Troy Hazard is an internationally renowned conference presenter who has literally ‘been there, done that’. Through the 20 years of private enterprise Troy has experienced and the 11 companies he has owned, he has amassed a great depth of knowledge, with literally hundreds of case studies and stories to tell on a range of topics.
In addition, his core business for the last 20 years has been as a business consultant to some of the world’s leading brands including Goodyear, Coles Myer, Flight Centre, Baskin Robbins, Subway and many more.
MO: Can you talk a bit about your journey from having no idea what you wanted to be when you grew up to becoming a successful serial entrepreneur? What did your turning point look like?
Troy: HA! – I’m not sure anyone will want to scroll down that far to read that story! I had an interesting start in private enterprise I literally fell into small business.
In 1989 I was working for a radio station and I was putting in back to back 18 hour days month on month. After months of not seeing daylight, one morning I snapped, I barreled into my bosses’ office and after a short conversation, I was unemployed! I got home that night and after a few rums, I rang my mother and said, ‘I think I’m out of a job, I think I might go renovate houses and see if I can make a buck out of that, the property market seems to be moving well’. Her response was, ‘ son, you don’t know one end of a hammer from the other, how are you going to do that?’ To her credit she was right, and to her credit she also back me in and we both put $30k into an account and started a business together and called it ‘New Address’. She was an interior decorator so she did all the cosmetic stuff, I did the property deals and hired the contractors, and together we renovated 13 properties in the next 18 months. And so the journey started.
I still didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know it was not working for anyone ever again.
With the money we made from that we started to get into other businesses. A recording studio, an advertising agency, and then we fell into the franchise world, eventually becoming a leading consulting business in the space. Franchising was to become the cornerstone business over 25+ years and the anchor for all of the other businesses I invested in. But despite a reasonable amount of success, I still hadn’t worked out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I’d become pretty good at spotting a business in distress and working out how to flip it, like we flipped homes in the past, or finding a gap in the market and working out how to capitalize on that, but the purpose was still missing.
And by ‘purpose’ I don’t mean that in order to be fulfilled I needed to find the cure for cancer, or a strategy for world peace, just a simple purpose for this journey.
It wasn’t until the late nineties that I started to get a real feel for why I was doing things in business, and not just what I was doing in business. And with that understanding I developed greater purpose, and in turn a more focus on what I should be doing to fulfill that purpose.
MO: Who inspires you?
Troy: I’ve had a number of inspirational figures and mentors over the years, many of whom are not public figures, but have been a very private influence on the journey. And while I have learnt so many great things from them, I think my parents for sure have been the most inspirational. They gave me the work values that have been instrumental in keeping me focused when we’ve been in some tight spots.
MO: Can you talk about breaking into the market in America as one of the only Australians here with a television talk show?
Troy: Oooohhh yeah! That’s been an interesting few years. I often think of the movie Pretty Woman in the opening scenes where the guy is walking across the road screaming, ‘welcome to Hollywood, what’s your dream, everybody has a dream’. I’m not sure I had a dream to be on television here, but I figured if I was going to be here, I’d have a good run at it.
By 2007 I had settled into a bit of a cruise in Australia and after almost 20 years of going pretty hard, I was into a nice groove. I was doing a business television show on a national network there, I was writing a lot, and speaking at events, and that was enough keep the fridge full, the beers cold, the BBQ burning, and the racecar fuelled.
Then I got a book deal out of LA and, after a number of long conversations with my then fiancé, we decided that if there was ever a time to have a run at the American market, this was it. It was always one of the things that I wanted to do, but at the same time I knew this would mean going back to work, really, really going back to work. We figured that two years of 18-hour days would give us the juice to take off. So towards the middle of 2008, I strapped the boots on again and away we went.
In November 2008 my first international book ‘The Naked Entrepreneur’ was released in the USA. To give us the nudge we needed to get some traction I bought staff from Australia to help with the marketing of the media launch of the book. Fortunately, because of my media background, I managed to find myself on a number of television and radio shows, mainly because the producers and interviewers had the faith that I could string two words together on the air.
In our first week I did a interview on the television and radio show The Big Biz Show out of San Diego, the show broadcasts on the BizTV Network, TiVo, the CBS Talk Radio Network, the Business Talk Radio Network and American Armed Forces Network. So it has a pretty big footprint. As I finished the first interview, I got an invite back. Then I started to do a segment with them every other month, then every other week. Then, on the back of the opportunity to do more, we moved from Florida to San Diego. I eventually started to guest Co-Host the show, and I still do today.
From that exposure I had a number of casting calls to do a few pilots as host of some other shows out of LA and New York. And along the way the BizTV Network said, ‘how about doing your own show’. So I came up with a format, we shot a pilot, and away we went. While it’s a business talk show at heart, talking about serious business subjects, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I always try and find the laughs along the way. It’s been a heap of fun, and a wonderful profile builder here.
We’re about to head into season two broadcasting on BizTV and Tivo into about 20 million homes on a mix of cable, free to air and digital. Right now we’re working on a new set, new format, new guests, and we’re looking for new sponsors, (don’t suppose you guys have ever thought of sponsoring a television show?) we’ll be on the air with new shows come mid May.
While the show has been a great platform for me here, and it’s also been quite a thrill to have calls come from other production companies and networks to work on other projects too, we’ve still had to put our time in. As expected, the first 2 years here was hard work. Seven days a week, 5am starts, midnight finishes. But it’s paid off. We have traction in the market, and I’m back to my easy workweek.
Means I must be doing something right I suppose.
MO: You’ve owned have owned 11 different companies over the last 20 years in a range of industries. Can you talk a bit about the art of balancing your work and home life and any key insights you’ve gained along the way?
Troy: Truth is I was never really good at ‘balance’. In the early days it was all head down and go hard. Of course my personal life suffered, as did my health. I was overweight, over worked, over leveraged, over stressed, and then I was just over IT.
In recent years I’ve learnt to be much better at what I call ‘life blend’. I don’t believe in ‘life balance’, that infers that life and work are at odds with each other and you have to compromise. I believe that if you understand what you want out of life and have personal purpose, then its much easier for you to find purpose in what you do. With personal purpose, my business works for me, I do not work for it.
I have this little process I go through each year to create a personal plan and that’s my roadmap for the next 12 months. I also make a point of sharing that regularly with my wife so we know we are aligned and heading in the right direction. Sometimes she calls me on it when she thinks I’m off track and that’s a good thing, it keeps us focused.
I suppose if there was any ‘insight’ to be had from the journey it’s to have ‘foresight’, know where you are heading and why. For me that means I have to have the purpose of a personal plan, to help give me the clarity of vision, and the focus to execute on that plan.
And to ‘execute’ does not mean it always has to be a tactical execution. By way of example, one of the things I continue to try and execute each year is to only work 3 days a week. This is the cornerstone of my ‘blend’. By executing on that part of the plan, it means I have to focus on being seriously effective when I am working, if I am to enjoy the time I am not working with my young family.
This has been a pretty big thing for me in recent years, and an even bigger thing right now. I have a wonderful wife and two children in diapers so I am acutely aware of how I spend my time. I hit 50 this year and I think as you come to the halfway mark of your life you want to make sure the second half counts, cos aint nobody going to give you a mulligan if you screw it up!
MO: You’ve been a consultant for some of the world’s biggest brands. Can you expand on some of the key lessons learned on predicting potential business issues before you experience them?
Troy: I think one of the biggest things any business can learn is that its not ‘different for them’ in their business. Customers all over the world want the same thing in a transaction, no matter what you sell.
Key to understanding this is that we kept reminding our clients that their sole purpose was to be a marketing company that just happened to be in the (insert any widget / service / product / etc here) business.
Therefore their sole focus needed to be on serving the customer. Everything they did needed to be client facing. To that end we created clarity in the businesses that the real job was to always be trying understand why they were serving their customers before understood what they should be serving them, or how they should be serving it up.
Once they mastered that, what gave them the edge was to not only be exceeding the customers expectations, they mastered how to anticipate their expectations and deliver on that, well before the customer even knew they needed that product or service.
Think Apple – 7 years ago you didn’t think you needed an iPhone, mainly because they didn’t exist. All you wanted was a lighter and smaller device that gave you the ability to make calls and send emails. Apple looked at the market and said, well that’s what you want NOW, and there are a heap of players in that market, but what would you think might be sexy in the future. Now lets bring that future to you TODAY, even before you think you need it. Anticipating your expectations!
Our job as strategists has always been to be acutely focused on understating the evolution of a business and seeking to anticipate what customers might be seeking in say 5 years time, and deliver that today.
MO: What are some of the key differences you notice when it comes to business approaches between America and Australia?
Troy: Business compliance here is killer! It costs me so much time, money and energy. One of the beauties in Australia is that doing business in another state is not like doing it on another planet as it is in the United States in some places. The amount of time I spend just keeping in front of those issues drives me nuts! It takes so much time and focus off what I should be doing in business, marketing.
One of the great things about working here is volume of market opportunity. As a street fighter that’s a serious advantage.
You see in Australia when you loose a client, you are in therapy for a month trying to get over it, there just isn’t the volume of opportunity there as there is in the USA. You’ve only got 23 million people to market your product or service to, no matter what industry you are in, that’s the market cap. Here, you loose a client and it’s, ‘oh well, another one will come along’.
The street fighter in me has given us a great opportunity to get more things done here, faster. Because when we are on the hunt for new business, we treat every potential client like they are the only bone in a street of 230 million dogs.
MO: What are some ways that our readers can “future-proof” their business?
Troy: While it took me some 200+ pages to articulate that in my book, my very simple philosophy can be summarized as, learn from the past, apply that to the present, to protect your future. Its not rocket science. We all now the market moves in cycles as does business, so why is it we all forget that?
Here’s my example of my moment of clarity. I am a bit of an amateur motorsport fan, and racing is one of my only indulgences outside of my family. My race driver instructor said to me many years ago, ‘You’re going to find it much easier to go much faster if you stop trying to avoid the accident and focus on winning the race. You know intuitively how to take the corners, you’ve been taking them for years, and you know where to brake, where to accelerate and how to navigate the track. The track does not change. Trust that as a given and then you can spend your time focusing on the strategy to win the race, not the distraction of trying to avoid that accident. You see you create the potential accident because you are only looking at the turn you are coming into, thinking for some reason its different than it was the last time you went around only minutes earlier.’
This was a big ‘ha-ha’ for me, not only with my driving but in my business as well.
That racetrack is very much like the way business tracks, you intuitively know the track and you know that the turns will come up in the same place at the same time, that’s the business cycle.
If you ignore the track you know to be true, you run off track and take 3 or 4 more turns to get back on track and into a groove again.
You see, we buy into the illusion in business that the bad times were just a moment never to be repeated, and the good times will never end. It’s simply not true. Business happens in cycles and if you look as far back as the great depression the cycles are very similar, boom boom boom, bust, recovery.
It happens that way because as humans we continue to fall foul to two very simple human emotions, fear and greed, and that’s what drives the market and business cycles. And while that’s nothing to be proud of, that is, unfortunately, the track business and the market take.
That is unless you learn from the past, apply that to the present, then you cant help but help future-proof not only your business, but also your life, because you prepare for the future, today.
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