A Story, 10 Years In The Making
2009 to 2019 – A decade in review:
10 years. 3,652 days. 87,648 hours. 5,258,880 minutes.
A decade sure is a strange combination of ‘oh how time fly’s’ and ‘look how much has changed!’. And along with millions of others, I’m sitting with a cup of coffee, in my home office, reflecting on the years gone by and excitingly looking forward to the next.
So here are my raw memories year-after-year (mostly my wife and Mum and Dad to read… thanks for being my biggest supporters).
Two years out of school, madly in love with my high school (now wife… spoiler alert) sweetheart. Working at a mower and outdoor power equipment shop called Motor Mecca. This was my first real job and luckily it was in Sales! Who knew? I was supposedto be studying nutrition and dietetics at the Sunshine Coast University. (What a joke that could have been). Ironically, this year I ate about 300 steak bacon and cheese pies from ‘Big Dad’s Pie’s’ across the street and I lived with my best mates in a share house called ‘Davona’. (Dave & Fiona owned the house before I did). Every night was an absolute ball. I can’t share the stories here, but all I can say is I lived like a University student, just with the income of a full-time employee. Brilliant!
I started a new job selling Volkswagens in early 2010 but the all-time highlight for this year was proposing to Anna on Christmas morning. With the help of my now brother in law, we set up a treasure hunt with some of her favourite things with the grand finale being 500 candles and rose petals all through Davona, myself in a suit, an engagement ring and a speech that both of us forget. Notable mention was the process of buying every bag of Allens Mixed Party Favourite in sight (in fact it was across multiple supermarkets). I'm talking trollies of lollies to sort through, carefully selecting the peach and creams from the rest of those dank sweets. I ended up with one whole bag of said peach and creams that I taped back up to give to Anna. We also had 15kg of leftovers. No, we didn't eat them.
I will never forget the January 11 floods here in Toowoomba and south-east Queensland. Just go ahead and YouTube some videos if you’re unfamiliar. I also remember the tsunami in Japan (we also sold Mazda’s) that messed up a couple of Nuclear power plants from memory. My best mate and now brother in law got married around the same time as the floods and due to roads being cut and family unable to attend they had two weddings. I quit my job for the first time (they didn’t want to let me go so I stayed on with a negotiated rate). But best of all, Anna and I were married on the 21st of May. I cried when I saw her. It had been a long journey together (with plenty of ups and downs) but she looked incredible. I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world. I wrote her a song called 21… I remember most of it.
On the 7th of November 2012 our eldest daughter Alyssa Joy was born. We felt like kids holding a kid but we created such a bond with our Lys' very quickly. It was a very tough year with severe sleep deprivation. Anna would do her best rocking the car seat beside our bed (Alyssa preferred that to her cot) until around 3AM. I would then move her into our 09 model Ford Fiesta and drive the sleepy Toowoomba streets until 4:30AM. I would then walk her in the pram (listening to podcasts) until 5:30AM and then head home for breakfast. Not too long after I would take a shower and head to work. Car sales is a pretty ruthless business. 6 days a week with a rare RDO. This is when the seed was planted to do my own thing ‘one day’. On top of this, Volkswagen Commercial set an incentive for a free business class trip to Europe (to see the factories etc.) if you performed at the top. That was my goal but I knew something had to change. I started to work my own business within the business with my beautiful wife helped me tremendously. I worked ridiculous hours and wrote my first book called ‘Sales Juice’ with a pen and journal whilst at the dealership. I created a methodology called ‘The Opposite Effect’ and tested it. Long story short, it worked. I won and had the trip booked in for the next year. Record months were had (I think I still may hold it there?) and I put on like 15kg of weight. Stress huh?
This was a transition year. I had started working on a few prototypes of software to solve some problems in the automotive industry. It was called PD Plus and I collaborated with some very talented businessmen. We pitched the idea but didn’t land. From here I had already ‘quit’ in my mind and knew I had to do something on my own. I started planning and figuring out how I could make it work. I read a tonne of books, listened to a lot of podcasts/audiobooks and started exploring how I could support my family. At the same time, I was still working hard for Volkswagen and putting in the 60-70 hour weeks. I have to say it was taking its toll on my families relationship. From memory, I officially quit in June and started Equip Consulting in July. Sales Training was the main focus, I had a book and some ideas but pretty much nothing else. I quickly realised the business world is a different one to navigate within. I procrastinated more than anything else and made $8,000 in 6 months.
I had pretty much run out of money at this point and something had to change. In January, I put on a free event at the Burke & Wills Hotel in Toowoomba and had 150+ people attend ‘The Secrets To Closing The Sale’. Cringe fest it was as I had very little idea what I was doing and this was my ‘Hail Mary’ attempt at making money. I spoke for around 45 minutes giving strategies and language patterns and then went for a big hard close at the end. $1,297 Sales Bootcamp… No one bought. I was in near tears sitting at the pub next door when everything was cleaned up. Anna was at home nursing Alyssa. I remember the text from her “How did it go?!!”. I didn’t want to reply. I felt like a failure and an embarrassment to my local community (Toowoomba is a big country town. You can’t really hide here). Stupidly enough (or brilliantly enough) I did exactly the same thing again the month after. Packed the room with another 150 people with exactly the same pitch and guess what? I sold one ticket who pulled out the next day. At this point, I was ready to find a job but just couldn’t allow myself to do it. By the grace of God, I persevered and called as many people as I could who attended asking for feedback. One manager of a local manufacturing company asked If I could go and see him. I did, pitched a 6-week program (that I made up on the spot) for $7,997 with a no-risk clause. We would do 3 weeks of the program with his sales team, in which, if he didn’t feel like there was value, he would still have half of my best content, we could part ways, stay friends and no payment to be made. However, if there was considerable value shared, he would pay me $4,000 and do the rest of the program with a $3,997 invoice at the end. He agreed and I knew I just had to hold my breath cashflow wise for 3 more weeks. Little did I realise, that this program with HUGE value for companies and I ended up proactively selling another 9 programs in a week (plus a little speaking gig that I’ll never share)! That was $78,000 of revenue in 5 days. It was the turning point of our business. I’m forever grateful.
In this same year, I got curious about the Grandfather I never had the opportunity to meet. Thomas Jorgesen. His unfortunate death when my Mum was 18, inspired me to view writing as a legacy piece more than anything else and I wrote ‘The Diary of a S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Driven Kid’ in 7 days in tribute to him and for my children and children’s children. Above all of this, my little Leonora Rose was born on the 2nd of December 2014. I’ll never forget the moment of driving home, taking a quick shower after a long labour, picking up Alyssa and taking her back to meet her new baby sister. It was at this moment, I realised how valuable and special family is and just how amazing women are for this world. I didn’t know you could fall more in love with someone, but seeing Anna through this process was downright life changing and invaluable. I am so proud of the woman and mother she is.
This was a sick year. I felt like as a family we were figuring things out (Nora was also a terrible sleeper… cue early morning drives and walks again). However business-wise we were now in a much better position. I had some flexibility in my time which was nice for us all. We had our weekends together and during the week my business was growing across Australia (I think I took 100 flights this year). One of the highlights was buying my first little piece of commercial real estate. A whopping 30sqm that was a bridal shop, in which I could see working as a part-time office for me and a part-time boardroom to hire out. I spent pretty much all our savings on the fit-out and Habitat Coworking was born. It was so fun to imagine a space and then see it come to reality. I realised through this journey that I feel most alive (and believe humankind feels most alive) when they can transform dreams and ideas into reality. I was hooked and have had a mantra ever since that I live by. That is to ‘Think Big. Create Often. Produce Always’. It’s served me well.
I started to record a heap of video content in #DriveBySessions, #TheTGITShow and #MondayMotivation. Monday Motivation has lived on ever since. At the end of this year, I also wrote ‘Sammy The Salmon – Go Against The Flow’ for my children. Honestly one of my favourite books to date. It is now a joy to read it to my girl's classes in Kindergarten, Prep and School as they grow (eventually will grow out of it too… That will be a sad day). I always ask at the end of the readings, ‘What would you love to do as your work?’. I’m forever inspired by their answers and do my very best to encourage them not to give up on exploring their deepest desires and creative expressions.
I loved 2016. One of the highlights was travelling to San Francisco for 14 days to fully explore ‘The Opposite Effect’. I wrote, what I call, one of my best books. It’s a body of work that I’m proud of (anyone who makes/creates stuff would know that feeling is rare). Equip Consulting continued to grow (doubled from the year before). I didn’t have the fear anymore of work coming in as so much of my business was driven from referrals. That freed me up to explore other ventures. I ended up buying 50% of a little coffee shop not far from my office (have now sold out) and that was fun. I grew the team and learnt about having staff. I also learnt a lot about tax, compliance and business structures. I learnt a TONNE about project-related companies and started to focus on the industry as my niche and specialisation. I suppose if I were to summarise, I started to feel a little ‘street smart’ but still experience ‘dumb’. We made good money this year and through that process, I learnt how to save and invest money. This was mostly for my own mental health. I now live by a principle of ‘new zero’. Meaning I have a number in my mind that has to be sitting in cash in a bank account. I set goals around this and worked hard to reach them. The outcome is you know you have months (sometimes years) of cash put aside (outside of your investments) that you know you could live on if it all ‘hit the fan’. That was a nice lesson for me. Best of all, I believe this is when I met my good mate and now business partner, Darcy J Smyth, at one of his events. I’m forever grateful for meeting him.
This was the burnout year. I will never forget it and it changed me for the better. Equip Consulting had expanded to NZ, we bought a new family home and I was continuing to do hundreds of flights every year. I was neglecting my health and was drinking nearly every night. I was feeling immense pressure and hadn’t learnt how to say ‘no’ yet. Towards the end of the year, I started to have migraines, experience insomnia, lost my short term memory and felt like I was on another planet most of the time. I couldn’t feel anything, I was dead tired and I scared myself more than once with VERY dark thoughts. I still well up thinking about this moment. Of letting my family down by not being emotionally available and present with them. We travelled to Auckland for a ‘holiday’ and this is when I crashed. I couldn’t function anymore and I knew I put myself here. I had to go through burnout. There was no fixing it. There was no shortcut. It was a process of acceptance, time and love. I’ve since come to realise that it’s a very similar experience to grief. I now have mental health, contentment and wellbeing as a priority in my teaching and own life. I’m forever grateful for the lesson and have a strong desire to help others through their own journey in this (something that has already happened half a dozen times). Despite all of this, the business continued to grow but I also resented the growth (paradoxical moment).
Why Bravo Pty Ltd was born with Darcy J Smyth. We had no idea what it was going to be (really) but we made a commitment that we loved working together and knew it was time to join forces. We flew to Germany together (Darcy, Matt Gall (our friend & videographer) and Alex Storer (also our friend & videographer) to film a feature-length documentary called ‘The Project Principle: Enter The Void’ and also wrote a book together over 14 days. The documentary has since won some film festival awards around the world (we will publicly share the documentary early in 2020) and The Project Principle Methodology has been used within 300+ project-related companies, shared with 8,000 salespeople and has helped generate $800M of additional revenue for the clients. Darcy and I tried a few different business models; firstly a holistic business growth consulting service (simply was a strange Equip Consulting model) and then a ‘no win, no pay’ tender bid service (this had legs but wasn’t a passion of ours). Lastly, we tried an event in Melbourne Australia, which we called ‘The Consultative Sales Game’. We honestly did it for fun (and to serve our curiosity) more than anything. BUT what we discovered changed the whole game for us (no pun intended). In a nutshell, The Sales Game (now what it’s called) teaches salespeople how to think, rather than what to say all through the use of highly experiential games that we have developed. Helping them to develop insane levels of self-awareness of how they operate, how much they back their decisions in life along with a ‘fly on the wall’ view on how unique others are in their approaches and talents leading to ultimate belief in the fabric of society at large. It’s a truly phenomenal discovery that’s quickly taking the world by storm.
USA is go! The Sales Game was running forward full steam ahead. We took a month to travel across the US sharing The Game with others in smaller popup events to a full day in Orlando (massive thanks to our new lifelong friends in Dale Dupree & The Jeff from The Sales Rebellion). Darcy and I have been blown away with the support and how quickly the event is opening up doors. We already have a fairly booked 2020 with major events and brands here in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. We are building a technology platform, engaging with research partners to study the outcomes and data. Our strategic partners are INCREDIBLE and are providing opportunities that Darcy and I have only ever dreamed out. On top of this, I’ve felt the freedom to be creative this year. I picked up the pencil and pen once again, reigniting my love of drawing (it’s all I ever did in primary and lower secondary school). I’ve also enjoyed writing poetry and short stories. I’ve sold my own art pieces across Australia and spent time working on new ventures with Anna.
The kids will be in prep and grade 2 next year so Anna and I have the opportunity to create a brand together. The future is looking very bright and I will leave Anna to share the finer details. All I can say is watch this space ladies! You’re going to love what Anna is about to create. Long story short, 2019 has been the best year yet (despite its immense challenges). 2020 is prepped for being even better and I can’t wait to reflect at this same time next year.
Above all, I’m forever grateful for the love I have, and experience with, my family, friends, community and networks. I praise God for his never-ending grace and relentless love. I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to share this experience with me. I believe in you and want the best for you. I want you to know that this life is here to be squeezed. Don’t ever live with regret, instead explore and adventure as the children do. Happy New Year’s my friends. My hope is that it teaches you all you need to understand, nurtures you to be full of love and refines you to ‘possess character’ rather than ‘be a character’.
In the words of the wise,
“Most people die at the age of 25
and aren’t buried until fifty years or so later”.
I want to encourage you not to be one of the 'most'.
Steve & The Claydon Family.