Worlds Youngest Billionaire: A Business Journey That Started at 19 : Gymshark CEO | E112 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Worlds Youngest Billionaire: A Business Journey That Started at 19 : Gymshark CEO | E112".
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If we go right back to the start, I had a vision, I had an idea, and I was so passionate about it. I just wanted Jim Schart to be a truly iconic great brand, a leader in culture, and helps inspire people around the world. That was a period of great self-reflection for me, and what am I bad at? What am I good at? And I decided to lean into my strengths. In the early days, I'd have gone, I'm introverted, shy, and I'm not good at people management. But I didn't want to identify with those things. You should be able to look at those things and try and solve them. Everything came crashing down around me because there was nowhere to hide. That definitely hit me, and it definitely hurt me. I really felt like I was carrying that burden. Honestly, just keep trying and keep trying, and don't be afraid to fail. I think that's so, so, so important. I've never met anyone who was genuinely successful that wasn't hardworking. Ben Francis, the guest that he requested again and again and again, he is the founder, and now the CEO of Jim Schark, the global Jim brand worth billions and billions and billions that started right here in the UK. Founded by Ben, who was in his early 20s, and who is still in his 20s now, as he's leading the global brand all around the world with 900 employees. This is a conversation I have honestly looked forward to for a long, long time, because there is nobody else in the UK like Ben that has built such an iconic company that you see everywhere that has maintained its integrity while they're still in their 20s. Ben's net worth is probably pretty close to or over a billion dollars, and remarkably, he's one of the most humble individuals, one of the most introspective, self-aware people I have ever met, a really good guy. And if you're someone that someday might want to follow in his footsteps or you want to build a business or just pursue the thing that matters to you the most, then this is the conversation for you. I can't wait for you to hear this. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett, and this is the Diro-CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Ben, when I look back on my life, I only in hindsight have managed to start piecing together some pieces that have enlightened me to why I became the person I went on to become, and why I had the interests and skills and all those things, and also like the insecurities.
Life, Career, And Gymshark Journey
Your early years (02:18)
When I look at your early years, back in Brom's Grove at school, I started to connect a few dots, but I wanted to know, in your own sort of self-assessment, whether you can now see any patterns from your early years that you would consider and anomaly that caused you to become the anomaly you are today. So I think I had two really lucky moments. So the first one was at about 14 years, I think it's about 14. You know, when you do work experience, everyone does work experience at school. And the work experience that I did at that age was basically with my granddad. And what my granddad would do is he would travel around the Midlands and he would lie in furnaces. So furnace is big ovens, basically, where you would stick airplane parts and it would heat them up loosely speaking. And then what he would do was go around and fill them with either ceramic fiber or brick. So I basically did work experience with him, did a bit of labrum, and I would be sort of on the cement mix of the drum and I would basically pass him cement, or he would teach me to like push in ceramic fiber or labrics or whatever. Now, it wasn't actually the work that was important as such, other than the fact that it did teach me hard work. But it was more the fact that they were long days and through those days we would have conversations that like, to be honest, in hindsight, probably not too many younger kids would have been exposed to. Because it was all about like the risk that he took in the business in the intricacies and so on. He was just talking about that and I'd ask him questions and stuff. And there was one particular job that he did that he told me about and it was it was building a furnace to be shipped off to Germany. And he'd basically risk pretty much everything he had on this one particular job. And he told me about all the worries, the concerns, the worries that he had in terms of keeping the house for my nan, my mom, her sister. And at the time, it didn't really, I don't know, to me, it was just a story that my granddub was telling me. But then as I grew up and then I started taking business risks of my own, I do remember thinking, oh yeah, but my risk and nothing compared to his. So I think that certainly helped. And like I said, just learning that hard work, I think watching my mom my mom's worked in the NHS my entire life, she was incredibly incredibly hard working. I also got fortunate at school because I did, so I did my GCSEs. And I wasn't, I didn't do particularly well. I was sort of like a de-ish student, sort of like pretty average. I ended up getting into sick form. I was super lucky. And one of the classes that I took then was a BTEC in IT. And that, I don't know if you remember the BTEC, you had A levels of BTECs. I'm not sure if it's still like that in the day. And loosely speaking then, A levels where you'd study, you do an exam and BTECs were coursework or practical work. To do IT or tech in a practical way for a BTEC for me was amazing. And that was a huge moment because through that BTEC, I learned how to use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, all of the nuts and bolts that actually I ended up using to build Gymshart. So the combination of learning those bits of software alongside the fact that watching my grandparents and my parents work incredibly hard, the risks that my granddad took to build his business, all of those things I think certainly helped me when it came to starting up the business as I started. What does that say to you about the type of learner you are though, that it was the practical? Definitely practical. Yeah. And that's been evident even today, right? Because I remember you saying in a conversation you had that one of the real privileges of your job is you get to go and learn from the experts inside of your business. So Gymshart was started in 2012. And for the first few years, it was sort of like, I mean, it was me and a bunch of mates, basically. And my brother came on and we sort of started to build the business and everything was revolved in many ways around myself. And then as the business started to grow, it became clear to me there was a genuine opportunity, right? And listen, we were doing well, we could do decent revenues and so on. But there's a difference between doing well and doing, I don't know, a few thousand pounds in revenue to all of this, this could go into the hundreds of thousands of millions. And as the business grew, I then started to realize that I needed to surround myself with great people. So that really helped. And I think I got lucky at the start as well, because the people that I then surrounded myself with helped the business grow. So I was sort of positively reinforced as well from an early age doing that. Where did those people come from? I've always wondered this because you, last time we spoke in subsequent interviews, you've always cited those people like Stephen, who was the CEO of Gymshark and others as being really, really instrumental. And they almost felt like they were like mentors. Yes, they were. So how did you find them? So I tell you what happened, right? So, and this is interesting as well. So maybe I don't think this is probably spoken about enough. As an entrepreneur, particularly of a growing business, and you'll know this as well as me, not only do you have to wear loads of different hats on a daily basis, but people don't talk enough about the fact that during the growth of the business, you have to completely change who you are as a person, not only because you're developing and you're trying to improve, but because the business is a separate entity from yourself and the business requires different things of its founder or chief, exact depending on the size of the business. So in the early days, and I don't know how to put this in the nicest way possible, but I think I was a bit arrogant, right? It was a bit like, this is my baby. I know where I want to take it, and I'm going to drag it there. And I don't really care what you say, because this is my vision. And that worked to a point, right? I had a vision, I had an idea, and I was so, and I still am so passionate about it. And then all of a sudden, I don't know how this happened. I think it was just, it naturally happened through just asking questions. I've always been quite inquisitive. Then sort of you start surrounding yourself with great people, and I would go to the gym right, and I would find like a guy called Paul, who was like the business guy, and I go and ask him questions and stuff. And all of a sudden, when you surround yourself with those people, you realize this whole thing of, I don't care what you say, I'm going to do what I want. Anyway, that doesn't work. Or it works for a period, and then they disappear. So then I realized that I then can't be arrogant, single-minded, moving where I want to go. I need to retain a bit of that, right? But what I need to do is one, learn to work with people, and more importantly, learn to work with great people. So that happened, and I met Paul at the gym, and that was just for asking questions. Paul introduced me to Steve, because Steve had previously worked at Reebok, and that sort of fitness sport to where sort of thing made sense. I ended up meeting a guy called Niren, who worked in a local company, fully enough actually, on that. I hadn't spoken, so I'd met Niren when I was a kid, I don't know, I was like 13, 14 years old or something. And then we just sort of never kept in touch. We went to Union, whatever. And there was a point where I was really struggling with something. I can't remember what it was. It was something to do with selling things online. And I knew that he worked in another e-commerce company, so I sort of messaged him, I think, I'm faced with a time high near him, and long time no speech, you might have picked your brain on a few things. He ended up coming in, advising us greatly, and then he ended up joining the business. So I think looking back, I think one, I think I managed to learn the ability to really sell the vision of Jim Shark. But secondly, I think the single thing was just asking questions, like I would always just ask questions of anyone, whether they're in the gym. And I know there's people right there in the gym that ask questions to you that probably rolled their eyes and thought, I've got it really is again. I just want to get on with my workout. But I was that person just asking questions. I think that's really unappreciated about you. Because when I was looking through, as I was saying, when I was doing the research and you're trying to find these threads throughout your story, this one thread kept coming up in my mind, which was like, Ben is really like an insatiable learner. He's always trying to learn. Even in that, you did the conversation with Jake Humphrey on a high performance. And at the end of it, when he asks about the worst things about your role, you basically flip it and say, I'm the luckiest person on earth because I get to learn from the best people in the world. A lot of people, if we think about the impact that being in a really keen learner has on someone over 10 years, it's just an unfair advantage. And then I reflect on the world of Warcraft thing as well. And I'm connecting these dots. A lot of people don't get obsessive about World of Warcraft, what you're building and you're learning and you're competing. Tell me about this World of Warcraft thing, because any sort of couple lines? How old I was then? I was at school. I just, I just loved it. I thought it was great. I loved, so the three games I loved, I loved World of Warcraft. I loved Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, and Gears of War. And those are like the games. World of Warcraft was the one that I think I played for the longest period. And the thing I loved about it was, it was open world for one. It had like its own economy in it. So you could like learn a trade and do things, sell things on the auction house. But you were working with people from all, you were playing with people from all over the world. You had to learn sort of teamwork. The other thing that was cool about it was, there wasn't really one, so you had like different classes of character, right? So one was like a warlock and one was like a warrior. One was like strong and I'd load to health and could protect one would inflict loads of damage on the enemy. The thing there was with teams was, there wasn't one person or one individual that could do everything. It was the group that could do everything, but you needed like all these different like facets. It's like the Avengers, right? The Avengers assemble into this great group individually. They're not as strong. And again, all these lessons, I think definitely helped. Because even when we talk about today, Jim Sharks or leadership team, that's the exact analogy we use, Avengers assemble. Like I don't, I don't want a, you know, a chief of product who is the most wildly intelligent finance here or whatever or commercial person, but knows brand like it's useful that they haven't understand in a respect to those things. But we want a chief of product who's really good at chief of product, right? And then we want a chief of brand who's really good at brand and a chief of finance who's incredibly good at finance. And then all those people come together to create a team. Do you notice that like at the start of the company, like you're talking about the requirement of specialists there at the start of the company? Was that very different at the start? No. So the start, if we go right back to the start, it is literally a case of we need a group of ambitious individuals that truly believe in the vision and will essentially do what it takes to achieve that. And there are so many corners that are cut along the way because you just have to do what you can to sort of get by. And I think the other thing as well is in the early days, more often than not, especially if you're sort of they call it bootstrapping, isn't it when you're not sort of borrowing money or such, you need to find a way around it. Like if you have 50 quid to do advertising, you work out how to advertise with 50 quid. There's no like, oh, never mind, let's go home. You just you have to have great problem solvers in the business at that stage. And to be honest, one of the things that as we move through the sort of nine year history of Jim Shark, one of the things that I'm what I'm proud of myself for doing is being able to adapt from that point of view. But some of the most difficult times have been that inevitably, there are some people who can't maybe make that switch from what was to the future. So that's an incredibly difficult thing to manage as well. And that's the sort of thing that like, no, you don't go to business school or whatever and get taught how to understand where the level of an individual is or how to have a certain conversation or how to be self aware enough to know what you I shouldn't shouldn't be doing or where my level is. So yeah, there's a hell of a lot of challenges along the way. I can agree more. I always said this on this podcast before, but I ended up hiring like just really ambitious people that would like sleep on the floor with me that had no experience. And then obviously, it's the business scales. And as you said, like the challenges of the business become different and you really are looking for experienced specialists, especially to like lead to key departments. And I remember that challenge in like year three of now, looking at the people that have been so loyal to me and thinking, I don't know where you fit anymore, because we need, you know, and it's heartbreaking. But that's where you need self awareness in both camps, where you can sort of have the conversation that says, like our relationship is our relationship and I love you to bits. However, I need to take a step back and I need to build this business in a way that's best for everyone that is going to help grow it. So those are the sorts of things that I think you can never truly be prepared for. And it's always hard. And yeah, it was difficult. I started social team with a co-founder. You did too as well from what I understand, Lewis.
There's very little written about why he's no longer with you. I'm guessing, I'm guessing from what I've read that there was just a difference in opinion about the future. And you decided to go your separate ways. Yeah. And I think to be fair, I think Lewis was, Lewis was great. Right. In the early days, we would, we were literally inseparable. And I think there came a point where you're right, I had my vision and I think he had his vision. And I just want to be clear is like, I don't think one is better than the other. It was just a difference of opinion. And to be fair to him, he had so many other interests in terms of investment and property and all these different things. So Lewis essentially left in, I'm going to say 2014. It could be wrong. Maybe 2015. The business was found in 2012. I think he left the business in 2015. And then he basically retained 20% of his shareholder. And then in the deal that was last year, he then sold out the rest of that. And now he's investing and doing other things. And were you friends before? Yeah, we were. Yeah. Well, so we met in that IT class that I spoke about. So we met in IT when we were 16, 17, whatever the first year of sort of post school is college, so sick form. We met then and then we just went to the gym together. And then there was a group of six, seven, eight of us that would all go to the gym sort of every day together. And had you decided who did what? So were you the CEO and are you, are you both CEOs? Was it just no? That, that, so in the early days, that never really happened. It was just a bit like, it was a bit like, right, this is the list of things that we need to do. Let's just tackle them as we go. There was no organization in those days. And I think as the business then got more organized, that's when, I think that's when our vision started to maybe move in separate directions. Could that have been why then? Because there wasn't clear structure at the start that could well have been to be fair. Yeah. Because that's what you need, right? You need clear roles and responsibilities. And listen, regardless, if you don't have that, it just, it just muddies the ward, isn't it? What do you think of having the importance of having a co-founder in the role it plays in those early stages? In the early stages, I think, listen, I think it's important. I don't know the stats on how many businesses do found by individuals or not. I know, I know when Lewis left in 2014, 2015, the six months after that was difficult. Not too bad. It's not in terms of the fact that he wasn't doing X, Y and Z. It was just more the fact that like, it's just different, isn't it? And it's this whole new world. And it's a bit like, like, I then naturally, well, I then naturally sort of, I didn't lean into this as such until later on, sort of 2018-ish. I then very much became the face of the business in many ways. And then it was like, if people wanted to talk about the business or to the business, then they would come into myself. So, yeah, I definitely noticed that. And listen, I then chose to obviously start pushing that on YouTube and stuff, and then that happened more and more going forward. So talk to me about that. So first time we met, it was actually on a different series.
Developing yourself personally & within Gymshark (18:15)
I was running at the time called like, Every Do Entrepreneurs or something. And when I met you at Jim Schock's office, I did notice that you were very nervous. Very different from how you went. That was about 2015, wasn't it? That was in the early days. Yeah. So hopefully you can see the change that's happened in me from then to here. Yeah, 20 times different. And that, so that was the period, that was a period of great self-reflection for me. And that was when I was literally going, right, what am I bad at? What am I good at? And what's my choice? So actually around that point, I'd split the two out good, bad, and I decided to lean into my strengths. I did that for about three or four years. And then I was like, right, now, I'm really comfortable with my strengths. I know what I'm good at. Now I'm going to lean into my weaknesses, and I'm going to become good at public speaking, I don't know, people management, all these other things. So the, yeah, when we met, I was definitely a lot more nervous. So because I literally remember meeting you, and I've had this idea of meeting you, this young guys made this killer business, whatever, whatever, whatever. My anticipation was that you were going to be like, loud and like really, whatever. And you were so quiet. And I can tell you, you were nervous about the conversation. And I would never have guessed that. You're totally different now. And which I think is incredible, because it's just like, to, for me, it's like very, very different people in it. It's a testament to your growth. But I was really, really surprised. And I want to share that because I think there is a lot of people listening, young entrepreneurs, or people that want to think, you know, how you are now is how you will be. And there's no development or... No, and this is the thing where I think what you need to do, again, even more, I think everyone should do this, whatever field of work they're in or whatever. But particularly as an entrepreneur, because I feel like as an entrepreneur, everything should have amplified, right? Your wins are bigger, your losses are larger again, your weaknesses are exposed, because you are exposed to the business and the world in many respects. But what you need to do is you need to write down your character traits. The best example would be, and this is one that I'm currently working on, right, is people would be like, I don't know, I'm messy, or I'm always like, I'm always late, I'm messy, what am I like? And it's a... The conversation for me is a bit like, okay, you're messing, you're always late. But those things should be up for grabs, right? You should be able to look at those things and go, don't roll your eyes and say, that's just me, because it's not, or it doesn't have to be. Because if I'd have done that in the early days, I'd have gone, I'm introverted, shy, not good in front of cameras, terrible at public speaking, and I'm not good at people management. But I didn't want to identify with those things, I didn't want to say, Ben is that, because I didn't want to be that. And I think everyone, if you can somehow, I think I was lucky, close surrounded by great people, right? So it's definitely easier said than done. But if you can try and not identify with those things, those parts of yourself that aren't maybe ideal, and you can, again, look at them in a logical manner, as you would any other problem in life, and try and solve them. So I'm not good at people management, fine. Who's the best person I know that is? I'm going to go and chat to them, I'm going to pick their brains. Or even better, I'm just going to watch them. Because some people learn from just watching, some people learn just by watching. And so Steve, for example, who's the CEO at Jim Sharp previously, we didn't have that many Steve teach me how to people manage, Steve teach me how to public speak. Like, we didn't really do that. But by him doing it, I just watched him. And I understood the traits or the things that he would do that helped him be great at that. And then I just basically learned them and tried them and tried them and tried them and eventually got reasonably good at doing those things. One of the things linked to that that I always say is there's no self development without self awareness. And like, I still to this day, I spoke to a lot of people on this podcast, I have no idea how you make someone genuinely self aware. And when you're talking there about sitting down and writing a list of my goods and bads, how do we know that our own like, delusion and ego isn't writing that list on our behalf? I mean, you could ask someone else to do it. The first really, the time it hit home for me, and it was like a ton of bricks on the top of my head was, I did a 360 feedback. So anyone that doesn't know what a 360 feedback is, you, I'm sure you can find it online if you Google it. But basically, you ask the people around you to describe you, and it like prompts you as it goes. So Ben is, I don't know, X, Y, and Z, those people fill it in anonymously, then it comes back to you and you have this like thick, what of paper that basically fully describes yourself. And I actually did this in, it was around when we met so around 2015, and I had it, and I printed it off and I read it, and I was so upset and annoyed. And I remember thinking this is not me. And I took it home that night. And I, it was just erratic, hot headed, arrogant, poor manager, all these things. From your employees? Yeah. And it's one of them, like, so the first thing and completely natural is who said that? I'm gonna find them, right? That's the first thing. Now, fortunately, it's anonymous. You can't do that. And that would be terrible anyway. But then I read it, took it home, left it on the side. And I think, I don't know what I've done. I got into the gym or whatever else. Now, my other half, who's now my wife, ended up reading it and I'd come home and I'd sit there, literally just finishing it on the last couple of pages. And I was so angry, right? I literally grabbed it off and I said, mine, don't read it. Like, it's not even me anyway. Is it, well, I'm like, left her alone and we carried on with her day. And then like, later on, she was, I said, I said the same, I said, that was a load of rubbish, wasn't it? That's nothing like me. And then she said, she said, that's the most you thing I have ever read. And then it was like, that was it. It was like, I didn't even say anything. I just, I remember like, everything came crashing down around me because, because there was no way to hide. Like, she knows me more than anyone. And like, I can kick and I can shoot scream and I can say, no, it's not true. But in my heart of heart, I knew it was true. And that was the moment I realized, I have to change, I have to improve, after develop. And if you're talking about becoming self aware, I think that was my moment. So incredibly true, how our partners know us. And it's, they can be the most helpful, but as you completely accurately said, they're like, my girlfriend said something to me, I might on the surface, but I'm like, but then I get back to my room and I'm like, Oh my God. Like, once you go, you just had like a couple of seconds to chill. So you get this list of feedback. I remember doing the 360 thing with my team as well. And I remember the same feeling like, who the fuck said that? And trying to work it out and looking at everybody like, I know it's you. So my system. So you get that list of things back and you can see areas where you need to improve and you agree, you say, okay, right, I'm going to start listening. What happens? Like, how would you go about improving on those things? Because a lot of them are so like deeply ingrained in you from decades of your childhood or whatever. And, and especially when you're a winner, when you've been successful in one thing, it validates you. It almost appears to be like validation of everything. So what do you do then? What do you do next? Yeah, and that you're right. That's the dangerous thing. And I think that's why I was so fortunate because Jim Shark, for the most part, not entirely had been very successful until that point. So it was difficult for me to go, wait a minute, I can't be that bad, right? But yeah, I think the thing with Robin, where she literally put it on me, that was the moment. So what I did then, and I was actually watching it was a Gary V video that I was watching actually. So what I did was I had the weaknesses, which would were both self-defined, but defined by other people. Also had my strengths, because by the way, that comes, your strengths come back with a three 16. No one reads them. You only look at the week. But there is a list of strengths in there somewhere. And I realized that my strengths, particularly at the time, were around creativity, around product, around brand, around marketing, around understanding the industry, the customer, and so on. So I was, you know, I was mulling the idea, do I work on my weaknesses, do I focus on my strengths? And to honest, I don't really know the answer to what the best way of doing this is, but I decided through, I think it was a Gary video, to focus on my strengths. And I said, right, you know what I'm going to do? I'm 20, whatever it is, three 24. I'm purely going to focus on my strengths now. And that's when I went into a brand role, a product role, a marketing role, everything that was front end and creative at Gymshark, I completely learned into that was when Steve came into the business, Steve became the CEO. So I was sort of like the responsibility of maybe some of the week, the areas I was weaker at finance, ops management, that was then like moved away from me. And I'm purely, completely, honestly focused on that. And that was your decision. Yeah. So pretty amazing decision. It was heartbreaking as well, because again, it's one thing moving yourself out of a role. It's another thing moving someone then into that role. Who does it really good? And like, I'm looking at them and like, you're way better than me. And I just have to like, know that, and make it to my honest, I think I use that as motivation to one day be as good as that. That was the, that was the inspiration. I think maybe because I was young, I knew I had time and I think that helped. But it was heartbreaking because the other thing as well is that doesn't mean to say exclusively everything Steve did, for example, I thought was right. It just, there was things that he did. Well, I thought maybe I wouldn't do that or I would think differently. And sometimes he would be right. And sometimes he would be wrong. But what I can't do, and this is the weird balance right because I'm founder and I am like a majority shareholder of the business. So ultimately I have control of the business. But there's no point in me putting him as CEO, and then just overall in what he says, he's in the CEO because he's the best person for the job. And I have to trust his judgment and opinion. And it's that weird balance of that. And I never, and I never have to this day played what we'd call like the shareholder card. I've never come in and gone, this is the way it's going to be just because. So yeah, then I was fortunate enough to watch Steve learn from Steve and that really helped him. And this was the beginning, I think, of the period where I was sort of becoming a CEO because I started off as a chief of brand, right? So the business was smaller at this stage. I can't remember the exact size, we'll say 20, 30 million in revenue maybe. And I managed the creative, the imagery, the videography, the athletes and sponsorships and all these different things, the events. And that was cool because I just, I got a real detail understanding of all those things, like really detailed, I was in the nuts and bolts of everything. Funnily enough, it then happened again. A guy called Noel came in, who was way better than me. And he came in as the chief of brand. So again, I'm sort of left a little bit high and dry. I was CEO, no, I'm not chief of brand, now I'm not. You brought him in as well. Yeah, so he actually came in and reported into me, but it was clear within a, I don't know, a year or so that he was better. So I vacate the seat, he comes in and he's done a great job since. Then I think after that, I did, I think it was products for a little bit, which was great fun. Oh, sorry, I did market in, which was great for the marketing is all, it's what it says in the tin, right? All the markets in, all the ads that you see online, everything that comes with that. And that was great fun. And I learned a lot there, I traveled the world, I spent time with Facebook's, Google's, all the partners like that. And I learned a hell of a lot there. Did you feel a bit lost at this point? Because having gone from CEO to brand to marketing, typically when an employee in my company does that, I tend to get the impression that they kind of know that being moved around a little bit like a chess piece. And it's like, they don't feel like they ever fully own something or that. Yeah, so I've had that, but I've had that for five or six years, because then it was, it was brand into marketing to product. There was tech for a little bit. I've been, I've moved around a lot. So this, this CEO role is, it's the first genuine home I've found since sort of running the business back in 2013, 2014. And why, why, why did you, so you've recently announced that you're now the CEO, I think it's been roughly about four months since you, you kicked Steve out and invaded it, invaded the office and slammed the shareholder card on his desk and told him to do one. I'm joking. But you went, since you sort of regained your position and made the decision with Steve, that you wanted to do the role again. What was the thinking behind that? Because a lot of founders, when they own the business, it's doing really well, it's flying. They know that they're, in terms of the financial incentives, they're going to do just fine and they can have a really easy life. And I've seen it happen. They just step back. They just tipped out the door and let other people do the hard graft. Why did you want to step back into the hardest role of all? So first and foremost, I think, like I said, I'd done all these roles and I'd built up to a point where I sort of thought I might be able to do it. And I think the fact that Steve came to me two years prior to coming to the job, and he said, if you almost like, I think you can do this. So that was a huge vote of confidence. Because we'd had this wasn't like an overnight thing, right? This was a two year build up from the first conversation Steve had to me that's, and the conversation was, I think I've taken the business to a point where I can, which is great, that he would be so honest and open about that. And then we had a two year period of, okay, like, are we going to bring someone in from the outside? Or Ben, are you going to be able to do this role? And, you know, again, similar to what I did in 2015 is these are the things that I now need to do to be good enough at doing that role. So there was a long, almost warmer pan over whatever you want to call it to that. Now, the other thing I would say is the business today is a very different place to where it was. Like, I don't know what the numbers are, but prior to Steve, we were maybe 30 employees. Now we're 900. We were one office in the Midlands, now we're several offices around the world. So it's a very, very different place. But doing the chief of brand when the business was this big, and then product at this big, their marketing at this big and tech and so on, having the intricate understanding of those areas, not every area of the business, but many of the areas has really helped as well. One of the things you said is that you're linked to that is I'm scared of being someone that can only just start the business and not run it. Yeah. What do you mean by that? So I'm, listen, I'm so proud of the fact that I found Jim Shark. I am, it's so great. But I don't want it to be a bit like Ben found of the business and that's all he did. Like, I want to do way more than that. And for me, with my personality and the way I'm built, it's, I think it's a bit, it's a far bigger challenge for me to run Jim Shark at the scale it is now as a chief exec than it is to start the business, right? Like, there are so many businesses that are started that die after year one, after year two, after year three, after year four and five. For me, I'm proud of the fact that I found the business. I'm proud of the fact that I've worked in the chief roles. But to be in the front seat in the CEO role of business like Jim Shark moving forward is one, it's the most exciting thing in the world for me. It's the biggest challenge that I could possibly like go for. And for me, that's exciting. Like, I want to aim high both of the business, but also personally for myself as well. And like you said at the start, I love learning. That doesn't mean I sit there reading books 24/7, but I love learning and being amongst it. And there's no better role for that. But the apparent downside to that role is that you then the book stops with you, which means when there's problems, when there's crises, they stop with you and you could sail off into the distance. You get really big boat with your shareholding in the company and you could just relax and just maybe chill out and maybe even invest in some stuff and you enroll in, can have a great life. Why not? Because it's like you're choosing stress and long hours and busyness over. I think Robin probably asked me the same question regularly, if I'm honest. I genuinely love it. I love the people that I work with. And you're right, I do not have to do this job. There is no two ways about it. I do it purely because I absolutely adore it and I want to challenge myself. And I want to be the best version of myself possible. And I have genuine ambitions to be a great chief exec for this business one day. I don't think I'm anywhere near there now. And it's a bit like someone has to be a great CEO in five, 10, 20 years time. So why not me? And I'm always ambitious on behalf of the business more than I am myself. So I'll always put the business first because it is my baby and I've been there from so in the close in the early days, going to the first events, like looking at having no money in the bank because of the risks that we've taken. So the business for me always comes first and the people within the business always come first. But personally, I'm also ambitious for myself as well. Who is a hurricane ban? Hurricane ban, that would have been the Ben that would have been described prior to my three feet back. So that I'll give an example, right? So there would be a particular product that I didn't like. And my opinion would be just direct, brutal, and probably not take into account other people's feelings or thoughts. And that's not to say that everything that you should do in business should always be, you know, stepping around people's feelings. Because I definitely don't think that's the way. But equally, like, don't be a dick. And there was definitely times in the early days when I was a bit of a dick. And you and so what happens now in terms of how have you learned not to be a dick? Learn to give feedback, examples with feedback, empathy, understanding why people do certain things, like understanding the fact that like, you know, no one is perfect, certainly not me, nor anyone. And pretty much never have I seen someone go out of their way to like damage the brand. Like people are doing things for good intention. No one's designed a product in a particular way because they, you know, they want to see the brand negatively affected. No one's posted on social or done something in particular because they want to see the brand negatively effective. It's essentially a difference of opinion. So I think like understanding that and being aware of it whilst I'm giving feedback, I think it's important. In your, because I have this a lot as well, what are some of the character traits you see in people that work with you in your organization that you you don't like?
The Worst Character traits in business (36:00)
So if you don't like, so if you, because if I asked my team, if I said to them, what are some of the things that Steve doesn't like from in terms of character perspective, are they with they would know? I feel like they would know because. And so to be fair, I don't get too much of this, but I just don't want people to agree with me because I want to be challenged all the time. Like for me, we want the best outcome. I don't care if it's my opinion or your opinion. I want the best outcome. And if my idea is crap, tell me it's cool and it's fine. I will not take it personally. So I don't want people, I don't want like, you know, the whole thing of it, a yes man, yes person, whatever you want to call it. I think it's not to say that I don't like it, but I know that individuals that really struggle with change don't tend to do well at companies like Jim Shark. If you just want a nine to five that is going to be consistent and stay the same, then it's definitely not the right place for you because it's so rapidly changing, not only because of the business itself, but because of the world that we're in like 10 years ago, Facebook was only small, Snapchat didn't really exist, Instagram barely existed. Shopify was very small. Like the ecosystem of the world that we play in was completely different. So change as well, I think it's important. Yeah, I can completely agree. And I've heard a few of your friends and people within your team describe you as being a bit of a perfectionist as well in terms of having a high sort of attention of detail. Is that do you consider yourself to have to be a perfectionist? I don't know. I don't think so. I definitely don't have a massive attention to detail. I've got the attention span of a net. Really? If it's something that's really, I don't know, something that just aligns with me, then I can obsess over it for months on end. If it's something I don't find particularly interesting, I have to use every ounce of strength of every cell in my body to remain focused on it. I find that really difficult. I don't know if I'm a perfectionist. I'm probably not the best person to comment on that. I wouldn't say so. I don't look like a perfectionist. I'm a bit scruffy. For those that can't see Ben out, he's wearing his sword-jim shark right out of the machines. And you wear this outfit a lot. You pretty much look pretty in the same every day. Because it's upbeat, efficiency, just simple. No messing around. I don't have to sit and think about what am I going to wear today or I don't know anything like that. It's literally just a bit simple, comfortable and I like it. One of the things you've started recently as well is your vlog online.
Learning how to speak infront of people & a camera (38:34)
If we go back to that day that I first met you, and I could tell that you were nervous in that context and the guy you are today, two questions for you. Did you have professional support in developing your ability to speak so fluently and articulate your ideas so well? And then we'll move on to chatting about why you're doing the vlog. So there's two things. Public speaking, one in front of the camera, two in front of an audience or what do you want to call it to a group. I found those as two very different things. And it's weird, right? Because if I had to, Steve, would be great in front of an audience, was struggling in front of the camera. I was fortunate. My other half Robin was a YouTuber, so she's brilliant in front of a camera and she taught me how to work in front of a camera, basically. Not through who, I don't know, I don't know, it was just through brute, just keep going, keep going, stick in front of the camera in front of me. And the first vlog, she recorded and edited the whole thing. So she taught me how to sort of work in front of a camera. I did have public speaking lessons and that was massively live-changing for me. And going back to that list of things, by the way, when I said about these are the things I'm good at, these are things that I'm bad at, one of those things was public speaking. And this is why I'm such a massive advocate of making lists, right? Because public speaking was one of the many things on my list, which was a weakness. But I didn't then immediately go and draw out a plan. I just had that list and I said, I know, I think I had it as my wallpaper on my phone. Public speaking is something I'm bad at. And then I was at an event, I can't remember what it was, I think it was an event at Gymshark. And I'm chatting away to people, chatting away, chatting away and said, "Hello, I'm Ben, how are you? Have a great day. What do you do?" And someone said, "I'm a public speaking coach." And then all of a sudden I've gone, boom, lightbulb, I'm terrible at public speaking, you're a public speaking coach. I was like, can you teach me? And that's literally how it happened. But if I hadn't have sat there, done that work and written it down, it probably would have gone on, right? I probably would have said, okay, enjoy your day. I'll see you soon. It was lovely to meet you. And then I had public speaking lessons. I did actually shopify, actually put me on a public speaking sort of camera thing, which was cool. Then I did some here back in the UK and just slowly worked here. And then the thing that really helped me was just, and I wouldn't probably do this now due to time, but it was just saying yes to things. Just saying, yep, I'm going to do it. And you know what, I'm going to make it fall on myself. I'm sure there's some footage somewhere of me sweating and shuffling around the stage somewhere, like falling over my words and being terrible at it. But that's just a necessary evil to get good at anything really. What did the public speaking lessons? Was there like key principles or key exercises that you felt actually moved the needle for you? Was there anything there that maybe someone listening to this that's really bad speaker might be able to steal? There's a few bits. So there's one that they told me, and there's a quote I've said online. I think it's a Winston Churchill quote, whether it's a nice shirt. You know, you see all these quotes and whether they're true or not. There's one where he says, "I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks," which is like obviously, "impromptu remarks" is a quick sort of like thing that you've sort of made up on the spot. And that really stuck with me because then, I know a lot of other people do this as well. It's when we're talking about a particular subject. Now, I'm fortunate now because I've done so much of this. I've got like all these different sentences and phrases and things that I can draw on. But in the early days, it's like, so Ben, you're going to talk about, you're going to publicly talk about the Jim Schott story. Now, historically, even though I knew the Jim Schott story inside out because I was there, I'd struggle with that. So what I do is I prepare phrases, sentences, words, reminders in my head. So if someone said, I don't know, talk to me about the first event, it would just sort of roll off the tongue and granted, I probably wouldn't do that anymore. But in the early days, that got me over that hump of that nervousness, that frog in my throat. I don't know where to start. Because that's the main thing, is once you've started, it's fine, right? It just goes. But even just having that first sentence of, "Oh, the first event was body power and we did this and this and this and this." And then it, yeah, that really helped me. That's so funny because that's exactly what happens from practice, isn't it? You'll know that now you just go back to it. Exactly. When I do a lot of interviewing interviews and stuff too, and there's like keywords, trigger, story. So if you said to me, rejection, I'd be like, "Oh." And then it's just the same old, and that's so funny because that's ultimately what you're saying. You're coaching to it. So first and foremost, prepare in Pruncher remarks, whatever you want to call it, prepare stories, prepare things, like make sure you're well prepared. And generally, if you're not very good at it, like for me, I had to over-prepare. I had to prepare this many things for conversation that was this long. And then the aim of that is to become comfortable. That's the main thing. And that was the biggest difficulty for me, become comfortable. So now I'm super fortunate. You could put me on a stage in front of a thousand people and I would be a bit peculiar if I wasn't prepared, but I'd be fine and I'd be comfortable because then once you're comfortable, what you do is you buy yourself time. So then if we're on stage and you ask me a question five years ago, I'd probably panic and answer as quickly as I can with whatever. Whereas now, I'm going to process it, think about it, and then come back with a response because I'm comfortable. And I think the stage is to all different types of learning. And that was it for me. One, preparation. Once I'd done that, I'd learn to be comfortable and then I'll learn about different things as I go on. So this has led you to now, because do you know what? I watched your videos back then. And maybe this is why I was surprised when I met you because on your videos, I genuinely thought you were amazing. Take 10,000, 23, 23. Yeah. I watched your videos and you two asked like this guy's an unbelievable speaker. And then I met you in person. And it wasn't that you were bad speaking. You're like, "You're like, 'You're a shuffly mess.' No, so the crazy thing is you weren't a bad speaker and your stories were amazing, but I could just tell you a nervous. And that's what you were speaking to there about being comfortable. Some people are just naturally comfortable and that's cool. But that's the main thing. I do think for whatever reason, I think it's probably maybe we're not taught it. Maybe it just doesn't feel natural. If you can, and by the way, if you can speak publicly, if you can speak to camera and if you can speak to groups, that is so powerful, so powerful. It's untrue. Why should you drink fuel? We're going into the fourth quarter of the year. Diets are dropping off. We're becoming lazier and lazier. And what tends to happen when our diets dip and we start to become less compelled to go to the gym is, yeah, we get out of shape, we start to feel low energy, we start to binge eat bad things. And fuel is the antidote. It's nutritionally complete. So you get everything you need for your diet in a drink. You get your 20 grams of proteins, you're going to get your 26 vitamins and minerals. It's low sugar, high in fiber. It really is the cure to a lot of the health issues that we see in our personal lives, but in wider society. If you've never tried it, all I'll ask you to do is give it a try. And if you're like me, then you will like the world berry ready to drink. You'll like the mac and cheese, which is just selling like absolutely crazy, unsurprisingly. You'll like the cinnamon and you'll like the banana flavor. Those are my recommendations. I know a lot of people have the chocolate flavor. Let me know, try it, get yourself healthy and send me a message on Instagram, tag me on Instagram as well on your stories. If you do try it out, because I sometimes upload those tags and let me know which is your favorite flavor. Come with me from you. You now run what was voted, I think 2016, 2017, the fastest growing company in this country.
Why are you vlogging inside gymshark? (45:57)
It's still one of the fastest growing companies in this country. It's worth billions and billions and billions. And you've decided that you're going to vlog inside the company. This is not what CEOs do then. They don't see them. You never get to think about all the big companies. It's very controlled PR. Why do you think that matters? Because have we go back to me on the inside working with my granddad and being able to learn about those stories that eventually led to in many ways the Jim Chart we see today? I think I would love to be able to provide that to other people around the world, particularly here. First and foremost, it can be done, right? So you can start a business in the UK, whatever, in this world online and it can become a unicorn in under 10 years. And if you don't want to, you don't have to go and borrow a load of money. You don't have to highly leverage yourself. If you're a problem solver, you're open-minded and you're self-aware, it can be done. And I think that's the first step for me. Let me come at that one then. Because I know what people are saying. They're saying, Ben, it's all well and good you're saying that because you've done it. But I can't do it. I don't know what you know. I don't know anything about computers. It's all well and good you saying that. But this is what people will say because they say to me, you were lucky. You were timing. And by the way, I wasn't incredibly lucky, massively lucky. And that would be completely right. And listen, I would completely understand that. But for some that want to, then that to me is a proof of one it can be done. Now, I am very well aware of the fact that I was very lucky, one in the people I've met, two in terms of timing. So, fitness was on the up, right? In the early 2000s, all over the news was a beast that you rate to rise in. So, fitness was on the up because people were encouraging people into the German fitness. Direct to consumer camera of nowhere. People were more comfortable in the sort of 2010s than ever buying things online, right? In the early 2000s, people weren't that comfortable buying online from a company that I'd never heard of, let alone one from right another country abroad. But number three, we had social media. Those three forces converging at the point where Jim Sharp was founded is completely and utterly look. And I do understand that. But I'm also aware of the fact that there's loads of those things happening elsewhere in the world right now that, you know, probably aren't being completely taken advantage of. So, I am aware of the fact that it's look. But I also think as well, in me doing this, I'd like to think that regardless, even if you don't want to start your own business, which by the way is completely cool, like, and I'm probably saying many respects, that's probably a good idea because it is very difficult to do this. I still think there's lessons that can be learned. And I love the thought of people being able to take something away from the Jim Sharp story and create something called of their own. It also gives you this weird type of defense because you can see that so many CEOs have been attacked because they are in essence. I think what we're talking about here is being like a glass box CEO or the old model of being like a black box CEO, where your image is painted on the outside by your marketing or PR people. And no one ever gets to really know your scene side. You've taken this really glass box approach where if someone writes something bad about you Ben, I can like, well, I've seen 65 interviews of him and I've seen his blog. So I have my own reference point to know that that's actually not him. And some CEOs out there like Elon, and these really public ones have that. And then Zuckerberg hid in a K for the last 10 years. And in 2019, he announced that he was finally going to start doing interviews because of how everyone just thought he was this emotionless robot because that's what the press said. And it is this incredible defense mechanism that I don't think people really appreciate. Yeah, and I think I can also empathize, I mean, listen, what Zuckerberg was on, he's like on a completely other world to what any, pretty much anyone else has done, certainly myself. But in the early days of Jim Sharp, I didn't want to be plastering myself on social media, by the way. I didn't want to be on YouTube. I wanted to just knuckle down and focus on building the business because remember, I didn't know what it would be at that point. It was only when people started asking for that that I then decided to do it. So I do also understand the idea of just knuckle in down and focus on what you're going to, but you're right. The problem that that comes with is other people get to control the rhetoric or the language or the description of yourself. And we're seeing that in the UK, a lot of big companies in the UK that are being attacked at the moment. You don't know whether the articles are true because you don't know the person they're talking about. And that's why I literally have a picture in my office over there, Vlun smoking a joint on the Joe Rogan podcast, because for me, this is going to sound like fucking bonkers. Like that's the C.I. I would want to be is where I cry on Joe Rogan's podcast, smoking a joint. And for everyone to know that that's how open I am and much the reason why I started this.
Gymshark through the pandemic (51:06)
So the pandemic comes around, talk me through how it was being a CEO throughout that, because one of the really remarkable things is you didn't furlough anybody. No, we didn't. So I wasn't CEO at the start of COVID. I came in in August. So that was interesting. So we were lucky again, because we were completely set up the Zoom. Everyone has laptops. We're a digital business. So working from home, thanks to our tech team and the investments they made from a system perspective, it wasn't tough. I know there were other companies that not everyone had a laptop and so on. So I couldn't imagine where to start there. And we had that moment where, so what we have is because we have we have an office in Hong Kong. We have offices in the UK. We have offices in the US. And we literally saw because COVID sort of came from the east to the west, didn't it? And we saw Hong Kong closed, right? Everyone went into lockdown. And there was this bit where I know I was thinking, never happened here, never happened here until it did, right? And then boom, lockdown, everyone working from home. And I was in, what was I doing at that point? I think I was just finishing up in marketing. And I think I was moving into product at that point. And the moment that caught me, which was within like 24 hours of being locked down, I was lucky. I have an office at home. I shut the door, I've got a desk and I can just work through that. And when I'm finished, I can close the door at the end of the day. I was chatting to someone and they were like, they were in a studio apartment in Birmingham City Centre and their partner was making their breakfast behind them. And they were sort of like balancing their laptop on the work surface. And it was all just, I remember chatting to her and thinking, okay, this is going to be really, just really tough for some people from a professional perspective. And then I'm chatting to my mom, who worked at the QE in Birmingham City Centre Hospital in Sully Oak. She was telling me about what was going on there. And I was like, it was very, I became very aware very quickly that this was a big thing, where it was going to be a big thing. So yeah, managing through that was really, really, really tough. It's in commercially, the business did okay. People were shopping online and there were more people working out from home, they were cycling, they were running. That side of the business did well. But managing hundreds of staff around the world, working from home, mental health, making sure that we're supporting them through complete uncertainty was definitely difficult. And where do you learn then? So having seen that member of your team on that ironing board in that studio apartment, where did you land on this whole remote working debate? Where is Jim Sharp? What's your engine? I mean, there are people at Jim Sharp that work remotely and it works for them. And that's fine. Personally, I'm a little bit old school in, I'm in the office pretty much every day, unless I'm out at meetings. I just love to be in the office. That doesn't mean it's right or wrong. I'm sure I would probably do a day, maybe a month or a quarter working from home, if I need to work through things. Because when we did work from home, I finally got to my to-do list, which was useful. And I'd never really got to that previously. We're sort of open-minded. There are some people that remote work and make sense for them, as long as it makes sense for the business as well as them, that's cool. Personally, I like to be in the office. You have this big amazing office in the UK especially. I mean, you have a few, but the one in Birmingham, is Sally Hall. It's a tremendous, newly built campus almost that you've built. What role does that play? Because I'm in the camp of I Love the Office as well. And I think it's more than just a place where you come to do your work. I think it's community. I think it's culture. I think it gives especially younger generations who haven't figured out their lives, have an opportunity to learn, meet people, get married, have no. Exactly. So how do you see the office? And have you set parameters for your employees as well? We're working on it now. That's what we're trying to work through. There are some people that are on remote contracts, so they choose to work remote. There are many, the vast majority are on contracts, which means they're based in HQ. Personally, right, the whole thing about, like I said earlier, being able to watch Steve right was massive for my development. So if I'm a youngster that's coming into work at Gymshark, I want to be in the office, I want to learn and I want to grow and I want to be around people, because that's not to say you can't learn on Zoom. I think you can. And I think there's great utility for Zoom and I think there's areas where it's really helpful and useful. But if I'm a young product designer, I want to be around designers, I don't want to be able to be inspired and I want to have that conversation. I want to be able to share ideas in the moment rather than having to jump on Slack, forward slash Zoom, jump on a call and so on, hopefully they're free. So yeah, for me, like I said, I like to be in the office. I think it's a great place to learn. And the office for us, which is why we're investing in this campus and this larger office is, it is a hub of Gymshark. When you're there, you're in it. We work together, we eat together and refuel. Many of us go and lift in the gym after together and it builds that genuine community in the business. One of the things you, when I hear your story, no matter where I look, it does feel like you're just incredibly good at dealing with shit. Like it appears on the surface that you're just incredibly good at dealing with the hard times. And it also kind of appears that other than the one moment you told me about where the website went down and you had to write out the apology notes and stuff, that there's really not been a lot of like chaos. And I'm like, how every every day is chaos. That's why. Tell me about that. I don't know where to begin. Like in terms of like starting the business, there were several times we invested everything we had on a particular event or a particular product line. COVID was tough. It's like when the business is growing at the right that we're growing, even just making sure that we've got enough stock to fulfill the forecast for the following year is it's tough to manage and work out. Moving from zero to 900 staff in nine years, that's so hard. And it's like every day hard because in many respects, when a big problem comes in and it just hits you in out of nowhere, you look at that problem and you try and solve it. Whereas people forget about the everyday nagging problems of making sure that like the majority of the people that currently exist in Gymshark weren't in Gymshark 12 months ago. So the majority of people in Gymshark maybe aren't as aware of the story or the way that the business works or haven't been truly immersed in the culture, both because they haven't been here for a long time, but also because we have been working remote for so long. So those problems in terms of making sure that everyone is truly bought into the brand are really important because when you've got a team that big, we want to make sure that they're working efficiently as well. Steve said that the former CEO said that pressure is a privilege to you. So I think it's true. Do you think it's a privilege for you as a brand or do you think it's a privilege for every business? I think it depends on what the pressure is, right? I'm sure there are people in this world that are under a lot of pressure that certainly doesn't feel like a privilege, but in the context of Gymshark, it is a privilege. We all choose to be there. We're all a part of something really special, something that I really believe this. I do think books will be written on this story and I think maybe if we do what we think we can, maybe there'll be programs and movies too because it is so unique and so special. So within the context of Gymshark, I do think pressure is well and truly a privilege for us. When I reflect on early days of starting my business, there was a lot of unknown unknowns, a lot of things that I wish someone had just told me sooner or a lesson that took me three or four years to learn.
What do you wish you knew sooner in business? (58:32)
When you look back at some of the things you wish you knew sooner, that would have maybe even put what is a phenomenal business even further ahead. What are those things that come to mind? I'm interested to hear what you think, but for me, given my skill set, we didn't invest in the foundations of the business early enough. Going back to being arrogant at the start, I didn't really respect what maybe the ops or finance people of this world did. The foundation elements of the business to me were nowhere near as exciting or fun as the front end element of the business, the product, the brand and the marketing. So I think if we'd have better prepared ourselves for that from a data ops finance, all these things, I think Gymshark would have grown far quicker. Especially with what you guys did, particularly at SocialCat Chain, you were ahead of your time in that in terms of bringing all these pages and channels together and almost packaging them up for different businesses and brands. You must have struggled with that as well. My answer is the exact same as yours. I was exactly the same guy. I thought that the thing that would move the needle most was what I did and what I knew. Then it wasn't until you hire one really great person and you go, "Fuck, that's what good look and look all the things I don't know." I think it took me two maybe three years to realize the importance of really great talent and that my skills and my talents weren't actually going to matter that much, especially at 700-800 people business. I think great people are amazing. We did a trip to Fiji years and years ago and it was the first time I got to spend time with Harley Finklstein and Toby at Shopify. So these are some top-top entrepreneurs and there was a load of other people there. I didn't even barely say anything. I remember sat listening to them and I was thinking to myself, Gymshark's like or the people or the certainly even me. I felt like I was a local football player. These are primarily international stars. They were another level compared to what I was and we were in the business. To be able to see those, when you see a great operator, people just look at Zuckerberg as a guy or Elon or whatever, these people are going to be so efficient and frighteningly intelligent and adaptable and resilient. Without meeting them, I genuinely don't think you'd be able to fathom it. I obviously haven't met them. Having met people like Harley and Toby, they were on another level to anyone that I'd met before. They were just like us at one point. They weren't just born hyper-resilient, super intelligent, open-minded and blah, blah, blah. Maybe a little bit in terms of intelligence but a lot of the skills that we see from them, they had to learn and they had to work on. That was massively inspiring. I can't stress enough how important it is to just try and surround yourself with great people. I was lucky. That trip, most people don't get to go on trips like that. They don't get to have their eyes opened. But there's still great people in every community, every gym, whatever. You can definitely find them. Completely, again, I came to now learning the businesses I start and I say this to my teams all the time in Flightster and Third Lab that we are basically a recruitment company. We never forget that. The most important thing here and the thing that is behind and initiates every decision is a person. A talent. Obviously, it's bound together with culture and a vision but fundamentally, it was actually one day I read on somewhere that the definition of a company on Google and in the Oxford dictionary is actually a group of people. That's what they say that's a company. It means a group of people. I started thinking about that. In fact, like a football team, we are starting 11 and in competitive industries and we're all in competitive industries, I start thinking about it like a football team. This is the guy I've got up in left back or right wing against my competitors guy or woman. I started thinking, "Fucking hell fundamentally, I just need to be the best talent." Steve Jobs says, "The best talent scout in the world." I wasn't until this chapter in my life. It's too late. Until too late. For me, in terms of getting great people becoming self-aware, becoming the best version of yourself that you possibly can be, and even that, all of those things, if you did that incredibly well, that by no means guarantee success, all that does is it increased the likelihood or the probability of success. Even then, you've got a fairly slim chance because, like I said, so many small businesses fail. That's the other thing that I think anyone's starting out or working in the business needs to understand is that failure is inevitable. Don't be defined by your failures. It could be an operation in the business. It could be the business itself. It's inevitable that it's going to happen. All you can do is do everything within your power to minimize the likelihood of that happening. Talking about doing that, which is within your power, you've managed to seemingly avoid the toll of business, getting to you.
Struggles with business personally (01:03:42)
My business partner's been very open on this podcast about how the stress of business made him anxious and then he suffered with depression, and then he became, in his own words, basically, like a functional alcoholic. It doesn't seem to have touched you in the same way. Have you ever experienced anxiety? Listen, I've definitely struggled. There were points where, again, when I was first, I felt like I was first going out on my own in 2015. There would have been periods where social media has turned on the business and myself. It's definitely been really difficult at times. There's been points where social media turned on the business. There was something that happened last, I think it was last year or the year before, where someone at Jim Shark on the channel, on the social channel, basically commented back to someone. I can't remember exactly what was said, but basically, it was around a blue lives matter. You had the black lives matter. Someone commented something on our page saying blue lives matter, and someone at Jim Shark basically commented something sarcastic back to them, which, to be honest, is just shouldn't have been posted. Then at that point, that whole group of people started to converge onto Jim Shark. Before long, they then started to converge onto me. I had thousands of comments, thousands of messages, death threats, everything you can imagine. That definitely hit me and it definitely hurt me. I felt like I was carrying that burden at that point. Talk to me about that. The world pours on, because if something someone else has done on Twitter, whatever, we won't go into that too much. The world pours on. You're going on your phone, that's popping off. People are probably texting you. This is the worst part. Your family checking. You just don't want to look at your phone. That was really difficult for me, really tough. Did you feel anxious? You felt that sense of like, yeah. I felt like, yeah, I have a lump in your throat. You feel sick. You don't look at it. You don't want to look at your phone. I struggled with that, but I think I had support at work. There's a quote that I've heard, "Nol's the one that told me about it." The quote goes, "Something like, to whom much is given, much is tested, I think. It's roughly like that." I do think about that a lot. I'm in this role. I'm in this job, and I'm so privileged and fortunate to be here. I've worked incredibly hard, but I am fortunate. Inevitably, much has been given to me, so much will be tested of me. That, to me, is one of many, and there'll be more in the future. That will happen again, and I have to be well aware of it and open to it and understanding of it. What did that moment teach you? I think it is. That was about of resilience. Going back to what I said earlier, every day, I feel like I have to be resilient in terms of having hard conversations, in terms of challenging people, in terms of trying to move the business forward in the right way, whereas that was like, boom, you need to be resilient now. The other thing as well, that, again, I'm sure you will know this, that happens, and I'm feeling terrible as it's happening, but there's still a business with hundreds of people that need help support all these things. I can't just shy away and feel sad for a week, or at least it can't appear to be like that. I can feel those emotions, I can process them, but ultimately, the business comes first, and I have to support the business and the individuals within it. That was an interesting challenge for me to face, because again, I can't just mope around the office. I come into the office, and to me, it's like a game of football. I'm there to perform, to deliver, and we want to win. We want to create great things, and I don't want to let this thing, rightly or wrongly, sort of drag me down. Two questions then. How do you handle the situation with the employee that posted that comment, which ended up getting you piled on, and it felt at least like you were being canceled? They had no bad intention, so yeah, they stayed at the business, and now they do an incredible job. They were a great person, so I really don't believe in canceled culture. I think, especially when people do things by a mistake, and this certainly was a mistake, and they learned from the mistake, and now they're a better, stronger, more educated, and informed person, because of it. I think that's the way it is. What you can't have at Jim Scharkler anywhere, you can't have someone that fails, particularly with good intentions, and then you just move them out of the business, because what we're trying to do is we're trying to create change. We're trying to create progress in a great business, and if every time someone failed, you just move them out of the business, then all you'll be left with is with a group of people that have never failed, and that's dangerous. So yeah, they're still in the business, and they're doing great work. And the other question was, when you go home that day, and Robin's there, what's that like? She's incredibly supportive. I think she gets it, because, and this helps as well, because she has had time online. She did do the whole YouTube thing and the social media thing, so she does understand what it's like, so she's incredibly supportive. Did you rant to her? Did you open up something? So that's probably something I'm not very good at. I don't talk about my feelings massively. I'm not that sort of person. I don't know why. I don't know. It's just, if I look at the way my dad is, my grandparents are, the males that were around me growing up, they're very strong individuals. They're very, I wouldn't often hear them talk about feelings, which is fine, and it's cool. I get it. It's probably not the most optimal solution, and I'm learning to do that, but it's given me great resilience. It's made me strong. Definitely made me mentally strong. So yeah, I'll chat to Robin. I think she'll try and pry information from me, and I'll chat to her as she has to go. Does she succeed? But I mean, my girlfriend is the same. My girlfriend is the ultimate person in my life of trying to make me express how I'm feeling emotionally. And again, like you said, naturally, it's not my default state, especially it almost makes me feel uncomfortable. I'd like to sit here and talk to you about how I am completely open and in touch with every single feeling that I'm feeling. I wish, maybe that's something I need to work on, but that's certainly isn't true. I do understand and I process those feelings. I'm definitely not as communicative as what I probably should be on those things. I'd like to sort of internalize them and process them without talking about them too much. We've seen, obviously in headlines and stuff around mental health and men in particular, not talking about the feelings, the adverse consequences of not sharing your feelings. The other thing which I learned recently is from Patrice Evera when he came, and we talked about toxic masculinity. And again, he was telling me his girlfriend was the one who helped him open up his feelings because he was very growing up on the streets of France, drug dealing, try to survive, etc. The risk is it becomes a generational cycle. You've pointed to the fact that it probably was a generational cycle for you. Death probably definitely was for me. I've never had my dad express a feeling in his life. So now you're married and one would assume that there's going to be kids at some point potentially. Is that something you think about? I don't know. I mean, listen, if I had a kid, I would definitely want them to tell me about how they're figuring them because I'd rather know what's going on than not. So yeah, maybe that is something that I would push with them. Robin certainly will. Robin will, yeah. And the other point on the kid thing, it just triggered something that I've been thinking about lately in my life is how present are you going to be? I'm going to be honest. I'm scared. I'm scared because if things carry on as they are now, I'm like, sometimes I forget to walk my dog and my assistant does it for me. And when I have kids, I don't want to be that business guy that's never seen as kids. I want to be present in their lives. I want to take them to school pick them up again. So do you think about that? And the change you have to make? Because we don't have kids. I haven't thought about it massively. I think there was a few things. So Steve advised me. He said, be there for the sports days. I don't think he means be there for the sports days. I think he means it's like a big thing, like be there, be present and be there when the kid wants you to be. So that's something I would definitely like to do. I don't know. My dad worked away a lot as a kid. And I don't feel like I was adversely affected by it. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I have been. But it's not even when I started traveling and being away for long periods of time. There was periods where I'd do 30, 40, 50 flights a year and I'd be away all the time. And that wasn't abnormal. That was like my mom was like cool with actually gets it's fine. My dad would work a lot in the States and Europe and stuff. And then my mom would look after us or I'd go and stay with my grandparents for a while. Again, I'm not saying that's optimal. But I felt like I was fine growing up. I actually spoke. So I'm working with a new EA called Zoe who's absolutely been life-changing for me, genuinely life-changing. And she has two kids and we were talking about it actually the other day. And we do this thing. Monday morning, first thing we look through the calendar for the week. And then she sort of made a bit of a comment. She was like, are you still going to be able to do this if you have kids? And I was sort of like, is that a loaded question? Are you telling me that I won't be able to do this? And what helps having Zoe is I think because she has kids, she knows what it's like. I think she'll help me manage it as it comes. And then her thing was, no, you won't be able to work like this. But if we plan for it and we work things out, then we can work out a way to make it work, which is great. I'm sure Robin will be happy with that as well. If I'm in the CEO role, which I hope I am, I'm not going to be at home every single day at half five Monday to Friday, it's just one of the things that comes with the job. There's been a lot written about what the future of Jim Shark looks like, a lot of speculating, a lot of guessing as to what route you're going to take.
The future of Gymshark (01:13:57)
A lot of people at this point probably would have already sold the company to a bigger Nike or an Adidas or whoever it might be. What can you tell me about the future of Jim Shark? So my ambition is to make, so in Canada, you've got Lulu. In the United States, you've got Nike and Endrama. And in Germany, you've got Addie and Puma. So first and foremost, I want Jim Shark to be the British fitness brand. I think it's really cool. So growing up, I grew up not far away from the Rover MG factories in Longbridge. It was a really cool British brand. Unfortunately, it didn't end or, I mean, MG still go in. It didn't end probably as they would have liked. Over in Sully Hall, Jaguar Land Rover, cool British, but international brands Burberry, Aston Martin, like Bentley and Rolls Royce. Like these are so cool. And I think I love the thought of a brand that was grown here. He's headquartered here, but he's a truly global brand. And I think that's really, really cool. I love the thought of that. Now, emphasis on the fact I want Jim Shark to be a global brand. We sell into the entire world at the moment, like a lot of the revenue and the customers in the community of Jim Shark are international. The UK is a small area of that now because of the growth we've seen in North America, Europe and so on. So my ambition is for Jim Shark to be a truly, truly global brand. And one of the most iconic brands in the world, I think that's so cool. The thought of Jim Shark being a truly iconic brand, a brand that sort of like genuinely pulls people together and inspires people to be the best version of themselves, both physically and mentally. And he's in many ways, like the manifestation of this journey that I feel like I've gone on from joining the GM and trying to improve myself physically and they're mentally through the business and so on. I think that's really cool. But ultimately, I want it to be one of the most iconic brands in the world. And then however you structure that in the back front, whatever you do to make that happen, I'm almost like Chan Lagnostik. I just want Jim Shark to be a truly iconic great brand that is like a true leader in culture and helps inspire people around the world. Ten years time we wake up, Jim Shark is a truly iconic British brand globally. He's done it. Now what? I'll be really sad. I have nothing to do. No, I'm not sure. At that point, I don't know. It's so funny because your aunt today was exactly what Gary Finishock said. He said he was like, that will be the worst day of my life. Oh, when he buys the Jets. Yeah, the Jets. I don't know. Isn't that funny? The thing you aim for will be the saddest day of your life? It's scary, isn't it? I don't know how you would put a pin in that. If Gary bought the Jets, he owns the Jets. How would you put a pin in the fact that Jim Shark, when did Jim Shark become iconic? It's true. When does that tipping point happen? You'll have to let me know if that happens. I think that's a really interesting point there because what it actually says is that all the fun is actually the journey. And if you do want to set yourself up to never have that awful day, then create a goal that they say the best journeys are the ones with no destination. So you're right. There's no day. There's no measurement of that. It's a continual process. And also, at times, you'll get things pop. The world will change. And we all might go to the metaverse. And that's going to be a whole new challenge for you to maintain the position. That is mental. We were talking about that the other day about how just how much the world's going to change in the next 10 years. And then going back to the start about someone that's starting up. So once it's considering starting a business or anything like that, it becomes easier. It happens with change. And looking forward, the amount of change we are about to see is unfathomable. I'm convinced of it. It is going to be crazy. And the opportunity to use will be huge. You have 900 people roughly now, right? How do you turn a 900 person company in a new direction? Really hard. What are you doing in a very practical sense to set the team up for? So in terms of the nuts and bolts, we'll have something that we call a brand book, which is Brand Guidelines. This is what we do. This is what we don't do. We'll have a strategic page, which says these are the core things that we want to do. These are four strategic initiatives that sit outside of the day to day, outside of what you might see that Jim Shark are currently doing. And then we'll basically put resource behind those initiatives to basically see what happens. Some of them might fail. Some of them might win. I'm not sure. That's a really boring way of explaining how we do it. And is there like a cultural thing as well around? Because so many companies, they get big doing one thing. Web2, let's call it social media, whatever it might be. And then the world changes. And because they are so big, as you've said, it becomes actually their biggest weakness, especially in advertising, like in our industry, the reason why social chain did so well was because the incumbents were all into like billboards and TV and radio. And it was like a mindset thing. They couldn't change fast enough, which gave us this window. Like you've described macro factors where this surfboard we surf in, and we capitalise on them the moment. Is there a mindset thing, a way that you speak to teams to make sure they're like mentally? Well, no, but like I said, as people are joining the business and coming in, we make them aware that this is a place where change is inevitable. And oftentimes, you don't even know what that is right. Like the biggest problem Jim Sharp will experience in the next five years, we've got no idea what it is. And one day, whether it's tomorrow or in two years or in four years, it's going to hit us and blindside us in the head and knock us for six. And we'll have to adjust, adapt and change to deal with it. And we're aware of that. We talk about that a lot. We do talk about change. And we try and like prime everyone to be prepared and ready for that that things will change. Like on a day to day basis, things change from structures to the way that we want to achieve certain things. And sometimes they can be difficult, but ultimately, that's a lot easier to deal with. But I think those things happening, the constant change of a growing business creates a culture of culture of change. And when these things do happen, I'd like to think we're in a reasonable situation to deal with it. And we are agile as well. We're in a lot of different ways in where we're like, we don't have like, we're 900 people's a lot, not compared to some of the larger competitors. They have thousands and thousands and thousands of employees all around the world. They have lots of different distributors. They have lots of different stores, like hundreds, if not thousands of different moving parts all the way around the world. Today, Jim Shark is in its most basic form, a website, one website, and that is where you buy Jim Shark from. Speaking of change then, the high street shut down this year. Fortunately, as you've described, you're in a good position because you are a direct consumer. And why have you never opened up a store on the high street? Why have you always stayed away from that? Just time, resource. There are, in a fast growing business, you'll have to say no to so many things. Because if you said yes to everything, you would end up just watering your business down. It would end up just being, it would be to Gary use this term we spoke to him the other day. He said, "You never want Jim Shark to become a vanilla boulder. You don't want to become vanilla, right?" So it's purely down to a resource thing historically. So if I look at what we would coin as offline, Jim Shark's been heavily involved in offline since day one. The first ever blow-up of the brand was through an offline event. And then we did Expose Around the World, and we spent every single penny we had flying around the world in our early 20s doing these events. Then after that, we wondered, are there people coming to the event because to see Jim Shark or are people happy to be at the event and they come to Jim Shark? So we thought, how can we find out how many people really want to come and see Jim Shark? We actually did a testing Covent Garden. We wanted to do a one-month store in Covent Garden. Two weeks in Covid happened and we had to close the whole thing. I'm massively inspired by different businesses and what they do in their offline. So I think the opportunity is on the high street and massive. Would you ever? Well, we will at some point. So Touchwood, I'm hoping in the next few days to be able to sign a lease on a store in London. I first ever store it with a flagship and it will be a hopefully a community hub for Jim Shark. Our first ever permanent offline store hub, whatever you want to call it. This is so early in the process. Like I said, we haven't even signed a lease yet. So fingers crossed that will go through. We're just working through that now. And again, we've got a vision of this being a true Jim Shark community hub. That's so interesting because that really does feel like the future of the high street really experienced based, not somewhere you're going to buy and sell things, but truly experienced based in the community centric. Because as well, what we need to think about is what we're trying to build here is a brand. And what we don't want is something that is purely based on utility. And what I mean is I don't want people to buy Jim Shark because it's quicker, cheaper and easier. I think we should try and be those things to a degree, but it's not purely utility thing. If you want that, go to Amazon, right? Amazon will give you everything that you need, rapid, cheap. And that's cool. And I love the business. I've a shop from them all the time. But for me, Jim Shark is a brand and it is a brand and it's a feeling and it's that badge of honor that you wear. It's that that that dedication to self improvement, both physical and mental. And to do that, we need a community. And that's the wider Jim Shark community, the people that follow us all across Instagram, Snapchat, you know, ticks up all these different channels. And then the event has always been the culmination of that community when you're there. And it's just like everyone's there and they have these sort of inherent similarities and they've got that same mindset and it's such an amazing place to be. So we thought, what if we could do that permanently, which is what hopefully this store will be. When your brand gets bigger and brands, you know, many brands have kind of fallen foul of this, it's really hard to hold on to the brand piece, right? What's your strategy towards as you scale all around the world, what's going to happen, right? Is if I walk into my gym, muscle works down the road, and everyone is wearing Jim Shark, I might be like, oh, fuck that, I don't want to be that guy, right? Like, and then your brand is almost doing a lot of work for you on the ground because of the scale. So how do you hold on to that core specialness? I think, well, first and foremost, I think, so Jim Shark, it's still quite niche brand in the sense that we're not doing sports where, right? You won't see people on the football pitch wearing Jim Shark. You won't see people on like other basketball court wearing Jim Shark. Jim Shark is built to be worn in the gym, like granted, you know, there's odd bits, the sort of two and from stuff that I'll wear in the office or and in the gym as well. But I think by staying true to that core, by focusing completely and utterly on building the best Jim product, whether it's clothing, whether it's accessories, whatever it is we might create down the line. I think by doing that, I think we shouldn't water our brand down too much. And you know that specialness because you've been there since the start. So if I remove Ben, what happens? And your honest opinion, if I was to remove you from your business, where was what happens to your business in 10 years time? I think we'll continue. I'm not sure who would immediately, like, be in performance in, I'm not sure who would immediately step into the role. Probably the best argument would be Steve, but we've got a proper management team. Like, we've got like, our chief of product is infinitely better than I will ever be at product. Our chief of brand is infinitely better than I will be. The commercial team that we've run across international and them, they're both way better than me. But there's a specialness with a founder because they can see all of the dots. They've been there for 10 years and they can see why this truly from day one, why this brand is special. Like, I genuinely believe no one can, even in leaving my business. I'm going to be honest. I know the specialness my business has lost. It doesn't mean my business isn't going to make great revenues for the next five, 10 years. But I know that there's going to be a loss in vision and culture and like, specialness, that it's hard to replace. And is that the... Maybe, I don't know, because I know that a lot of people like to work in the business, because they're so close to it. Like, it feels like you're in a movie. Like, it genuinely feels like that because we'll sit at lunch and we'll talk about the stories of Jim Schark. Like, we'll go and lift in the gym after work with just random people that have just joined the business. And maybe that would disappear. I don't know. You're right. In terms of the commercials of the business wouldn't change. The brand is so well-run and the vision, the plan is so robust. Like, they'll present brand plans for the next two years to me. And I just sit there nodding. And that's amazing. That's really, that's really amazing. That's like a testament. Again, I know you're going to give the credit, but that's the promised land for all founders, is to build such a team that you're effectively redundant, right? And you've done that. I know that there's going to be a lot of young entrepreneurs watching this. And I know that they typically ask me the same questions. So I want to ask you just a couple of them before we wrap. One of them I get a lot is, you know, there'll be someone listening to this.
Advice for young entrepreneurs (01:27:19)
They've not got any money. They want to start a business. They don't have an idea, but they want to start a business. What would you say to them? They don't have an idea or money. Yeah. But they want to be an entrepreneur. I get this a lot. So the first thing for me would be to find out what you're truly, truly passionate about, because for me, when I started Gymshark, I made two fitness apps beforehand. I made two fitness apps, both failed miserably. I made a little fitness social network failed miserably, a little fitness sort of forum that failed miserably. And then Gymshark was, I wanted to be involved in the industry more than anything. I wanted to be involved in fitness because it changed my life. It was the thing that got me from being a D student to an A student. Literally, that was the thing that changed my life. The discipline. Yeah. The discipline that I learned, the structure, the fact that if I was tied on a Monday, the gym doesn't care. Go in and lift. It doesn't matter. And most importantly, that if January 1, I joined the gym and I left five days a week, every single week, by December 25, whatever, I am better than I was a year ago. Those lessons to me were massive because previously, I didn't really realize that. And I'd do this thing in school where I would be like, I'd try really hard and I'd get a bad grade. And then there'd be another thing that I wouldn't try out and I'd get a really good grade. And it didn't add up to me. So for me, I was in love with the industry and fitness was and is my passion. And that carried me through some of the difficult times because I remember the difference it's made to my life. And it's this inherent passion that drives me every day. So if you've got no ideal money, just lean into that community, whatever it is, it might be boxing, it might be golf, it might be videography, it might be motorcycles or bicycles or whatever, lean into it, because inevitably, there will be an opportunity, especially now because of this new social media world that we live in. There's a massive, there's so much room for people to create brands. So yeah, I would just lean into whatever your passion is. It's so true. Because you can waste a ton of time procrastinating and falling into indecision by trying to guess. And as you said there, I read that Jim Shark was actually like the seventh Apple website you created. So you leaned into the industry, did this process of failure and exploration and stumbled across the winter, right? Yeah, you have to fail. If you're a young entrepreneur, just do not be afraid to fail. Just all names out of boxes, ideas out of boxes aside, the likelihood of an individual starting a business and that one being the one that strikes gold is ridiculously low. What we've got to remember is you could start 30 businesses and you are still more likely to fail than you are succeed. So just honestly, just keep trying and keep trying and don't be afraid to fail. I think that's so, so, so important. And everyone I've met, by the way, from the people that run businesses that are 10 times bigger than Jim Shark to every entrepreneur that I've met, every business person, every successful person in sport, in business, whatever, whether they've started a business or not, every single one of them has failed time and time and time again. And I think then people look at the final product and just assume that they've just, they were either this incredible human who had was born this way or and it is just never, never, ever the case. More often than not, all the most successful people I've ever met are all winging it. They're all literally just working incredibly hard and they're just giving it their best shot. I'm going to ask you one more on this point. I think that was a superb answer as well because it's just incredibly true. I am, the other question I would, I'd get a lot from your entrepreneurs is something like, you know, they're in a job at the moment and they've got an idea. So this is an example where they've got a business idea that they want to pursue, but they're just, you know, they've heard you say that they want to pursue it, but there's something holding them back and they're, you know, I know you get this a lot as well. There's probably most conversations. What do you say to those people? Well, I think if it's your passion, then I think you should jump in. The other thing I would say, and this is, I think this is, this is a dangerous thing. I do see people online go in, quit your job, jump in, go and do something. It's a bit like, personally, I'm saying, I think, no, don't quit your job. It's fine. Like, I, I, I worked a pizza for whatever. I can't remember what the amount was. It was four or five pounds an hour. And Jim Sharp was doing hundreds of thousands in revenue. The utility of having a job whilst running the business is, is huge. One, because you can earn money to survive, so you don't need to remove, but, you know, you don't need to remove money from the business. So two, you can then reinvest all the profits that you can make in that business. If you just quit, and two, by the way, if business number one fails, you've still got your job. You try number two, number three, number four. And I think whatever it is, find your passion. I genuinely don't think it's a good idea just to jump out of your job just on a whim. There are some people, you'll, you'll hear about the one in a million that succeeds and congratulations, more power to you. I'm super happy for those people, but you don't hear about the 99% that ended up quitting their job and it didn't go as well as what they would like. And then they ended up having to go back and find a new job. So use that job as a superpower, a stability, and invest the money you earn from that job in the business and just keep trying, trying, trying. And hard work. Where does that fit? What's the importance of it? Because there's a, there's a narrative I talk about a lot in this podcast that hard work is maybe a little bit the narrative you see online from the hustle porn stuff is a little bit toxic. But would you be sat here without hard work? Oh, definitely not. No. It's, it's that combination of hard work alone is definitely not enough. You have to work hard, but you also have to work smart. There were periods where we were finding out ways to manipulate Google in a way that got Jim chart to the top, which gave us huge revenue for next to no cost, right? That was smart work. But there were days when we would work 12, 14, 16 hours sewing and printing t-shirts every single day. There were days like that now where I just, we just work and work and work to get the job done. So exclusively hard work won't solve your problems. You definitely have to work smart, but I've never met anyone who was genuinely successful that wasn't hard working. We have a new tradition on the Dervis CEO. I've heard about this.
The last guests question (01:33:34)
Oh, you heard? Okay. They told you. Okay. So, um, the previous guest writes a question for the next guest. And this is the first time I've seen the question. I don't know if people believe me when I say that, but um, their question to you is what is the greatest gift that another human has given you? Oh, that's intense. I didn't see that coming. What is the greatest gift that another human has given you? I'd have to, I'd really have to think about that. The first thing that comes to mind would be time because I really, so there's so many people that have given genuine time to me to like teach me, take me under their wing, robin, time to support me emotionally, my parents, time to, you know, teach me and bring me up grandparents, the people that I work with every day. Um, so yeah, it would definitely be something around time. I love that. And it speaks to, I think your understanding of the importance of time as well. Mm hmm. And I think being a CEO, you quickly learn. Oh, yeah. Very quickly. You learn that time is a finite resource. And, um, every second is planned. I'm really careful about how I spent my time, and I want to spend it the most effective and productive way I possibly can, yeah. Well, thank you for giving me your time today because, you know, you're one of the, you're really, you're a real anomaly as I said at the start of this conversation in the UK for so many reasons. I mean, the business you've built isn't anomaly as you've described, like, to have a brand like that, that's reached such scale from the UK, from a, from a guy that was 20 and you're still in your 20s now, right? Um, is just, I mean, there's not another example in the UK, right? It's just, it's staggering. And I think you've done this tremendous service in doing the public speaking training you did and really putting yourself out there, because now everybody gets to see this, this person and also you're one of the most relatable people I've ever met in every way. Um, which means that you're just by doing conversations like this, by putting yourself out there, you're empowering 18 year old Steve Bartlett, sort of the future, you know, Ben Francis to, to that they can too. And when it's relatable and when you're a guy like you are, and when you're so like, I wouldn't say self-deprecating, but more like, when you're so humble, it just feels like, um, whatever position the listener is in on this podcast, they, they have a way out of that potentially unpleasant situation. So thank you so much, because it's a, it's not to have you back on and to, to observe your growth over the years. It's been a super inspiring for me. Thank you very much. Thank you. Quick one. Can you do me a favor if you're listening to this and hit the subscribe button, the follow button, wherever you're listening to this podcast, me and my team use that as an indication of whether the episode is good or not based on how many new followers and subscribers we get. Thank you so much.