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Guest: Steve McLeod, Founder, Fire and Safety Australia
Episode in a Tweet: A passionate 23-year old firefighter sees a gap in the market, changes his mindset, and within short order builds an eight-figure fire and safety training company in Australia.
Quick Background: Sometimes the best opportunities are right under your nose. Steve McLeod became a firefighter at age 19. After responding to a wide variety of emergencies including house fires, vehicle accidents, rescues, explosions, and mining disasters, he realized there was a woeful lack of training in how to prevent and respond to disasters, particularly in the mining and oil and gas industries. So, at age 23, he started offering training programs to companies on his days off from being a firefighter. Once he hit a million dollars in revenue, he quit his firefighter job, got serious about building a company, and today, Fire and Safety Australia is a fast-growing, multi-million dollar company that is “forever changing safety in the world, one experience at a time.”
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
1. Dropping the “small business mindset” is one of the first keys to taking your business national (or international).
Initially, Steve thought he’d build a small company with a few employees and life would be good. Then Virgin Australia became a client and, “They were so impressed with the training that I delivered them, they wanted to go national and into New Zealand to deliver training.” Steve quickly concluded, “I needed to stop my small business mindset and realize that the way for me to significantly grow the business was to say, ‘I’m going to go and establish a national brand, a national company and we’re going to look after these national clients, which means I need to go and employ people and build up the infrastructure across the whole country.’” Is a small business mindset holding you back?
2. Profit does not equal cash and you can “grow broke” very quickly if you don’t monitor cash flow.
After doubling the business every year for the first six years, cash was pretty much sucked dry in order to fund the growth. After a near death experience a few years ago when cash got perilously low, Steve now watches cash like a hawk. “I look at our cash level in the bank on a daily basis. On a weekly basis, I review our cash flow statement. I think it’s absolutely critical and I’ve learned through my time with Mark Moses the importance of keeping a close eye on cash. Cash is like oxygen—I can’t last very long without it,” said Steve.
3. Getting the right people on the team starts with a tough interviewing process.
We all know the importance of getting the right people on the team. Steve uses an interview process called “Topgrading” for his senior team to help separate average hires from great ones. It’s an intense interview process and Steve said, “The way I look at it is we’re going to invest several hours in an interview, we’re going to be paying this person a lot of money, so I’d rather know now whether they’re a right fit and not waste tens of thousands or hundred of thousands of dollars for the wrong hire if that person is not the right fit later on.”
4. When something “bad” happens, one way to overcome it is to find the upside in it—because there’s always a way to capitalize on it if you look hard enough.
Despite having lots of negative things happen in his business, Steve has come out stronger and his business has been better for those experiences. How? “One of the things that I learned about three years ago was when something really bad happens in the business, such as a key person leaving or something happening with a client, rather than getting angry or upset, I need to stop and ask myself, ‘What are three things that I’ve learned that are great about this?’ In other words, I turn adversity into a learning and into a new opportunity for growth. For example, if a key person leaves, it gives me an opportunity to replace them with someone even better, to get new blood and new innovation into the company.” What a refreshing attitude.
5. Moving from being reactive to instilling “personal discipline” is one key to making a massive jump in your productivity and results.
Like many entrepreneurs, for years Steve was very reactive in the business. He was running around with mobile phone in one hand, laptop in the other, while driving to and from appointments and meetings. Then about two years ago, he started to think about, “What is the most important thing that I need to do today to move the business forward?” He said he thinks about that question every evening before he goes to bed. “I switch off my emails, switch off my mobile phone and just work until I get that done. I found that my productivity has dramatically increased as a result of this simple action.”
1. Drop the small business mindset and expand your thinking. Small thinking leads to small results. If you want to grow fast and profitably, it starts with changing your mindset to one of growth and possibilities.
2. Something bad happening can be a catalyst for the next great thing that happens in your company. When something bad happens, don’t get pissed and mope around. Shift your thinking and turn it into an opportunity to make a great improvement in your business.
3. Get out of the minutia and focus on the “important things.” Get great staff on board and let them handle the day-to-day stuff. Then each day, ask yourself, “What is the most important thing that I need to do today to move the business forward?”
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.