’t. I can’t, can’t can’t can’t.” He said, “Stop, it’s your wife.” My wife’s name is Reiko, she’s Japanese and she was in the kitchen of the house and he says she’s there and I said, “She’s here” he said ask her, I said, okay, so he yells, “Hey Reiko, you know the thing on the list you wanna, can you go?”, thinking she was gonna say absolutely no way and she said, let’s go and we set it up in about three months.
We made no plans. We did not plan this trip. We left, we ended up going to London first and then we just let it evolve from there, wherever our kids wanted to go. And it was the most incredible thing and I would not been able to do that without my coach, I would not been able to do that with having this organically grown, great person inside my business or one page plan that we’ve set up to make the business run. That was in 2012, I set it up 20 you know, we took off for a year. And now, so many years later, 2020 and, yeah, and I spend maybe half a day a week with my business because I’m financially connected. I’m 60% owner and Cameron is 40% owner. So yeah, yeah.
Organic Growth in your Business
Barbara Turley: I want to like rewind completely and dig right into that because it’s like, so you got the coach and I’ll dig for you because I know what our listeners [inaudible]. So because lots of people have coaches, right, so you’ve got a coach and like, big shout out to Matt Malouf, who co hosts this show with me normally, he’s in Australia right now he’s up to his eyes with his own clients. He’s a fantastic coach that I started out with and he was there when I started The Virtual Hub and came up with this idea so big high five to Matt and but so you got the coach but and then the organic I 100% agree with you the organic growth, people inside your business, don’t ignore that because I’ve done that really successfully in the Philippines. Now, I have brought in a couple of people that needed more experience in certain functions like HR and head of that sort of thing but I have grown, my master trainers were original VAs with me that had no experience being VAs and I grew them up in there with me years. So I’m a big fan of that strategy and I think a lot of people don’t invest the time, energy, and training in doing that or the interest. But I want to dig in deeper into what the coach worked with you on. So let’s talk about operational, like the boring stuff, the processes, the systems, the meeting rhythms, how did you bring it all in? And did you have any of that before?
Processes and Systems
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, I mean, from the Entrepreneurs Organization too when I joined, our Bible at the time was a book called the E myth which is Michael Gerber’s E myth and that was the E myth revisited. And all that talks about is you know, the reason you start a business is you set it up and then you set up the systems in order the system, so then you can actually step out one day or patch it up and sell it or whatever. And so that was really kind of the Bible of why we need to, so yeah, in our business just having the people in the departments in the in the systems and it’s just, I’m not saying it happened organically but it you know, absolute key, absolute key,
Barbara Turley: Was it painful though? Was it when you realize it like sometimes when you read Michael Gerber’s book, you go totally getters. Oh, but oh my god, that’s such an uphill battle. Like I just have been staring at Mount Everest to try and we see clients coming to us at The Virtual Hub like this, where they feel they know why they need to do it, they know what they need to do but you’re staring at Mount Everest when you’re when you’ve got nothing really built and everything’s kind of in your own head, or in the heads of the people who work. Can you give any advice?
The importance of Life Rhythm in your Business
Nigel Bennett: Again, like I mentioned earlier, Life rhythm, like it’s a life rhythm in your business as well, you create this rhythm and at the beginning, it’s really painful. Like I mentioned, I kept getting smacked out to the side, you have to get smacked so many times to get onto a flow and your brain and your organization actually does get rewired to get into this rhythm. And once you start doing it, it actually does and it’s a commitment. So I mean, our commitments, you know, there’s a friend of mine, Brian Scudamore, that has a company called 1-800-GOT-JUNK and he was in my class at MIT as well, but his morning huddles, you know, his morning huddle are just key and that’s we do, you know, when all our guys or people were together, we could do but now they’re all over the place. So now we do them virtually, we do the virtual huddles and you know, you’re gone and you’re just checking in and checking the pulse of what’s going on. They’re not meetings, they’re huddles, they’re quick. They’re like seven minutes at the most, and you’re off, you know, and then-
Barbara Turley: We do them as well. It’s a game changer for us at The Virtual Hub.
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, yeah. And then your search and then we have a one page plan with my business partner, we have a one page plan with the company, which actually came out of the Rockefeller habits book, which is a Verne Harnish book as well. Yeah. And our quarterly meetings and our quarterly updates. And, yeah, it’s getting into the flow.
Barbara Turley: So one of the things that I hear, not a lot these days but I used to hear a lot in the beginning, when I started The Virtual Hub from clients that would come in. The number one thing and normally it was smaller businesses solopreneurs, this kind of thing. And they would say to me on these sales calls that I used to do, I would invariably hear the, “Well I just don’t want to micromanage someone and if it takes too long, I may as well do it myself”. And I used to say, “Well, that’s all fine, right?”. But you’re getting a virtual assistant, that’s what we do here. right? So, if you have that mindset, in a year’s time, I can guarantee you one thing, you’ll still be doing it yourself if you’re not willing to invest the time.
Nigel Bennett: Absolutely. What I found is when I originally broke off of my father’s company, I took my sister with me and there was this other guy, Lawrence. He was our, I call him the mad scientist. He was the guy, incredible brain, engineering brain. But what my sister and I were big into adventure. We’re into backcountry skiing, mountain climbing and mountaineering. And what we would do in those times is we would toggle off the company, because I knew she was off to climb Mount Logan and I was off to go to Nepal or whatever we were doing. And so I would leave, I would leave and she would run, you know, look after the business and we would kind of trade off like that for many years. We did that. I would come back just totally, rejuvenated, but my sister only stayed with me for four years. And then she left, we ended up buying her out.
But I kept that rhythm going. I kept that rhythm going. And I know again at my class in Boston, another thing that Verne said, it’s always Verne stuff. Verne said, “You know, if you’ve been an owner of a business or startup or whatnot for I can’t remember four or five years, you need to take like, one two or three months away”. And I thought, that’s not possible. Like I do my little John’s. And he said, “Because you just need to get away you need to get clear. All your best thinking happens in that space”. And I really find that now with all of us in this lockdown, the quiet. The quiet is where really cool stuff happens. And it’s been happening for me, it’s been happening for our people, all these great new ideas are coming out. And so I would keep doing that, I got into this life rhythm. I had a hard time at first with my ego, because if I go away, oh, I don’t know, nobody can do my business as well as I can, you know, I need to be involved. But then I would leave for a week, and then I go for two weeks, and I go for a month, and I come back and everything’s fine. Well, I went for a year, I went for a year, and I would check in.
So the beginning, the difficult part is the first part because your ego is still connected to you. I can’t go for a year this is ridiculous. But I would check in I would Skype in at that time. And everything was fine. And then the longer I was away, the less I checked in. So it firstly would be I check it every two weeks, and it was every month and it was like every six weeks. And then by the time I came back, you know I thought “Oh, Has our company burned down, what’s happened?” I walk in, and the most the weirdest thing for me was I’ve been away for a year, I’ve had so many life experiences myself and my family, just mind boggling. We’re high in the Himalayas, to offshore Brazil, to surfing on every coastline you can admit, it was absolutely amazing. I walked into my office and we did a huddle, everybody huddles around and like hey, Nigel, how is it? What was your favorite place? You know, blah, five minutes. And then everybody scampered off and everybody was doing their thing they hadn’t missed me at all. It was unbelievable for me. I was sad because they had missed me but I’m like, this is actually Nigel what you wanted to set up. This was your dream and it actually worked.
Barbara Turley: Can I ask you Nigel then for the team then, so obviously you know, I love the E Myth Michael Gerber I mean, if anyone’s listening to this, the only two books I think I read personally are the E Myth Revisited with Michael Gerber and Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, just read both those books.
Nigel Bennett: Good to Great is good too by Jim Collins.
Barbara Turley: Good to Great is good too. Yeah. But so the roles then, so obviously you grew organically, your person that is became the partner in the business and took over the running so they were The ones that the CEO they became kind of acting,.
Nigel Bennett: Yes, CEO. he’s the CEO. I’m not the CEO anymore.
Barbara Turley: So you’re not the CEO anymore?
Nigel Bennett: No, I’m called co-founder.
Barbara Turley: Yeah. What are the other roles that, you know, when we’re thinking about getting to this level? I mean, growing a CEO from inside, I think is a great idea, although potentially difficult, like takes a long time.
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, it took a long time. It took a long time.
Barbara Turley: What about things like the COO role, the ops like somebody running the implementation because the CEO is a great role, but then there’s the implementation. And who’s gonna run the people and the teams and the integrator?
Who should manage the people and the teams in your Business
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, all the people that we have that are doing that, were all brought in by Cam, which is the CEO. They were all brought in over time. I mean, it’s been quite a long time now. Brought in and they just work like a well oiled machine. I only go in and I screw things up if I stick my nose in there. And they’re younger. I mean, I’m 58 now, and he’s 40 and so we have this you know, he’s full of vim and vigor. He’s got a young family, and he’s extremely driven. And I was just very fortunate to have him with us since he was a young man. And the rest of our team too, they’ve been with us. I mean, we have very little turnover. We just have just a great team and he is just a fantastic leader. And I don’t know if I lucked out or I just failed so many times, trying to parachute in people. And organically we were growing these people and it just kind of happened. It was just-
Barbara Turley: Then becomes a family. That’s actually like a family.
Keeping in touch with your team during this pandemic
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, it’s like a family. It is like a family. And we have regional managers that operate remotely. We have a gentleman, Francisco Jimenez, he’s a Venezuelan, that got out of Venezuela, mid 20 years ago, and was in Miami and I hired him out of Miami. And he was managing Latin America for me and he was in Miami, then he moved to Vancouver but it was tough for him to manage Latin America, Vancouver. So we have a place in Panama now, which he manages all of Latin America, but he lives in Vancouver. He spends three months in Panama remotely, and we zoom in and zoom out through our zoom calls, and we keep in touch and he reports; it just works great. I mean, it’s been working really, really well.
Barbara Turley: So there’s been no break. So because you kind of ran, I mean, you’re running it virtually at the moment because you’re in Whistler, you’re sort of doing it remotely but has there been any break or any issues with moving because what I was thinking here is I’m always talking about virtual teams, remote, how you do stuff with virtual assistants or offshore teams or anything like that. But what I’m sort of hearing is that if your company’s actually set up in the right way, it doesn’t really matter, if you got the right setup, you can go virtual or go remote or come back to the office and the same thing happens. That’s what you’re finding.
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, in my contribution to my company is more on the not this kind of a higher level sales keeping connected with our higher level customers, it was trade shows which have all been canceled now. So now I’m keeping in touch with everybody virtually. So that’s kind of I mean, it’s not that difficult to do virtually at all you know, to keep in contact, but I’m in contact more now virtually than I was before, because it’s become the new norm, it is the new norm just to zoom somebody, pick up the phone or zoom it?
Barbara Turley: Yeah, I mean, I have a situation I was just thinking about it today where you know, I mean, I’ve always run my company remotely because it’s in the Philippines and I don’t live in the Philippines, so it’s always been that way. Now they are all in an office but at the moment they’re all remote but always had a Facebook group for our employees, right. So we’re all in a Facebook group and with Facebook Lives these days, it’s like I can just pop in at any time.
Nigel Bennett: I know. Yeah, we use WhatsApp whether we have different groups in our company. We have different WhatsApp groups in our company. And then my CEO and I have our own little WhatsApp just back and forth and there’s we have different groups with our WhatsApp which works really and I’m also involved in a group called 3ceos.com and what we’re doing is we’re doing speaking, we’re helping entrepreneurs around the globe with issues during the COVID-19 outbreak here, so I’ve got one of them is Todd Palmer. He’s in Detroit. Andy biting is in New Brunswick. And we run that out of New Brunswick, virtually everything is virtually, his assistant, they’re all there and everything that we do, I’m on it. I’m on a zoom call with him every day. And we never meet in person and we were doing talks for all the entrepreneurs. So we did, Winnipeg last week, we’re doing Toronto on Friday, we’re doing Malaysia next week. And we’re doing these webinars and everything is virtual.
Barbara Turley: So I’m keen to know then, in this COVID situation, this is kind of circling back to where we started this conversation around when you were in that moment of total burnout, you were almost willing to pay someone to take the company off to you, or just sell it for $1. And, you know, you’re obviously coming across people who might be feeling that way now and what are you hearing from those webinars you’re doing from the people in those chapters of the EO
Nigel’s experience with Burnout Business Owners
Nigel Bennett: Yeah, I’m hearing all different types of things. I had a really nice comment from somebody in Winnipeg, and she was having a really hard time. And when I mentioned the point about selling my business for $1, she said she broke down in tears because she was in that same place. And I’ve been in that that place so many times. And what I’ve really noticed for me anyway, is the optics. So back in 2008, was tough. It was a tough time for a lot of people and I had a fraud case inside my business at the same time, or CFO. We had a big fraud, he’s actually ended up doing a few years in prison because of it.
So our company was going bankrupt. But at that time, the stock market crashed, I mean, I’m an environmental company but really everything’s dictated by the oil industry because we clean up the mess of the oil industry makes. So the old prices were really low and we were going bankrupt. But we were doing everything for everybody. And I sat back and I thought, okay, you got to look at this a different way. We got to turn this on its head What? What can we do? What can we do different and I thought, okay. Oil, the sweet oil on the surface of Texas is gone, nearshore stuff is tough to get; this is before fracking. Where’s the big market? Where’s the big market coming from? And I thought it’s offshore, its offshore.
So we focus, we actually basically took all our eggs in one basket, put them into another and focused on niche, high margin, and it was offshore for us. And so we were going bankrupt and Cameron Janz at the time, this the guy that was coming up through our company. I was pretty much out in my head I was so messed up in my business partner was too. He said, “Let’s make a deal with the bank see if we can keep our business alive till Christmas”. This was in July and we said, do whatever we can. So we focused on the offshore, we were able to pick up some incredible contracts on some equipment we had never built before. We’d never built it before. And it kept us alive and then our whole business shifted. So we just couldn’t see, we just couldn’t see I guess the forest through the trees type thing.
We were so focused on the business, the way our business that always run, our business that always run like this. We did everything for everybody, which higher volume lower margins. we flipped everything we turned everything on its head and you know, we need to get high margin, it’s a lower volume, but much higher volumes, but much higher numbers. And we went into a completely different spot. And the only reason that that happened to us is because of the of the crisis because of 2008, because of the fraud case, if those two things didn’t happen, their blessings in disguise, if they didn’t happen, we would have been on the same path as we were and probably just died a slow death. And this has happened so many times to me.
So the only thing I can say to people out there that are having a really hard time is what are we seeing? Or what are the optics? What are we looking at? Are we just trying to do something, the way we’ve always done it? The world’s changed, the world has completely changed. And maybe what we were doing before isn’t gonna be something for the new world, but there’s a lot of opportunity out there. I mean, there’s so many things. I mean, you look at these businesses that are thriving, home, delivery, organic food home delivery. All these things that you would never have thought of before, you know Zoom. All these technologies that are being born out of this and the only way that these things come up, the only way that I have evolved personally, the only time that I’ve evolved, is if I’ve been pushed so far to the edge, almost falling off, but then had a big aha moment, when you’re almost about to fall. It’s a terrible thing to say but that’s where I operate the best. And that’s when my best ideas come is when I’m, you know-
Barbara Turley: I’m like that. I need a perpetual state of like, I like to be. I said to my husband one day, I was like, “Why is it that I need to be on the edge of the precipice before I like, first open a great idea or I come out strong, I need a deadline”.
Nigel Bennett: I know, it’s like climbing like, I do a lot of climbing. I did a lot of climbing and it would always be on those crazy adventures where would be you know, in life, it’s life and death. You got a rope clipped and you got a carabin or you got got some ice coming down on you. I was doing some ice climbing on a mountain once and the whole glacier moved, everything shook, the ice was falling down and we thought we were all dead. And you come out of those moments, you know, you have these epiphanies and they’re great stories afterwards too. But you know if you live.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
Barbara Turley: I think you’re right though, I think one of the challenges people and anyone listening to this. I think what happens to people, if you’re either fight, flight, or freeze you know, and I’m a fight. Like if someone like I’m sort of quite even keel until someone goes and attacks me and then I’m like I’ll fight to the death to win.
Nigel Bennett: I have ADD and actually my coach and I, Kevin Lawrence have formed a group called giftadd.com to prove that people with ADD aren’t freaks, we’re actually gifted. And the incredible thing, if you look at the statistics over time, so many entrepreneurs have ADD or dyslexic, but I find with me being ADD when I get that push, the adrenaline push, In my day to day life I’m all over the place but when I get that push, I can focus and I focus like an arrow and it’s a very common trait with people with ADD and maybe that’s why people with ADD, there are a lot of entrepreneurs have ADD? I don’t know.
Barbara Turley: Yeah, it’s funny because like I don’t because I’m quite I don’t know, I’m quite systems minded and all that sort of thing. But the people who go into freeze, though, I mean, there’s one or two flight completely, but the ones that go into freeze, if you’re sort of listening to this and you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s me, I just go rabbit in the headlights”. I think, you know, what I’ve been saying to to our clients and to people is, never waste a good crisis. I mean, it’s a terrible thing to say, it’s terrible, but it’s true.
Nigel Bennett: All the best things that have ever happened inside my company. It’s crazy, have been formed during a crisis.
Barbara Turley: Yes. And I think you know, when we were talking on this mastermind, I don’t know whether you were on the first one that I was on with the group of people that we do that with and I was saying that I could feel the adrenaline in my fingertips of this coming, and I thought it’s a terrible crisis. But I remember the last one was horrific for me, the 08 thing. But I actually came out of it and ended up, long story, but I did sweat equity in a company that ended up going to you know, it’s worth $60-$70 million now, not my share but the company and it was born out of that time and me taking risk on and getting that adrenaline in my fingertips feeling and this is the time to not- now having said that, I also think it’s a time to maybe sit back and listen to your intuition a bit too, and you don’t have to rush into anything but it is the time to rise when you’re tired. Like you might be tired but you have to rise into it.
Nigel Bennett: Exactly. I have a good friend of mine, that’s a shaman, he’s a proven shaman. I’ve done a lot of stuff done in Peru and I was having a hard time several years ago with my father and he said to me, he said, “Nigel, like, you have to realize that all the difficult things that you’ve experienced in your life through your father, he’s actually been a coach to you”. And I said, “How is this possible?” How could this be a coach because you would not be the person that you are now unless those things happened. Some of them may be terrible. And, he nailed it, he nailed it. And it’s so true, I wouldn’t be the person I would not be sitting here in front of you now. Unless all this happened to me during my life, all these really difficult times and all the good stuff. So-
Barbara Turley: Well, listen, thank you so much for joining us on the show because when I heard the story. I really said to myself, you know, it’s that you’ve been on both, your now on the other side, and you’ve been on the first one I know most entrepreneurs have, but you were there for 20 years. I mean in that kind of horrible uphill battle feeling. And I know, there’s lots of business owners that are like that, and it’s just those those key things. I think, just review the things that you’ve said.
Nigel Bennett: There’s just one thing that I want to say that I really learned over the whole period, is that as an entrepreneur, we’re always in crisis. But I would say never sacrifice your family for business crisis. Because our family are the most important thing. And that’s what I found.
Barbara Turley: Yes, and that’s why I always say to people, it’s so worth like spending the time to you know, getting delegation right, getting it to [inaudible] actually even just delegating to a simple virtual assistant like what we do with The Virtual Hub. There’s so many businesses that come to us and that’s where they start their journey. And the ones that spend the time, the energy and they put the time into actually getting it right, it pays the largest dividends in the end. And that’s the best work you can do, is to learn how to delegate effectively. And then you start your journey towards building your systems, your teams and eventually getting to the stage where you can switch.
Nigel Bennett: And it started with me again with you know, joining the peer group, which was amazing and a focus group inside a peer group, which was the entrepreneurs organization, and then also the coach but a good coach and he’s a good coach as someone who is gonna hold you accountable to your life goals. And yeah, that’s what started it off.
Wrapping things up
Barbara Turley: Well, listen, thank you again for joining us and anyone who is listening to this show, please, you know, share it with your friends and colleagues. It will be up in iTunes soon. We’re on Facebook Live at the moment at night. And thank you so much for joining us today, everyone. Until next time, I will see you next time.
Nigel Bennett: Thanks, Barbara.
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Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.
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