How Scaling Up Changed One Leader’s Entire Business And Life

It’s fascinating to speak to different business leaders or executives from varying industries and find out how the Scaling Up methodology helped them get past their unique challenges.
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A person I spoke to recently was John Miles, who instead of planning his retirement, decided to start a new business in his 50s. John already had over 20 years experience working as a financier on Wall Street in London, and decided to start a business in the childcare market in Ireland!

Needless to say, John faced a steep learning curve. I wanted to see how the Scaling Up methodology played a role in helping him scale his childcare business, and so I arranged a quick call with him.

Check out his interesting story in the interview summary below.

[Daniel Marcos] Welcome John. So first, tell us why did you choose to go into the childcare market in Ireland, and how did you get started?

[John Miles] Well, my partner and I spotted a gap in the childcare market in Ireland. You see, at the time in Ireland, most childcare providers focus on children under the age of five. There were hardly any childcare services available for kids who were going to school at 5 years old and beyond.

We knew there was an opportunity to provide affordable, high quality, school-based care to help busy, working parents. I didn’t want to waste around 10 years trying to set up and establish our own brand, so we looked to be a part of something that was already out there and proven.

In the end, we applied to become a franchise manager of Sherpa Kids. We bought the rights to the country franchise for Ireland in 2014. By May 2015, we were up and running. Sometime later, Dawn, our managing director in New Zealand, came to me and asked, “Do you want to go back to school?”

[DM] How interesting! And was it at that point that Dawn introduced you to the Scaling Up methodology?

[JM] Yes. Dawn had been using the Scaling Up methodology in all her franchise matters in New Zealand. She was recommending for all her country master franchisors to partake in the Scaling Up course. It wasn’t compulsory though, we were still given freedom of choice.

[DM] So why did you choose to join the Scaling Up course that Dawn recommended?

miles_quote1[JM] It wasn’t an immediate decision. I must admit, I was very skeptical at first. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What's this gonna do for me at this stage of my career; of my life?”

I thought that at the age of 54, my learning was done! I was also skeptical because it would take 10 hours a week, and I thought I just didn’t really have the time because we were so busy. But, in the end it was all just pathetic excuses. 

After looking more into what Dawn presented to me I thought, “I'll give it a go. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.” And now I know that indeed you can teach an old dog new tricks. And I’m so glad I decided to take the course.

[DM] Can you share more of your learning journey and how you shifted from being skeptical about Scaling Up to fully embracing it?

[JM] We started the Scaling Up course last January. When we finished the course in April, I decided to lock myself away in a small cottage in the Kerry Mountains in Ireland and get through what this Scaling Up exactly meant to me amidst the business. It poured down with rain for about five days. And I mean real, Irish rain that’s coming down in stair-rods.

There was no sunshine, so I had to stay in the cottage. I didn’t even get a chance to visit the pubs for a pint of Guinness! I worked for long, long days and after four days, it’s like I had a eureka moment after listening to Verne's One Page Personal Plan.

Basically, Verne said that before you try to sort out your company’s problems, you have to sort out your own personal stuff. I still remember what Verne said. He said, “Don't forget, you need six guys to carry a coffin.” Six pallbearers, ya know? When he said that, I was hooked.

And then, when you have a coach like Chuck guiding you with practical applications for your business, and you can also go back to watch Verne’s videos again, you begin to start seeing things in a completely different light.
It changed everything. It changed my whole outlook on running my own business. It changed my life. I can't thank Chuck or Verne enough for doing what they do.

[DM] What kind of changes do you see in your business, that are also reflected in your life, through the principles of Scaling Up?

[JM] Well, you see, I always knew where I wanted to go with the business. But I was trusting in myself purely to get us from A to B. I was not trusting anybody else to get us there, and I wasn’t communicating my visions very well to others either.

Now, I have better clarity. It’s not just knowing that I want to go from A to B. Now, I know how we’re going to get there, what road we'll be taking — and most importantly — what vehicle we're taking and who's in the vehicle with me.

I also have more time in my business and life. And that’s really because I have more organization. I know how to plan and get things streamlined better.

If before the course you had come to me and asked, “Could you schedule in an hour of reading business books everyday?”, I would have replied, “Not a hope in hell”. But now, I can. At four o'clock everyday, I can pick up a book and read it for an hour.

I think that purely came about because Scaling Up put organization into my life. Scaling Up teaches you that you don’t have to spend your life firefighting — and that’s what really gives you freedom of time.

[DM] Could you give a specific example of one shift?

[JM] Emails. You know, we all get caught up with it. You’re tapping away on your keyboard, working on a project, and then, ‘Bing!’. That email notification comes in. You take a look at that email, and just get distracted.
Now — and I tell everyone to do this too — I read my emails only three times a day. In the morning, at lunchtime, and at dinner. This keeps me focused. I know if anybody wants urgently get a hold of me, they’ll ring me.

So, that's a specific example of how Scaling Up gave me structure in my day and the discipline to not get distracted. I learned to set aside time to firefight instead of jumping from one fire to the next without structure. I now know how to prioritize — when to do the big project stuff that will move you forward and when to deal with firefighting.

Specifically for me, I will stop work from 10am to 12 noon everyday to think strategically. Then again from 2-4pm, I will stop work to focus on the the bigger picture on behalf of everybody in our organization.

[DM] And when you have that strategy, how do specific Scaling Up tools and framework help you execute?

[JM] Well, the Function Accountability Chart and Process Accountability Chart helps us define all the processes and functions of our strategy, and who’s accountable for what. When we first sat down and worked with those tools, we realized our marketing function had a lot of gaps.

So we used the principles of Scaling Up to restructure our marketing efforts for our franchisees into the four pillars that Verne talks about: cash, execution, people and strategy. Initially, I had problems applying marketing concepts to a franchise system because it’s not as straightforward as an ordinary structured company. But with these four pillars, it was much easier.

And in fact, just yesterday we announced this new Scaling Up approach to the franchisees and they were absolutely delighted. They were just over the moon. I've never seen them buy into something so strongly as they did yesterday, and mind you, we’ve been working with these franchisees for over three years. It just filled me full of joy.

[DM] It sounds like you really gained a lot from the Scaling Up course, both in business and life. Who would you strongly recommend to take this course?

[JM] Honestly, I don’t think there’s a direct answer to that question. It’s a state of mind. You've got to be open and willing to change, listen, and question all your current beliefs. I mean, I was already fairly successful working in Wall Street in London. But I had never opened my mind up to this sort of thing before.

So, I don't think you can pinpoint any one person in an organization or any one person within society who would benefit from this. Certainly, in a smaller company, the CEO should be doing it, but they've got to be open-minded. I believe anyone with the right mindset who is willing to change can benefit. You don’t have to necessarily feel like your company is in trouble, but if you’re stuck and can’t figure out the next step your company should take, then this course can show you the way.

[DM] Thank you so much for sharing your journey with me.

[JM] It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

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