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The 5 Key Steps Behind Fast Growth Startups (Episode 22)

Mike Plener is the Founder and Chief Executive of MyCatapult and Reboot Australia

He helps business owners get the right tools and connections to ensure they grow their businesses rapidly and successfully. He works with business owners from the start-up stage, through to the growth phases and a successful exit.

Mike studied at the Technical University of Denmark and Copenhagen Business School. He has over 25 years’ experience specializing in marketing and business development – both B2B and B2C.

In the corporate world Mike worked in an aggressively expanding business where he learnt how to successfully integrate one merger/acquisition after the other, harnessing rapid growth. 

Since then he has built two consulting companies, launched businesses online and offline, built several large brand campaigns, successful teams, and, over the last several years, a software business from zero to several million dollars in sales.

He and the team have the skills and resources to help startups grow and scale.

Mike has also recently started an organization for social good called ReBoot Australia to help businesses survive and thrive during the business crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic

What you will learn

  • The art of quiet observation for business inspiration ideas
  • The 5 key steps for startup success (Choosing the right industry niche, Having a passion for the industry, Developing a solid business model, Funding, Optimizing the business for acceleration)
  • The importance of being a passionate insider in your industry  
  • How to build trust between investors and startup founders
  • Tapping into the passion behind “The Why” for startups
  • Why you need the right investor that you know, like and trust
  • The boring but important discipline of a good business model of proper systems, processes, and procedures
  • How to back winners in the right markets
  • The importance of big trends
  • Some of the top thematic industry segments to watch for the biggest opportunities:
    • Food tech
    • Agricultural tech 
    • Medical tech for the aging population

Transcript

Jeff Bullas: Hi and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me Mike Plener and Mike is a serial entrepreneur and also works from Sydney, Australia, and originally from Denmark. So welcome to the show, Mike, it's really a pleasure to have you. We're just going to have a little chat about startups and Reboot Australia and some other fun projects that you're working on. So welcome to the show.

Mike Plener: Thanks, Jeff, it's a pleasure to be here. I'm really happy you could fit me into your busy schedule. And I'm looking forward to what are no doubt a couple of tough questions from you.

Jeff Bullas: Well, I won't make them too tough. Just relax. It's okay. I'll be gentle. I'm not a brutal host. We're not going to ask any embarrassing questions, but we might ask for a little bit of truth and a bit of fun and maybe a little bit of insights into what Mike's secret sauce is.

Mike Plener: Sounds like fun. Let's do it.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. So Mike, what led you into being an entrepreneur? It's not a gig for everyone and this show is very much about what gets people started. What was the inspiration? So, how'd it all start?

Mike Plener: Well, it actually started when I arrived in Australia. I have a penchant for extremely poor timing in my life. So I arrived in September, 1990. It was about three months before Keating declared the recession we had to have. And let's just say I had a job in my suitcase when I arrived, I wasn't that stupid. And the job had evaporated within six weeks of me arriving.

Mike Plener: And Sydney Morning Herald shrunk from two fat sections of jobs every every weekend to one section to another section. And obviously three months in, the newly silly immigrant that put everything in a 20 foot container and sent it over the seas, looked at that going, "That's not gonna work."

Mike Plener: And so I started a business, which is certainly a resilience-forming exercise. When you start a business in the middle of what did become a fairly decent recession that took the country on a bit of a downturn for a period of time. I guess I've always had the entrepreneurial blood in me. So I started my first businesses when I was still in high school, my dad was an entrepreneur, my grandparents on both sides were entrepreneurs. So, yeah, sorry, it's a disease that has been inherited.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. Well, my dad was a plumber, self-employed and hired apprentices and other plumbers and sort of had his own business. So it's sometimes just bred into us, isn't it?

Mike Plener: It is.

Jeff Bullas: And sometimes it turns up, whether it's watching a family, watching your father. So what brought you to Australia, from Denmark to Australia? That's a pretty long way, it's like 20,000 kilometers and it's on the other side of the world.

Mike Plener: It is almost the other side of the globe. I guess there was a sense of adventure seeking a warmer climate you know, just taking a new opportunity. You're trying something and probably like many others, I'll try it and we'll give this a go for a couple of years and guess what? I'm still here.

Jeff Bullas: So did you come out on your own?

Mike Plener: I came on with my then wife and let's be honest, that didn't last very long. And she went on to America and that was a lot of years ago, but I came out... I sort of sponsored myself

Jeff Bullas: Ok

Mike Plener: Yeah, when you got to have all your points and you got to have the qualifications, so like a qualified kind of migrant visa, I can't remember what they called it back then, but yeah. Right. Didn't get it the first go, but you know, I had a couple goes and you went in.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. Persistence won? Okay.

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So I'm glad you made it to Australia actually. My first wife was Swedish, so actually I know a little bit about Scandinavia.

Mike Plener: Very good.

Jeff Bullas: My children are actually half Scandinavian, half Swedish, actually. So I did have a little bit of you know, Scandinavian experience in me. And I love the Scandinavian countries.

Mike Plener: Thank you.

Jeff Bullas: They're homogenous, they look after their people, it's a safe place to grow up and be. But Australia is a bit warmer, that's what brought her here apparently was she had it the snow.

Mike Plener: You can only have so much of it.

Jeff Bullas: That's right. I can detect a slight accent there as well on that. So, all right. So you started your first business because you didn't have a job. So I suppose it was a necessity. So what is it?

Mike Plener: It was the software business. I actually had acquired the distribution rights to a piece of software produced back in my home country before coming down here, had a signed contract and going, "Okay, let's actually act on that contract." And within a year, it was beginning to look like a real business with real revenue and all that kind of stuff. Got some pretty big client names on board within a couple of years.

Mike Plener: Unfortunately the software technically didn't live up to expectations and I had to, what I think in modern day terms is called pivot. And so we pivoted the business, going, "Okay, let's do something slightly different." And yeah, it's just one of those kind of things. One thing has led to another over time and through a series of businesses over the last couple of decades and some of them have been very successful and some have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Jeff Bullas: Well, welcome to the entrepreneurial club isn't it?

Mike Plener: Yes, it is. Yeah.

Jeff Bullas: It's a journey of starting, getting knocked down, getting back up. I started a retail business a few years ago, back in the early 2000. I discovered that actually that didn't work. And I also hated running a seven day a week retail store. So that was for just a few years, but essentially, it must have been in digital. So the entrepreneur journey is certainly one of trial and error and hopefully we all learn a little bit more along the way. So, you've launched a couple... well, he launched a business called My Catapult back in 2015, and I think that's one I'd really like to chat a lot about. Can you tell us a bit where the inspiration came from to launch that business My Catapult, which specializes in startups, I suppose, getting started and growing it. Tell us a little bit about how that all happened.

Mike Plener: So that all happens because at the time, I was in another company. I was running quite a lot of events and fairly significantly-sized with lots of panelists and some of them full day events and that was going quite well. And what I observed was that a lot of people, I came at the end of these events going, "That was a really great event. Thanks, Mike." "Thank you." "Welcome." "And what do I do now?" I'm going, "What do you mean? What do you do now? We just had an hour or day or whatever it might have been with all these topics, I've told you everything you need to do." "Yeah. But I still don't know where to start." I'm going, "Okay. Come in and see me." And you can only hear that so many times until you get to a point where you're going, "Bugger, there must be a business in here."

Mike Plener: So literally this was not a case of, if you will, divine inspiration or had this idea in the shower or scratching on the back of the napkin. But it's like when enough people tell you that, "Hey, could you please do this for me?" You're going, "Hmm." There was actually a business right in front of you. And as fate would have it, I had probably 18 months before that started a program, which came out of the events business, started a program around exiting business owners. So imagine someone's been running business for 20, 30 years, whatever it may be and want to exit, want to sell it. And what we realized, me and a bunch of other people, is that a lot of these businesses, quite frankly, were dilapidated.

Mike Plener: And so we put together a whole program. We worked for two years to basically do anything that starts with re. Revamp, rebranding, re-business structuring, re-everything else inside that business and all the advisors across Sydney, Melbourne, we're very excited and want to get on board, they want to be part of this thing, but guess what? All the business owners out there that'd be running a whatever mess on that fabrication plant somewhere in Western Sydney going, "Nah, I just want to die in here." kind of thing. And we're going, "This is weird."

Mike Plener: And I actually personally ended up speaking to just around a hundred business owners from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane area across a six week period, because I was like, this is weird. Obviously I don't quite understand the target market. And I remember a call at the end of that because it was literally the last call I did and it was on this lovely guy I've been in the Brisbane area. And he says, "It's a brilliant program you've got, Mike." I go, "Oh, finally. Somebody wants to come on board. This is amazing." And he says, "But it's not for me." I'm going, "What?" He says, "Nah. It's not for me."

Mike Plener: He says "If I join your program, if I sell my business, someone's gonna go to jail." I says, "Whats this? What do you mean?" He says, "Look mate, me and my Mrs., we're not getting along anymore. So either I'm going to kill her or she's going to kill me, but it can't be any other way." I'm going, "Sorry sir, I'm sorry to hear that." Sort of just hang up as quickly as you can you're like "Oh, get me out of here." And at that point in time, I literally took the whole business plan and put it in the drawer going, "Well, that's obviously not going to happen." So we canned the whole thing. So fast forward 18 months running all these events with quite young entrepreneurs. And they all come in and say, "Hey, what do I do?"

Mike Plener: I go "Hang on a bit. We actually got the whole program." It was already designed. We spent four months designing this stuff, just in the design phase, building all the elements, building all the coursework and then going, "Hang on a bit." We just change the headline leads of each of these sticks, piece of paper and all the PDFs and whatever. And guess what, the program that we've now been running in Catapult for the last 40 good years was born. And that's really how it all came about. And it's been a very, very interesting journey since then. And probably the main segue has been around for us as a business, we're a business too. We need to make sure that we scale because we need to make sure that we are a good example for the businesses we help. And one thing is running a program, sort of one-on-one, every day or every week, I'll meet with you say, have you done it yet, Jeff?

Mike Plener: Jeff goes, "Yes. Okay, I've done it." Alright. Or maybe you don't know. And I go, "Hey, can you do it for tomorrow?" Right. So there's all these coaching, all of these elements, but what happens when you do that for 50 plus people simultaneously? So we ended up running some pretty big programs for the state government of Victoria. They ended up last year in 2019, where we took 150 entrepreneurs through a structured program. And that was interesting. That was kind of really learning. How do we herd cats on scale? Because when you go, I think we have 72 or 73 people and therefore companies on board, the same program running at the same time we ran the biggest of the three cohorts. And that's how a lot of people making sure they've done the homework every single week. But we learned from that how to do it. We can now proudly say we actually know how to drive that side of it.

Mike Plener: So I guess as a business, we build something that is scalable as well, but also key hormone, which a lot of people don't see when I look at the Catapult from the outside, is we're actually discerning. We have a high level of curational companies coming in and we're not doing that because we want to be arrogant or anything like that. We're doing that because we only want you to engage with those that we feel there's the greatest chance that we can help. That doesn't mean the other ones are necessarily bad businesses, but it may not be within our wheelhouse or in some cases it may mean that we went, "Well, compared to everyone else, we see it just is not going to work." And the advantage of curating or evaluating as many businesses as I do every year. Through the last four month cycle, we looked at about a thousand companies, which is a lot.

Mike Plener: And the advantage is you actually get a sense of what other people might say. "Well, that's a good business." And we say, "Well, compared to all the other ones that's better than that, it's actually not such a great business." And so it's our duty to say to their business, "That's not so great, mate. You're not going to make it, but we're able to help you and tell you what you need to change. Then come back in six months when you've fixed it. But the way it looks right now, you will not be successful." And that's unpleasant.

Mike Plener: But I think it's something from an ecosystem, society, whatever you want to call it, it's our duty to tell people early on instead of, "Oh yeah, mate, it's going to be amazing. Yeah, it's going to be good." And instead we're going, "It's never going to work." Which unfortunately is what a lot of advisors out there, they will do. And so I'm not always the person they want to speak to because I will actually tell them the truth. And that's not always that pleasant to hear, but too bad. It's just like the sooner we start on the right journey, the sooner we have that pivot, tweak, replant, whatever it might be, just the better we're off and the better they're off.

Jeff Bullas: So you're essentially curating the people you want to work with and you're telling them news they don't want to hear. So what are some of the key elements that you are looking for when you're actually looking for a business that you think can be successful? What are some of the key elements?

Mike Plener: A couple of the key elements is, and I mean some of these things are certainly neither controversial nor unique. I guess what we do is we put them together all the same time, and that's probably unique about what we do. So one of the key elements, one of the first key elements we look at is the market you're in, not the overall market, but the specific market that you're selling into. Is it going gangbusters, or is it going so-so, or is it actually going down the hill.

Mike Plener: Give you an example. A lot of are going on to say, FinTech businesses, and we go like, "FinTech is lovely, but it doesn't work." And why it doesn't work is because if you look at the profits of the five biggest banks in Europe, they have, I think divided them by three or four in the last three years. And I just saw a report a couple of days ago that they expect them to hit zero in the next 12 month cycle. So in other words, the banking sector globally is in steep decline. The reason people think that FinTechs are good ideas are, "Oh, but their numbers are huge and it's like trillions of dollars. And if we just get 0.01% or something like that, we're going to be rich."

Mike Plener: And so they go into this, instead of fixing a problem that really is broken, they just go in with a sort of the tuned up and go, "Oh my God, it's going to be huge." And that just doesn't work. So one of the unique things and this sort of leads into the next kind of unique factor is we look at why the founder is there. Is their heart in the right place? Are they really, truly passionate about this? Do they actually understand the problem?

Mike Plener: I was just chatting to a girl yesterday for about five minutes. She's here where I'm sitting and she runs an addiction curation kind of business, helping people cure their addictions. And I says, "What got you into this?" And she says, "I've helped my mom for the last 30 years through heroin."

Jeff Bullas: Wow.

Mike Plener: And I'm going, bloody hell. Exactly. Wow. But I said to her, well, then you're in a perfect position because you actually know everything there is to know, without having been inside it, but you as close as we can get to knowing everything, every aspect, every element of how it is to live with addiction and what may be some of the pathways out of that. Perfect. And she's already raised a significant amount of money in seed capital to get the business off the ground.

Mike Plener: But I always test for why, always test for, do you do this Because this seemed like a nice idea at the time, or do you do this because you would even do this if you have money, if you have no time, if you were at the end of your life, you'd still be doing this? Because if it's the latter then, okay, that's very bankable and is very backable and that's super, super important. And the third big thing, and there's another, 117 things after this, which I'll spare you from, but the third big, big thing is we look at the business model. We look at how is your business model unique, different, special compared to everyone else's business model that may be in the same sector. Because one of the things that we've observed is from an investing perspective and from a where do I put my money and perspective?

Mike Plener: And we need to look at both sides. This is not just an entrepreneurial business. We're going to find businesses that investors think are great businesses. Otherwise, you're not going to get an investment in them. And, as a case in point, one of our clients, they run hospitality. And I think it would be fair to say that main street hospitality right now is pretty tough. It's not easy. They got here, as everybody else did, after lockdown back in March and they went to complete, what do you call it? A takeaway tray.

Mike Plener: But luckily we started working with them about six weeks before the whole lockdown occurred. And we started strategically working on them and we started to get to know your customer program. We started a number of other things. So literally within about 10 days, it was probably two weeks, they were ready to trade full on from a takeaway perspective, from a home delivery perspective, they had their own database of thousands of loyal customers. And guess what? Couple of weeks ago, or more than a month ago now, when the restrictions eased off and they were able to take people into the venue again, they had, I think, quadrupled their revenue in the span of about two months when the full lockdown was in place.

Mike Plener: Now that's pretty good and they weren't quite back to pre-lockdown revenue. Now though, they have limited trading through the actual venue. They are getting very close to pre-lockdown revenue, which is incredible because you're still going to have the four square meter, all and all that kind of stuff. And they indeed opened a second venue two weeks ago. Well how many other hospitality businesses can do that in these times? And it's not because they are special or have some genius 17 herbs and spices that are super secret, no. But they have a business model that works above and beyond all else.

Mike Plener: It is really what's going to drive the business of the future it's not your product, it's not your technology. And on the topic of a technology, I mean, hey, I'm a tech freak as much as the next guy, but the reality is that technology for probably three decades now has served as what we would have referred to as a competitive mode. Oh, I've got some great piece of tech and keep all the other guys out of my little play zone here for a couple of years, at least, because I've got some really tech. Well, guess what, you and I can sit down and develop pretty much any piece of tech and we can do it between three and six months. And we can generally do that for about a quarter million dollars.

Mike Plener: You know, when I ran a tech business 20 years ago, we were starting another one. Well, you spend a couple of million dollars to get our base product up and running. The cost of building the tech is now a 10th of what it used to be. And you can do it in a fraction of the time. So the people that run around and say, "Oh, we've got this technology and it's going to keep all competitors out." I'm sorry, but they are wrong. It's not going to work like that in the next two years, two decades.

Mike Plener: What will work is the business model because business models are a combination of the people, the process, the system, and the technology and the market they're going into and the pricing policy and a whole lot of other things and we're indeed going into a couple of decades where the superstars will be the marketing people, will be the salespeople, will be the commercial people because they are the ones that construct the day to day driving of that business model. And a lot of people out there in the investment world and certainly in the entrepreneurial community, haven't figured this out yet.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So a business bottle is one of your three key steps along with someone's got a heart and you found out that they've really got a very strong passionate why, you've discovered that said in an industry that's trending on the up. And for example, podcasting is on the up at the moment, everyone wants to be a podcaster. What do you use to identify trends, Mike? Is it tools, you use? Like do you use Google trends? Obviously, that's the free version. What else do you do?

Mike Plener: I kind of do it in reverse in a sense that like we've identified some thematic areas, so food, food tech, ag tech, everything related to the chain of food production is one of the biggest themes. Now why is that so? It's because, first of all, there's a ridiculously fast growing middle class, across great countries amongst others, literally with hundreds of millions of consumers that demand higher quality and are willing to pay a higher price. And because also in food, we've seen both diversification and premiumization like you and I can go to Kohl's right now, buy a salami for whatever 29.95 a kilo. We can also go to the farmer's market on Sunday. And we're probably going to pay $150 a kilo for what is also called a salami. Right.

Mike Plener: Now, we can obviously argue that one from the farmer's market tastes a lot better and I would be one of those people saying that, but it's still salami. And so that's what we refer to as premiumization. There's very few industries actually, where there is such a wide gap across premiumization, where you can maybe fetch a 5x price premium for something that actually the same ingredients in it. It's quite unique. And what that means is gross profit. What do we like? Gross profit. So the whole food, ag tech, the whole chain is very, very important. Like humans are not going to suddenly stop eating. And last I checked, we have a still growing population, at least for another couple of decades ahead of us. So, another theme that we see a lot is and we're not going to go through all of them, but another one that is worth mentioning is what we call solutions for the aging population.

Mike Plener: Now why is that so? It's because there's a bunch of baby boomers in lots of different countries. And we all know that they've got higher disposable income than the average. They got a higher net wealth than the average, et cetera, et cetera. And this is not about finding another retirement home that gets infected with Coronavirus. But this is about finding all the other things that that market segment is looking for. And again, the reason we go into that is it's a market. And you can actually, to some extent, you can market to it in a coherent kind of manner. Now, whether that is an AI mod for somebody with Alzheimer's or whether it's some kind of leisure activity, whatever and on, hey, that's up to the entrepreneurs to figure that out. But we got a number of thematic areas that we predominantly are looking for companies within.

Mike Plener: But when a company then comes in and we go, "Yep, you're within that area." Okay. Tick. Then we go quite deep specifically, it says, "Okay, you're not part of the trillion dollar a year global tourism industry. No, you're part of this little segment here that only turns over $10 billion globally. Okay. Well, how is that particular thing?" So then we go from a research perspective and typically there's a report out there. Somebody who's been kind enough to write that sometimes you've got to pay for it. Sometimes it's free. But surprisingly, well maybe not surprisingly, but there is a lot of research data available and we just go on fetch it and go, "Yep." Or we'll go, "No."

Jeff Bullas: So two that you've mentioned: agricultural technology, aging population. What's what's one more because I find this area fascinating in terms of trends, big enough market size. And you have obviously got a thematic approach rather than ad hoc. What's another area that you find is got huge opportunities globally.

Mike Plener: So one of the big one is what we would broadly referred to as med tech and it's not just the technology side, but it is what we call anything that's bio and med-related, but is non-pharma. In other words, if somebody comes along and says, "I've invented a new pill and it's going to take three years to get to TGA approval." We're going to go, "Sorry, it's not our wheelhouse, we're not a bunch of doctors." And that doesn't mean it's not a good thing. It just means that is outside our realm. But if somebody comes along and says, "Hey," they've got a new app, they've got a, something that can improve the standard of care. They got, say, maybe a natural remedy, that go on something.

Mike Plener: And this is obviously closely related to lifestyle, some of these things, but it could be as technical as, we looked at three different diagnostic methodologies for cancer detection just in the last 18 months. And all of them are valid scientifically-backed big plays. But we also know the timeline to get from A to Z is substantial. And we're looking at a couple of other things that... right now, we're looking at a manufacturing play, we just started with a client very recently, that produces, natural medicines on scale and of a purity that is quite frankly really not seen anywhere else this side of the equator.

Jeff Bullas: Wow.

Mike Plener: And so all of those kind of things to me are important because one of the big trends, if we talk about that, is that people are moving away in the next two decades from modern medicine and towards the more traditional herbal-based, natural remedy-based, whatever you want to call it, approach to it.

Mike Plener: And you see that across the board. And you know, that's not to say that I wouldn't want to go to a doctor if I go and broke my foot, of course. I want to go and get surgery and get it stitched back together again. But for a lot of the other things, the ailments and particular lifestyle diseases, we have found conclusive evidence, let's put it that way that the current treatment regime is just not sufficient. And that's not to say that it's ineffective, but it's not sufficient, whether we're talking about diabetes or cancer or whatever else. Unfortunately, in many cases, the treatment is actually worse than the disease. And we see a whole lot of solutions and answers coming up in that space that have some different answers, obviously not necessarily liked by mainstream modern medicine, but as you would expect, when there's some new stuff coming in, there's going to be some friction.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's some really great insights there. So what you've mentioned, essentially, is when you look in the medtech area, and you're not saying, "I want to go into pharmaceuticals," because as you mentioned, the big problem getting into pharmaceuticals is time to market. And also the bureaucracy to get it past the TGA in Australia, for example, or in America. It can typically be up to even a decade before you actually can get it through that system. So speed to market, you've just mentioned as being one of the most important things that you're looking for in the med tech area.

Mike Plener: Hmm. Yeah. Yes. And overall, we also... it's probably worth pondering on the fact that because we are looking at those sort of, not the early stage startup, where it's, "Hey, I have an idea and I've got the back on the napkin." kind of thing. We're actually looking for companies that either have proven there is a market or actually are in revenue or turn the first million dollars worth of revenue or something like that. Now why do we do that? It's because we know that we are not necessarily the best judge of whether that product is good, bad, or indifferent, but their consumer or their client always is, if somebody's paying a hundred dollars a month, or paying $10,000 for the product or whatever the story might be. Well, there must be right, right. Whereas, I might not like the product or I or I might think it's fantastic. I mean, my opinion doesn't count.

Mike Plener: So, we always say to entrepreneurs when they come in and they go, "Oh, can I show you my product?" We go, "Nah. I don't want to see your product." "Oh, but can I do a demo?" "No, no, no. Don't have a demo." Some get really cranky about it and go, "But mine is fantastic." I go, "I know it's fantastic. Otherwise we've been sitting here, but show me your spreadsheet, show me your financial model. Show me your customer data. Show me, even if it's a dumb file out of your CRM or your eCommerce system, show me that. And they're going to go, "Yeah. About that." Okay. Well, that's where you start a conversation. You know where the commercial geeks, we love spreadsheets, right? We love contracts, we love all of these kinds of things that most people go, "Oh, that's terrible." We love sales conversations and we love joint ventures.

Mike Plener: Because one of the things that I get a lot of people offside with this is, "Oh, we're going to raise some money." "Okay, what are you going to spend it on?" "We're going to spend a lot of money marketing." I'm like, "No. You can't." And they're going, "What?" "You're not allowed to" I say to them, "But what do you mean?" I say, "What do you want to spend it on?" "Oh, we want to use some Google ads." I say, "Okay, I know some people out there, they spend a million dollars a week. They've got a couple of people that are sitting there that are specializing in spending that million dollars a week, you want to compete with that?" They're going, "But isn't that the way?" I go, "Nah, it's not the way we'll get you some people. I'll give you all your customers for free." And they're going, "You're fucking dreaming, Mike." And they're going, "Let me prove it to you." And we prove it every single time.

Mike Plener: It does take a couple of months. What I say to people is you can hire two or three people and they'll do some great work, a PR person or whatever or not and we'll go out there and generate lots of leads for you, but you're not good enough, big enough, fat enough yet to go and compete with the big boys in terms of buying that kind of real advertising online. I mean you yourself would know a lot more about this than I do, but it's just like, I've seen these people that have sat with them and go, "Jesus, I'm not going to try and compete with you." It's just like, and so I know it firsthand. A lot of these entrepreneurs they go, "Ah, we were told." No. They're all buying into the lie, right? And so again, Mike's in here again being the terrible person going, "You can't do that."

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you had knocked all these people back here. I'm sure it created a lot of tears, a lot of angst. You're maybe not their favorite person. So you've chosen these people in these thematic areas, whether it's a medtech, whether it's agriculture tech. So you've chosen them. What's the next steps that you take them through to make sure they succeed, well give them the best chance of success. So what are some of the next steps? What's the next step after you've selected them saying, yes, you've spoken to your customers. Your customers are speaking with their wallets. They're actually pulling out and buying your shit. So the reality is, they've actually tested the marketplace before they come to you essentially. And that's what you really want to see, is traction. So what's the next step, Mike?

Mike Plener: So the next step is, and these are not sequential, so instead of maybe next steps, there's 17 steps that need to happen simultaneously after they go, okay, let's go, is first of all, we need to build or tune the machine that currently creates revenue so it creates a lot more. And so it creates more revenue on more autopilot because a lot of them are completely stuck inside the engine room, building revenue, which is good. We want that, but we need to extract some of that business owners' headspace out of there and actually get back to the strategy. And the other thing we start working on is system sizing things, structuring, process-orienting the business. We want everything to be a little machine or little flywheel, a little handle, they can just crank the handle, another dollar bill comes up the other end.

Mike Plener: Now, why do we do that? There's a lot of research on this, that a business that is attempting to scale without having proper systems, processes, and procedures will invariably fail. Or if not failing, it'll certainly hit some really tough times simply because the machine... you can't just find the more people that all of them don't know what they're doing. That's a recipe for disaster. And the third thing we start working on in that same first week is, okay, let's get you some capital. And so that's a process that takes time. The act of finding investors is not hard. You know, we can all just go on LinkedIn type in the word, investor, I'm sure we can find tens of thousands of people. And some of them will even accept a friendship and off we go. The problem is to get an investor on board, your business needs to know, like, and trust.

Mike Plener: And that takes time. And a big part of the trust building is by every couple of weeks sending a report and it says, "Hey, guess what we did in the last two weeks, we build more revenue, repeat a more joint ventures. We hired more people. We build a better mouse trap. Please give us some money." And you keep saying that eventually when you call them up a couple of months later, "Oh, you're going to silly guy that sends all these updates. Actually, it's looking for you to go how's business?"

Mike Plener: Right? And you now build some trust, you now build some like in this with them. And it actually makes it easier. And so those are the three key things. They're not necessarily steps, but they're just as three key areas that we start working with the first week after somebody starts with us.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you're basically building trust as one of the strengths between the actual company owner and entrepreneur and the investor, because they've got to work together, they've got to both believe in each other. In other words, they're going to keep investing. And the other one is actually investing in something that works.

Mike Plener: Correct.

Jeff Bullas: And so we're in the middle of a crazy time that none of us will never seen. And as you said, there's a lot of capital around because there's no sense parking in interest bearing at accounts because I think in Japan, it's negative. So what's happening at the moment with capital and markets and startups in terms of funding? What's happening there? I'm curious.

Mike Plener: Well, if we take a step back from that, so when the lockdown started taking effect back, when it's now four months ago, I started calling people and going, "Hey, what's going on?" Kind of thing. And you sort of check in on your clients, check on the prospects, you check on people in the industry. And when I came to realize very quickly was the fact that there was no such thing as the new normal, everybody talks about, "Oh, the new normal." The new normal does not exist and we should scratch out of the dictionary and shoot everyone that says. “That's not going to work”.

Mike Plener: But the reality is, that people are either going gang busters because somehow they have a counter-cyclical or contra-cyclical kind of business, which means that when everybody's catching the cold, they're going, "Oh my God, we're waiting 16 hours a day, just trying to do customer fulfillment. Or they're the opposite. They're literally trying to stop going down and fighting for their life or trying to figure out... some of the conversations I have with like, "Mike, we've never seen this situation before. We're running a bloody good business for 15 years. Do I fire half my staff or what? I'm going, "Yeah. Have you talked to a lawyer, yet?"

Mike Plener: Right, it's just like a lot of these really, really tough decisions. I spoke to a friend last night, he's done 39 corporate restructures in the last three months.

Jeff Bullas: Wow.

Mike Plener: 39. That's insane. Right. And that's just the order of the day. And so in terms of where the whole investment market is, I think it's fair to say everybody took their foot off the gas March and April, understandably so. And we also advised them to please just take the foot off the gas for now, and let's figure out what's going on. Then from May onwards, in particular, as we came into June, everyone's back in the market because investors realize that this could be the time of their lives.

Mike Plener: Indeed, this guy that I'm meeting right after this said to me a couple of months ago, "Mike, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm doing everything I can to look after my investments because I will never see this kind of opportunity again in my life." And I think I see that echoed, or I hear that echoed from a lot of investors, a lot of investment resources that yes, we live in interesting times, but actually that interesting times creates enormous opportunity. And so it's our job, I guess, as being the pig in the middle, so to speak, to curate that so both sides get what they want. Investors get amazing businesses they can invest in, entrepreneurs get supportive capital from patient investors that are willing to go the long journey.

Mike Plener: Because the thing we don't know about right now is exactly how long, I mean, I can give you some pretty firm predictions on when we're going to be out of this crisis. Your business may not like it. But we certainly have clear signs that the bargains are there. What we just don't know is when are we going to get out of the crisis and the sale order on these kinds of investments we're going into now. And I mean, back to that fateful Sunday and in March, when I was sort of going, "Ah, someone's going to do something." That was why I started “Reboot”. We sort of talked about just before we got onto this phone.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And we'll get to your Reboot business in a minute. This area, we're in the middle of winners and losers, because there's so much change. A good friend of mine, she has with her brother, a blinds and shutters business for homes and commercial. When this all hit, she was doing a 50%, 30% reduction in sales because she said my sales staff might not be able to get into the home. We might need to do measurement. So anyway, fast forward three, four weeks, she's doubled revenue. Everyone's gone home, looked at their shutters and blinds. They're homemaking. She's doubled revenue. She cannot keep up with sales. She started a manufacturing industry, wholesaling as well, which then raises a whole new area of opportunity as well, in that global supply chains are being threatened. And so there's opportunity in local manufacture, which Australia is actually not one of the world's leaders in the developed world, in fact, I think we ranked last on that from my last view of the data.

Mike Plener: We do.

Jeff Bullas: So she's started wholesale. So her predictions of doom and gloom, she's one of the winners, her and her brother and they cannot get production ramped up quick enough. They're actually putting in a mezzanine floor, they're growing so they can actually do more production. Her and her brother having little thoughts because he's in charge of production, she's in charge of sales. So it's just trying to deliver and keep the customers happy.

Jeff Bullas: But it's fascinating to see the winners and losers out of this. No one could have predicted because everyone goes home, what are they going to do? Well, the alcohol sales are definitely up. So this is obviously a lot more drinking going on, but people are actually... and I've spent more money on my home, so who could have predicted that? So, anyway-

Mike Plener: Very true. Very true. Very true.

Jeff Bullas: it's really interesting times to say the least.

So back to the startups.

They have got funding. What's the next steps after the funding, they got the process as a trust between investor and the entrepreneur and things are humming nicely. What are your next steps after that?

Mike Plener: Well, I think that there's really just two things. There is, now do what you said you were going to do, because hey, we had a plan, you got the funding, everything. Well, you now are actually going to do the plan. But obviously, with the mindfulness around, well, if the circumstances change, then you're just going to change with the circumstances. If you thought you're going to expand in Singapore and you realize it's a better idea right now, you're going to expand it into whatever it might be.

Mike Plener: And so, we've got to have constant flexibility around the pursuit or the business plan that we wrote. And I think the next thing is then constantly challenging ourselves as entrepreneurs and from our end, challenging the entrepreneurs we're working with to say, "Well, how can we do better? How can we do more? How can we push one more order in? How can we hire one more staff member this week, or this month? How can we do one more country this year?" And because we're going to be very careful, we're not getting into the, "Well, it's going pretty all right, isn't it?" No, it's not.

Mike Plener: It's like, there is always room for improvement. There is always room for doing more. And it's not because I want to be a slave driver, but because the reality is that you cannot predict what's going to happen specifically to your business in X number of years. So it is really about driving the fastest possible you can, given the circumstances so people are waiting outside your door, wanting to place an order. Well, okay. Let them in. It doesn't matter it's 11:00 PM, take the order anyway.

Mike Plener: And that's the flexibility that I guess comes out. And it only really comes out to shine because of that passion that we talked about in the very beginning. It's like, when you have that passion you go, "All right, yeah sure. I know it's 11:00 PM, but hey, come on in, I'll take your order too." Right? And you just do one more and you might be a restaurant that would only bump up their revenue by a couple of hundred bucks. It could be an industrial order that the extra order was worth a hundred grand. You don't know. Because different businesses have very different metrics, but it's always worth doing because there is... there's an old saying, if you want to get something done, just ask the busy person, right? And that is so true around business ownership and entrepreneurship, the people that are the busiest, they are the luckiest too somehow. Not sure how that works, but there's some sort kind of corollary there.

Jeff Bullas: I have no idea how that works either. All right, two areas that I picked up there was number one, you've doubled down on growth. Number two, you're constantly optimizing as well. And optimization I suppose in the areas such as processes, I suppose marketing, so business growing. And I suppose three choices, isn't it? Number one, hang onto the business, keep growing it. Maintain as much control as you can. Number two, sell it or go public is maybe another one.

Jeff Bullas: So, do you help with that part of the journey as well?

Mike Plener: Well, we're not the experts in IPO or anything like that and we would refer people to people in that market that we know and work and go, "Hey, they're the experts. No, that's not really our wheelhouse."

Jeff Bullas: Okay, right. So, I think this is a great segue to go Reboot Australia, but I really loved your sharing of both the thematic approach and a lot of these, as we know, they're not rocket science in the entrepreneurial world, things like processes, starting with the right why. So, Reboot Australia, tell me a little bit what that is about because that's a recent adventure isn't it?

Mike Plener: That's a very recent adventure. That's a good word for it, adventure. That sort of rings a bell. In simple terms, it was just a silly idea for me. They're going, "Hey, what about if we could help all these people that are suffering right now?" And within a couple of hours of having that idea, they obviously drew upl the business plan and their financial model and everything and going, "Uh-oh, we can't actually do this on our own." Because I realized, that normally you have the probably we're talking about tens of thousands of businesses that need a hand out. And so, I designed the program, if we can call it that, within the first week, I was saying how we were going to get a bunch of partners on board.

Mike Plener: And the idea of the partner model is really, "Hey, we're not the accountants. We can't be your lawyer at the same time and your financial advisor and blah, blah, blah." It's a bunch of specialists out there. So the first big milestone with Reboot Australia was to go and reach out to a whole bunch of people that we already knew, say, "Hey, do you want to come on board as a partner?" And thankfully, a lot of them said, "Yes. That sounds fantastic. Where do I register?" And off we went.

Mike Plener: What we've observed is that a lot of these businesses that are now in trouble, but also a lot of these businesses that are going gangbusters, in either situation, they've been brought into a vacuum where they've just never been before. And I said before, it's not because they've suddenly forgotten how to run a good business, they've been doing it for a decade some of them, or even longer. But the circumstances that were cast upon them, or thrown upon them is probably a better word were just like, "What? What do we do here?"

Mike Plener: And so, Reboot isn't just a, "Hey, well you need an accountant." Because they're going to go, "Well, I already got an accountant, what do I need another one for? That's not going to help." Or, "You need to do some marketing." "I'll do some marketing." "Yeah, but you may need to completely rethink what you're doing. So, in line with what we know very well, which is the curation and how do you curate businesses, not just from great, good, and pretty ordinary, but also curating from, "Are you in this kind of sector and what kind of help do you need?" We help them find out what's the sticking point and maybe the first thing you need to do is spend a day with someone on Australia sessions, so you actually understand which way is up.

Mike Plener: And that is something much more challenging of course, because it's not just an out of the box, "I'll just go and I don't know, buy another case of water." Or something like that and we're done. Or we'll just hire two more people like the ones we already had. And so what we tell people to do in many cases is the first thing, you've actually got to tighten the belt. You actually got to reduce costs because you may not know yet how long this crisis is going to be for your particular company. And so therefore, the more you can increase your short-term profitability and the easiest way is usually by taking some of the cost out. But the next thing that they're going to do right away after that is to then increase revenue.

Mike Plener: And why again, revenue comes in here is because guess what? A lot of the businesses out there, they're going, "Oh, this is tough times." What's the first thing they cut? They cut their fricken marketing budget or even they fired a couple of the sales people and the rest of us are going, "Don't. It doesn't work." I'm like, "You're in tough times. You actually need to increase your marketing spend. You need to increase your sales effort because these are the times where you gain market shares, where you possibly even gain double digit market shares that you could not ever do under normal circumstances."

Mike Plener: And I've seen it live around here in the Sydney CBD where I'm sitting. Probably about a handful of cafes chose to stay open in the midst of the beginning of the lockdown back in March and April. And I'm sure they did not create amazing revenue, but I'm also very certain that those people that came in every day there and got their coffee or got their lunch were thankful the loyalty they showed their customers and I'm very certain that their loyalty is paying back with massive dividends right now because those are the cafes that have still got queues outside them now that lots of people are back at work. Whereas the café that's a hundred meter down the road is completely empty.

Mike Plener: And that's a simplistic example of what actually happens when you reinvested during a time of crisis of this kind here.

Jeff Bullas: So Reboot Australia, is that a benevolent model? Is it?

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: So, you're putting profits back into the business to help those thousands of businesses struggling. So, basically, you approached a lot of partners and you've said, "Okay, we need to provide support for businesses," in a whole range of areas, I suppose.

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: Lawyers, accountants, marketers, strategists. You get people to apply to Reboot Australia don't you?

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: So what happens after that?

Mike Plener: Well, what happens after that is we use our, shall we call it, curation technology, so far, we've done a couple of thousand evaluations, and we find, "Okay, what's the case. Where do we see that you need to build in the first instance." And obviously, the pathway from there is completely individual and up to that business. It could be they're going, "Hi, I just need to get some resources. Just let me watch all the videos and whatever." And we go, "That's fine."

Mike Plener: It could be, "Hey, just give me a day's worth of strategy session with somebody who can do that and then I'll be off on my merry way." And other people want to have a long-term solution. But we're there almost like, I'm not quite sure there's a word for it, but where you internally refer to as a concierge function. In other words, "Hi. This is what it appears you need first and off you go and talk to the marketing guys over there. Let's see how you go with that and then come back and speak to us next week, next month depending on how long that takes. And if you feel you're on the right track. Okay, done. If you're going, 'Yeah, that was only part of the problem.' 'Okay, what's next?'"

Mike Plener: And so, there's a sort of layering of functionality. It could be, "I need a business loan." And again, it's not like they couldn't just go to a bank or a financial institution. Just Google, you can find lots of those. But I guess our insight ability is, "Yeah, but we know that if you go to these guys over here with your particular circumstances, they will probably be more likely to give you the kind of loan that you want or need."

Mike Plener: And so we are just basically ours and our partners' expertise in kind of how the world works and why that's important right now is because a lot of these people that are coming to a place like reboot, they're going, it's not like I'm stupid, it's not like I don't know how to run a business, but, hey, I've been thrown into a situation that I just don't know how to fix it. And that's where our expertise and that of the partners that we have, they go, "Oh, yeah. We've sort of seen one of those before because they see volumes of that. They see volumes of all these kind of cases so to speak. And therefore, [inaudible 00:53:47] minimal effort on behalf of that consultant or coach or mentor or marketing strategist or whatever they are and the maximum benefit or maximum outcome from the perspective of the business owner. That's really the core of it.

Jeff Bullas: So, you've actually had about 2000 businesses? Is that correct? That have signed up for Reboot Australia. Is that correct or about a thousand? How many?

Mike Plener: Yeah, live on the site, we got more than a hundred partners, there's probably another 160 that's getting through and they're sort of the providers so to speak and we've started going to market now on the member side and to basically make sure that we have lots and lots of companies coming in. I'm not sure what the latest number is this week. But there's people coming through and filling in the form every single week, or every single day actually and we're obviously trying to get back to people as quickly as we can. It's quite an effort, I'll be honest with you. But it's one of those kind of silly things where you go, "Someone's got to do something about it." And we started the process, including talking with the government. We've been fortunate to start talking to some very large partner players in the last couple of weeks, but as you would appreciate, those kinds of conversations are not done in one afternoon. It takes many months for getting large players on board and getting the government on board.

Mike Plener: But we see that this is not a short-term effort. We see this is a very long-term effort. It's probably at least two years. It could be longer, but I feel like I'm sort of an evil person who's like, "Hey, this reboot could take three years." But I'm very certain that it's going to be at least two years before the economy has kind of turned around and at least we are getting back to where we were before this whole thing happened.

Mike Plener: So yeah, it's a big thing. We need all the partners and players we can get out there to come on board and give us a hand because, as I said, throwing my hands in the air, a task that is absolutely impossible for ourselves on our own.

Jeff Bullas: Well done. That's impressive, Mike, to see you do that.

Mike Plener: Thank you.

Jeff Bullas: It's really something that's necessary. I've had a look at the site and Ben introduced us, which is great. Mikke Jay from Queensland is helping out I believe, so there's a bunch of different partners. So you had to build a website pretty quickly, how long did that take to build the Reboot Australia website?

Mike Plener: I think the first version of it was done in about 10 days and I think that it's fair to say that that wasn't quite perfect, hey, that's what happens when you have something in ten days. Truth be known, we're still fiddling with it and I think I see this with any other website, you actually never quite get anything finished because you always have another idea, we're building a new landing page, we're remodeling the homepage, et cetera, et cetera, but we got the first go of it up and running pretty quickly and as there always is, when you've got a bunch of people that are really not that technical, including myself, there's a few technical things and you go, "Ooh, that didn't quite work like we thought it was going to do." And suddenly, the 10 days took a lot longer.

Mike Plener: But at least we got something up there and we could start engaging with partners and with people and say, "Hey, we've got something."

Jeff Bullas: Congratulations.

Mike Plener: Thank you.

Jeff Bullas: Done is always better than perfect isn't it?

Mike Plener: Yes, that's the entrepreneurial rule: 80-20.

Jeff Bullas: So, you've talked about the length of time you think it's possible and you've mentioned two to three years. I've been watching a little bit of Ray Dalio, one of the richest men in the world with his hedge fund and he's used a term called the lost decade, which is an interesting term in that I think what happened in the 1930s, I think by the time people get back to what it was before, there's a decade lost. But you're calling it two to three years. Tell us a little bit more about your thoughts on that.

Mike Plener: Well, I guess part of it, and again, it seems to be a very unpopular thing to say, "Hey, it might be ten years." So, that's why I'm trying not to say that, but the reality is that the recovery will be extremely uneven. So if you think about the recovery in certain sectors, is already well underway. The recovery in other sectors, simply because of the time it takes to build infrastructure and so on, so forth is going to take five or more years. I mean, we have, and you touched on it just ten minutes or so ago, that we are at the bottom of the OECD nations in terms of manufacturing index. We have the lowest level of internal or domestic production across all of our peers in the OECD.

Mike Plener: No doubt there will be some people that are going, "Well, we've actually got to do something about that." But you don't just build a new factory in two months and start banging up production for something that we never produced locally before. It's not going to work like that. It's going to take years to, not necessarily repatriate what we had offshore, but to build new industries that will be successful in manufacturing because this will be a unique opportunity for us to go straight into a newer, more modern version of manufacturing, produce top-quality goods, it doesn't matter what sector we're in, that lots of people across the world will want. But it's certainly not going to be an overnight situation.

Mike Plener: I mean, we're working with one company in manufacturing and I think they're expecting it'll take them 18 months to build the facility once they have the funding. So, we're hoping that in two years, we'll push that green button. It's like, "Wow, that's a long-term plan." Right? And I think people forget how long this thing takes. I mean, this is very different from starting a software as a service business, where once we finish the programming of it and we've done some digital advertising, we might have our first client within a week. Even within a day. It doesn't work like that in all the industries. So I think the first thing to be aware of is that the reboot of the different sectors of the economy is going to be extremely uneven and it's going to come back to what I mentioned in the very beginning, based on their business model, some will succeed and some will fail, even within neighboring premises in the same sector.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah.

Mike Plener: And... sorry? Go on.

Jeff Bullas: I've had discussions with other entrepreneurs regarding... we all rushed to outsource and offshore a lot of what we did and what we did is we went running towards what we call low-cost labor countries such as China and such as India. But, we're in the middle of a huge digital technology shift, which has been going on for decades, but it seems to be accelerating as the intersection of technologies makes new inventions possible and new ways of doing things. So, how do you see bringing back manufacturing to countries and getting control of their supply chains and manufacturing? How do you see the role of things like automation versus low-cost labor playing out? Because automation... and I was talking to a mate, a riding buddy and he said that he went out to a Western Sydney glass manufacturing company, the size of a football field and there were three people on the floor.

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: So where do you see the role of automation versus cheap labor playing out over the next decade?

Mike Plener: I am very certain that we're going to see a lot more automation than we ever had and there's no chance for us as a country to compete with cheap labor. I don't think there is a political will to drop the minimum wage down to 12 or 14 dollars an hour. From an economist's perspective, it's kind of what would make sense and again, but that's a very unpopular opinion. The reality is so that our current minimum wage is too high to get most of the people that are out there unemployed and unskilled, to ever get them in a job.

Mike Plener: That's a legacy of unions, that's a legacy of a whole lot of other things that's just the way it is. And instead of crying about it, we've just got to go, well, if we assume that that's actually how it is and we, as a country, go no, we want to keep the minimum wage where it is. Well that then puts some constraints and borders and boundaries on what we can actually do with it. And we're going to see automation, not just in manufacturing, but say in agriculture. You already see now, you've got drones spray, drones picking and harvest, you've got all these technology things.

Mike Plener: Why? Because they can actually do a better job at it than humans and even better, some crops want to be picked when it's cool in the middle of the night. It's not very pleasant to be an agricultural worker at 3:00 AM in the morning and you can't bloody see a thing, whereas the drone doesn't care or the robot, the unmanned vehicle doesn't care about that. So, in every sector of the economy, you're going to see lots and lots of automation stepping in, which creates the need to have a conversation that again, there's not a huge amount of political will right now: well, do we actually need to introduce some kind of living wage? Because otherwise, quite frankly, I don't know how we're going to pay for all of these people that are just here. And we're not going to suddenly upskill everybody because you can't force people to get upskilled. You can't force them into education even though the government's been trying for a couple of decades with their incentives. It doesn't work.

Mike Plener: And so therefore, they will forever be unskilled and well, you've got to do something. You can't make them die on the streets can you? Well, maybe you could, but again, there's not the political will to do that. We are needing really challenge a lot of the status quo around how we run the labor market, how we run industrial relations and there's been lots of talk in the media in the last couple of months and now is the best time ever to give the current, silly industrial relations systems the boot and start over again and actually do something that might actually work.

Mike Plener: I don't have the blueprint by the way in the pocket for what that will look like. It's not why I'm saying it because I don't have a political agenda, but I'm just observing that there could be lots more people in work if we didn't have these strict rules around how that looks. And I think a lot of these, shall we call them holy cows are up for being slaughtered.

Jeff Bullas: I totally agree with you. We have a lot higher minimum wage than even America. I think in America, the minimum wage for example, sits as low as seven dollars an hour. That's poverty line.

Mike Plener: Yes, which is about 10 or 11 Australian or something like that.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, that's right. And there's the other term which I came across, which is both political as well as entrepreneurial: don't waste a good crisis. The reality on that is: okay, we're in the middle of change, so there's going to be opportunity. And I think where there is a lot of pain, the opportunities will start to reinvent. And it's fascinating watch to see what will unfold over the next two or three years and see whether we as a country can actually reinvent ourselves and make some of the tough decisions needed to actually take opportunity of what's happening and to actually do reinvent ourselves.

Jeff Bullas: I don't know what that exactly looks like and it's going to be very interesting times. And the government's very quick to put in regulations to keep us all safe, which I don't have a problem with that. I think the government's generally done quite a good job and I don't want to go down any political route here. But, the reality is, I think the real test in time is to see when will regulations be lifted and what will the... will government and society make the changes needed to actually grow out of this?

Jeff Bullas: So, yeah.

Mike Plener: Yes, indeed.

Jeff Bullas: The other end that fascinates me too is Australia is a developed country and also is a country with some smart people and very good education, very good health system and the the other concept I've had is, Hong Kong's becoming a great place to do some head hunting frankly and they might want bring some smart people home or bring some smart people from Silicon Valley to Australia because of the current situation where it's starting to seem as a safe place to actually grow a business.

Jeff Bullas: So, many questions looking for answers.

Mike Plener: Sure is.

Jeff Bullas: And I've really been enjoying the conversation we've had now this afternoon in Sydney. Congratulations on Reboot Australia and I think it's just an incredible endeavor and hats off to you. Is there anything you'd like to share with other entrepreneurs in their journey? Like what are some things they should be looking at? And you deal with a lot of young entrepreneurs, don't you? And you also work very much in the tech part, in other words, how tech can help an existing industry. The digitizing of business. So, are there any few tips you can leave entrepreneurs that want to start a business or are already running a business?

Mike Plener: I think, and this is going to be relatively generic, but it's across, whether you're a young entrepreneur or a 50-something entrepreneur doesn't really matter, but it's like, you've got to remember that you're the guy or the girl with the great idea and you are the person with the passion, the belly to make sure that this happens. What that definitely means, it actually puts extreme responsibility onto yourself to look after you because if you're no longer there to drive that drain, well the world's going to miss out on that great idea with that product coming to market. And I see a lot of people not looking after themselves enough from a health, in particular, mental health perspective. Whether that means you meditate or you go for a walk along the beach, on the [inaudible 01:09:04] or you have a dog or not have a dog, whatever it might be. But those things actually are really important. And they actually are far more important at the moment through lockdowns and through crisis mode and we don't know which way is up and all this kind of stuff.

Mike Plener: We live in uncertain times, which is an old Chinese curse and the reality is that because we do, we need to look after each other and ourselves even more than we otherwise would and I think particularly as entrepreneurs, it's really, really important to do. It doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter what kind of business you're running, there is reason that you should of course always be paranoid, someone's going to catch up with you because they might just do that, but you still need to have the resilience and the resources, which may mean you go and do your exercise, are you getting enough sleep and all of those kind of things because if you don't, well guess what? You will burn out before you got to get to that top of the pedestal kind of position and well, we all missed out. The investors missed out, your family missed out, yourself missed out, your customers missed out. Well that's a bit silly.

Mike Plener: And so, it's actually less about the product, it's less about your financial model, it's less about all these kind of things because you, as a person, aren't at your maximum output from an intellectual and from a physical output perspective. It's probably not going to work.

Jeff Bullas: I think that's great advice. Look after yourself because you've only got one life to live.

Mike Plener: Correct.

Jeff Bullas: I certainly believe in things like I meditate most mornings I also am a serious “MAMIL”, that's “middle-aged man in lycra” as an acronym. And I've surrounded myself with some really great friends and there's a study done by NAB Bank which showed that after $75,000 dollars a year in Australia, that what comes down to one that generates the most happiness is relationships and I think part of looking after yourself is doubling down relationships and that could be actually, in these uncertain times, is you can't meet in person, we'll just go and catch up on Zoom. Let's do a FaceTime call. Let's check in.

Mike Plener: Yes.

Jeff Bullas: I think we need to be looking out for each other.

Mike Plener: Super important.

Jeff Bullas: For me also, having great conversations with leaders such as yourself that are making a difference and that's what the Jeff Bullas Show is all about is trying to the essence of what is true success and it's not just all about the money. It's very much about the holistic attitude to life, heart, and soul. So, yeah.

Mike Plener: Live a fuller life.

Jeff Bullas: Absolutely. We've only got one and let's grab it with both hands and let's live it with a very powerful why. And try and work out... I think the biggest question a lot of people have is why am I here? What's my passionate purpose? It only took me till 50 to find that out. And it changed my world and so, thank you very much, Mike for sharing your insights. I really, really loved it and I'm sure our listeners will too. So thank you very much.

Mike Plener: Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. It's been an absolute joy talking to you today. It's been a lot of fun and have an awesome rest of the day. The sun is shining, we should both get out and get some fresh air on that note.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. I'll just finish up here. Thank you very much, Mike, have a great day.

Mike Plener: Thank you. Cheers, mate.

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