Simon Pound, host of The Spinoff podcast Business is Boring, reflects on the highlights and lessons of 100 episodes. Thanks to Callaghan Innovation for their support.
This week marks 100 episodes of Business is Boring. It’s funny as that sounds like a lot but it also feels like we’re only just getting started. Like they say, time flies when you’re doing a business podcast.
But hey, thank you so much for listening and having us along in your day and making it happen. The biggest treat is people telling me they enjoyed something a guest had said and that the podcast is a small part of their week, along for a run with them, or as with this week’s listener/guest, Glen Herud from Happy Cow Milk, in the milking sheds with him first thing in the morning.
The podcast started as a way to get more perspectives on business out there – to make almost a magazine-style format that followed the entrepreneur’s journey to try to show that business is exciting, varied, and more than traditional coverage of numbers, or accountants turning into company directors. A way of spurring more people into adding value to the economy, something Callaghan Innovation love and that’s seen them support and make the podcast possible from the beginning.
Which is how we landed on the name – trying to address that presumption that business is boring. That is not to say there aren’t great stories being told. Magazines like Idealog and writers across all major outlets are telling the stories of the future – to be honest, they are often where I find guests – but to have the luxury of a half hour non-newsy chat is a rarity. In truth, it’s not much of a podcast, more an extended interview. And that’s the great privilege of the role: getting to chat at length to the most interesting people around and have them share honestly about their challenges, successes, fears and hopes. It can get quite personal. In fact if I ran into a guest on the street and asked half the questions I do on any episode they’d probably edge slowly away and look into restraining orders.
And the guests! In a hundred episodes we’ve been lucky enough to have chatted to some of our biggest current names – and I’m confident, biggest future names – in Aotearoa business. We’ve also had a few notable wins that say a lot about the reach of the Spinoff and the calibre of the guests. Most weeks, for most days, it’s the top NZ made business podcast on iTunes. We’ve been picked up by Air New Zealand for their inflight entertainment – it is so exciting to have our stories of high-flying Kiwis literally ‘flying high’. On the content side there are a few things we’ve aimed for and hit as a team. We have a better than 50% female to male split. And we work really hard to try to make sure that the guest list over time looks a lot like our country does, with a mix of ages, geographies and family and cultural backgrounds. There is always more to be done, but if you were to get our guests together in a room we hope it would look a lot like a very smart, interesting version of New Zealand.
The podcast has been great for getting people together, like when we did a live episode with the wonderful Frizzells and an audience. And some of my favourite moments have been the wins for the guests. Whether they be small, like Timely getting a customer, to the big, like WeCompost landing a large contract off the back of a listen. And that is a total goal – to get more good business happening with good people. If you’re a guest or listener reading, please do share any stories back of wins or changes that the podcast has helped make for you.
That spirit of sharing has meant many people have given us true insight into the highs and lows, hard moments and wins of making business happen. Most of the time I try to stay out of it past being very interested in the answers. But I am lucky to have some experience that means I have a small understanding of what many of these people go through. Working now in a venture studio environment at Previously Unavailable, four and a half years at Vend, the advertising and TV reporting and production background, and in the trenches co-founding and running a made in NZ fashion and retail business mean I have had the odd thing to weigh in on. Sometimes, knowing what it’s like to be part of the fastest growing tech company in the country, or to take an idea from idea to execution in a few weeks, or to have creditors chasing you…. that has made me understand business is not boring, and can instead be awesome or terrifying. That’s helped make a few conversations richer, as with my conversation with Mimi Gilmour about growth, or James Crow about supplier relationships and cashflow, or Christopher Yu about brand New Zealand on the world stage.
One of the funny things about the podcast is that every week a couple of white guys will put themselves forward, but to get non ‘white guys’ on – to get women and, especially, diverse women – it can take months of being introduced and building a relationship with these figures. That diversity is a big thing in the feedback I’ve had – that people love the way we talk to well-known names, but also new voices with stories that are just as impressive and interesting. We try, but there is always more we can do to try to get underrepresented groups in business on the podcast – so if you have ideas about people, especially Pasifika, who have interesting stories to share, please do get in touch on Twitter: @simon_pound
And that is what matters most: a great story to share. And wow what a joy it’s been to have so many good chats. We’ve tried to keep them more generally about the journey and challenges of being in business, rather than about business news and financial results, with the hope that a listener could find one interesting, and then cycle back to find the story of a person or industry they wanted to know more about and still have the interviews be relevant.
Here are just a few:
International leaders like Rob Tapert, a producer who brought maybe a billion dollars of industry to the country.
We’ve talked the gender pay and leadership position gap with Cindy Gallop and local leaders too, like Miranda Burdon and Alexia Hilbertidou.
We’ve spent some time exploring diversity, with some of the best proactive advice on making space I’ve heard from Sacha Judd, and looked at social-good innovation with Lisa King and Chris Morrison as local heroes.
We’ve talked a lot about persistence and moving past dairy and housing by adding brand identity. Some of our most popular episodes are ones where we meet the people behind some of our favourite brands, like Pic Picot of Pics, Karen Walker, Murray Crane, Dion Nash of Triumph & Disaster, or Jessie Stanley of I Love Pies.
A favourite is our very first guest, who is still a gold standard for everything we’re interested in: Lillian Grace at Figure.nz who is using data to change how people can interact with their world, and always growing her world on a journey of learning te reo.
We’ve spoken to a person who Tony Robbins turns to for inspiration, the amazing Dr Sam Hazeldine; we’ve looked at mental health and what it takes to support entrepreneurs with Nick Shewring; had people that have been to Y combinator like Dr Alyona Medelyan; and something I really love, people doing fascinating things with Māori kaupapa, like Bailey Mackey with software and storytelling, Jade Temepara with Kākano making gardening a radical activity, Maru Nihoniho making video games with wahine toa, and Michael Moka on unlocking potential. It is all just so cool.
We’ve touched so many industries, but it really does feel like we are just getting started.
And what have I learnt about entrepreneurship and what makes business interesting after 100 episodes? Here’s six quick thoughts.
- Entrepreneurs are intense
If there is one thing that is consistent it’s that on their subject matter, their conviction, their dedication, their follow-through, their goals, their ambition, successful entrepreneurs are intense. I don’t mean overbearing, it doesn’t mean they are over the top, but intense in that it does mean a focussed and burning certainty that doesn’t fade and that outlasts and outperforms anyone else. If a competitor was passionate, they were unstoppably passionate. If you care, they reallllly care. It’s like multi-layer depth; if you stop at 50 ‘no’s’, they didn’t. It goes all the way down for them.
- Persistence matters
It’s the getting back up that counts. It is always the advice, but that is because it is the most true. You don’t want to be keeping on bloody-mindedly with a bad idea, fish ice-cream for example, but holding on is the difference for a lot of winners.
- No-one does it alone
Often we talk to one person, and one person becomes the figurehead of a story, but successful business is about a whole community of people, with mentors, team members, investors and customers all working together to make a dream real. For something that is traditionally seen as a right-wing individualistic kind of thing, great business looks a lot more like communal effort and reward to me.
- It is very hard
The reason businesses fail is that it is hard. While we celebrate entrepreneurship we also need to work to support the personal costs and the effects of stress on mental and physical well-being.
- It’s hard on families
I’m not sure if there are more families and marriages that don’t make it amongst very successful people, but there are a fair few people who have gone through growth journeys where not everyone arrives at the same destination. Look after yourselves out there people, and make sure you know what matters.
- The people that set their own terms for success are the happiest
It is the people that set their own success that are the most content I think. Do you know what your version of success is, and might it be closer than you think?
So, thanks for having us in your day and in your ears, for the lovely feedback and iTunes reviews and suggestions and thank you to The Spinoff – Duncan for the call-up, José, Mad and Alice over the 100 episodes for recording and accommodating early starts for our busy guests, and to Kerryanne, Ashleigh, Simon Day and Mark for keeping the lights on while always supporting the best outcomes for the listener. And again to Callaghan Innovation for being a force for good in business in the country.
Here’s to another 100 great chats, and if people are interested I might break out a few five things I’ve heard from five great people listicles on some of these topics. LMK and do hit me up on Twitter….