We’re excited to have on the show Greg Savage of The Savage Truth – who brings to us a wealth of experience in building businesses, having taken just one of his businesses from start up to $60 million.
- Greg’s First Business – From Start Up to $60-Million
- Key Elements to Growth
- Surviving the 1990 Australian Recession
- Leadership, People Management and Coaching
- From Recovery to Public Listing
- Listing is Not the End, It’s the Beginning
- The Savage Truth
Greg’s First Business – From Start Up to $60-Million
Eighty percent of recruitment companies globally have less than 10 people. So to start with nine was ambitious and we did. It was scary. I mean we paid ourselves a lot less than we had to pay our staff and all those sorts of things. But we didn’t acquire a business.
We did acquire was some very good skills of people and some relationships that they had and they all had relationships with us because we had worked together before and so we were able to get momentum very quickly which we needed because we needed cashflow obviously.
– Greg Savage
Key Elements to Growth
The three partners, we each had very different skills… That was actually very important to help us grow. We weren’t treading on each other’s toes. We had a healthy respect for what each other did.
Secondly, we treated our business like it was a big business long before it was a big business.
I think we were quite brave. Maybe brave, maybe stupid but a bit of both, which allowed us to open offices in other cities. We had a very strong ethos and culture.
– Greg Savage
Surviving the 1990 Australian Recession
We honestly survived for three reasons.
- 1. We had no debt. I am a big fan of minimal debt, or if you’ve got debt, it’s strategic.
Never get yourself into a position that if your revenues dropped by 50 percent, suddenly the bank owns you.
- 2. We had a strong temporary and contract business.
This is very important for any business because there will be people listening to us who are not in recruitment. It doesn’t matter. The lesson is you’ve got annuity revenue.
- 3. We cut our cost by more than 50 percent.
This was all due to the partner who had the finance knowledge. What we did on his prompting was we cut deep fast. As a result we traded at a break even for two years, which doesn’t sound much. But it was a break even, whereas 60 percent of our colleagues went bust.
Leadership, People Management and Coaching
Leadership is something that can be learnt. You can get better at leadership.
Retention of staff isn’t about paying people more or putting in a billiards table. This is absolute nonsense. People have to be fairly paid. They got to have the incentive and all that, but really what people are looking for is communication and clarity and fairness and learning. People want to develop.
Creating a high performance culture in a business means introducing an ethos of accountability and that is lacking in so many businesses. You need to make people accountable once you’ve given them the tools.
It’s long term, serial mediocrity of your people that will drag the business back.
On the flip side of that is your responsibility as a leader to introduce an ethos of coaching and I’m not talking about training. Training is good. But coaching is better, where people are taught on the job and there’s a constant ethos of improvement. I have found that that gives you great profits. It also gives you great loyalty and longevity.
– Greg Savage
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From Recovery to Public Listing
You might know people very very well, but that might be the exact barrier to honestly sharing where you’re up to. Who is the first one who is going to say “You know what, I feel like getting out.” That’s not easy conversation, right?
It’s very expensive to be listed Joanna. It will cost you a million dollars a year. There’s a lot of compliance. It’s also good because if you go and see a company and you’re a listed company, they take you a lot more seriously. You get lot more credibility.
It is hard to go as an owner of a business to being the manager of a business you no longer technically own. I think that’s a psychological, emotional challenge.
It took about a year. I think 18 months from ‘hey, let’s think about exiting’ to ‘what are the options’ to the listing itself.
– Greg Savage
Listing is Not the End, It’s the Beginning
You are the people who got the business there and you are the ones at that point best equipped to take it where it’s got to go.
I would love to have heard this podcast 30 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of pain to be honest with you because it’s all learned through mistakes I’ve made.
– Greg Savage
The Savage Truth
If you like to find out more about Greg, he’s got a really great blog which I highly recommend. Just head over to gregsavage.com.au. On that website, you’ll see a tab that links to his blog called The Savage Truth. Greg mainly blogs about recruitment, leadership, social media, and ethics often within a framework of recruitment.
We also feature the full version of this interview with Greg on our sister podcast, The Deal Room, where talk in much more detail about his experience with listing his company, as well as drilling into how he used acquisitions as a growth strategy, and the concept of management buyouts. So if you want to have a listen to it, simply switch over to www.thedealroompodcast.com or you can also search it up on your favourite podcast player. Just look for The Deal Room Podcast and swipe back to episodes 28 and 29.