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Scale Up Your Significance: Nick Bradley #99

Warwick Fairfax

January 11, 2022

It takes quite a bit of pent-up, anxious energy to grind your teeth so violently that they shatter in your mouth. But that’s just what Nick Bradley did. More surprising yet, he says that moment of terrible physical pain brought on by equally terrible emotional pain was one of the best things that ever happened to him. Bradley says what he calls “the teeth incident” was the outward manifestation of his inner turmoil as a successful businessman who had discovered his high achievements came at the price of low fulfillment. So he changed the trajectory of his life. He started a business consultancy and launched the Scale Up Your Business Podcast to help clients and listeners be grateful, be brave, be faithful and show up for work and for life in ways that bring them satisfaction and significance beyond the bottom line.
To learn more about Nick Bradley and his podcast, now called SCALE UP WITH NICK BRADLEY, visit www.suybacademy.com

Highlights

  • Nick’s first taste of exiting a business — and what he learned (4:23)
  • How his fascination with entrepreneurship was born (5:28)
  • Finding his niche in the world of private equity (11:10)
  • How his success created his crucible (13:22)
  • The “teeth incident” (16:04)
  • What prompted his pivot from his lucrative discontent (20:50)
  • His vision for his podcast (23:53)
  • The danger of wrapping your identity in your business 29:02)
  • The motto that gave him significance (31:48)
  • Helping others brings true fulfillment (36:04)
  • You can have both success and significance (40:50)
  • Nick’s message of hope to listeners (48:33)

Transcript

Warwick F:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Nick B:

So I’ve gone from this kind of real connection, starting to question things, starting to build a relationship with my dad after 30 odd years, realizing that actually he’s a very success entrepreneur, perhaps that’s who I should have been, perhaps I made the wrong decision with my fitness business, perhaps I should have done… All these things are going on. Then he dies, suddenly.

Nick B:

I sort of come back from that, I come back to the UK and a couple weeks after that I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s about 3:00 AM, and I’m in a lot of pain. My face is all swollen, the right side of my jaw is really throbbing. And I go into the bathroom and I look in the mirror and it’s all red and swollen. It’s like I’ve been punched in the face.

Nick B:

And what’s happened is I have literally grit my teeth, clenched my teeth in my sleep through probably a culmination of so many things going on that I’ve partly explained, and I cracked the two molars. Like, not just cracked them, like they shattered, like there’s actually teeth in my mouth.

Gary S:

It takes quite a bit of pent up anxious energy to grind your teeth so violently that they disintegrate. But that’s just what this week’s guest, Nick Bradley, did. And would you believe, he says that moment of terrible physical pain brought on by equally terrible emotional pain was one of the best things that ever happened to him? Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, cohost of the show.

Gary S:

In his discussion with Warwick and me, Nick details how shattering his teeth was the outward manifestation of his inner turmoil. A successful businessman who had discovered his high achievements came at the price of low fulfillment. So he changed the trajectory of his life. He started a business consultancy and launched the Scale Up Your Business podcast, to help clients and listeners but grateful, be brave, be faithful, and show up for work and for life in ways that bring them satisfaction and significance beyond the bottom line.

Warwick F:

Well, Nick, thanks again and wonderful to have a fellow Australian. You were very kind to have me on your podcast, Scale Up Your Business, and we had a tremendous conversation. So before we get into Scale Up Your Business, I’d love a bit of the origin story, the Nick Bradley origin story. Obviously from Australia but you lived in the UK for close to 20 years, I think married a girl from over there, I’m guessing in the UK. So that’s kind of what happens. I married an American girl and she brought me back to the US, so yeah, it kind of happens. Which is all good. So tell me, what’s the origin story of your interest in entrepreneurship, equity, you grew up in Adelaide. So tell me a bit about how you grew up and you’ve clearly always had a fascination with entrepreneurship.

Nick B:

Origin story, yeah. So as you said Warwick, I grew up in this place called Adelaide. It’s funny, I can’t really lie about it because you know Australia so well. I can often say things about Adelaide and people go, “Oh it sounds like this nice, quaint little town.” I often say it’s famous for three things. Sharks, big sharks. They filmed a lot of Jaws’ open water scenes there. Lots of churches. I think it’s called the City of Churches. And the third thing, which always freaks people out, is serial killers. We had this spate of serial killers. Seriously. Like, yeah, this is not the podcast to go into that.

Nick B:

I suppose the summary of that is I had to leave, and I did. And I got into the world of media, and that’s where you and I sort of connected a little bit. I worked for Rupert Murdoch for a number of years, specifically for his uncle, who owned a company called Murdoch Magazines. And I sort of cut my teeth in that world for a number of years, which got me to the UK, because I left that company and worked for a business called EMAP, East Midlands Allied Press.

Nick B:

I suppose it was like 15 years in corporate, in reasonably senior leadership positions. I was in sort of board level roles before I was 30. But I had my first taste of exiting businesses around 2007 when we sold EMAP to a couple of private equity firms and also a bigger German publisher. I was involved in the transition before exit, and then I saw what happened after exit, and I thought I need to go a little bit deeper into this world. So I joined another company called Getty Images, based out of Seattle but I was working for them in London and New York. That was a business that was scaled through a number of different private equity investments and exits.

Nick B:

We did multiple numbers of acquisitions when I was there. In fact, I was involved with about 30 of them. I think there’s over 100 acquisitions in total. And that just got me into this whole world of… let’s call it investment banking, corporate finance, high level wealth creation, all through M&A, mergers and acquisitions.

Nick B:

And I won’t get to the punchline because it is the Crucible Leadership story, but let’s just say the person I am today versus the person I was through that pretty amazing ride is very, very different because of some things that happened. But that’s how it all started and I got kind of addicted to this world of cut and thrust private equity wealth, money, power, status, and it served me for a certain period of time but then after a while I needed to make a few changes.

Warwick F:

And that’s fascinating, and one of the other things I think of Adelaide being famous for is wine, the Barossa Valley and at least in the US you see wine bottles… it’ll say like Southeastern Australia and I don’t know what that means. Southeastern Australia could be like 70% of the population or something. It’s an arc from Adelaide to Brisbane.

Nick B:

It’s like the whole of Great Britain fits in that, I think. So you better get it right.

Warwick F:

But yeah, were your parents entrepreneurs? Where do you get this business gene of loving the cut and thrust of entrepreneurship and business? Where did that come from?

Nick B:

This is an interesting part of the story. I had a business in Adelaide before I moved to Sydney when I started moving into the world of publishing. And it was a small personal training business. But at the time, we’re talking sort of late ’80s, early ’90s. Personal training wasn’t a thing. The people who had personal trainers were doctors, lawyers, stock brokers. It wasn’t something that’s as commonplace such as today. And I started that business not really knowing much but my grandfather, who was a big influence on me growing up, he was like, “Are you really going to do this? Why don’t you go get a job? A job equals safety.”

Nick B:

And I had that in the back of my mind. So I closed the business down. I sold it to a friend. Not for much money. Because I just sold my client list really. But what was interesting about that whole first introduction to entrepreneurship is I met some very, very wealthy, powerful, influential people and that was how I ended up meeting Matt Handbury and Rupert Murdoch, through that, having a personal training business.

Nick B:

But the story is I sort of thought you know, okay, well I’m not going to do this entrepreneurial thing, everyone in my family is saying it’s not a good thing to do, go and get a job. So that’s what I did. I suppose the long story short of that is 15 years of my life was a frustrated entrepreneur, well they call them intrepreneurs or something crazy like that, in businesses. And I just kept getting either promoted or sacked. There was no middle ground.

Nick B:

So I got promoted up because I was this chippy Australian guy, or I annoyed someone on the ladder upwards who wanted the job I was going for or something else, and then I got sacked. And that’s kind of how it happened. But I was sacked within the companies, so I was moved around these divisions.

Nick B:

But here’s the interesting part to your question. So I was this frustrated entrepreneur, I was quite successful, but I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing. What happened was my father, he left our family when I was two years of age. The usual stuff that happens, Mum and him just sort of fell out. But then he came back into my life in my late 30s. So it was something like 35 years difference. And he was a very, very successful entrepreneur in Australia. He had a business, a jewelry business that was based in Collins Street, in fact he had a couple of different sites in Melbourne. And he lost that business in his early 40s because there was a bombing, a terrorist bombing at the Turkish Consulate, and he went from being effectively a millionaire to being bankrupt within the space of this incident because there’s no insurance for things like that.

Nick B:

Now, I didn’t know any of this, none of this. But then he came back into my life and I realized that he’d done this… he was very much an entrepreneur. After that incident he ended up building another business in his 40s into his 50s and effectively a millionaire again in a separate business. So when I met him, I realized that I had these kind of genes, these desires, this different outlook, whatever you want to define entrepreneurship as, that for many years I had repressed. And it was when I met him, all of a sudden it was like wow, perhaps I need to lean into this a bit more.

Warwick F:

You had this inner conviction that this is what I want to do and you went for it, which is really remarkable. So you were in these companies, you were somebody that wasn’t afraid of your opinion. And sometimes that’s accepted well. Those who are maybe insecure, it’s like ah, Nick, no thank you for your opinion, you’ve given it to me about 10 times on this subject, can you just be quiet, go away. There are some people that unfortunately are too insecure or small minded that it doesn’t work.

Warwick F:

So at some point you went to be an entrepreneur yourself and got into private equity, so how did that transition happen from just working within a corporate sphere to more going into private equity, venture capital, that kind of thing?

Nick B:

Yeah, so my corporate career, from the outside looking in, was pretty successful. As I said to you beforehand in terms of positions and money and roles, all those sort of things, responsibility. When I got into private equity, it felt like a natural fit because I was the guy that would effectively go and fix up problems. So the private equity firms would put me into situations that they found quite difficult operationally. So I wasn’t the guy who would sit back with the spreadsheet, the MBA from Harvard and all that. I wasn’t that guy. I was let’s go in there and see if the people in this business can actually make it work and create value.

Nick B:

And if they couldn’t, for the assessment that I would give from being in there, then I would be the person who would deliver the change, the transformation. And I was remunerated by both my time spent doing that but also the amount of value I could create by any change that I made. So if a business was invested in by a private equity firm, the investment went backwards, so it wasn’t worth as much as what they paid for it. I would be paid, if you like, on what I could do to get it back to zero, get it back to above water, and then any growth that could come from it. So I found my niche in that. I found my niche. I wouldn’t call myself an entrepreneur then. But I was operating in a very, very precise way in a very, very interesting environment.

Warwick F:

Yeah. But an entrepreneurial spirit of okay, we need to make some changes here, get value for the shareholders, and yeah. You usually want it done fairly quickly. So you did that for a while, and it sounds like you were very good at it. Sort of the turnaround guy, which is very valued in business, that somebody can come around and make a big change quickly. Which obviously all investors want understandably.

Warwick F:

So you did that. But does that kind of lead into, I think what you call the teeth incident where a lot of bad things happened. It sounds like professionally things were going gangbusters, things were going really well, you were very good at what you did. You had almost like a Liam Neeson like, a particular special set of skills, right? That not everybody knows.

Nick B:

It’s very much like that, yeah, it is.

Warwick F:

Then again I’m not trying to… I’m being flippant but I’m not… But you were seriously good at what you were doing and you were paid understandably, which is as it should be in a market economy, if you provide value you should share in the profits. That’s what the whole market economy’s built on, it makes total sense. So you were doing really well, and at one level you enjoyed what you were doing, but yet… So talk about how you were succeeding, you were doing tremendously, and that led into the teeth incident which led to a pivot in your life. So talk about the Crucible, the teeth and the pivot.

Nick B:

There’s nothing worse than getting a conscience, right? It’s a little bit like… probably the best way to describe it, if any listeners have seen Jerry Maguire where he wakes up one day and he writes this memorandum which gets him sacked. It was a bit like that, but there was a lot of things going on at the time.

Nick B:

So when you get up to the top table in some of these investment businesses, private equity firms, that sort of stuff, there are some certain decisions that are made that are very much about the money that’s going to be created. And I was involved in some of those situations where the value that we were extracting from entrepreneurs who built good businesses was disproportionately favored towards the private equity firms and the investors.

Nick B:

So we would actively go out there and try and get deals. You could argue that’s fair, what’s that whole caveat emptor sort of thing. But you know, there’s a point where… and I know this now more so because I’ve delved right into it. A lot of the people who build great businesses are good at doing that but they don’t know how to manage what happens up in the echelons of exits and things like that.

Nick B:

And you see that all the time. You see people who sell businesses but they don’t really get the value for it. And I was starting to develop this conscience around it, thinking do I really want to go and do this when I’m not effectively lying but the integrity levels of what I’m doing is not where I want to play.

Nick B:

Now, why I started to develop this conscience is partly because my dad had come back into my world, and I realized that as a successful entrepreneur the people that I was screwing over were people like him. And I’m thinking, oh god, this is not feeling very good. And I was starting to get a bit sick, right? I wasn’t feeling very good, I was feeling very stressed. And then two things happened. Firstly, I went away on this trip to Vermont, and my dad flew there from Melbourne, I was living in the UK-

Warwick F:

I’m sorry, you flew to where?

Nick B:

To Vermont, Vermont in the US.

Warwick F:

Oh Vermont, I’m sorry, yeah.

Nick B:

Yeah. Your accent’s better than mine. And I ran a race there. They’ve got a 100 mile race, I ran the 100 kilometers because I was obviously not strong enough to do the 100 mile. But anyway, so my dad turns up, we spend this amazing two weeks together. We leave, everything’s great, he’s hanging out with my daughter who’s a couple of years old. And literally 12 months to the day later I’m in Melbourne by his bed and he dies that day. He gets very, very aggressive cancer, lots of things go wrong.

Nick B:

So I’ve gone from this sort of real connection, starting to question things, starting to build a relationship with my dad after 30 odd years. Realizing that actually he’s a very successful entrepreneur, perhaps that’s who I should have been, perhaps I made the wrong decision with my fitness business, perhaps I should have done… All these things are going on, right? Then he dies, suddenly.

Nick B:

I sort of come back from that, I come back to the UK and a couple weeks after that I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s about 3:00 AM, and I’m in a lot of pain. My face is all swollen, the right side of my jaw is really throbbing. And I go into the bathroom and I look in the mirror and it’s all red and swollen. It’s like I’ve been punched in the face.

Nick B:

And what’s happened is I have literally grit my teeth, clenched my teeth in my sleep through probably a culmination of so many things going on that I’ve partly explained, and I cracked the two molars. Like, not just cracked them, like they shattered, like there’s actually teeth in my mouth. I could taste them.

Warwick F:

Oh my gosh.

Nick B:

And the first thing happens, obviously I’m awake, right? I take some pills. In the morning I go to the doctor as soon as I can get there, they send me to the dentist, they examine it. The dentist says, “I’ve only seen this happen before and it’s usually people who are in very high stress situations.” And I sort of spoke to my wife after this, after I got it sorted out and said, “I’ve got to change this. I can’t do this anymore.” And literally that was the moment that I did change it, and within the following days, weeks, months after that is when I started to do the stuff I’m doing now.

Gary S:

Before you ask the next question, Warwick, I want to, no pun intended about crooked teeth or broken teeth, I want to drill down into something you said, Nick, when you started maybe seven, eight minutes ago in this conversation. You just very matter of factly said that your life from the outside looking in was successful. What you’ve just described at the end of your story there was from the inside looking out, not so much so. And I think a lot of our listeners maybe find themselves in that same position, that success sometimes can be a crucible in and of itself if it doesn’t provide those things that Warwick talks about, that lead to a life of significance. Would you say that was much or sort of as much a crucible as the teeth incident? Was what you realized that from the outside looking in, everything was successful, but from the other direction it wasn’t?

Nick B:

I know this now because I’ve examined it more for myself and others. I know there’s lots of millionaires who still cry to sleep. So they may look great. Like, I had everything, the cars, the houses, the whole piece. But I wasn’t living to what I now understand were proper values that inspired me so that I could create wealth and impact. To your point, Gary, yes. At the extreme of it, a lot of people don’t make decisions, they sit within areas where it’s sort of not too bad, it’s not bad enough that they make change. So it’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s in the middle, and that’s what I was. The outside in looked great but actually I wasn’t feeling congruent.

Warwick F:

I mean, that’s sort of fascinating because I think of that quote from Thoreau, you know, we can live lies of quiet discontent. You weren’t sobbing on the floor but it just, it seemed like there was something nagging within you saying is this all there is? Or I’m just tired of coming in and getting rid of the previous regime. Maybe it’s not about lying but maybe there was other choices that may have been better for a wider group of constituencies, employees, owners, community, but maybe not the shareholders and private equity. There’s all sorts of issues but when you’re on a track you tend to block out those other thoughts because they’re uncomfortable, then you just focus, okay I’ve got a job here and caveat emptor, buyer beware, and all that.

Warwick F:

It just sounds like maybe it was with your dad dying, those thoughts, some people don’t come to that pivot point but you did. Why do you think you hit that pivot when you probably know scores of people that were just like you, your age, your time of life, and they didn’t pivot. They said, “Ah, I hear what you’re saying, but it’s the world we live in and let’s just keep going.” Why did you pivot when so many don’t?

Nick B:

I’ll answer that but before I do I want to say that most people never will. And that is the travesty for me, in different ways. It’s the same as someone who’s in the job they hate for years and then all of a sudden they realize that time is running out to make any changes.

Nick B:

I think, I was lucky because I had an inflection point. The inflection point, which however you think about these things, I believe these things serve you. So my dad coming back in and giving me a message at that point, which I did resist, he tried to get back into my life multiple times but there was a point where I thought you know what, let’s just see where this goes.

Nick B:

That created the inflection point for me to… back to my point around things are either really good or really bad, it got to a point where things were so bad that I needed to change it. That’s the inflection point. So any fear I had previously of maybe going out and building a business, building an empire, all the different things I’m sort of more involved in now, I was too scared to leave the comfort of six, seven figure money coming in all the time. Until the pain got so bad I needed to make that change.

Nick B:

And the pain was, realistically, health, am I showing up as a good example for my kids, am I that person? And if I answered those honestly, at the point of time I wasn’t, and those things are important to me.

Warwick F:

So, I want to shift to what you do now, but just so that sometimes opposites, or I don’t want to say darkness illuminates the light but maybe challenges illuminate the light. Just so that we can understand better what you do now, what was it about your life or what you were doing that was causing you so much anxiety within you, that was causing so much inner turmoil? Because it wasn’t like you were doing anything illegal, you were just doing standard operating practice, perhaps, in your industry. So what’s wrong with… it’s the market economy but yet something was really troubling it. How would you summarize the elements that were troubling you so much, that caused you to shift?

Nick B:

There’s no such thing in my mind as what I’d call standardized integrity. Like what you think and what I think are different things. We’re not wrong, it’s whatever feels comfortable. There were decisions… Nothing was illegal of course, but I would sit in rooms and the conversation would be just create fear and uncertainty in the mind of that entrepreneur so we can get a lower value. Say some stuff here which is kind of on the borders of being real just so we can create a wedge.

Nick B:

It’s more unethical than what I would call illegal, but it’s like really? And I think back… There was a point in time where I was so driven around achievement that I didn’t care about that, right yeah, whatever. But once I met my dad and that period of time was over a few years, he came back and I started to question things differently. I thought, I’m now a dad myself, all that started to happen. Do I really want to be this person? And how important is it anyway? And so that was the thinking.

Nick B:

There are still people who are in that and they may be very happy but that’s where their integrity is different, I don’t judge it. But for me, at that point in time, I realized I needed to make a bigger contribution to make me feel more complete.

Warwick F:

But let’s shift here to Scale Up Your Business. Last thing I’ll say on this is part of it is not being aware of it, part of it is you don’t want to face it, because if you admit what you really think you are and the mistakes you’re making, like my crucible was awfully different, it was a lot of my own mistakes, so it’s hard for me to ignore that $2.25 billion failure.

Warwick F:

But yeah, I mean it’s painful to look at yourself, at your mistakes and things that you’ve done wrong. So sometimes it’s lack of awareness, sometimes it’s I don’t want to be aware because if I’m aware of it it’s going to be excruciatingly painful. So I’d rather ignorance is bliss kind of thing. So it’s a bit of both, I think, for many.

Warwick F:

So talk about how you pivoted in a way that many successful private equity folks don’t, because you’re on this train doing super well and there’s always a desire for the next deal because it’s fun, it’s super exciting, the thrill of the chase. But talk about what your whole vision is with Scale Up Your Business, you have a podcast and consultancy, professional partnerships you do through it. Talk about what your vision was for Scale Up Your Business as you started it.

Nick B:

Yeah, sure. One of the things that I realized was that I needed to be more externally focused as opposed to focusing on myself. Had a bit of coaching on that, actually. It was about, I had high achievement, low fulfillment. Why is that the case? Because I’m not making a difference enough.

Nick B:

So the podcast was the first thing I started. So I didn’t quit the private equity firm straight away. I was making a certain amount of money that I didn’t want my family to suffer by any change that I was going through or any midlife crisis, right? So I started the podcast and I did that because of two reasons. I wanted to help people and I wanted to have a platform to share all the experiences I had in growing and scaling businesses. But if I’m honest with you guys, it was also cathartic. It’s a little bit like if you journal or you go to therapy, just by saying the things it helps you.

Nick B:

So if you go to the early episodes, a lot of it is me in a dark room just talking into a microphone. I didn’t do interviews for a long time. It’s me for an hour just talking and sharing all of the war stories, right? And putting a perspective on it. But what I had in the back of my mind, which kind of drove that as well, was what happens if I jumped over the other side of the table? So I’m not going to leave the world fully because it’s all I know, it’s what I’ve done, but what happens if I sit on the same side as the entrepreneur? What happens if when they’re going to sell their business and the private equity firms come or the corporates come or whatever, I’m sitting next to them, with all the experiences I’ve had of being on that side.

Nick B:

So the whole thing was, what would that do? And I started to scratch that. You know, play with that. And I realized that there was a massive gap of no one really doing that. So I built consultancy education, all that sort of thing around how can you build a business so valuable that you create a life-changing exit? What does that look like? Which is the scale up piece. Then when you get to that process, the final piece, the pathway to a sale, what sort of support do you need to be able to do that effectively so that you are leveling the table stakes against some very impressive people that may be on the other side? So Scale Up Your Business became that. It came off the podcast but it became more of that because of that one decision.

Warwick F:

So it feels like, in a sense, it’s not so much standing up for the little guy but relative to some of these big private equity firms it probably feels a little bit like a David and Goliath, you’re standing up for folks, you’re helping them get some tools, and maximize their value, trying to level the playing field a little bit. Because I guess you could see your dad in a lot of these folks. You want to stand up for people. Entrepreneurs, they may not be financial geniuses but they have a vision for their business.

Warwick F:

And yeah, I mean I don’t want to say it was a ministry, I mean you got paid for all that but there was an altruistic, it wasn’t… If it just was about money, there’s probably better ways to make money than helping entrepreneurs through a podcast. I mean, you’ve done unbelievably well, I mean it’s just staggering, but do you know what I mean? Clearly your motive for this pivot wasn’t how am I going to maximize personal Nick Bradley shareholder value, right?

Nick B:

Well, it wasn’t, but I separated the two things. So one of the things you learn from private equity is you learn how to buy businesses. That’s the whole play. So I buy businesses now. I buy my own businesses. So I build wealth by building out that and I know how to roll businesses up and sell them to private equity, so I do that. So the coaching, consultancy side of what I do, I don’t look at that as oh my god, I’ve got to have a seven figure business like that. Because I’m approaching it in a different way, it’s been more successful. Because I can pick and choose who I work with. I don’t treat it in the traditional business sense. I treat it like something that’s more of an interest to me.

Warwick F:

Okay, okay, no, that makes total sense. So some of the things you say in Scale Up Your Business and some of the interviews you’ve done is… I’m certainly aware of this. You’ve often got entrepreneurs that get their whole identity in the business. They won’t let go, they won’t bring professional management, and you would know far more than I do, I’m not aware of the numbers, 10 million or whatever the number is. At a certain point they can’t do it all, but they want to do it, they’re just clinging to it and their identity’s all wrapped up into it, they won’t bring professional managers. They can still be the keeper of the vision but bring in a good chief executive.

Warwick F:

I know you’ve seen this a million times, but it sounds like you’re trying to come alongside those folks and help them say, “Hey, you know, if you want to get to the next level or any level, you’ve got to let go.” So is that kind of something part of what you do with entrepreneurs?

Nick B:

My quote is this, and I say this probably more times than I need to. I even said today with a client. I said, “You can only scale a business to the level of your identity.” And so if you unpack that, what does that mean? It means how you think about things, what you want to create, your bigger vision. I talk about 20 year visions and things like that with people.

Nick B:

A lot of the time I’m working on the person’s mindset before I’m getting involved in the skillset that’s going to allow them to create what they’re trying to create. And that’s the piece. If you ask me why Scale Up Your Business the podcast has been successful, is it’s really a podcast about mindset. It’s who you need to be. Interwoven with how do you raise money, how do you do better sales and marketing. It’s not really about the business side as much as it is about the mindset side.

Warwick F:

Right, because if you don’t fix your mindset, the other stuff won’t happen. You won’t maximize profitability, shareholder value, or be able to sell your business at a level that you would want to. That’s fascinating.

Gary S:

Hearing you say that, Nick, one of the things that strikes me as is that there’s a lot of scale up things we can say that seem to apply here. Scale up your authenticity, if that’s part of your mindset, scale up your authenticity is a way to keep yourself from that place where you’re successful on the outside but not on the inside. Scale up your significance, to use a word that Warwick uses a lot in helping people find their path to a life of significance.

Gary S:

And then a word that you used when we asked you in a questionnaire that we give to all guests, if we can only ask you one question what would it be, and you said, “What’s the impact or legacy you want to leave?” There’s an aspect there too, right, of scale up your legacy. That’s really kind of what happens when you change your mindset along the lines of what you’re talking about, right?

Nick B:

Yeah. And one of the things, I have sort of a mantra that I created in some bizarre way, and it’s be grateful, be brave, have faith and show up, right? And the whole idea, gratitude, like being happy with what you’ve got. For many times, for many years I was chasing something and I wasn’t really appreciating what I had. And that was, again, one of the epiphanies.

Nick B:

The whole idea about being brave, I think so many people don’t face their fears. They think things are going to be much worse if they take action on something before they’ve even done it, and that’s just such a travesty for me. Faith is not necessarily a religious thing, it’s partly around self-belief, and showing up is taking action. Again, a lot of people, they’re going to do this, they should have done that. For me it’s about how you hold yourself accountable with a certain amount of discipline to make things happen.

Nick B:

So to your point, Gary, I think scaling up is firstly, what do I need to be, who do I need to become, and how am I going to do that to be able to build a business, build a life, make an impact. And that’s kind of where everything’s culminated into now, which is something I wouldn’t have foreseen when I started this journey a few years back.

Warwick F:

That’s fascinating because it sounds like when you say have an impact, you’re thinking more just return on equity. You’re thinking of it in a much broader way, with your family, with your employees, with society. I mean, is that fair? Like when you say impact, it’s in the holistic, complete sense of that word, right?

Nick B:

It is, and I think the reason I… the point around legacy, is I think what I found to be true is once someone ticks the box of, let’s call it financial freedom. They don’t have to earn money again if they don’t choose to. Quite often, not always the case, but quite often they then think how can I make a bigger impact? How can I go and help people? It’s almost like a Maslow’s hierarchy thing. I can’t remember how that goes.

Nick B:

But the point being is they then go and do something. And I think, and this is probably the bigger thing for me, is I think with everything that’s going on in the world right now, you’ve got economic stuff going on, political things, there’s a lot of things that just seem a bit weird to me. I think entrepreneurs have the ability to make more change.

Nick B:

They certainly have more power, certainly some of the multibillionaires have. They’ve got more money than some countries. So for me, making an impact has another moral and social responsibility behind it that comes from entrepreneurship.

Warwick F:

And that’s the thing that’s fascinating to me, is we’ve talked before. I’m not against success at all, but success in of itself is not going to satisfy, it’s never enough. The people with 10 million want 100 million, the people with 100 million want a billion, the people with a billion want 10 billion. It’s like oh yeah, have a nice house in the Hamptons or I don’t know, somewhere in the country in England, but somebody else has that nice house in Monte-Carlo or I have a small jet, somebody else has a bigger jet.

Warwick F:

It sounds silly but you know those folks. People do think like that. It’s never enough. There’s always somebody else… Well, pretty much unless you’re Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or whatever, there’s always somebody else at another level. It’s like gosh, I guess I’ll probably never be at Jeff Bezos’ level. Well, the answer is yeah, you’re probably right, you probably never will be. But so what? It’s okay. He’s been successful, good on him, that’s great. Fantastic. He has a great business model. More power to him.

Warwick F:

But if you have your whole sense of significance in being successful and the next quarterly earnings reports, it’s not going to make you happy. But when you start thinking how can we use our business to provide a place where the talent of our employees is unleashed. We’re serving the greater good of our community, shareholders, customers, we’re making a global impact for good, whatever that might be.

Warwick F:

That starts scratching the itch of you know what, now I’m feeling somewhat joyful and fulfilled. I mean, I don’t know if you can have it all but I think with the right mindset, maybe. It sounds a little optimistic. Can you have money and be happy? Yes. But you’ve got to think of the bigger game, the wider impact. I mean, have you found that with people you’ve worked with, that they’re actually beginning to feel joyful and fulfilled, and they’re successful too?

Nick B:

Yeah, it’s absolutely possible. I mean, you’ve got to think of it from the perspective… I mentioned a couple of words during our conversation, I mentioned the word achievement and the word fulfillment, right? And this was something that I had to kind of learn myself, is that you can have high achievement and high fulfillment, but high achievement in its own right won’t make you happy. So Porsches, Ferraris, big houses, private jets. Achieve, achieve, achieve. I’m growing. All that sort of stuff.

Nick B:

Unless you can give something back it doesn’t help you. This was the big thing for me and I’ve seen it with others, is I just didn’t understand that. The quote that changed everything for me was the Zig Ziglar quote, it’s often overused, but if you help a person get what they want in life you’ll have everything you want and need in life. Now, I’d never heard that until about three or four years ago and I thought, that’s weird.

Nick B:

So if I help other people, I’m going to have everything I need? Yes. So what did I do? Honestly, this is how it happened, I launched the podcast. After that quote. Because I had no awareness beforehand.

Warwick F:

Wow. And I bet just with the people you’ve interviewed and what you’ve been doing on Scale Up Your Business, having an impact in a broader sense, I’m assuming that’s been pretty immensely fulfilling, the stories you get to share and the messages and the feedback from people saying, “Nick, you’ve changed my life, you changed my business.” It’s not so much about ego but when you feel like you’re doing something good for somebody, there’s a feeling you get that’s indescribable, that level of joy and fulfillment. I mean, has that been your journey?

Nick B:

It’s been life-changing for me in terms of how I… I mean, I look different. I feel very, very different. I feel I have more freedom as a result of it, because I get every single week, I’ll get a number of people send me a message, LinkedIn or personal email, telling me their story of how they’ve been listening to the podcast for a couple of years, they’ve implemented the stuff that I’ve suggested and they’ve got a successful business. And that’s allowing them to do other things. And I go really? I still shock myself a bit but I get a lot of personal pride from my small way, if you like, of making a difference there.

Warwick F:

Well, you probably have people saying, “Not only is my business successful, my marriage is better, I’m giving back to the community, I’m happy in the general sense of the word.” I’m sure you must have had those messages too, right?

Nick B:

Yeah, because I focus a lot on, as I said, personal development, personal development and scale up businesses. So a lot of it’s like, what’s your routine? What are you doing? How are you looking after your health? We do cover quite a broad range of things. So I’ve had people who have lost all this weight, feel better about themselves. It’s not a health podcast, but it comes back to the point we’ve discussed a few times, identity, right? How do you want to be? And are you asking enough of yourself?

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean it sounds like you are now helping people live fulfilled lives. I mean as Gary said earlier, you’re helping people scale up their business but their legacy, their life, their significance. I mean, to me, I’ve found if you want to be joyful and fulfilled, from our perspective you’ve got to live a life of significance, which is a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. That’s the secret.

Warwick F:

And I’m not so much judging people, it’s just objectively I don’t know any human that’s happy without doing that. You can complain about the creator or the universe, it just is what it is and if you’re human you’ve got to live with it, which is you want to be happy and fulfilled, you’ve got to figure out more than the bank account and how you can help others. And you certainly have proven that.

Warwick F:

You think of some of the great robber barons in the 1800s in the US, there aren’t too many that didn’t learn that later in life. You’ve got Rockefeller has foundations, Vanderbilt, I mean Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie. Pretty much most of them, they kind of do whatever they could to be successful. Back then the laws weren’t what it is now so there probably weren’t as many laws to break, you just did whatever you could to win.

Warwick F:

And I’m sure most, if not all of them, were extremely cutthroat. But then at a certain point, I don’t know if they grew a conscience but they said is this all there is? So they set up these massive foundations. I just find it fascinating that some of the wealthiest people in the history of the world in terms of the growth of the business, equity and all the rest, found that sense of gosh, there’s got to be more to life than just money. I’ve got to give back somehow.

Warwick F:

And you could say well, it’s to assuage a guilty conscience, maybe. Maybe. But I just find it fascinating that a lot of these folks at some point said there’s more to life than just money, I want to have a bigger impact. Does that kind of make sense?

Nick B:

Yeah, but you answered this already by saying it’s the human condition, right? This is the thing, like I don’t think people who go out there and let’s say I’m always going to play to win. You see this in sport, like there’s a great documentary about Michael Jordan, right? The Last Dance where he’s so driven, so driven to win, he’s not a very nice person.

Nick B:

You look at the scoreboard, you look at the championships and you go, wow, but he seems quite conflicted to me. Right? So I think there’s a point here where success on the outside, a lot of people look successful but unless they’re doing the inner stuff, unless they’re doing what we just talked about, a lot of them are just not happy. And ultimately, we want to be happy, right?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean, you mentioned sports. I think of, as you would know, all Australians tend to follow tennis, and at least about as many that play tennis as golf in Australia, which is not true in the US, at least not for men. But I think of Roger Federer, and he’s somebody that equal holder of 20 majors, which will probably be broken by Djokovic pretty soon if not Nadal. But you just sense that he is internally very happy. He has a couple sets of twins and a wife that he loves, he has a foundation that helps a lot of folks in Africa. I mean, he seems genuinely at peace with himself. It’s not about numbers, he just loves doing it. But yet, there are other things that he uses his fame for to help others. To me, it seems like he’s living relatively speaking a balanced life a life of significance. Everybody thinks he’s a super nice guy, and he seems to be at peace. Well, there’s some lessons to be learned from him and others. That are doing it right in sports, if you will.

Nick B:

Absolutely. I mean, I had the privilege of meeting Hugh Jackman a few years ago, right? And he was pretty damn nice as well, I’ve got to say.

Warwick F:

Yeah.

Nick B:

He’s successful. So you don’t have to be an ass, if I can use that word on your podcast, to be successful. And I think if I go back to the story I shared, I kind of thought you had to be. And I surrounded myself with like types. And it was only when I made some of the different choices that I realized… whether it’s balance or whether it’s just the fact that you can do things in different ways.

Nick B:

The key thing, just to do an underline of this, people’s values are different. What I was doing just didn’t work for me. And I had to change that. And I think that’s one of the things I want to get across. If you’ve got that sort of feeling, you’re listening to this and you’ve got that feeling in your stomach that I’m meant to do more, or what I’m doing now is not my purpose, or I need to change. The worst thing I think you can do is just not listen to that niggle, that voice.

Nick B:

Because my belief, is at some point if you don’t, it’s either going to do what happened to me, you might get sick, that might be a blessing for you because it might make you change. Or worse, you’re going to get to the end and you’re going to go, “Did I actually play all out? Did I play the game that was going to get me what was really going to make me happy?”

Warwick F:

I want listeners to hear what you just said because I think it’s really so profound, is that I find at least within my coaching, I’m a certified executive coach, the issue is not so much people’s values are all messed up. The issue is more often than not, they’re not living a life of their own values. I mean, you from your admission kind of weren’t.

Warwick F:

So it’s like, if you live out of line with what you believe in your heart, that will cause you anxiety, poor health. That will take a toll. So it’s not about making other people happy in the sense of living their values. If you live out of line with your own values, that is the path to poor health and misery. So that’s really, in a sense…

Warwick F:

In another sense you could say you’re fighting for people’s souls. I mean, one other kind of beat on this is that there’s this notion of well, is it success or significance. I would argue that if you want to be truly successful, even financially, you’re leaving… If you’re Mr. Competitive or Ms. Competitive, you’re leaving stuff on the table if you don’t look at this wider game.

Warwick F:

Because you could be more successful even financially successful than you are, if you think about, maybe to use an often used phrase, treasuring your employees. You know, with your customers, it’s like rather than trying to say well, you should have read the fine print in the contract. Customers aren’t going to like that. You may be quote unquote, “Legally fine” but they’ll go elsewhere.

Warwick F:

If you want to create long-term profitability, if you are seen as somebody who cares about their employees, their customers, their world, their community, all things being equal, who would you rather work with? The guy or the woman who has that more altruistic look on life or somebody else? Again, I’m an idealist at heart, but I think if anything, you won’t be less successful doing what you’re advocating about Scale Up Your Business, scale up your legacy if you will, scale up your significance.

Warwick F:

If anything, I think you could be as if not even more successful. So it’s not an either/or choice. It’s not like living your values means you’re going to be less successful in the long-term. I don’t know, did that make any kind of sense? I know I’m a little idealistic here.

Nick B:

People are scared, I think, of being vulnerable. So the point is if you do some deeper work on actually what you do value, if you really understand what that means and why your values are what they are… Because for me, it was explained to me, and I believe this to be true as well, is your values aren’t just a couple of words that you put on a piece of paper, like integrity, honesty. It’s not that, it’s more deep seated than that. And it was expressed to me that sometimes your voids become your values. The things that you missed out on growing up or whatever that weren’t around you, they became the things you value the most.

Nick B:

So once you understand those things, they also then help you to understand what motivates you. And then once you have more self-awareness, you then I think have more completeness. So I’m happy being vulnerable about what I’ve done and what I’m… I said before we pressed record, you can ask me anything, I’m not going to… I’m going to answer it. Because I’ve done the work to understand what makes me who I am. And a lot of people have never done that, therefore they don’t lean into it, and therefore they’re too scared to lean into it in case it unpacks something uncomfortable. But sometimes you’ve got to go there.

Gary S:

That bell that you heard go off wasn’t because Nick said ass, ass is perfectly okay to say on the show, no, that’s perfectly okay. The bell was the captain announcing that it’s about time to land the plane, so fasten your seatbelts and get ready for landing. But before we do land the plane, Nick, I would be remiss if I did not give you the chance to let listeners know where they can find the Scale Up Your Business podcast and where they can learn more about your consultancy work.

Nick B:

Yeah, sure. Well, actually you know what’s quite interesting, in two days’ time. I know people will listen to this in a dimension of time, so what does that mean. Scale Up Your Business is now called Scale Up with Nick Bradley. For two reasons, partly because the guests that I’ve got lined up to come on the show were not just business magnates or things like that. I’ve got some interesting people from the world of sport coming on and all sorts. So we’re talking a little bit more about scaling up more generally. But yeah, you can find that on Spotify, iTunes. You can look for my somewhat ugly face on the front of it. That’s cool, look me up there.

Nick B:

Then yeah, if people want to kind of… the coaching and consultancy we do is at Scale Up Your Business, it’s suyb, so Scale Up Your Business, .global. And you can check us out there.

Warwick F:

Wow, well thank you so much Nick. I mean, as we kind of close, when you’re thinking… it’s interesting you’re changing your name to Scale Up. What would be a message of hope, encouragement that you would have for folks that are listening to you, maybe business owners, maybe people in general. What would be a message of hope that you would offer?

Nick B:

I said this earlier that I feel very, very lucky and a huge amount of gratitude that I had my dad come back, him passing away also and then the teeth thing, all of that happening in… I mean, that all happened in my sort of late 30s, early 40s, around that time. So I had the message. And had I have not done that, had that not have happened, I probably would have stayed in my lane.

Nick B:

So my message to people is, as I said previously, if you’re doing something you hate, or you’re doing something that doesn’t feel aligned with what you really want to be doing, you owe it to yourself and to others to explore that. That doesn’t mean the romantic ideal of burning the boats, giving up everything, I’m going to quit my job tomorrow and go and do this new venture. It doesn’t mean that, okay?

Nick B:

It means, creating the platform, the space to explore. Because if you don’t do that, we’ve said before, I think you could then regret but what I will also say from someone who’s jumped to the other side is it’s really good on the other side. So any fear that you have to do that is absolutely worth pushing through to get to something which potentially could change the whole game, the whole experience for you.

Gary S:

I have been in communications business long enough to know when the last word’s been spoken on a subject, and Nick has just spoken. Listener, thank you for spending this time with us on Beyond the Crucible. That’s still the name of the show, we’re not changing it in the near future we don’t think. But who knows, never say never.

Gary S:

And until the next time, though, we are together, we ask that you remember this, and you heard it on display in our conversation with Nick Bradley today. Your crucibles, we realize, we know are painful. They are traumatic. They’re difficult to move beyond. But they’re not the end of your story. And that’s what this show is all about. And I hope that’s what you glean from this conversation with Nick. His teeth incident, as he calls it, despite all of our chuckles at the name was painful but it wasn’t the end of his story. In fact, it was the start of a new chapter in his story. And your crucible can be the start of a new chapter in your story as well. And it can be the best chapter in your story, as it has been for Nick, because where it leads you to, if you learn the lessons of that crucible, is to a life of significance.