Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson, and today I’m lucky enough to have Steve Grace as my wonderful co-host. Today we’re thrilled to be joined by Justin Hillier.
To get us started, can you tell us about your career background and your current role?
Justin: My career background. My career… Oh, look. Do I say that I started as a McDonald’s employee? I think I actually should.
Steve: I think you should, I think you should.
Justin: I think I should, because it’s actually got a lot of relevancy to what I do today amazingly, but I don’t flip burgers. But yeah, I started off when I was a kid working at Maccas. I also washed some cars.
Steve: I did that, too.
Justin: That was pretty fun on a Saturday morning. Cash in hand, that was good. Which I typically just went next door to Maccas and spent straightaway anyway. And then what did I do? Actually, my first real job was knocking doors selling Foxtel, and that was an experience and a half because I’d knock a door and I’d have a German shepherd chase me down the street or a guy with a baseball bat or people just swearing at you to get off their doorsteps.
Steve: Out of interest, what area in Australia were you’re doing this?
Justin: In Melbourne. Yeah, there was some interesting… I had a 10-year-old kid pull a machete on me.
Justin: No, he was actually super keen to get Foxtel. He’s sitting there trying to convince his dad to get it. He’s telling, “I want the cartoons, I want the cartoons.” And then he ran off and he ran off upstairs and comes back with a machete and says, “Get off our doorstep.” I’m like, “Okay, you little shit. Bipolar problem right there and criminal waiting to happen.” But yeah, that was actually in Fitzroy, in Melbourne, I had a 10-year-old kid pull a machete on me.
But then I, like everyone else in my industry and our industry, recruitment, applied to a role and got sucked into the world of recruitment after that. The vortex that is recruitment. And I’ve tried to get out. I can’t. It’s a black hole.
Steve: It’s under your own terms now, right? So, did you do a couple of HR jobs? Did I remember… You did Insight, did you? I’m trying to remember now over the years-
Justin: No, I worked for Seek for five years.
Steve: That was it.
Justin: I did the same thing in the UK for a couple of years. I worked in a couple of different agencies prior to going to Seek and a couple after probably when was it? When I got back from the UK. But worked in a bunch of technology software recruitment tech, HR tech businesses throughout the last 10 or probably last 12 years. So, before I started this business, Recruiter Insider.
So yeah, I’ve always been in recruitment since that first kind of real job, but I can’t get out. I did get sucked back in. I was trying to get out when I actually came up with this business. I swore to myself, this was not my problem to solve, but I couldn’t help myself.
Steve: Where did that come from? Where did you suddenly go, ‘I can’t help myself. I want to get out, but I can’t help myself. I’m going to start a business. And not only am I going to start a business within recruitment, because I can’t get out, I’m going to call it Recruitment Insider?’
Justin: Yeah, Recruiter Insider. I’d like someone to get the name right once, that’d be great.
Steve: Not today.
Justin: I’ve thought about changing it to Recruitment Insider because seriously we called Recruitment Insider more than what we’re called Recruiter Insider. Even by our clients, i.e., Steve Grace.
But no, I started this business truth be told, and I’ve told this story many times, I was out. I was literally out. I’d finished up a contract. I didn’t want to do recruitment, anything else, I couldn’t see anything that I wanted to do. I wasn’t working. I was playing golf and enjoying that, and I got back home on a Wednesday afternoon from the golf course and got a phone call. And it was a recruiter, ironically, who said they found my profile on LinkedIn and wanted to talk to me about a job, but it actually turned out to be the worst call you’ve ever heard in your life.
They proceeded to tell me that I was not only too senior for the role, but the salary was going to be below my expectations. And could you believe, I hadn’t even got a word out at this point. So, you pick up the phone to someone who you want to talk to and tell them they’re not right for the job, and then wonder what’s going to happen next. So that was just sheer stupidity. I actually called one of my mates straight after. I got a bunch of friends who own agencies and said to him, ‘Did you just get one of your consultants to prank call me? I just got this call. Was this one of your team?’ He’s gone, ‘No, sorry mate. My team don’t have a spare 45 minutes to have a casual chat with you’. So, no, it was a real phone call.
Justin: But that whole experience and that whole skill set of that consultant gave me the kind of cliché, light bulb, brainwave moment that everyone speaks of the next morning, of reviewing recruitment consultants, but doing it differently. When the business was born, I got out my notepad and pen, which is never too far away from me, and started jotting down ideas and drawing dashboards and after a few days I had settled on what it was going to be and called a few mates again and said, ‘What do you think of this?’ They’ve gone, ‘Oh, holy crap. I think you might have something there’. And here I am four and a half years later, still doing the same thing.
Steve: Well, you said doing it differently. Was there anyone reviewing recruitment companies before? Because I don’t think I was aware of it.
Justin: There were two or three that I found that were kind of archaic now dead in the water, kind of products that never got any traction whatsoever. And after I spoke to a few agencies and look, there’s still agencies that do this today, they measure NPS. So, there were a few tools out there that do that. There’s even more out there today that do that and try and play in the recruitment space. But the more and more I looked at it and the more and more I looked at our approach and the approach I was going to take to doing this, I knew I had something completely different and something of greater value.
Laura: Can you talk us through how it works?
Justin: Yeah, look, so we review the recruitment consultant, the candidate reviews the recruitment consultant throughout the hiring process at particular points of the process, asking very pointed and relevant questions to that stage. We differentiate it even further by work type. So, we look at perm jobs, definitely might look at a contract role differently than how we look at search.
But the idea of it is that because the questions are so relevant and timely, they’re top of mind, they can give more honest feedback, but it allows the agency and even the consultant to have a look at their own skillsets. Are they delivering to a particular standard from that skill perspective, but also providing a great experience to the candidate and the client at the same time?
So, we do all the nice fluffy things as well that everyone loves. The testimonials and you collect referrals and all that good stuff. But the idea is to analyse the data to see where you can improve, not only from your own development perspective, but the service you’re providing to your candidates and clients at the same time.
Laura: I think that makes a lot of sense.
Steve: Was I an early adopter? I think I was. I can’t remember.
Justin: You certainly were, yes.
Steve: Yeah. I personally have found what I love about it is it’s real time feedback, right? Which you don’t get in recruitment. And if you think about how many people you’re interacting with in recruitment to have real time feedback from that many people consistently is… I don’t think there’s many industries that deal with as many people as recruiters, maybe real estate perhaps, but probably not even-
Justin: Not even, I would have thought.
Steve: And you know-
Justin: You don’t. Over a hundred people apply to every single job or more.
Steve: They don’t.
Justin: You don’t have that with real estate.
Steve: They don’t and I think the amount of data that you get, and we’ve touched on this earlier about talking about data and people, and I don’t think enough people use data in people businesses, and it’s been a game changer in terms of, I think as having owned three or four different businesses within recruitment, you don’t really know what’s going on because you just can’t. There’s so many interactions and transactions of people going on all day throughout all your different consults, you’ve got no idea. You’ve only got what they told you and the end result in terms of the placement. And you could have a great end result as in a positive placement and have 15 other people who had the worst experience of their life, and you have no idea. So, I think that was the biggest change from my perspective.
Justin: And that was the scary part. I spent 16 months researching what agencies did before we decided to build the product to make sure we had the absolute perfect product to go to market with. The concept never changed but throughout those 16 months, it was actually funny hearing, talking and seeing how agencies went about this by themselves. They’d only ever ask the people that they placed in a job for their feedback. And of course, it was always positive so they’re all giving themselves this awesome pat on the back, ‘We are great. We are great’. Well, of course you are. You’re asking the people you’ve placed. They’re happy. They got a job. I use an analogy when I describe this to these types of agencies. Kind of like asking your husband or wife on your wedding night, whether they love you or not.
Steve: I don’t think I asked her. I’m not sure what she’d say.
Justin: If you get any other answer than yes, probably run and you probably should have done that beforehand. You’ve just spent a shitload of money that day, you’re ruined for the rest of your life. It’s just nuts. I don’t get it.
Steve: So, I’m interested to know, and I don’t think I’ve actually ever asked you this in our many chats over the years, since you left the recruitment industry, and I would like to say that on two occasions, right? You left the recruitment industry, and you went to Seek, which is essentially the other side, right? And then you came back to recruitment and then you’d left, and you’ve gone into this business.
So, let’s go back way back to when you left and went to Seek. What was the first thing that you noticed swapping sides, if you like? That could be interpreted the wrong way. Going from one side of the industry to the other side of the industry.
Justin: Well, this is back in ’02. It was very different back then as well. So, when I went to Seek, they were fourth in the market. They were far from dominant.
Steve: Were they really?
Justin: Yeah, they were.
Steve: Who was the dominant player then? My Career?
Justin: Yep. Monster from an online perspective. But print ads, I remember sitting in the corner in Wellington Street and they were old offices back then and selling $100 online Seek ads versus a $10,000 ad in the EGN and losing. I’m like, ‘Are you out of your God damn mind?’ And this is to agencies and it just made zero sense. For $100, would you not just try it?
Now that obviously changed drastically over the next five years, but the difference between being that recruiter and then going into Seek, it was also a very different environment. This was a company that was scaling at the rate of knots and agencies just don’t scale at that same speed. So, the change in the business was absolutely phenomenal to be a part of firstly and it’s helped me a lot with this business as well, seeing and remembering what they did back in those days, although we haven’t scaled to anywhere near those heights just yet.
Steve: Just yet.
Justin: But it was a lot of those learnings through there that were absolutely fundamental to what I do now. I wouldn’t have… It still is, apart from my own business of course, the best place I’ve ever worked. It wasn’t as ruthless as an agency as well.
Steve: So, why’d you go back?
Justin: I ask myself that question every day.
Steve: You’re looking up into the horizon as you say that.
Justin: Why did I go back? To be perfectly honest, I just needed a job. It was the only reason I went back in. It was a no brainer. I could get a job at the drop of the hat. So, I went back in. I didn’t go back in for long to be fair, but yeah, I just did some things here and there and then landed in the software space. And I still, I would not take any job that I’ve done over the last 20 years back at all, because there’s actually a significant learning I’ve got out of each one that has helped me with my business today. I’ve seen companies go into-
Steve: Is there a standout one?
Justin: Yeah, look, there was a company that went into administration. That was certainly a standout from a different perspective. How not to run a business. So that was very beneficial. And, yeah.
Steve: Share that learning with us that you had, come on. What did you get out of that? Obviously, how not to, but what were the key points of that, that people might be interested in? Because there might be people who run businesses who are interested in this.
Justin: Promising the world and delivering nothing was essentially that business’s premise. It was poorly run from the top, not necessarily when I walked in there. It was the CEO’s problem. He’d inherited a basket case and they oversold. It was an online job board. They had inventory that was obviously infinite, but they’d sold out their inventory for the next three years. So, there was nothing for me to walk into and sell. Everyone had bought up for the next three years. So, I’m sitting there, ‘What do I do? What do you want me to sell?’
So, we had to create new products and new offerings to try and get revenue in the door-
Steve: I think I know which company this is.
Justin: There was absolutely nothing. But it was also a business that was too… It had too many people in it. Too many people that did very little. You had three graphic designers, you only need one. So, it was just little things like that. There was a project manager, they tried to build their own tech. There was one developer, which wasn’t enough. So, the resources were really out of whack, which was painful because we needed things done faster on development. We did a nice little banner put together, for example. So yeah, that is definitely a learning I got for how I approach my business. What do we first and foremost need to hire and where do we need to put those resources firstly.
But look, the experience I had at Page-Up was actually pretty interesting. Dealing with corporates and their ATS systems. It was actually if it wasn’t for that experience, the platform I designed that I have today, wouldn’t have happened. They have what’s called a recruitment rainbow. I don’t know whether they still use it, but it was this rainbow, this arch, semicircle. All the different modules within it. And I actually had that flash in my head when I had this idea for Recruiter Insider and that designed the platform. I literally did this in my head, ‘Bang. Ooh, I know how to do it’. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have come up with this idea at all.
Steve: Interesting. You never told me that before.
Justin: I’ve only told about two people that before.
Steve: You’ve told a lot more now.
Laura: We hope.
Steve: There’s a guy recording, there’s a whole film crew over there.
Laura: What was it about the rainbow that informed what you were doing? What was the moment?
Justin: It was weird because the rainbow was the hiring process, and it was the different modules that you can plug into the Page-Up system at different points of the hiring process to facilitate something. It’d be an efficiency around setting meetings or reference checks or sending out offers or whatever it was. There were 28 different modules. And when I had this idea to review recruitment consultants, it was like, okay, we need to look at the hiring process. We need to review the whole hiring process. And then the rainbow clicked in my head, and I’ve gone, ‘Oh, hold on. We can do this’, had it done. I literally designed it in my head in the space of about 10 seconds and none of that has changed. So, yeah, it was invaluable.
Laura: Okay. And I guess, so obviously starting your own thing is tough. We’ve given it a go and varying degrees of success right now for all of us. What do you think has been the biggest learnings of that so far?
Justin: Geez, my story is kind of ridiculous. When I came up with this idea, I wasn’t working, right? I said that before. So, I was like, ‘Okay, do I go get a job?’, which I need. I had money in the bank, but it was only going to last so long. Or do I drop everything and put all my attention and energy into this.
Now, rightly or wrongly, I chose the latter. And I needed to find a way to also earn money at the same time. So, I actually went and started doing Uber driving. Now that was painful, not only because it was Uber driving and you dealt with dickheads every day. Some lovely people as well, mind you, but it was very hard on the body. And they were long hours that you needed to do to kind of earn some half decent cash. But I also wouldn’t take that back because I met, would you believe, one of our biggest investors doing Uber driving?
Steve: Were you Uber black or Uber X?
Justin: No, no. I was Uber… There was none of that when I did it. This is back in the early… So, no, it was just normal Uber. So no, I met one of our investors doing Uber driving, which was quite weird and cool when you think about it. I also then competed in a reality TV show on the other side of the world.
Laura: Which one?
Justin: Oh, I’m so glad you’ve never heard of it. It’s called… What is it called? See, I can’t even remember-
Steve: I remember when you did this.
Laura: Oh, come on.
Steve: I can’t remember what it’s called either but I remember when this happened.
Justin: It was… Oh no, what was it called? Wow, that’s impressive. I can’t even think of it now.
Laura: Well, you’re going to have to send it later because I want to YouTube that. It will be online somewhere.
Justin: It’s online somewhere. That’s the beautiful thing. Online is massive, so you’ll never find it. I can’t remember what it was-
Steve: It was Love Island, but they did it on literally Ireland.
Justin: So that was a week in a castle, two and a half hours outside of London, drinking champagne at 10 o’clock in the morning and filming and competing. It was like a Dragon’s Den kind of thing, with different rounds and someone got knocked out at each round through to the final. Which the first round… Oh, look, I’m too brave and bold sometimes for my own good. The producers walked into all seven of us contestants and gone, ‘Okay, who wants to go first?’ Guess who stood up and went, ‘Me?’, Idiot. Dumbest thing I’ve ever done.
So, I get miked up, almost the next 15, 20 minutes, and he stands me outside the room, walks me into the room and says, literally ‘X marks the spot, this is where you walk in to’. And okay, sweet. Here’s what the room looks like. Oh, cool, ‘it’s going to be full of 40 people that are all the judges’. There’s 40 of them.
Steve: That’s a lot.
Justin: Not just four or five, 40 of them. All from the recruitment industry. So, I’ve walked back out, they’ve done a sound check and everything and all the advisors are now in there. All the judges, etc. And producers gone ‘Okay, walk in’. I’ve walked in and stood on the spot and just stood there. I’m like, ‘Okay. Now what?’ Someone at the back’s gone, ‘Go’.
‘Oh, I’m on. Shit’. And then did my two-minute pitch. And apparently it didn’t go well. So, I stunk that up like nothing else. To be fair, we didn’t have a product at that point. It was all an idea. So-
Steve: So, this was Recruiter Insider? I think I said it right.
Justin: This was Recruiter Insider. I’d pitched Recruiter Insider but the product wasn’t built, it was a concept which you were allowed to pitch. But we were basically pitching for investment, and they were happy to invest in ideas. So, I did that, stunk out the first round. I scraped through to the second round, only on the pure purpose that the judges felt sorry for me and thought I needed more help than anyone else.
Steve: There’s nothing wrong with a sympathy vote if you need it, you take it every time.
Justin: Oh, look, I took it, don’t worry. The second round was a debate, one-on-one. So, I was against one other contestant. I just happened to go up against the favourite.
Justin: Who actually did end up winning the whole competition. But I wiped the floor with him in the debate. This is where I’m not humble. I won that debate. I think everyone knows I won that debate.
Steve: Wasn’t actually announced, but everybody knows.
Justin: I threw it back in their face like, ‘See? I can do it’. You got a lot of advising and coaching and all the rest of it and advice in the two days before that. So that helped a great deal. But out of the back of that event, I didn’t go through to the final because they chose him to go through out of me because he’d done far better in the first round that what I did, but I ended up getting three quarters of my advisory board-
Laura: That’s awesome.
Justin: … and it still is today, out of the back of that event. They were all at that event and one of them introduced me to our fourth advisory board member. So that was priceless in that respect. Didn’t get any investment or anything, but I’m actually still the only one standing.
Steve: Wow. You’ll be the long-term reality star in the end, then? Maybe you’ll get your own show. Maybe you’ll become one of the judges. Who knows?
Justin: No. I do.
Laura: I think the one thing that keeps coming up, it sounds like every situation you’ve got into, you’ve just made the most of it. You’re like, ‘Okay, what can we get out of this?’
Justin: I don’t think there’s any other way to do it. There’s no point. There’s been trips and falls and failures and stuff ups and the odd bad decision. But every single time it’s like, ‘Okay, well that’s happened. Now what do we do?’
So, it was something that was told to me when I was knocking doors for Foxtel. We had this sensei guru guy that used to work in the business back then said, ‘Don’t ever let anyone or anything change your attitude. Always have a positive mental attitude because if you’ve got that, you’ll defeat and beat anything’. Now he told the story very differently than that, but that was the premise of it. He used to talk about a China bowl, and I never understood it. Someone had to simplify it for me, but that was the basic premise of it. I never understood the idea of the China bowl, breaking the China bowl. But-
Steve: You had to break the China bowl?
Justin: No, you don’t want anyone to break your China bowl.
Steve: Oh, right. Don’t get a China one, get a metal one.
Justin: I don’t know what the China bowl had to do with anything. Just have a positive mental attitude. Just keep it simple. I was 19. I had no idea what China bowls were.
Steve: I’m intrigued. So, as we talked about, you’ve taken the best out of everything that you’ve learned. You’ve now gone out and you’ve created this business that reviews other businesses. And I think the interesting thing about reviewing other businesses in an industry that you worked in as well for many years, you would have seen, and I think most people think most recruitment companies are the same, right? And you and I know that’s not the truth. But I think most people would view them that way.
Now you would have seen, I don’t know how many clients you have now, but we’re talking hundreds, right? So, you would have seen hundreds of different service businesses. Now service businesses are usually a product of the founder or the people that are running it and that’s how they operate. And which is why they’re all so different. Had the experience of not only seeing all the way that all these different businesses are run, but also seeing how people react to them, do you think that has changed the way you run your own business?
Justin: Yes and no. I think the recruitment industry, I say this to our clients and every agency I talk to, in fact, I’m going to ask you to both a question. Give me three words that you would use to describe recruitment agencies.
Steve: You go first, Laura. I’ll be intrigued to hear this.
Laura: Yeah. I don’t know about three words, but I was saying this the other day. I’ve only ever had really positive experiences with recruitment agencies. So, I genuinely, I don’t-
Steve: She’s young.
Laura: Well, no, I’ve only dealt with two recruiters in Australia. One’s you and obviously we get on because we’re here and the other one’s a company called Talenza and they let me squat in their offices for free. So, they’re pretty good to me too. And to be fair, both of you tried to get me jobs I didn’t want, but I made friends out of it and I’ve done really well out of it. And I’ve genuinely never had a bad experience and both Talenza and Nudge have recruited for me as well when I’ve had roles and they’ve both been incredible. So, I know that there’s lots of bad things that people say about recruiters, but I’ve just never had that experience.
Justin: Well, Talenza’s a client, so hello to them as well.
So, Steve three words from you.
Steve: Three words, so-
Justin: Yours is biased somewhat, mind you.
Steve: Well, this is it. Do you want me to look at it from my perspective? Or do you want me to give you three words from an industry perspective –
Justin: From an industry perspective. How the industry is perceived, perhaps?
Steve: Okay, I think they’re probably perceived as unregulated, untrained and greedy. I think is how they’re generally perceived. I do think that’s how people look at them. Now, everyone has good and bad experiences, right? And we all know that there’s good recruiters out there. We also know that there’s a lot of bad recruiters and some of them are bad because they’re bad people, but most of them are bad because they haven’t had enough training, or they haven’t had feedback from someone like Recruitment Insider to identify what training they needed, or they haven’t been taught correctly. And I don’t think they’re bad people. There’s a few bad people everywhere, but there’s not…
But most of the recruitment industry lacks the, I guess, competence that it should have through the fact that it’s always pushed out as a sales job. And it is a sales job in that every job is a sales job, but it’s not really a sales job and it’s become even less so, I think now.
Justin: A relationship job. It’s a people job.
Steve: And it’s a service, you’re providing a service. And I don’t think people see it that way. I think that’s beginning to change, but it’s not positive overall, I think. It’s very much like real estate agents, car sales, all that kind of stuff, they lump them into one. We need them but we don’t love them.
Justin: And this is what surprised me the most having a look. And I only base this on data these days, I don’t listen to individual people’s opinions and put validity around that. Although to what you’ve said, yes, that is a perception of what people have. I look at the volume. What are people saying at large?
And what surprised me the most? And I get Brad, my business partner to double check this report so many times it’s not funny. We word cloud. We look at the top words coming through from the testimonials.
Steve: You do. It comes up on our dashboard. It’s very cool. I love it.
Justin: Yep. I kid you not, across the platform there’s some 15,000 testimonials that have been submitted since day one. The top three words, and this is why I get it checked so often. In exact order, this is what’s scary about it. Great professional process.
Steve: That’s fascinating.
Justin: These are the main three words that people say about recruitment agencies that they engage with that are our clients. Fascinating to me that it’s those three words, but also in that exact order, every single time we run the report, it’s exact same.
Steve: Let me throw you back a question though. Out of all of those 15,000, what percentage are positive and what percentage are negative?
Justin: They’re testimonials, they’re all positive.
Steve: So, there’s the point, right? So that’s quite interesting in itself. You don’t tend to get negative testimonials on there, do you?
Justin: Well, you couldn’t call it a testimonial if you did. So, we do have another side that looks at that poor experience and we word cloud those words as well so we can see what the theme and the reasons behind it are. But these are people that primarily, and two thirds of that volume of the testimonials actually come through for the people that don’t get the job.
Laura: Interesting. Do you think though, and this is just, I guess, putting out there a little bit, but the fact that they’re your clients is they want feedback. So, they like process, and they want all those things. Because if they were really shit, do you think they’d be paying for you to get reviews and get that feedback?
Justin: Yeah, to get better. We’ve got agencies that certainly are below the average. Not much, but they are below. There’s certainly areas for everyone to improve. They’ve just got a few more than others. But I think largely what the industry has a problem with is not a perception problem. I actually think we’ve got a messaging problem. We don’t know. And as Steve said before, we are a service industry, but many act as a sales channel. So, I think that understanding of what the service is you’re actually providing, if that is better understood, the message will change, and the perception will change.
Steve: I think you’re right. You’re providing a service to two different audiences. Do you think that there’s a speed camera syndrome going on with once someone brings in Recruiter Insider, that now we know as consultants or whoever it is that’s being reviewed, ‘I’m being reviewed. I’m going to change my behaviour’. Which is a really positive thing if it does. But do you think that happens? You wouldn’t know because you don’t review them beforehand, but what do you think?
Justin: Look, we’ve got… It’s funny. I have this conversation with just about every agency. They will tell me that they are going to good at X, Y, Z. And okay, ‘Well, prove it to me. I can guarantee you’ll also fall down on this particular question which everyone falls down’. And they’re like, ‘Oh no, we’re perfect at that. We absolutely do that. We tone in on that’. Yeah, never the case.
Steve: You have to tell us what that question is in a minute, by the way.
Justin: Yeah. It’s a weird one. It’s a simple one, but it’s a weird one that it’s the biggest problem. I think everyone has an idea of what they do well from their own perception. Again, it’s all about perception and this is the difference of how we’ve also approached collecting feedback. We don’t look at it from the perception or from the angle and the mindset of what it is you want to know. It’s what is of value to the candidate and being in their shoes. Did you add value to them at that particular point on this particular element? So, it’s more about what’s in it for them, rather than what’s in it for you.
So, that question by the way, explain interview process and timeframes. The number one question that consultants trip up on.
Laura: I get that.
Steve: It doesn’t surprise me now you’ve said it. It wouldn’t occur to me if you asked me, but I guess it’s a very fluid process, that part of it.
Justin: It is.
Laura: Yeah, I don’t think most businesses know what their interview processes is if you ask them-
Steve: I think they have an idea, they just don’t necessarily follow it.
Laura: But then scale that up, it becomes Chinese whispers, doesn’t it? As a recruit, you just ended up being a middleman. I don’t know.
Justin: You always should work backwards. What’s your start date? When do you want someone to start? Work backwards from there. Easiest way to do it.
Steve: Now you’re out there on your own with you and Brad, do you have any particular mentors? Have you had any particular types of coaching? What are you doing? Because I’ve been there and Laura’s there now, it can be a very lonely place even when you do have co-founders. What are you doing to help you sort of cope with that?
Justin: Good question. Probably first and foremost, you need the world’s most understanding, forgiving and they’re probably the two key words, partner. As in husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. You’re going to be working more hours than what you ever thought you would in your whole entire life. Now I love that. I only found out recently that apparently 16-hour days, working 16-hour days, are not good for you. I didn’t know that before.
Steve: I think I told you that.
Justin: I think everyone has told me that over the last four years. So, I’ve just learned that that’s apparently not a good thing. I just thought it was normal. So yeah, firstly, you need a very understanding partner that’s going to allow you to do that and essentially not have a life. But as far as mentors etc, coaches, my advisory board is genuinely world-class. They are some of the best people in the industry for what they do. Very, very lucky to have all four of them still with us today. They’re still excited by what we do each and every month and quarter, so they’ve been invaluable along the way. We have quarterly board meetings and they’re involved in those and the insights and the advice they provide sometimes, fantastic. Sometimes you sit there and go, ‘No, I’m not going to do it that way’. You take what you need and move on.
Steve: Did they come from the industry or are they pretty broad?
Justin: Yeah, they come from the industry. All four are within the industry. So, their advice is always relevant. It’s just not always sometimes… You don’t need to take every piece of advice. That’s probably my biggest advice to anyone. Take the five or 10% that you really love and integrate that into what you’re doing and leaving the other 90% is actually perfectly fine because you can’t do everything anyway.
But I think I’ve got a lot of, not coaching or mentoring, but the biggest advice I’ve actually got is from our clients directly. I’m very open with my clients and go to them for feedback on all the large things that we do. All the big development items, all the big changes we’re thinking of or whatever it might be and get their input and advice first. And that’s not only helped shape the business, it’s shaped the way that we engage with our clients and the expectations we set and the service levels we provide and the transparency, but also helps shape the product a great deal as well. So, we know we’re building something that people have an appetite for because they’ve all got input.
Steve: Yeah, and I can attest to that. You’ve rung me many a time with an idea and many a time I’ve said, ‘Great’, and many a time I’ve said, ‘What on Earth are you talking about?’ And that hasn’t seemed to have any impact on your decisions either. But I do appreciate the-
Justin: Always take the 5%. No, I had a client, it was probably about two months ago. I rang him up and asked him about something. And he literally turned around and said, ‘If you frigging do that, we’re out of there’. He just went to town on me. ‘You don’t need to do that. Just stop, sit back, don’t do it’. Like, okay.
Steve: Definitely doing it.
Laura: Yeah, but I think it’s-
Justin: Funny thing was, he was right.
Laura: Yeah. But I mean, it’s great that you’ve got so many people that are so passionate about what you’re doing, right? The fact that he gets that irate is such a good thing because it must mean how much he cares and how much value you’re adding.
Justin: Yep, yep. No, exactly. And a lot of our clients have been with us since day one now, or that first year. So, this was a client, hi Marcello, for three years but he just ripped into me. But you know what? He was right at the same time. It takes some time obviously to compute that yourself and go, ‘Oh, damn it. Yep, okay’. I thought it was a good idea, but as soon as you tell it to someone else, the world changes.
Laura: That’s a good point, though. So, feedback’s often very difficult to hear, but it sounds like you’re pretty good at it. Do you think that’s practice or what do you think has kind of got you there with that?
Justin: I think it’s my broad shoulders. I don’t know. No look, I don’t like, and this is a funny thing from that reality show that I did, every single advisor thought that I was not listening to them and that I was tuning out and ignoring them and this arrogant little shit from down under who thought he knew everything. The reality was, I knew nothing. I realised that pretty quickly. My pitch was okay, but it wasn’t great. I needed to step it up a gear, which I knew I had the capabilities to do. They gave me the advice and whilst they were giving it to me, they thought, ‘Are you even listening to me?’ But then I went and implemented it. I think everyone has a different way of taking in that information and dealing with it. You shouldn’t necessarily look at someone and go, ‘Right. I’ve given you the advice. You haven’t listened so whatever’. It’s more about the action.
Steve: Is that how you got them on your advisory board because they saw down the track that you had listened to them? And they were like, ‘Oh, hold on a minute. That idiot who didn’t listen to me actually did and not only did it, he’s done it and he’s doing it successfully. Maybe we should talk more’. Is that where, how that sort of a lot of that came about?
Justin: Yeah. One of them I got along with from the first minute. Two of them I did, in fact. The third one was funny because she worked with me the most during that week. And she’s actually on video, don’t ever find this video, but she actually turned around on the show that they have to thank him edited in. He’s not very likable. It’s a bit harsh.
Steve: We are finding that video.
Justin: She’s on our advisory board. I think not only did they see that I, yes, did actually accept the feedback just in a very different way to normal people, but that the idea was also quite strong as well. So, there was a bit of both sides of the fence there. But I say to anyone, feedback take the 5% you like. Do away with the other 95. You can’t implement everything anyway. So yes, if someone says something to you that is harsh or it’s criticism or you don’t like it, you get defensive or negative. You’re allowed to react like that, but don’t ignore it.
Laura: Yeah, I love that. Okay, just looking at time, we’ve got 10 minutes. So, I’m going to ask you two more questions.
Justin: Okay, yeah that’s probably about the right amount of time, yep.
Laura: I guess for anyone that is thinking about starting up and doing their own thing, what advice would you give them?
Justin: Don’t. Have a business partner that’s 10 times smarter than you.
Laura: Failing that, anything else?
Justin: Look, I’d absolutely advise any person looking to start their own business, even if you’re two years in and you don’t have this, get an advisory board. Get people who are not necessarily smarter, but different experience from your industry ideally, that can provide a different point of view.
Steve: Okay, explain how you do that. How did you go about, other than obviously the reality TV show, which isn’t necessarily open to everybody, I don’t know how many times we can mention it. I might try and swing it in a few more. In fact we’ve got the whole film crew out there, looking, trying to work out what’s it called. What’s it called? Come on.
Justin: I’ve remembered the name of it. Dear God.
Laura: Come on then, share.
Justin: The Movement.
Laura: The Movement.
Steve: Gee, that was a hit, wasn’t it?
Laura: Okay, Googling it.
Justin: It moved, all right.
Steve: Go back to how do you someone wants to go and get an advisory board on your advice-
Justin: Don’t Google it now.
Steve: How do they-
Laura: I really want to see the video.
Steve: Can we put it on the screen? No, how do you go about getting an advisory board? Or how did you go about that because obviously there’s lots of different ways.
Justin: Yeah, look my way’s not going to be the way that 95% of people can go about it for sure.
Steve: That 5% word again.
Justin: I would look at people within the industry, go to networking events. See who the heavy hitters are in the industry, a CEO of a company, an MD, an Operations Manager. Not necessarily, I’d look at the top end of town. Approach them say, ‘I’d like to get your feedback’. Don’t approach them asking them to be an advisor. But ask for them to get their feedback on your idea, your concept, your product, your service, whatever it is that you’re looking to do. See how that goes. And then just build that relationship from there. Once it’s at a certain point, then potentially ask them to come on board. That’s if you don’t know anyone. If you know people in the industry, do the exact same thing and then ask them immediately. Grab them as soon as you can.
But yeah, look, it’s not easy that’s for sure. You need to be very particular about who you approach, and they have to be in it for the right reasons. I think the one thing, and this isn’t just a recruitment thing. This is a thing that we looked at with our advisory board as well, the one thing that I rate probably the highest when I’m looking at hiring someone or an advisor and even some respects an investor in our business. What passion do they have for what we’re doing? Because if that’s not there, if they’re not, no one’s going to be as excited as me, of course you’re not going to get that, but if they’re not passionate and they’re not eager and had 10,000 ideas themselves, it’s not going to work.
Laura: Totally. And I think you picked that up so quickly just from talking to people about Strivin. Some people get it and they’ve got a story and there’s a reason why, and you can tell that they’re passionate and other people are like, ‘Eh’. And so, despite the fact that they’re incredible…
Justin: Yeah, and it’s the, ‘Eh’.
Laura: Yeah, and they’re incredible on paper. They’re super smart. You love everything about them, but you’re like, ‘You can’t feel meh about this. I love it too much for you to be okay with it’. You’ve got to get someone, like you say, that it’s just super passionate too.
Justin: Your advisors have to be just as passionate as what you are. Now, they will never be more than, but if they’ve got that passion there, that goes a long way to them also providing you and be willing to provide that support and advice and back up and run ideas past, etc, every single time. That’s what’s great about our clients as well. They know they can come to me and, ‘What did you do that for? That’s stupid’. That’s not an invitation for you, by the way, Steve.
Steve: I did not say one word. Didn’t even move.
Justin: But we do have, as cliche as it sounds, kind of open door. If you’ve got something you want the product to do, or it’s done something that you don’t want it to do, come and tell us. Let’s work through it and let’s make it work.
Steve: We’ve had a few conversations like that. We nearly did one thing, which I won’t go into now, but I was really pushing you to do, and I got you all excited. And then you rang back the next day and went, ‘Nah, not doing it’. You remember that? I’m sure.
Justin: Oh, yeah, I remember what that was too.
Steve: And that was probably the right decision.
Justin: That’s the challenge when you are… The next shiny thing is always around the corner. That next idea that a client might run you past. You’ve got to be really careful on that respect to not take every idea as well, even though they sound awesome at the time.
Steve: It was awesome.
Justin: You’ve got to stay within your lane. You’ve got to stick to what you’re really good at. As soon as you start stepping outside of that, you start to lose your focus. You can tread lightly here and there, which we are about to do, but not going full blown into the space that Steve actually approached me about, as good of an idea as it was.
Laura: Interesting. All right, then last question and then we’ll let you go. Who else would you like to hear from on the podcast? Who’s career story would you like to hear?
Justin: Who’s career story would I like to hear?
Steve: Can be anyone.
Justin: I actually didn’t see that question coming. You didn’t word me up on that one. Off the top of my head, I think actually Melanie from Canva would be awesome. That product, Canva, and the business. I mean, what are they valued at now? Four billion?
Laura: Yeah, isn’t that crazy?
Steve: I think a bit more.
Justin: Yep, I’m obsessed with it.
Steve: I think a lot of people are.
Laura: Yeah, I think you’re right. Awesome, thank you so much for today.