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So you do something with greeting cards. Is that something you do or in your spare room? Nick Jenkins, former CEO and founder of the moon pick, a company now worth $1.6 billion. My first proper business was moon big, which although it's been a success, of course it went through various ups and downs. Like all overnight successes, it took 11 years. I got to confess, I probably slightly stumbled on it. I look at it now and think, wow, that accidentally was a really good business model. Unfortunately, too often we measure the things that are easiest to measure. And the easiest thing to measure is how wealthy someone is. I'm reluctant to create this illusion that if you work incredibly hard, you can make a lot of money and that will make you successful. You have to be a successful human being. The most exciting times I ever had in my business were when my back was absolutely against the one thing, this is going down. If bizarrely I found that quite invigorating, by one point my shelves all said, look, Nick, this is never gonna work. It's never gonna make money. By the time I'd got to the end of it, I was pretty much down to zero. Nick Jenkins, former CEO and founder of MoonPig, a company now worth $1.6 billion. Nick's achievements are miraculous. He's incredibly inspiring. And he created a business that's touched many of our lives. But the thing that I found even more intriguing about Nick was he bucks most of the typical entrepreneurship and success narratives. I think we're all sold the belief and the story that in order to be successful in business or any discipline in life, you have to undergo tremendous sacrifice. You have to work yourself into the ground. Nick and his story and his philosophy disprove all of that. He's got another way of doing it. If listening to this episode does anything outside of just inspiring the hell out of you and giving you very practical business information, it will definitely prove, in my view, that there is no such thing as a born entrepreneur. And also, once you become an entrepreneur, the path to success isn't the same for everybody. A lot of what you've been told is a lie. Without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett and this is the Diro over CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Nick. Super intrigued when I meet entrepreneurs because there's a huge sort of narrative. And I guess a debate that's happened in the entrepreneurial community about whether entrepreneurs are made, whether they're born or whether it's something that can be taught.
Journey Of An Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur (02:29)
And from listening to you describe your early years and your school years and your upbringing, I wondered what your opinion on that was and also whether you think you are a born entrepreneur. I think there are some traits that are common to all entrepreneurs. And one of those is decisiveness. You've got to be able to take decisions. And after I worked in Russia for a bit, went and did an MBA. When I was there, there were lots of people on that course who were brighter than me. But they would come up with a beautiful PowerPoint presentation of five different choices of strategic options. But actually sometimes you just gotta say, "I haven't got the perfect knowledge. "Let's go with that one and take a decision." And so I think decisiveness is a very... And an attitude to risk is the other thing. I think I always took the view that, "I started with nothing, I could end up with nothing." I wasn't that worried about failing. And that's quite important. So I think those sort of things are in aid. You can teach someone like that to be a better entrepreneur. And to some extent, I mean, I went off and said, "I had nothing else to do to be honest at the time. "I came back from Russia and I had a spare year." And I thought, "I couldn't think of cunning business plans. "I thought I'll do an MBA while I'm coming up with a cunning plan." And that probably made my first business a bit better because I gave me more of an idea of the... A rounded idea of business and so on. So I think you can improve on that. But I don't think... But if you're risk averse, you're not gonna do it. - Where does decisiveness and that risk appetite come from? Do you think in people? And I guess where does the alternative come from? Where does the fear and the lack of willingness to make a decision come from in people? Or in you? Like, where did that decisiveness come from in you? - I don't know. You have some people who are physically courageous. They will leap in in it. Rugby players will leap in and do things. And other people who are not. And then you have some people who are intellectually courageous who will just... They're just not afraid of saying, "Let's do it." I'm not sure. But I think it comes from not having a fear of failure. Or not... We're all going to make mistakes and things will go wrong. But if you're frightened of ever making a mistake, then you won't do it much. Sometimes if you ski and you're frightened of falling over, you're never gonna be a great skier. You are gonna fall over. - It's quite also you were just talking about almost that mental assessment you made on what failure meant. 'Cause you were like, "Well, if I go to zero, that's okay. That doesn't mean death." No, no, no, it doesn't. I mean, it wouldn't be great, you know. But it's survival. And I've all the friends I've seen who've gone through that. And I've had a lot of friends who've gone through business failures. The ones I admire the most are the ones who... It's the way they've dealt with that. And some of them have thought, "Well, I can't change that. So all I can do is change the way I approach the next step and move on. And if you just dwell on failure, what does that mean? How does that reflect on me?" Then you'd never move on. So I think it's our own attitude to failure that's quite important. - What was your underlying drive to even start a business versus just going and getting a job at a pizza house or something? - I suppose I probably looked at that and thought, "If that goes well, I'll probably make more money per hour than if I go and work at pizza." So there's an element of one... I mean, maybe there's an element of laziness that comes into this. It was wanting to take that shortcut and think, "Well, actually, if I start my own business and it goes well, then obviously it's better than an hourly paid job." One of my great philosophers on business is just keep everything as simple as you can possibly make it until you have to make it more complicated. People often start way too complicated and over-engineer things. - If you read the book "The Lean Startup," it talks to some of those values about just trying to... Find the simplest way to test the hypothesis as cheaply as you can without losing years of your life. - There's nothing quite like not actually having any money to do that. So when we raised money on a very bitty basis, there was never a well that occasionally would pour something in it. You'd hear it hitting the bottom, but it never actually filled the well up. So we never really had much money to experiment with. So we had to be very lean with what we did. And I think perhaps the one useful thing, the only textbook that I ever went back to from my MBA years was a statistics textbook, because what I wanted to work out is the least money I could spend to get a statistically significant answer to how much a cost to customer acquisition is for a particular channel. Because why spend 25,000 pounds finding out that a particular channel doesn't work for you when you can get the answer for 2,500? And you must see this all the time. But you get people who say, "We're going to spend a million pounds on our..." When you've got too much money, you just let's throw some money at this and see what works. Why waste it when you can get the answer for 2,500? - Yeah. - And then, and then, and then, and I always look at that and I don't think I've wasted 2,500. I've spent 2,500. Some of that will have been, let's say I was aiming for a 10-pound cost of customer acquisition, and actually it was 20. Well, then 1,250 pounds of that was spent on acquiring customers at the right price. And 1,250 pounds was spent on finding out that I should never do that again. - Yeah. - And that's the way I would look at that. But if I'd spent 25,000 pounds on it, then, you know, it would have been, it would have been a waste. And also, if you can, the more you spend money to find out the answers to things, and when you've got those answers and you're then putting that in your business plan to raise money, I'm always more impressed when people say, "Right, I want to raise money for marketing. This is what we've done so far. This is what it cost us so far. So if we scale this up, that's what we can do." As opposed to just saying, "Please give us lots of money to spend on marketing. We don't know what we're going to do yet." Yeah, I had this conversation actually with my gym owner the other day. I didn't even know that he was aware of who I was, but I was leaving the gym and he goes, "Can I just have two minutes?" He pulls me into the back room, and he tells me about this idea. And to be fair, I can't say the idea because he, and we're going to talk about this topic as well, he thinks that if you tell the idea, then I'm going to run off with it. We'll talk about that. - We'll talk about that all the time. - Yeah, we'll talk about that straight after. But it's this idea for rolling out gyms in the country. He said, "I need to raise investment to put 10 of them in." And I was like, "This idea you have is totally contingent on this central hypothesis." I'm just going to say he doesn't have to podcast. That people that drive long haul want to work out in service stations, you don't need to put 10 in to figure out if that hypothesis is correct. You can put a shipping container in the car park, and keep it there for free. And if anyone picks up the dumbbells, that's an indication that your hypothesis is correct. And then introduce another variable, which is cost. So then charge them to pick up the dumbbells. And if you come back to me in six months' time and say, "Steve, they picked up the dumbbells, they worked out, and they gave me 10 pounds a month," then all you need is capital. And we'll go make 10 of them. - We're on the same page. I'll prove what you can prove on the least amount of money first. And evidence is always so important. And people miss that. But let's talk about that topic then. So this idea of it really, it shows me that the entrepreneur is somewhat naive when an entrepreneur comes up to you.
Starting a business - Moon Pig (09:50)
I'm sure you get this all the time. They picture an idea, and then they say, "Will they sound cagey to tell you the full thing?" Because they think you're going to run off and do it. - Yeah. - Yeah. What I would say to them, like, if you get the day you go live with that, the moment you start advertising that idea, you're opening your lifting a skirt to the whole world. So you're going to have to go live with it at some point. Otherwise, you're not going to sound the thing. If you don't sell the thing, you're going to raise any money from anybody. So at some point, you have to tell people what you're doing. With Moon Pig, there was no way that I could protect that idea. The only way you can protect it is be the best and be the biggest. - Amen. - Yeah. I mean, and then we had probably 20 competitors that followed after Moon Pig during our time there. And they'd pop up and they'd flare up and then they'd die off again. And even now, Moon Pig is 65% of the market. But when you started Moon Pig, was there anyone else doing personalized sort of gifting cards online? Yeah, funny enough that there was, there was a very, I came up with a business ban and I developed it. And then I looked, the first thing I always do is I look around not just at what direct competitors I've got, but how are people trying to solve that problem in other ways? Because, you know, if you're trying to solve a problem, clearly that problem exists already and people are trying to solve it in one way or another. And I did come across a company that was doing personalized greeting cards. And I approached them and said, "I've got a choice. I can either come up with this plan. "I can either do it myself or I can invest in your business." And anyway, the terms the offer were ridiculous. And also, the other problem was I could see that is we were going to fall out over the content of the cards because I just didn't think he had a very good eye for cards. With that business, anything ever turned over more than 300,000 a year. And then it died about two years later. And Moon Pig went, so I went off and did my own thing. And what it taught me actually looking back at it is that it was all about the content. It was about the quality of the cards, the quality of the design of the cards. Because actually, the customer doesn't really care how the card was produced. They don't care about the technology at all. What they want is the end product. And we have the best end product. That's so interesting because a lot of entrepreneurs are put off from starting an idea because when they Google their idea that they have, they find 10 of the people that are already doing it. And I really want to touch on this point because I think it's quite liberating for entrepreneurs listening. When I started my business, in fact, every business I've ever started, that's been successful, had a major incumbent already. And we became the biggest. And it's for exactly what you described. It's those, there's probably a thousand small details that go into making a successful business more. Let's just say there's a thousand. Thousands more details that go into making a business. And you're basically going to war on a thousand details. And if you can be better in just certain ways, and sometimes you only need to be better in a few simple ways, I think it can-- I agree. But then if you look at the example of bread, people have been eating bread for thousands of years. You know people like bread. We know what people are prepared to pay for bread. That's half of your market research done already. You don't have to say, we've got this thing called bread. Do you like it? You can cut it and slice it and you can have it in the middle and call it a sandwich. All that's been done for you. So then you've got to work out right. Well, I know that there's a market for this. So how do I just make it a little bit better? Do I make it as add seeds to it? Do I put cumin in it? Do I have a shop that is in a location that isn't well served? So you only have to tweak an idea that's already there. So your chance of success, your chance of surviving, your chance of surviving, is considerably greater, because you've answered most of the questions already before you've even invested any money. The chance of that becoming, the chance of that multiplying by a factor of 1,000, and suddenly think of those. And like, the guy in short, it's just invented a stuff called bread. It's amazing. Never had it before. So you don't get that. And I think that's an important thing for entrepreneurs to think about is that you don't have to be unique. I think that's-- you know, people always say, what's unique about it? You just got to be-- I agree with you. You got to be better, in some respect. Yeah. And people time themselves in not trying to invent things. So I think it's a really hard-- it's the hardest possible way of making money. I mean, actually, when you-- I read a report about the fact that the people who-- most people who've made money have made money doing something they were previously employed to do. Interesting. Because they've spent 20 years learning how to do something. They know all the contacts, and then they start up their own business. It's logical. When I'm looking at investing in people, I think, well, you know this industry really, really well. You're very convincing. And you know all the pitfalls in advance. Of course, you're more likely to succeed. Yeah. But they also know-- because they know the pitfalls, they know where the opportunity to create a better product would be as well. Yeah. Yeah. Because so often, I will come up with a business idea and look at it. And it's only after I've gone through this fourth iteration of the business plan that I think-- and that is why no one has done this before. Yeah. That's very, very true. If you'd known how hard it would be to start a business and to make it successful, do you think you would have started? Because here I'm asking, I want to know a little bit about the importance of delusion. Ha, ha. Well, funnily, if there's something I've always believed an element of self-delusion is very, very important. And I think that's one of the reasons why-- actually, when I finished my ABA, I did have the opportunity to go and join a VC firm. I thought, if I can work for a VC firm for three or four years, I'll get more experience before I start my own business. Anyway, I went for a job interview, shock horror. They turned me down. So I had to go and start my own business. And I realized now that if I had gone through several years investing in other people's businesses, I probably would have developed that hard skin of this is actually incredibly hard. But this is why this won't work. And I see that a lot now in me now that I look at as an investor. I look at a lot of things. And I'm less wide-eyed than I was when I started Moon Pig. And I can see the reasons why something won't work. And you can become too cynical about it. Whereas when I started Moon Pig, if I'd known all of the problems that I was going to come up against, I may not have started. And believe me, there were plenty of times in the middle of that when I would have happily given it up. I mean, people often say, was there a difficult period? And there was just one, but it lasted from 2000 to 2005. And it was-- That's a hot game. That was difficult. It was tough. And I was wondering how to pay the salaries. And I-- Talk to me about the detail of that difficult period. Well, as you know better than anybody, starting a business is one thing. And coming up with a product that people might want is one thing. Getting customers is probably the single most difficult thing about setting up any online business. And I think most people underestimate that. And we tried all sorts of permutations. And bear in mind, this was 2000. So this was well before social media. So a lot of stuff was very manual. You know, you will laugh at this. But when I was doing affiliate deals, I would phone up a company and say, we'll put an advert on your thing. And if you send any traffic to us, we'll give you a bit of commission on this. And I'll send you a spreadsheet every week to tell you how much I owe you. Literally, it was that manual. And I would write up a contract for each separate contract for each individual company. I had a big filing cabinet of them. I mean, that sounds like very dinosaur-ish. But that's how it was. And now it's much, much easier. But we were struggling to find ways that we could throw money at driving traffic. Because everything that we threw money at was too expensive. And the only thing that was really working in all of this was the viral effect. That we knew that we got very, very good at measuring everything. And we could see that if we brought 100 customers in, that-- and those 100 customers, we knew exactly how many of them would buy cards. We knew how many of them wouldn't come back again. But of the ones that bought cards, we knew that they would attract about-- for every customer that we had, they'd attract a third of a customer. Just because I send you a birthday card, you think it's funny, you look on the back of it, moonpig.com. And so that viral effect was the thing that kept us going for five years. And it was only really because I understood the statistics behind that. And I could understand the model and think, right, although everything else appears to be failing, although this online campaign doesn't appears to be too expensive, that appears to be too expensive. And we can't-- I couldn't tell you, if someone had given me 10 million pounds, I couldn't have told you what we could have thrown it at to make it work. I could see that just the customers alone were driving the sales growth. And if only we could survive that long, that we'd make it through. But I was the only person who believed that. All of my shareholders, at one point, my shareholders all said, look, Nick, it's not going to work. This is never going to work. It's never going to make money. And we're not going to put more money in. And we really recommend that you don't put any more money in too, because when this all goes wrong, you're going to have to have some money to pay the rent. And it was that bad. How much had you bet on this personally? Well, I mean, I'd gone off and worked in Russia for a while. And I'd probably made about a million. And by the time-- by the time I put about 150,000 pounds into me because at the beginning, to get the idea off the ground, by the time I'd got to the end of it, I was pretty much down to zero. I think I'd taken all the equity out of the flat, which previously had no mortgage. I'd taken all my savings and all that. So I pretty much got down to zero. So at the point when people are trying to discourage you to-- I was pretty much already at zero. Zero anyway. So that's when it finally started to turn. And I could see the stats. I could see where it was going. It's just that after four years of three or four different business plans, we go, I know the last business plan wasn't inaccurate, but this one's better. Oh, and I know the previous two weren't that accurate, but this one works. It's tough. That's that delusion. Did you ever genuinely consider quitting? No. No, because I could see where the numbers were going. And I did have a firm belief that the repeat rate was there. The viral effect was there. And I could see how we went through a year. We spent no money on marketing whatsoever, no money on customer acquisition. And our sales grew by 30%. So that's now. I appreciate having invested in lots of other e-commerce businesses. I appreciate how unusual that is. It was my first business. So I didn't know quite how unusual it was. But I knew that actually, look, it's not as if there's so many businesses I see now that the moment you turn the marketing tap off, just goes to zero. And that's one of the things I'm always really aware of. And I'm aware of now what I'm investing is when-- is I say, well, what's going to happen when you turn that tap off? Because when we did turn that tap off, it just kept on growing. And that's what I see as the real quality of a business, is when you're adding layer upon layer of customers. Now, not all businesses are as good at repeat business as the moon pig was. But that was the thing that I recognized that kept me going through all that and stopped me from throwing the towel in. And that's thankfully because you had a great product underpinning the business. The main focus was, do people like what we're selling? And we knew that. We knew it was a very, very popular product. We could see that in the viral effect. People, not only do people who bought it, liked it, but the people who received it, liked it. So the main focus was always on create a really, really good product. And then, of course, on top of that, you've then got to make sure that you've got your production right so that your gross margins are right and you're tweaking all of those little knobs within that engine. The key thing is understanding every metric. And we looked at it like it's like a lose run that you're polishing every day. You're looking at is there any way where anyone's getting stuck along this journey? And are they not understanding the button that they're supposed to press next? Are they getting confused? And we could polish that one out. So there was a constant process. That time when we weren't spending any money on customer acquisition, we were spending all of our money on customer retention and just polishing that lose run of the customer coming in through the front door and getting into the shopping basket. When you reflect on that and the fact that Moon Pig ultimately succeeded in a market where many others failed, you talked about the guy that he's business you tried to buy. And you say, what was it about what we did that made us succeed? Or what was it about me, Nick, that made this business succeed? What is your answer? Well, I think I probably did have a good understanding of what people wanted in a card. And the if you get down to the simplest version of that is that a card is about showing someone that you've, you want to show them that it's relevant, you've thought about them. So you've chosen something which is relevant to them that they're interested in. Well, that's something you both find funny. And you can weave their name into that as well to show that you've made an effort. And then the double whammy, I would always personalize Moon Pig card, have it sent back to me and write on the inside. So that's like a double personalization. And it basically is about showing you really thought about them. And that's-- and it's amusing as well. And the great thing is a quirky British sense of humor that we love slightly mildly offending each other. And then we stick the cards up on average. Kind of funny. So if you focus on that, focus on the product, everything else follows in behind that. Focus on the product and then make it very, very efficient. And everything else should follow. Whereas if you don't focus on the product and you're just constantly selling something that people don't really want, it's incredibly hard work. On the product, a lot of people have this idea, I think, when they start businesses that you have to have your hypothesis, your idea of what this business is going to become the product yourself perfectly nailed before you launch. And then I made the mistake of when I started my business kind of being too romantic about that initial idea. So I was trying to force the idea into the world as opposed to listening. If we go back before you started Moon Pig, what was your hypothesis? In terms of personalization, how did you arrive at a card? It was very simple, actually. I thought through different ideas. And I realized, right, this internet thing is going to happen. So I don't know much about it, but no one else knows anything about it either. But I did at least understand how to build a team. So I'd spent 10 years in Russia building a team of people and building a successful business. And I went through this thing of how can I use the internet to make a business? And digital products were all being given away for free. So everyone had this idea that if you could download it, it ought to be free. Well, that's a hard one to make money in. The advertising business back in those days was incredibly tough because there wasn't much of a market. Not much spend was going online. And you were spending more money to get people to come to your site to look at the adverts. And people are going to pay you for the adverts. That was tough, too. Then I looked at physical goods. And if you take, say, a digital camera, one of those things I looked at, if I took my sort of sat-sum of Fujitsu 3.2 DB, I figured that somebody at some point would write an algorithm that would merely compare the price of my Fujitsu 3.2 DD with someone else's, and then they'd buy the cheapest one. And that ultimately would end up squeezing all the margin out of that game. So you'd end up with a lot of physical stocks sitting in warehouses and minimal margins. So I looked at what are the things that I can sell on the internet, where I can actually improve the product and make it better. And personalization is one of those things. It's very difficult to do personalization in-store because it takes up floor space and equipment and so on. And I thought of a number of different things, including personalized CDs. Well, I'm really glad I didn't do that one. And cards occur to me because I used to tippec my cards and tippecs out the caption and write something a bit funnier. I'm doing relevant. I'm doing relevant on the front. And an equally journalist friends of mine, whenever anyone left the office, they'd be given a spoof magazine front cover, which would take a day and a half of graphic design time to put together. And I figured, well, we've got digital printing was beginning to develop at the time. And you've got the internet. And it made it possible to combine those two, to make it possible for someone to order a single personalized greeting card, which has got hands down, got to be better than the unpersonized thing. And then I could charge more for the product online than for the product in the shop. But more to the point, there's no stock. So all we've got is a pile of cardboard in the corner of the room and a pile of envelopes. That's the only stock, which I think represented about a quarter percent of turnover. So compared to the digital camera business, where you might have a whole load of digital cameras on the water coming in from wherever you buy them from, loading the warehouse, and so on. It was a very efficient business model. I've got to confess. I've probably slightly stumbled on it, rather than it being... I look at it now and think, wow, that accidentally was a really good business model. You get paid up front, you pay supplies in 60 days, there's no stock. I mean, it was great. But fundamentally, it was a better product. And on day one, right from the very beginning, the business plan I came up with when I was doing my MBA was I want to make it possible for a customer to buy a single personalized birthday card, which technology had suddenly made possible, whereas previously, that would have been 200 quid's worth of graphic design time, a bit of light over it. I mean, just not possible. But of course, that is that the person who's receiving it has got to think that's a really cool card. And there's a point where you made the decision to sort of step back from operations? I've always tried to... My general approach to this is trying to focus on the things that only you can do.
Stepping back from MoonPig and hiring people (27:04)
And when you really narrow it down and you become a bigger company, you realize that actually that really does narrow it down a lot, because I always tried to hire people, replace the things that I was doing with people who could do it better than I could do it. And then once they're doing it better than I could do it, you think, gosh, well, I'm not going to interfere with that anymore. So leave them to it. And then eventually then comes down to a role. My role eventually became that of Executive Chairman. So I bought a CEO and I became Executive Chairman. And I suppose then my role was that strategic role of making sure that we're pointing in the right direction and also that we take those big decisions. What are you bad at? I'm not as good as someone else, actually, we say. I think I'm good at short-term detail. I can sprint on real fine detail. So I can sit on a spreadsheet for six hours overnight and come up with a beautiful bit of financial modeling. But I've got a million and one things going on. And so I don't know that I'm necessarily a complete a finisher. And there are people who are good at that. So interestingly, when I'm looking at hiring people, I will often, although academic results aren't everything, you always need someone who has got straight A's at A level, because they're very good at understanding the question and delivering it, delivering the answer. So they understand what's expected of them and they deliver it in a very predictable way. Whereas CEOs can often be quite maverick and you ask them one question and they will answer something else completely different, but much more interesting. And that's fine. You can afford to have one or two of those mavericks. But somebody in the company has to be a good, complete finisher. They understand the question and they deliver it. This is interesting. So there's certain people in my previous business where I knew they were useless at organization and process and they were just dread-- they were unreliable. But they had one skill which was genius. And so it would almost be like making an exception for them within the company where, OK, they might take a long time to reply to emails and stuff like that. But that one point of creative genius that they brought to the company was worth it. Did you ever have that? Very definitely. You've got some people-- I think creative genius always comes at a price. And it becomes-- because someone has focused on one thing at the expense of something else generally. And so you just have to work with it and say, right, OK, well, it's recognized person doesn't do that. And actually those skills can easily be dealt with by something else, get them a good PA, someone who can organ-- get a good complete finisher behind them, who picks up after them. And then they will come up with the ideas that nobody else would have come up with. I think that works. Do you know what I hate? I hate powder. I hate mixing powder with water. I hate protein powders that you have to mix with water up until now. And obviously, he'll sponsor this podcast. So I'm tremendously biased. But that's a true story. I've never been able to use the like my protein powders that you mix with water, because I always think they taste absolutely awful. Up until he'll release their brand new protein flavor. The amazing thing about all of these proteins is there's 20 grams of protein. You get all of your vitamins and nutrients, 26 of those. And as he'll always is, it's nutritionally complete. And if you are someone that's trying to go a little bit lower on the calories, it's only 105 calories. So when I wake up in the morning, especially I've been working out a lot lately, come downstairs, quickly blend it together in my NutriBullet, drink it. It's 100 calories. And then my next sort of main meal, because I'm a breakfast skipper, will be at lunch time. Highly recommend it. And I shouldn't say this, because I've don't have any approval to say this. But there's some amazing, amazing flavors coming in the ready to drink range that I've been lucky enough to try. And one of those is my new favorite flavor. So stay tuned. You were talking about that struggle you had for the first five years at music. I heard you talking to interviews about three, four, five weeks after being particularly hard.
Your personal sacrifice (31:07)
But what was the personal sacrifice of that? I'm thinking now about how easy it was to maintain relationships and friendships. When in your head, you probably have that red-- red those red numbers from the management accounts sort of etched into your mind at all times. Can I be honest? Never really got it from me. Never got it in the way. No, I-- a lot of people confuse-- there's, oh, we're running your own business. You're working all the way out as a godsend. I never did. If something needs to be done, an only I could do it, then I would do it. And there was time-- there's the odd time when-- I remember once when our entire printing team were off ill. And I came back from a business trip from Australia to discover that we were three days behind on our printing schedule. And I simply got in the printing room. The only other person qualified to use the printer. So I just sat in the printing room, and I worked 24 hours a day for three days, I think, to get it all done. So yes, there were times. But I had a great social life. I've always been a great believer also that I need to-- I like to manage a business during reasonable hours. I don't think it's important that people need to sacrifice themselves on the altar of my business. And I don't like them doing that. One, because it makes me feel guilty about skiving off. If you've got all of your people in the office and they're working 24 hours a day, and you're sort of taking half the day off to go and do something fun, you're awful. So I tried to make sure the same standards apply, and that people should work a proper day's work in the hours that they would like to work within reason. But I do expect them to go off and go and do something different and recharge their batteries in the evening and the weekends. Because otherwise, you just run out of steam. Particularly, it was a creative business. We're trying to make people laugh if you're exhausted and miserable. That's tough. It goes against a lot of the typical narrative, doesn't it, in entrepreneurship? Like the hustle porn star entrepreneur. He just like, in doesn't sleep. And just caffeine. And just they're like crying in the street. And they're like eating ramen noodles and stuff like that. What does that narrative make you think? Well, I think that's true. If you start a business with-- a lot of people start a business with nothing. And a lot of businesses fail. And as those businesses are failing, clearly, obviously you're down to your last pennies. And that's tough. And so I think that the thing that they're describing is that is the last death throes of a business. And I've seen lots of businesses that I've invested in go through the same thing, where there is no money left. You can't pay salaries. And the founders are down to-- they're living in the office under the desk. And eating noodles. And so that happens. But it isn't an essential part of the journey. But generally, the death throes. And occasionally, you survive. I mean, had I not had that last bit of cash that I put in, I may well have been one of those cases. What about focus? A lot of entrepreneurs have-- I get a lot of messages from entrepreneurs that have multiple businesses through a four startups they're doing at the same time. Well, I wouldn't invest in anybody that had multiple startups.
Maintaining Focus (34:21)
But if I'd had three businesses, the same time as MoonVig, and MoonVig was going badly, you focus on the ones going well, because it makes you feel better. So-- And then they turn around to the investors who put money into the third one. And they say, yeah, and I've given up with that one. I'm off to it. So there is no way. I mean, when I invest in a business, I would make sure that there is a clause that says that the founder shareholders have to be 100% focused on that. They're not allowed to have more than a 4% stake in another unlimited company. I'm pretty strict about that. I mean, I just think it's laughable. Yeah. Absolutely laughable that people come along and they go, yeah, I've got three ideas, and I'd like you to invest in this one. But I've got those just in case that one doesn't work. For me, as well, I tend to think all three will fail, because you're giving like 30-- in the way that I view, even if you're not prioritizing, you're giving 33% of your time and energy to-- and all your competitors are giving 101%, and a lot of them might be sleeping under the desk. So if you're giving 30%, it's already hard enough to succeed giving 100%. So you're really setting yourself up to failure. But I think this is weird thing where entrepreneurs find it impressive to some entrepreneurs find it impressive to list multiple businesses that they're doing. And I swear, if I hear an entrepreneur come to me with an idea and they've also got another thing they're doing, I'm immediately deeply unimpressed by them, because I think they've got this focus problem. And maybe they sat down and tried to think of a business idea. And for me, when business ideas don't come from some type of inspiration, when they're literally just contrived from, I'm going to try and think of a business idea, I think that it's typically more difficult. I think some form of inspiration, even if it's a small thing of inspiration, as an integral to success, and creating something unique. But yeah, that's another thing that irritates me a lot. I get just as irritated by that. So times when you have to push on through that barrier. And if you've got three things going, and one of them is an easier journey, that's where you're going to focus yourself. When in fact, that is the absolute time that you need to be completely focused on crashing through that wall that you've come up against. And that's where the best inspiration I ever had. And sometimes actually, looking back, the most exciting times I ever had in my business, where when my back was absolutely against the one thing, this is going down. This is going down. Bizarrely, I found that quite invigorating. - It really is. - When everything is going incredibly well, there were times when I think, everything's going very well, everyone's doing their job. Frankly, I could be here and not be here, it doesn't make much difference. - In terms of skills as well as an entrepreneur, I heard you talk about public speaking being integral to, you did public speaking at university. - I did a lot of public speaking at university in a lot of debating.
The importance of being able to communicate well (37:05)
And the skill I think that's important is the ability to be able to persuade people of your ideas. Not necessarily public speaking, but in every meeting that you go to, you need to be able to look people in the eye and convince them that your idea is right. And that could be in a sales role, it could be sitting around a table with a bunch of developers, and one of them saying, I think this is the right way forward. If you can't articulate yourself properly, then you're never going to be listened to. And that's a skill that I think is, it's being recognized in the skills. I do a lot in education now. So I see now more and more they recognize that that's a skill that is really important, that people should be able to look someone in the eye and be able to explain yourself very, very coherently. I tend to actually believe, I'd go who once it further anything, I can't think of a more important skill in life and business, then I refer to it as sales, because we think of sales, we think of trying to get cash out of someone else's pocket by giving them something. But I think of it as like, meet a girl in a nightclub, try and communicate your idea to your team, investors, employees, everyone you encounter, I think is to some degree, you're trying to sell something, and it's usually yourself. But those that are, you think about how that compounds over 70 years of your life being good or bad at that one skill, will anything change the trajectory of your life more than being a good sales person? And that comes from, as you say, from being able to articulate yourself and speak. - Yeah, and just think of here at me, and put down a logical argument that people think, "Yes, okay, I get that, I understand it." - How does one get better at that? - I think a lot of that's practice. And I think people make this sort of binary thing between public speaking, standing on stage and speaking to a crowd of people, versus not doing anything at all. And actually in between, there's a whole load of stuff, which is working within a team and being able to. And that's where most people come up against it, is that they'll be sitting in a meeting with four or five other people, and they've got something I want to say, and they, if they're too nervous about saying something, they just don't say anything at all, and then their ideas are never listened to. - Yeah, and then they're devalued in that context. - And so it may not necessarily be a spoken word, you've also got to be able to write well and convincingly. Then there's another side of it, which is the numeracy side. And I find that the most convincing is when I, I love a good spreadsheet, but when you can express ideas in numbers, and you say, look, this is the model that works, and you can prove it in numbers, it is a very convincing thing, particularly-- - There are a few people in my state. - Yeah, I think, right, if we do this, this is the evidence we've got, that's what will happen. That's very convincing. So there's also being numerate and being able to explain things in numbers, which is-- - That's basically-- - Yeah. - Yeah. - It's so true, yeah, that you can be like, orally persuasive, which is anecdotal persuasion, I guess. And then you can be persuasive with numbers, which is-- - Or graphics, and that's the other thing. I do see the quality of decks in the last 15 years has dramatically improved. And they're much, much more engaging, and there's some real creative genius behind some of the stuff. I mean, occasionally they don't talk about the numbers, which is-- - Yeah, beautiful, beautiful presentation, and you know, big sort of, you know, go through this, this, the doc's end, and all fantastic, looks lovely, beautiful graphics, and then you think, you have kind of missed out the point about how you're gonna make any money, but so there's a lot more, so again, but that comes down to how you persuade people and how you present ideas. Not all of us, not all of us understand things by listening. Some people understand by seeing, I see patterns in numbers, but not everyone does. And I realize that now that, that just because I happen to see something one way, doesn't mean to say that everybody else sees it in that way. And you have to understand how people communicate. - On that point about persuasion and communication, one of the most amazing things that happened to me inadvertently was, well, one of them's right here, I started doing a podcast, and from, I never, the unintended consequence of me being forced to speak on stage because I was running around the world talking about marketing, and being forced to write out, I do quotes on Instagram, write these quotes every single day at seven people on Instagram, and then write, I used to write this podcast, it used to just be on my own, was that I was able to develop my ideas better. So if you ask me any question on marketing, well, I've already written it out, I've written an essay on it, because I had to do a blog, because I had to run my personal brand, or if you ask me something else about my life, I've already spent, you know, a thousand hours talking on this podcast about it, was I became much, I'd say, 10x better at communicating, and the impact that had on my life was just profound. So my conclusive point here is, I really think for young people that there are ways to force yourself to accelerate that learning. One of them is like, keep a blog, start a podcast, even if no one's listening to it. And people will start podcasts because they're trying to make money, or because they want to be famous, or have loads of followers, but I think the more beneficial thing is the skills, the skills you'll learn from doing it, and oh my God, sales is just everything to me. - Yeah, you're right, when you have to write a blog, actually write the words down, it really forces you to think about how to express things coherently, in a way that verbally, you can get away with a lot less discipline. - Dragon's Den, something we share in common. - Yes, indeed. - Yeah, I've just started on the show. It was a, yeah, I mean, the first pitch, everything, walking in behind the set, I mean, I first watched it when I was 12 years old, it was also surreal.
Dragons Den (42:20)
How was your experience when Dragon's Den, and what advice would you have for me? Let's do the first question first. - Ah, okay, well, so I love the experience. I mean, partly because it's very forgiving television to make in the sense that you arrive on set, and apart from the fact that there are seven cameras, which was distracting for about the first hour or two. Other than that, it's people walking in through the door and they're saying, this is who I am, this is my business. And it's one of those things that I think if you're thinking about that as a potential career, it's about as realistic as you can get while still being entertaining. These are real businesses that people have spent sometimes several years developing, put their life and soul into it. It's not some concocted thing that, you know, here's a hundred pounds, again, see how much cheese you can sell on the market, the type of thing that you see in the apprentice. These are real businesses. And I think it's been very inspiring. I've seen a real shift in the time that I've been around, in people's attitudes to becoming an entrepreneur. - Because of, yeah. - Partly, but you know, partly because of that, I think there's also been a shift in attitude genuinely. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - A lot of young people aspire to the idea that, actually, when you're young and you've got nothing to lose, you can afford to make more mistakes. So rather than, so you can just go straight into it after school, start something and crash and burn, start again. - And you can do it all now from your phone as well. You know, you can set up a shop using Shopify on your phone in a couple of minutes and sell, you know, you can even drop, drop ship things. So you don't need a warehouse or anything like that. So it's very kind of accessible now. - Yeah. - More people, young people want to be entrepreneurs than ever before. But I think it's, I'm really looking forward to seeing, seeing this new series, 'cause I think you will add a different dimension to it in terms of thinking, particularly the way that business is now, you know, the way that particularly tech businesses and the way that they're funded is, yeah, it's very different from 20 years ago. - Yeah. One of the things I didn't expect as well was how useful the other dragons are when it comes to analyzing the business. - Oh, yeah, yeah. - Because they all come from different disciplines. So Deborah's gonna help me with the numbers over here. And Peter's got his background in tech and, you know, logistics and all the amazing things he does. And Tuka's gonna be able to really sort of interrogate the supply chain and Sarah understands the craft industry and business generally. And so it's really a, they, so sometimes you just gotta let them interrogate the business from all of their angles. - I learned a lot. I learned a very, very important lesson from Deborah about the food business and going to supermarkets. She was interrogating somebody and talking about the gross margin and she said, well, of course, as soon as your sales go up, your gross margin will go down. I'm thinking, what are you talking about? And then I asked her about this afterwards and she said, well, the problem is that supermarkets love to have young pioneer brands in and they will allow you to be on their shelves. So there was pyramid of products and they allow you these little innovative little companies to be, to add interest to their shelves. The moment that it looks interesting and you wanna sell more of it, the supermarket, aha. Now let's talk about the price. 'Cause they know how to make that stuff even better than you do. They know how to squeeze you down to a barely acceptable margin. And so your margin, which looked okay at the beginning, they'll say, well, you can sell a lot more but we're gonna have to have a different price. And that was the lesson I learned from Deborah. So sitting back and listening sometimes and like, you know, Tuka's knowledge of supply chain and in textiles in particular, it's quite fascinating. - So jumping back to your business then, moving back, so eventually you sell the business. - Yeah. - Fully or in part?
Selling Moonpig (45:55)
- Well, I sold most of it in 2011 and I rolled over into the venture capital investment in the new company. We basically merged two companies. We merged the beta box and moon pick together with a lot of venture capital money. And so I reinvested in that. And then we sold it all out in 2016. - So there's a couple of things here. That was the first point where you became really rich. - Well funny, we moved into making a lot of money before we sold. - Already, so you were okay. - So we were probably making about 10 million a year in dividends. - I can't help it. - So, because it was making money faster than we could spend it on advertising. So we just paid it out as dividends. I think it would be paid out about 30 million pounds in dividends before we sold. - Oh wow. - So quite literally printing money. - So by the time I sold, actually, it wasn't as if it was transformational because I hadn't spent the money. I still got all the money that I'd taken out as dividends. - When you'd already built enough wealth to take care of all of your basic Maslow via needs clearly. So when you sell, how does that feel? - Well it was funny. I was interviewed afterwards on Sky, I think, and they said, well, what are you gonna buy? What are you gonna do now? And I was like, what did you do immediately afterwards? And I said, well, I cycled home and I made a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I mean, that was, because there was a, it's slightly, it's a bit of a weird anti-climax selling. I didn't know how it was for you, but I went into a large room and I had to sign about 200 documents on my own. And then I said, done it now, and they get all the great money I've been banked later on. Well, back in the bank, cycled home. That was it. There was no sort of, you know, da-da-da-da-da, no trumpets, you know, no signings in shaking hands. It was quite a non-event, really. - So the money arrived the same day when you sold? - Yes, yeah. Well, not all of it, because it was done in stages, but most of it arrived on the same day, yeah. - And so you sold the company over 100 million at the time, rolled shares into the holding company as well to keep it sort of vested in interest in the business. Yeah, I mean, that's a shit ton of money. Was there sort of a loss in, 'cause you've given up your business here, you've given up your focus, your baby? Was there a bit of a loss of orientation? Like what do I do now with my life? - Yes, though at the same time, I think I'd got to a point where I delegated everything within the company and I had been largely focused on the sale process for a year or so. So after the sales process was over, you think, well, now the day-to-day running of this business has been left to the team. They're all doing a fantastic job. They're all bright and they're probably better than I am. So me sticking around in that company, if I decided to carry on running the business for profit, I could have done, but I felt as though I'd run my course, I felt as though I'd added everything I could add to that business, and there were lots of other things I wanted to do in life. So in a way, it was a challenge to sort of create an identity outside of that, because for a long time, I'd been Mr. Russia, I'd gone to Russia and everyone knew me as the person who went to Russia and did things in Russia. And then I did, as I started moving, I fell into obscurity again and people think, "Oh, Paul Nikki does something with greeting cards." And I'd go home at Christmas back to Shropshire and my parents' friends would say, "So you do something with greeting cards. Is that something you do room your spare room?" And it was very, very, very, I mean, having, because I've run quite a big business in Russia, and then of course it started, it turned into something serious. So it was an interesting challenge, which is how do you sort of reinvent yourself after that? And I actually stopped and I went into the charity sector for time, and I became a CEO of a children's charity for, so for a year for time, and then I became a trustee of that for another four years. - Why? - Well, partly because I think I sort of satisfied, I sort of satisfied everything that I needed to, you know, I didn't want any more stuff. So I wasn't, it was gonna be hard to get motivated just by making more money. So I wanted to have, I wanted to make sure that whatever I did after that was useful, that was socially useful in some respect. But for that, you've got to kind of do the work. You've got to understand how to make a difference. And that first year really made me realize how complicated it is and how difficult it is to make a real difference in the world. So it's fascinating. And I wouldn't have been able to do that if I hadn't sold the company, I wouldn't have had the freedom to go off and do that. - Isn't that interesting that people, they typically, this is a super generalization, and it's not necessarily the truth, but it appears that we all start quite selfish in life. It's like, let me get rich and free first. And then you see that transition when people do make money, is their joy comes from philanthropy and helping others. - I think, but I think in that very privileged position of having seen what it's like afterwards, because of course for most people, they want more things. I think a lack of financial problems can bring you happiness, not having financial problems. Financial problems brings you misery. When you're beyond financial problems, you're neutral. And then there's financial freedom, which is I'm now free, I don't have to do the 95 job. I have the option if I want to to do other things. Beyond that, I'd say it's pretty diminishing marginal returns. I think for some people, the more money they make, it's not about the money itself, it's more about their position in our, if you're very competitive and there's a hierarchy of people, and there's someone up there who's made, you've got Jeff Bezos up there, and they see themselves on that trajectory, they'll never quite be happy until they're up there, and they'll never get there. So I realized very early on that if you, that I wanted to avoid getting into that, into that sort of competitive mindset of thinking that I have to be somewhere on that trajectory. I've kind of satisfied what I need in terms of, in terms of, you know, stuff, housing and whatever. And then there are after it's about being free to explore other things. - One of the things that I noticed about you, that's like very different to the other successful people that I've talked to, and we touched on that a little bit, was you, and what you talked about a little bit earlier, but my question is slightly unrelated, is there seems to be a lot of like neurotic obsession with people's businesses, hobbies. I mean, I remember sitting with Eddie Hern here, and him telling me how, like how, I mean, his book is called Relentless, like how relentless he is.
You seem very balanced (52:01)
And to the point where he will sacrifice his family to fool the business, and he'll tell him, he'll speak to have the conversation with his wife and say, my business is everything. If I, you know, don't make the date, if I don't make this, then it is what it is. I am obsessed. - Yeah. - You don't seem to be like that. And that makes one would then therefore assume that the problem that sometimes comes with being like that, which is a severe, cost to sort of relationships, wouldn't be present in you. - I think you can be driven by two things. You can be driven by demons or driven by passion. And it's much better to be driven by passion than demons. Some people are, some people were offended at the age of 11 by a comment that somebody made to them that they'll never amount to anything. - Exactly. - And they have struggled ever since to prove to that person. The A teacher said something bad to them. And then finally they go back, sort of 35 years old, they go back to school and they find this old teacher who says, well, I always thought you'd make something of yourself. And they think, fuck. I was hoping it's gonna be more gratifying. It was, you know, maybe the teacher might just feel like you needed a bit of a kick to get yourself off you. And it worked, didn't it? And so some people are driven by, and the people who are driven by demons are often, but it doesn't make them happy, like an itch, they're scratching. And it just makes it worse. - Amen. - Eddie Han's basically like that. He was quite honest about that. His dad, basically, he was always trying to live up to his dad's expectations of him. And I remember saying to him, I remember saying to Eddie, I was, you know, what's the goal then Eddie? Well, you know, we're gonna sell it for five billion. - Yeah. - And then what? And then he's like, well, you know, then I'll, you know, have my cigar and I'll go to the beach. I'll go, do you actually think you'd go to the beach with a cigar? You just told me you're obsessive and really, and he goes, probably not, probably not. - The difficult thing is then what do you do afterwards? I think, because I think it's one thing that a lot of people, they think a business is a starting a business is about, you start a business and then you're working towards an exit and happiness comes an exit. It doesn't. Happiness comes from the process of building a business and working with people and pulling together bright people watching the work and creating this thing. I love the learning process. I think that's perhaps one of the other things that I learned out of all of this is that I really, really enjoy learning. And it doesn't matter how much money you've got, you can't learn Japanese any quicker. You can learn a little bit quicker of you, you've got some really good, but basically, you've got to put the work in. Doesn't matter how rich you are, you can't buy that. You've actually got to put the work in. - That drives you. So do you think you're a balanced person? I'm trying to get, I'll be honest, what I'm trying to understand here is, a lot of the entrepreneurs that I meet, the reason why they're successful is because of, as you say, you described it perfectly, because of demons or something, and then that costs them somewhere else. You seem to be, as was the case with the, the CEO of Deliveroo, who sat here a couple of weeks ago, fairly balanced person. So I'm assuming then you have really well-balanced relationships. - I think that I've got great friends, I've got great friends and great relationships and a lovely family. And, but that's partly comes down to, partly comes down to standing back at it and thinking, you know, what is success? And I look at success, that more rounded thing, what makes you a successful human being. And, and if you look at that, then you're constantly looking, you're constantly measuring yourself by, well, actually, what do my friends think of me? What do they think I'm a good person? How am I a good person? Do I think I'm a good person? I'm going to look back in my life and be embarrassed at the way that I've trodden on people on the way up and in which case, you know, don't tread on people on the way up. So it depends on what you regard as success, what you define as success in the beginning. I think, unfortunately, we, too often, we measure the things that are easiest to measure. And the easiest thing to measure is how wealthy someone is. So when I go back to talk at schools about, about my old school, about about, and you're invited along presumably because everyone's heard of a business that you've created. I'm reluctant to create this illusion that, you know, if you work incredibly hard, you can make a lot of money and that will make you successful. You have to be a successful human being. - What is a successful human being? - Well, I think it's all, you know, those things. One, you've got to be a good citizen. You've got to make your fair contribution to society. Now, if you're good at business, you are, of course, helping to pay a lot of the bills, which is a great thing if you pay your taxes properly. But equally, it's about the way that you treat your employees, it's about the way that you treat the people around you. And all of those things, I think there are things that you look back on your own life and you think, did I lead a good life? Was I a good person? Or do I regret look back and think, you know, I was a bit harsh. - Quick one. As a serial entrepreneur, that's currently building multiple projects across multiple industries, everything from the marketing industry to blockchain to consumer goods, everything. One of the things that has been a lifesaver for me, and again, a company that I reached out to to evangelize about on this podcast, because I'm a loyal customer and they ultimately ended up sponsoring this podcast, is Fiverr.com, F-I-V-E-R-R. What that site allows me to do is extend my capacity across all of my projects. If I'm looking for a graphic designer, someone to edit a video, someone to do a website for me, it allows me to extend my capacity without hiring people. And the quality of freelancers on Fiverr has been amazing. And when the trust and the service you get is that phenomenal, and the services offered are that diverse, it's a no-brainer. Whether you have one member of staff, you're a freelancer yourself, or 1,000 members of staff, Fiverr can be a game changer for you. And I'd love you guys to check it out. Use the link below, go to Fiverr.com/ceo. And send me a screenshot if you end up using the service. One of you is gonna win something very amazing. As you look ahead in the next chapter of your life, you talk there about how the journey is actually the real fun and fulfillment lives. - Yeah. - And you kind of like, 'cause I think we all kind of like mentally map out what the next phase of our life will look like.
The next chapter of your life (57:52)
We don't necessarily know the details of how the business plan, but we understand like the fundamentals of that phase. What are you hoping will be part of that phase at the stage of life you're at where money isn't gonna mean that you can, can't or can't eat? What are you trying to put into that chapter of your life? - Well, the other thing I've realized, and I listened to something Bill Gates said, which is that if Bill Gates had become a doctor, he could have affected quite a few people's lives. But by going into business, he affected millions of people's lives. And he was very good at making money. And so I don't see anything wrong with pursuing. I mean, now I'm actively pursuing the businesses that I'm involved with, and I would love to make more money, but then that gives me the freedom to do something useful with that money. As a whole other dimension to why are you doing it? I mean, I'm chasing it 'cause I need another Lamborghini because I've got a very old battered discovery. And Lamborghini, it's just not what I-- - I was gonna say, can I imagine you in a Lamborghini? - No, no, I'm just a very tired old discovery, which I'm driving into the ground before I buy an electric car. But there's gotta be a reason for doing it. And the reason for creating companies, partly because it is good fun. I mean, you know, thoroughly enjoy, you have an idea and you're creating something. And seeing your idea come play out, and you think, yeah, I was right. That hypothesis was right. So we pulled together some good people and it starts to work. And then 10 years later, absolutely, that work. And we've got a whole lot of people in employment, they're enjoying themselves. And the great thing also is when you step back from that and you think that thing, I'm in Mumbai, has a life it's own. I was in the car the other day and there was a Mumbai abirque came on the radio. I've been out of that for a long time now. I haven't been involved, you know, haven't worked there for 10 years. And yet that's it sort of carried on without me. - There's a huge sense of pride in that when you see that, it must be, surely. - Yeah, and actually, but you know, when you sell a business, it's also a sense of pride that it worked for them as well. I think the very best deals are deals where both parties came away happy. - Will you ever be a CEO again? - I don't know that I will because I enjoy the sort of that being having the freedom to do different things. And there are plus and minuses to have this plural life. I've realized that having doing 10% of 10 things is twice as much work as doing 100% of one thing. - Twice as much work? - Definitely twice as much work. I mean, partly from a very simple perspective is the, I mean, Neso now post COVID, but before that, the actually simply the getting from one place to the other. - Oh yeah. - You know, and that gets in the way of things. But also it's the constant juggling in your head and then suddenly you think, I haven't focused on that for a bit. And it's more work. So I would like to be more focused. I want to get interested in a level where I feel as I'm able to make a positive difference to it. And that means actually a smaller number of things. I had a job when I was at university. And the most boring job ever, it was transcribing licensed details. It was working for a Ford dealership, transcribing licensed details from one ledger to another. And I'd get to about 10 o'clock in the morning, physically. It was so boring, it was physically painful. And I would, I would think surely it must be five o'clock. It's not, it's still 10 o'clock in the morning. And it was horrible, absolutely horrible. And the one thing I look back at my life, where it's one of the greatest things is I've never, I've always got to five o'clock wishing it was two o'clock. And that's, I think a sign that you're not bored. And there's the stuff I'd like to be doing. I look like a wake up on Monday morning and think, fantastic, I can get stuck in and I can do stuff. And so, but that idea of, that idea of, there not being enough hours to do to get the stuff done is a sign that it's enjoyable. - The ones that don't like what they do, you know, 'cause I've worked jobs that are cool, centered night shifts for, you know, just pick up the phone, but the hotel for them, 'cause they can figure out how to use the computer. - Yeah, yeah.
What to do if you don't like your job? (01:01:45)
- You know, for Dorothy, she doesn't know where she wants to stay, she just wants to stay in Manchester, doesn't know where Manchester's, you know, night shifts of doing stuff like that. I've had worse jobs as well, where I had to open the yellow pages and just call someone and try and tell them something, which was awful. But what is that, what liberates people from that place? - I mean, I would maybe guess that it's information and maybe skills, so maybe they could-- - The other thing is, is when you've got one of those jobs, you take the view, look, I've got an opportunity to learn how this works. If I learn how this works, I'll take it seriously and do it well, then I actually might know what it takes to become a supervisor. If you become a supervisor, I might have them what it takes to go up to go one notch high. And suddenly, I'm actually then managing people, and that's a little bit more interesting than what I was doing. So, to some extent, you have the control to be able to sign how much time and effort enthusiasm you put into it. And there are some jobs that will not be that interesting, but then say to yourself, right, what can I learn about doing this that's going to enable me just to do my boss's job? And actually, what your employers will be looking for is someone who's applied, who's interested, and they'll look amongst the 10 people who are doing that job and think nine out of 10 of those people are just doing this because they wanna pay the bills. This one is genuinely trying to work and how to do the job better. - I've got one last question for you. Never asked this question before, but it feels like I should. You're several years ahead of me in business. So, you've experienced a lot more than me.
Achieving Satisfaction In Current Status
Being happy with where you are (01:03:06)
You've had a child, you've gone through. You've been through that experience as well, and had a taste of all of that. Attention and press and all that stuff. What would be the one piece of advice you'd give to me? It can be relating to anything. If maybe it's something that you think I need to learn or know based on me being, I'm 28, 29 now. - I think I've just left my company to just hold my shares a little bit. - Yeah. As you go through it, you can get to a point where you think, well, I've had a huge success. And I look at Moon Big and think, will I ever have a success as big as Moon Big? - I don't know. I don't know, but I've gotta be okay with that. And in order to be happy, I have to be okay with the idea that I may never better that. Because if you're always constantly thinking, right, I've done that, I therefore have to do that. It can be a recipe for misery. You look at pop stars who have a huge career, and they're kind of done by 25. And actually, you know that they're not going to quite come back, and then a couple of years later, you sort of see. And so I look at it, and I think, well, I don't have to better what I did in terms of, I'm not going to judge myself by having a business that was worth more than Moon Big. Because actually, that's setting myself on almost impossible task. What I'm going to do is make sure that whatever I do, I feel as though I was being, I feel as though it was useful. And some of this might not be as obvious or as prominent as setting up Moon Big. Because sometimes you catch a wave, and I think, I look at Moon Big, and I think, did I just catch a wave? I was in the right place at the right time. I had a good idea, and I managed it well, but actually I just caught that wave perfectly. And sometimes that can be hard to recreate. So I think managing your own expectations is an important part of human happiness. And thinking, okay, I may never better that, but actually I'm going to do something different now, and that will be just as interesting, and that will be just as rewarding as what I did before. - Do you ever regret, so with my company, I think I left in 2019 when the valuation was maybe 200 million. I think now it's like 500. And it's probably going to go, I shouldn't have thought of it. I'm guessing here, okay, I'm not involved in the company anymore. I'm probably going to go to a billionaire, I reckon. Do you ever regret, Moon Big is now worth one point something, Moon Big. - One point, one point six. Well, for a long time, I, so eight years after I sold the book, and I sold the business, it was making about 11, 12 million pounds profit, not even a proper profit, like money you could spend. And eight years later, it was making about 18 million. So I think, yeah, it was an improvement on where it was, but it wasn't so spectacular that it was, so they're happy with their deal, and I'm happy that I've got the chance to go off and do something else. And then I looked at floating and think, well, because the thing about floating is that nobody knew we were going to have COVID, and that obviously massively boosted the business. And I think probably has permanently put more people online. So that was a fairly unpredictable part of it. Then there's another question, which is if I had stayed in running that business, would it have done as well as it has? And I don't know that it would have done, to be, if I'm really honest, because the guys who came after, there's a guy called Stan L'Rond, who came into Moon Big after me, who was awesome. I mean, he was brilliant. And then, and then, then, Nick Routhat there, who's running it now, is has taken it to another level. So, and take it where he came in, and he's just, so, so, so, I'm not sure that I would have done, I'm not sure had I stayed in, there's no guarantee that it would have done what it did. In fact, I'm not sure it would have done. So, you know, I actually, I've had some, done some really interesting things. So, if you're asking me the question, would I rather have had sort of 36% of 1.6 billion? Yes. What I'm questioning is whether we would have got there, if I'd have related to Helm. - Well, listen, Nick, thank you so much for your time. It's been an incredibly interesting, diverse conversation. - Yeah. - Thank you as well for, you sent a text message, I think, to our mutual friend before I went on the show, just giving me a big few advice. - Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. - Any pass that over to me. - Yeah, I kept that in mind. I'll go and show what that advice was. I kept that in mind. And yeah, I mean, your story is super inspiring, and there's a British success story and someone that's so, I'm so fascinated by you because you're so unorthodox in so many ways, and you also don't bullshit. So, a lot of people, it's tempting to portray yourself, even with the last example there, you could have said, well, you know, you basically said that you're unsure whether the business would have performed better or worse without you. I think that takes great humility and self awareness to admit that. And that's the reason why I started this podcast, because, you know, to share some of that honesty with the world. So thank you for coming on. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. Thank you for being one of my favorite ever dragons as well. You were just very real and funny. - Oh, thank you. - It was good to have a real sense of humor. - Well, it's been a real pleasure meeting you in person. So. - Brilliant, super. And yeah, hopefully we'll get you back again once, to talk more about your charity in particular, which I wish we had more time to talk about, 'cause that was super inspiring to read about as well. But yeah, thank you. Thanks, Nick. - Great.