Comfort zone? What’s that?

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you” zig ziglar. #quote #success #outofmycomfortzone …

When writing my goals this year, I decided in 2016 I wanted to add a bit more playing into my life, I wasn’t sure what form it would take, just needed things aside from work as part of the equation. And so I find myself on the morning before my first performance in around 15 years, I am singing, acting and generally playing the fool as the narrator in a reimagining of Hansel & Gretel for the next three weekends.

This week was hugely challenging for me, I felt out of my depth, not able to keep up, and like I was not a ‘real’ actor. But I was not prepared to do anything half assed so I jumped in and did the work, the only thing I could do, and now, on the morning of our opening day I am PUMPED!!!

There were two reasons I was out of my comfort zone… The first one obviously was I have never acted. I thought I had a couple of lines and a few songs to learn, but it was a lot more, and it was hard, rhyming dialogue that connects the entire show. The other ‘real’ actors were relying on me.

Secondly, it was because I wasn’t in control. Our director, my friend Cath, is a creative genius and this is her thing so I had to take direction, not something I am normally good at.

I feel grateful for the experience as it has pushed me out of my comfort zone massively, particularly the second part and given me a new appreciation for the power of collaboration.

There is no escaping the work though… Your goals are always on the other side of hard work.

If you want to come and see the fruits of my labour, blast furnace theatre on Facebook has all the details.



All things take time

Many things in life take time. Good wine, good whisky, and in my case, good ideas.

For some time now, my fingers in many pies approach has bewildered many. Am I the tech guy? Am I the online marketing guy? Am I the newspaper guy? Or am I the food guy (thanks to my very public journey with BBQ Master reaching its culmination just before Christmas,).

This weekend I will have my first outing as the actor guy. Playing guitar and entertaining audiences at a local production of Hansel & Gretel. Another strange deviation…

The answer is obvious to me, I am all these things, but mostly I am a creator. I am lucky to be able to create things, it is a talent it took me a long time to realise not everyone knows how to use. Every one has it, but not everyone can use it. When you are the custodian of a creative vision, you can’t understand why people don’t see the same things as you.

You can look at a tumbledown house and see the amazing home it could become with some creative renovation. You can see a seemingly insurmountable business problem and find a creative way to resolve the issue. Creative thinking is a key skill in business and in life, and it turns out, I have been under using my creative talents immensely.

I am not a huge believer in some unseen universal force that has ultimate control over what we may or may not achieve, nor do I believe in putting things out into the universe. I believe in building self. Building self belief, building that part of your mind that can see something so clearly that you know how you can make it your reality.

Everyone has this ability in some capacity, but like any muscle it needs to be worked. You need to exercise it daily and then you build the muscle so it becomes stronger and can become a powerful weapon in this battle called life.

But how do you flex your creative muscles when you haven’t used them for so long? Just create something, draw a picture, write a poem or a song, write a story, take a photo of something beautiful. Start with the small easy things, and get your creative vision back in tune.

Modern society has developed this ability out of most people. We get told where to go, what to eat, how to dress all through our mainstream media experiences. Marketing is a dictatorship run by companies interested in profits, not improving your life.

Creative thinking allows you to have your own lens – an ability to see the world as you think it should be. For those of us that are brave enough to take the leap of faith into an entrepreneurial lifestyle, it also allows you to design your life and achieve the outcomes you desire.

One of my favourite techniques that I use on a daily basis is to do a ‘Self Interview’. The way this works is quite simple. Whenever I am alone, because doing it front of others might lead to them having you committed, I interview myself. I imagine that I have been asked on to a TV talkshow, in the year 2020 to talk about my amazing success and the fact we are an overnight success story.  I ask my self a question in my mind, then answer it out loud. For example – “So Rich – tell us about the REDD Group” I would ask in my mind, then I would talk about how I visualise our company will be in 2020, when we have just sold off one of our businesses to Facebook for 1.5billion and we are about to setup a foundation that will continue to educate young entrepreneurs and startups, but now all profits will be directed back to the foundation to run workshops and camps for school kids. This answer is given out loud. It comes out of my mouth, and back into my ears.

This results in a number of things – first of all, it helps iron out any issues I am not clear on. Why would Facebook pay 1.5billion for an as yet unnamed/undeveloped platform, what would that business have to look like in terms of scale, revenue, market share? Secondly, it allows me to work backwards from a clearly defined outcome I want to achieve and design a pathway to it. It is just creative thinking.

Most importantly, the more I do this, the more confident I am that I can achieve it. and thats when the magic happens…

Here is my theory: life is a cycle. It starts with environment, which shapes our beliefs, which then creates our habits, which gives us our outcomes which in turn, creates the environment we live in.

That’s IT! There is nothing more. Therefore you must intervene in one aspect of that cycle to make change. The easiest one to intervene in is the environment. Change the people you hang out with, get a new job, move to a new city, whatever it may be, changing environment is the easiest.

But that will not immediately change your beliefs… thats where the element I mentioned earlier comes in – time.

I changed my environment 4 years ago with a tree change, but it has taken four years (time) for it to actually create new beliefs, new habits, and now new outcomes.

The universe didn’t do this. I did this. With the help of the people in my environment.

Will we sell my secret project to Facebook for 1.5 billion? I don’t know for sure, but if I star making decisions about my life and time that reflect that is what I am aiming for… there is surely no downside.


The Pre-Launch Jitters

Here is a pic of me explaining the Feedbak system to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne and Fiona Scott at our office inside Launchpad
Here is a pic of me explaining the Feedbak system to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne and Fiona Scott at our office inside Launchpad

We are launching our latest product next week. Feedbak is Point of sale customer feedback system that allows users to leave their feedback about your business in less than 15 seconds on their way out the door.

There is a huge need for this type of business intelligence to be captured on this modern era of doing business, however most businesses don’t have a system for doing so.

Our platform allows business owners to customise the questions to their business and get information that makes sense to them.

It’s very easy to use for someone leaving feedback, and ensures that the business owner can see the feedback and run reports to see trends and understand what is happening in the business.

We began development just over 4 months ago, and now… we are ready to go to market.

We have written a business plan (a one pager as per my desire to keep things simple), we have run our forecasting models, ensured our costings are all good and now we are on a mission to find our first 100 customers.

This is when the jitters strike me. Every. Single. Time.

I always have this feeling, like when I was growing up and I thought no one would come to my party. I start shuffling nervously, redoing my spreadsheets because my numbers are ‘just unrealistic’ and start the process of not believing in myself.

This usually lasts 2-3 days where I just try to convince myself it will be ok if we don’t hit the targets, let’s just see what happens, then all of a sudden, you get the first enquiry, or meeting and BOOM! You are superman, the estimates are probably too LOW if anything and I start thinking what I am possibly going to do with all that money?

Then over the first few months, you find the line and get into the groove. The reality is usually somewhere between the two, and as long as the product is good, it will continue to grow.

The difference for me this time is the scalability of this product. The fact we could go from 0 customers to 1000 in 3 months does not matter at all. In previous launches that has mattered, as my previous launches have centred around service. Me giving my time and expertise to people, so scaling is hard, there is after all, only one me.

So the jitters are now being replaced with nervous anticipation, not self doubt, and as we throw up the curtain on this new product, I look forward to sharing the journey with you.


the true meaning of WWW

This post has been inspired by my friend Leela Cosgrove – as part of her new project The 8%


The World Wide Web. A concept that has changed the way we communicate, learn, entertain ourselves, buy stuff. It has been the source of my income and my frustration for over 15 years.

However, I think we are at a point I predicted in a talk I did back in 2002. Technology has reached a point where it has infiltrated our daily lives to a point where we have a expectation that it will be there and it will just work. It is now an invisible layer that has influence over our daily lives.

There is still however a massive gap between my online world and my experience in the ‘real’ world. The race is on now amongst the giant tech companies to find the missing link. Chinese based Baidu recently announced big plans to drive it’s online to offline model and they are not alone.

For me however it is a little more organic. This is a project that has been at the back of my mind for over 5 years, we have dabbled now and then, and always reached a point where we thought the technology was not at a point where it would be supported.

The original concept as drawn on the office window goes something like this:

[blockquote source=”Name of the source”]WWW stands for: Who you are – Where you are – What you like[/blockquote]

Once you know Who someone is, Where they are and What they like, you can tailor their online and real world experiences to add greater value.

Let me give you an example: You walk into a shopping centre, your phone in your pocket, and your app sends you a push notification that the shop you like to buy black shirts from is having a sale on black shirts. You decide you will go and get some, and as you approach the store, they get notified it’s you, and greet you with “Hi Rich, after some more black shirts today?”

How does that make a consumer feel? Remembered? Valued? Loved? of course it does. This may seem an unlikely scenario, however here is why the data is already there to achieve this, but no one has found the connecting fibres to make it seamless as a relationship.

I have a Country Road loyalty card, every time I purchase my purchase data is recorded and stored in their system.

Guess what – I have only ever bought black shirts from them aside from 2 gifts I purchased for Kel. However they do not send me notice when black shirts are on sale, they send me emails once a month about their preppy pastel bullshit that are of no interest to me. My instore experience does not benefit from their knowledge of my spending history at all, only minutely when the sale is being made.

A massive percentage of the population now carry a supercomputer in their pocket every day, this means the time is now for these engaging technologies to come to the forefront in the real world. Technology in retail is constantly advancing, but as yet has not embraced the automation of the customer experience.

The technology I am talking about is what I refer to as the Contextual Web and we call our idea CUBES. It works on three axis and gives the sense there is a multi dimensional (not in a foo foo sense) world that is currently seen as flat by social platforms.

We need to allow users to discover, connect and engage, with a strong focus on the outcomes desired by commercial organisations. These are the people that are going to drive technology, as businesses need to improve the way the interact, or they will perish in the face of online competition. The main competitive advantage the offline world has over the online world is – WE ARE PEOPLE – and generally, we like to interact with other people.

CUBES is not a replacement for facebook or twitter, it is an add-on. It is a way to make sense of the noise and find what matters most to you.

Businesses on facebook have to be sought out, and when you do find them, not many build relationships very well when you do connect. CUBES will have a very clear path to success for businesses in how to build connections, engage with those users and build long lasting relationships. Based on the data they can access and have collected.

There are a number of technology hurdles for us to jump over to develop this platform. It is however achievable.

This is my great work. This is what I will achieve.

5 things I learnt while working from home

I remember when I started my first full time business back in 2000. I say first full time business as I had been running little side projects most of my teenage years and in to my early 20s while still working full time. At one point I had a full time job, two part time jobs and a tidy little graphic design side business.

I had just lost my job in the great 2000 dotcom bust and I had $824 as severance pay from the company where I had been working. I decided it was time to ‘go out on my own’ and work for myself.

I lived in a 3 bedroom townhouse in Penrith, and with no kids, I was able to turn one of those rooms into an office.

Day 1, I went and bought a desk and a new computer and got set up. Day 2, I started knocking on doors and trying to find work. After a morning of prospecting, I had found my first lead, and the customer was coming over that afternoon to talk about his website.

It was just before the Olympics, and the guy I was speaking to wanted to create a logo and a website for a new business called – it was all about equestrian and horse eventing.

I took the job and promised him I would have it done by Friday, that was on a Wednesday afternoon. I literally worked from Wednesday evening until Friday morning to get the job done – no sleep at all until l was finished. That might sound crazy, but I just thought that doing a good job would maybe lead to more work, I had no idea who this new found customer was at the time.

As it turned out he was involved in the sports and celebrity management industry, and was an entrepreneur with a great deal of connections. That one mammoth effort lead to over $500,000 over the more than 10 years I did work for his organisations.

Working for myself has been one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made in my career – and it all started with a little office at home.


Here are the top 5 things I learnt about working from home in the first 6 months of my business.

1) You never know who you are working for – referrals were the source of my success in business. Do the best possible job for everyone as you never know what it will lead to.

2) Be prepared to work harder than a job. Working from home is not 9-5, you may need to do crazy things like work all night, but being the boss, you can make a decision to take the middle of the day off to get a massage.

3) Go to work. A lot of people sit around in their PJs all day – because they can. I had a routine of getting up and showered and having breakfast, then went to work. I stuck to a routine, and I never lost days sitting on the couch watching Oprah.

4) Make a dedicated space. It is hard to work from home if you are sitting in the corner of your dining room, particularly if you have kids. Try and make a dedicated space that works for you.

5) Find a support network. Joining a networking group was the best thing I did to combat the isolation you can sometimes feel working on your own. Being able to get out once a week and meet and network with people was a great way to win business and to just have a change of scenery.


The old mouse – a parable


There once was an old mouse. The old mouse lived in a cheese factory.

Every day after the cheese factory workers had finished and gone home he would wander around the factory picking up cheese crumbs they had missed in their clean up. He got enough cheese every day to have developed a nice plump belly and he was very happy with his lot in life.

Th only problem he had was on weekends. Because there was no work, there were no crumbs, and by Monday morning he was always a very hungry old mouse.

Try as he might he couldn’t think of a way to solve the problem, so he just accepted it – that was the way he had always done it.

One day a new mouse came to the factory. He waved at the old mouse, and tried to be friendly. The old mouse waved back, but in his mind he was thinking ‘I won’t be sharing my cheese.’

The new mouse told the old mouse he just wanted to help around the factory, he had some ideas to make a machine to make cheese that would let the factory make more cheese than ever before. The new mouse was going to go and talk to the foreman (because mice can speak to foremen in stories like this). He invited the old mouse to come along, and if the foreman liked his idea, the new mouse was sure there would be enough cheese that the old mouse could stop hunting crumbs.

The old mouse wasn’t interested. That’s the way he had always done it…

The new mouse spoke to the foreman, and the foreman liked his idea. They began to work on the new modern machine that would be easier for the workers to use and produce more cheese than ever before.

The new mouse was excited, and again went to the old mouse and said ‘if we work together there is more for all’. But the old mouse would not get involved.

For a while nothing seemed to change. At the end of every day there was still crumbs on the floor. The old mouse collected his crumbs and had his fill. He saw the new mouse building his machine but not taking any cheese. Crazy new mouse he thought to himself.

One day the new mouse came running over to the old mouse and excitedly said ‘we have been working hard over here and we are nearly ready to turn on our machine. Everyone is excited and we would love for you to be involved, come over and join us and you too can get your fill of cheese every day’

The old mouse said he might come by and check it out. The new mouse was happy, maybe the old mouse could see there was a new way to do things that was good for all – working together.

The old mouse watched the machine all day churning out more cheese than he had ever seen, there would be so many crumbs around tonight he thought and he started getting hungry at the thought.

The day finished, the workers the foreman and the new mouse were happy. They had made the cheese and the new mouse saw the rewards for his efforts when the foreman gave him a hunk of cheese to go home and feed his family. The old mouse saw this and was jealous. But he kept his focus on the crumbs and was eager for everyone to leave so he could scurry around and have his fill.

The workers left and the lights went out and the old mouse went scurrying around looking for crumbs- but there were none to be found.

‘This can’t be right’ fumed the old mouse. He searched high and low but there was not a single crumb anywhere! The new machine was making more cheese than ever before, but it was also much more efficient. The new mouse had perfected cheese making and the old mouse was scared – there would be no more crumbs…

The next morning after a hungry night the old mouse had tossed and turned and got angrier and angrier.

He came up with a plan. He would get in early today and get his cheese before the first block came off the line, so he climbed up to the machine and waited.

The new mouse saw the old mouse near the machine and was happy. He waved and the old mouse waved back. He went over and said hello, ‘ready to roll up your sleeves and join the team’ asked the new mouse.

‘Maybe’ said the old mouse. But secretly he wanted to just get his share of cheese.

The new mouse was happy, he knew the secret was in working together.

He rolled up his sleeve and started doing his job starting up the machine.

The old mouse looked on waiting for his perfect chance, and as the machine began to churn he thought he saw it. He went charging down the conveyor belt with his eye on the cheese coming out. He lunged arms outstretched, he was going to get a big chunk of cheese, he would show the new mouse…

He grabbed the cheese – and the blade that cut the cheese into blocks slammed down and cut off his head.

The End.

There are two morals to this parable

1) if you work together there is always enough cheese

2) when you don’t participate in building the machine, you don’t know how it works and trying to get ‘your’ cheese means you will get dead.

From whoa to go in 180 days… starting fast

In an age where people focus on building hype around product launches and building lists of beta testers for the next Facebook… the good thing about an analogue business is we didn’t have to worry about that. So we played our cards VERY close to our chest – very few people outside of our immediate colleagues had any idea what we were planning, we certainly didn’t go and tell everyone our business plan, we didn’t do a bunch of advance marketing. WE got ready to go, and then we went hard, not a slow build… we delivered 5000 papers in our first drop to 80% of the entire region.

So one day no one had any idea who we were, the next… everyone was talking about us. By hitting the ground running so to speak, we got a jump on our competitors in terms of them being able to respond. If we had started with just 2000 papers, they would have been able to say we weren’t distributing many, so we outplayed them. If we had produced a cheaper (inferior) product, they could have said they had a better product, so we outplayed them there also.

The best attack is always a surprise attack that no one has any idea is coming, and in my book, we executed a text book ambush of the particular market we are operating in and made a big enough noise from day 1 that everyone HAD to take us seriously.

That is not to say we had support from the entire community from day 1. We had a massive number of complaints over the first few weeks that we did not expect. More on that in the next post though.

The week we launched (in fact the night of our deadline) we ran into our first hurdle, I had set our template up slightly wrong and had to redo the entire paper in only 3 hours. That was a good thing. The first publication you ever do is the most time you will ever have. I had been messing around with the design for weeks before our first Issue. Then on the deadline day, I found myself with 3 hours to reset the entire paper, thankfully only 16 pages. What that mistake taught me though was what was possible. I could lay out the entire paper by myself in 3 hours if I really had to. That is now our production baseline, although the paper is a bit bigger these days, we know we can do the whole thing in 5 hours so we never worry too much until about 5 hours from deadline. It removed a whole heap of stress from my life to make that mistake and set a benchmark.

As the weeks have gone by, we have continued to tweak the systems of that first week, and we are still a long way from perfect, however we are improving every week. So by just starting and setting the benchmark of what we could achieve, we have not been limited by what ‘should’ be possible according to a researched plan.

[blockquote source=”Name of the source”]So my advice for how to start is fast. Don’t wait unit everything is perfect, perfect it along the way. [/blockquote]

In the next post I am going to discuss challenges, the hurdles that inevitably come up and try to throw you off course and how I have dealt with these things over the years to stay the course.

From whoa to go in 180 days… research

First a warning, the last thing you want to do at tho stage is get “analysis paralysis” – by that I mean so caught up in analysing your previous assumptions that you do not move forward. I have been in a position where we got industry reports and compared ourselves to what others were doing, and had accountants run detailed forecasts, produce long winded information memorandum documents on how we were going to execute our business. All the extra cost and effort did nothing to help that business succeed. At the end of the day, it’s mostly just guessing…

The only thing you need to do at this stage is to get some proof of your previous theory. The easiest way to demonstrate what I mean is to tell you the exact scenario that played out with our new paper.

When I had worked out the cost of my ads (which I based on another newspaper) and worked out how they sell ads – by the column centimetre (which is sooooo confusing) I went around to some businesses and talked to them about what we were doing and got their feedback. I started with “friendlys”, people I already knew, but I also knew they would likely be telling me what I wanted to hear, so then I started to pound the pavement and find businesses that were willing to take a punt on a new publication. What became evident to me VERY quickly was that the economy we were operating in was struggling, and the prices we had set, although 30% lower than the alternative, were still out of reach for some businesses.

My spreadsheet was out the window, and i was faced with an issue of much lower margins than I would have preferred. However, the other thing that became evident was that this was NEEDED. We had to find a way to make it work, as these businesses needed the help, and if i could find a way to put together pricing that allowed them to advertise for longer periods of time and show them some results, they would be loyal customers forever.

After speaking to about 30 businesses, we found about 10 that were willing to give us a try even though they had not seen our product yet, and they just had to take us at our word we were going to be able to make a quality paper.

This is where research, becomes sales, and that is the absolute best test of whether your business is going to be able to hit the ground running – is someone willing to pay you based on your pitch of the idea.

For some people this is raising capital, which is a whole other ball game, but you have to be able to demonstrate to both potential customers and potential investors what you are able to do for them. The only way to be certain of that is to have been very clear before hand in brainstorming about what you were doing.

In the first issue of the paper we had 13 advertisers. 2 of them were put in as freebies to try and prove this would work for them (something I would never do again as it set their level of value…) We made a total of $865. The first paper had costs of nearly $2500 – renting delivery vehicles, printing, fuel, so we lost money.

But you have never seen someone so happy to lose money because I just knew we had started something big.

In the next post I am going to talk about hurdles. One of the most important things in any small business is not skills, intelligence, talent, it’s mental toughness, the ability to stay the course the storms. If anything in my career has been my strong point, it is that.

From whoa to go in 180 day… brainstorming

This is possibly the most important part of any startup to me. The point where you site down with a blank sheet of paper and work our what your startup is all about.

The key to any business is solving problems. and typically a good business will solve a number of problems for a number of people, hopefully some of whom will be prepared to pay for the privilege.

I always do this process on paper, usually in my notebook. I literally have hundreds of notebooks filled with ideas for businesses or problems I think we can solve, but under the scrutiny process they don’t all see the light of day. As my mate Justin Herald says, “Ideas a like armpits, everybody has a couple and they usually stink!”

Not every idea is a good idea, so I brainstorm the idea to over and over until we just have all the best bits.

First you have to start with all the problems. For me with the new paper they were:

  1. No easy and cost effective way for communities to let everyone know what was going on
  2. No affordable option for businesses to promote their products and services

The next step is to look at the costs involved in answering those questions. A lot of people skip this step, and get caught up in the idea aspect, because they have a prototype product or an idea of what you can charge for a service, and they run their numbers based on the income – not the profit. If you fail to look at the costs involved, you are going to run into issues quickly as  you will likely not have enough working capital to sustain you in the early stages.

For me, I wanted to deliver a free paper to the door of the residents in my area. The competitor sells their paper 3 times a week, so if I made ours free and delivered it, I cut down on my marketing massively as I didn’t have to educate them in to choosing my product over an alternative that has been in the marketplace for a long time, had brand awareness and brand loyalty.

The people that would be prepared to pay to participate were the businesses, however, small businesses could not afford to be involved over the longer term if we went with traditional newspaper advertising rates, so we worked out what we needed to make to be profitable, worked out our costs and worked backwards from there.

At this stage of the process, I do not get everyones opinion, I don’t seek outside counsel, i trust my own judgement and the judgement of those partnering with me. Too much feedback at the brainstorming stage will send you in endless loops and you will never get started.

The idea of the rapid startup is to hit the ground running and pivot as you have to. This is true of any business, whether it is a website, a product, service or anything in between.

Once I have the problems, my ideas and potential costs and revenue all worked out, I  close my book, and give it 24 hours.

Usually within the 24 hours I go through the wrestling process… “How could that possibly work? Who am I to think I can do it?” etc etc, all that self sabotage bullshit we all do. It’s ok, it’s human nature to doubt yourself. after 24 hours I open the book again, I look at my numbers and my ideas, if they seem reasonable, I move forward to the next stage, if they don’t I go through the process again… as many times as necessary.

The next post is about the research stage, which usually becomes pre-sales, if someone is ready to commit money based on a blue sky presentation, you are onto a winner!