Business and Innovation Magazine is delighted to announce that we are teaming up with PinPoint Media one of the region’s most successful young content marketing agencies to share unique new content on our website to inspire and enlighten our growing readership.
“Success Is In The Mind” is a new podcast series by Cheltenham-based PinPoint Media which launched last year, in the middle of the pandemic.
Interviewer Oliver Bruce, PinPoint Media’s CEO and an entrepreneur himself, talks to some of the UK’s most inspiring businesspeople about their businesses, their successes and challenges and what their business means to them.
The partnership of weekly podcasts kick off on Wednesday May 12 with one of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs of the last few decades.
Rory Sweet co-founded anti-virus firm MessageLabs in 1999 with Ben and Joss White. It was the first company in the world to introduce anti-virus as a service rather than software that was able to stop threats long before they reached their intended targets. Rory went on to make more than £220 million, according to reports, from selling stakes in three businesses: MessageLabs, RBR Networks and Zycho. Rory splits his time between the Cotswolds and South Africa, where he has a 20,000 acre ranch.
The podcasts run in parallel with our new series of Ambitious Leaders in the published Business & Innovation magazine, where we don’t just interview those who’ve made it to the top, but those who are still in the thick of it as they work their way up.
Nicky Godding, editor at Business & Innovation Magazine, said: “We are all motivated when reading about the success of others, and over the last four years our magazine and daily news website has become the perfect place to share their inspiring stories. We are very happy to add podcasts to our extensive and fast-growing knowledge-bank of business news and information and look forward to listening to the podcast stories of some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs that Oliver and his talented team at PinPoint Media have recorded. Every businessperson has a story to tell, and we love telling them.”
Oliver, CEO at PinPoint Media, added: “I launched the podcast to help boost morale during the pandemic when so many business leaders and entrepreneurs were facing the toughest challenges of their life. We now record these in our new purpose-built broadcast quality studios and we are delighted to extend our reach through this new collaboration with Business & Innovation Magazine.”
PinPoint Media’s “Success Is In The Mind” podcast series has recently also been shortlisted for Business Media Podcast of the Year, Campaign Publishing Awards 2021 and ranks in the top 100 podcasts on Apple Podcast for Entrepreneurship.
You can listen to the podcast with Rory Sweet CEO & Founder – RBR/Hardware Interview here via your preferred provider either Apple or Spotify
Full transcript of the podcast can be found below:
Rory Sweet (00:00):
We had people that went in helicopters with paintball guns. And then we had a team of people on the ground on quad bikes, and they’re just basically chased for about an hour, over 10 kilometre tracks, you know, around the African bush. It really is fun actually.
Oliver Bruce (00:16):
Success Is In The Mind is proud to have partnered with and be supported by the great British entrepreneur awards and community, a programme that recognises, celebrates, supports, encourages and champions entrepreneurs in Great Britain. Hello, and welcome to another episode of success is in the mind with me, Oliver Bruce. If you’re new to the show, we’ll be discussing with current owner entrepreneurs, their failures, mistakes, passion, and continued persistence in the face of business adversity. Not all entrepreneurs have completed their vision just yet. Some are just starting out. I want to give you a sense of business reality in a world full of idealism. What does it take to become successful, to grow a brand, or to start a business? Join me to find out from those that are currently doing just that. Welcome to episode one of Success Is In The Mind. Today’s guest is the British version of the Wolf of Wall Street.
Oliver Bruce (01:13):
He started with £500 in his pocket, brokering IT hardware deals. And within six months had sold over a million pounds worth of kit. He has a ranch in Africa, where he plays tug of war with crocodiles, and once broke the world record for crossing the North Pole, because, and I quote, “It would be fun”. Excuse the rustling noise in the first few minutes of the podcast, I suppose that’s what happens when you dial someone in from Africa during a pandemic. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to serial entrepreneur, Rory Sweet. Rory you started with your mate, Ben White, from your tiny flat in Pimlico London,. You had about 500 quid in your pocket, your vision, your business, and your livelihood was essentially second-hand computer broking. It seemed to pan out pretty well for you. Why did you get into that world?
Rory Sweet (01:59):
Well, I was, I think I was about 23 and I was unemployed and I just saw a local ad in the paper in Gloucestershire advertising for a computer broker. And I thought it sounded really glamorous like a kind of stockbroker, but actually it wasn’t as it turns out. And I went to work for this little company in South Cerney in Gloucestershire and we were basically buying and selling IBM mainframe parts. And I just found it quite easy and managed to get quite a lot of clients. And then I just thought, I was thinking to myself, you know, I can maybe do this on my own. So I basically set up on my own with a friend. We were living in a flat and we went to this house in Pimlico London of the church, and we were paying £15 a week rent.
Oliver Bruce (02:40):
15 quid a week in London, that’s ridiculously cheap. I mean, you can’t even buy a Costa these days for that much.
Rory Sweet (02:44):
I know it’s ridiculous, but it had no heating. It was, it was pretty much a condemned building. We basically fitted it out with a warehouse in the basement. We basically made some bedrooms upstairs and we used to just wear very warm clothing. And then we sort of put a phone system in. We just started getting on the phone and calling customers pretty much. It started building up quite quickly and we were doing a fair bit of business. And then that’s when my friend Ben White came in, he came and joined us as a partner. It kind of, it went on from that really just got bigger and bigger and bigger. And by that, I mean, it was about a million pounds turnover a year.
Oliver Bruce (03:20):
Because you made a million in about six months, didn’t you from when you started, it was about six months, Ben joined, you made a million and it kept going from there, I suppose.
Rory Sweet (03:26):
I think the real sort of turning point was when we decided to move out of London. And, we moved to a little sort of work shop in Gloucestershire in a tiny little office. And then I had a girlfriend at the time, that went to work for one of the large service providers in the purchasing department. And then she basically set us up on their system as being able to provide everything, really, memory, laptops, PCs, routers was one of the main things.
Oliver Bruce (03:59):
So you obviously had a girlfriend that was within a business, which I suppose was buying or supplying from you. Could you have done it without her? Is that the reason that you went out with her in the first place?
Rory Sweet (04:08):
Well, no it wasn’t really, but I think it’d be fair to say that without her, we would never have really got anywhere I think in life. So I’d love to say that it was sheer intelligence, ingenuity and foresight, but actually that was really what started us off on our path. And it’s funny how these things tend to happen like that. I think in some cases, but I think it’s a lot about what you do to maximize it. After she set us up on this, the purchasing system, literally the next day our fax machine was just reeling off requests, for thousands of parts of memory, upgrades, one of the things was Cisco routers, which we had no idea what they were, but so we researched what they were. And then we got quotes to buy them and then quoted to supply them. And then we were suddenly getting these enormous orders; two, three, four, or 5 million pounds.
Oliver Bruce (04:51):
How were you justifying it? Because obviously a lot of businesses maybe now, not sure about then, but obviously you have to have a certain amount of turnover and a certain amount of kudos before people will place orders of that value. How did you kind of fake it? I suppose?
Rory Sweet (05:04):
Well, we managed to convince some of our suppliers that we had a direct line into this service provider and so they were able to give us a bit of credit. But we had to limit the size of the orders initially, to cater for that; for how much cash we actually had.
Oliver Bruce (05:19):
Because you were bankrolling it, then were you, did you have to buy it up front, to then sell it, to then invoice and take the margin?
Rory Sweet (05:25):
We had a little bit of credit, then we were able to start supplying and then it just snowballed from there. That was really the main success story at the time. And they just started buying more and more and more and more stuff. And it just escalated.
Oliver Bruce (05:37):
You’re right, snowballed is the right term. I mean, what was it? You were 25. You had this business at the time. 3 million quid, it was worth in ’94. Then it was £7 million in ’95, £23 million in ’96, £50 million in ’97. I mean, that’s one hell of a snowball.
Rory Sweet (05:52):
Is that the turnover figures?
Oliver Bruce (05:54):
That’s the turnover. Yeah. I’m not sure about the margin, but yeah,
New Speaker (05:56):
It literally went and then it went to £80 [million] maybe and then several hundred [million], I think.
Oliver Bruce (06:02):
Rory, when you were younger, obviously, did you want to go into business? Was it something you’d always set out to do because you’ve done some quite fascinating things and whether that was through strategy or accident, it seems you’ve done rather well, regardless.
Rory Sweet (06:15):
I think my sort of driver was really not wanting to work for anyone and wanting to be my own boss in terms of being able to do what I want to do whenever I want to do really. I think to be honest we were very lucky with this whole situation and it’s enabled me to fulfill that really.
Oliver Bruce (06:32):
It does sound quite Wolf of Wall Street, you know, you kind of discover a market which is not a mass market at the time. You’re selling great kit for instance, at a mark up, which is workable, but still less than the normal market. It’s funny, the pink sheets. I mean, did you quite literally wake up and go, we’re on the money here. We’re going to make a lot, I’m never going to have to work again. Or did you still kind of drive yourself forwards regardless of the sums that you were making at the time?
Rory Sweet (06:54):
Well, I think we realized we were onto something quite early on. And then we were actually made an official distributor by Cisco and that it just went through the roof, basically. It was just-
Oliver Bruce (07:04):
Because your turnover doubled at that point.
New Speaker (07:05):
It was just a question of cash management at that point. I mean the phones, but that was the point where the internet was being built out. I mean, we’d have millions and millions of quotes and orders every day coming in. It wasn’t a question “I’m going to sell anything”, I think it was just a question of having to manage your logistics really. And what we tried to do is always give customers the kind of honest approach and the way of dealing with things and, you know, realistic delivery times and being able to have informed salespeople that could answer any kind of question on the phone.
Oliver Bruce (07:35):
So what was your role at that point then, within the sort of the first couple of years you got to ’95 and you were a Cisco partner, what did the structure of the business look like?
Rory Sweet (07:44):
Uh, well we were a distributor and I was basically CEO or managing director. I was responsible for looking into sort of how to optimize the profit of the business and Ben White at that point, my partner had split out. And he starts at another company Message Labs, which went on to be very successful. And they sold to Symantec.
Oliver Bruce (08:05):
For $700 million.
New Speaker (08:08):
Yes. So that was an initial idea to create a kind of internet level virus scanning tool. Ben worked extremely hard on that and it was very successful.
Oliver Bruce (08:19):
And you were part of that?
New Speaker (08:19):
I was part of that in the early days, but that was really Ben’s thing because we couldn’t both do the same thing and he had to go one way. I had to go the other way. And basically I think with, with our company RBI Networks I provided the cash and they put that to happen. I think that is how you can look at it. So we were making a lot of cash and then we were putting a lot of money into that business. Without that I don’t think it would have been possible.
Oliver Bruce (08:43):
Was it quite a heavy seed capital then? What was the kind of investment level that you needed to put in at that time?
Rory Sweet (08:48):
I think it was a few million pounds. I can’t really remember. At the time we had a department, which was an internet department, which was basically always losing money. And we were always very sort of critical of it in the early days, but we kept it going, we kept it funded, and it just evolved into this amazing company that eventually sold for a fortune.
Oliver Bruce (09:07):
It’s a bit like the sort of Amazon story where they made a loss for years and years and years and obviously now they’re worth billions and trillions of pounds. I mean, how did you strategically make that decision to essentially fund a loss making department? Why did you continue to pump cash into it?
Rory Sweet (09:23):
Well, Ben and I, when we started, we thought we need to do something a bit more value add. And so we hired a consultant to look at our business and to work out what we should be doing. And he came up with an idea. He said, you should have an internet company. And there was nothing really going on in the internet. It was very early days. So we started an internet provider, locally providing connectivity. And it kind of grew from that point. And we just tried to bolt on more and more services around it.
Oliver Bruce (09:47):
Because there must be a huge amount of lessons to be learned. I mean, to grow at that speed, that’s kind of a unicorn growth. I mean, what lessons did you learn in the early days that you just simply didn’t know when you started?
Rory Sweet (09:57):
I think the lessons I’ve learned is to always have very good financial controls, really. It was hand to mouth cashflow. There was so many times when we were almost about to go bust.
Oliver Bruce (10:05):
Is that just because you pumped too much in and you just didn’t have the money?
Rory Sweet (10:07):
Just because we just could not support the purchase order to supply sales orders.
Oliver Bruce (10:12):
And what was the tipping point, then?
New Speaker (10:13):
It was 1995, we went out to a company called A Call who provided about 2 million pounds of funding. And that was the thing; that just went in about 10 minutes. Literally gone. And we also went out for dinner when we got the cheque and then we lost it in the restaurant.
Oliver Bruce (10:35):
The cheque? You lost in the restaurant?
Rory Sweet (10:36):
And we lost it. We went out for a curry, and we lost it in the restaurant. And then we literally couldn’t find it anywhere. And then we phoned the restaurant and they found it.
Oliver Bruce (10:43):
How did you find the time to upskill yourself? Because obviously you’ve gone in as being a CEO of a multi-million pound business in a blink of an eye. How did you train yourself on actually running a department, running a company, running a staffing?
Rory Sweet (10:55):
Well, it was really, I mean, I don’t have any training, but it was really just from my perspective, it was trying to create an atmosphere where everyone feels included and essentially where everyone had fun, where they work, which is always been a great thing for me. I think if you can have fun and people are making money and you have a really, really funny time at work, you know. I used to wake up in the morning, I just couldn’t wait to get to work. I mean, we’d have a full-size rack where if you didn’t sell enough product in the day, you’d be stretched-
Oliver Bruce (11:25):
[laughs] That’s torture isn’t it?
New Speaker (11:25):
And then you’d have your nose hair trimmed at the same time while you’re being stretched, because you couldn’t use your arms, things like that. And then if you didn’t really celebrate much in the day either you’d get put inside a cage, like a dog cage, with a phone, and there’s a pen and paper-
Oliver Bruce (11:39):
You can’t do this anymore. That’s the thing you-
Rory Sweet (11:41):
You can’t do anymore. It’s a shame because I mean, I think at the time it wasn’t done in a sort of degrading way. It was just incredibly funny and everyone thought it was quite funny.
Oliver Bruce (11:52):
I mean, when did I have to stop? I mean, do you guys still have incentive days, a lot of the businesses that you work at, and that is about as far as it goes in terms of, in terms of carrying that on, is that that’s kind of right. I’m assuming.
Rory Sweet (12:02):
Yeah. I mean, nowadays it’s different. Although I still have these dreams of bringing it back, but I dunno what I would go through to,
Oliver Bruce (12:08):
Probably through to court I imagine. There must be some HR issues I’m sure.
New Speaker (12:16):
I’m sure it would
Oliver Bruce (12:17):
Well you have a lot of fun though, even, even at home. I mean, talk to me about the tug of war with this, this crocodile in Africa.
Rory Sweet (12:22):
We have a reserve in Africa where we do a number of activities. One of which is that we have a crocodile that we’ve been sort of feeding over the last few years and we’ve put some frozen chickens on a chain and then throw it into the water when you attach it to a tuna rod or big game fishing rod. And then it just takes the chickens and just goes and you have to.
Oliver Bruce (12:44):
And what do you do? You stand on water skis behind it and get dragged around the lake?
Rory Sweet (12:46):
You could do, but you might ended up getting eaten. Probably. I think.
Oliver Bruce (12:50):
Don’t you have paintball fights as well with people on quad bikes from helicopter? I mean, it just sounds fantastic when you talk about so much fun.
Rory Sweet (12:57):
Yeah, we do. We have people in helicopters with paintball guns, and then we have a team of people on the ground on quad bikes and they’re just basically chased for about an hour over 10 kilometer tracks right around the African Bush. It really is fun actually.
Oliver Bruce (13:12):
And what are you? Are you the one on the ground or are you just one spectating and laughing?
Rory Sweet (13:15):
No, I like to be on the ground because there’s a, there’s a real strategy behind it. Because you have to watch the helicopter, cause helicopter has a little bit of inertia. You know, when you see it turning one way you go the other way. Cause it has to, it can’t go when he’s just going behind you fast, you put the brakes on, it goes overhead. And there’s a lot of strategy to it.
Oliver Bruce (13:32):
This is years of practice Rory surely. I mean, how long have you been being chased by choppers?
New Speaker (13:35):
It is years of practice.
Oliver Bruce (13:36):
You’re basically James Bond of Africa.
Oliver Bruce (13:45):
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Oliver Bruce (14:16):
How do you make decisions, Rory, how do you sort of sit down and go, this is the right thing to do? This is what I’m going to do now because you go with your gut or do you go with a spreadsheet? How do you do it?
Rory Sweet (14:23):
I tend to be quite impulsive, take a lot of risks. And you know, some of them don’t work. Some of them do. It’s more about gut instinct really than anything else. And obviously somebody looking at signed financials the other day.
Oliver Bruce (14:35):
I mean, a massive gut instinct was when you crossed the North pole back in, I think it was early two thousands. I mean, not only did you cross it, but you also broke the world record, but you’ve never actually camped before. I mean, why?
Rory Sweet (14:47):
Well, that thing was one of the best things I’ve ever done actually.
Oliver Bruce (14:51):
New Speaker (14:51):
You always read these books when people like Ranulph Fiennes saying how difficult it is and how bitter and horrible. But actually it’s the most, anyone can really do it. We just had the, we had a very good team of people and it could be in that remote utterly desolate place with no possibility of any help. It kind of does something to you. It’s also the, just the raw beauty of it, which I’ll never really forget.
Oliver Bruce (15:15):
Who is your competitor? There were 16 other people that weren’t, I mean, very much like your business career, you just kind of, you beat everybody within it because apparently somehow you just had a mental determination to do it. Do you think that your success is down to your mental stability?
Rory Sweet (15:28):
I think so. And I think, I mean, we went on the chore training sessions for that, cause you pay a bit of money and then you go in at three different training sessions. We came last at every single training session when the actual competition came to start, we just sort of gritted our teeth and we just went for it. There’s no substitute for that. We just literally just gritted it out. We just accelerates into the lead because of that. I mean literally, you close your eyes when they’re banging and when you’re awake again, two hours later.
Oliver Bruce (15:52):
Do you think there’s an element of you look at all these successful entrepreneurs, Richard Branson, for one who, who sets these challenges up and sort of pushes himself to the limit. Have you reached your limit yet in your business life? You clearly did, but you push through when you’re in the North pole, but from a business point of view, have you peaked yet or have you still got a lot more to give?
Rory Sweet (16:09):
I think I’ve become less interested in making money for the sake of making money. I think, and more interested in being in wilderness and being, you know, just being happy really, I think, you know, there’s so much more you can actually do rather than, rather than sitting behind a desk and making money. And there’s just so much, there’s so much more to life.
Oliver Bruce (16:26):
You and I came across each other a couple of months ago in the, in the pandemic with regards to procurement and distribution of PPE. I mean, you are constantly trying to push boundaries and explore different things. I mean, what is on the horizon, I suppose, for you, for your businesses, are you going to shift a lot and go and enjoy yourself, then it, based on the fact you want to relax and be happy?
Rory Sweet (16:46):
Yeah, I think my business, my halo business for the moment without the optics is going really well at the shift in the service provider space towards all the homeworking has meant that, that they’re doing incredibly well. I mean, it’s mainly based in the states, but there’s just, I mean, it’s just, it’s just going through the roof over there, which is great. And I’m just, we’re just, I’m just very thankful that I’m involved in a business through this difficult time, because I’m sure there are loads of people who are not doing so well. And I think that we’re very lucky to be in that. So I’m quite grateful about that, but I would love to sell that business and probably have a bit more of a sedate life and probably exploring a bit more of the remote areas of the world. I think that was where I would be coming from.
Oliver Bruce (17:24):
Sounds very relaxed. I mean, with regards, I suppose, to managing your lifestyle in and around kind of being with nature, how do you go about managing so many different businesses because you have to be connected a hundred percent of the time surely to be able to, to oversee so much?
Rory Sweet (17:38):
Well, I tend to do is I tend to just give people shares in the businesses so that they’re incentivised to make money for themselves. And then I’d hand it over to them. And then I tend to be more a prodder.
Oliver Bruce (17:50):
That’s different to so many other people who go, I want to be almost greedy and actually keep it all for myself and take it all. I mean, look at James Dyson who actually refuses to give shares and wants a hundred percent of the pie. Do you think, I mean, he’s been incredibly lucky, but do you think as a person starting out in business, a strategy might be okay, I’ll dilute some shares to have some people around me to then be able to have a slightly easier life, or is that the wrong decision?
Rory Sweet (18:13):
I’m not like a serial entrepreneur business person that wants to work 24/7, I have other interests. And so for me, it just suits me to actually give stuff to other people. To give shares to other people so that they can actually make some money for themselves and help me at the same time.
Oliver Bruce (18:31):
It sounds, it sounds like you’re quite, you’re quite generous, I suppose, in that sense. I mean are you a sort of seed cap investor? Would you look at starting out with people who are looking to sort of start in business as well? Or is that not interesting to you?
Rory Sweet (18:42):
No. I’m not very good at that. I’ve always found that every time I do that I always lose my money. So I’ve decided to stay with what I know and just really concentrate on people that I know well, I always tend to work with the same people that I’ve worked with for a number of years.
Oliver Bruce (18:56):
Is that because it’s the norm, has there ever been a point in your, in your business career where you’ve been challenged in a way that you almost didn’t expect to be challenged? You thought it would be an easy ride and actually there’s been a lot of barriers in the way?
Rory Sweet (19:07):
I think, I mean, I think I got probably quite complacent at the beginning because it was so easy with the Cisco business we had because the Cisco was going through the roof. It was just the funniest time I’ve ever had in my life. Everyone was so happy. We were doing this extraordinary, funny things and everyone was making a lot of money and it seemed very easy.
Oliver Bruce (19:26):
And have you experienced things sort of hitting the fan to a certain extent? Have you seen it going down and at that point, what did you do? Did you go Christ I’m gonna lose everything or did you, you know, kick on?
Rory Sweet (19:36):
No, I mean, when I sold RBR to ComStore we started a business, Ziko and hardware.com and pro labs. We spun out pro labs, which is now a very successful optics company. And we sold Ziko to the Rigby group with them. Then I actually went away for 10 years after Ben sold message labs. I took like 10 years off just having, I got married, had children and more children and just had a lot of fun and then came back, having really sort of missed out on a lot of what’s been going on in business in the last 10 years. It has been a bit like starting again. Yeah.
Oliver Bruce (20:10):
So how long have you been back in the, in the mix of business?
New Speaker (20:13):
Probably about three years.
Oliver Bruce (20:15):
Okay. So it’s sort of like, like having a, having a startup again. I mean, you know, have you gone back to that mentality of doing first and apologising later or is sort of older, Rory more, more strategic and measured?
Rory Sweet (20:27):
No, it’s a lot different. And you know, I inherited a business that hasn’t been run very well whilst I was away. I think, I mean when you go away things, it was all going well. When I, when I left and having come back, we haven’t spent the last two or three years rectifying it all. And we’re now starting to turn the corner on it. And actually it’s doing really well now in the Covid environment.
Oliver Bruce (20:50):
Talk to me about the £38,000 rocket that you decided to buy.
Rory Sweet (20:54):
I started when I was taking my 10 years off, I started buying classic cars cause they were going up, they went up 500% in value between 2008 and 2014. And one of the items that came up for sale in these RM auctions, these car auctions was this rocket. And I just, uh, I just thought it looked incredibly beautiful, very sculptural. And so we bought it and then we actually we restored it in the same way you’d restore a car. So we stripped the whole thing back, it’s this enormous thing.
Oliver Bruce (21:25):
Where’d you take a rocket to get restored?
Rory Sweet (21:27):
I took it to South Cerney to Thornley Kelham which is a classic car restoring company. And they had to build a sort of platform for it and a way of moving it around and they photographed it all round and just stripped it back to the bare metal, then repainted it.
Oliver Bruce (21:42):
It was Russian, right?
Rory Sweet (21:44):
Yeah, it was basically, it’s a hypersonic missile called a Collard which is basically a test bed for a scramjet engine.
Oliver Bruce (21:52):
They go, what is it 5,000 miles an hour? That’s the one, isn’t it?
Rory Sweet (21:55):
Yeah. So it’s basically it’s hypersonic. So they used a Russian X, I think it was a, an essay nine mis-hire, which is what it is with a hypersonic engine scramjet engine on the front of it. And they use the misguard to excelerate it to Mac4. And when it reaches Mac4 the hypersonic engine can light and then it goes to mac7 very quickly then about 10 seconds or so.
Oliver Bruce (22:15):
It’s pretty quick.
Rory Sweet (22:17):
And then it just sends back to the, it was basically designed to send back telemetry.
Oliver Bruce (22:20):
So it’s not a weapon in terms of to go and blow people up?
Rory Sweet (22:22):
No, a sort of weapon, no. It was a sort of test bed for testing hypersonic, hypersonic, projectiles for missiles.
Oliver Bruce (22:29):
Going back to that, back to the real world, I suppose, in terms of when you took your 10 year sabbatical, you mentioned about giving people shares and letting them kind of run with it to a certain extent, but then you alluded to the fact that when you came back, there was a lot of picking up the pieces and making things work again, was that a mistake to get people shares and just rely on them?
Rory Sweet (22:46):
Giving people shares and working with them is a different thing. And maybe I was just a bit relaxed. I think I just made quite a lot of money. I sort of went away and thought, you know, I’m fine. You know, these people can get along with what they’re doing. I should have been a bit more on the case really. And so that’s really and that’s a lesson I’ve learned
Oliver Bruce (23:03):
Did you not have the right staff? As hiring is one of the hardest things for any business, any entrepreneur, any startup, how did the hell did you go about hiring so many people to be able to generate so much money sensibly? Surely there was some big mistakes within the hires that you made?
Rory Sweet (23:16):
Well we always were the same team all along and still are essentially, minus a few people. So it’s good. It’s just good to work with people who, you know, you’re all on the same page. You all have the same agenda.
Oliver Bruce (23:27):
By team, you mean core team of sort of directors, SLT.
Rory Sweet (23:30):
Oliver Bruce (23:30):
And they still maintain and continue with your business on the sort of trajectory that you wanted and the strategy with hiring the people that they think is best rather than the new?
Rory Sweet (23:40):
Yeah. I think that 10 years break was a mistake, but when we sold our first company we gave away, we gave away 2 million pounds to the staff in cash.
Oliver Bruce (23:50):
How many staff did you have?
Rory Sweet (23:50):
At that point about 40 people.
Oliver Bruce (23:51):
That’s good for them. That’s really good. They must have been incredibly grateful.
Rory Sweet (23:54):
Yeah and so those people they never really forgot it. So we kind of have a hiring pool where we can hire people and they remember all that that stuff.
Oliver Bruce (24:02):
It is incredible to give back when you can, but it’s also very difficult to do, to do the right thing when you can’t.
Rory Sweet (24:07):
I think it’s important always to do the right thing. You shouldn’t be never be too greedy.
Oliver Bruce (24:11):
No and actually greed is something that’s killed a lot of things currently within the, in the current climate. And, you know, can people be too greedy or do you think when you’re starting fundamentally in the first few years is greed good?
Rory Sweet (24:23):
I think it is. But I think you need to, you need to have that team around you, you need to, you know, people that do people that do well okay. And get it, you need to reward them. And I think you need to, you know, even down to the receptionist, you shouldn’t really just reward the main people. It should be, it should be everybody really.
Oliver Bruce (24:40):
There’s an element of, you know, driving for the right reasons rather than the wrong reasons.
Rory Sweet (24:44):
I know, but I think these, I think your motives change over time. I think for me, it’s just changed over time it’s not the most important thing anymore. I think just having enough money is fine, but I think that being able to do other things and there’s so much more to life than just work, and making money. There’s just more to life than that really. I can’t really articulate it.
Oliver Bruce (25:05):
I know what you mean. Some people just, just try and screw people over to make as much as possible, and others just need to be, be happy with what they’ve got, I suppose. And actually this current climate that we’re in, a lot of people are having a far better work-life balance and they ever have had, because you can work from home, you can go out and walk the dog, you can go to the park or whatever you want to do. And then you can go back and actually work at your desk. And I think people have become more aware that actually, um, your own time and being, being happy in yourself is quite important. Are you happy in yourself Rory?
Rory Sweet (25:33):
I am. Absolutely. Yes I am. Actually. Yeah. And I think that’s kind of what I’m trying to drive at that shift. From what I was saying earlier, it’s been great that we’ve all had more time to do different things. I think everyone’s had a bit of a different takeaway from this whole COVID thing. And just being able to just focus on other things is I think a lot of people find very rewarding and I think that’s helped to show people that there is actually a lot more, there’s a lot more out there.
Oliver Bruce (25:57):
Yeah. And I suppose with the next couple of years for you, are you going to wind things down, start to relax even more and start, to get rid of a few businesses, or you’re going to just refine what you’re doing and do everything in moderation within reason?
Rory Sweet (26:09):
Yeah my plan is to basically sort of offload all my assets and then just really try just basically explore the world.
Oliver Bruce (26:19):
So that those that are listening, I suppose, that are inspired to start their own business. Can’t yet explore the world, sadly. What would you say to them? What’s the first thing to do as a budding entrepreneur or someone that’s just started the business?
Rory Sweet (26:30):
You shouldn’t just do things to make money. I think you should do things that make you happy. Okay. And I think if you’re happy and doing what you’re doing, I think money always comes next.
Oliver Bruce (26:36):
Yeah. And observing, I mean, is that, you’re absolutely right. I mean, a contact of ours, James Caan, you might know from Dragons Den says famously ‘observe the masses and do the opposite’. It sounds like what you’ve done is that it sounds like that’s what a lot of people are starting to do in business. Is that true?
Rory Sweet (26:51):
I think that’s absolutely true. So yeah, just always zig when people zag.
Oliver Bruce (26:55):
Oh I love that, always zig when people zag.
Rory Sweet (26:58):
Definitely. Cause you should always do the opposite to what everyone is doing. Yeah, I’ve always tried to do that.
Oliver Bruce (27:03):
Always zig where people zag. Rory, thank you very much for coming on the podcast. We’ll zag off whilst you zig. We’ll speak to you soon. Cheers dude!
Oliver Bruce (27:13):
Thanks very much for listening to this week’s podcast. To share your support we’d really appreciate it if you could share this episode with quite literally anybody, you know, and if you really liked it, rate it five stars and hit the subscribe button. To find out more about the guests featured on the program, visit our website, bizpodcast.co.uk That’s with a Z. Where you can apply to be on the show, check out behind the scenes content and keep up to date with what’s coming up. Check out our Facebook page by visiting @successisinthemindpod or follow me on Twitter @oliverbruce_biz. This podcast has been produced by PinPoint Media. Thanks very much. Take care.