Motivation is driven by our desire to move away from what we don’t want to be such as not worrying about money. It propels us to work 40 hours a week in order to succeed. It has the power of giving us the burning desire to be all that we can be.
Mike Greene is one of Gold Circle’s speakers and he talked with Adam Stott about his experiences growing up in poverty and how it motivated him to be a successful millionaire. He also emphasizes the power of resilience and determination to succeed. Mike’s talk is captured and brought to you in this episode of the Business Growth Secrets Podcast.
Mike Greene is a global retail/shopper consultant, an international speaker, a professional mentor, a philanthropist, an endurance adventurer, a passionate charity fundraiser, and a dedicated family man with his wife Julia and their two daughters.
In 2011/12 Mike starred as one of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaires. Mike Greene’s ambition is to help others achieve their goals by sharing his stories and experiences through inspirational public speaking and personal and professional mentoring.
- Growing up in poverty and learning about business
- Overcoming adversity and the power of positive motivation
- Conversation with Royal: motivation, business, and money
- Les Brown’s impact on Mike’s career success
- Building a successful business and learning from mistakes
- Breaking through ceilings and finding opportunities
- How Mike overcomes financial struggles and finding success
- Growing a business and being a good parent
- Mike’s response to criticism thrown at him
- Charitable work and education reforms for underprivileged children
- Importance of focus and discipline for achieving goals
Check out Mike’s book, Failure Breeds Success, on Amazon
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Please note this is a verbatim transcription from the original audio and therefore may include some minor grammatical errors.
Hey everybody, Adam Stott here. Thanks for checking out my podcast, Business Growth Secrets. You’re absolutely in the right place. This podcast is going to reveal to you all of the secrets that you’ve been looking to discover. They’re going to allow you to cure your cashflow problems, attain more clients, bring in more leads for your business, and create systems and processes that give you the growth that you want. You are going to discover the business growth secrets you have been looking for that I’ve used to sell over 50 million pounds worth of products and services on social media and help clients everywhere to grow their businesses on demand. So let’s get started on the Business Growth Secrets podcast. Look, we’ve got a fantastic, fantastic guy coming up today. You know, someone that I’ve met a few times many, many years ago. I watched him on the program Secret Millionaire where he went in and he’s going to tell you about that, about becoming, going on the TV show Secret Millionaire. He’s written an amazing book called Failure Breeds Success. I’ve got three of these to give away. So those of you that are the most engaged will get one of those, or whoever gives the best question at the end will get one of those. You know, Mike, Mike Greene’s gonna be our next guest. Mike has had some massive successes in business. He’s written this book, Failure Breeds Success. He’s had ups and downs. He’s gonna come and share all about that. You know, he was somebody that went out and bought 238 Morrison stores and did a turnaround on those and led that. He’s somebody that has built, very recently, hundreds and hundreds of houses in the property markets. He’s been very successful in property. He’s had some great growth in business. And he has not started in a place where he’s had a silver spoon put in his mouth. In his own words, he started in a place of abject poverty. It was his own words where he had a big struggle coming into life. And he really believes in the power of self-belief and confidence. And he’s going to come and share with you some great tools, some techniques. We’re going to hear about a bit of his story to really inspire you all to new heights. You know, thank you for coming, Mike. Really, really excited about this interview. because I know that you’ve had quite a career, very expansive career, and really want to get into the depths of that. We had a really good chat and you talked about, you know, where you started from. So I’d like to go all the way back before you’ve built businesses, bought businesses, sold businesses, built houses, done all this cool stuff you’ve done and take you all the way back to where did you start from, you know, what was it like for you from the beginning in terms of growing up? Learning about business and going on this journey.
Yeah, the poverty thing. It’s interesting when you’re in poverty, you don’t realize you’re in poverty ’cause that’s your normal. People look back and say, oh, you were really brought up rough. And you know, I remember being in a caravan and anyone ever spent time in a caravan? And the bunk bed? So I’ve got two brothers and two sisters with me at the time and would be top and tail in those little tiny bunk beds that were only about this wide anyway. You know, I loved that time. It taught me a lot. And then, we were so excited when my mum got a house. And to me, there was nothing wrong with the fact that I shared a bed with two brothers. And people say, do you mean a bedroom? I say, no, I shared a bed with two brothers till I was 11. And then I shared a bedroom until I left home. In fact, I’ve never had my own bed because I left home to live with my wife, who we’ve been together 35 years this year. So, she’s another great person. But I look back and I went to school primarily because that was where I’d get a cooked meal. And it was a tough environment but I got awarded an honorary doctor of education for stuff I’ve done with schools and universities. And I wanted to do that because my school was once called a demonized depository for social waste. And Harpreet was talking about these labels. And I remember when I got awarded the honorary doctorate, I met this woman who, the lady who said it, believe it or not, was head of curriculum for Cambridge University, and she should know better. And I told her that in no uncertain terms. But, you know, the labels, I remember Les, Les Brown talking in Live Your Dreams about when he was younger, he was given a label in America and it was a legal label at the time. That was, Oh, what was it called it? Slight brain fog here. He was educationally illiterate, something like that. And a teacher came in, a supply teacher, and asked a question. And he said, I’m sorry miss, I’m educationally illiterate. And she threw the board rubber at him and said, never, ever, ever accept someone else’s label of you. In fact, don’t even accept your own label because often you’re harder on yourself than you need to be. Only ever accept stuff that is positive or is an indication of where you can be. And so, you know, I said this to this lady, but that label thing, that wanting to do better, be better, made me, I knew that we were poor, you know, we had Wellington boots because that covered all weather, which is okay, but it’s a bit embarrassing in the summer when you’re going to school in Wellington boots and so on. And but we had a mother, I had a mother who loved us. And you know, if you can give your kids that, then that’s a hell of a start. And my motivation, we were talking about motivation and it’s a cliche, but I’m sure you’ve heard it, but it’s worth hearing some things again and again and again. And if you break the word motivation down, it’s what’s your motive for action. Motivation. What’s your motive for action? And I want to tell you, I tell a lot of people this. People are saying things like, give me some positive motivation, Mike. I just need some motivation. I’ll be okay once I’m motivated. I believe, and I truly believe this, and I’m a behavioral profiler as well now, but motivation is at least 70% negative. We are more driven by what we don’t want or by moving away from where we don’t want to be than we are sometimes pulled. So if you think your motivation is to own a Ferrari or whatever it is, when you have a really tough week, tough month, tough year, you’ll end up telling yourself, I don’t really need a Ferrari, you know, Skoda’s fine really, isn’t it? It gets you from A to B. But if you do something like I did, I want to buy my mum a house. I want her to never worry about money again. One, I can be more motivated for someone else than I can for myself. And two, I wanted to always not be in a position where I couldn’t give my kids what they needed. I didn’t want to spoil them, but one of my daughters had scoliosis and I remember the saying she was 16 and they said she needs this operation. She needs it soon. And it was right just before GCSEs. I remember saying to her, Rosie, you can have it now or we can wait a few months, but it’s a point where it was pressing on her lungs and organs. And she said, I’ll do it now, Dad. I said, yeah, but you’re going to be on your back for many months, probably. And she said, I can practice, I can study, I can do my revision while I’m lying down. I thought, yeah, that’s my girl kind of thing, but it was really nice to be able to say, who’s the best doctor within a couple of hours of us? It was a guy at the Royal Nuffield. How much does it cost? 52 grand. I paid it within an hour and she had it the following Tuesday to be able to do that. So when you think motivation is all about positive, think about what if your mum, your neighbor, your daughter, your son, somebody close to you needed that. Wouldn’t it be great to have the money in the bank to say, not a problem and write that check? And so, you know, if you think I need motivation, have a word with yourself, you know. Because we’ve all got people we would do that for. And that’s what life is really about. You know, it’s finding that burning desire that is either going to push you or pull you to be all that you can be. And once you make a decision, it’s real quick. Really quick. You can go from where you are to a million pounds easily within a year. Anybody can and I mean anybody.
Which is pretty awesome stuff, right? You know, some great, great advice there. So, after we’ve been through this process of, you know, growing up in that environment, when did you first get into? What was your first foray into business? What’s one of the first things that you’d done or what was your first experiences in that way?
Building skills as well…
It probably wasn’t business. It was probably work and money. So even as you know, at seven or eight, I’d help my brother on his paper round. Then I got my own paper round. Then I got an evening paper round. Then we helped the milkman after we’d done our paper round. And then we went potato picking and car washing. And I found the harder I worked, the more money I earned. And then I was a paper boy in the, I talk about it on Secret Millionaire actually, a guy called Les Brown, who sadly died last year. But he was a really hard ex-military guy, but he was the manager of the newsagent. And one day he said to me, son, go and get a shirt and tie. I said, why do I need a shirt and tie? He said because I want you to work on Saturdays. I said, what, me? And he was just offering me the chance to work on the tills. But it was the first male role model I’d had that said, he said, yeah, I think you’ll be good. I thought, he believes in me. And if he believed in me, then he’s a manager. I must believe in me. And then I got into retail and I got, I went from being a Saturday lad to a training manager, to an assistant manager, to a regional manager, to opening 300 stores in a year for a company called Circle K. But then I realized I was still trading time for money. It was a one-to-one ratio. So if I really wanted to earn big money and earn, you know, beyond my wealth or needs ever, I needed to get into business. And so then I gave up a career and I went into a pizza franchise, which I lost actually. And my wife and I, when I was 27, became homeless, bankrupt. We lost my house and we delivered pizzas for a few years on the back of mopeds. And God knows why she stayed with me because only a few months. Yeah. Only a few months before I talked her out of a really good job to come and work with me in this thing, you know. And I remember once trying to teach her how to drive the mopeds. And I said, you know, you get on it and just do this and then you release the clutch. She went straight through a plate glass window of the shop next door. And I said, God, I’ve killed her. And she got up and dusted herself down kind of thing. But, you know, when you find someone who’s the right person, work at it, work at it, work at it. And the journey, however tough it is, whether you lose everything, if you’ve got the person you want to be with, it doesn’t matter. And so we’ve had this rocky ride of loads of money and lost the money and got tight. And, I mean, touch wood, luckily for the last decade or more, we’ve never had to worry about money, you know. And I don’t know where everyone is, but the little sayings have been a go to the best restaurants and choose from left to right rather than choosing from the price. Or going shopping with your kids or your wife or yourself and thinking, I like that without having to look at the price label to decide if you’d like that, you know. Those small things make a massive difference to your self-esteem and bit by bit you build this kind of protection around you that no one can break through. Once you realize from little wins, you get bigger wins, you know. And I love the saying that big shots are just little shots that keep shooting.
That’s so true. That’s so true. So, the pizza franchise, so you had this pizza thing, it went wrong, what happened next?
Well, it didn’t go wrong, well, it did go wrong. But, and this was a great lesson for me, now, everything that happens is a lesson, okay? We did really well very quickly, and we pushed the turnover massively. And the guy who was running that particular franchise said, Oh, Mike, you know, you should open a second store. We’ve got this opportunity to take a site. We were up in Manchester, he said, we’ve got to take a site in Chorley, and then a site in Blackpool. I said to him, John, I haven’t got the cash flow for it. And he said, don’t worry, we’ll support you. We’ll give you a rent-free period. I said, oh, I don’t know, you know, money’s tight. He said, don’t worry, don’t worry, we’ll look after you. And then things got tight for him. And one of the things you’ll realize is, you are not someone else’s priority. The only person whose priority you are is you. And if you are beholden to someone else, they can pull that rug at any time. And so, he called in that rent, and he called in that money, and that took the business under. And that’s why, you know, I’ve said ever since, the various businesses I’ve been involved in and I’ve invested in dozens. At any point in time, I have about 30 board roles and I have nonexecs or businesses that I mentor. So I’m very close to those businesses. And I say the person who most annoys me in all those businesses is the FD. But the person who’s, the most important person in every business is the FD. Because the numbers never lie and cash will kill you if you haven’t got it. So, you know, don’t let the numbers kill you, and learn that shit, learn it you know. Get someone who really knows that shit. And, you know, don’t, one of my great mentors, he said, Mike, he said, do you know the Ten Commandments? I said, well, I get the gist of it, but I don’t know them, you know, all off by heart. He said, well, they’re all about personal behavior and personal ways of being. He said, but there should be one for business, the Eleventh Commandment. He said, and if there was, it’d be thou shalt not kid thyself. And, uh, sometimes when it comes to money, we kid ourselves. You know, we can achieve anything, but you need a plan, you need written goals. You need to know who you need along that journey, what skills you’ve got to acquire, or what people can bring those skills if you can’t. You need to put that into a plan, and then you need to work as hard as you can possibly work until that plan is delivered. Thou shalt not kid thyself.
Yeah, and those numbers get you real, right? Which is absolutely.
They do and actually, once you kind of burst through whatever ceiling you’ve set, it is just a number. I mean, that’s the thing. We tend to think I’m a 30 grand a year person, a 50 grand a year person, a 100 grand a year person. The only person setting that level is you or the people that you’re working for that you’re allowed to tell you that’s your level. Once you break through that, you start to see a big open sky of growth that you could push for.
Amazing. So, on your journey, we did the pizza stuff. What happened next, Mike? I’m really interested to know.
Yeah, so, we drove back from Manchester. We had a minivan and it was so knackered that you could see, there was a hole in the floor, you could see the road passing below you as you were driving. And we had everything we owned, which wasn’t a lot, in the back of this van. I went to my mum’s and I said, Mum, can we stay for you a little bit? She said, yeah, but I haven’t got much space now, Mickey, kind of thing. And so I rang a mate and I told him how terrible it was. He was my best man, our best man at my wedding, still my best mate today. And he said, look, he had a pizza place still. He said you can come and work with us. And that’s where the pizza deliveries come from after that. And he said you come work with us. He said, you can live with us for one month. But with your first month’s salary, you’re going to use that to put a deposit on a rental place and then you’re on your own because I love you, but not that much, kind of thing. And what happened was we were delivering pizza. So it was kind of lunchtime through to evening. And we were working as hard as we can to try and get some money together. And dealing with the psychology of it, really, because it affected my wife more than me but she was often doing the, which of these bills are we gonna pay, you know. And are we eating potatoes again? You know, all that stuff, it affected her greatly. I had this kind of, yeah, it’s just money, I’ve lived without, I can go without, you know, all my life I’ve gone without, I can do that. But I saw that and I thought that was unfair for me to rope her into that. So, we worked together and we were in it together and we didn’t have the internet then, but we had the library and I started going down the library in the mornings when we weren’t working and then I’d see a book by Richard Branson or Les Brown or people like this and I’d realize they all failed. They’d all had failure and that’s why I insisted the book was called Failure Breeds Success, but you know, they’d failed but gone through it. And I thought, so I have failed, but I’m not a failure. That’s just an event on my journey. It isn’t my destination. And actually, when I was talking to Adam about one of my mentors, and he would make me climb mountains, cross oceans, walk on burning coals, different things, I thought was crazy, but he wouldn’t mentor me unless I did what he said. In fact, he would say, I’d say, Stuart, business is going like crazy, I haven’t got time to do that. And he said, okay, stay broke then. Oh, Stuart, don’t be like that. He said you think you know everything, Mike. He said, if I was teaching you to cross a raging river, he said and I gave you all the skills you needed everything you needed to go to get to know to get from this side to that side and you only followed me 90%, what would happen? I said I suppose I’d drown. He said but every time I tell you to do something you do 90% and then you think it’s okay because you’ve done most of what I asked you. When you fail, you’re going to blame me. But if you’re not going to take my advice and do everything, stay broke. And so I’d learned from him and he would make me do some of these things and like climbing the mountains, crossing the oceans and things like that. And along the way, what I realized was, everything I’ve ever been good at, everything we’ve, anyone’s ever been good at, if I can be blunt, they were shit at to start with. When you learn to walk and you saw your parents walking, and your older siblings walking you kind of wanted to walk. The desire was so big and you got up, fell down, got up, fell down, got up, fell down, got up, fell down. You didn’t think sod this, I’m clearly not meant to walk. I’m gonna stay on my ass and shuffle along. You all got to walk in because your desire was big enough to keep on keeping on. And then maybe riding a bike you fell off, you fell off, you fell off. So I took this language with my girls. I’d say I need to teach you to fall off so you can learn to ride. And it was just a change of words, a change of psychology, a change of focus, so that when they did fall off, I didn’t want them to fall off, but they then just knew, oh, that was the first step of learning to ride the bike, if you like. And yet, sometimes we become adult and we forget that if we think we were ever good at, we were bad at to start with. And it was the keeping on keeping on, the learning new skills, the watching other people that can do it. And then trying again, trying again, you can do anything if you want to and are willing to put the work in and get other people around you to help you on that journey. Yeah.
What happened before we, you know, on the journey next, what business did you move into?
Yeah. So I worked with, my mate ended up, he said a couple of months, it was a couple of years and I kind of rebuilt my self-esteem if you like. We kind of got stronger and we were doing sort of side hustles and things that people talk about. We, there was a guy who used to buy and sell auction lots and we’d take all the crap and then car boot it and take 50/50. So we started to do this and then I decided to get back into corporate as a way to get more training to take me to a different level. So I applied to this American consultancy called Strasburger who were convenience consultants because I’d done the Saturday lad, the paper boy sort of thing. And we became advisors to Shell in the UK. And I was good at that because I was willing to work hard. I liked retail. I liked learning how to sell more stuff and the psychology behind selling. So along the way I’d read a lot of books and then I got to a point where I became a store opener and then I had a team of store openers. We opened all these shops and so on. Everything I got into I tried to reach and widen the network. So it’s like, I don’t just want to run this. I want to speak to other people that are doing this and learn. What did you do? How’d you do this? What, I’m having trouble with this. You have trouble. And actually, we’re scared to ask competitors often, but they’re more than happy to chat often. And you know, might at first think that you’re, you’re, you’re going against it. Anyway, I joined something called the Association of Convenience Stores. I became the youngest-ever chairman in a hundred-year history, because they were born out of the British Independent Grocers Association. I was the only person in their history to ever be chairman twice, and I was on the board for 20 years, representing 33 and a half thousand small stores in the UK. And then I got connected to the same in America, Australia, New Zealand, and I started to learn a lot because I was talking to retailers all the time. Why do you do that? That’s great. And what Strasburger taught me as a consultancy was really interesting. They grew up, it was a Strasburger family, in the Midwest, literally cowboy towns. And they had bars, and proper old cowboy bars that you go in, you know, kick your heels and order some grog or whatever. But prohibition came in, and with prohibition they couldn’t sell any alcohol. So a lot of their bars started to become retail outlets. You know, they would be letting the fruit and veg person sell, and the butcher sell, and they were trading. And that was the first growth of small stores in America. Tommy Strasburger was just inspired me massively and what he said is, but you can have a consultancy with no knowledge. And I thought, cause he was already a multimillionaire, how can you do that? He said, well if you go in this shop and you start talking to somebody, he said, and you say, this is a great shop. You know, I love the way you’ve done that. What made you do that? And then they’ll teach you something and say, Oh, and you know, what’s the best thing you’ve ever done to grow yourselves? And they’ll tell you something. And people love talking about their success. He said, when you go to the second shop, you’ve got a few tips you could give them, but you ask them and they give you a few more tips. He said, by the time you’ve been in 20 shops, you’ll know more than any individual retailer does about retailing. And I went into thousands of shops. And so I was head of shops marketing for Conoco in the UK, which was Jet Petrol Stations. And first year I went there, we grew the whole business. We had 600 independently owned stores and 200 managed stores, and I grew their retail business by 39%. And it’s like 3% is good, 4% is good. It was transformational just by learning some of that stuff and sharing it on. And then one of the consultants I got in because however good you get, you’re still learning. I was at the back scribbling, making notes, listening to her, our pre because every day is a school day. You know, I always am looking to, oh, that’s a good idea, I love that quote, I like that concept, that’s a good way of framing that behavior. And so, I then got a consultant in called Jeff Harris, who was based in London, a retail consultant. And he’s quite a quirky character, but he’d come in and he’d do research and ask shoppers, and he’d say, Mike, last year, 17% of your shoppers did this, and this year, it’s 19%. I said, yeah, so what does that mean? Is that good? Is that bad? And I said, it’d go through all these stats and I’d say, Jeff, I don’t want the numbers. I want to know what that means. How can I use that to grow the business? And he said, stop moaning at me, come and work for me instead. And I said, I’m only going to come work for you if I can buy the business because I don’t really want to work for you. I don’t know why he let me buy it. Anyway, but, and then I met the guy who was his number two, Tom Fender is my business partner in that business, and we bought that business off him. Now, he’d been 37 years in that business, and he had a good living. You know, he had a Porsche and different things. He had a good living. Tom and I grew at 18, 000%, and grew it into America, Australia, New Zealand, 18 European countries. And then I sold it to William Reed, who owned the biggest print magazine for the trade in 2012. And I thought I’d never work again. I didn’t need to but I remember my brother in law and sadly he was an ex squaddie and straight talking, I’ve been in Australia for a couple of weeks and I got home and it was a family thing and he said In his proper squaddie style, you’re a shit dad, you know, Mike. So I said, fuck you, Don. You know, what do you mean? He said, well, you’re never here. And I said I was kind of, I learn now to find the space between stimulus and response before I answer. But and I said, fuck you, Don. I said, you’re here all the time. You only work 40 hours a week. But you know what? You come home, open a four-pack, sit on the sofa, watch Sky Sports, and ignore your kids. When I am home, I’m 100% home. There is not a second of that time I’m not with my wife, with my daughters. Only there for them, kind of thing. But it did make me think. And after I’d sold the business, you know, you look back and I pondered a little bit and you know how you, someone says something and you think if I could have that conversation again, this is how I’d respond better. And my response, if I’d had it again, would be, if you say I’m a shit dad or what would you, what’s more important to you, family or business, which was essentially what you were saying to me, I would say family. That’s why we’re doing it. But if I had the time again, what I’d say is that question is like asking me, what arm do I want to cut off? And I’d choose my left arm because I’m right-handed, okay? But why would I want to cut an arm off? And I said again, and I’ve used it since, I need both arms to be the whole me. And actually, I think I’m a better dad by teaching them work ethic, teaching them how to keep motivated, to goal set, to learn, to grow. And so I don’t want to cut any arm off. I’m a whole person by doing business, entrepreneurialism, being there for my wife and kids, my community. I’m Chairman for the Chamber of Commerce, which is a voluntary role in my area to help grow business. I’m personally raising a million pound for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. After Secret Millionaire, I raised a hundred thousand for a hundred charities in a hundred days. So to me, it’s kind of personal, family, community, country. And it goes like that, but it is a hierarchy of things that I want to do to be whole. And on the bottom of my book, I shamelessly stole a Stephen Covey strapline, which was to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy. That’s his vision. He said, I want to live, I want to really live. I want to go out and see the world. I want to experience stuff. If people are jumping off cliffs into the ocean, I want to try that stuff. And he said I want to really live. He said, I want to love. I want to walk into a room and assume everyone in that room is amazing and gorgeous, and wonderful. As opposed to what we often do is walk in and think, she looks miserable, he looks like so and so, you know. And we judge people negatively. I want to love them until they prove to me why I shouldn’t love them. So to live, to love, to learn. Covey learned ten languages in ten years. Couldn’t read and write them, but he could speak them fluently. And he said, but they’re all things that you do in your lifetime. He said the real measure is what’s going to happen in ten years, fifty years, a hundred years. And so to me, if in a hundred years, and somebody had built this big family, wealth, ongoing generational wealth, and a friend said to them, where did your family get all this from? If they could turn around and say, well, I don’t know, but my great, great granddad met this guy called Mike Greene who helped him and gave him some tips and he went out and built his own business. You know, that to me is legacy and that to me drives me every single day. So don’t just set goals for what you can achieve this year, three years, five years. Set goals that are going to be a hundred years beyond you because that will make you learn more. That will drive you at a different level to be more and set the things in place that will carry on long after you’re gone. And I knew at that point when this sort of started to come together, I will work till the day I die but I do prioritize family when I’m setting my diary first.
So I think we should mention The Secret Millionaire. Great show. Great, great show. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what that experience was like? Tell us what happened and, you know, how that came about? Why you decided to do it? A lot of people get opportunities to do things. Don’t take the opportunities, right? How did that impact your life, going and doing that show, and just tell us all about it.
Yeah, I mean, it’s the worst-kept secret, isn’t it, really? But, I’d never seen the program, didn’t know about it. I was building all our international business. Tom was mostly UK, and he was great, a master of sales and marketing. I was abroad, and I got a call from RDF Television or whoever made the show and so your friend Jonathan James has recommended you for this and I said, well, okay, tell me about it. I went on to Catch-Up Tele, whatever it was. And I watched a program and oh, that’s really interesting. I came from poverty, as poverty as I said and had nothing. And so I liked the concept of helping charities, communities, and so on. I was also already a behavioral profiler. I’d done Bellin, Myers-Briggs, Cambridge Myers, Thomas International, and was certified at Profiler for Thomas International. So I thought, it’d be really interesting to see how I deal with that, because what happens is a bit like The Apprentice, they take your phone off of you. It’s only a couple of weeks, but you have to live on 68 pounds a week, and you can’t ring your family and so on, unless they give you the phone and you’ve got two minutes or what have you. And I remember the first day, actually, I got into this flat and thought, oh, I’ll go and get something to eat. And on the way, there was this lovely little Greek cafe in Peterborough. I was the only person they let do it in their own town because I wasn’t there hardly ever, so no one knew me anyway. So, because I was always abroad. But, so I went in, I had a coffee and bought The Times. I was sitting there reading it and I thought shit, I’ve just spent a whole day’s money. I haven’t had any food yet, kind of thing. But it reconnected me to what it was like when I had no money. So I really got into the program, understand it. What some people are living like and what they do is they choose the worst possible house they can find so, you know they ring around the estate agents. You’ve got a really crappy rental place kind of thing and I mean this place still had hairs in the bath. And every time I had a shower which was in the bar because then whatsit in the bar every time I shower the kitchen ceiling would pour with water below. It was horrible. And there was mold in this saucepan on the cooker. So there’s a bit in the program where I’m literally and I think I’ve got a tough constitution, but I was sort of throwing up. But it did reconnect me. And what I realized was at that point that I decided to sell all my businesses because I realized that I did want to be there more. My oldest daughter was 12 at the time, and my best man had sold all his businesses when he was, his daughter was 13. And it’s a really interesting age, I think, for any kid, but certainly girls with fathers. And he said, well, he said, I was dry. I said, why are you so little? You’re not that kind of guy, Ray. Why would you sell? And he said, well, he said, I try to have these conversations with her, he says, and I say, how’s everything going? Fine. What did you do at school today? Nothing. What’s the matter with you? Stop picking on me, Dad kind of thing. It’s like, I realized it was because I had such snippets of time that I was interrogating her in my minute that I was going to allow. I wasn’t there on her time. I wasn’t there on her terms. I wasn’t really listening for a proper answer. And he decided to sell the business and he said, within months, he said, I’ll drive him out of school because I had time to do it. So I drive him to school and she’d say something like, Oh, Sally’s a real cow. And I think, Oh, really? Why is that then? Partly because I was driving to school, he said I’m focused on the road he said and she’d say she’d be going through it and we get to school he said I hadn’t said a word and she’d kiss me on the cheek, and say thanks dad, that was a great chat. And he said sometimes you just need to listen. Sometimes you just need to be there. And that made me think Rosie’s 13 in January and I sold my business on the 12th of December just before she was 13. And it just changed. Eventually, I got to this balance that says I want to do business, but I’m going to be around in the holidays. I want to do business, but I’m going to be there when they need me. And this work-life balance thing is not a real thing because it’s better to be there a thousand percent when they need you than to be there all the time and ignore them. So, you know, thinking because you’re there, you’re there, is a misnomer. So, yeah, my whole journey has been this kind of learning. I am hungry to learn. Which, really, from the schools I went to, you know, a teacher once called me when I was about 14, threw the rubber at me a bit like Les Brown, but not for any more inspirational reasons. Oh, well, it was inspirational, really. But she said, Greene, you’re a waste of skin. And, so, oh, you know. But, you go, and it’s dangerous really if you haven’t got the motivation to get beyond those things. But, you go back and you think about it, and that sort of statement stays with you, and it sticks. It’s like they’ve thrown some negative shit at you. It sticks, and you’ve got to kind of wash it off, and you’ve got to re-coat with positive and so on. But, actually, that was a negative motivation that made me want to prove her wrong. That, combined with wanting to give my mum a life she would never have herself and then looking after my family, and stuff drove me on.
Brilliant. And it certainly does, doesn’t it? You remember those moments, I’m sure. Many people in the audience will remember those moments as you’re talking about it. When you was on the show, what did you do, what was the outcome? What were the people like you met? How did they inspire you? Did that have an impact on you to want to sell your businesses? Did it get you to see things differently?
No, I was, well, it was exactly what made me want to sell. But what I realized was that there are, that no one’s bad. I mean, we hear about evil and how terrible people are, but often they are a product of their upbringing, of their environment. And, you know, I love the saying that if you’ve got a plant that’s not growing, you don’t blame the bulb or the seed. You look at the environment scene. Is it getting enough light? Has it got enough water? Is the soil got enough nutrition? We change the environment. We don’t change the bulb. So I tend to look at people and think everyone has the potential to be great, to be good if you can help them through that. So, helping charities was important. As I said, it was the only time they’d let someone do it locally to themselves. No one knew me, so I could be pretty much undercover. And because I said I would only do it if it was close enough for me to keep in touch with the charities because I thought I knew myself. I couldn’t be a part of their world for a week or two. So, there was a couple of charities. One was New Ark. It was an adventure playground for underprivileged children. And often, they’d come home from school and it gave them a little, back from school straight to the adventure playground. And we often looked after them till about 5 or 6 o’clock. And this gave them a chance to just play and just be kids. And their parents could work because they didn’t have to be there to pick them up at 3, 3:30, and so on, and gave them a slice of toast and some jam. For some of them, that was the only food they were going to get that evening, you know? And so as little things were helping them, that was a great charity. Another one that didn’t make the cut was a boxing charity. And I love boxing for the discipline, the respect, you know, you can’t, you see people like Tyson Fury and you see the kind of aggression, but you 14, they would have been measured on whether they shook hands, whether they bumped gloves, their whole approach to it. They’re taught discipline. And, you know, if they’re going to be a good boxer, they can’t do drink and drugs, because you cannot get that level of physicality if you’re doing that to your body. So they start to honor. And then, you know, mums and dads would come in and say, I don’t know what you guys have done to him, but he said, thank you. Or I said, it’s time for dinner. Okay. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. And you can change people with some of these charities. So, there was that one. And then there was TimeStop, which was a 16 to 25 homeless shelter, I guess. And the sad thing in there was I realized that a lot of kids between 16 and 25 who are homeless, it’s nearly always because mom or dad has got a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and either they clash with them, or sometimes it’s as straight as mom or dad saying, this is my time now. You can join, you can get on the dole now. off you go. And you know, I remember one guy, Dan, I was working with him and he said, you know, he said, I thought it was great. I’ve got my doll money. He said, I had to drink and I had a good life. He said, but I’d spent it all in a day and a half. Then I had nothing. He said, then I got cold, then I got wet. And then I thought there’s a brick there. The next person that comes down this path, I’m going to hit him over the head. Cause even if I get arrested, I’ll get food and shelter. And this is Maslow’s hierarchy of when it comes back to that you’ll do anything to get that. But if you can give them a new alternative and teach them how to get a job or give them that self-belief or tell them that they can learn, they can’t forget school. Often, and I say this as someone who, education is really important, as I say, I got an honorary doctorate in education. So, I have to be careful how I choose my words. But I don’t believe anyone fails at school. A lot of people are failed by school. So if you’re on any spectrum, if you got dyspraxia, dyslexia or ADHD, so I deal with a lot of people in the trade sector, and a lot of them have ADHD. Now, why did they go into trade? Probably because they thought they weren’t academically clever, but it was because, and if anyone’s in here with ADHD, you’re probably already thinking, how long is he going to talk for? Kind of thing. Twenty minutes and your concentration’s gone. But the education system wants you to sit there for an hour. And if you suddenly get double maths, my God, just kill me now, you know. And I saw something recently that said, look at transport, how it’s changed over the centuries from, you know, walking to horse and cart, to early sort of steam or diesel vehicles and so on, through to electric cars. Look at communication from speaking to writing letters to posting those letters to the early telephones to the mobile phones and even watches. They’ve changed dramatically. 200 years ago you were sat at a desk learning a lesson. Today, you are sat at a desk learning a lesson. And so part of what we do with trade is say okay, and I’ve heard you say it earlier, you know, stop working on the tools or working on just this skill, start working on the business, then grow that business and so on. You know, it’s about saying to people you didn’t fail at school, but that wasn’t the right educational environment for you. You can learn stuff, and if you learn this and this and this, you can grow. So in a business sense, if you learn about finance and marketing and sales and managing people, how to attract, train, motivate, and retain the best people, you could build anything. You know, I don’t care if you’re 20, 30, 50, 60. You know, Kentucky Fried Chicken wasn’t started until Colonel Sanders was 65 years old. And the story is that it was his first pension check that made him realize, have I worked all my life for that? And then he worked into his 80s and built a multi-billion pound global business. So you’re never too old but you have got to learn some new shit because you are today, you are today where you are based on your learning and attitude and behavior. A hundred percent, today.
Look, I think that’s been amazing. Should we give Mike a huge round of applause?