AGP Ep 24: Simon Goodrich—The power of innovation, productivity, and purpose. How to win at leadership and business
Simon Goodrich is the co-founder and Managing Director of Portable a digital service design and development company based in Melbourne. Simon’s had a string of entrepreneurial successes and talks about his journey in leadership, business and why having a higher purpose is so incredibly valuable.
What did you think?
Spread the love!
If you enjoyed the episode, you can help us by doing one or more of the following...
Subscribe via email
Give us feedback
Thank you for your honesty. How can we improve?
- Purpose in business
- Take #100in100 Challenge—100 posts over 100 days while raising money for a great cause
- Please subscribe, comment, share and review the episodes, it will make a big difference to our ability to continue with these. Thank you!
- Music by David Cutter
Andrew Ramsden: G’day Simon. Welcome to the show.
Simon Goodrich: Thanks for having me, Andrew. Looking forward to being involved.
Andrew Ramsden: Well, Simon, you’re the co-founder and managing director of Portable, a national, digital and service design and development firm based in Melbourne, which you started back in 2005 but I notice it’s had a really varied history starting as a film festival I think and morphing into the fashion industry and [00:05:00] also then finally into digital service delivery with a real focus in government, which seems an incredible journey to me. I know you were in New York for a while and Sydney. Tell us a bit about the Portable journey. How did that come about?
Simon Goodrich: Sure, so Portable started as you said, yeah, 2005 when I was working with Andrew Apostola, who’s still my business partner and other co-founder, and we’ve done a lot of work actually meeting in community radio in Melbourne, literally [00:05:30] around the turn of the century. We always were interested in I guess pushing the needle, trying to think about what interesting business we could do together. So we set up a consultancy around what we were doing. Originally called Make It Happen, which is, I think as an analogy, very much the analogy that we still live by.
We were involved with getting young people into community radio. We were involved with setting up SYN FM, which at the time was a temporary community broadcaster and we went for a full time licence [00:06:00] and was successful. Now it’s the largest media organisation for young people in Australia and potentially even the whole world, and something that we’re very proud of our involvement in that [inaudible 00:06:10] and we enjoyed … It was the first time that we actually were professionally together.
Fast forwarding a few years, we’d run a few initiatives in the not-for-profit sector of trying to take that SYN model to other parts of the country. We had a project that we ran with the Dusseldorp Skills Forum in Tasmania, and then at the bookend of that Andrew [00:06:30] ventured off to San Francisco, this is towards the end of 2005, and we were thinking, “Well what are we going to do next?” It was November and he happened to be in the city and I think he was there for the launch of the video iPod, so I’m talking like pre-iPhone. The video iPod. He gave me a call and said, “Hey, this is this amazing thing. I think we should really do something in this space.” It’s like, “Well, what about film?” “Yeah, let’s do something in film.”
So we sat on it. [00:07:00] He called me back the next day and I said, “Why don’t we do a portable film festival?” He’s like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” So that’s basically the genesis of the business. It was a really wild ride. We quit our jobs, he was in Burma at the time. We got down after that. We went down and basically doubled down and focusing on that over that summer, and then by the March of 2006 we’d got up the concept, got it live, and then we found ourselves on the front page of the City Morning Herald in the business papers. This [00:07:30] was pre social media, talking about this film festival.
I was like, wow, here we are, literally at our house talking about this concept. That lead to a flurry of, I guess a whole range of people interested in what film meant, what it meant online, like the intent of this Portable film festival is that you could watch it anytime and anywhere.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, wow, which was groundbreaking at the time right?
Simon Goodrich: Yeah, it was. We’re talking within months of YouTube coming out. It gave us a really good taste of [00:08:00] the space and innovation. We ran that festival in September of that year. I think we had over 180 applications from 40 odd countries. We did events around Australia, had partnerships with unWired, which at the time was a wireless provider, this was pre the proliferation of mobile data and MySpace. Triply J and us. So I guess 11 years on it’s just us and Triple J left. Which is [00:08:30] nice.
It’s funny, I was looking back at some old photos. We actually rigged up an old ice cream truck and rode around the streets of Adelaide in Melbourne as part of that promotion. So we had a great time with it and it started, we built up the business around it, got sponsorships, and built a website, and basically from that day people were saying, “We really like what you are doing there, could you do that for us?” Because we’d come from the not-for-profit sector with keeping in touch with people, and we got a contract within a few months of that, a three year contract [00:09:00] looking into the effects of social media in young people with VicHealth, which is an internationally leading health promotion agency based here in Victoria.
So that really got us started on that journey. Then we’re talking here 11 years ago. We kept working with that, we ended up in that year opening up an arm in Singapore, we got some support from the media development authority, which is a government media org. That was a lot of fun. We continued to run that festival [00:09:30] for another four years and then we established that into its own portal called portable.tv.
So through that time we did a lot of this work, exploratory work of how to upload videos, how to build communities around that, how to edit in-line. Yeah, the business was revolving in and around that, but Andrew and I, I guess we’ve always been driven by not necessarily what’s next but what’s hard, what problem is there to be solved. I think in 2005 [00:10:00] and ’06, we were solving a problem where it was difficult to get content onto portable devices and we purposely called it Portable and not Mobile. This was the era of PlayStation Portable and video iPods. This was pre-iPad. This was pre the iPhone.
So going forward a few years, a lot of those problems had been solved, in the sense that you had smartphones, you had 3 and 4G data. We were in the film festival space. We enjoyed it, but I think we [00:10:30] also recognised that the reason that film festivals operate is that every city likes to have one. It’s really those offline events that really draw those people in. Being able to sustain an ongoing business of doing that just purely in digital never really excited Andrew and I. We got that to a point and explored a range of different areas and it’s like, “You know what? This chapter, we’re just going to morph this in.”
That’s what we did. You mentioned in the intro in and around fashion at the same time, Andrew [00:11:00] identified his mum, she ran a clothing store, a kids clothing store, and she was trying to sell stuff on eBay and the experience was pretty crummy, there wasn’t really much in the way of people being able to set up their stores. Again, we’re talking here 2008, 2009. Initially the concept we had, and we actually called it Hanger, which was about people swapping clothes. We thought setting up a network and a marketplace for that.
We so ended up starting to build it, we got some support in that time from Film Vic of [00:11:30] all places. We were the first and only non-film entity to get support. They actually had to change the rule books after they gave us support to be more film centric. But that morphed into what became … Hanger became [Swappler 00:11:44] and Swappler became Portable Shops. Again, we ran that business and we built up a course of that within fashion, because at the time there wasn’t really much in the way within easy e-commerce, and especially ones that were attuned to people who were interested within fashion.
We [00:12:00] built that up to probably 150, 200 clients that was operated across both Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Then Andrew moved to America, to New York in 2010, and took an element of that business there. It was an interesting play, too, because whilst we were developing that, like in the background that market itself was consolidating with people like Shopify and [inaudible 00:12:25] who eventually we sold the business to. It was I think an interesting and good [00:12:30] experience too. I guess one where it was fashion, fashion and film. That was in that same era.
I tend to like to call them the vanity [inaudible 00:12:38] in some ways, like everyone wants to get attracted to them, but in terms of how deep you can go with solving some of those problems. In some ways we had solved those problems and others in the market had solved those problems and once that had been the case we were left itching and wanting a bit. We did use that experience. We actually put out our own book called Taking Back Retail [00:13:00] that we partnered with the textile footwear industry association here in [inaudible 00:13:04], a national body, but based here in Melbourne that was taking some of those lessons and learnings about what you should do and could do within e-commerce.
So again, we ran that business for a time. In the background a lot of that market was solidifying and amalgamating. As I mentioned, it got to the point where it’s like, we want to try and solve something else here. In [00:13:30] the background, we were running our service business and I was spearheading that out of Melbourne and as I mentioned we had Tim and Cindy too, because through that process we acquired a PR agency which, when we’re working within Portable shops, very much in theory made sense at the outset but as most things in theory do, they don’t always necessarily align. But that was good in terms of being able to build that out.
We worked through on that and then fast forward a few years and we get [00:14:00] to 2015 and Andrew had been in New York for six years. I had the pleasure of travelling there at least a couple of times a year. Aside from having the business there, and I was involved and still involved, as the Australian ambassador for the Webbys, which is sort of like the Oscars for online. They do a big hoo-hah every year in Wall Street, it’s a lot of fun.
So there was always a reason to go over there, but I personally was never compelled or wanting to move to the US. In [00:14:30] the time we both had set up families. Andrew was putting roots down in Brooklyn, he’d bought his own brownstone. We were getting to the point of the kids getting to school and it’s like, “Well, I want to continue working, but I don’t want to move to the US, so it’s time, it’s like, come on, it’s time for us to come back.”
So that’s going back to September ’15. That probably entered into a new era of the business where really for the first time for seven and eight years we’re actually, [00:15:00] as co-founders, we’re working day in day out together. We had very good comms between us every day, but Melbourne and New York are probably some of the worst timezones in the world to come and talk and try and do business in. If anything, it was more of a doubling down and more of a focus.
Through that has come more of our model that we work on, that we call it now three stages model which is based on design thinking and agile methodology and effectively it’s data-driven design. So we spend a lot of time [00:15:30] really articulating that. Then going back to our roots that had always been there of just working within what we call the for purpose space. So government, not-for-profits, and private companies that are trying to enact change. I think going back to the time both within film and in fashion, it’s helping that itch in the sense that I’d like to think that the problems we’re looking to solve are bigger and more systemic and make more impact. There’s some of [00:16:00] the reasons that I guess try and want to get out of bed every morning and come to work.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, wow. What an incredible journey, and thank you for sharing all of that with us, and I think there’s so much in there that it would be great to unpack, but there’s three key themes that I think are quite clear from you telling that story for us, and also are quite consistent with the man that I’ve come to know, Simon Goodrich, and I would say those three things are just being involved with and [00:16:30] doing a lot is number one. Secondly, is around doing things for purpose, and I think we’ll come back to that later, and thirdly is just innovation and I guess that’s the one I’d like to talk about now if we could.
It sounds like a lot of what you’ve done has really been about the innovative process, finding problems in the market, leveraging new technology, finding business models that work, then innovatively getting in and solving those problems and then knowing when to exit or let go once [00:17:00] those problems are sufficiently conquered. It sounds like you’ve been able to successfully roll that cycle out over and over again. Is that a passion of yours? How do you think about innovation?
Simon Goodrich: Look, I think the first org that Andrew and I had, was only a few months, was Make It Happen. Really, innovation now is a buzzword. At some point it won’t be a buzzword, but it will probably become a weasel word, but it’s that trying to make things better. Trying [00:17:30] to do something new. Andrew and I often reflect, it’s like if we were 20 years older what would we do, or if we were 10 years younger. I think we’ve been very lucky to be born I guess in the very formative years of the internet, which in our lifetime is probably the largest revolution that we’re seeing. If you think of the current world, how we look for the most part is very similar to how it might have been 30 or even 40 years ago. But how we interact with computers is really where that’s driving change.
If [00:18:00] you’re in the period 1880-1920 you’d be seeing cars invented, you’d be seeing aeroplanes , telephones. So I don’t think we’ve necessarily seen such upheaval in changes of broader society, but certainly seen it within digital communications. Know that that’s probably what attracted both Andrew and I into that space. Even meeting within community broadcasting. That had been around since the 1970s, but I guess when we were involved, there was that opportunity, it’s the government bureaucracy opportunity where it’s like, “Well you can now [00:18:30] get a full time licence.”
So we got involved at that point. They had early digital stuff. It just inevitably made sense for us to start working more within this space. I guess when it’s about innovation, you sometimes wonder how much is it the actual … Is it the innovation per se or is it the tools that allow the innovation? I tend to believe it’s the latter. It is the tools that allow that. You’ve got access to that canvas of larger online community, [00:19:00] sharing tools, social media and others to try and do something of purpose in your life. So yeah. I think that’s probably why we’ve ended up in that space.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a really good point. This is a discussion I had with a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago around what is innovation? I guess I was arguing that the new technology gave you this capability to mix and match and look at the old problems in new ways. His argument was that you don’t even need new technology, that you could actually innovate and look [00:19:30] at the same problem through a different lens using existing technology, which I think was a really fair and valid point. But I think the technology, the new technology certainly helps to accelerate this process, and it sparks lots of new avenues, doesn’t it?
Simon Goodrich: Totally. I think it will, the good thing about now is it all adds into each other where in the past maybe these technologies were siloed or being fragmented, but now they’re all in the same melting pot and that’s exciting, and it’s accelerating. I guess the luck of the draw that we just happened [00:20:00] to be born in this era where we can be playing in this space.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, absolutely. As you point out, there’s lots of innovation, lots of change that’s happened throughout history but I think just the fact that the rate of technology adoption is increasing, and there’s very clear statistics behind that, means that people are just weaponizing ideas at a rate that we’ve not seen before. Obviously sometimes for the good and sometimes not so much.
Simon Goodrich: That’s true. I think you can choose what you want to do [00:20:30] with your life, and I think for us we’ve spent many years as a service company, and at times we have worked for orgs that I guess, not necessarily that are evil or anything, it’s just like well do we really want to work for a luxury car company or do we really want to try and sell more yoghourt? We’ve never seen ourselves as an advertising company. For a number of years I was president of AIMIA, which was the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association. Very Sydney-orientated and very advertising-orientated.
[00:21:00] That’s fine. I just realised this is not really for me. This is not really my … Broader than that, I don’t aspire to get into advertising or to sell stuff, purely for the sake of consumerism. It’s just a personal decision and I think again, the internet, there’s lots of things, like cool we’re doing this in print now we’re trying to do that online. Because so much of the internet is forgotten and even more now, it made me even more stringent, I guess, in where [00:21:30] I choose to spend my time and the type of work that we work on that could be more purpose driven and try, in our own little way, to make things better. As corny as that sounds.
Andrew Ramsden: I hear that. I certainly, I agree with that very much. I noticed on your website you talk about the philosophy around, we believe in government and the power of startups, so I get the sense that you’re a very purposeful person and there’s purpose behind what you do, driving you along. What would you say is your big why?
Simon Goodrich: Until [00:22:00] someone tells me otherwise, you’ve only got one go at this, of life, and you might as well try and spend it doing what you want, that you think it may change. Why do I think I’m purposeful? Look, I think there’s many different ways to make a living. There’s a lot of easier ways you could make money and money is obviously a factor in our society, but it certainly doesn’t drive us in the decisions that we make, because ultimately to what end?
I feel very lucky to be born in Australia, [00:22:30] the time that I have, I’ve got great networks and family and I’m very aware of that and the granting that it’s given me, and I think if anything I think it’s been about trying to focus on how do I best want to spend my days? That’s probably it. And if I can make it change and difference in it, then great. Whether I think I have made a change and difference is a different matter altogether, but yeah.
Andrew Ramsden: Some days it doesn’t feel like it, does it? Some days it feels like one step backwards, but you’ve got to [00:23:00] remember that you’re taking two steps forwards the day after or the day before.
Simon Goodrich: Totally. I think it’s that adage that anything that’s worth doing is hard and takes time. And it’s true, I think all the easy wins, they’re fine, but they’re fleeting. You forget about them early on. I think it’s also the majority of us in Australia have thankfully had an opportunity, not all, but thankfully have had an opportunity where you can make those decisions of what to do and I guess just trying to make the most of those, that experience and those opportunities.
Andrew Ramsden: [00:23:30] Yeah. Reading in between the lines, it sounds almost like you’re saying, look you’re very aware that you’re born into a very privileged position and you almost feel like there’s a duty there to help others and to pay it forwards?
Simon Goodrich: A little, yeah definitely. Maybe I’m more wired the way than others. We got our professional start in the community sector, it’s always been something that’s close to our heart. I’ve always found business for the sake of making money somewhat shallow. Like, sure, [00:24:00] if I want to make money I’d just become a day trader, I don’t know, or do something, but it’s only one factor of a few. I’m very aware that it’s my choice to make that, and I’m very privileged in that position that I can.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah. I guess I feel that if everybody left the world slightly better off, in a slightly better place and condition than they found it then the world would keep progressing quite well, but I guess not everybody’s in a privileged enough position or is in the type of privileged position that we are in the country that we’re in [00:24:30] to be able to tip the balance in the net positive direction.
Simon Goodrich: Yeah.
Andrew Ramsden: So it sounds like there’s some really core values there that you’ve got. We’ve talked about this before, the fact that you are very values driven, certainly in your leadership and the way that you view business. I think it’s interesting because I believe people often see that as a vulnerability if you have really clear values, people might take advantage of you, but I know that you see it as a way to [00:25:00] protect yourself from the vultures out there as well. Tell us a bit about that?
Simon Goodrich: You could say that, true. I think the values that we have … Is it a vulnerability? For me, I see it very much as a strength. It’s like, people can be clear about what we stand for and if they want to work with us they can and if they don’t they don’t they don’t have to. We’re a small business in Melbourne. There’s lots of opportunity out there. I guess being very precision focused in the work that we want [00:25:30] to do. And you’re right. There’s a lot in business that you don’t have to be ethical. I think if you’re a sociopath in business you’d smash it, you’d do really well.
To be honest there is a bit of the jungle out there that, look I’ve been in for so many years now that I’m … The world doesn’t owe me any favours, I’m not expecting, no one has to use this, no one has to listen to us or do anything with us. So we’ve got to work doubly as hard to be relevant in our own way that people want to take the time out even to consider us for [00:26:00] anything.
I really enjoy that challenge because if we weren’t values driven then what would we be driven by? Especially in our game, where the type of service that we offer, yes face-to-face time is important, but it’s not essential. You’ve had a number of years ago and into now, automation of roles and offshoring and look, I just didn’t want to be guy that lost to another guy for a dollar. You know what I mean? I just want it to be more than just about the price.
As much as people say it’s not about the price, it pretty much always is about the price. But on top of that [00:26:30] is, and I think what we really strive to do was, “Well, these are the values that we aspire to. And if these matter to you then you’ll make that in your decision about the type of vendor or client or partner that you want to engage with.” That might mean that we rule ourselves out for a lot of work, but so be it. There’s a lot of work out there and we certainly don’t want all of it. We don’t even want that much of it, it’s just stuff that we think can try and make that difference. There’s been many times that we’ve sacked clients, and they’ve sacked us too, but we’re not [00:27:00] really feeling it, you know? Apart from getting paid to do something, there’s someone else that could do that and they’d probably be a bit more passionate about it than I think I’m ever going to be with this.
So I think for us just being more aware of that and more honest with that, I think there’s a really big thing about growing. And yeah, business history, we’ve grown and we’ve shrunk and grown … I think we’ve had probably two or three cycles of that. I guess even now, we’re currently in a growth phase which is good, but we’re coming into it very [00:27:30] much from the lessons of before. Like if you want to grow you’re growing for the right reasons. Just for the sake of being bigger, it comes with its own headaches, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the work you’re going to do is going to be any better. So I think if anything, it’s more us doubling down on quality of work and doubling down on the purpose of why we’re doing that work. To be honest, it’s the most professionally rewarding period of my career, which I’m really enjoying.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, that’s fantastic. That certainly, it resonates with something [00:28:00] that James Lush told me when I talked to him. He’s a radio personality in Perth and he owns and leads a digital media agency over there, and he talks about that idea of working with clients that have value alignment for you and echo your purpose so that it’s a very empowering position to be in and helps you find those clients that you’re really going to be able to add the most value for, but also the ones that are going to work best with you and make your life easier.
So, I’m really interested to dig into [00:28:30] how this came about and some of the values that you’ve got in the business. What would you say your values are for the business? But what are your personal values, or both?
Simon Goodrich: Well look, the personal values and the business values are aligned quite a bit. So we actually have them written down which I should find. I’m going off verbatim. One of them is collaboration over competition, in the sense that if we can collaborate we will. We enjoy working with other [00:29:00] teams. That’s not always easy but it’s certainly something that we aspire to. We always to be seen as a partner. We’re not always viewed that way but that’s something that we try to work to.
Keep on making is really important. Even back to the radio days and the early period of the business, being able to deliver something I think is really important, and we’ve really focused our business now on being able to deliver quite quickly in a space that traditionally is not quick and quite expensive. So [00:29:30] part of that is I guess us trying to counter that experience. We have another one that’s called Casual Professionalism, so I’ve always been very casual but I’ve only got more casual over the years in terms of my appearance, but very much has always been the view that look, if you’re going to judge me by the way I look I’d rather you judge me by the values that I have. We’ve also got in there 90% is not 100%, especially in our space being able to really [00:30:00] get to that point of delivering something great and aspiring to deliver something great is something we espouse to, as Andrew and I do and try to put through in our staff.
And … I’m just seeing if … Sorry, I should know the rest of the values that we have here.
Andrew Ramsden: I think when you live them it’s a bit different than being able to run them off a list verbatim as well, isn’t it?
Simon Goodrich: Look, maybe a broader one is just trying to reform large scale systems. That would be nice. That’s where we want to play more in and try to [00:30:30] and do it in and around the edges. We recently, as you’d be aware, put out a report Hacking the Bureaucracy, which really dovetails into that and tries, inspires the people that internally operate within these bureaucracies, which is not just government. Every large organisation is complex and has them, to be able to try and make change in their own little way.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah. That’s a great report too. We’ll link to that from the show notes as well. So I know you’ve [00:31:00] had some significant injuries that have changed the way that you look at the world. How has that impacted on the way you work or the way you think about what you do?
Simon Goodrich: I’ve had … Throughout the life of the business actually, I got quite sick within the first few months of setting up. I was out of action for about three months and it was at the point when it was like, “Well do we do this or not?” I think Andrew and I stuck it out. I guess it’s a testament to our business and personal relationship that we’ve been able to maintain that for upwards of 11 [00:31:30] years over two continents.
Even recently, saw me out of action too. If anything it just makes me try and become more value driven, I guess. Like the time we’ve all got on this Earth is short, what are you going to do to … Am I making the best use of my time today? That’s very much I guess a driver in terms of the decisions that I make, the type of work that we want to do and how to be … just to try and be a better human being.
Andrew Ramsden: That’s reflected [00:32:00] very much in terms of all the activities that you’re involved with. As you say you’re an ambassador to the Webby Awards, but you’re also very innovated with boards and supporting startups and advising on a range of topics including the HISA, the H-I-S-A which I know is a digital health [crosstalk 00:32:16].
Simon Goodrich: Yeah.
Andrew Ramsden: I know you’ve had this history, this long history of supporting the broader community through those memberships and advisory roles. How do you find the time and the energy to do all of that?
Simon Goodrich: I think it came in the outset when I was involved with the community [00:32:30] broadcasting I became the youth representative for that equivalent national body. So I think when we shifted within digital, it made sense to want to try and do the same. I think deep down I’m a curious person. I like to see what others are doing, like to be helpful, trying to draw broader things together. You could even argue some of the things that I’ve done might have been to the detriment to our broader business, but to me I guess as an individual [00:33:00] I was … I guess very good professional development. Especially when, being in the same organisation for 11 years, and granted we’ve done a lot of different incarnations, it’s still effectively Andrew and I. It was that ability to learn from others.
I think with a lot of these things, yes it’s giving but it’s also about you also do get a lot back and probably the last few years involvement with the Melbourne accelerator programme has given me a lot of joy [00:33:30] and learning in the sense of trying to explain some of our own stories, but more importantly just hearing other people in the space, their journeys, it’s really inspiring.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, absolutely. I know you’d have a huge amount of value to give in that space given that you’ve been through this cycle of innovation and that startup approach a number of times.
Simon Goodrich: Yeah. It’s like a thing. I think it’s a journey, isn’t it? It’s not like, did X business and [00:34:00] smashed it out of the park and then retired or anything. Not that that’s really what I would ever want to do. As I joke with my friends, I’ll probably work till five minutes after I’m dead. I’m very interested I guess in what drives people. You don’t always get access to that. Sometimes people have masks that whether they need to for the business or whether they do for their own personal reasons, but yeah. For me whenever dealing with people setting up business, like why are you doing this? There’s lots of other things [00:34:30] you could do. Why this?
Sometimes it is, like ego is a part, I think it’s a part for all of us. Sometimes it’s all the ego and in that instance you tend to find that that journey can be quite short and they might go off and do something else. I’m probably more interested in unpacking about those broader reasons of what they want to do. Because I think with any business or venture there’s good and bad times and you really I guess on the scoreboard of business or in life it’s really about how [00:35:00] you go in those moments when there’s adversary, as opposed to when things are going swimmingly, because even if they’re going swimmingly at some point they’ll turn. Because even if your business gets larger, it gets more complex and your problems get bigger and more difficult and more painful.
But I think how you deal with that is a testament to the people. I think if anything I’d like to think even in my 12 years or 11 years [inaudible 00:35:22] and going through a couple of bouts of pretty perilous health stuff, I think it’s actually made me more zen. [00:35:30] We mentor a particular company and I was chatting to one of the founders and I said, “I think you’re driven by fear.” And he said, “Yeah I think I am.” I said, “Look, I was driven by fear for many years. A fear of I don’t know what but a fear of just [inaudible 00:35:42] that not that the music was going to stop, but how are we going to go through setting up anything this new and hasn’t been done before.” And that’s okay.
But that fear has really gone for me now. That’s a personal fear I guess is what the thinking has probably turned into, I don’t know what emotion I’ve put to [00:36:00] it. Look, I wouldn’t call myself zen yet, but I’m getting that way. I’m enjoying it I guess. I like to think of it in stuff is like how many pay cycles have you done? I think we’ve done 290 now. Because they’re really the days that matter, because you can’t be late for your staff. So you’ve got to ensure you’ve obviously got money in your account to pay people. So that, to me, that fortnight is always the notch on the belt to consider and think about.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, nice. So multiple purposes in there but it’s interesting [00:36:30] to reflect on the fact that you’re looking for that purpose in the startups as well that you’re mentoring.
Simon Goodrich: Totally.
Andrew Ramsden: It sounds like that’s what gets you through the tough times. It’s not going to be enough to get through the tough times on fear, it’s not going to be enough to get through the tough times on chasing money. There’s got to be some higher goal.
Simon Goodrich: Yeah. Higher thing. I mean totally. It’s also, you can work in the business or on the business. We flip flop [00:37:00] between the two. So [inaudible 00:37:01] day to day, you’re making sure that you’re delivering on the work. When you’re on the business you might be crafting the concept, trying to take it to market, trying to get in partners. They’re very different skillsets and they’re very different types of things to do. I think even from my experience of working within the US and seeing that business culture. You have very much about that working on the business rather than in the business.
To America’s credit [00:37:30] I think they’re fantastic at being able to market and do things really quickly, a speed that I certainly admire. But there’s also I think … It’s not all the cases, but culturally there isn’t the same realistic approach that life throws you grenades now and then. You’ve got to deal with them. It’s like, things are great, so amazing. That’s the standard Silicon Valley babble, which the reality is it’s not. We all have times that we just [00:38:00] struggle with stuff, whether it be work or home.
Yeah, I think just being able to recognise it for what it is and more importantly have mechanisms to cope with it, to me I think is really what I try and put in my own life and people that I work with both in the business and around and on the business and so forth, so see what their thoughts are.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, absolutely. Now I want to unpack a little bit more about your leadership journey as well. What was your first exposure to leadership and [00:38:30] what did that mean for you and has that changed over time?
Simon Goodrich: Yeah I mean I think I became manager at SYN FM when I was 20 or 21. So I think if you’re in a manager position from a very young age, which doesn’t necessarily come from experience. So I think you get to the position where you sort of think your shit doesn’t stink for a bit or there is a bit where you’re this young person going through and everything, you know you’re the next generation, you’re going through and get [00:39:00] that. I think it’s interesting.
In my personal life … I’m 36, I’ve been with my wife for half my life. Which is probably my proudest achievement. That’s been very stable in my life, this very long term relationship which is there. I think all my other relationships had been more in a professional environment where you fall in love and you break up and move on and so forth. So I think if anything from that leadership part it’s about in those moments [00:39:30] how we could have probably better handled that situation. I think in a lot of cases it’s interesting. It’s always that matter about, it’s about when to walk away. It’s like do you walk away early, you walk away late?
It’s all about timing. I think business is all about timing, actually. I think that everyone says, “I worked really hard.” I think everyone on the face of it thinks they work really hard and probably the majority of people do. Yeah there’s luck involved, but if you want to generate luck it’s about knowing your timing. I think that bit where there’s probably professional [00:40:00] relationships that we killed off two early and others that we held on too long for that really I think is our testament to leaderships and knowing how to read that and knowing how to inspire the people around you to know that I think is, for me, an ongoing lesson of leadership.
Andrew Ramsden: Would you say you have a bit of a rough formula now? How do you identify that?
Simon Goodrich: You know what? I don’t know if I do. I think if it’s anything it’s just like, “Well this reminds me of this experience and that was the outcome, so based on that I’m going [00:40:30] to do this differently.”
Andrew Ramsden: Very contextual situation.
Simon Goodrich: Yeah, it’s contextual. If anything I think it’s … I think that just as the sands of time continue to tick away, just make decisions quicker. Kill something earlier, stop it, do something else. Terminate a contract with someone. There’s probably that. But then the counterpoint of that is our best relationships are the ones that we get through those really hard times. I think to do that you’ve [00:41:00] got to have that broader line purpose of why you’re fighting that battle. Because there’s lots of battles you can fight.
The type of work that we’re in we can do anything we want. We can work with anyone in the world. I think some people see that as really liberating but the reality is that it’s really unfocused. It’s just like you can just go round and have as many coffee dates as you want and feel really busy and be on the treadmill but not really progress further. I guess some people have that reflected, I guess they go out of business or [00:41:30] they don’t feel they ever get there, and others just probably wanting, just trying to have more impact. That, for me, is probably where it is.
Andrew Ramsden: Nice. I know you have some great habits and routines around your mornings and your meetings and your productivity, which I believe is part of the secret sauce as to how you’re able to stay across so much and get so much done. I’d love to unpack some of those with you. Do you mind sharing around that?
Simon Goodrich: Not at all, not at all. So I’ve always taken notes. [00:42:00] I’ve always been a prolific note taker. But it’s sort of to what end? I take notes and then I looked back recently and I had a thing stacked as high as my six year old of books, and it’s like when am I ever going to read that? So a couple of years ago I made a habit of turning those notes pretty much within that day into digital notes. So I’d write the notes by hand then I’d have an opportunity to synthesise and reflect and put them in. The idea of that being that it’s searchable. So I could have a particular thought of two [00:42:30] years ago, that comes back to me and I can go and search for that.
So that’s something that I certainly keep up and maintain. I used to have a … I always have a to do list. I have a paper one and an electronic one, and everything, if it’s not action orientated then I try and make it so. And also just recognising between busy work, which I think as humans, it’s a bit like why humans like playing slot machines. It’s a dopamine thing or social media, you see it and you want to hear it again.
[00:43:00] So recognising that work for what it is and responding to emails. Most of it’s reactive, and using certain elements of the day to do that, but then ensuring that I’ve got big enough chunks of time to try and get into something bigger in media or something. Is going to be probably more of those medium to long term goals, which are always more difficult to do because we’re always in an attention seeking world. Everything is trying to grab that attention. So being able to create those spaces is [00:43:30] a challenge but something that I certainly always try and do.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, that sounds like a fantastic high level productivity framework. So noticing the difference between the busy work or the little urgent work versus the more important longer term goals.
Simon Goodrich: Totally.
Andrew Ramsden: Blocking out time for each so you’re capping the amount of time you can spend with email or social media or distractions, but you’re also reserving time to work on those bigger, more important goals that maybe don’t have an urgent deadline.
Simon Goodrich: [00:44:00] Then I think that’s the other beauty where you create those own deadlines and you create those points in your landscape that they do become that. I think some people they’re sort of like, “If I don’t have a deadline I can’t do it.” So I’m personally not wired, might a little bit that way, but not a lot. So I just create opportunities in my work schedule to be able to do that. And also knowing sometimes that I might be slaving at something for an hour when if I’m in the zone it will take me five minutes. [00:44:30] And knowing when I’m not that and being able to do something, go for a walk, do something else and then come back to it.
The things that are substantive I always at least like to do it over three sittings. I’ll do the first, I’ll get it to 30%, second I’ll get it to 85, and third I’ll take it to 100. I can’t do that in one sitting and I don’t like to put myself in an environment where I need to do that. That’s I guess just probably being aware of my blind spots and being [00:45:00] able to work around them. I think also with people go, “We don’t do busy work,” when we all do busy work, and there is a need for it. It is important but I think it’s about being able to call it for what it is. Yeah, you’re just ensuring that it’s not everything that you’re doing.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah. I like that. Three sittings for the big pieces. I think that’s great advice. And trying to schedule that in and make sure there is enough time to do that and go away from it because I find if I have to put in a four hour block to try to finish something off in one sitting [00:45:30] that I’ll lose motivation, I’ll lose focus, I’ll lose energy, and I just won’t ever want to see that again.
Simon Goodrich: I agree, Andrew.
Andrew Ramsden: I think the other tactic that I’ve used in those situations, I don’t know if you’ve played with this one at all, is called the Pomodoro technique where you spend 25 focused minutes working on it and then a five minute break, and then you repeat the cycle. So rather than spending an hour and a half getting sick to death of it and throwing my computer out the window, it’s 25 minutes then go for [00:46:00] a short walk, maybe do something physical, do some squats or some push ups or something just to get the blood flowing, and then I’m energised again to hit it for another 25 minutes. I can do a three or four hour block then quite easily, whereas I couldn’t do it if I didn’t take those breaks.
Simon Goodrich: I agree with that principle.
Andrew Ramsden: I also noticed that with your phone calls in particular, they feel very efficient. I wouldn’t say they’re rude or impersonal, [00:46:30] but they definitely ride that balance between, “Look I’m not messing around.”
Simon Goodrich: I’ve always been good … I don’t like [inaudible 00:46:38], I don’t like … I like to get to the point, and I think that doing it over the phone … You and I do it over the phone because we’re in different cities, but I even now do that for the majority of my meetings I take in Melbourne. Again, you just get to what you want to talk about quicker. Look, I love small talk. I could small talk all day. So if anything it’s probably a mechanism I use to be able to be more effective.
Andrew Ramsden: [00:47:00] Some self-discipline.
Simon Goodrich: Yeah totally. I think people go, “Look I’ve had some great coffees, I had great coffee meetings,” and I’ve certainly been a victim of traversing around this city and others around, having four, five meetings and thinking I’m on top of the world, you know like, “Oh what great meetings!” But ultimately, if that doesn’t turn into change, if that doesn’t turn into actually something that you can work on together, then ultimately that was fun but it’s not necessarily effective.
So yeah I really focused my work on [00:47:30] that. Andrew’s been good with that too. I think he was actually a New York cultural thing where when he moved to New York, people will have a phone meeting. At first he was a bit affronted, it’s like, “Why do people want to meet on the phone?” Part of it might be that in New York everyone thinks they’re going to get a better offer at some point or something, but really got to the point where you can just do more. I just can be more effective, I can get more out of my day.
And also reserving those times when you do meet with someone. They still require definitely face-to-face, it’s special, but just ensuring [00:48:00] that you’re getting the best use of time. So even now if we’re meeting with someone in person I will have a phone meeting before to say, “Well what do we want to get out of that meeting together?” Not to the point of it being like, “I don’t want to meet with you,” because I’d love to meet with you. I could meet with you all day. But it’s more like, in this limited time that we both have each other’s attention, how can we get the most outcome for both of us. That’s really where it’s coming from.
Andrew Ramsden: Nice. So as part of that technique then having a fairly clear agenda going into the conversation as to what you want to cover off on so that when you think that’s covered, you’re moving [00:48:30] on. You’re hitting the next topic.
Simon Goodrich: Well not even moving on, you can then spend the time to enact whatever came up. I think we can all get caught up with I’m busy, there’s too much going on, I can’t respond to stuff. It’s all momentum play, really. So many things in life have got to do with chance and timing. If you take too long in responding to stuff, the chances of something happening go down. It’s like, again, we could do whatever we wanted. We’re lucky enough that most of us can do whatever we wanted in this world, but that’s [00:49:00] a blessing and a curse. I think being able to be effective in how to harness that opportunity is something that I’ve tried to personally change the way that I’ve worked on for probably three to four years now.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, very nice. It’s clearly working very well. On that note, being very conscious of your time, we probably just have one or two questions left for you. So is there anything you’d like to point our listeners’ attention to, or any final messages?
Simon Goodrich: No, I think striving towards [00:49:30] what your purpose is, it evolves as you evolve as a person. I don’t envisage that you necessarily will have that fully formed by the time you commence your professional career or if you’re transitioning in and out of one industry to another. I think some people get scared by it in the sense that, “Well, it’s not what people want, or I can do this.” If all you do is just be reactive to what people want, you’ll get put into a box of doing that until the point that you don’t do that.
We’ve certainly been a victim [00:50:00] of the times. [inaudible 00:50:01] technology is very busy and then for whatever reason something changes. Then you lose the job to someone for a dollar or someone comes up with a script that automates your job or there’s some guy overseas who’s going to work harder than you are, more hours to get that done.
So I think being able to know what you stand for can help weather that. Because I think the great thing about the internet is as we mentioned, the asset is there’s this massive wave of innovation. The downside of it is, is that it just moves so quickly. It’s not necessarily a downside, but it is a [00:50:30] potential downside in the sense that, you know everyone talks about, “Well it’s my defensible business.” We don’t have one. I think it’s a matter to continue to stay relevant. If you’re purposeful and driven by things that interest you, then you’re going to do a lot better at being relevant, even if it’s to three people, who cares? We don’t need to be popular, you just need to be relevant to someone. So I think that’s the really important thing.
Andrew Ramsden: Yeah, that’s fantastic advice. Thank you. Finally, where can we find you online?
Simon Goodrich: [00:51:00] Sure, well portable.com.au is where you can find us. We’ve also got a Twitter, which is Portable. We’re doing a series of events around a recent book that we’ve published, called Innovating in Government: Hacking the Bureaucracy and we’ve got some events coming up in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and we’ve got Canberra next week but we’ve sold out, which is nice.
Andrew Ramsden: Fantastic. Well we’ll definitely link to that from the show notes. Certainly the events and the report around Hacking the Bureaucracy are definitely worth checking out, so I would encourage [00:51:30] you to go and do that if you haven’t seen it yet. Thank you so much, Simon, for taking the time and sharing so much of yourself and your journey and your lessons and philosophies with us.
Simon Goodrich: No worries, Andrew. Thank you for the opportunity. Appreciate it.