Tony skinner 00:03
Hi and welcome to the podcast channel on podcastmybusiness.com.au and today we’ve got Harry from Stotan group stotangroup.com.au. Which one is it? It’s a Stotan. Tony. That’s right. And I read up the meaning of that. Can you share that with us?
Harry Stotan 00:24
Yes. So it’s a blended word or what’s known as a portmanteau, it’s blended word between using stoicism or stoic philosophy and Spartan lifestyle and at the business that we run human performance business we blend the best of both because parts of both are a little dated to say the least.
Tony skinner 00:49
Absolutely. Okay. So let’s deal with you know, your background ex SAS soldier for a long time. I don’t know why you decided To do so many tours, but you did. That’s quite incredible. So why did you do so many tours?
Harry Stotan 01:09
I guess it gets in your blood and I was a career soldier I joined out of high school 30 odd years in the military and mostly in the Special Operations community. It just gets in your blood. And I suppose early on in life, I found competence and therefore, I was confident in myself and enjoyed it and not look, it’s also just a great environment in which to be in the member of a team that you really bond with, with the people that you work with. And it’s, it’s irresistible from that perspective.
Tony skinner 01:50
And that’s certainly what you know, you focus on in your business is helping teams and let’s face it at the moment, there’s lots of challenges around and you guys in Melbourne are in a lockdown at the moment that’s quite severe for lots of people. So how can you keep a team together under that sort of stress? And I mean, let’s face it, you know all about that type of stress.
Harry Stotan 02:15
Yeah, I’ve actually had the, I’d say the fortune on many occasions in my military career to run distributed teams, distributed networks. And I think that the number one thing that stands out for me is to be even more brilliant at the basics, you know, really good teams. You know, the word high performing teams is bandied around a lot. But those, those types of teams are characterized by some pretty basic things that they do really well, that you know, so distributed teams communicate regularly have a heartbeat of communications and they probably do more of it when they’re distributed. And they have good structures inside those communications and meeting so that they don’t waste time. Just get to the point, transferring information. And they also try to introduce novelty into their communications as well. So not all about work, having making sure that you’re touching base regularly and just finding out how people are what they need away from work, make sure they’re comfortable, you know, and then having a bit of downtime. So, you know, there’s, I think that’s one of the key elements of distributed teams. And then the second part is if you’re the leader, or the controller or the manager, however, you’d like to put that your jobs probably harder than ever, and you really need to have yourself squared away first. So I’d say that self care becomes really important terms of, you know, the executive level or the leadership manager role.
Tony skinner 03:49
Yeah, and I think that’s what we’re not focusing on at all, is looking after the leaders and making sure the leaders anybody who’s having our own business. Whether we’re with other people or on our own, making sure you take time out for yourself is really, really important. And how do you deal with that?
Harry Stotan 04:11
I’m pretty disciplined about it actually, it’s pretty boring. And I think that’s the, secret sauce is discipline. So I have a routine every week, and I review that once a week. And I encourage our employees to do the same thing. And you’ve got to get into a routine of just getting up and, and moving forward and into that embracing that routine. So you know, walking first thing in the morning or exercise, whatever that looks like. Yeah, it could go again, it could expand on that but having a routine I’ve often said to people that sometimes their calendars are not full enough. You know, we worry about them. We look at them and say, Oh, my calendar is so full. Well, there’s a lot of whitespace in there. That you probably should dedicate to yourself to your family to hobbies to social interactions that are informal and novel. So I think it’s a mindset shift and you’ve got a when I use the term discipline, I think you’ve got to make a mindset shift literally to embrace that routine and the rest of it’s pretty basic, isn’t it? You know, eat well prioritize your sleep above everything else and get out and get active whether it’s exercise or walking.
Tony skinner 05:32
Yeah, exactly. I paint landscapes or whatever. And I do actually have classes with that, because I realized a long time ago that I exercise the left brain but not the right brain. So I guess what you’re referring to as well as having some time to be creative.
Harry Stotan 05:50
Yeah, in the military, we call it our third thing. Or it’s one of the terms used for it. So you first thing is your family and friends. That’s if you ask anyone Where do they want to spend more time they’ll have generally say their family and friends. The second thing, which is the thing that impacts on the first thing is your work or your your prime mover, if you like in terms of professional or, you know, financial economic provision. And then the third thing is you and really, we, that’s manifest if you like, for me when I was in the military, my third thing was cricket. It moved between cricket and surfing. And I used to deliberately make time and sometimes at the expense, if you like, of work of family, just to ensure that I was checking in with myself and checking in with my passion. So it’s really, really important. And just to underpin that, and I’m going back to kind of the mindset shift if you like, we, we often place greater importance on all of the things we need to do than the people that we’re actually doing them for if you know if that makes sense. It doesn’t hurt for you to walk away and go, you know what, I’m going to cancel that meeting. I’m going to suspend that piece of work until tomorrow because there are things that you can do and just cut yourself a little bit of slack. Most people will say, Yep, no, no dramas, Harry. Okay, let’s reset for tomorrow or I’ll give you another day to submit that. Yeah, not everything. But there are things in your calendar you can find to commit time to you. Third thing if you like.
Tony skinner 07:20
Yeah, and I think there’s a good distinction there between having the routine and the importance of routine but maybe built into the routine some time away from the routine.
Harry Stotan 07:32
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a learned behavior. I’m a budding psychologist at the at the age of 50. But your calendars and routine around our work is a learned behavior. Obviously, we’re driven by our calendars and other things. So why not use that behavior and double down on it and use it for your own advantage. So book yourself in, you know, literally booking Harry Wednesday at 12:30 to 1:30. Walking and eating whatever.
Tony skinner 08:03
Yeah, well, it’s true. I mean, I do that I, on Monday morning, I go to the gym with my personal trainer. I don’t really need the personal trainer anymore, but I keep it going. Because it’s an important part of my routine to start the week doing something healthy and exercising.
Harry Stotan 08:22
Yep. Now I fully encourage that.
Tony skinner 08:26
Okay, so what are some principles that you’ve learned, from your time the military that could be easily applied to businesses?
Harry Stotan 08:36
Well, I guess I had a bit of a think about this before and we have it there’s a bit of a, there’s a quote that’s borrowed from I think it’s from Dwight Eisenhower, which was the plan is nothing and planning is everything. And I think there’s this notion in the military that you know, there’s a, I suppose a perception of the military making a plan, having a strategy executing the plan and so successful. But what the reality is behind that at a tactical and strategic level is that the plan is just a living thing. And it’s always changing. It’s always based on contingencies and acquitting assumptions. So it’s a rolling thing. I see in a few businesses that we work with, they set a strategy, and then they make a list of things to do. And then they go about executing and there’s nothing wrong with that, in principle, the problem is, is if you’re in December last year, and you reset your 2020 strategy and then executed against that through January and then the troubles hit no one in their strategy accounted for a biological breakout worldwide so it’s a what do they do? They go to contingency planning, BCPS and other types of things. Whereas really, you just need to adapt your current strategy, not panic, just adapt to the situation. And the best thing you can do is to accept the situation ASAP. A lot of people kick the can around trying to work out or what do we do double guessing. And the facts are, these are the facts. What are the how does that impact?
Tony skinner 10:12
Yeah, exactly. You just got to deal with it fast. I remember again back in March, and I thought, jeez, my business if they go for one more lockdown, I’m going to be screwed. Hmm. Fortunately, here in New South Wales, we never got to that. Unfortunately, you guys are there. However, I’ve had a client in Melbourne hasn’t impacted them. They work on commercial and industrial roll shows. Well, that’s security related.
Harry Stotan 10:39
Tony skinner 10:41
And so that’s exempt. Yeah. And some manufacturing, they’re lighter manufacturing is exempt and they do hardware type supplies to trade and that’s exempt. So there are ways to work around various things. But if you’re one of those businesses It’s really difficult in retail it’s very difficult and I don’t think there’s a lot that we can do for retail ourselves for the next six weeks except go and spend what we can on takeaways or home deliveries or whatever, that we’re not spend it on something else.
Harry Stotan 11:20
Yeah, and I guess the other the other industry, here in Melbourne in particular everywhere, really, but in Melbourne, is the entertainment restaurants, bars, eateries, etc around town and looked at the harsh reality of what he’s a wicked problem is that these businesses will suffer and I think there’s there is merit in a comment you made. Tony, I think that we can individually, act locally, make sure we’re where you can afford to of course not everybody can, but where you can, you know, engage locally and spend money locally. And then The best we can all do if we all spend five or 10 or $20 down the local High Street and help those businesses but they’re going to be hurting and you know the message there is just to support each other in these times but it’s tough there’s kind of no way getting it so it’s a wicked problem.
Tony skinner 12:22
yeah, and exactly what it is not going to take there was no contingency planning. Although the usual so called Facebook experts are going Oh, they should have known about accidentally better let’s see what they want to be conspiracy theory that it was caused by Bill Gates at Microsoft because 10 years ago, he warned everyone about it. So therefore he went out and created it.
Harry Stotan 12:45
Okay, I’m not flies in my mind, but yeah, it sounds like it rattles a few cages and I’m sure that’s what they that’s what they want to achieve. So
Tony skinner 12:54
yeah, yeah, exactly. Makes you wonder, Sir, look, you know, don’t worry about all the noise, just fine. So, I guess sometimes it’s just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
Harry Stotan 13:05
Yeah, of course and I love walking around. We’re in Ascot Vale in probably the epicenter of where it originated here in Melbourne or suddenly broke out. And I take great comfort and I’ve actually I’m really encouraged when I walked down the Ascot, Vale High Street, it’s like a typical High Street in Melbourne, suburbia, and all of the businesses have adapted and they share you know, they’re delivering meals locally, you can get in there for coffee limited, of course, you can’t go in but of course, they’re not going to make the money or they have in the past, but they’re having a go and it goes back to my point about planning, you know, there’s because things are dire. doesn’t mean that you can’t get up and and keep rolling. Keep moving forward. And I know that’s easy for me to see here saying we We’ve done the same thing. We lost 50% of our revenue overnight, on a Monday evening, emails and phone calls way back when it started. And we just jumped on a long call and started going right. What are we doing? What What else can we be doing? And we’ve turned their hands to a few other things and revenues down a little. But we still got stuck. We’re still kind of alive and have purpose, which is important.
Tony skinner 14:23
Yeah. And I think that’s what it is. I think every business should have had some ID that if they’d lost X was a client or exhausted clients, what they would do about that, and that’s what they should be putting into place. exactly that. Yeah,
Harry Stotan 14:41
yeah. And look at a harsh lesson for those who didn’t, unfortunately.
Tony skinner 14:46
Yeah, exactly. Right. So I kept saying at the beginning, don’t panic, keep marketing. And that’s important because there are going to be businesses that don’t come back. Yep. And let people know that you’re not going to be one of those by reaching out. Yeah, I think I read some interesting read. Searching you might even be referring to it might have been a big for put out some research that it during the GFC those businesses who invested in marketing actually did much better on the rebound. If I can use that word I’m not sure we’ll have a rebound in that manner this time but certainly we’ve been conscious of that and I think it’s a great good message Tony. Yeah. And in business school they talk about another example which is Cadbury and this one I tell everyone is during the Second World War, Cadbury advertised, kept advertising, no product is sold to anybody in the Second World War, they were able to start producing chocolate. There were other brands out there guess which brand everyone wanted.
Harry Stotan 15:45
Yeah. Cadbury, obviously, yeah, that’s right. Yeah. I wonder, I wonder. So yeah, there’s a there’s some neurological underpinnings of why that might occur. So during hard times, during adversity, we, we produce a lot more neuro chemicals. I think acetylcholine is one of those that crystallized memories for us or relations or associations. And so if something’s present, if you accept that notion that the underlying neurology is correct, then if you associate adversity and people who make it through adversity with it with a brand or a message, then those they’re going to be more meaningful memories for the people. So I think it’s, you know, I think there’s science behind that. And certainly, there’s elements of that in that study.
Tony skinner 16:46
Exactly. Right. So, again, let’s go forward. And yes, john, so to speak. So there we go. I had thrown a few military terms on was that I was And awkward. So there we go. So, again, looking at businesses, what do you think a business should be focused on to, I guess, cope with adversity and to be stronger from it?
Harry Stotan 17:15
Yeah, well, the first thing I’d say is, you know, focus on your people as much as you can. I understand that many businesses will be letting people go or making preparations to let people go or having contingencies. But the people that you have, just or particularly from a leadership perspective, getting around making sure that you’re checking in on people, formally and informally, and that should, in my mind almost double during these times when we’re dispersed and everybody’s under pressure. I think going back to the planning, I would personally recommend people set up an hour or two a week fee you individually as a business owner. If you will, and but this is the same for everybody in our business to sit down and whether it’s a whiteboard or a piece of paper or whatever. And just make the big list, the master list of all the things you need to do of all the things that all of the customers that you or all of the stakeholders sorry that you have directly responsible to you. Of course, you’re not going to go down to the pins and tacks and then prioritize them. So have a priority know what your priority is for the next 24 hours or seven days. That’s probably that brings me to the third point is that’s probably as far ahead as anyone can really move at the moment and have certainty. So that prioritization, and that window of seven days, if you like, as an example, at least you can bring some certainty to that. And I think that’s a really powerful tool. You might not be very good at it to start it might sound a little overwhelming, but these things as you practice you’ll be you’ll be better at them and so list and prioritize is really important. And then in those lists don’t try and do 30 things in one day do one or two. Yeah, there’s a there’s a there’s a philosophy or a thought around essential is where you have just the essential tasks and move forward on those. A lot of business people says just a big long Congo line of list of things to do, and then, but there are priorities within those and understanding those things. Analyzing is really, really important and some we do quite well on the military.
Tony skinner 19:36
Just one thing I’d like to add is it’s important to have something in the future to focus on that’s positive. So you’re right about the seven days but maybe a little bit longer term than that, how you’re going to grow and thrive personally and if you can, professionally business wise as well.
Harry Stotan 19:54
Yeah, sure. When once once certainty returns, then absolutely, I think you should have goals. milestones in the future. And we know that as you achieve those, you get to know the feel good drugs, chemicals, not drugs, the chemicals reward you, and that drives you forward to the next goals. But I think in this in these moments of uncertainty, it’s not a bad thing to kind of bind your horizon in a little two to a time period, which makes more sense. I don’t know that anyone would be building a strategy for two or three years out at the moment with any certainty. So it’s okay. It’s alright to have these short timeframes. Absolutely. by going to your point about as an individual one thing, we’ve got an executive team here on a Judy roster, which they’ve embraced really, really well. So there’s eight of them, we’ve paired them off, and they’re going to take leave. And the Judy executives, if you like the pair’s will take control of the business for two weeks and then they’ll take their time off and then they’ll come back. And they’ll rotate through that. So we get them all off on leave something to look forward to in the future. But also they’ve been the leaders have been going super hard for the last couple of months, and they need to take some time out to recover to, reset themselves, because they may have another six months or more of this to go.
Tony skinner 21:23
Yeah, well, I think that’s so true. I think where are we 2020 We’re at the beginning of August. So there’s five months ago to get the hell out of this year. Let’s just get the hell out of this here. And I think,
Harry Stotan 21:38
yeah, sorry, those who say that and that time off is so critical for during this year. Absolutely. Because as you get tired and you don’t want to admit to it but you get tired of more fatigued, you start making decisions based on emotion and really for the business and for everyone you want to be making rational fact based decisions and it doesn’t take much stress for people to kind of start to fumble a little. So we highly recommend booking some time off even if it’s just at home. Yeah, but just repower.
Tony skinner 22:10
Yeah, exactly right. Yeah, really important. Okay, look. Thanks very much for that, Harry. And that’s Harry from stotangroup.com.au There we go do to get rolling again. And thanks so much for your time.
Harry Stotan 22:23
No worries. Thanks, Tony.