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How To Chase Your Dreams Without Fear Holding You Back with Fran Millar | E67 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How To Chase Your Dreams Without Fear Holding You Back with Fran Millar | E67".
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"Why am I doing this? "I'm doing this because society wants me to do this. "I'm doing this because my mates want me to do this." It's a bullshit. That's not gonna happen. And I think it, you show that little boy inside that was just like ruined by it. Sorry, it's still quite emotional. - What an amazing story. What a cruel, amazing twisting career. My next guest has one of the most fascinating journeys through business and through life that I think I've ever heard. She spent her life surrounded by a couple of people that I actually consider to be inspirations of mine. One of them is Sir David Brelsford, who's been the sort of elite performance coach and cycling coach for Team Sky, which went on to win more than they were ever expected to win. He's the, I guess, the author of this marginal gains thinking, which changed how business and sports teams function. The other person she was surrounded by throughout her career is Steve Peters, who a lot of you will know from the book he authored, "The Ditchant Paradox," which redefines from a psychiatrist's point of view how our mind works and where our behavior comes from. And the other male figure in her life that's important for the story you're about to hear is her brother, David Miller, who was this incredibly sort of highly regarded cyclist, British cyclist, who had this cruel twist to his career where he got involved in the doping scandal, which really left a stain on British cycling, as we know it. And David Miller recounts the story of him being sat in this cafe shop with David Brelsford and being tapped on the shoulder by three men wearing suits who would then raid his house and find syringes.
Discussion On Success, Relationships, And Personal Experiences
Your Brother (01:24)
And that was one of the key moments in British sporting history where I think in many respects, things have never been the same. And we always view our elite performers with an element of skepticism. But this is Fran's story. And Fran's story is one of tenacity. It's one of success. It's one of jumping off cliffs and figuring out how to build your skydiver as you fall. Her story is inspiring. It's peculiar. She went from starting her own business to spending, I think, 12 years at Team Sky worked her way up to the very, very top. And when it became Team Inios, she became the CEO, leading a predominantly male dominated industry. And then, out the blue, in the middle of a pandemic, when retail was on its arse, she decided that she was gonna change lanes and become the CEO of Bellstaff, which is a brand that has been struggling, that's been making losses, and then was then kicked up the rear end by COVID. She's brave. She is unusual. She is inspiring. She's tough. She describes herself, or at least she respects the idea of being a difficult woman, something we'll talk about. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett, and this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody is listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Fran, I've done a lot of stalking of your history, your past, your professional career, and I was stalking your Twitter feed the other day, and I saw a quote that you'd written, I guess, in honor of your brother, David, who is a world-renowned professional, incredibly accomplished cyclist. And the quote said, "Following a boy who loved it, "so much he got absorbed into the fabric of it, "and has spent a lifetime carrying the weight "of the cruelty, wonder, brilliance, and tragedy "it would bring him, is ultimately what got you "into the world of cycling." I was slightly taken aback by some of those words, cruelty, wonder, brilliance, and tragedy. Can you explain why you chose those words? - Oh, that's a big opening question. Yeah, I mean, listen, my brother was, was, I mean, he's a very talented guy. He was, we were, so when we were about 10 and 12, my parents got divorced. My dad went to live in Hong Kong, my mum stayed in the UK, I stayed with my mum, my brother went with my dad. And so when we were like kids, we'd cross in the air, so he'd come home from Hong Kong, I'd go out, so he'd come home, I'd go out. And he had nothing to do when he was here, 'cause we'd moved, so he had no friends around, so my mum went to him into a cycling club. And he'd go, and he'd do your time trials, he was super good at it. By literally from like 15 to 19, he'd gone from never really riding a road bike to being like, quartered by nine of the biggest teams in the sport. And he got signed very young by a big French team, and they kind of made all these promises to my mum about it. And he was obviously, you know, he was a kid, he was desperate to win the Tour de France and to go and fulfill his dreams, and he totally fun enough with the sport, and he was completely an avid buyer. And in the space of five years, he'd gone from this excited, talented, brilliant kid to this damaged, incredibly sad, deeply, deeply shame young man. And it was like, how has a sport done that? Like, how is this a game, right? Like sports a game, it's entertainment. How is it something that's fundamentally to entertain people, basically ruined him, like taking him down to the core of who he was? And it just, and then he built himself back up, and he's gone on to do incredible things, but it was just the sport has had this unbelievable impact on my life, on my brother's life, on my life, on everything, the decisions I've made and everything else. I guess that's why I chose those words. - Give me some detail on what you talked about, the sport bringing him down to his core and raising him. What caused that? - So he went into the sport in 1998, he time Tempo, which for any of your listeners who know anything about cycling was the best in a year. So it was the year of the big festina scandal where they raided all the hotel rooms and the guys were kind of protested and sat down on the road and only a few of the sort of teams were able to finish 'cause so many guys got pulled out of the race. And it was the dawning of the EPO era. So it was the era where they discovered effectively, athletes and coaches had discovered that you could use EPO in the same way the usability is altitude training to perform to increase physical performance. And it was just a transformative drug. It was, they couldn't detect it, they couldn't test for it. They brought in some interventions like a him at a crit test, if you're him at a crit went over 450, you'd be pulled out of racing, but it was a health check, it wasn't a doping check. And it was rife basically. So when he, this young sort of dreaming kid went into the sport, he genuinely thought you could do it clean, you wouldn't ever have to cheat. I don't even think he really knew that much about doping at that point in his life. And pretty quickly, he realized that actually most of the guys at the very top were doping, that the doping was endemic, that the expectation was you would dope, that that was what you would need to do if you wanted to be a professional and you wanted to be any good. And he resisted it for a really long time. Like he was a time trialer, which is, you know, race against the clock, basically only racing yourself. And so he really stuck to his time trial in 'cause he was like, I can do that, like with the technology, with aerodynamics, with folks on my training, it's a shorter period of time, it's less requirement to kind of be as cardiovascularly supreme as the guys who are trying to win the tour are. And so he did very, very well time trialing, went to his first Tour de France, and one yellow like day one. And, but what was happening was behind the scenes, this sort of erosion of his belief that he would be able to do it clean, his recognition that actually, if he really wanted to take it seriously and try and win the tour, he was gonna have to cheat. The people around him, the kind of network and the sort of framework around him was people who weren't looking out for him, weren't thinking what's best for him, weren't trying to work out how to make, help him feel his potential, they were trying to work out how to get him good enough to make enough money to win, you know, for them as a business, he was a commodity in their business. And I like, I haven't actually ever told this story, but France Army Grain, who owned Cofedys, which is like a company that basically does telephone loans, I don't know what they do now, probably online loans, but he had, he met my mum, so when we had all these teams that were sort of courting David, he met with my mum and he promised her that he would look after him, like promised, looked her in the eyes, and said, I'll look after him. And yet he did nothing, like he built a team that was allowed to just get on with it, he sort of closed his eyes to it. And actually when the big investigation into Cofedys started, it was France Army Grain who effectively called out my brother, he's like, I think Moncute is probably clean, but David Miller, I wouldn't put my hand on my heart for him. And it was like, you motherfucker, do you know what I mean? - When you're the boss. - Yeah, and he's 24 years old, like what? He's the only exposure he's had to the professional sport is your team. So if that's what's happened, it's your team and you'll be, don't get me wrong, David, absolutely has to take responsibility for his decisions in that. But I for one know that when I was like 19 to 25, I wasn't making the best decisions I've made in my life. Do you know what I mean? And I had some influential people around me who had they told me to do things, and it's that insidious thing, isn't it? It's a bit like, kind of, I was listening to a book the other day about decision making and how if you look at like Nazi Germany and people say, oh, they were just following orders. And there was this big study done apparently where they put people in a room and they told them, like, there's gonna be some, there's gonna be a student in there, it's a study, can't remember the thing with my grandma, someone who did the study. And you're gonna press this button, don't worry because to shock them and the shock's gonna get bigger and bigger and bigger. And it's like 65% of the people would have pressed the button that would have effectively killed the person in the other room. And it's like, what? And that's the human condition, right? So this idea that we would make a better decision or that we'd make a better choice or that we'd do it differently, people seem to impose that on guys who decide to cheat in sport, decide to make these decisions like, well, how dare you make that decision? It's like, if you were in an environment in a culture where that becomes the norm, where that becomes what people do, this idea that you're gonna be the one person who, and don't get me when I know there are other people who do that and fair play to them. And that's impressive, that you've been brought up in a certain way to enable you to make those decisions. But David was fragile, he was impressionable, he was a dreamer, he was doing something he'd always wanted to do, he was passionate and desperate, desperate, desperate to be a success. And I think he just got taken down the wrong path, you know? - And do you feel like you went through that with him as a close family? - You're trying to understand the impact I had on you being the sister, and I know you guys are very close. - Yeah, I mean, the impact I had on me was I was, he never came to, he went to my mum and told her that he was dating, and she just said, well, just stop, just come home, like, don't worry about you. At the very beginning, he said, there's a lot of drugs, and my mum was like, well, just come home, go to art school, don't worry about it, it's recycling. And yet he stayed and he persisted. And then I think in 2001, when he eventually made the decision to kind of cross the line, as it were, he spoke to my mum, I think, in that period. And she was just like, you know, you have to stop, you have to come home. And he was like, no, I want to be successful, I want to go on this journey. He never had that conversation with me. All I ever saw was the kind of, it was like an erosion of him. Do you know what I mean? It's like, I could tell something was going on, I wasn't an idiot. I mean, it's like, he's probably cheating. But we had all been indoctrinated into it as well. It was like, well, that's kind of, you turn a blind eye. You kind of think, well, you know, he's doing really well. He's, you know, on the cover of all the magazines, he seems happy-ish. And it was only when he'd come home in the off season and he'd come and stay with me and my mates living in London. And he would drink so heavily that you'd be like, okay, this isn't normal, you're a professional athlete. And he would, the depressions he'd sink into and the self-loathing that would come out. And it's like in Vino Veritas, you know, that kind of, this, and I'd be like, what on earth is going on here? And then eventually it kind of, I realised what was happening and I kind of felt responsible for never stepping in and saying something and never being like, you don't need to do this. I was just like, well, you know, if you're happy and you're enjoying it and you're doing well, who am I to judge kind of thing? So I think as a family, it kind of bonded and pulled us apart. Like we kind of, we all turn a blind eye to it. I think we've all got our demons to deal with from that perspective. My dad, I think, was, had a very different view of it all. My brother and my dad sort of, you know, have an ongoing, difficult relationship. My mum and my brother are very close. I'm very close to my dad and my mum. But you know, so as a family, we've kind of, it's definitely created divisions 'cause everyone had a different view of it. And then in terms of the impact on me, I went into cycling, I ran my own cycling agency. I was working in the cycling industry. I totally rode the coattails at my brother's success. And I was like, shit, okay, now it's all gonna come crashing. Like he got arrested and put in prison. And, you know, I was like, oh God, this is not ideal. And I literally remember speaking to him afterwards and he'd just come out of, you know, the 48 hours in custody. And he was like, and I remember being like a week and a half before the tour and he said to me, don't worry, France. They're still gonna let me ride the tour. You know, you're like, oh, it still makes me wanna cry. It's like, David, they're not gonna let you ride the tour. That's not gonna happen. And I think you show that little boy inside that was just ruined by it. Sorry, it's still quite emotional. But yeah, so it just impacted everything. It impacted all my decisions. Because at that point, I was then like, shit, now I've got to go into the office the next day and I've got to stand in the velodrome at events. And I'm not David Miller's sister, the kind of glory front cover of the magazine. I'm the sister of this shamed, cheating, lying, horrible human being who no one likes anymore and who has disgraced British cycling. And he's like a complete social pariah. And I'm like, oh shit, they're going out to go and do my job. - And did you feel that? - Yeah, massively. - You felt the judgment. - Yeah, massively. People were really, and it was in the days of forums, you know, like my forums were a really big deal. And I'd be like, okay, I'm just gonna go have a little bit of a look on a forum and see what people are saying. And I'd see people I work with commenting, you know, people who were at the velodrome who were like doing the timing at my events or, and they all, you know, literally like people wishing him dead, but you know, it was just like, it wasn't cool. And yeah, I really felt it. I felt it for him. I didn't, I wasn't embarrassed because I was like, you know, it is what it is. He's made a set of decisions. He's paying the price for it. But it was at that point sort of about six months after that, I was like, yeah, probably can't represent him anymore because if I have to have another conversation with a journalist, an ignorant journalist about this kind of binary, right, or wrong conversation where you're like, it's not how life works. I'm gonna end up punching someone in the face. So I should be stopped doing that. - Speaking of punching people in the face. I heard you not, no. - That's gonna be. - No, I heard, it just felt like a good turn towards one of the things that I saw you share online, which was this article about being a difficult woman.
Being a difficult woman” (15:16)
- No, yeah. - And the importance of dispelling this sort of like niceness or that women typically are associated with in business that I think the article was suggesting holds them back. How important has that been, especially, you know, when you were dealing in an industry which is pretty much full of men and you got to the very, very top is the CEO of Ineos, how important was it to be willing to punch people in the face, being a little bit difficult at times? - As is such an interesting question 'cause that whole being a difficult woman, I think is the older I've gotten, the more I've kind of explored feminism and explored kind of this sort of female condition, the human condition, it's like women are judged very differently for behaviors that in men would be seen as completely normal. So, you know, there's the sort of famous kind of meme that's the sort of, you know, men are assertive, women are chippy, you know, men are confident, women are arrogant, you know, it's like the same behavior gets viewed very differently, do a very different lens. I've never filtered myself, it's not been anyone who's ever met me knows that I don't really come with a filter and I think it's really, really important that young women recognize that they don't have to apply a filter, you don't have to be the quiet one in the room, you don't have to, I remember reading Charles Samberg's book about leaning and it's like, you know, young women will come into a meet room and they won't sit at the table, like they physically won't sit at the table, they'll sit like at the sides and I was like, fuck off, who does that? And then I go to meetings and I'd be like, I've noticed that like the 19, 20, 21 year old younger women in the room, they'd wait for the guys to sit down, they'd be like, what the fuck are people, why are people doing that? And you just, until you realize it's happening, you don't realize it's happening. And so, yeah, I've always felt quite strongly that you just need to be yourself, be confident, be willing to get told you're a bitch, get told you're, I'm telling you, bro, when I was younger, I was actually a bit of a bitch. I probably, I probably didn't measure that behavior. I was a bit like, well, it's just who I am and everyone needs to suck that up. And actually, you still have to be polite and have manners and you still have to recognize that being aggressive is actually just sometimes being aggressive, it's not being assertive. And that balance, I think I've learned as I've got older, but I think it's, yeah, I think women are judged totally differently for behaviors that men would be absolutely, it would almost be sort of respected in a amount for certain behaviors. And in women, it's reviled. - There'll be young women listening to this and they'll be thinking, do you know what? I'd love to be like that, Fran, and I'd love to be a bit more assertive and et cetera, et cetera, but I just, it's just not who I am. And so, kind of the question that popped into my mind was where did that, some might see it as confidence, but it's like a confidence in being your true self, right? Where did that, do you know where that came from in you? Well, it was it, you know? Is it experience? Is it something that happened in the household? Is it your mother was taught you that behavior? Your father? - Yeah, I think it's probably half nature, half nurture. Like I think I, you know, my mum tells a story about when I was little and I said, you know, I'd just literally go off and speak to people. Like she'd be sat at, you know, bar, you know, on a holiday and she'd want to know what's going on with a couple of those. She'd be like, "Prancy's going to ask them what they're doing." And I'd be like, "Okay." And off I'd go and chat to them. So I think I've always been very innately confident and that doesn't, that's never gone away. But equally I think I've been very lucky. I've been very blessed. I've worked with people and in and around people where I've been allowed to be myself. I've been allowed to kind of grow up and make mistakes and fail and be a bit of an idiot and get told you being a bit of an idiot and not have that be a judgment upon me and limit me. And I think it's really interesting that kind of, you know, being assertive or being your true self has become a bigger and bigger thing that people talk about. And actually being your true self doesn't mean you have to be assertive and confident. It means you have to be your true self. And for a lot of people that is a bit more insecure or a bit more, and that's fine, but you can bring that to the table. You can be an emotional person. You can lack a bit of self esteem and just be honest about that. So for me, I think it's just partially how I was brought up but more the people I have been surrounded by on the journey of my life and career. I've been incredibly blessed that they have allowed me to make a lot of mistakes and correct, and course correct me as I've gone on. That point about being assertive and being direct and being open and honest, you know, I was actually chatting yesterday about one of the, how I've changed over the last 10 years from like the kid at eight seems to be kid at 28. And the key thing I said to my team is like, the big change that I've seen myself is I'm way more direct. Yeah. And I'm not sure why I'm doing that. I'm like, I don't know whether it's because I've got so many things to do that I'm trying to save time at all times. I'm way more honest with my feedback. And there's this sort of fine line between being an asshole and being honest and direct and trying to be time efficient and like realizing that sometimes your feedback or the way you say things might hurt people's feelings but that's secondary to what we're doing here. How have you towed that line? I imagine from what you've said, it's more difficult as a woman because people will, you know, they'll determine the same behavior to be a really negative thing. But how do you tow the line between being like direct and firm, which is so important in my opinion, when you're dealing with teams, and especially if you're dealing with teams of, you know, high testosterone men, how do you tow that line? And also, I guess the more important question for me is, do you agree that it's an important trait to have? OK, so have you read a book called Radakor Kanda? It's not there, it's on my bookshelves somewhere, but I've not read it yet. OK. So, yes, do you think being honest is important? I think being a dickhead to people is not acceptable. And so I think I honestly can get veiled, sorry, being a dickhead can get veiled by I'm being honest, right? Like, well, I'm just being honest and it's feedback and you should take it. It's like one of the sort of best lessons I've ever been taught and one of the most influential people in my life by a mile is Steve Peters, who's a forensic psychiatrist. Yeah. And he always says like, you have to be compassionate, like even if you're telling someone they're losing their job, or if you're having to give someone really honest, be compassionate, be sensitive to the fact that you're going to get a better response from someone if you're just nice to them. You can say some really, really shitty things to people and it get a horrible response. Or you can say shitty things, but get a really positive response back because you do it in a different way. So I think it's really crucial to be honest. It's really crucial to be authentic, but that doesn't mean you get a license to be a dickhead. And is there a place for aggression and anger and being annoyed in business in your view? No. Not ever. Well, you can feel those things, but I don't think you can inflict those things on other people, no, I don't think that's acceptable. It's remarkable how many of the world's most sort of admired leaders, when you read their biographies and stuff, you find out how much of a dickhead they are. Like Steve Jobs was a good example where I was told from a friend that they basically had to put him in his own building and warn people that worked in that building that the way Steve was. And Elon Musk in his biography is very, very similar. But... The reason I asked you about radical candor is when I read it, it made a lot of sense to me about people like that so that she basically describes this quadrant where effectively you've got how much you care about people and how sort of willing and honest you're able to be. And so if you're very, very honest, but you don't care about them at all, then you're basically an arrogant arsehole. And if you really, really care about them, but you're really, really honest, then you're radically candid. But if you really, really care about them and you're not honest, then you're kind of, it's almost like a malignant empathy, doing it like I'm gonna be really nice to you, but because I'm not gonna be honest with you, you're not gonna develop. And so that's the first time and she said in a business, it's better, it's way better as much as it's counterintuitive to be the arrogant arsehole. 'Cause actually the feedback is what's important. So if people are getting the feedback and they're being told the truth, they are like some people might not be able to handle it, but the people who can handle it will develop and get better. So it's worse to be empathetic and not be honest than it is to be an arrogant arsehole. And I was like, oh, that's why they're so many arrogant arseholes in the world. 'Cause actually it does work. Like on the, and genius, you know, it forgives a lot, right? When people are geniuses, they can behave very differently and they get away with it because they're geniuses. And there is merit in that. And I think if people are very, very, very honest with you and give you brutal feedback, as long as you're like able to take it on board, you'll get better. But if someone's lying to you and saying, you're doing a great job, Stephen, don't worry about it, it's absolutely fine. 'Cause they don't wanna hurt your feelings. You're never gonna develop. - That's true.
This idea of labels (24:10)
You switched from working at any over to Bell staff quite relatively recently. And I was reading, I think, I was listening to one of the podcasts you'd done and you talked about how you'd worked in cycling pretty much a whole life. It was your pretty much your everything in terms of your professional experience. I've also recently quit my job. - How does it feel? - Everything, you feel everything, right? You feel bittersweet, you feel excited. On one hand, you're unsure about the future, but I trust myself enough to know that I'll figure it out 'cause I always have. But yeah, all feelings. I guess my question for you is, and the bit that I found particularly interesting is people will do a thing for 10 years, for five years, whatever, and then they'll tell themselves that they are that thing. They'll give themselves the label. I work in cycling, I'm a cycling person. It seems to be incredibly difficult, especially if they've been in that industry for a long time to then take on a different label. You're now working in fashion and with a whole new set of challenges, completely outside of your comfort zone, to some extent, in some ways. How did you make that switch? How did it feel? Tell me all about it. - It's, again, I'm gonna reference the Peter's, but I remember 'cause I was so wedded to my job in cycling. Like I lived and breathed it. I loved it. I cared deeply about the people. It had this, it was so wrapped up in my identity. But I hadn't necessarily got a huge amount of satisfaction out of the job over the last two or three years. For a whole host of reasons, nothing to do with the team, just personal development-wise. And every time I spoke to Steve, he'd be like, "Well, then why don't you just leave?" And I'd be like, "Because I don't know who I am "if I leave the cycling team, do you know what I mean?" And it was a much longer conversation than that, but what effectively I was saying was, "I don't know who I am if I'm not that." And he said over and over again, you will be, whoever you go on to be, that's not gonna change. You are still there. You're letting this thing influence all these views about yourself. You're letting it influence what you, your value, your worth, your substance, your contribution to life. Like you're letting, it's a job. It's like, it's a job. And I was like, "You don't get it. "You don't understand. "It's more important than that." And you know what, when I got asked to go into your bar stuff and I left and it broke my heart, like I cried my eyes out and I started to bar stuff and I felt awful saying this, but within 48 hours, I was like, "Oh my God, I love it here "and I love the people here and this is brilliant. "I'm so excited and actually it is just the job." That was just the job. And yes, I miss it and yes, it was incredible. And yes, I love the people and I still love the people, but it's just the job. It's not my family. It's not who I am. It's not my identity. It's just a part of my life. And I'll be eternally grateful for having done it. But now I've got a new challenge. And I was like, "I'm really pleased I did it when I did "because everyone I think had been saying to me "for a long time, once you leave, "you'll be like, oh, I should have done this five years ago. "And I don't feel like that at all. "I feel, you know, I did that for the right amount of time. "I loved it. "I've banked it, moving on to something else." - And it's that point there about thinking that job was your identity that really holds people down. - Yeah. - 'Cause you're right, jobs are their friends, their community, they are purpose. They are, as you say, you're identity. - And that's dangerous. - Really dangerous. - Like that's dangerous, you know, because actually, they're not your identity. - Yeah. - And no matter how much you love it, no matter how passionate you are about it, if you, this would be the lesson I would sort of give to myself, the sort of, it doesn't matter, it's a job. You're being paid to do it, it's a job. And I would have railed against that even a year ago. Like, no, it is, and it's more important than that. And you know, as soon as I left, I was like, "Yes, dear, and my brother always who saved me, "you team aren't your family, you team aren't your family." And I never really understood what he meant, 'cause I thought, well, they are my family. Like, you know what I mean? I love them, they are my family. And they leave me like, oh no, what he means is, your family is there forever, your family are wedded and you can't unpick your family. They're something that's, whereas when you leave a job, you take away the memories, you take away the happy time to take away the good stuff, but the fabric of who you are doesn't change. - And that's what I try and do. I just finish writing my book on, there's a chapter on this idea of labels and me trying to resist these labels to make sure that I continue on my journey of challenge and keep myself stimulated. And I don't get to, you know, a certain age and feel like I'm having a midlife crisis 'cause I don't know who I am and I can't leave and I don't have any skills. And to really sort of realize that the label I have is me. It's like Steven, I'm a guy with a bunch of skills and experiences and I can apply these skills and experiences to a bunch of different challenges. I'm not social media CEO, you know what I mean? - Yeah. - And that I find really liberating. So I quit, I started DJing, I'm doing this, I'm doing this, I'm putting on this theatrical play. I'm just trying to do all of the things that I think I shouldn't be able to do, right? But speak to me about the challenge.
The move away from cycling (28:51)
So you decide to take this job at Bell staff and it is a big challenge. It's widely reported that Bell staff has been, has had a, you know, struggled across the years. It was required in, I think, 2017. It was making losses then and the losses of, I think, from narrow over the last couple of years to some extent, but it's a big challenge, right? A big challenge. It would have been much easier to take a different job. So first and foremost, I didn't take it. I was, I literally had a conversation with my chairman, Ineos, about, you know, maybe, maybe over the next couple of years, I wanna think about moving on and doing something different. And when Dave becomes back from the tour, this was in September. I don't really come back from the tour at the end of the season. I think I'd like to sit down and have a chat with my chairman and my boss, Dave, about my future. That was the sum total of my conversation. And literally a week later, I got a call saying, "Jim would like you to be the CEO of Bell staff." And, you know, with the best way in the world when Jim Raxle asks you to do something, you don't kind of go, "Let me have a think about that." And I just thought, "Okay, well, what an opportunity." And I went for it. But I didn't, I wasn't looking to change. I hadn't like planned to move on. So that was in some ways, whilst it was quite traumatic, the sort of three or four weeks of, 'cause I literally, I got phoned like on the 16th of September and I was enrolled on the first of October. - Wow. - So it was like, yeah, like two weeks of just... - Why did you wanna have a conversation though when Dave got back? - 'Cause I wanted to, so I wanted to, I'd sort of been thinking, like I said, about the conversation with Steve about kind of, I'm not sure if I'm happy doing this job anymore and if I'm not sure if I'm fulfilled. I've kind of reached the point sort of middle of last year where I was thinking, you know what? I do need to start thinking about my future and my life and my career. And I don't know whether that's always gonna be in cycling and I don't know whether the CEO of the cycling team is 100% why one. So I wanted to speak to my chairman first to kind of sound him out. And then when Dave gets back from racing, I don't wanna interfere with the racing, have a conversation about my future. So I just literally put it on the radar of the chairman and probably a little bit out of frustration for myself as well as a bit like I wanna feel like I'm moving this on 'cause otherwise I'm gonna sit and not do anything with it. Do you know what I mean? - Did you feel stagnant in the role? Is that the main, the crux of what you're getting at? What was the person if I can relate? - I... I felt, so I had done what is effectively 20 years in pro cycling. It would like you say, it was all I knew, it's all I'd done. I know everybody in it pretty much, I've been in and around it my whole life. I'm David Millivol's sister, it's like, part of my DNA. We got a, we, and I loved being part of Team Sky, like we did that for 10 years. And it was, I sort of always used to say, cut me in the middle, I bleed blue. And I absolutely loved it. And then when Sky said they were out at the end of 2018, I was like, right, I'm done, I'm out of here. I'm not gonna deal this anymore. I went straight to day B, I was like, it's been amazing. I've loved it, but I'm gonna, once the team stops being Sky, I'm gonna go. And he was like, okay, cool. I don't think he believed me, he was like, okay, cool. And then we, he said to me, look, would you help at least find a new sponsor? Let's see if we can find a new sponsor. He's a bugger like that. So I was like, okay, I'll try and help you find a new sponsor and then I'll move on. And then, you know, February comes 2019, you know, he meets Jim, Jim decides that he wants to acquire the team. You know, he, Jim's arguably one of the most successful businessmen in the world. We went and met with him and talked about, you know, the design of the kit and everything else. And I was like, I'm gonna get sucked into it. And then, and then one of the other senior managers and the team decided to leave and go and work for another team. And Debi was like, would you stay? You can be CEO, which was what I really wanted to be. It's a massive opportunity. And I was like, okay, I'll stay. And I think that was the point of the decision there that I was like, you know, this is a big career decision for me that I'm staying. Again, I told all my mates, I was gonna leave. I was like, you know, this is it, this time, this time I'm going, they're like, mmm, okay, Fran. And so I stayed at Ineos. And then we worked on the 159 project. So Elliot Kipchogis, up to our marathon. And Dave obviously was the project lead on it. All he was the CEO, my boss. He very sadly got prostate cancer in that period. So he was off doing the Tour de France. Then he had to go and have surgery. And so I took on like a deputy CEO role, kind of delivering the sort of vision that he'd come up with. And he'd structured all the performance team. But then I was doing the delivery of the event, everything from kind of working with the London Marathon team to supporting the performance guys, to doing all of the engagement piece and everything else. And I loved it. As I felt like I was working 18 hours a day for like what was about five, six weeks in the build up to the first of all the test event and then threw into the actual event. And I just loved it. Totally different, totally new challenge, new people, different approach, fresh. It was, I was like, I was literally cloud nine. I couldn't have loved it more. And I was working so hard. Like I was literally crippled by it, but I loved it. And I came out the other side of it, not so much just because we'd done it, obviously I mean that was incredible, but it just really made me realize that I was just going through the motions in the cycling job. I was just, I was ticking over. I was really comfortable. I was good at it. I loved it. I was happy. I liked the people, but I wasn't growing. I wasn't developing. I wasn't learning new stuff. And I wasn't kind of, I've been going at a million miles an hour, sort of in the team, like on all these stuff, where I was helping other people develop and helping other people achieve their potential and helping other people kind of, you know, rescue their reputations or enhance their reputations. And I was a bit like, what do I want to be doing? Like, why am I, I'm not, none of this has been about me. And even actually cycling is a little bit about David. You know what I mean? I was on kind of this journey to this sort of save young British talent from going through what David went through. And it's like, actually, what do I want to do? Maybe I want to do something different. And that just planted a seed really. And I think I probably went to the spoke to the chairman. You know, if I'm honest, I went because I thought, I want to go and do something different. I'm ready. I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to do something that's not this anymore. And it was all, it was almost like a kind of involuntary. I think everything else about me was like, just stay because it's comfortable and it's easy. And you get good money and it's, you know, nothing's gonna, nothing bad's gonna happen. So my soul was like, you've got to go and do something else now. And it was literally like in the space of two weeks, it was like, boom, I'm out of here. - So it was not, it almost identical to me in the sense of something niggling at you. And then for me, there was like a trigger moment where I was like, I was like sending email. - I was like, I'm like, I'm bringing my phone. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then you send it, my phone, fuck. And then, but that idea of being able to throw yourself into uncertainty, it's like throwing yourself off a cliff when you were like cushy in the house on the side of the cliff. And you're like, oh my God, I'm gonna jump. And you're throwing yourself off into the unknown in the hope that, so you'll build your glider as you fall in Ben Lanza, where better. And a lot of people can't do that. Like most people can't do that. - How do you feel though about, 'cause I found it really traumatic. Like I kind of, I felt like, whoa, first of all, I felt quite out, it was like, I'm out of control of this now. I literally said goodbye to my team who I'd worked with for 10 years and got on a train, woke up the next day and went into Bell's stuff. And I'm like, hi, I'm your new CEO. And the trauma of kind of all of it, it felt I had to move out of my house. I had to go and say goodbye to people, do have a different email. I had the same email my whole life. Do you know what I mean? Like all that kind of stuff that just doesn't shouldn't be that important, about really significant. How did you feel, did you find it traumatic or not? - So I'd quit a business when I, that I was my baby as well, when I started a business in 18, quit that one when I was 21. So I'd been through it once before. So when I, early when I said the key thing for me was trusting myself, I've done this before. I know the feelings. I know that I don't know what my future holds, but when I did that when I was 21, it led to this even bigger business that was 200 times bigger and 200 times more successful. So that was, that's been this guiding thing in my life. Like I dropped out of university after one lecture and it worked out. So when you have those case studies, you think, do you know what? I have no idea what the future holds, but I'll back myself to figure it out now. And that's because I'd done it like three times before. So I imagine the next time in the future, if ever, that you decide to jump ship, to build stuff, whatever, you'll have that case study or that evidence in yourself that you've been, and that I think will come a little bit. The first time I quit, I was so terrible, all kinds of emotions and worrying and not sure what I was now and all those things, but slightly easier the third time. And a bit of a prolific quitter. I think it's a really underrated skill. People talk a lot about starting as if it's the beal and end all of success, but quitting is the thing you do right before, right? You start something new. So. - Yeah, yeah. - I've been a heal fan for a long time, as you obviously know by now, but in the last six months, I've got a real opportunity to get to know the people, to get to know the CEO of Heul, which is James, to get to know the founder, which is Julian, the teams that agonize over the ingredients that go into these amazing recipes. And I can honestly say with my hand and my heart, my appreciation and admiration for Heul and its people has multiplied by a factor of 10 because, and this is, these singularies, not only are they nice people, but because I've seen firsthand how much they are non-negotiable about the values of Heul. They will not compromise. They will not compromise on the goodness of the ingredients that goes into the products, the amount of proteins and minerals and these things, regardless, if they can't get to where they want to get to with the products, they will cancel the product. I've tasted products and they've said, we've not managed to make it this, we've not delivered on our promise of veganism, we've not added enough fiber, so we're canceling it. And that sort of non-negotiable set of values has made me realize that they have my back when I choose Heul. I was reading about this winning behaviors while you took on, which is a very curious title.
Winning behaviours (38:32)
- Yes, it is. - What was your remit as the head of winning behaviors at Team Ineos? - So it was when it was Team Sky, but same same. So basically, 2010, we first started racing, we'd start the team into, we sort of begun the journey starting the team in 2008 off the back of the Beijing Games. Started racing in 2010, we were shit, like embarrassingly shit, and we'd been like, smoke and mirrors and like, you know, we kind of, we had the big bust and we had all the money and we were sponsored by Sky and it's like, oh, we're gonna be amazing and we were rubbish. So we totally reset everything and Dave beats, be fair to me, he's like a master of, okay, we're going this way, it's not working, we're going somewhere else, but he's incredible at it. And so he totally shifted the way that we're gonna run the team, we took a totally different approach, we started to be very successful in 2011, we'd obviously set the objective when we announced the team, we were gonna try and win the Tour de France with a clean British rider in five years and that was in start of 2010, Bradley won the Tour in 2012, so within the space of two years, three years effectively, we'd done it. - The following year, Chris Freeman it. And we had gone from being this team that was like, on a mission, like heads down, arses up, and we would go in, like there was nothing was gonna stop us, we were full on. - And so when people sign up to that, people signing contracts in 2010 with a team that doesn't exist, that has never raced on the road before, that comes from a track background, that's full of Brits who aren't historically that famous for road cycling, they were signing a kind of, they were adventurers, right? They were like these bold ambitious, this is a bit batshit crazy, but we'll do it. When people were signing contracts at the end of 2013, they were signing with a team that had won the Tour de France twice, that was arguably the most dominant team in the sport, that had gone on, you know, sort of achieved these incredible feats, and they had a different expectation of what they were joining to what we were. And we suddenly realised that actually, if we were serious about continuing and continuing to be successful, codifying what had got us where we were was gonna be crucial. And we'd also seen, for those of you listeners who are cycling fans, we'd had the Bradley Wiggins and Chris Freeman's kind of divide. So Brad had obviously come first in 2012, but Freeman had come second. Bradley didn't even, Bradley never rode the Tour again. So Bradley didn't ride in 2013, Freeman had even went on to win. And you started to see this divide in a team where it's like, well I'm team Bradley, or I'm team Freeman, and it's like, well no, check your paycheck, your team's guy. And that kind of, actually, who are we? What do we stand for? What do we expect from people? What do we need to be able to do to be the best in the world of this? Needed codifying, and it needed a way of a sort of charter, almost, to tell people this is how you're gonna have to do this. And really, it was about eradicating losing behaviour. It was about saying to people, bitching, backstabbing, saying your team for me, or your team, Brad, or, you know, criticising people behind their back, or whatever, that's not acceptable. But being head of losing behaviour would have been shit, so it would have been behaviour. So it was all about creating a set of behaviours for the organisation that enabled us to say to people, this is what it means to put this jersey on. This is what it means to be a part of this team. It's not just about the glory and the winning. This is hard-graft. This is, you know, it was arguably the hardest thing I've ever done, you know, working in that environment. It is unrelenting. It is, I mean, it's brilliant, and it's amazing, and incredibly good fun, but it's hard, hard work. And you've got to go all in, you know, this isn't for the faint-hearted. And so the whole winning behaviours thing was about creating an environment where we could give people the parameters that we expected them to live by, but also ensure that they felt supported, safe, able to deliver their very best in an environment that is actually very high pressure. So that was my job, effectively helping Dave create the behaviours in the first instance with the whole team, and then helping keep them alive within the business. What were some of those, you mentioned a couple of them there about not being a backstabber and understanding the importance of hard work. What were some of the other... Let's just focus on losing behaviours. Some of the traits or some of the threats to success that you'd see in the team. I'm thinking this from an organisational standpoint, as like, someone that's worked in business. So we separate them into five different areas. We have self-team, communication, continuous improvement, and what was the other one? Well, it's gone anyway. Quickly, quickly, you move on, right? But they were... T-self was all about identifying your own... Managing your own emotions, being in control of your own emotions, so losing behaviour of that would be losing your shit, being aggressive and arrogant with people, not being able to recognise when you were too emotional to be in a high performance environment. We have the whole chimp model. You know, Steve's philosophy around that is, there's nothing wrong with being emotional, there's nothing wrong with having a chimp, but you have to know when to get out the room, if that's what's going on. Don't bring your emotion into an environment where you're expecting people to perform at their very best. So that kind of management of self, absolutely critical. And then team was all about the impact that you have as a team member. I think people kind of think teams, this kind of static thing, that you create a great team and that's it. It's like, as you will know, having one very successful businesses, teams are like these organic, ever-changing, you could bring one person in and have a massive impact on the team. You could take one person out, it can ruin a team. Do you know what I mean? So the sort of dynamics of a team, are your role within that are crucial. So not wearing a team kit, wearing a slightly different trainer, criticising the team, not buying into the sort of collective opinion, not sort of Dave B has this really big thing about, he'll seek counsel from everyone, he'll listen to everyone's opinion, he wants to get to collective opinion, he wants to get to a collective view of what the right direction is. But ultimately, if we can't get there, he'll make the call and then you've all got to be on the bus, non-negotiable. If you sit in a meeting room and you agree with something and you say, "Yeah, okay, whilst I don't agree with it, I buy in," you know what I mean? I've given you my point of view, you've said it's not the way we're going to go, but I buy in and then you walk out the room and you're like, "Oh, fuck, I can buy that." That is one of the worst losing behaviours you can have because it's insidious and it goes around, you know, a whole organisation can be destroyed by it, it is like a virus. So it's things like that. Fascinating. I am... You do a lot of public speaking, right? You do some... You do, you haven't done it for a while now, actually, yeah. Like, white colour crime, I think, sometimes. But yeah, I sort of... I used to love doing it, like I really did use to love doing it, but I've also... I feel like the bit that I talked about, which is some of the stuff I've just said, I feel like that's a bit of my past now and I want to build a new path for myself before I figure out telling people about it, if that makes sense. Yeah, same. I don't want to take talks on social media anymore, if I can help it, to be honest, for the same reasons. I mean, you talk a lot about Dave as well, so David Brelsford.
Key qualities to success (45:20)
And very fondly, I think a lot of your tweets from my stalking were centered around him and things that he was doing. Yeah. What are some of the key qualities of him that have made him so successful and his mindset or, you know? For the question. I mean, him and Steve Peters are the two most influential men in my life, without a shadow of a doubt. And, you know, they are symbiotic because they are... I think if Dave hadn't had Steve, he maybe wouldn't be who he is, and I think if Steve hadn't met Dave, he maybe would be a slightly different version of himself. So they complement each other brilliantly. Dave is a brilliant man-manager. He's incredibly visionary. He's very brave. You know, you said the thing about jumping off a cliff and hoping you get your gliders, who's put Dave's at the king of that. They were like, "We're going to go and achieve that." And everyone's like, "Fuck off." And he's like, "Come on, let's go." And people are like, "Okay." And because he's so bold with it. He's so confident with it. And he's an incredible leader that people literally... I mean, I would have followed that man off the edge of a cliff. And I think that he has that quality in him. He's unrelenting anyone who's working. He's difficult, like all geniuses are. He's a tricky guy. - Why? - How maybe it's a better question. - In all kinds of ways, you know, he's very... I think I've spoken about it on other interviews I've done. He can be very... He can be very particular. He's very detail-orientated. He wants to know all the facts before he makes a decision. He'll go after something for ages and ages and age. He'll be like, "Oh my God, make the decision or get on with it." And then he'll make a decision that's totally off to the other side. And you're like, "Oh, so..." - Does it make sense? - It's a good decision. - Or it's brilliantly genius. 'Cause you think, "Oh, all that work that you were doing, "and the decision I would have made, "and just got on with it and made the decision "would have taken us that way, "and that would have been the wrong way." And it's that kind of... All the way through my career with him, he would do that. And I'd be like, "He's just clever like that." He's ferocious appetite for learning. He's unrelenting work ethic. Expects incredibly high standards and expects people to meet them. - And all people can, right? - No, absolutely. And we openly say that it's not all people. There's nothing wrong with not being able to meet them. You've got to be compassionately ruthless. That's what he always says, which is basically, if you're not... He sets down and the people can't meet them, and then they're not in the right organization. And it's better. It's a bit like the arrogant arsehole. It's better to be honest with them and say, "You know what, this isn't for you." Then to allow them to keep failing, I think that can be very cruel to people. If they're in an environment where they're constantly trying to be better, but they just can't do it. That's... - You talked a lot about... When we were talking about winning behaviors about this important about high work ethic, and you've expressed there that Dave has a relentless work ethic as well, you've probably observed how this narrative around hard work has become somewhat toxic over the last couple of years. And now I almost feel bad sometimes when I'm saying that I don't know how I would have been successful in what I've done if I hadn't have worked hard. In fact, I don't really know anybody that's really successful in their discipline or their sport or whatever. That doesn't work hard. So I know we're not trying to give anyone depression and anxiety by saying that they have to be a hustle porn star or they won't be happy, but I still can't get to the point where I will tell anybody that hard work doesn't matter. It really, really matters to me. And it's... I can't imagine... And you know what, I was in the gym last night and I was thinking sometimes words really mess people up, right? So this, like when people say work, they think of me on like a, in a factory, like, or in like, I don't know, in a mine hammering some rock all day. But I was thinking, because I enjoy my work so much, imagine if I just changed the words and went hard pleasure. - Yeah. - You know what I mean? - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. - Exactly. - It's hard pleasure. - Exactly, well. - It sounds so jagged. - It's not going down that route. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Yeah, yeah. - It's interesting, as you were asking me the question, I think that my response, 'cause I actually, I similarly read something that you'd written about, you feel a bit, you feel a bit bad that you sort of hear, hear road, the kind of, I'm working for... - The hustle porn, yeah. - Yeah, the kind of 18 hours a day and I'm going at it. - I'm going at it. - Yeah, bragged about it. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. - And I sort of think, I get it, get why people feel like that. And I think there's a difference between being exceptionally busy and working all the hours God gives and thrashing yourself and all those sorts of things and working really hard with purpose. They're very different, you know what I mean? And when you're working really hard with purpose and you're passionate about what you're doing and you love the people you're working with and you're enjoying this sort of striving for the achievement, there's no shame in that. That's, for me, that's absolutely part of motivated ambitious people. That's what you want them to feel. And people just know what's the thing of the work-life balance. I was like, there isn't a work-life balance. My work is my life and I make no sort of excuse for that. I love it, I'm passionate about it, I enjoy it. I have, it's hard pleasure, you know, it's brilliant and I like the challenge of it. And I, you know, I chose not to have kids so I don't have a partner. It's the passion point of my life is my work. And that's right, but that doesn't mean I need to be, you know, not going out and seeing my mates. It doesn't mean I need to be up until midnight tapping out emails, do you know what I mean? I can still, I take days off, I, you know, I live a normal life but I work really, really hard. - I've also struggled in the relationship department.
Relationships & Work (50:50)
- Yeah. - Unsurprisingly, never, you know, been that good at relationships. Never been able to hold a relationship down. Can't really see how it happens, necessarily. - I hear you, yeah. - Talk to me about that part of, I was gonna call it sacrifice but when it's somewhat intentional and when you're aware of it, it's hard to call it sacrifice. - It just doesn't motivate me. I know that sounds awful. I'm not motivated to have somebody in my life. I'm not motivated to be like, "I want a partner. I want that companionship." You know, when I arrived, we were chatting about how this environment that we're all living in, actually, I love being on my own. I'm very happy in my own company. I'm very passionate about what I do. And I think that fulfills the space that maybe other people have other, have other passions for, right? And so, yeah, it's never been a, it's never been a goal of mine. I've never dreamt of the white wedding. I've never wanted to, and there's never a bit of me that sits at home and thinks, "Oh, I wish I had someone to sit and watch "tell you it." Ever. Doesn't even cross my mind. And my mates are always like, "Do you not get lonely or do you not worry?" And I'm like, "No, I feel like I should "because it would make you all feel better." But, you know, about five or six years ago, because everyone was on at me all the time, I'd like, "Did a bit of dating, did some internet, "you know, use some apps," everything else. I was like, "Why am I doing this? "I'm doing this because society wants me to do this. "I'm doing this because my mates want me to do this." He said, "Bullshit, if it's right or come, "if it's not, it won't." Did you date at all throughout the last, I guess, decade? Did you hear and there, but it's like, kill me now. You know that kind of small talk. Oh, God, it's like my idea of hell on earth. Going and meeting a stranger, having small talk, slightly awkward, with kind of one end game, do you know what I mean? And it's like, and I'll know within two minutes if that end game's happening, and I'm like, "I don't really need the small talk." I think we need to dress this up. So yeah, no, I just never, yeah, I did a little bit, but it's not, I'm not looking for that. And I think if I wanted to get married, if I wanted to get into a relationship, I could, and I'm not adverse to it, but I'm just not out seeking it. And I think you get what you look for, right? Yeah, so other sacrifice. I don't think it's a sacrifice, by the way. Generally needed. No, do you know what, the reason why, when I was younger, I wouldn't have thought it was a sacrifice. And then I started reading all this stuff about the importance of like, you know, 18, 19, and 20, even 24 year old Steve would have thought, "You know, I don't need to f*ckin anybody, "and I can just, I'll be fine on my own." And alone, wolf. Yeah, and then I fully went for the whole recluse thing, like wholeheartedly, and I was broke, so I had no choice anyway. Yeah, you weren't how it used? So I was broke, and I was just on this renegade that was determined to build businesses. And then I started reading some stuff, and it talked about the importance of like, meaningful connections and relationships. And I realized that I didn't really have those. And if I was gonna become wildly successful, then it would just be me and my Lou Vuitton bag sat in my house. And then I started to change my perspective and thought, "Steve, do you know what? "You need to create a little bit more openness "or balance towards that stuff." So I tried a little bit more. But that doesn't, I see, I have incredibly meaningful relationships and incredible connections. I have my friend, I have like five or six friends who are my world. I mean, I'm just incredibly close to them. They are, their kids are, you know, my God children. I feel very, very connected. I don't feel isolated in any way. I don't feel like I'm missing out or sort of not having to. And I actively participate in the lives of my friends, kids and in my friends' lives. And I think that's my connection, that's my tribe. Do you know what I mean? And you know, I would go to war for them. And it's, I just don't think that added bit of a companion for me right now. You know, I'm not saying not forever, but I'm not sure that bit for me is something that I need. And I think that, it's that, there's a difference there. 'Cause I do agree with you. I think you absolutely have to have connection. The human condition is to feel connected, to feel part of something, to feel, you know, sort of that you'll have a purpose within your community. And I think having your own community and having your own tribe is crucial. I don't think that needs to be through companionship with one other human being. - There's a pressure that you talked about, there's societal pressure, you know? And I've got to be honest, right? I'm just going to be completely honest, because I would be really dishonest if I didn't say this. I have been guilty of when I have a friend who is struggling in that department, feeling like I need to help them, because again, that's my own worldview pressed upon them. I'm thinking, well, in order for me to be happy, I would need that, so I need to make sure you have that thing, right? That pressure especially for women is intense post 30. And it causes a ton of anxiety. I see it in my direct messages from strangers. - Not easy. - Well, it's interesting though. So when I'm 42 now and the pressure drops away, because I think you get to the point where people think it's rude to ask if you're going to have kids, because they're like, "Can you still have kids?" - Okay, right, fine. - You get to that age, right? But certainly all through my 30s, when you're going to settle down, do you not want to have children? And I feel very, very lucky that I feel the way I do. I've never really had a biological clock that's picked, you know, ever. And I've never felt the need for companionship of one other person. Do you see what I've, like I said, my tribe is very important to me. But, and I think that's potentially biological. So I think I'm lucky. Because I have friends who, you know, they're desperate to meet someone, they're desperate to have children, they're desperate to move on to that bit of their life. And I've just never felt like that. So it, and I feel very lucky because of that, because I think if I'd have felt like that, my whole life would be very different. - Does not your play role in that? Because I know it did for me. - Yeah. - My parents were toxic for each other. Like watching my mom scream at my dad for seven hours a day, every, my mom's like this African Nigerian woman. And the decibel she's able to achieve is like gold medal worthy. She is unbelievable at shouting. And she can do this amazingly high energetic scream for seven hours a day without flinching. And I watched that as a kid growing up. My dad sat there, this passive English man who didn't say a word ever. And this African woman just, just torturing him with this loud sound. And me thinking like the lesson I learned was relationships are prison. And for, this is the lesson I learned, like for a man, you are trapped and it's torture. So anytime when I was young, like 16, a girl would like me and I'd chase her and I'd try and get her on the playground, whatever, minutes she said she liked me, deep feeling inside of me of like escape quick. - Oh wow. - So I would like come up with all these reasons why girls that I'd spent the last year pursuing, why we were not right and we couldn't lead together and she needed us to leave me alone. And I didn't notice that until I was like 25 and then I started to work on that part. But nurture, does that play a role do you think in your views on relationships or men or whatever or women or whatever? - I think it probably plays a role in my view of having kids. - Right. - Because my mum was adopted. - Oh wow. - So my mum literally didn't know who her mum and dad was. She was kind of picked out of an orphanage by my grandparents. And she had never met anyone who looked like her. You know, like we all connect to our families because we've got similar features, whatever. She'd never had that. And so my mum loves my brother and I with a kind of wonderfully oppressive kind of dominate. And it's that she just loves us with everything that she's got because we're for a whole host of reasons also I think because we're the only physical biological connections she's ever had. And that love always used to scare me a little bit. You know, not from her, but I used to think like I've got dogs and I worry about my dogs. And I've got like nine good children. I've got two nephews and a niece. And the minute they get on a plane or they go, I'm panicking like, what if the plane crashes? What if they die? What if it's like I can't handle it? And I'm like, Jesus, if I'd have had my own kids, that would have, I wouldn't have been able to handle the amount of love. I know that sounds ridiculous. But I think that always played quite a big part for me that I was like, the responsibility of it, the constant you having to worry about it, the constant, all of my female friends who have kids, they live in a state of almost permanent anxiety because they worry about their kids all the time in a in a love way. You know, it's like that wrong love you have. But and I don't think I ever I've never felt that I wanted that in my life. I never thought that I needed it. I never felt that I wanted it. I always felt quite like, no, I'm good. I've got the right amount of love going on in my life. I don't want that additional responsibility and burden in many ways of having something that is always ever present and and would cause me, I think quite a lot of anxiety. Is that in part because you have so much responsibility and naturally, honestly, worry that comes from your other love in life, which is your career? Yeah, for sure. Yeah, because I feel like a kid as well, I really have one. Yeah, no. And it's why I don't think I need a companion because I already have, I get so fulfilled from my job. I get so I get so much from that and so much from kind of working in and around people and having that kind of I've got the community of my friends and the community of my work. And I think those those two things I find very fulfilling. So the idea of having a companion or children or anything else in the mix of that didn't really ever appeal to me in interest. I mean, I was I was engaged to be married when my brother got a service band. So 2004. And I'd been with the guy for like seven years. And I remember like moving into how we bought house together in Shepherd's Version. We moved into the house. And I remember like vividly putting the key in the door, turning the lock and thinking, I don't want this. Like, I don't want this. I loved him to bits. He was an amazing guy. But I was like, I don't want this kind of, I don't want to be in a normal life with a normal husband and a house and kids. And I just didn't want it. I wanted something different. I've got a tattoo that says a lifeless ordinary. I just wanted to just do it differently. And I don't know where that came from, but I've had it my whole life. That kind of I just don't just didn't feel the need to conform to societies, kind of pillars of a game. You go to university and then you're going to get a job and then you're going to meet a guy and then you're going to get married. Then you're going to have kids. I was always like, I'm not interested. Any idea why? No, and I'm fascinated by it because I feel very blessed because of it. Because it's like I say, I think it's it's given me a freedom that a lot of people don't have. How do you wanted it? How do you wanted that, you know, the typical life that societies says people have to live and followed all the timelines and milestones? Do you think you would have been able to achieve as much as you have? I was in my head and my ego was going, I would have been amazing at it. I'd have been like in a boss. No, because I don't think you can. I don't, you know, I'm a feminist. I'm, you know, I'm absolutely passionate about equality. I'm passionate about women's ability. You know, women can do anything that men can do and should be happy opportunities to do that. But I equally don't think it's possible to have it all. I really don't. I don't think you can have. And I know there are women who do and perhaps, perhaps off to them, I think is in, you know, you read about these women in the city who've got like five kids and their CEOs and it's like fair play to you. But I couldn't do that because I would feel constantly compromising. And I don't like compromise. Are you obsessive a little bit in terms of your focus? I don't like compromising. Yeah, I probably am obsessive makes it sound a bit like it's, it's, I'm not in control of it. I'm in control. I'm aware of what I'm doing, but it's a bit like I, so I'm, we were talking about having a peloton and, you know, I kind of feel if I'm going to go all in on my fitness and my health and get lean and everything. It's my 40th. I got like down to 65 kilos. I was like a boss and I was like all over it. But then I was a bit like, oh crap, I've got to do my job as well. And I sort of feel like I'm, I'm not great at doing having two or three focuses. I can, I can go out one thing and be brilliant at it. But if I start adding in layers of complexity, I can stay on top of my health. I can stay on top of my fitness, but I can't, if once I start going down the right, I'm going to get super lean. I find it hard to manage my work. Do you know what I mean? I don't know whether there's a session or whether it's my, I'm myopic. Sure.
How to be successful like you (01:02:53)
Yeah. If people were to, you know, people, they read about your online and they say, you know, you've been the CEO of this amazing sports team, you ran your own agency before that. You're now the CEO of Bell staff. A lot of people, especially young women are going to think that's exactly what I want to do. They're going to think that's amazing. There's always a disclaimer that comes with all of these things. What is the disclaimer in terms of the cost of the success you've achieved? What are the things that, you know, if I'm, you would turn to me as a, as a young, aspiring ambitious person and say, by the way, before you follow in my footsteps, here's what you need to know. Do you know what? I wouldn't have fun because I think I, yeah, I really wouldn't. I feel exceptionally blessed. I feel really, I love what I do. I've loved the journey I've been on, my, all the mistakes I've made. And like I said at the beginning, you know, I've been very, very lucky to be allowed to make all kinds of mistakes and then not follow me around. It's like I've been kind of carried and supported and encouraged to fail and to try and to do stuff that other people just wouldn't have got the chance to do. So I'd be like, no, go for it. Like don't, don't worry about it. Like don't worry about fucking up. Don't worry about making mistakes. Just get on with it. What would you tell me though, that I had to have in terms of my qualities? Would you say, okay, well, if you're going to follow my footsteps, then you're going to need a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It's so hard, isn't it? Stephen, because you can't follow in someone's footsteps. It's true. It's impossible. And that's the thing I think that people, you know, I would say you can't, you can have your own footsteps and you can go into your own thing. And Jesus, if someone has said to me at 25, this is the career path you're going to follow. I've been like, there's just no way, I could tell someone how they're going to do that because it's bonkers. I explained to people, some, you know, people like, oh, you know, tell me a bit about your background. I hear myself saying it and I'm like, that's bonkers. So I don't, you can follow in some of those footsteps, but I do think it's like a bit like the beginning where I was like, you know, just be yourself, you know, be nice to people, be approachable, take the opportunities when they're given to you, recognize that sometimes things are scary and you're going to have to do it scared and actually change is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. And you know, all those things that you read and cliche memes on Instagram, they're pretty much true. You know what I mean? It is. And you just got to take that approach in life because you're not going to get another one. But it's not easy, Fran. It's the stress of your job. It must be pretty intense. You're running now a big company that's, you know, in the process of like sort of turning themselves around and kind of reinventing themselves to some degree. I know the stuff that you have to deal with because I've dealt with it. Yeah, but I'm not here in cancer. But it's, I feel like a lot of it's relative, right? Still, big problems are big problems for relative to the challenge you're facing. So like that's, I guess, tell me about that perspective though, because a lot of people would be like, Oh my God, that's a tough, you know, you're in a tough job and there's problems every day. I'm so lucky, Steven. That's the thing. I think you look, I'm so like someone, you know, an incredibly successful man bought a business three years ago and has said to me, it's not working very well. I really like what I've seen you do in the two years I've been exposed to because you go and run it for me. It's like, yes, I'll go and do that. What a great opportunity. And I'm just, I just feel very lucky. And yeah, they're big challenges and, you know, Brexit, the moment's bonkers and all our shops are shut because of COVID and I'm having to meet and work with new people. But, you know, I wouldn't change it for the world. I think it's an, I think I'm, I think if you can, and this is where Steve Peters has been so powerful because he's like, it's a bit about it not defining you. Just just try your best. Do you, and that was, you know, Jim Radcliffe actually texts me. I text him to say, thank you very much for the opportunity. We're not friends. We don't like hang out. Exactly. We don't hang out. But I just text him to say, thank you so much for the opportunity. This is incredible because I hadn't spoken to him about it at all. It was all via, you know, the term, the term and the business. And he just, he just replied and said, Fran, the only thing I can ask you to do is your best. And you're like, the freedom of that, the, the, and that's what Dave B's always been. Like, he's like, you can just do your best run. You can't, there's nothing more you can do in life. And I think if you release yourself of expectations and what's the standard, you've got, and this is, don't get me wrong. I did not feel like this for the last 10, 15 years. This has been in the last probably two years that I started to realize, you know what? What is the worst that's going to happen? Like, what's the worst case scenario here? Bellstar folds, let's say, or when I was in a cycling team, we didn't win the biggest bike race or, you know, whatever, as long as no one's dying, as long as nothing's, you know, that, as long as people are okay, the people are okay, I'm kind of, I'm kind of all right with it, you know, it's just, just lying. And one of the things, I mean, I completely, I completely understand. I tend to believe that anything, caring about anything beyond your best is like anxiety and worry and useless. Yeah. It's like that Mark Twain quote, isn't it? It's like, there's a, then they'll spend their whole lives worrying about stuff that's never actually going to happen. And it's, that's what worry is because you're worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet. And there's a brilliant, Brenna Brown, pro-class where she talks about forboding joy. And it's this idea that you, something really exciting is happening. But all you're thinking about is shit, what if it goes wrong? So rather than enjoying the joy of it, the kind of, you know, she, she uses the example that she's on the plane to go to her first Oprah appearance. And she's like, I spent the entire plane journey there worrying the plane was going to crash. Then I spent the whole car journey there, worrying that I was going to make a mistake on the show or say something stupid. And then I spent the whole time in the green room, worrying I was wearing the wrong outfit. And at no point did I stop and think, I'm going on Oprah. This is amazing. And it's that, isn't it? It's like, I think you can burden yourself with all this responsibility and all these kind of negatives. And actually it's like, we just want an opportunity. Why don't you try and flip it, try and see the world in a bit more of a positive light. And I feel like that, that's something I'm really working on for myself. Because I just think, like I say, we only get one of them, you get this one opportunity. I've been very lucky. There's nothing in my life, touch wood, that has caused real trauma or, you know, that I feel that I would go back and change. And I think when you're halfway through, that's not a bad place to be.
You took the job in the middle of COVID? In the midst of COVID? Yeah, it was October the 1st, first start. October the 1st, that's brave. Retail. I know, look at the crazy, that's the world. Yeah, brave. But being positive, being optimistic about it, you're coming into this business and it's been smashed in all directions by all things. What's your approach, what's your strategy, what are you thinking? I mean, at the moment, the first sort of three months in the business, I just wanted to get to know everyone there. So I did one to one to everyone. I think it's really easy to kind of go into business with preconceptions of what's gone wrong and what you'd fix. And I tried, I spoke to all the kind of mentors that I've worked with over the years and said, like, what would you, they all gave me the same advice, which was, speak to people, listen, don't make any rash decisions, wait, get a proper plan, but give it the kind of 100 days piece. And initially, I was a bit like, I don't need to do that. And actually, you just really do. So I've just spent just trying to understand how I work. The other thing is I'm in the industry. Like I literally knew nothing about the other than I buy clothes. I didn't know anything about fashion. So, so yeah, so now my plan is, as is always my ambition, I want to do the best possible job of it. I believe in Bell staff as a brand. I think it's an incredible brand with an incredible history. I think the product is amazing. I think the design team have been doing an brilliant job over the last three years, getting the product to a place that's really true to who we are as a company. And I would really love to take its profitability and beyond. You know, I really, I really believe that it's possible to do that. And I think, you know, we're lucky to have the backing of Jim and Ineos to support us through what is going to be quite a significant period of transition and change. So then I think we build the foundations for growth and go from there. And retail has changed a lot. Yeah, totally. Totally. How does, you know, thinking about the high street and how, you know, in e-commerce, the internet now, like there's any, we saw Debenims being bought by Buhu and it's also just bought top man. Yeah. So with either Arcadia brands, it's a moment of transition that's been accelerated by this pandemic. What's your thinking about the changes in retail? I mean, God, I'm so early to it. You know, but I mean, I think like anything, it's just, I think it's accelerated what was happening anyway. Right. Like the high streets were dying. People were moving online. I think the rapidity of that change has just been, you know, it accelerated massively. So people's behavior around how they're shopping was, was on the cusp of quite significant change. I think that changes flipped massively. So, you know, people are much, much happier shopping online, even like an older generation who historically wouldn't have been. I do fundamentally believe when we all start opening up again, people are really going to want to go shopping. I mean, I think people are going to, this idea that people are going to go to the shops. I'm not sure I buy it because I think it's like, yeah, let me want to get out. It's like, let's go and do that. Even you might want to see Steven. Well, there's always hope, isn't there? You know, I see shopping as not actually for the purpose of shopping. I see it as an experience and I see the internet as a place where if I, almost the utility and shopping is like a thing to do, right? Yeah. I think you wonder if retail will, will see hold of that part and be like, we're in experience. Yeah. Exactly. I think that it's going to have to because I don't think it's ever going to be there to be making money. So, I think it's going to be about adding on the experience of the brand for people, particularly for our brand. You know, we, we can create an experience and a story and a narrative that other brands maybe can't. You have a 96 years old. Yeah. So, yeah, we've got all of that heritage that I think we can speak to. So, I think I definitely think that experiential piece will be quite a big play over the next few years.
Are you scared of dying? (01:12:29)
This is a morbid question. But I like to ask it sometimes. I think it sometimes, are you scared of dying? No. No. Are you? No. I was when I was religious up until about 18 years old and then once I realized that I was going to the same place that I came from, which was nothingness and peace, it was quite a liberating feeling and I thought death was actually, I would dare I say it's not a good thing, but not something to be scared of. I'm interested in the eye. So, when would it have been? So, three years ago? I crashed my bike and landed on my head and I got like, I mean, for some reason, whenever I crashed my bike, I landed on either my face or my head. So, all these brains are just... I wish. And then our team doctor at the time was like, because I'd got a bit of concussion. He was like, I think you should go and get a brain scan. He's very over cautious. So, I went and got an MRI and they've made my mum come up because I don't have her husband. I have to... That's the one downside actually to being single is that whenever you have to have somebody come and look after you, it's like mum. I'm 42 years old, but please, can you come and see my mum? So my mum had to come up because of the concussion. I wasn't allowed to go home on my own. And I got this phone call from a brain surgeon who had been given my MRI, they'd looked to my MRI and they'd found all these patches in my brain. And he was like, there's these... He rang me and he was like, are you with someone? And I was like, yeah. And he was like, we've got... Oh, my son. He's like, we've got... I know! Just tell me. He's like, man, I need some proving. And he said, we've got your brain scans, we've gone through them and we're seeing changes in your brain. And you know when you're like, but I've never had an MRI, so how can you have... How are their changes? Anyway, long story short, I've got all of these unusual patterns in my brain like patches that could be... They were like, they could be potentially the starts of tumors, they could be just your... I know, right? They could... Excuse me. I had to go and like... So I went with my best mate actually and go and meet the brain surgeon. He talked us through it. And I mean, it was one of those hilarious and horrible situations all at the same time. Because he was sort of going to... Because she works the NHS and she was like, but what else could it be? If it's not to you, what else could it be? And he was like, well, have you ever been like a very heavy drug user? And we were both like, no. And she was like, does this weed... And the money was business? Yeah. And she was like, we're just like, we're just like, we don't need to go into this. He means heroin. She was like, oh, no, no, we've never done heroin. And she was asking all these questions. So basically I had about a year period where they weren't sure what it was. They still aren't. I still have them. And it's symptom based. So they're like, we could do biopsies and see what it is. And I'm like, no, you're all right. Or if I ever developed symptoms, which would be, you know, sort of electric pulsing or anything like that. And I think that period was quite good for me because it... And it's probably where a lot of the positivity in the... Actually, do you want to get one chance then came from? Because I was a bit like, shit, if I have tumors growing in my brain, that's quite intense. And what does that mean for my life? Like, what would I change? Like, what would I do differently? And I genuinely... I remember being sat in my living room having... Everyone had gone home by this point and I sort of had my first proper... It was like a two hour MRI, which is quite intense. And I was like, you know what? I wouldn't change anything. I would carry on living my life the way I live it now. I wouldn't change anything. I would probably go deeper and harder in some of the things that I really enjoy because I like my job and see my mates. I would keep spending the money the way I spend it. I literally wouldn't change anything. And I was like, and it literally felt quite freeing. It was like... Great. This is good because I think a lot of people would get that kind of diagnosis and be like, right, shit, what do I need to do differently? I didn't have anything that I thought, no, I don't want to change. But interestingly, my job has now changed. And I think deep down the reason I had the chairman conversation, the reason I was willing to say yes to this opportunity at Bell's staff is had I maybe not had that incident and had all of that associated thinking and sort of deep sort of soul searching. I maybe would have said no, it's right, I'll stay at cycling. But I just thought, you know what? Fuck it. Let's go and get there, try. What an absolute blessing that is to know that you wouldn't change anything. I think I have this sand timer. Is it behind me somewhere? Is it there? It's usually sat behind me. But the reason I have a sand timer in my house is because it's that sort of visual... It's the only way you can really see time. At some point I realized that I was getting older and that you don't notice and that you can fall into the trap of thinking. As I think most people do that will just like live forever. And it's not until you realize that life is finite, you have those moments that you realize that at some point I'm going to die. Seeing my time pouring away is this important and am I making the right decisions? Am I living true to myself? I'm not a little article about that called Death by Thinking which pretty much says the same thing which is that giving you that perspective from your deathbed potentially, what really matters. Remarkable. I mean I'm so inspired by your story and every time I sit down with someone who's become a success in their career or their pursuit, it feels like they're similar themes but so different in so many ways. What does the future hold for you do you think?
What does the future hold for you (01:17:53)
Do you know? Any ideas? You're going to end up... Well domination, right? Is that? No. I would believe you said that. That's the funny thing. I don't know what the future holds and I don't really mind. I don't mind as long as my family and friends are healthy and happy and as long as... Actually that's all that matters. As long as my friends and family are happy and healthy and then I'm pretty cool as whatever the world throws at me, I'm sure it will be a lot. It'll be fun. Everyone else seems to need a plan. No, there's... Five year plan, three year plan. Don't get me wrong, I used to have five year plans but they're all hilarious and I go back and look at my five year plans and I'm like, "Oh I love how ambitious my walk." Where's that yacht? Really good idea. I think when I was a kid I was very... I remember actually when I set my agency up, my best mate and I set it up together and we got a coach and we were about 22, 23 and the coach was like, "Go off into separate rooms and ride out where you want to be in 10 years time and then come back in and read them to each other and we were best mates. We'd live together for like three or four years, set a business up together. He was dating my best friend. We came back in and he... And we had them based on my piece of the paper like, "Oh we live from each other." And he was like, "Right, I want to be running a successful business earning a good salary. I want to be living in a nice house with a wife and three children and I want to be healthy and happy." And I was like, "Oh fuck." You've done it, you're listening. I want a yacht. And a jet. I want to have loads of money. Yeah, I was literally... I had this really materialistic list about wanting to be successful and a global sensation and have all this money and all this. How old? 23, 22, 23. Did you have stuff growing up? Material stuff. Yeah, we were quite... I mean, when... My dad was in the RAF. So to begin with middle class, but then when he left to go to Hong Kong, he went into civil aviation and kind of the glory is of the expats. So definitely very, very lucky. And I got business class travel everywhere. Oh wow. Yeah, so it was pretty next level. It's incredible that you've wanted it for... It's so bad. But now I wouldn't want that list now. But it was just... It was that really interesting like, "Oh, okay, we want totally different things." And I didn't have partner. I didn't have kids. I didn't have a nice house anywhere. I was like, "I wanted the universe. I want to go over there and do something massive." Well, you've smashed it, Fran. And I'm sure you've been paid well along the way for that money. The money becomes irrelevant though, right? The money is just a great tool. For helping my friends and family, for doing cool stuff with people, for having experiences. I spend all the money I earn doing stuff with the people I love. Do you have any example? I took my sister-in-law to Dubai for her 40th birthday with my best mate. We stayed on the palm in an amazing time. I've sort of took my brother back to Hong Kong for his 40th. I take my friends on holidays. I just go and do stuff with the people I love. I love experiences. I spend my money on experiences going and doing stuff, seeing stuff. But always with the people I love. And none of my mates can afford to go to the hotels I go to somewhere as I will participate. Because I didn't want to stay in a rubbish hotel. I can relate. Well, listen, thank you so much for all of your time today. It's been truly fascinating. And even researching your background and your mindset has been really, really inspiring and energizing for me. And I can relate to so many elements. Other elements I'm just amazed and impressed by. So thank you for your time. I know you're incredibly busy person. It feels like an additional honor for you to have said yes to come and chat to me today. And where can people find you? I guess just these days it's pretty easy. You just Google someone's name. Yeah, I don't do. I have a private Instagram and I'm on Twitter. But I don't really use it very often. So I'm rubbish at LinkedIn. Well, if they want to speak to you and I'm sure they'll find me. They'll find me. Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's been fascinating. I've really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you. Thanks. People ask me for book recommendations all the time and I finally got one for you. It's a book called Happy Sexy Millionaire, which is authored by me. I spent the last almost two years in jungles around the world in Costa Rica and Indonesia in solitude writing this book. It's the most important thing I've ever created. And there's this crazy thing when you write a book because you spend so much time pouring your heart and soul into it and everything you know and all of the revelations you've had in your life. And then there's this barrier, which is that people have to buy the thing in order for them to get that thing. That means so much to you. I wish that wasn't the case. It's just the way the industry is. And in order to get that distribution and to get it on shelves, you need a publisher. So please, please, please, if you can, if you've ever liked anything I've ever produced, this podcast, my Instagrams, anything I've ever said, read this book. There was no ghost writer. I wrote every single word myself. There's some real surprises in there. It's an honest, sometimes hilarious, incredibly vulnerable, hopefully valuable recount of my life, my journey, everything I've learned across the way and really the answer to being fulfilled, to being happy and to achieving success. It is the most important thing I've ever created. So I implore you to go to Amazon now or wherever you get your books and get that pre-order. And everybody that pre-orders the book because pre-orders in this crazy publishing industry count as way more than just a normal sale. If you get that pre-order, I'm going to put you into a group with everybody that's pre-ordered it and I'm going to send you some exclusive stuff. So the first things I'm going to do is a series of voice notes, which I think are going to be pretty powerful. I'm going to give you access to some tickets, which nobody else will have. And I'm going to do everything I can to thank you for giving me that sort of nine quid of your money or whatever it is. Happy sexy millionaire. You can pre-order it everywhere now. And if you do get that pre-order, please do DM me because I'd love to thank you myself.